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XTZ A100 D3 - Use Onboard DAC, or keep using DacMagic?

GuitarBizarre

Active Member
So my new amp will be an XTZ A100 D3. It has an onboard DAC, an AD1955 chip.

I currently use my DacMagic via USB from PC. Will the XTZ DAC be noticeably superior to this? I'd have to connect it via TOSLINK or Coaxial. All of my music is currently 16 Bit, so the 24 bit compatibility won't mean TOO much to me.
 

Nico72

Well-known Member
Well done. The XTZ is an awesome piece of kit and in my view is unrivalled in its price range.

I owned one for a short while. It was an overkill in my bedroom setup. Plus the positioning of the speakers was less than ideal.
The source was a squeezebox classic. I found that comparing analogue vs digital inputs was tricky because the levels were not balanced. The digital input would always sound slightly louder. Besides the sound is silenced for about a second when you switch inputs. In the end I came to the conclusion that the difference was a subtle one, as was switching between A and AB class.

My advice would be to hold on to the DacMagic for a while so you get the chance to compare the two. I suspect you will end up selling the DacMagic though.
 

Doomlord_uk

Well-known Member
If you use a DACmagic you are converting your digital signal outside your amp and routing it via a whole host of extra wires and circuitry. It's best to convert it internally in your amp and feed the DAC output directly to your volume control. It's also cheaper.
 

GuitarBizarre

Active Member
If you use a DACmagic you are converting your digital signal outside your amp and routing it via a whole host of extra wires and circuitry. It's best to convert it internally in your amp and feed the DAC output directly to your volume control. It's also cheaper.

I already own the DacMagic and use it presently, cost isn't a factor, just weighing up what I should or should not keep using.

Also, I'm not sure if the RCA output will really affect the sound any more than the fact there are two entirely different DACs at work. What you say makes sense, but I can simply see more significant factors at work than JUST the longer signal path. After all, if the DAC in the XTZ is significantly worse, or if SP/DIF is significantly inferior to USB for sound quality, that will outweigh any potential gains.
 

scorpion88

Active Member
My advice would be to hold on to the DacMagic for a while so you get the chance to compare the two. I suspect you will end up selling the DacMagic though.

Totally agree - put the DA in the Classifieds right now:D
 

Don Dadda

Distinguished Member
When you get it, compare both and then decide. If you are able use 2 digital outputs from the pc at the same time, even better.

I have the same setup as what Nico72 had , D3 & SB3, and i have to agree the difference is not night and day but noticeable enough. I had to raise the SB3 volume output to max for a approx equal audio output, but once my ears had adjusted to slight difference in volume i could tell there was a difference and the D3 was the better dac. Also, to my ears, it was better than a Beresford TC7510 ext dac which i had and since sold on. Though close, the D3 dac sounds more full bodied than on SB3 and even moreso than with the TC7510.

I didn't find switching between the 2 outputs taking as long as Nico72 found it , but definitely not instant.

I came to the conclusion that the difference was a subtle one, as was switching between A and AB class.

I'll go with that.

The XTZ dac is a good one and a recommended one as onboard dacs go, though how it compares to the DM, hopefully you will let us know that:smashin:.
 
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Doomlord_uk

Well-known Member
My point, perhaps poorly made, is that the differences between the DAC ICs themselves should be less than the difference with and without all that extra cabling etc. To put it another way, the benefits of selling your DACmagic should soundly outweigh whatever infinitesimal 'gains' from keeping it. The XTX amp makes an external DAC redundant, it just makes no sense to keep it. Gain some free space and some money and just use the XTZ the way it was intended to be used :)
 

Don Dadda

Distinguished Member
.. The XTX amp makes an external DAC redundant, it just makes no sense to keep it. Gain some free space and some money and just use the XTZ the way it was intended to be used

This was the result in my case and something i was hoping for. Even if the XTZ dac was just as good as the TC7510, the ext dac would of still gone, but if the XTZ was worse, that would it be step back in my books and would of hung on to the ext dac a bit longer as i'm not so sure if its something i could live with.

The DM is suppose to be a better ext dac than the TC7510, but since i've never heard it, i cannot give an opinion.
 

larkone

Distinguished Member
The main difference between the two is that the DacMagic supports async USB and the XTZ doesn't. That means you are handing back the timing of the data flow back to the PC when you connect to the XTZ which may affect the sound, depending how your PC is set up and how busy it is at any one time. Using the DacMagic, the data flow is controlled and buffered by the DacMagic so the PC doesn't get to mess with the flow of data.

