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SB+ with Chord DAC64?

Dave964

Well-known Member
Although I am very happy with the sound from my SB+ when I use it in isolation, I do still think my MF A3 CDP sounds slightly better.

Since upgrading my amp (to Chord CPM 2600) I do think "wow" when I listen to the SB+ now, but it still seems like I made a slightly backwards step and that's not something I'm entirely happy with.

I have seen a Chord DAC64 for sale. I don't know much about DACs but I have read before that this is a good one. Would this solve my problem? Is SB+ and DAC 64 likely to be better than my old MF A3 CDP? It's a fair old chunk of money if it's not!
 

Autopilot

Distinguished Member
I could not say for sure which is the best DAC. But i will say that if you do pick up a better DAC, it might be worth trying a Standard SB3/Classic. I thought the main selling point of the SB+ was the improved DAC (as well as a cleaner power supply and clock etc, but its really the DAC that makes the main difference). There is a strong possibility that you would not hear any difference between the SB+ and SB3 when using the same DAC, at least not much unless you have a stupidly high end and well tweaked system. I might well be wrong, if the other improvements in the SB+ really do make that much difference, but it's worth checking as the SB+ is an expensive piece of kit when it's main selling point becomes redundant and you could use an upgraded power supply with the SB3 too.

But like i said, i have not tried this so perhaps there is someone around that has actual experience? i recall a thread on the official forums that might shed more light on things.
 
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Dave964

Well-known Member
I did wonder this. I do still have my original SB3 - and logically, what you say is right. If I plugged SB3 into DAC64 and it was better than the SB+ then I would have a redundant 1 month old SB+!

By the way - what offical forums do you mean?
 

Autopilot

Distinguished Member
I did wonder this. I do still have my original SB3 - and logically, what you say is right. If I plugged SB3 into DAC64 and it was better than the SB+ then I would have a redundant 1 month old SB+!

I think they hold their value well, the sale would help fund an upgraded DAC, power supply etc. But dont jump the gun just yet, can you not use the CD players DAC with your SB3/+? i know some CD players have a digital in to let you do this.

By the way - what offical forums do you mean?

My goodness, have you never been here? - Slim Devices : Community : Forums
 

Dave964

Well-known Member

Mr_Sukebe

Active Member
I've heard my SB+ against several DACs now (e.g. Benchmark DAC1, Bel Canto DAC2, NOS DACs, Behringer SRC and DEQs, AS DAX Decade).
The only time I've heard what I feel has been an improvement has been when I've been able to use a DAC with a balanced connection. When limiting myself to standard RCA phono connection, every other DAC I've heard has either sounded worse, or at best just slightly different.

What I've found interesting more recently is trying firstly the DAX Decade and then my Thule AV processor, both of which have (IMO) had the edge over the SB+, but only when linked in balanced mode. In both cases, the balanced option resulted in a drop in perceived compression, and a slightly more open and natural sound. Don't get me wrong, neither difference was huge, and personally I wouldn't be willing to pay say £1k for it. In my case I got the improvement by accident with the purchase of the Thule processor.
Having said that, the difference is there, and it's definitely nice to have.

I see that your Chord amp supports balanced connection. Might well be worth a home dem to see how a balanced unit compares. That would be my suggestion.

I've never heard the Chord DAC, but have heard plenty of comments that it gives a very upfront "warts and all" presentation. From my experience with MF gear, that would be a completely different style of presentation, one that you might not get on with at all.

Just to add, I was so impressed with the improvement gleaned from moving to a balanced connection type that I asked Patrick about the viability of changing the SB+ to balanced. Apparently the design of it would need to be heavily revised for full balanced operation, so the answer is basically no.
 

amcluesent

Distinguished Member
>that's not something I'm entirely happy with.<

Could be one is inverting the phase?

>I see that your Chord amp supports balanced connection. Might well be worth a home dem to see how a balanced unit compares<

You could also try the Transporter with it's balanced outputs into the amp...the Slimdevices Forum for Audiophiles has ample discussion on the merits of a TP vs SB3 with external DAC
 
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sibeer

Well-known Member
If possible there is a simple answer to this, trial the equipment. To my knowledge the Chord DAC is one of the best reviewed DAC's in it's price range so should be "better" than the one in the SB+. Fact is though that unless you listen to it and compare it with your SB+ and your CD Player, you will never quite know.
 

Dave964

Well-known Member
If possible there is a simple answer to this, trial the equipment. To my knowledge the Chord DAC is one of the best reviewed DAC's in it's price range so should be "better" than the one in the SB+. Fact is though that unless you listen to it and compare it with your SB+ and your CD Player, you will never quite know.

Easier said than done though - they tend to come up second hand on Ebay.

I'm actually trying to fight the temptation. When I'm actually listening to my current setup I love it - and at those times, I feel I don't need to upgrade.

There's just a niggling thought at the back of my mind when I'm not listening to it.
 

