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Finally figured out what the deal with DACs is.

Wharfedale Diamond 11.2 Speakers

ShutterX

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I received my first DAC today. The SMSL Sanskrit 6th Gen. Plugged it in and installed the drivers. Played my favourite track and.... there was no difference whatsoever.

Now, i was kinda worried that i just got fooled by the 'audiophile' hype that having a good DAC makes soooo much difference. But decided to listen in more and experiment more.

2 hours into my listening, i have somewhat changed my opinion, thankfully for the better. I have 2 a few observations.

1) There is no perceivable difference on Stereo speakers (maybe because my speakers are not placed properly)

2) In headphones, there is a perceivable difference in dynamic range (the difference between the softest and loudest sound.)

3) No change is 'sound quality' mids/lows/highs (like i had thought. its a DAC not amp, which has its own color to add.)

4) Signal quality is greatly improved. (this is my first experience with true 2vrms preout.)

I used to listen to music at 30 volume on my FIIO amp. But with the DAC, i get the same SPL at 23 volume. So thats a clear difference.

Will post updates if my impressions change. Cheers!
 
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rikhav

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What source material are you using?

If its lossy mp3, dont expect much
 

shibashis

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The difference in SQ when a good DAC is in chain and when it is not can be huge provided the system is capable doing justice to the DAC.

Prior to the DAC what was performing the plyback duty?

You absolutely should be able to make out the difference not just on your headphones but through the speakers as well.

Point 3 is particularly damning, a decent system will be able to coax out plenty of improvements with a good DAC in the chain throughout the frequency spectrum, i.e. the highs, mids and lows, that is the reason why one opts for a better DAC than the one already in implementation. You had thought wrong!

A very important point is not to jump the gun and come to a conclusion in the first couple of days. The differences may seem very subtle at first, almost non-existent even but one has to grow into the new sound (if it really is anything new that the DAC is offering), give it time and you may well be surprised a few days down the line.

Trust me, a good DAC can almost change your life, take it from someone who has experienced this change. :)
 

Srinath_seshadri

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Its all dependent on the weakest link. If you put a high end DAC and transport, it will shift your weakest link to the speakers or the amp or maybe even the wires. Upgraditis is usually terminal, point is, to have fun on the ride, all the way to the Pagal khana.
Cool.
Srinath.
 

bornfi

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my take is this that when the world shifted to storing music digitally, nobody thought or at least told us that a true retrieval and presentation would be expensive and that is what DAC is.
 

ShutterX

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What source material are you using?

If its lossy mp3, dont expect much
This reminds me to share my experience of source material. I have a collection of FLAC as well as 320kbps along with my old 128kbps collection from the college days.

FLAC has any advantage only if the recording/mastering quality is really good. I acquired a super vinyl rip 192 khz 24 bit FLAC of Hans Zimmers Inception OST. There is a track called Mombasa in it.

The FLAC was vinyl recorded so i could hear the cracks and pops. Very annoying. However my old 128 kbps mp3 sounded way better. Having said that, i have other well mastered FLAC too. Those sound much better than lossy.

My observation (for now) is that unless FLAC is pristine in mastering, its difficult to make out from a similarly mastered 320 kbps mp3.

To answer your question, prior to this, i was using my PC onboard Realtek ALC886, with my various FLACs and mp3s (Foobar Direct Sound.)

Now its the Sanskrit (Foobar Wasapi Event/Default 24 bit.)
 

ShutterX

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Its all dependent on the weakest link. If you put a high end DAC and transport, it will shift your weakest link to the speakers or the amp or maybe even the wires. Upgraditis is usually terminal, point is, to have fun on the ride, all the way to the Pagal khana.
Cool.
Srinath.
Agreed. I ordered DAC RCA cables (just in case they make some difference to sound on the SM65s)
 

regeHA

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All the folks thinking one component cannot make much of a difference or your music is only going to be as good as the weakest link in the chain, need to check out the Bug Head Player.

It is PC-based, but I have tried it with everything like computer speakers, AVR, stereo amp, active speakers, monitors, and even Bluetooth and wireless speakers. In every single instance it has made a world of difference, and I am not exaggerating.

You can check out the thread at http://www.hifivision.com/computer-audio/60876-bug-head-player.html.

OP - Even a decent DAC should make more of an impression than you are seeing, even for low bit rate radio, streaming music, and MP3 rips. Obviously, the purchase will be higher for higher resolution music. But even a decent DAC like a decent soundcard has made perceptible/perceivable difference in every single instance.
 

ShutterX

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OP - Even a decent DAC should make more of an impression than you are seeing, even for low bit rate radio, streaming music, and MP3 rips. Obviously, the purchase will be higher for higher resolution music. But even a decent DAC like a decent soundcard has made perceptible/perceivable difference in every single instance.
Perhaps. I could be wrong but it might just be because of higher analogue single quality. Maybe you feel that the music is better than before because it plays louder than before at the same volume. But do highs become more crisp? Do lows get deeper? I personally havent noticed it (in my 1 days experience with DAC)
 

regeHA

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Perhaps. I could be wrong but it might just be because of higher analogue single quality. Maybe you feel that the music is better than before because it plays louder than before at the same volume. But do highs become more crisp? Do lows get deeper? I personally havent noticed it (in my 1 days experience with DAC)
Well you will need to test for yourself, nobody can stand in for another and say it is so. I can share from my own personal experience, and leave it at that.

