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Is moving to DAC from cd players worth the money?

Mogami Cables

preth30

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Dear FMs,
I have seen lots of posts in 'For Sale by Owner' link, people putting for sale various Digital to Analog Converters or DAC in short. Some of the posts bear horrifying price tags. Is the equipment really worth the price or does anyone think that investing less than half the price of a DAC, in decent cd player a better option. Is DAC really worth the huge amount and the effort (Linking a transport/source to a DAc and then linking the DAC to the amplifier). Is it that DAC is highly priced because it is a relatively new product and will decrease in future. I remember my fathers brother buying a VCR years back for 75000/- and finally during the last days of VCR, more advanced units were sold for a price as low as 10,000/-.
 

raghupb

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Depends on what you are gunning after. All AVRs and recent lineup of IAs have DACs.
Sources today (excluding TTs, tape decks and some tuners) have DACs in them.
It is up to you to use what's in the equipment or take them out of the equation.
I see outboard DAC as a convenience, that will normalize digital content to a certain extant.
And yes, DACs have flavor. Some are good, some are bad, some are ugly. So is the price.

Cheers,
Raghu
 

newlash09

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Dear FMs,
I have seen lots of posts in 'For Sale by Owner' link, people putting for sale various Digital to Analog Converters or DAC in short. Some of the posts bear horrifying price tags. Is the equipment really worth the price or does anyone think that investing less than half the price of a DAC, in decent cd player a better option. Is DAC really worth the huge amount and the effort (Linking a transport/source to a DAc and then linking the DAC to the amplifier). Is it that DAC is highly priced because it is a relatively new product and will decrease in future. I remember my fathers brother buying a VCR years back for 75000/- and finally during the last days of VCR, more advanced units were sold for a price as low as 10,000/-.
Hi preth30

Let me put it this way, the CD player has 2 parts. The spinning part called as the transport and the dac part which does the conversion. If one is happy with the transport part, but wants to tweak the sound, they used to add external dacs. This how the dac revolution was started by deep pocketed hobbyists.

Subsequently the usual audiophile bull shit set in, that a dac working inside a spinning and vibrating cd transport will be subject to both mechanical and electrical jitter. This got a few more folks trying external dacs.

In the present scenario where there is a plethora of digital sources, having a good dac is a matter of convenience. And since we can save money from buying different digital sources all having different dac's, and different sound presentation. It makes sense to buy one high quality external dac that will give you the same presentation that you prefer, despite the source you use. So an external dac is a sound investment if you want explore options in the digital world. That said, i would never buy a dac new, as they are the worst price retaining components in the chains. A good poweramp is a good poweramp is a good poweramp even after 10 years. So it will hold its value very well. A great dac today, is a decent dac next year, and a no one's dac 5 years down the line. True or not, manufacturers claim to make their dac's better with every passing year. Though it might be pure marketing bullshit, this leads to huge devaluation of existing kit. So i will never spend my money on a new dac. Buying used makes complete sense :)
 

shibashis

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A good DAC or one that matches with your existing chain has the potential to change your world. I do not say this lightly nor it is just a rhetoric.
If your sources are primarily digital then in my opinion a good DAC is a must, there is no two way about it.
DACs in AVRs or integrated amps are mostly there to make up numbers, I am talking of most entry level gear here. This is new and constantly evolving technology and so the prohibitive pricing, that does not mean a good one from 2014 is obsolete today. In buying a used DAC you miss out on the most recent and ever-changing horizon of new formats for digital music.
For example a 5 year old DAC may not support DSD but how much do you really need DSD? If it was a great sounding equipment back then it still is.
Also know this, the 'DAC' is just the chip, like a CS4398 or ESS9018 or AD1955. A good DAC makes its name in its analogue section, the output of the chip that will actually make it to your preamp/amp. This is where inbuilt DACs on entry level gear (AVRs or Integrated amps) fall short.

Perhaps hear a few DACs in your own system with fellow members to quell your doubts, hearing is believing! :)
 

bornfi

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Sep 9, 2015
Messages
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Dear FMs,
I have seen lots of posts in 'For Sale by Owner' link, people putting for sale various Digital to Analog Converters or DAC in short. Some of the posts bear horrifying price tags. Is the equipment really worth the price or does anyone think that investing less than half the price of a DAC, in decent cd player a better option. Is DAC really worth the huge amount and the effort (Linking a transport/source to a DAc and then linking the DAC to the amplifier). Is it that DAC is highly priced because it is a relatively new product and will decrease in future. I remember my fathers brother buying a VCR years back for 75000/- and finally during the last days of VCR, more advanced units were sold for a price as low as 10,000/-.
The short answer is 'yes'. Shifting from CD Player to DAC is like shifting from beer to whiskey. Another analogy could be General Physician vs Neurosurgeon :).