Does any of this effect the the overall sound - you will not know until you can ABX them.
 

Doomlord_uk

Well-known Member
It remains to be proven that async. USB connections sound any better than sync. ones. Not to mention I fail to see any reason why XTZ would skimp on a locally clocked buffer anyway if there were particular issues with clock recovery... And let's not forget that the OP would be using Toslink which has none of the clocking issues that USB has anyway.
 

larkone

Distinguished Member
From The Well-Tempered Computer:

There are high quality implementations of SPDIF.
Small wonder from the 80's on audio industry had the time to optimize the product.
However a PC might have a SPDIF header but probably not one of the highest possible quality.

The advantage of asynchronous USB is that due to this protocol the DAC is independent of the source as far as the timing is concerned. This allows for using a high quality fixed clock inside the DAC. Often asynchronous USB is combined with other measures like galvanic isolation to shield the DAC as much as possible from the electrical noise of the PC.

Technically both SPDIF and USB are capable of bit perfect transmission with low jitter.
As usual the result will be dependent on the implementation.

I have had issues running a toslink connection to a DAC from a PC (clicks pops etc.) that was cured when I switched to an async USB connection so my experience says that there could be a difference. Doomlord what direct experience do you have in this area as it may be useful to all.
 
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Doomlord_uk

Well-known Member
I don't need 'direct experience' to qualify to partake in the discussion, I need *knowledge* and that I have (as I would hope would be apparent...).

Now, I've had issues with toslink too. But so what? That's not toslink's fault, per se. That was faulty equipment, not a faulty standard. You even acknowledged yourself that toslink is capable of bit-perfect low-jitter transmission (of course it is!). You are suggesting though that Async.USB is better than toslink because you had issues with the former but not the latter, but you never isolated the cause of your problem with your toslink setup and therefore can't comment on it. You simply tried a different approach and it worked. Hooray. Oh, I've nearly always NOT had issues with toslink, btw. It does work. The power of anecdote compels...

What's more compelling, to me anyway, is reasoned argument which is why I tend to post in an 'argumentative' style (but not, I maintain, a quarrelsome way).

Given that the OP is happy to use toslink, a data transmission standard that is known and proven to offer reliable, bit-perfect, low-jitter data connections, between his PC/laptop and his XTZ amp, that contains an internal DAC that almost certainly is not audibly different from his external one, what good reasons remain to replace that cheap, effective toslink cable with the following items: 1) a usb lead, 2) a DAC magic occupying shelfspace and consuming electricity and requiring separate operation, and 3) an RCA phono lead?

Even if there is an issue with the PC's toslink output, it would be far cheaper for the OP to buy a better quality soundcard with a good toslink output than to retain the DACmagic/USB/RCA combo-killer... which costs probably 10x as much... with all the associated extra mess of cables, shelf space, electricity costs, etc.

You see, if we start with what we know is the cheapest solution that we know works, and which happens to be the easiest to implement and the most efficient too, and then start working our way up the 'solutions ladder' only as and when identifiable problems occur, then we are taking a sensible, economic approach to what is essentially an engineering problem - getting bits from the OP's PC to the volume control of his integrated audio amplifier. As we suspect only one possible problem - the possibility of a poorly implemented Toslink output on his PC, we need anticipate only one practical solution - a better implementation of Toslink output, something *cheaply* and easily implemented (again, if needed).

Aha, say you and probably many others here... but what if the DACmagic 'sounds better'? Well, to establish that it does, the OP would need to conduct some double-blind listening tests. He would need to be able to distinguish sounds, and sufficiently characterise them as to say which was better. And then.. suppose he did all this, can you honestly tell me it's down to the digital side of the DACmagic, and not the analogue side? An awful lot of work with virtually no promise of any meaningful playback whatsoever. Not worth it!

Look, let me put it bluntly, keeping an external DAC in this situation is silly. The cheapest, simplest, easiest, neatest and cleanest solution is to use the facilities offered by his new amplifier. Integration is a good thing in electronics, not a bad thing. He doesn't need an external DAC any more, so he should sell it. It really is that simple.
 

phil t

Well-known Member
Look, let me put it bluntly, keeping an external DAC in this situation is silly. The cheapest, simplest, easiest, neatest and cleanest solution is to use the facilities offered by his new amplifier. Integration is a good thing in electronics, not a bad thing. He doesn't need an external DAC any more, so he should sell it. It really is that simple.

Even if the DAC magic sounds better?

