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Need DAC/Receiver advice

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hello! I'm planning some audio upgrades, and could use some second opinions.

My Mackie MR5MK2's used to be driven by a Xonar STX. The sound was great, but I no longer have a PCI slot for the card, and using RCA -> 1/8" on my motherboard has given me a tangible loss in clarity.
I'd also like to add a Lava LSP12 Sub to my setup.

Some options I've come up with:
  1. Receiver :
    Yamaha RX-V667 (~$280 refurbed) is my preference currently. Has the pre-outs I (think?) I'd need for the speakers, easy to add a subwoofer, and gives me room to expand to a bigger setup later on.
  2. DAC :
    I think a DAC with XLR would be the most direct solution, but I'm having trouble finding a product that fits without being overkill. Example being the Asus Essence One, which is way more than I'd like to spend to accomplish this.
    The speakers and sub are powered, so I won't need it to have an amp, and I already have a Magni/Modi setup for my headphones.
    TubeMagic D1 -- Looks to be a great product for the price point, but the amplifier will be unused and no XLR. Also nearing the price of the Receiver, so maybe not the most efficient option.
    NuForce Icon uDAC-2 -- Seems fairly straightforward and to the point, would this be a good choice, or would I suffer for "cheaping out" here?
  3. Re-cabling :
    The "cheap method" I came up with was to use a Hosa Stereo 3.5 mm TRS to Dual XLR3M and continue using the motherboard 1/8" connection. I don't even know if this would improve sound quality at all over RCA.
    I would use a set of Crossover Pairs to add the subwoofer later on.


If I've missed anything, or if there are any product recommendations worth checking out, I'm open for ideas.

EDIT: Trimmed the fat a bit, the post was/is a bit wordy. I'm a bit long winded, sorry in advance!
Edited by itskerby - 2/5/13 at 8:40pm
     
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post #2 of 15
A receiver isn't really going to provide you with anything more unless you're looking to do hdmi audio. I would suggest the ODAC, which uses USB and outperforms pretty much everything at that price point, if you want a good basic unit. The problem with using balanced connections is obviously cost. Cambridge Audio's DacMagic comes to mind, but that is about the same price as the essence one.

Using balanced cables with an unbalanced output is a bad idea, so I would forget about that Hosa cable.

Whatever DAC you get, you can just split the output and send one pair to a subwoofer, or just use a different output if you end up using balanced connection for the speakers. Most subwoofers are going to have a crossover you can control from there.

Basically, unless you deem it worth spending $500 for a DAC with balanced output, go with the $160 ODAC or similar.
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post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 
I was actually thinking HDMI audio through my video card, though I don't know how that compares to USB.

So is there any merit to using balanced with my Mackies if I'm not suffering from EMI noise? I'm more bothered that I'm not using them since they're there, but if there isn't anything to lose by using RCA, then I'm not married to the idea of an XLR DAC.

For my application, would the end result be superior using a USB DAC vs using HDMI on a receiver?
     
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post #4 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by itskerby View Post

I was actually thinking HDMI audio through my video card, though I don't know how that compares to USB.

So is there any merit to using balanced with my Mackies if I'm not suffering from EMI noise? I'm more bothered that I'm not using them since they're there, but if there isn't anything to lose by using RCA, then I'm not married to the idea of an XLR DAC.

For my application, would the end result be superior using a USB DAC vs using HDMI on a receiver?

 

Your sound card really takes the role of a receiver in this instance.  Plus, your don't need amplification for those Mackies anyways... they are powered speakers. You can just buy a powered subwoofer, connect it to the speaker and you should be good to go.

 

I would get a soundcard because it has a DAC/AMP/Sound Processor/software encoder/MIC all in one. Unless your headphones are very hard to drive, a good sound card typically will be sufficient.

 

You could get a ODAC and then a Schiit or O2 amp, but not only will it cost you more, you may not see a whole lot of difference unless you are running some higher fidelity equipment.

 

The great thing about receivers is that they are an all in one solution. They have amps, DACs, antennas, software encoding, preamp, all in one. But they are built in a way that it doesn't really do ANY of them particularly well. Which is why you see lots of (rich) people spend money on separate power amps, preamps, DACs, etc.

 

So to answer your question... yes USB DACs are typically better than the ones on your receiver.


Edited by youra6 - 2/5/13 at 9:13pm
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post #5 of 15
Read closer, he said he needs to move away from his soundcard because he doesn't have the spare PCI slot.

If you are just looking for sound quality get the ODAC. The receiver gives you the bonus of accepting all the high bitrate movie audio codecs, like DTS-MA, some lame sound processing options, and future connect-ability.

And no, there's really no benefit to using balanced connections if you don't have problems. They are mainly for purists and producers that can't afford any noise.
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post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrGroove View Post

Read closer, he said he needs to move away from his soundcard because he doesn't have the spare PCI slot.

If you are just looking for sound quality get the ODAC. The receiver gives you the bonus of accepting all the high bitrate movie audio codecs, like DTS-MA, some lame sound processing options, and future connect-ability.

And no, there's really no benefit to using balanced connections if you don't have problems. They are mainly for purists and producers that can't afford any noise.

 

 

 I have...  He needs another device that takes the place of his STX... A suggestion would be a PCIe sound card... I actually have the ODAC, well worth the 150 dollars, but you also need an amp for headphones. Ends up being around ~300.

