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Outboard DACs

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Samuel Des, Jul 14, 2001.

  1. Samuel Des

    Samuel Des Supporting Actor

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    I was in the market for a new CD player, but then heard about these outboard DACs. The advantages of these machines is obscure to me. Are they really a step-up from our receivers? (Mine is an HK 7k) I guess I'm trying to say that I don't understand [​IMG]
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    SAM
     
  2. Phil A

    Phil A Producer

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    Don't know much about your receiver, but if it is a recent model I would be a little careful of an outboard DAC that is 2 or more years older. As with anything else, there is a whole variety of equipment at different price points. If your goal is to get better music from your CDs and you are generally satisfied with your system, I would be inclined to try some tweaks with what you have, e.g. telephone book on top of the CD player, cables, Vibrapods, etc. You should decide what you are trying to accomplish with what you are using and try some relatively inexpensive things 1st.
     
  3. mctague

    mctague Stunt Coordinator

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    Phil does speak the truth about older digital gear: digital gear grows outdated very fast. Its for this very reason outboard DACs can breath new life into a system.
    And they can potentially sound better than whats in your receiver because better components can be used in since they don't need to include multi channel amplifers, signal switching, tuners, DTS decoding, volume pots, tape loops, etc etc.
    So I'd consider DACs a fairly straightforward upgrade. Its when you start talking about anti-jitter boxes, and now up-samplers that opinions will vary more widely.
     
  4. Samuel Des

    Samuel Des Supporting Actor

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    Well, I went to the MSB website, msbtech.com, and saw their LINK III DAC. Later, I found their Analog to Digital convertor, the ADD-1. This sort of confused me, because the website suggests that an A/D convertor is of greater value.
    The way I understand it, I can use the A/D, not only for a wider group of sources, but also to "improve" the sound from my DVD player. It actually sounds like a better piece of equipment.
    BTW: The receiver is a Harman Kardon 7000.
    [Edited last by Samuel Des on July 15, 2001 at 10:20 AM]
     
  5. Phil A

    Phil A Producer

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    The A/D Converter is generally used to convert analog sources to digital such as a turntable, tape deck or for use with a CD Player without digital outs. This may also be useful if you have a bargain CD Recorder. Typicaal the A/D converters in many models is of so-so quality. Looking at the AVR 7000 from what info I could find, I would think that the DACs that are built in are of decent quality and it may not make sense from an upgrade standpoint and cost of performance standard to updrade to an outboard DAC vs. doing something else in your system. With the outboard DAC you are paying for the same parts (of greater or lesser quality) that is already built into your receiver. My guess would be that you may have to spend 30-100% of the cost of your receiver to get what may be a marginal improvement. Then you have to deal with an analog cable and the A/D converters in the receiver if you are going from a CD player to the outboard DAC to the receiver. I am still not sure what you are trying to accomplish with what components.
     
  6. Samuel Des

    Samuel Des Supporting Actor

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    Hi Phil --
    Thanks for the info. That makes things a little more clear for me now.
    I guess what I'm trying to do is get my DVD player (the entry level Toshiba SD-1600) just sound better when it plays CDs. I've read that one gets better results with an outboard DAC, but have had my doubts when I condered how much I spent for my receiver, the HK 7000.
    The A/D convertor interested me because I do still use analog sources, such as my VCR, cable box, and Dreamcast. Down the road, I plan to purchase a turntable, and thought that the A/D convertor would also help "improve" the sound from the turntable.
    It seems as though the MSB boxes are the only game in town; certainly, this seems to be true with respect to the A/D convertor. But I may be missing a few somewhere.... The difficulty is in trying to find a dealer to try out these DAC or A/D machines. Still, the online dealers recommended by MSB seem reputable; and a manufacturer recommendation is a pretty strong reference!
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    SAM
     
  7. Phil A

    Phil A Producer

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    Sounds like you will be looking at an outboard phono preamp to before you go into the A/D converter. The A/D converters already built into your receiver may be of decent quality. A better phono pre-amp and catridge would likely improve the sound of a turntable more than a converter. Rotel makes an outboard phono pre-amp that is $198 and very good.
     
