Would adding an external dac noticeably improve sound quality?

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Dear FM's

Would appreciate on guidance to improve sound quality in my existing rig - Denon DRA 800H + Marantz CD player + KEF Q 300 + REL t9i subwoofer

Source is predominantly from Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz and YT

Most of tracks from each of these sources varies in sound quality, and there is feeling that something (sparkle, lows, layer separation) is missing, my guess is demon's in built dac may have limitations.

Would it improve by adding external dac ( SCHIT MODI 3 or Topping 10 or any other external dac help in making the set up more musical)

TIA
 

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Hi

Since you already have Marantz CDP , why don’t you do a little experiment?
Get a original CD (or even a burned one ) of 2/3 albums you like and compare the sound from CDP vis a vis played from streaming apps?

Also , what kind of music do you listen to primarily? If it’s Bollywood oldies they are most likely to sound bad especially pre 80s recordings on CDs. For that vinyls are the only way to go.

If it’s jazz , classic rock , pop - there are good masterings available on CDs.

My advice would be to focus on your source first rather than investing again on gear, because the source more than anything else makes the music come alive or sound dead.
 

rpmahale

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Addition of stand alone dac definitely improves the sound quality and gives you flexibility to connect more digital sources with different outputs. But in your case any dac costing 10 to 12k may not give you substantial improvements over existing setup . You may look beyond 20k dac. Topping, SMSL, Schiit modi, IFi etc have some of the affordable and well designed dacs which are well regarded on performance scale. Each dac have different sound signature as they are designed and implemented with different dac chips. You need to select the one whose sound signature appeals you and matche well with rest of the components. Additional inputs, fractions, features are always welcome with slightly elevated budget. You may look for on board MQA decoder for stellar performance of Tidal Masters.
 

rsjaurr

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Dear FM's

Would appreciate on guidance to improve sound quality in my existing rig - Denon DRA 800H + Marantz CD player + KEF Q 300 + REL t9i subwoofer

Source is predominantly from Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz and YT

Most of tracks from each of these sources varies in sound quality, and there is feeling that something (sparkle, lows, layer separation) is missing, my guess is demon's in built dac may have limitations.
You definitely need a lot better DAC to get the best outbif your source
Set yourself a budget and go for the best you can afford.
 
Joined
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Hi

Since you already have Marantz CDP , why don’t you do a little experiment?
Get a original CD (or even a burned one ) of 2/3 albums you like and compare the sound from CDP vis a vis played from streaming apps?

Also , what kind of music do you listen to primarily? If it’s Bollywood oldies they are most likely to sound bad especially pre 80s recordings on CDs. For that vinyls are the only way to go.

If it’s jazz , classic rock , pop - there are good masterings available on CDs.

My advice would be to focus on your source first rather than investing again on gear, because the source more than anything else makes the music come alive or sound dead.
At times I do play original CD's...it gives a wide sound stage with clarity and good separation, no doubt....but given the flexibility and ease these streaming apps provide for selection of genres, it has gone on to become an integral source....inorder to enhance the listening experience with the erratic and cloudy quality it originates with it has become inevitable to augment the hardware wherever one can....hence I thought to take an opinion from such competent group
 
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Addition of stand alone dac definitely improves the sound quality and gives you flexibility to connect more digital sources with different outputs. But in your case any dac costing 10 to 12k may not give you substantial improvements over existing setup . You may look beyond 20k dac. Topping, SMSL, Schiit modi, IFi etc have some of the affordable and well designed dacs which are well regarded on performance scale. Each dac have different sound signature as they are designed and implemented with different dac chips. You need to select the one whose sound signature appeals you and matche well with rest of the components. Additional inputs, fractions, features are always welcome with slightly elevated budget. You may look for on board MQA decoder for stellar performance of Tidal Masters.
In the pursuit of elevating the sound stage and bringing some magic to wwhat we happen to listen I can extend my budget further, we can never be content with half measures, specially with something that is a serious hobby and one which really soothes one's mind..

fortunately we have competent people here to advice on the hardware we need to acheive what we are in search of despite auditioning constraints...

looking forward the suggestions

thanks
 

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Since my source is predominantly digital sugget a dac that would open up the sound stage

Budget can be managed

Thanks

I’ll recommend two components on two diff budgets :

1. Aries BluMe HD DAC cum streamer : Known to be extremely good value for money and few of my friends with quite high end components have expressed satisfaction with it. Priced at 10K on Amazon.

2. Denafrips Aries 2 DAC: A very competent DAC favoured my many FMs here. Denafrips has been getting very high feedback from audio enthusiasts and industry experts alike. Priced 75K in India- there is one distributor only.
 

fLUX

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At times I do play original CD's...it gives a wide sound stage with clarity and good separation, no doubt....but given the flexibility and ease these streaming apps provide for selection of genres, it has gone on to become an integral source....inorder to enhance the listening experience with the erratic and cloudy quality it originates with it has become inevitable to augment the hardware wherever one can....hence I thought to take an opinion from such competent group

I would certainly recommend you to go for a DAC. When you go for seperates you get a lot of control on the sound signature you desire , although at the cost of space and lost money with experimentation and will be 99% times much more expensive than an all in one. I always found a standalone DAC to be better than the DACs in IA, the SMSL SU-8 was much better than the DAC on Marantz PM6006/CA Azur 651A.