:confused:
 

larkone

Distinguished Member
And of course you are forgetting that we are dealing with a PC here. Something that has 100s, if not 1000s of variables from all variations of hardware, BIOS, firmware and software setups, running services etc etc. All of those may or may not have an effect on moving data through to the Toslink output. Buying a better soundcard is not always a solution if the problem lies elsewhere in the setup. I agree with you that Toslink is a reliable transport mechanism for data, its what sits in front of the Toslink connection that is the problem. If every PC was the same life would be so much easier but it isn't. I have been in IT for 39 years so consider myself reasonably experienced but no amount of tweaking could improve the problem I experienced with my PC or quality soundcard, so I was driven to try a different solution. Moving to async USB takes away from the PC an important job which is moving time critical data to a device that is specifically designed to do the job.

No problem for XTZ as they have full control of the hardware and software design and implementation so their life is somewhat easier. There will never be a single solution for PCs because of the large number of variables and already we are seeing the 'snake oil' merchants designing esoteric PC parts to supposedly cure all these problems and deliver audiophile nirvana from a PC. Async USB is a simple solution to the problem which must really stick in their craw, but hey tough. When you have experienced some of these problems and worked through various solutions to find a cure then maybe your accumulated pool of knowledge will have a different perspective from the 'knowledge' that is bandied around as absolute fact. The knowledgeable experts of their time once said the earth was flat.

Lets hope the OP doesn't sell his DacMagic before he has had a chance to find out if the PC is delivering a perfectly timed data stream to his Toslink connection - not a risk I would take personally, when I have the chance to test both, and as Phil t says it might even sound better. Be as blunt as you like but to sell before testing would be shooting oneself in the proverbial foot so I would suggest that is poor advice.
 

Doomlord_uk

Well-known Member
Even if the DAC magic sounds better?

:confused:
I'm not a wealthy man but I've got a tenner that says he couldn't tell them apart in a properly run DBT.

And of course you are forgetting that we are dealing with a PC here. Something that has 100s, if not 1000s of variables from all variations of hardware, BIOS, firmware and software setups, running services etc etc. All of those may or may not have an effect on moving data through to the Toslink output. Buying a better soundcard is not always a solution if the problem lies elsewhere in the setup. I agree with you that Toslink is a reliable transport mechanism for data, its what sits in front of the Toslink connection that is the problem.
The mind boggles at the thought of any modern PC being unable to supply a 1.4Mb/s data stream to a Toslink port. I mean, as long as the PC is the music source you can't avoid the issues of the PC. And quite frankly, once you get away from the 'data sending mechanism' then all those other factors are there just as much for a USB link as for an optical one.

The OP should by all means allay any concerns he might have by retaining his DACmagic until after he's taken delivery of his XTZ and tried it out, but I stand by my position that he's a jolly unlucky fellow if the only way he can get a digital audio stream out of his PC is via a USB2.0 Asynchronous connection.

The REAL reason USB inputs on DACs exist is a matter of convenience - ALL PCs have USB outputs, many do not have optical outputs. If you want to reach the widest market you go with the most commonly available interface. Then, to real in the $$$s-burning-holes-in-their-pockets "audiophile" market you spin some yarn about re-clocking and jitter and so on, ignoring that the effects are inaudible and always were. Our industry is FULL of ******** and I'm going to keep calling it out. Audio isn't voodoo, it's straightforward engineering and whilst there's ground to be made in continually improving speakers and amplifiers we're already well past the point where digital audio is a 'problem'. The hifi world just needs to let go of its ridiculous neurosis about 'sound quality' :lesson:
 

GuitarBizarre

Active Member
*sigh*


Doomlord, I appreciate that you think your knowledge and input on the matter is the absolute dogs ********, but for every intelligent comment I see you make on whatever random thing you've decided to spew hate and bile at today, I see at least one other thing you're saying that just doesn't make sense.

Might I suggest that rather than trying to set the world to rights with reams of text and a chip on your shoulder, you just calm down and actually try to make your points in a way that doesn't alienate others? I largely AGREE with you about how much snakeoil there is in the audio industry, but the way you put it across is ridiculous and militant, and will simply cause people to write you off far more often than it convinces anyone.


I will be testing the DacMagic side by side with the Toslink, I suspect there will be a difference due to the fact the DacMagic uses a Wolfson 8470 and the XTZ uses an AD1955. If nothing else, thats enough reason to be curious. Apparently no resolution is to be found within this thread so I'll leave it be and make the decision on my own.
 

MI55ION

Distinguished Member
For what it matters I found the USB input on the dacmagic (original) weak compared to the spdif coax. In fact I don't think there'll be much in it to be perfectly honest between the dacmagic and using the xtz internal dac. Keep it simple as Doomlord suggest. But of course let your own ears decide, with a bit of blind testing just to spice things up if you really want it to be meaningful.
 