  8. Samuel Des

    Samuel Des Supporting Actor

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    Wow, thanks Phil. [​IMG] I'm gonna go to my local dealer this afternoon and check out the Rotel. Again, thanks!
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    SAM
     
  9. Mike Knapp

    Mike Knapp Supporting Actor

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    quote: I've read that one gets better results with an outboard DAC, but have had my doubts when I condered how much I spent for my receiver, the HK 7000.[/quote]
    I have a 2K processor, 1.5K worth of amps and probably 500 bucks worth of interconnects between them and I wouldnt be without my outboard DAC.
    If you love music, you wont regret the purchase of an outboard DAC.
    Keep in mind that your receiver MUST HAVE a bypass/direct mode to use an outboard DAC
    Mike
    [Edited last by Mike Knapp on July 15, 2001 at 06:27 PM]
     
  10. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    I wholeheartedly agree with Mike on this one. I added an MSB Link DAC to my system a few months ago and I'm now very much in love with it [​IMG] Flipping back and forth b.t the DAC in my receiver (denon 3300) and the Link DAC its pretty obvious which has the smoother sound. While I was fairly happy with the Denon's sound what makes be appreciate the Link is that music just sounds more real then it did before. I could try and say sound stage was better or it had more bass etc but IMO the best way to describ what I hear is that it just sounds more real. If you click on my website link below there's a review of the Link DAC under the gear page that might interest you
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  11. Samuel Des

    Samuel Des Supporting Actor

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  12. Steve_D

    Steve_D Second Unit

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    While outboard DAC's may be nice...does anyone else think he may see greater improvement with an outboard amp, a dedicated CD (or SACD) player, or something else? It seems to me outboard DAC's would not be where I'd put my money running a receiver based system.
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  13. Burke Strickland

    Burke Strickland Second Unit

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    Or buy a new pre/pro that has internal DACs (and antijitter technology) that equal or beat the external ones. (OK, this is "separates" territory. I'll have to admit, when I had a receiver, my first priority was adding more potent, better quality external power amps, not DACS.)
    I was "all set"/resigned to add $1,000 to my pre/pro budget for external DACs and antijitter technology when I discovered that incredible DACs and top-rate antijitter capabilities are included in the Integra Research RDC-7, which John J. Gannon, a reviewer for Stereophile Guide To Home Theater, compared directly to Perpetual Technologies P-1A/P-3A combination upsampler and D/A converter:
    quote:
    ...
    Both configurations added a whole new level of enjoyment to CD playback. Both increased the depth of the soundstage and the textures of instruments and vocals on Bob Marley's Legend CD, but the RDC-7 provided additional clarity and punch to the bass guitar and kick drum. The sonic improvement in each case was substantial. ...
    Listening to this new clarity in my old CDs, I drowsily realized that both units were able to re-create a more involving presentation of music in a better-defined space, but the RDC-7 was a tad less fatiguing—higher frequencies without glare, and vocals less sibilant. ...
    It was difficult to go back to hearing the old standard CD sound. It's hard to describe, but it was as if a haze had been lifted from between my ears and the original performance. ...
    [/quote]
    (Full review here:http://www.guidetohometheater.com/showarchives.cgi?8
    Actually that's a pretty glowing review for the Perpetual Technology products, as well as the RDC-7. I'm just glad I was able to get the same (or better) quality of performance with my Integra Research pre/pro purchase as I would have with the external unit(s). But if I had already had a different (and presumably, but not necessarily, less expensive) pre/pro with all the other features I had wanted, lacking only this, the external DACs would have been the first upgrade.
    Burke
    [Edited last by Burke Strickland on July 16, 2001 at 12:21 AM]
     
  14. Elbert Lee

    Elbert Lee Supporting Actor

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    Just be careful of purchasing used outboard DACs that had high retail prices when they were new. Chances are, they probably won't do for many of the dvd players and high quality DACs in most receivers and pre/pros of today.
    In addition, being believer of having clean A/C, an outboard DAC adds A LOT of digital noise to the A/C.
    A friend of mine purchased a $1600 outboard DAC from AUDIOGON and it ended up being harmful for his sound....
    Elbert
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  15. Samuel Des

    Samuel Des Supporting Actor

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  16. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    My advice is to pick up one of the MSB Link DAC's used. You should be able to find one under $200 fairly easily. If you don't like it (doubtful) just turn around and sell in here or on Ebay and you'll get your money back.
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  17. RicP

    RicP Screenwriter

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  18. Samuel Des

    Samuel Des Supporting Actor

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    Hm... can you use the 6-channel direct inputs as a bypass for use with an outboard DAC?
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    SAM
     
  19. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    Sam that depends on the gear you're talking about. On My Denon 3300 the 6 channel inputs don't bypass the tone controls but do bypass the bass managment. The CD inputs can be put into Direct mode which by passes the tone controls but bass management may still be active (depening on speaker set up)
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  20. Samuel Des

    Samuel Des Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the reply, Andrew. The manual for my Harman Kardon 7000 mentions no "bypass" or "direct" mode for CDs, so I suspect that I am unable to use an outboard DAC. I'm pretty disappointed. And here I thought I had a relatively flexible receiver....
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    SAM
     

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