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Need a super DAC

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
I need a really, really good DAC. I want to hook up my PC to my new stereo system (high end vintage), and I'd like the best sound that I can get. A lot of my music is going to be ripped off of my vinyl records at 192kHz/24bit, and I'd like the digital playbacks to sound just as good (assuming the input ADC is up to the task).

There's no need for a good headphone amp to be built-in, in fact it's probably better not to have one at all, and just have a direct line-level output.

My budget isn't fixed, I'm basically ready to spend whatever's necessary (but nothing stupid).
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post #2 of 22
Benchmark DAC1. You stated no budget. but tbh, you'd want a stereo amp and receiver.
Are your speakers passive or active?
post #3 of 22
I want to get a Dac Magic by Cambridge Audio, since it is a little less expensive
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post #4 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chinesekiwi View Post
Benchmark DAC1. You stated no budget. but tbh, you'd want a stereo amp and receiver.
Are your speakers passive or active?
Is it really worth that price though, or is it expensive for no reason like a lot of audio equipment is?

And yes I'm using a proper stereo. It's a vintage Pioneer SPEC system with all components upgraded and replaced (the old 5% resistors replaced with 1% resistors, etc). I don't have the speakers yet, but don't worry about that just yet.
Edited by Manyak - 7/31/11 at 7:03pm
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post #5 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Manyak View Post
Is it really worth that price though, or is it expensive for no reason like a lot of audio equipment is?
Justified. Really high quality parts and importantly implemented right. Benchmark took years designing it. If you want the ultimate all-in-one DAC, that's it. Also importantly, it's electrical engineer approved i.e. objectively insanely good, including it's headphone amp.
post #6 of 22
Thread Starter 
Alright, looks like I'll be getting it then
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post #7 of 22
If I was going to buy a DAC, the Benchmark would be the one I'd get:
http://theaudiocritic.com/plog/index...Id=30&blogId=1

Quote:
It should be obvious from the above discussion, at least to those familiar with The Audio Critic, that the Benchmark DAC1 has no sound of its own, transparently passing on to its output the quality of its input. Whatever sonic peculiarities may perchance be audible are due to the input signal, not the DAC1 circuit. Even if the circuit were a lot less perfect, that would still be the case. Absolute sonic transparency is a concept innocent audiophiles are uncomfortable with, believing that all audio components—CD players, preamplifiers, amplifiers, tuners, all of them—exhibit varying degrees of soundstaging, front-to-back depth, grain, air, etc. That it isn’t so, except in the case of loudspeakers, is a fact calmly accepted by professional engineers but not by the high-end pundits and high-end manufacturers, who would be out of business if the truth were to sink in universally.

I am by now a little tired of harping on this subject but was still amused by John Atkinson’s comments on the Benchmark DAC1 in the May 2004 issue of Stereophile. John made sure to tell his readers that the Mark Levinson No. 30.6, which cost $17,500 before it was discontinued, still sounds better than the Benchmark, despite the latter’s perfect measurements. In a December 2004 followup (“2004 Editor’s Choice,” namely the Benchmark!) he adds the Theta Generation VIII ($10,000) and the Wadia 27ix ($9959) to the of-course-sounds-better list. I wonder what quality the Mark Levinson, Theta, and Wadia engineers dial into their products—above and beyond flat frequency response, low distortion, low noise, and the other usual suspects—that mysteriously makes them sound better. Maybe I should stop wondering after 28 years as an audio journalist and 57 years as an audiophile.

Now that I got that off my chest I need to add that I actually listened (yes!) to the DAC1 in a no-preamplifier hookup. The digital output of my CD player was plugged directly into the DAC1’s coaxial input and its unbalanced outputs were plugged directly into the electronic crossover of the Linkwitz Lab “Orion” speakers. The sound, needless to say, was mind-blowing (for lack of a better word), but mostly because of the quality of the speakers, though admittedly aided by the total absence of electronic distortion. I would gladly have set up a double-blind listening comparison of the CD player’s analog outputs versus the DAC1, but then I realized that it would be an apples-and-oranges situation. Red-book 16-bit/44.1-kHz PCM against a 24-bit/192-kHz converter? It’s not very meaningful. I’d have to scare up a late-model DVD-Audio player for a valid ABX test. I’ll do it, soon, but you know something? I don’t think I’ll hear a difference. Even so, I’ll take electronic perfection, any day of the week, if it costs $975 instead of $17,500.
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post #8 of 22
Is it really worth it though for Manyak? Isn't the Pioneer going to be processing the sound? Otherwise what's the point of spending all that dough on the Vintage Pioneer ?
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post #9 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ~sizzzle~ View Post
Is it really worth it though for Manyak? Isn't the Pioneer going to be processing the sound? Otherwise what's the point of spending all that dough on the Vintage Pioneer ?
Nope, the Pioneer system is fully analog. There isn't a single microchip or digital component anywhere to be found.

The reason I bought it is because for the money, you can't get better (at least not significantly better anyway). Just to put it in perspective, the THD on all the components put together is still lower than anything you can buy today at the same price.

Google "Pioneer SPEC" and you'll see what I'm talking about
Edited by Manyak - 8/1/11 at 7:09am
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post #10 of 22
Ha, sorry I'm a little slow this morning I guess. I knew what you were talking about, Pioneer = gorgeous silver front panels to me.
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