MI55ION

Distinguished Member
larkone said:
The main difference between the two is that the DacMagic supports async USB and the XTZ doesn't. That means you are handing back the timing of the data flow back to the PC when you connect to the XTZ which may affect the sound, depending how your PC is set up and how busy it is at any one time. Using the DacMagic, the data flow is controlled and buffered by the DacMagic so the PC doesn't get to mess with the flow of data.

Does any of this effect the the overall sound - you will not know until you can ABX them.

Asynch, Does it? Sorry if i missed it somewhere but i thought the op has the original dacmagic (post Westlake) that certainly did not support asynch usb.
 

Doomlord_uk

Well-known Member
GuitarreBizarre, have fun with your DBT but you should know that both DAC ICs feature >-100dB noisefloors and perfectly linear in-band frequency responses. IOW you aren't going to hear a difference.

Wolfson 8740:
120dB SNR ('A' weighted, mono @ 48kHz)
117dB SNR ('A' weighted, stereo @ 48kHz)
104dB THD ('A' weighted @ 48kHz)

Analog Devices 1955:
120 dB SNR/DNR (not muted) at 48KHz Sample Rate (A-Weighted Stereo)
123 dB SNR/DNR (Mono)
-110 dB THD+N

(data from their respective websites)

IOW what this data shows is that you aren't going to hear a difference between the DAC ICs themselves. Maybe XTZ did a worse implementation than Cambridge did... but I doubt it. It's actually pretty hard to **** up an IC circuit because the IC companies do it for you.

But of course let your own ears decide
Actually the single worst piece of advice you can give. Our ears are absolutely NOT reliable listening devices, and much of what we perceive is down to psychology and neuroscience (ie our brains) and not aurology (our ears). This is a matter of scientific fact.

If nothing else, thats enough reason to be curious.
Curiousity is fine and I would encourage it, but don't go in with pre-conceptions or you'll just get whatever result you expected to get and never know if it is real or imagined. Investigate with a DBT and you'll learn something, which is what rewards curiousity. But you can save yourself a lot of wasted time and effort by applying some common sense. EVEN IF you had an amplifier and speaker system with greater SNR than your DACs (or even CD audio!) your hearing does not have that dynamic range. You would be seriously struggling to hear noise at -60dBs to -70dBs against ANY kind of foreground sound or music, much less at >-100dBs. Accept the time and tested results of hard science and just dump the DACmagic already. Life is too short to re-invent the wheel all the time.

i thought the op has the original dacmagic (post Westlake) that certainly did not support asynch usb.
I don't know but if true then conventional wisdom is that it is going to sound terrible... with all that PC-originated uberjitter! OTOH, he isn't going to use a USB connection apparently? So what does it matter?
 
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GuitarBizarre

Active Member

If you're going to just mock the contributions of others, I'd appreciate it if you just left the thread and went somewhere else. Whether you're right OR wrong doesn't factor into the fact you are being a complete arse.

As mentioned above, there is plenty of stuff where I agree with you, but there's equally as much stuff where you just seem to be speaking as an authority and as if the sun shines out of your backside, without providing rationale or reasoning, and most importantly, without actually coming off as a pleasant human being.
 

Doomlord_uk

Well-known Member
If you're going to just mock the contributions of others
I'm not mocking anyone. Take me seriously, and maybe we can get somewhere...

but there's equally as much stuff where you just seem to be speaking as an authority and as if the sun shines out of your backside, without providing rationale or reasoning
If that's your reaction then fine, but why don't you name the problem arguments and we can discuss them. I don't want to be written off and if I'm being misunderstood or failing to get my point across then I can fix that if people point out where. Bitching doesn't help. You need to mend YOUR attitude.

Lastly, I am quite explicitly calling a spade a spade. I *know* a lot of people can't accept the truth, don't want to hear it and to be left alone to their delusions and that's fine - as long as they isolate themselvse. I won't be censored for speaking the truth though. This is an open community and there is - or ought to be - plenty of room for disagreement. It's absolutely not my job, or anyone's, to validate your beliefs or re-affirm your delusions.

I'll put it bluntly, one more time, and then I will - just to indulge you - leave this thread: It is absurd, for all the reasons I've given, to keep the DACmagic. The XTZ makes it redundant. So sell it, pocket the change and enjoy some music on your nice new system. And don't waste any time trying to do what we already know is impossible - namely hear differences between DACs...

