-

Jump to content



Sign up for a free account!

Signing up for an account is fast and free. As a member you can join in the conversation, enter contests and you won't get the popup ads that guests get. Click here to create your free account.

Photo
- - - - -

Will a good external DAC make an Average Transport sound fantastic?


This topic has been archived. This means that you cannot reply to this topic.
69 replies to this topic

#1 of 70 Brett DiMichele

Brett DiMichele

    Producer

  • 3,184 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 30 2001

Posted April 30 2003 - 01:58 AM

Hey All,

I know this is sort of bordering on the sources section of
the HTF but since I am talking about external DAC's I feel
it's better suited in this section.

If you take an average CD or DVD player and use it solely
as a transport and mate it with a very good DAC will it
make a tremendous improvement. Or is just purchasing a very
high quality Player a better option?

I am not looking to buy anything! I was just curious..
Brett DiMichele
brettd@nospamyukonwaltz.com (remove nospam)

Too Much to list!
My PhotoBucket              My Buttkicker Wireless Advance Kit Review

#2 of 70 glenn.arsenault

glenn.arsenault

    Stunt Coordinator

  • 60 posts
  • Join Date: Feb 05 2003

Posted April 30 2003 - 03:44 AM

That depends on costs vs perceived value. I had a mediocre Sony ES CD player that sounded "bright" and cd's played on it had a very 2 dimensional soundstage. So, I picked up a used Audio Alchemy DTI (clocking), a Audio Alchemy DDE (DAC)and the necessary cables (1 toslink from CD player to DTI, 1 digital from DTI to DDE, and 1 set analog from DDE to preamp). I think, I speant about $400 for the components and cables. The sound was transformed - no longer bright and a wide and deep 3 dimensional soundstage.

I probably could have bought a new cd player, but the cost to achieve the same quality of sound would have been more than it cost me to use the external dac. Eventually, I did buy a higher quality CD player.
~Glenn

#3 of 70 Jonathan M

Jonathan M

    Second Unit

  • 267 posts
  • Join Date: Jul 23 2002

Posted April 30 2003 - 09:29 AM

In my opinion, there are 2 main things that make a CD player sound good:

1. The DAC and it's implementation.
2. The analog amplification stage after the DAC.

Most transports sound the same in my experience, as long as they have reasonable jitter ratings etc. (And all do).

Some external DACs may be better, some may not be. I have seen commercial DACs that are nothing more than the straight design from the DACs data sheet, using vanilla parts (NE5532 op-amps etc.) Others are better.

The IDEAL solution is an all in one unit - ie a good DAC in the player. This eliminates the SPDIF connection which is fraught with design faults (Clock must be extracted from the signal, thus increasing jitter problems, the connectors used (RCA) are not 75 ohm, thus there are impedance discontinuities in the transmission line etc etc.).

Ofcourse, if you are using the CD-player with a receiver and wish to apply bass-management, then using the receivers DACs would be the way to go (No extra ADC/DAC conversion).
"Price and quality are not correlated"

DIY Home Theatre

#4 of 70 Michael R Price

Michael R Price

    Screenwriter

  • 1,591 posts
  • Join Date: Jul 22 2001

Posted April 30 2003 - 10:32 AM

Brett,

Give me 2 months and I'll tell you. Posted Image

I'm building Scott Nixon's simple/cheap yet very well designed DacKit (which is available for $250 as a finished product). The disadvantage of that DAC is its limited output capability since it has passive I/V conversion and no output stage, but you should be fine since you now have a good preamp. My CD player is a 14 year old (at one time, expensive) Denon, and I have a feeling it should be a big improvement over the complicated opamp-based circuit in there.

I think a DAC, especially one that can reduce jitter or is less sensitive to it in the first place, should make more difference than the transport. Installing a new clock and playing with the damping and grounding in your transport could make a big difference for not much money, as well.

#5 of 70 Wynda

Wynda

    Auditioning

  • 9 posts
  • Join Date: May 10 2000

Posted April 30 2003 - 03:11 PM

Hello to all,

Just curious, Glenn, what kind of Sony ES CD player did you own? I have the CDP XA-20ES, which shares similar circuity with XA-7ES. The latter CD player was once a class A Stereophile product. The former has also been well rated in the past by Soundstage. In line with the current theme, I have moved onto an external DAC.

Sony CDP XA-20ES -> Monarchy Audio DIP -> Perpetual Technology P3A DAC (modified by Dan Wright)

Soundstage, solidity of bass, and overall clarity improved, with less overall harshness in the hi's. The trend in recent years has been to separate the transport from the DAC. In addition, the benefit of the latest DAC chip has also been touted. That's why there was such a sudden surge of manufacturers putting out standalone DACs.