I would suggest the below
i) Add a good DAC, you might want to try out a few DACs first. I have an ESS based DAC(SM,SL SU8), R2R dac (Denafrip Ares II) and FPGA architecture based DAC( Chord Hugo).
Out of these 3 i found
- SMSL SU-8 analytical and detailed , is very VFM and has all types of possible connections you could ask from a DAC (barring BT)
- Denafrip Ares II to be warm, hugely spacious and added good amount of layering/depth. Pairs best with my speakers
- Chord Hugo - A very revealing DAC , throws out a good amount of details in the music , has very tight and good quantity of lows and is neutral/bright overall.

ii) If your amp allows for a pre-amp input (has a power in) then invest in a tube pre-amp. This opens up the soundstage and makes it very holographic. You might want to explore this in the future.
 

arunhc

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Dear FM's

Would appreciate on guidance to improve sound quality in my existing rig - Denon DRA 800H + Marantz CD player + KEF Q 300 + REL t9i subwoofer

Source is predominantly from Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz and YT

Most of tracks from each of these sources varies in sound quality, and there is feeling that something (sparkle, lows, layer separation) is missing, my guess is demon's in built dac may have limitations.

Would it improve by adding external dac ( SCHIT MODI 3 or Topping 10 or any other external dac help in making the set up more musical)

TIA
You are right, Demon certainly needs an external DAC to sing! :)
 
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You are right, Demon certainly needs an external DAC to sing! :)

In your setup, spending 50k in upgrading your q300 to something better would yield you more than spending 50k on a dac.
Any specific models, will try auditioning

Any of these ?
Wharfdale Evo 4.2
Dynaudio Emit M20
KEF LS Meta
Or pls suggest....can make out if I would need an external DAC or speaker change

For the cloudy and erratic quality of songs in these streaming apps I may eventually need an external DAC....will explore with @fLUX suggestions

Thanks

You are right, Demon certainly needs an external DAC to sing! :)
..... appears so
 

fLUX

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Any specific budget you have in mind for bookshelfs ? Both the M20 and Evo 4.2 would be very different from the KEF signature.

I had the Dynaudio Emit M20 , they sound real good but i am not sure if the Denon DRA-800h would drive them to their potential. They do really well with a headroom , the bass and soundstage opens up to a new level with good amplification for the M20.

I have seen mixed reviews towards the Evo 4.2 , with some liking the signature and some totally not liking it so an audition would be must.
If you decide on a M20 , there are 2 used units for sale 1 by @vineetrad and another by @rishabhgkp .

Also at best i believe they would be a marginal upgrade over the Q350, your next upgrade would need to be near 1L or more to get substantial improvement.

While I totally agree that a speaker upgrade will yield more result than a DAC , but you will always feel something lacking without a good DAC regardless of the setup you go for. Eventually once you decide on speakers, the chain is something you will end up spending money on to make it sound truer to its potential.
 

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The Denon model you have doesn’t have a good DAC inside. In fact it’s true for most budget to midfi level integrated amps.

Also , Marantz is more musical than Denon and more fun to listen to.Denon leans towards brighter sound while Marantz is warmer with more focused midrange.

Also I’d not upgrade my speakers as KEFQ300 are quite good - your bottleneck is the Denon and the inbuilt DAC.
Rather you’d be much well off spending hard earned money on analog source - TT.
 

Passive_audio_enthusiast

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Any specific models, will try auditioning

Any of these ?
Wharfdale Evo 4.2
Dynaudio Emit M20
KEF LS Meta
Or pls suggest....can make out if I would need an external DAC or speaker change

For the cloudy and erratic quality of songs in these streaming apps I may eventually need an external DAC....will explore with @fLUX suggestions

Thanks
All of them you mentioned would improve your experience. Depends on what your taste in sound is. I would personally prefer kef r3 though.

The Denon model you have doesn’t have a good DAC inside. In fact it’s true for most budget to midfi level integrated amps.

Also , Marantz is more musical than Denon and more fun to listen to.Denon leans towards brighter sound while Marantz is warmer with more focused midrange.

Also I’d not upgrade my speakers as KEFQ300 are quite good - your bottleneck is the Denon and the inbuilt DAC.
Rather you’d be much well off spending hard earned money on analog source - TT.
Honestly, q300 are good. But 70 percent of your systems signature easily comes from speaker. If you want to have hthat extra resolution or even tonal balance, q300 is already thr bottle neck. I would say, a topping e30 with a decent integrated like a norge plus really good speakers around a lakh would totally transform the experience than running a high end front end on a midfi speakers
 

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Honestly, q300 are good. But 70 percent of your systems signature easily comes from speaker. If you want to have hthat extra resolution or even tonal balance, q300 is already thr bottle neck. I would say, a topping e30 with a decent integrated like a norge plus really good speakers around a lakh would totally transform the experience than running a high end front end on a midfi speakers

I’d respectfully disagree . In my experience the deal breaker in sound quality lies with the source foremost. Even Great speakers and great chain can’t do anything if your source is mediocre.
We spend a lot on equipment upgrade without understanding or studying about sources - great masterings , mixings , labels , pressings. For every genre one listens to there are good and bad sources. A common example is Bollywood oldies : 90 percent of them sound horrible on every streaming app including Tidal hires as well as the Saregama CDs. But one only had to to listen to the EMI Made In UK CDs (now rare and exorbitantly pricey ) to hear how good they sound on even entry level speakers.
 

rpmahale

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This will be endless discussions unless until you are not specific about your budget and requirements. This will make you more confused and put a big hole in your pocket with unnecessary upgrade in the search of best. All the components in the chain are equally important from source to interconnects . Speakers upgrade will not only change the sound quality but also the sound signature of the setup. So again you need to start from the scratch. In your case you may get better dac within your budget but you may not get better speaker or amplifier. If you are not happy with KEF Q300 , you will not be happy with any speaker within this budget and for than you need to increase the budget. People takes years to build a great stereo system with passion , patience . You need be carefully while choosing each and every component. Now as per your details DAC is the weakest part and just change that only for good one within budget . Later on upgrade the next weak link and keep on going still you are not achieving the dream system.
 
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