Originally Posted by urielejh
Well, I've found an audiophile HiFi shop in my town and listened to some speakers + amp combo. I've tried a pair of Celestion with modded crossover + a couple of amps and a customized (by the shop's owner) set of speakers based off Norwegian tech. The latter, though 50 € less, blow away the British set. Monday I'll go back there with some music that I listen to and, eventually, conclude the deal.
He suggests to buy an analog amp and link it to the soundcard or a separate dac through RCA or, at most, USB as an integrated amp with dac is far less recommended quality wise, i'd need an expendable amp + high cost cables. What do you guys think about using my STX (soon to be "clock modded") as a dac through RCA? Too eventually add a sub in the future, is a sub out needed in the amp?
I agree with the shop owner. You don't need to spend a lot of money to get a great DAC, and the DAC you get will depend greatly on what you plan to do with it. Expensive cables? Sure, they help, but we're talking about maybe a 2-3% difference from $10 cables to $200 cables. The one cable that I think it's important to spend a good chunk of change on is the USB cable. I've been using a Supra for months and it's quite good. If you want a really good USB cable you should look at the Corning optical USB cables but those are hundreds of dollars. A Supra can be had for probably 30-40 GBP/$50-60
DAC wise, it depends on the type of sound you want, and the sample rates you will be putting through it. Do you listen to high-resolution recordings? Would you like to? How high res do you want to go? 96Khz? 192Khz? DSD?
I had an ARCAM rPAC for a while. It was great but the stereo seperation and soundstage were slightly lacking. That cost me $300 CDN. I traded it for a subwoofer and picked up a TEAC UD 301 for $550. Being a dual mono DAC I got my stereo seperation and soundstage that I was after. I also gained the ability to play DSD tracks without downsampling to PCM.
If you just want to get your feet wet and get a DAC which has lively, high fidelity, punchy sound, without the need to buy an expensive USB cable, I suggest that you look no further than an Audioquest Dragonfly 1.2 which is $150 USD. That'll go up to 96KHZ/24 bit.
If you want to go higher end, the sky's really the limit. There's no need to go nuts though, considering that you will be buying entry-level-mid-fi equipment, there is no sense in spending on anything greater than the dragonfly, in my opinion. Cable wise, you don't need to spend thousands there either. A 20 pound Audioquest Evergreen 3.5mm TRS.>> RCA cable will do you just fine and going to a higher end cable would be sort of silly with the rest of the gear you're looking at. Speaker cable wise, yes, buy good cables, but again, don't go nuts. Get yourself some low gauge (lower is thicker) pre-terminated cables with the termination, be they plugs or spades, soldered (preferably cold soldered) to the wire. Solid conductors in the cable are generally agreed to sound better than several thinner strands. I personally like locking banana plugs, but you should pick what you like, in terms of termination. It's much more of a style choice than it is an audio quality choice.
By the way, I would suggest that you not pull the trigger on speakers until you listen to KEF Q100's which are in your price range. The clarity of those speakers is quite surprising for the money and you should have a listen before making a final decision.