Now, I think the trend is gradually shifting towards to single unit players. If I were starting from scratch, I would go with a solid single unit player (CD or SACD). I would be interested in hearing other's opinions on this matter. Thanks.
Posted Image

#6 of 70 John Royster

John Royster

    Screenwriter

  • 1,089 posts
  • Join Date: Oct 14 2001

Posted April 30 2003 - 03:57 PM

I agree with Johnathon...

Good DAC and solid analog output stage are everyting. For simplicity's sake I'd like a "all in one" solution, but if you're on a budget find an excellent DAC and go for it. You can't over look the analog output stage.

My 10 year old adcom CD player still sounds much more open and deep than my current sony 555es. It boasts a class A analog output (whether that matters or not I'll never know, but it does sound nice).

Cheers!
John

-edit- To answer your original question Brett - YES!

#7 of 70 Brett DiMichele

Brett DiMichele

    Producer

  • 3,184 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 30 2001

Posted April 30 2003 - 05:21 PM

Thanks for the info All!!

Mike,

Let me know how the DIY DAC turns out.. I wasn't really
considering an external DAC but I may.. It's either that
or I am buying an expensive player.. But that's down the
road anyway.. maybe 6 months or so Posted Image
Brett DiMichele
brettd@nospamyukonwaltz.com (remove nospam)

Too Much to list!
My PhotoBucket              My Buttkicker Wireless Advance Kit Review

#8 of 70 Lynn Little

Lynn Little

    Stunt Coordinator

  • 98 posts
  • Join Date: May 07 2002

Posted April 30 2003 - 05:27 PM

"If you take an average CD or DVD player and use it solely
as a transport and mate it with a very good DAC will it
make a tremendous improvement."

IMHO, yes! Here's my setup:

AMC CD8b CD player, which uses Sony transport (<$300, used as transport only)
Kimber Illuminations D60 Digital Coax Cable (transport-DCE)
Perpetual Technologies P-1A DCE
Camelot Technology Excalibur III I2S Cable (DCE-DAC)
ModWright Signature "Plus" Perpetual Technologies P-3A DAC
Kimber Kable KCAG Interconnects (DAC-receiver analog inputs)
Monolithic Sound P3 power supply (for P-1A & P-3A)

It sounds incredible...
Lynn Olan Little

#9 of 70 Brett DiMichele

Brett DiMichele

    Producer

  • 3,184 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 30 2001

Posted April 30 2003 - 05:30 PM

Lynn,

You could have just told me the hardware Posted Image The cables..
Well, I am not getting into that discussion I just make my
own Posted Image

Sincerely though, thanks for sharing your equipment and
opinion.

I just don't know what route I will eventualy go. From the
start I wanted to just go with a very good all in one and
budget about a grand for it.
Brett DiMichele
brettd@nospamyukonwaltz.com (remove nospam)

Too Much to list!
My PhotoBucket              My Buttkicker Wireless Advance Kit Review

#10 of 70 Chu Gai

Chu Gai

    Lead Actor

  • 7,270 posts
  • Join Date: Jun 29 2001

Posted April 30 2003 - 08:37 PM

Getting a CD player, or for that matter a DVD player, with inaudible levels of jitter for under $500, maybe even substantially less, is not a big thing Brett. Keep in mind that a top shelf BB DAC is only about $5....Wow! However if you're interested, I'll send you a link where you can buy a product that'll test the performance capabilities of a CD player. Under $25 I think.

#11 of 70 Brett DiMichele

Brett DiMichele

    Producer

  • 3,184 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 30 2001

Posted April 30 2003 - 09:33 PM

Chu,

I am sure the components themselves are fairly cheap. They
usually are, right? Posted Image

Right now I am using my DVD Player and I used to just use
my Receivers internal DAC but since I am not using a Pre
I have to use my DVD's internal DAC which wasn't as good as
the Receiver has in it.

I have wanted a single disk standalone CD Player for a while
now so the cost isn't an issue I want something built like
a tank that looks like a piece of art and has good internals.


Even if I went the DIY route and built my own external DAC
I am still up a river without oars. My DVD Player doesn't
have SPDIF output just TosLink. I would still wind looking
for a good transport to use it with. I would much rather an
all in one solution that's built right and you know it doesn't
need an external DAC.

Ohh hey did you get my last PM?
Brett DiMichele
brettd@nospamyukonwaltz.com (remove nospam)

Too Much to list!
My PhotoBucket              My Buttkicker Wireless Advance Kit Review

#12 of 70 Chu Gai

Chu Gai

    Lead Actor

  • 7,270 posts
  • Join Date: Jun 29 2001

Posted April 30 2003 - 10:33 PM

then that is another matter entirely Brett, you desire for something that's visually attractive and possibly not mainstream. I take it then that the Marantz 600 series, certain Sony's, Meridian's, Arcam's would not have the necessary visual appeal?
things that are built like tanks don't necessarily last any longer and often get pushed out of the way by smaller, lighter tanks with newer technology...ask the Iraqui's Posted Image

#13 of 70 Brett DiMichele

Brett DiMichele

    Producer

  • 3,184 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 30 2001

Posted April 30 2003 - 11:40 PM

Chu,

LOL!! As usual a thought provoking reply Posted Image

Sure technology makes everything better,smaller and faster.
I guess this is why when you rip into any CDP you find
practicaly nothing! Lots of air space in there.. Just
enough space to place a good brick (Heavy=Good!)Posted Image

Nah Meridian doesn't do much for me.. Same goes for the
others mentioned...