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post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by youra6 View Post

Your sound card really takes the role of a receiver in this instance.  Plus, your don't need amplification for those Mackies anyways... they are powered speakers. You can just buy a powered subwoofer, connect it to the speaker and you should be good to go.

Powered subwoofer was the direction I was going for, but the Mackie MR5MK2's unfortunately don't have an out on the back.
Quote:
I would get a soundcard because it has a DAC/AMP/Sound Processor/software encoder/MIC all in one. Unless your headphones are very hard to drive, a good sound card typically will be sufficient. You could get a ODAC and then a Schiit or O2 amp, but not only will it cost you more, you may not see a whole lot of difference unless you are running some higher fidelity equipment.

The great thing about receivers is that they are an all in one solution. They have amps, DACs, antennas, software encoding, preamp, all in one. But they are built in a way that it doesn't really do ANY of them particularly well. Which is why you see lots of (rich) people spend money on separate power amps, preamps, DACs, etc.

So to answer your question... yes USB DACs are typically better than the ones on your receiver.

In hindsight, my Xonar STX was too much to give up. Though I'm excited to explore options that give me applications outside of PC use as well, the receiver would provide a dual purpose of allowing me to use the speaker setup with my TV which I will soon mount above my PC desk. Unfortunately at this point, switching to an mATX (or larger) board and case would be as costly as any of the other options, and I'd have to buy the sound card again.

My headphones are Beyerdynamic DT990 600ohm's, that are currently being driven with a Schiit Magni/Modi. Not terribly intimidating to drive, but that situation is sorted for now. If I end at a solution that would let me consolidate, I can probably still return the Schiit stack.

So as of now, with powered speakers and a powered sub, I need to pay attention to the DAC. I'll check out other options, thanks for the info smile.gif

Quote:
Originally Posted by DrGroove View Post

Read closer, he said he needs to move away from his soundcard because he doesn't have the spare PCI slot.

If you are just looking for sound quality get the ODAC. The receiver gives you the bonus of accepting all the high bitrate movie audio codecs, like DTS-MA, some lame sound processing options, and future connect-ability.

And no, there's really no benefit to using balanced connections if you don't have problems. They are mainly for purists and producers that can't afford any noise.

Very good, I feel less dirty using RCA cables with them now tongue.gif



This has me revisiting the TubeMagic D1/D2 DAC's, it's beginning to feel "right" for my application.
(Back of the D2)


I should be able to use the Pre-Outs for my speakers/subwoofer, and either use it to drive my headphones, or bypass it and stick with the Schiit stack (Depending on which ends up being better).

So I'd have to choose between the D1, D1+ and D2, which are essentially the same for my applications, but the D1 is $50 cheaper and the D2 doesn't have volume control. I have no discerning ability to choose between DAC's and Headphone amps, but here is what they have:



So do either the "NS LF353N x2" or "BurrBrown OPA2604 x3" stack up well against the Schiit Magni, or should I plan to ignore the Amp feature of the TubeMagic and just keep my Schiit stack?

And are the 3 DAC chips in these DAC's different enough to warrant springing for the AD1955 in the TubeMagic D2?
Edited by itskerby - 2/5/13 at 10:01pm
     
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post #8 of 15
The schiit magni is a great amp comparable to the O2, and I think you'll still need it anyways so keep that. I didn't even realize you were using headphones as well. Whatever option you go with, you want to make sure you have an easy option to switch between headphones and speakers so you aren't unplugging cables all the time.

One option would be to keep the modi and either get another usb dac or a receiver, and switching between headphones and speakers would be as simple as clicking a different output in windows. The tubemagic isn't as good a DAC as ODAC or the modi, and you can still only use 1 output at a time with it.

You could just split the modi's output to the speakers and magni, which would save you money and shouldn't introduce any interference or sound degradation. I believe you could even split the signals going to the speakers again to get to the sub. This is what I would do, as you don't need to spend more money and the tubemagic would likely sound worse than your schiit stack.
Edited by DrGroove - 2/5/13 at 10:23pm
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post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrGroove View Post

You could just split the modi's output to the speakers and magni, which would save you money and shouldn't introduce any interference or sound degradation.

Wow, I didn't even realize that was an option.

I guess I'll try that before I buy anything, I just ordered a few splitters.
     
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post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by itskerby View Post


This has me revisiting the TubeMagic D1/D2 DAC's, it's beginning to feel "right" for my application.
(Back of the D2)





So do either the "NS LF353N x2" or "BurrBrown OPA2604 x3" stack up well against the Schiit Magni, or should I plan to ignore the Amp feature of the TubeMagic and just keep my Schiit stack?

And are the 3 DAC chips in these DAC's different enough to warrant springing for the AD1955 in the TubeMagic D2?

 

On paper.... I would choose the D2. But I have never listened to either. I know there are few people on OCN who have. If you start a new thread and ask people their advice between the two, I'm sure you'll get some better answers.

 

However... just by looking at that screenshot, I am impressed by all the inputs/jacks. You WONT get that with the ODAC.

 

As for volume control... its best left to the amp, so I can see why they left it out on the D2.


Finally... As far as the DAC goes, the D2 is obviously superior. Assuming that the chips are properly implemented, the AD1955 would make a awesome DAC.  SNR matters more once the audio levels are cranked. I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the D1+ and the D2 if I was put in a blindtest.


 

Edited by youra6 - 2/6/13 at 9:26am
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