How much should you spend on a DAC depends on rest of your system; there isn't any fixed formula.

e.g. In a recent incident, I had to switch off my expensive amplifier and used a 10+ year old Yamaha AV receiver and with my Schiit Yggdrasil and Tekton Design Pendragon speakers, it sounded really nice for which, I would give 50% credit to my DAC and rest to speakers and Yamaha.
 

preth30

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I use a quad cd 99 as my source. Recently I listened to a friends Cambridge audio DAC magic 100 which he purchased for around 27k. I never felt any improvement in sound, in fact my quad was better in every way. I also tried a DAC from musical fidelity. There too I think I preferred my cd player. Then there was a guy who used a DAC by Nuforce (did not get to know the model number). That....made a difference. The sound was cleaner, deeper and better refined when compared to my cd player. I was really impressed by the sound. But that was short lived when he said the price he paid for it is 99000/- So that is the point. If your DAC need to sound superior to your decent cd player, you have to break your fixed deposits.
 

Kannan

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In the audiophile world, most times, it is impossible to quantify the cost to performance ratio.
Anyhow, DACs are the way ahead in the modern digital transmission of music.
I prefer neutral equipments in my chain with the final signature being provided by the speakers sans the room response.

The audio world is one of the most misleading, fantasy-filled, addictive, sometimes magical industry/passion.
It is like a drug to trap the unintended.

Some of the reviews often make me wonder if it is indeed a product review or is the reviewer entering some poetry competition with his surreal imagination and the use of phrases.
 
M

mpw

Guest
This debste
The short answer is 'yes'. Shifting from CD Player to DAC is like shifting from beer to whiskey. Another analogy could be General Physician vs Neurosurgeon :).

How much should you spend on a DAC depends on rest of your system; there isn't any fixed formula.

e.g. In a recent incident, I had to switch off my expensive amplifier and used a 10+ year old Yamaha AV receiver and with my Schiit Yggdrasil and Tekton Design Pendragon speakers, it sounded really nice for which, I would give 50% credit to my DAC and rest to speakers and Yamaha.
This a question that has no answer really.

There are some great beers and whiskies too...

Just like most things in audio... Take whatever floats your boat.

My preference is for the CDP over a separate dac..

Regards
 

raghupb

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I use a quad cd 99 as my source. Recently I listened to a friends Cambridge audio DAC magic 100 which he purchased for around 27k. I never felt any improvement in sound, in fact my quad was better in every way. I also tried a DAC from musical fidelity. There too I think I preferred my cd player. Then there was a guy who used a DAC by Nuforce (did not get to know the model number). That....made a difference. The sound was cleaner, deeper and better refined when compared to my cd player. I was really impressed by the sound. But that was short lived when he said the price he paid for it is 99000/- So that is the point. If your DAC need to sound superior to your decent cd player, you have to break your fixed deposits.
Lucky you!!

Cheers,
Raghu
 

drkrack

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Aug 29, 2016
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A good DAC or one that matches with your existing chain has the potential to change your world. I do not say this lightly nor it is just a rhetoric.
If your sources are primarily digital then in my opinion a good DAC is a must, there is no two way about it.
DACs in AVRs or integrated amps are mostly there to make up numbers, I am talking of most entry level gear here. This is new and constantly evolving technology and so the prohibitive pricing, that does not mean a good one from 2014 is obsolete today. In buying a used DAC you miss out on the most recent and ever-changing horizon of new formats for digital music.
For example a 5 year old DAC may not support DSD but how much do you really need DSD? If it was a great sounding equipment back then it still is.
Also know this, the 'DAC' is just the chip, like a CS4398 or ESS9018 or AD1955. A good DAC makes its name in its analogue section, the output of the chip that will actually make it to your preamp/amp. This is where inbuilt DACs on entry level gear (AVRs or Integrated amps) fall short.

Perhaps hear a few DACs in your own system with fellow members to quell your doubts, hearing is believing! :)
I very much concur with your opinion, just wanted to share our recent experience.

We compared Smsl Su-8(costed 22k)with Northstar Supremo (1.75L) at my setup, which is resolving enough to differentiate between a good and bad digital mastering or changing of power cables with critical listening. The Smsl has Ess 9038 Chipset which is quite newer Than Ess 9018 in Northstar Supremo.
Within 15minutes of comparison of our favorite tracks the difference was pretty obvious. The Northstar excelled in every way of presentation of music. Be it bass drums, vocals, guitars or cymbals the presentation was quite gracious (or glamorous for easier understanding). The texture and tonality was impeccably musical & non fatiguing to say the least.

