Is low cost DAC worth it?


Been learning a lot from you fine folks... thanks!

I am driving Boston Acoustic Lynnfield 975 speakers with a Willsenton R8 amp (recent purchase to try it out) and streaming over wifi through Apple Airport Express. It sounds pretty good but I find myself wondering if adding a low cost DAC would improve the sound any?

Maybe something like the Cambridge DacMagic 100 or 200M?

My hearing is not that great anymore, so I don’t think it makes sense to jump on a DAC costing thousands, but I understand the Airport Express is a decent DAC, so not sure if a low cost one would make any difference?

 

tbick

+1 @yyzsantabarbara Schitt is a great low cost option, also a great option is the iFi signature DAC and their new streamer. The pair will give you all the FLAC and DSD native (not converted to FLAC) resolutions you need.  I have the pair for a vintage system and it’s fantastic for the money. I also looked at the DAC magic and I’m glad I went with this pair. I’m very pleased. Good luck to you!

iFi and Topping make very good budget DAC's. I have iFi in the shop and Topping in the library. I am not an Apple fan so wouldn't know how they stack up. My hearing is no longer as good as it once was. Even so, the appreciation is still there. I have a used OPPO in the main system. Cambridge Audio could go on your list as well, new and used.

I would buy a low cost one from Amazon (or other easy return site), keep or return it.

IF it improves things, then perhaps do research on the next step up, no rush.

btw, Amazon has ’free returns’, no return shipping costs.

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In my case, real lofi, I was using the PC headphone adapter, rca cable to line in. Advised here to use USB out, to DAC to line in, I bought an inexpensive DAC,

Topping D10s Mini USB DAC, $110.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08F54TT79/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&th=1

it made an obvious difference including increased signal strength/volume.

Years ago I used the optical out on an Airport Express to stream to a Schiit Bifrost Multibit DAC, which I thought was an improvement over the Airport's internal DAC.

I swapped out the Airport for an Allo DigiOne Signature with Shanti linear power supply, total cost less than $500. That was a very good improvement over the Airport and I still use it today.

I recently upgraded the Bifrost Multibit to a Bifrost 2/64, which is definitely better to me than the original, tighter bass, more accurate sound overall.

That means I have the Bifrost Multibit available for sale, offered at $250, please message me if interested. This is the version without the USB card, so please make sure you don't need that or plan to get one from Schiit.

The Bluesound Node seems to be a popular all-in-one solution with updated tech that likely will outperform your Airport and has the DAC included. I've read that adding an external DAC to the Bluesound is more improvement still if you ever want to go there.

If you keep the Airport and use any of the DAC's recommended above, fiber optic cable is the only way to connect to it, which of the DAC input options that include USB, digital coax, and BNC, people seem to find least desirable from a sound quality perspective.

 

Thank you all for great information.   I did confirm tonight the Airport Express is limited to 16 bit, 44.1kHz stereo, which isn't bad, but like a couple of you, I'm thinking "old technology" so I'm going to start out with a Schiit DAC.    

I'm also very intrigued by the JDS Atom+............thinking about using it in my garage system, but it doesn't have an optical input, which I understand is needed to bypass the DAC in the AE.    

I'll report back once I have had a Schiit DAC to compare.