Here are a few things you can try and see if you can perceive (not appreciate, but definitely perceive) a difference. I am limiting this to a PC-based setup, but the same is also true for a traditional setup like transport, CD, DAC, preamp, power amp, cables, various interconnects, etc. Then there is the question of the content itself - CD, CD image, CD rip, FLAC, streaming music, etc.

1. Choose different sound output devices like sound cards, USB sound cards, external DACs, etc. Every single instance has a different sound signature to it, both for movies and music.
2. Test between RAM playback and disc playback. Pretty much every media player has a RAM playback option, and I can definitely say there is a difference when using RAM playback in Foobar.
3. Test between different types of hard drives (regular HDD, SSD, M.2 SSD), again with and without RAM playback.
4. Test between various interfaces like SATA 2, SATA 3 as well as the cables themselves.
5. Test between various media players, Foobar was king, but has now been dethroned by Bug Head.

PS: Loudness is only one part of the equation, I perceive changes (sometimes only subtle) in highs, lows, placement, details, clarity, soundstage, etc. Not logical, and not easily explained either, but I have been testing with the Bug Head player on a low-end PC with computer speakers and it pretty much rocks the boat. I can only imagine what it will do with a proper audiophile build PC, a decent DAC, and speakers.
 

ShutterX

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One question to OP. Why have you opted for this DAC? Have you heard it anywhere, friends recommendation or by review?
I decided to go with this after reading and watching many reviews. This basically is the same tech as the schiit modi 2 uber. Exactly the same. Only thing is that the modi is made in USA, it would be costlier to import, hence this decision.
 
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ShutterX

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Well you will need to test for yourself, nobody can stand in for another and say it is so. I can share from my own personal experience, and leave it at that.

Here are a few things you can try and see if you can perceive (not appreciate, but definitely perceive) a difference. I am limiting this to a PC-based setup, but the same is also true for a traditional setup like transport, CD, DAC, preamp, power amp, cables, various interconnects, etc. Then there is the question of the content itself - CD, CD image, CD rip, FLAC, streaming music, etc.

1. Choose different sound output devices like sound cards, USB sound cards, external DACs, etc. Every single instance has a different sound signature to it, both for movies and music.
2. Test between RAM playback and disc playback. Pretty much every media player has a RAM playback option, and I can definitely say there is a difference when using RAM playback in Foobar.
3. Test between different types of hard drives (regular HDD, SSD, M.2 SSD), again with and without RAM playback.
4. Test between various interfaces like SATA 2, SATA 3 as well as the cables themselves.
5. Test between various media players, Foobar was king, but has now been dethroned by Bug Head.

PS: Loudness is only one part of the equation, I perceive changes (sometimes only subtle) in highs, lows, placement, details, clarity, soundstage, etc. Not logical, and not easily explained either, but I have been testing with the Bug Head player on a low-end PC with computer speakers and it pretty much rocks the boat. I can only imagine what it will do with a proper audiophile build PC, a decent DAC, and speakers.
Ok, so i listened to my speakers a lot yesterday and have an update. Yes primary difference is again in dynamic range. This makes the sound feel much sharper and more accurate. After careful inspection, i did notice a very slight boost in low end, it's tough since my bookshelves bottom of at 70hz. Using a DAC like this definitely gives the tweeters a workout in week mastered tracks.

It's much more fun to play music slightly lower because of the enhanced dynamic range. Lossy files are also reasonably better now.

As you had rightly said, it's more about getting used to this type of sound rather than actual change in sound. That's the intangible part that was being discussed.
 

afj

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the smsl sanskrit isnt a high end dac. its entry - mid level. if your previous dac was the weak link in your setup, then a better dac would make a difference. not sure what the rest of your setup was, or what previous dac / source you were using.
 

koushik

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I decided to go with this after reading and watching many reviews. This basically is the same tech as the schiit modi 2 uber. Exactly the same. Only thing is that the modi is made in USA, it would be costlier to import, hence this decision.
I see.

So, I am same question, as Keith asked, what you meant by 'same tech'?
 

ShutterX

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When you say "same tech" what exactly do you mean?
I see.

So, I am same question, as Keith asked, what you meant by 'same tech'?
I mean both have similar chips. Main difference is that the Modi goes to 24 bit while the Sanskrit does 32 bit. Stereo output is 1.5v for the Modi and 2v for the Sanskrit. Both prices are similar. Modi costlier because its made in US.
 

ShutterX

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the smsl sanskrit isnt a high end dac. its entry - mid level. if your previous dac was the weak link in your setup, then a better dac would make a difference. not sure what the rest of your setup was, or what previous dac / source you were using.
Yes. Its Mid level at best. My gear is present in my sig. And my DAc prior to this was the onboard ALC886 of my Asus M5a97 mobo.

After few days of listening, I have noticed a difference. 100$ worth of difference? i cant tell.
 

keith_correa

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I mean both have similar chips. Main difference is that the Modi goes to 24 bit while the Sanskrit does 32 bit. Stereo output is 1.5v for the Modi and 2v for the Sanskrit. Both prices are similar. Modi costlier because its made in US.
Which chips are the same? Don't they use different DAC IC's?
 
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