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

I have owned the  DacMagic 200 that you mention as well a Denafrips Ares II and Schiit Bifrost 2 mentioned by others.  The DacMagic is the least expensive of the 3 and can be found for under $500.  The Ares and Bifrost will cost a little bit more, over $500 even used. All 3 will beat the pants off what you have.  The DacMagic has many more features than the other two, sounds decent, but not as good as the others, imo and in the reviews I’ve read.  Quite frankly the market is flooded with inexpensive DAC’s and most will sound very good coming from the Apple.  I think you’ll be very happy with any of them again when compared to the Apple. As already mentioned you should add the cost of a streamer to get the full benefit of any of them.

I use an Aune X8 with a Sparkos opamp and found it slightly outperforms my D70s on RCA outputs on fixed outs in my system. Geshelli also allows this upgrade I believe. Can add an Aune linear PS and will cost under $500 retail, less if all bought on sale.

Using the Aune as a pre works but not as well as the fixed outs IMO but it has that option if needed utilizing both RCA and XLR outputs but I don't expect it to be fully balanced in XLR.  Cheap but more than expected performance on fixed/full output.

 

Okay folks,  got a Schiit Modius yesterday and did some "A/B" testing with a couple friends using a laptop as the music server.

Hooked up the DAC with an optical cable from a 2nd Airport Express, and then RCA cables to the amp.   That way we could go back and forth between the Schiit DAC and an Airport Express over wifi feeding the AMP.

After about an hour of listening & comparison no one could make out a discernible difference.

Next, thought maybe going through the Airport Express is a limiting factor.   So hooked up the Schiit DAC directly to the laptop via USB and then did the comparison with an Airport Express over wifi.    And once again no one could tell a difference.

So there are only two conclusions that can be made.    The signal from the laptop is so bad the Schiit DAC can't do anything with it.    Or the Airport Express DAC is pretty good as Ken Rockwall's testing indicated.

So, being part of the CLAC   (cant leave it alone club) I'm going to get a streamer to go directly to Qobuz/Tidal, etc. and see if that is the key.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is the Modius new? If so, you need to give it at least 100 hours of play time to break in before it can begin to perform to its potential. Also, using a laptop as a source and the Airport Express as a streamer with an optical connection are also big drags on performance. A dedicated streamer is a very good idea and should help a great deal. Stick with it — you’re on the right track and good things should follow.

According to Ken, the internal Dac of Airport Express (AE) seems decent if what you have is the newer 2014 model. I am not an expert on measurement. Just to compare several key parameters such as (1) SNR on AE 103 dBA vs 120-130 dBA on the most of entry-level DACs that Topping / Smsl has; and (2) jitter level, it seems AE’s digital out thru Toslink is not as impressive. I do not wish to get into the debate whether we should place the judgement solely on measurements. Since decent entry-level DACs are so affordable nowadays, you might want to just grab one and take a home audition to see if you like them better.

If you want to limit the budget under $500, consider two DACs: Topping E70 Velvet and Smsl Su9 Pro. Very good performers for their price point, good dynamics, soundstage dimensions, bass slams and airy trebles. Detailed but not analytical. The soundstage on almost all Topping/Smsl Chinese Dacs prior to these two DACs in this price point sounds flat.  If you like Schiit housesound / tembre, pick a Modius ($200). At these already lower price point, I do not recommend used products because you never know how previous owners treat their gears.

 

https://www.kenrockwell.com/apple/airport-express-audio-quality-2014.htm#:~:text=The%20AirPort%20Express%20has%20its,the%203.5mm%20analog%20connector.