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Budget DAC for Apple TV

Audiolab M-DAC Mini

hstejas

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Aug 6, 2014
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Hey Guys,
I recently setup a 2 channel system for the bedroom.
A Marantz PM5004 amp and Q Acoustics 2020i.
I have 2 main sources.
1) A TEAC CDP-650 which has iPod inputs as well.
2) An Apple TV2 for Wireless playback.(Optical out)

Currently I'm running a Fiio DAC for the Optical Audio conversion to RCA.
Amazon.com: FiiO D3 (D03K) Digital to Analog Audio Converter - 192kHz/24bit Optical and Coaxial DAC: Electronics

I usually play audio files of 320kbps wirelessly from the Apple TV.
However, the specs of the Fiio DAC says it only supports a max of 192kbps. (not sure what that means)

I was wondering if upgrading the DAC would improve sound quality.
The audio clarity coming from the Apple TV(through the DAC) is definitely not comparable to the Audio from the CDP.
I was looking at something like this.
Amazon.com: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi HD USB Audio System with Phono Preamp: Electronics

Not sure if this is the one I'm looking for.
Can some of the senior FMs help me out on this?

-Thanks,
Tejas
 
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panditji

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A Fiio DAC is fine compared to any other DAC within the Rs.20,000 level...if you want a significant change in sound, then keep aside a higher budget else stick with the Fiio for sometime till you make up your mind...

The product in the link will not be better than what you currently have IMHO
 

Bharathram

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Dec 3, 2014
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Considering you have a stereo amp..yes you might see a difference if you play through a dedicated DAC. However the creative one which you had mentioned in the link is more of an integration soundcard that captures multiple input sources and provides an output to your amp.It has a DAC but the quality will not be like the dedicated DACs . Please do not buy this, if your objective is to improve quality through DAC

Buy a good dedicated DAC in 150-200$ range like (microstreamer, dragonfly etc.). Else you will not see a difference.
 

amit11

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Pune (Sus Gaon)
However, the specs of the Fiio DAC says it only supports a max of 192kbps
Well, don't worry, it has a different meaning compared to the 320 kbps you mentioned. It is not 192 kbps but 192 kHz, which is the sampling rate.

CD quality is 44.1 kHz
Apple TV will always upsample/downsample to 48 kHz
and Fiio is capable of 192 kHz, so nothing to worry as such.
 

amit11

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I also have apple tv and the Fiio D03K.

CD ripped songs, and also most mp3 i suppose have sampling rate of 44.1 khz for music purpose.

however apple tv changes the rate to 48 khz by upsampling. So it introduces certain artifcats.

I was thinking to get "Airport Express", which does not upscale. It works on the same CD quality 44.1 khz. So no sampling artifacts introduced, especially non-integer sampling as in case of apple tv.
 

musicbee

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Would investment in a high quality DAC, for getting about the CD quality from a source of 320kbps, go around 150-200$?
Pretty certain that's not going to happen with any DAC at any price point...

If I want 4K or Blu-ray quality, I'll buy 4K Blu-rays or 1080P Blu-rays. No amount of upscaling or processing is going to make 480P DVDs, d/l content, rips, etc. look like 4K or even 1080P Blu-rays.

Please don't buy into the snake oil salesmen and their high end DACs that will make MP3s sound like SACD or CD.

Not going to happen, never going to happen... unless its the placebo effect you are looking for in which case I'll be happy to hypnotize you on phone or via Skype and take the $200.
 

hstejas

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Aug 6, 2014
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Location
Bangalore
Thanks for the advice musicbee :) I guess the placebo effect is quite common sometimes in this case.
amit11, its interesting to know that you have a similar setup.
I did not know that the Apple TV up samples the signal.
Looks like the DAC that I have is decent in that case.
I was just wondering, if I have 320kbps mp3s or ALAC files, to achieve the same quality as a CDP, wouldn't a so called "good" DAC make a lot of difference?
I went through many posts in the forum where people are spending big bucks on DACs.
I'm not sure if my Audio setup will be good enough for the DAC to make a difference or does it actually do make a difference.

I did read many good reviews of the Fiio D3 when I bought it. However, after playing music through the apple tv, my "decent" CDP sounds much better compared to this.
So I was a bit surprised.

-Regards,
Tejas
 

panditji

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A good DAC will make the 320 also sound better with more details and clarity...It will not make it into a CD quality sound but you will be able to extract the maximum possible details from a good DAC even with 256 and 320 kbps music...

A Meridian Explorer/Dragonfly will be able to tell you the difference in sound playing the same audio and if you go up a little in the chain, the sound will be more detailed..whether you like the details or not is your choice but the DAC will show up as much as possible...
 

Bharathram

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Tejas
I am not able to comment on Audioengine DAC because of I haven't heard it. IMO if you are not able to audition and buy , buy the one that has 5 star rating in what hifi. That ways atleast you can console yourself that you chose the best
 
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skillace

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Mar 27, 2014
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Hi Tejas,

There are so many budget dacs around but in your case, I think you need to look for one with optical input just like your fiio. Not sure if usb dacs can work in your case!

I've a Dragonfly v1.2 & a Hifimediy U2 async dac and these two are usb dacs for computers.Both have totally different sound characteristics even though both
are using ess sabre chip and one is not necessarily better than the other in my opinion.
But the amp section of dragonfly is very capable in driving most headsets compared to U2.
Dragonfly is 2.5X the price of U2.
 

amit11

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Jul 7, 2014
Messages
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Location
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@tejas

I have recently got schiit modi dac... and compared to my previous fiio d03k, I find it better. I would say different. I had few minutes back created a thread on that. Also I had got the air port express which is 44.1 unlike apple tv which is 48. I can't comment whether it would be better than cdp since I don't have cdp nor cds.
 
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