SimonO

Active Member

Dave964

Well-known Member
I've been debating whether to try a DAC64 since I posted this thread in October. At the weekend, I thought I'd ask whether my local hi-fi shop (Audio-T) had one in stock so I could give one a try. They said no, but told me that Audio-T in Reading carried lots of Chord stuff so they might have one.

I figured that was worth a browse even if they didn't have a DAC, so headed up there. They didn't have one (bit frustrating - they'd previously had two used ones which had recently been sold). But showed me the QBD76 and asked if I fancied hearing that since I was there anyway.

I figured it would be interesting to hear, even though it's not something I particularly wanted (a used DAC64 seems the much more sensible option).

As it turned out - I was amazed. I thought it sounded absolutely wonderful. They then switched to a Naim CD player and it sounded flat by comparison. I had a friend with me, who states that she "can't hear any difference" each time I replace something in my hi-fi - but even she said she could hear a big difference between the two.

I then went back to my car and got my cd cartridge out, so I could listen to some of my own music. It sounded brilliant (although I'm definitely not a fan of Wilson Benesch Arcs) - to the point where I made a rather expensive impulse buy and walked out of the shop with one under my arm (complete with Chord coax cable). Got a pretty good price.

Got it home and connected it up to the SB+, and I have no regrets. The music has gained significant energy and noticeable detail. The sibilance is better - although there is still some, which I'm convinced is the speakers. But when I bought the DAC I did so knowing that even if it didn't solve that problem I wouldn't mind, just because of how it made the music sound.

The only catch now is that I want to upgrade the speakers! Top of the list is Wilson Benesch Discovery - I heard them last year and loved them. But I think I need to audition a selection - and I'm trying to put off anymore big purchases for a couple of months.

Edit : And of course, I now need to try an SB3 since there really shouldn't be much difference between SB3 / QBD76 and SB+ / QBD76, which means I may sell the SB+. But I'd have to be sure there was no difference because it does sound pretty good now and I don't want a backwards step!
 
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Druboo

Active Member
Dave

Just Googled the QBD76 Please tell me you didn't pay The WHF Review price tag :eek:

If you want to do a SB3/SB3 & LPS/SB+/Transporter with/without the QBD76 sess LMK
 

Dave964

Well-known Member
Dave

Just Googled the QBD76 Please tell me you didn't pay The WHF Review price tag :eek:

If you want to do a SB3/SB3 & LPS/SB+/Transporter with/without the QBD76 sess LMK

I paid a bit less than that, including the Chord Signature interconnect. But I confess it wasn't cheap, and as far as impulse buys go was probably one of my more expensive!

I sold my original SB3 to a colleague at work - so I've told him I want to borrow it back at some point and compare.
 

crobo

Well-known Member
I use a DAC 64 with an SB3 and it is far better than any CD player I owned in the past, including models that cost up to £1500 new (and including the MF A3.2). In fact it is in a different league. Of course it costs more second hand (£900 compared to up to £550 for the CD players I tried) but it has raised the sound to a whole new level. I bought a cheapish CDP for use as a transport but hardly use it; as others have found, the SB3 is as good as a very good CD transport when coupled with a decent DAC.
 

The Moog

Active Member
Dave,

Would love to hear your impressions of the SB3 Vs SB+ over the QBD76. I have no upgrade money at the moment, but have long been wondering about the merits of moving up to a Transporter over my current SB and NOS DAC combination, or just upgrading the DAC to something more substantial.

I guess the problem (as Mr Sukebe alluded to) is that the upgrade to a Transporter also gives you balanced XLR outputs, and that using this method of connection over standard phonos may also give a not insignificant improvement.

Hmm, this is starting to sound expensive then :eek:. It may be that to get the best streamer/DAC combination that the Transporter is used as a front end only because of its balanced digital outputs to a DAC (or digital pre-amp) that can accept them, completely bypassing its own DAC stage which is the bit that you have paid all the extra money for!

Why is nothing ever easy :(.


The Moog
 

Dave964

Well-known Member
The QBD76 has balanced outputs, and I've been told that Chord can turn my Chorus 2 RCAs into XLR for a cost (but much less cost than chucking my chorus 2's in the bin) so I will probably do that at some point, and use XLR to the Chord pre-amp.

It's probably going to be mid Feb before I can try an SB3 - need to wait for my colleague to have a weekend away, then I can borrow his SB3.
 
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The Moog

Active Member
No worries,

I am going to be waiting a good while before making a decision either way anyway, but always good to hear peoples experiences...

Seems like I may have talked myself into an upgrade path anyway :eek:... Move from my SB and DAC to a Transporter, and hopefully get a little upgrade in sound quality from the better DAC, and then go for a DAC or digital pre-amp with balanced XLR connectivity.