Whereas the Smsl Su-8 had almost every detail that northstar supremo had, but was lacking a lot in gracious presentation of the same details. So it's not just the details the overall sound signature which gets improved with hi grade DACs.
To give you an anology, Northstar Supremo presentation was like Idli-Sambar from Five Star Hotel and Smsl Su-8 was the same Idli-Sambar from say a roadside eatery. For many it may not matter as long as its a Idli-Sambar, For many audiophiles it matters a lot & they tend to exaggerate the differences depending upon proficiency of their vocabulary!

Yes I completely agree with @newlash09 here, a Good DAC (price depends upon the budget) is a must for a digital based source.
 
Last edited:

bornfi

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This debste


This a question that has no answer really.

There are some great beers and whiskies too...

Just like most things in audio... Take whatever floats your boat.

My preference is for the CDP over a separate dac..

Regards
That was an analogy and I knew I would find at least one who would not like it :).

I too, even, thought like you when I had NAD C542 and then shifting to Squeezebox Touch was an eye opener because reading articles revealed that there is something called DAC too.

As for real answer, I think, in my opinion, there is and the clue is that however expensive a CD player is, there is always a digital out in it.
 

liverpool_for_life

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It makes sense to buy one high quality external dac that will give you the same presentation that you prefer[...]
Why not buy speakers that give you that, make everything else neutral and be done with the whole thing? Setting aside the question of whether they provide different "presentation" and whether they are audible in a controlled double blind test, why does any single component (speakers excl. for personal preference) in the chain have to color the sound somehow?
 

newlash09

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Why not buy speakers that give you that, make everything else neutral and be done with the whole thing? Setting aside the question of whether they provide different "presentation" and whether they are audible in a controlled double blind test, why does any single component (speakers excl. for personal preference) in the chain have to color the sound somehow?
Haha..that can be done :)

I have a very neutral sounding system, that is good for edm and punk, which is the major bulk of my listening.

However, for intimate listening on vocal tracks, i crave a tube sound from warm speakers. And no single speaker or chain of components can do both equally well. So i will need a seperate chain for the same.

So neutrality is not the answer to all folks. And same applies to dacs as well. I already have 2 dacs, each perfectly suiting my needs in each system.
 
M

mpw

Guest
As for real answer, I think, in my opinion, there is and the clue is that however expensive a CD player is, there is always a digital out in it.
thats an option provided

some may use some may not

doesnt mean anything..one way or another

:)
 

liverpool_for_life

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thats an option provided
You are right, of course.

Reminds me of the story of an "audiophile" who hears a demo of a fully active (built-in dsp and amplification) speaker system and is completely blown away by it. Never heard anything quite like that in his life before.

And yet, at the end of the demo, his question: Is there an option for external amplification?

Some folks just can't help themselves.
 

preth30

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Messages
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Kochi
I very much concur with your opinion, just wanted to share our recent experience.

We compared Smsl Su-8(costed 22k)with Northstar Supremo (1.75L) at my setup, which is resolving enough to differentiate between a good and bad digital mastering or changing of power cables with critical listening. The Smsl has Ess 9038 Chipset which is quite newer Than Ess 9018 in Northstar Supremo.
Within 15minutes of comparison of our favorite tracks the difference was pretty obvious. The Northstar excelled in every way of presentation of music. Be it bass drums, vocals, guitars or cymbals the presentation was quite gracious (or glamorous for easier understanding). The texture and tonality was impeccably musical & non fatiguing to say the least.

Whereas the Smsl Su-8 had almost every detail that northstar supremo had, but was lacking a lot in gracious presentation of the same details. So it's not just the details the overall sound signature which gets improved with hi grade DACs.
To give you an anology, Northstar Supremo presentation was like Idli-Sambar from Five Star Hotel and Smsl Su-8 was the same Idli-Sambar from say a roadside eatery. For many it may not matter as long as its a Idli-Sambar, For many audiophiles it matters a lot & they tend to exaggerate the differences depending upon proficiency of their vocabulary!

Yes I completely agree with @newlash09 here, a Good DAC (price depends upon the budget) is a must for a digital based source.
The most unfortunate thing in this matter is that for a little improvement, the price you have to pay is.........well I'll settle for the idli sambar from a roadside eatery. :p:cool:
 
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