Question USB DAC - headphone amp or not?

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by LittleGreyCat, Aug 27, 2017.

  1. LittleGreyCat

    LittleGreyCat
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    Background: in 2014 I bought a Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100,
    This is a DAC for separates systems with USB, 2 * co-ax and optical input.
    The only outputs are RCA connectors for L/R analogue output to the amplifier.
    There is no headphone jack, nor any volume control.
    There is a separate power supply; it isn't powered via the USB line.
    So to me this is a "proper" DAC for a stack (hey...rhymes...).

    This has worked well for me, playing music from my Windows PC through my Marantz PM6004 amp and Kef speakers. The difference from using the on board sound is both remarkable and pleasing.

    Unfortunately the DAC has just stopped outputting audio.
    It still seems to recognise the various inputs, and displays the correct sampling rate from the PC, but nothing comes out of the RCA connectors.
    I've connected another source to the interconnect and that plays through the amp.
    I've connected a known good optical source to the DAC and that doesn't work either so it doesn't seem to be an issue with the USB input.

    I will try (after the Bank Holiday) to see if it is possible to repair the DAC, but if not I will need a new one.

    The DacMagic 100 seems to fit my requirements and has good reviews, but I am reluctant to replace with the same model as the original failed after about 3 years.

    Most of the other models in that price range and lower seem to be headphone amps.
    That is, they have jack plugs for headphones instead of RCA out and generally additional circuitry to provide volume control.

    To me this seems likely to cause possible complications in the signal path between the DAC and the amplifier. Certainly the signal path will not be as straightforward as RCA<->RCA with gold terminals and decent interconnect.

    So a few questions.

    (1) How much quality am I likely to lose by using a headphone amp with jack plug compared to RCA?
    (2) How much quality am I likely to lose due to the extra circuitry on the output side?
    (3) Can anyone recommend a good alternative at a similar (or lower) price to the DacMagic 100?

    Grumble 1 - I paid just under £100 for the original and it is now £149 down from £169.

    Grumble 2 - I was lusting after one of those dinky little valve DACs which were around £100- £150 because, well, shiny valve sticking out of the top. However I can't find one at the moment.
     
  2. LittleGreyCat

    LittleGreyCat
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    Oh, and I looked at the DacMagic+ at £250 and it didn't seem to offer any more functionality for my specific needs.
     
  3. Deleted member 781788

    Deleted member 781788
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    Q1 : If it is desktop, then you probably have a line out - use that.
    Q2 : You will lose quality (noticeable) if you do away with your DAC.
    Q3: if you have a desktop, buy an ASUS Xonar Essence sound card, and fir it inside. I believe it is an upgrade to your DAC magic.
    Otherwise I have no idea.
    Those shiny Valve DACs are mostly toys - keep away.
     
  4. LittleGreyCat

    LittleGreyCat
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    I am using line out as a stop gap. The sound quality is depressing.

    I am not sure we are discussing the same thing, though.

    I have the option of a USB DAC with RCA outputs, or a USB DAC with headphone output. I am asking how much quality I will lose if I opt for the DAC with headphone output and additional amplification. (Q.1 and Q.2)

    Edit: given that I'm proposing to feed the analogue output into a Marantz PM6004 if the budget is north of £200 I might as well get a PM6006 for £269 and connect the optical out from my PC to the optical in of the amplifier. Assuming that the DAC in the PM6006 is of reasonable quality.
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2017
  5. muljao

    muljao
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    The 6006 has a good DAC.

    I bought a.n SMSL M3 off Amazon one time for about 69 pounds, it is a good DAC for the money
     
  6. LittleGreyCat

    LittleGreyCat
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    Thanks.
    Slightly put off by the 96/24 sample rate against the 192/24 of the DacMagic but I have no real idea how much difference this would make.
     
  7. Deleted member 781788

    Deleted member 781788
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    Least of your worries!
    Most high Def music is sampled at a max. 24/88 and no higher.
     

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