The Moog
 

Dave964

Well-known Member
Why go the transporter route and then add a DAC? Wouldn't it make just as much sense to upgrade the DAC you use with the SB3 and skip the transporter part? Transporter is £1500 new - used DAC64 is less than that. ;)

I assume XLR is only for analogue - I can't see how it makes sense for digital?
 

The Moog

Active Member
I think I would try an pick up a used Transporter!

Anyone got one in silver they want to shift ;). XLR-wise, I have heard great things about the Transporters AES/EBU balanced digital output, and I know that quite a few people use it to pass data in the digital domain to a processor (such as room correction) before then sending it off to a DAC.

At the moment I use a DEQ2496 to perform room correction in the digital domain between the SB3 and my NOS DAC, and currently the improvement that this gives me is bigger than the largest differences I have heard between good DAC's. Some have complained (and I know Mr Sukebe was one) that adding in this processing (and associated signal path) degrades the sound quality slightly; although as I have said, this is far outweighed by the huge improvement I get in my listening room by applying room correction in this way. On other forums it has been suggested that this slight degradation is because of the non-optimal implementation of the S/PDIF optical input into the DEQ2496 (it doesn't have a coaxial digital input), but the DEQ does have a balanced digital XLR input and output, and the use of these render its inclusion in the signal path near to invisible.

Initially, I could include the DEQ in the Transporters effects loop. I could go out of the TP's balanced digital XLR into the DEQ's, and then back into the TP's digital XLR to use its DAC. If later on I decided that the jump to a Chord DAC was a big enough leap from the TP's onboard one, this could then be connected via its digital XLRs from the DEQ.

I just think that this setup would give me the most flexibility to include good quality room processing in the setup, and then decide if the money was worth it for really expensive DAC!


The Moog
 

Mr_Sukebe

Active Member
One quick point about balanced connection.
As I understand it, the whole unit needs to be designed to work in "balanced mode", the implications being that simply sticking a set of XLR connection posts on a unit not designed to work in fully balanced mode will result in pretty much bugger all benefit.
 

Dave964

Well-known Member
Interesting.

I always thought that the thing with digital was that it doesn't have the same issues as analogue and hence the cable is less important (which makes me question why I thought I needed a £200 connection between the SB+ and DAC......)

In the same way that people argue that cheap HDMI cables are as good as expensive ones - because a digital '1' is always a digital '1' - doesn't the same apply to hi-fi connections that are digital? How can digital XLR be better - that would imply that my coax is causing the digital data to have errors?
 

The Moog

Active Member
I am pretty sure that both the Transporter and DEQ support fully balanced connection.

Mr Sukebe: I presume that 'fully balanced operation' just means that they can take the difference between the positive and negative signal lines, and reject any noise?

Dave: I don't think any benefits come from the cable (or cable materials) per se, but the methodology of the connection. I have often read that optical S/PDIF connections are not as good as a coaxial digital ones due to their hardware implementations, yet these should be sending the same 1's and 0's.

From the little I know of balanced connections, they should provide double the signal strength due to the fact that they measure the difference between a positive and negative version of the data, and also that because of this they should be able to reject any interference that has occurred between the transmission and reception of the data. In my case, I am keen to get away from using optical S/PDIF interconnects, and have the capacity on the DEQ to use XLR's.


The Moog
 

Dave964

Well-known Member
OK - that makes some sense.

I'll rest assured that my coax connection is probably OK - but I will look at getting the DAC->CPM2600 connection changed to XLR.

Edit : Hmm - I wonder if this conversation is going to end up costing me more money!

Although I'm using the CMP2600 as a pre-amp, it's actually an integrated - and because of that, it has XLR input but not output.

I was planning to upgrade my speakers in May (if I can wait that long) - but I do like the idea of balanced connections throughout (at least on the analogue side). So perhaps I should demo pre-amps at the same time I demo speakers and buy both - that would allow balanced from DAC to pre-amp, and balanced from pre to power amp. Althought it would also allow a drop in my bank balance! But at least I could sell the CPM2600 to recoup some of the cost of a pre-amp.
 
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The Moog

Active Member
Yowzers!

Sounds like this thread is gonna be more expensive for you than it is for me :D

If I were you though, I would try out the speakers with your current integrated, and then the pre-power combo. I found that when I got my Wilson Benesch's that they were a huge upgrade across the board from what I previously had, and everything else has just been little tweaks (the inclusion of room correction being the biggest improvement after that). You may find that there is little or no improvement from the large outlay going for the two-box Chord just so that you can have XLR's throughout.

Do keep us updated on the SB+ Vs SB3 DAC trials though :clap:


The Moog
 

Dave964

Well-known Member
I am already two box chord though - the integrated is being used as a pre, and I have that connected to a Chord power amp.

So it's really just exchanging the integrated for a proper pre. In fact - considering the integrated is worth £1.5-2k second hand, I probably wouldn't have to add much money to buy the lower end Chord pre-amp.
 

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