Bye.
 

MI55ION

Distinguished Member
Doomlord_uk said:
GuitarreBizarre, have fun with your DBT but you should know that both DAC ICs feature >-100dB noisefloors and perfectly linear in-band frequency responses. IOW you aren't going to hear a difference.

Wolfson 8740:
120dB SNR (’A’ weighted, mono @ 48kHz)
117dB SNR (’A’ weighted, stereo @ 48kHz)
104dB THD (’A’ weighted @ 48kHz)

Analog Devices 1955:
120 dB SNR/DNR (not muted) at 48KHz Sample Rate (A-Weighted Stereo)
123 dB SNR/DNR (Mono)
-110 dB THD+N

(data from their respective websites)

IOW what this data shows is that you aren't going to hear a difference between the DAC ICs themselves. Maybe XTZ did a worse implementation than Cambridge did... but I doubt it. It's actually pretty hard to **** up an IC circuit because the IC companies do it for you.

Actually the single worst piece of advice you can give. Our ears are absolutely NOT reliable listening devices, and much of what we perceive is down to psychology and neuroscience (ie our brains) and not aurology (our ears). This is a matter of scientific fact.

Curiousity is fine and I would encourage it, but don't go in with pre-conceptions or you'll just get whatever result you expected to get and never know if it is real or imagined. Investigate with a DBT and you'll learn something, which is what rewards curiousity. But you can save yourself a lot of wasted time and effort by applying some common sense. EVEN IF you had an amplifier and speaker system with greater SNR than your DACs (or even CD audio!) your hearing does not have that dynamic range. You would be seriously struggling to hear noise at -60dBs to -70dBs against ANY kind of foreground sound or music, much less at >-100dBs. Accept the time and tested results of hard science and just dump the DACmagic already. Life is too short to re-invent the wheel all the time.

I don't know but if true then conventional wisdom is that it is going to sound terrible... with all that PC-originated uberjitter! OTOH, he isn't going to use a USB connection apparently? So what does it matter?

Steady on fella, thats a little strong don't you think.

Did you even read my full post or just picking on the bit that helps you to push through some of that over bearing fanatical scientific belief that you seem to take pleasure in preaching, that your ears don't matter. Good lord man, listen to yourself.

Seriously any credibility you might have had with me is lost based on that ill judged response.

About the dacmagic, it matters since its important to get your FACTS straight, as man pushing the scientific angle, you of all people should know this.
 

juggler

Active Member
Back on topic... Its worth pointing out I think that a certain amount of the performance of any DAC comes from the accompanying circuitry; it's not all about the chip.
 

alexs2

Distinguished Member
And don't waste any time trying to do what we already know is impossible - namely hear differences between DACs...

Bye.

This is patently nonsense in that the DAC as a whole can quite obviously sound different to another with similar specs,and the quote below is a very good example of the reasons why.



Back on topic... Its worth pointing out I think that a certain amount of the performance of any DAC comes from the accompanying circuitry; it's not all about the chip.

Exactly.....even the same chip can have a different overall sound when accompanied by different PSUs,different output buffers etc etc.

Doomlord may need to revisit his posting style and not be so overbearing or unwilling to even entertain,let alone accept,the views of other members.

Most of our members do not appreciate being talked down to in this way,and it's not the first time he's been reminded of this fact....so I've warned him again.
 

Doomlord_uk

Well-known Member
I should have clarified, as I've done in a few places, where I'm talking about DAC ICs, which I'm saying are not audibly different, and DAC 'hifi components' which of course might sound different. Note that the OP expected to hear differences based on the ICs themselves, not the over components (which can't be directly compare anyway, as the XTZ DAC 'component' is integrated fully into the amplifier.

As for accepting views, I will accept them when they are convincing. It's the responsibility of the person expressing a view, or point... , to convince. Simply agreeing out of friendliness is childish yet if feels like that's what I'm being asked to do. I expect nothing less of anyone else regarding my posts, btw; they're my posts so it's my job to convince. It's just rational behaviour and the only behaviour that can lead to increased understanding of a subject under discussion.

I'm sorry I get so overbearing perhaps, but nowhere else on the internet, outside of conspiracy-theory boards, do you find so much conversation of objective matters so hopelessly swallowed in subjective opinion and with discussion governed not by any allegiance to any epistomologically meaningful approach to truth but instead an honour code of 'I won't be critical of what you say if you won't be critical of what I say'. Such conversation, it seems to me, can be of no use to those asking for help and advice on how to spend money - a serious topic that, IMO, deserves better treatment than it gets.
 

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