Upgrade amp or add a DAC?


Standard Member
Hey Guys,

At the moment I have a pair of Mordaunt Short Mezzo 1 speakers running off a Cambridge Audio A1 amp.

My only source is an Alu Macbook which is home to my music collection which is ripped mostly in 320kbps/apple lossless format.

I am new to Hi-Fi and think I made a fairly rookie mistake by spending most of my modest student budget on the speakers - hence ending up with a very basic amp. This is not to say I am not really enjoying the sound this set up provides, I just can't help but think I could be getting a lot more from the speakers.

My question is this, what would I benefit more from....a bigger better amp or the addition of a DAC?

Any comments/advice/recommendations greatly appreciated!



Established Member
You didn't make a mistake with your speakers as you bought something of better quality. Now you are in a position to upgrade some of your other components. Thats the beauty of seperates. Music from a laptop i assume may be not so good a using a dac from the optical out (i have not tried it) but it may just sound different.
Why not take your laptop to your local hi fi dealer and see if the dacs suit you, as your ears are a better judge than our recommendations.

Deleted member 398868

I've taken a gamble in the last week & added a Beresford Caiman DAC into my system. There's a laptop feeding it with Apple Lossless files & in my opinion the sound being produced is sensational - it even sounds amazing with Spotify.

Caiman wasn't cheap at £250 but it's a piece of equipment I've got absolutely no regrets in purchasing.

Good luck with whichever path you take.


Standard Member

Does anyone else have more advice to give on this matter?

The DAC's I have been looking at are the CA DacMagic, Music Fidelity V-DAC and the Beresford mentioned above, amp wise I have read good reviews for amps such as the Cambridge Audio 340 and the NAD 315BEE/326BEE.

As I can only afford one upgrade at the moment which would you suggest to go for in order to hear the greatest improvement in sound quality? Amp of DAC?

Many Thanks


Established Member
The DACMagic is over hyped and over priced (@ £220), owned one when they first came out and compared it side by side with a ZeroDAC and ended up keeping the ZeroDAC...

The MF V-DAC is pretty good @ around £150, but if you can stretch to the Beresford Caiman then I would go for that...

However, before buying a DAC, I would be inclind to upgrade your amp, something like the NAD C326BEE or Marantz PM6003...

I'm sure someone else may be able to suggest some other amps


Established Member
I would say that changing your amp will have the biggest effect on the overall sound quality.
Some hifi manufacturers, such as Linn, for whom the majority of their business coincidentally derives from the sales of source products, tend to stress a source-first approach when upgrading hifi, by arguing that you can only get out of a hi-fi chain what you put in - the mantra 'rubbish in, rubbish out'.
Many audio-experts agree with this. Speaking generally though, I think there's more variability in the quality of amps, especially in the budget market, than between equivalently priced source products, because it's simply easier for a source to get 99% of what it does right at a lower price point than an amp, which actually needs to drive speakers of different sensitivities and impedances, accurately and smoothly across a wide dynamic range.
I'm not writing off the benefits of a dac, because I myself got a massive boost from adding the Bryston Bda1 , but I'd say that in order to increase the 'headroom' of your particular system's quality the most you should change your amp first.
The major improvements a dac makes I think are in the quality of the analogue output stage and maintaining as pure signal as possible at this point, as opposed to the digital processing of the data itself.
However, your current amp simply will not highlight these benefits to the same degree that your speakers - the Mezzos 1 - will reveal differences in the quality of amplification.

It would be good if you try changing both components in isolation in a hifi shop to decide for yourself, but I really think that your speakers (which spending the greatest proportion of your cash on I also think was a good move, not a bad one) will no way be showing their full potential with the Cambridge Audio A1.

Furthermore, since you are obviously committed to getting the most from your music, if you want to get every ounce of improvement you can you should definitely try re-ripping your music into lossless. You don't have to re-rip all it once, but just try and rip cds over time, because ultimately changing the bit rate of your music in a set up w/o an external dac, has the potential to have greater effect than adding a dac to lossy music. Also, since you obviously want to yield the biggest improvement for your money (like everyone!) reripping music is free and provided all the chains in your system are good (Which they will be if you upgrade your amp), the good quality recordings will shine more.

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