I really like the Sonic Frontiers Reference something or
other.. You know, the one with the space ship-esque star
orifice on the top... It opens and you drop the disk in and
if you don't get your fingers outta there it probably whacks
em off! That's cool to me Posted Image ( Who needs 12 fingers anyway?)

I wish Parasound would come out with a Halo CD-P to match
my Preamp that would be nice... So okay I guess I should
come up with a lists of what I want..


Color... Silver....

Blue lights if possible Posted Image

Must play CD's (well duh..)

HDCD Decoding would be nice...

24/96 at least

Balanced output Posted Image

Very HQ internal DAC no external DAC wanted if I can avoid it..

$1000.00 price cap (well that may be somewhat flexible)

Did I mention blue lights? haha
Brett DiMichele
brettd@nospamyukonwaltz.com (remove nospam)

Too Much to list!
My PhotoBucket              My Buttkicker Wireless Advance Kit Review

#14 of 70 Chu Gai

Chu Gai

    Lead Actor

  • 7,270 posts
  • Join Date: Jun 29 2001

Posted May 01 2003 - 12:48 AM

If I come across something that's quality and not fluff I'll pass it along.

#15 of 70 Brett DiMichele

Brett DiMichele

    Producer

  • 3,184 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 30 2001

Posted May 01 2003 - 01:01 AM

Chu,

No fluff? Good luck man! Posted Image

Remember though.. It HAS to have blue lights! heh

Is there seriously anything "wrong" with liking "pretty"
equipment?
Brett DiMichele
brettd@nospamyukonwaltz.com (remove nospam)

Too Much to list!
My PhotoBucket              My Buttkicker Wireless Advance Kit Review

#16 of 70 Scott Oliver

Scott Oliver

    Screenwriter

  • 1,159 posts
  • Join Date: Aug 30 2000

Posted May 01 2003 - 02:56 AM

Splurge for the Shanling CD-100 - you know you want the blue light power of the Shanling!
Posted Image

#17 of 70 Brett DiMichele

Brett DiMichele

    Producer

  • 3,184 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 30 2001

Posted May 01 2003 - 03:29 AM

Damnit Scott,

That's the one I've been thinkin about!

Retail is what $1700.00 ? Found them on ebay for just over
a grand.. but........... The sellers are shady.. Bank wire
transfers to Malasia? Uhhhh nah!

That is one beautiful piece of art though!
Brett DiMichele
brettd@nospamyukonwaltz.com (remove nospam)

Too Much to list!
My PhotoBucket              My Buttkicker Wireless Advance Kit Review

#18 of 70 ChrisHeflen

ChrisHeflen

    Supporting Actor

  • 912 posts
  • Join Date: Sep 09 2002

Posted May 01 2003 - 05:52 AM

Here, this one always catches my attention when I pass it in the living room.

http://www.oracle-au...2000/index.html

#19 of 70 Chu Gai

Chu Gai

    Lead Actor

  • 7,270 posts
  • Join Date: Jun 29 2001

Posted May 01 2003 - 08:27 AM

no doubt it's a work of art Chris. looks very cool!

#20 of 70 Michael R Price

Michael R Price

    Screenwriter

  • 1,591 posts
  • Join Date: Jul 22 2001

Posted May 01 2003 - 10:57 AM

Well, there's lots of debate about where jitter comes from, how to reduce it and how much it really matters. There's one DIY audio guy (Peter Daniel) who *really* knows his stuff and tweaks his equipment a lot, listening for the differences. He built a truly high-end DAC using paralleled B-B PCM1704K (which, by the way, cost $30 each not to mention the support circuitry)... and reported that a large difference in sound quality came from using completely separate power supplies (transformer, rectifiers, etc) for each part of the circuit, even having separate supplies for the digital and analog sections of the DAC chips. Presumably this means that power supply noise is a significant contributor to jitter, and that jitter even on levels well below what we are used to in hi-fi equipment are audible. (He also built a CD player using the best transport available, and noted that damping was very important... that's something not paid attention to by many commercial players.)

There is nothing wrong with onboard DACs, it's just that from what I've heard they just aren't as good as the best separate ones. In fact an onboard DAC could be theoretically better because it would not have to use the SPDIF translation.