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’m sorry, but the DAC in the Airport Express is not decent.  It was a $100 multipurpose “lifestyle” device from Apple, which is not known as an audiophile-level company by any stretch.  If a device is $100 how much of that went into the DAC section?  How much went into the power supply?  How much went into shielding and noise reduction?  You gotta be kidding me.  The “DAC” in the AE is a relative joke and a toy.  Period.  Stop trying to promote it as “decent” because it is not, and if you think it is you’ve absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. 

"The “DAC” in the AE is a relative joke and a toy.  Period.  Stop trying to promote it as “decent” because it is not, and if you think it is you’ve absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.".................

 

Okay.... I'm not an expert.  And you might be right.....and Ken Rockwall and a few other that measured the output can be wrong.  And remember we are comparing low end equipment.   Anyone can have a great sounding system for thousands of dollars.  

Bottom line...... we still couldn't hear a difference.    

But there is good wisdom here and I'm going to keep plugging forward... especially with giving this DAC time to "burn in".

It’s simple economics. You cannot build a “decent” DAC into a $100 multipurpose device. The parts quality and overall implementation from power supply to output stage are just not there. It can’t be. I will say this though — differences in DACs are more nuanced and subtle than those of, say, speakers that are far more immediately apparent. But, the subtle nuances can make all the difference in the ultimate quality of music reproduction, and details missed at the source can never be recovered. You’re on a very worthwhile path and goodonya for daring to take it, so keep an open mind and open ears and you’ll ultimately be rewarded.

+1 Geshelli Labs J2

Their customer service is second to none. I have experience with Ayre, Conrad Johnson, VAC, Audio Research, and more. For $260 you get an excellent DAC. If you want USB connection, it's $300. Go to this review, https://youtu.be/USbDI8OQP7s

 

Pair it with the WiiM mini or WiiM pro ($80, $150 respectively). See cheapaudioman YouTube review of them. Out performs the Mode.

 

I can't say you'll hear a difference from your setup, but this is as good as it gets within your budget. The Denafrips Ares II is a better DAC but it costs 3x more. That said, I'm not sure your overall system warrants the extra cost. Best of luck to you.