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dac vs. amp upgrade: opinions wanted

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I have a modest stereo system compared with the expensive equipment many of you probably have. I think it is a step up from what you can get at a big mall store, but I realize it is not super high end. My amp is a Yamaha RX-V995 with a lot of features I like: tone bypass, Surround Sound, supposed 100w x 5 true power, and a sound that has always pleased me. My speakers are PSB 5T's and I have an NAD C541 HDCD player to give you an idea of where I am at. I now use my PC's aound card (M-Audio Revolution 7.1) for most of my playback. I am selling my squeezebox 3 because I like the sound from the PC a lot better. I am planning on upgrading components as time goes by and finances permit. I will not be spending thousands of dollars on any one given component. I am considering adding an external DAC, maybe the V-DAC, or an NAD power amp. The power amp would drive my front stereo speakers and be connected to the Yamaha integrated amp so the Yamaha would act as a pre-amp. (all the music i listen to is in stereo, never surround even when available - surround is only for movies for me). I am curious what others with more experience buying and testing different equipment think. What would you upgrade first, . . . would you even bother upgrading one or the other, or go in a different direction? The music is played in a medium (to small) sized living room if that makes any difference. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT HURTING MY FEELINGS. If you think my choice of equipment stinks, and you can justify your comments with fact or well thought out opinion then great . . . that is what I am curious to hear about.


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How old is this Yamaha? Does it have digital audio inputs? Optical? Digital coax? If so, you already have an external DAC, built into your receiver. Pick up an optical cable and connect it to your PC, then compare it to the sound you're getting from your PC's sound card. My guess is it is probably a pretty good DAC. Most of the Yamaha AV receivers do good work in the digital domain. In any case, I wouldn't replace the power amp section of the Yamaha with an NAD. NADs are great, but the change (not necessarily an upgrade) in performance you'd get from switching from a Yamaha at that level to an NAD would be very small, if audible at all. I think the same is likely to be true of using a DAC other than the one in the Yamaha, unless you're willing to spend a lot of money and then, in all likelihood, upgrade the rest of your system to hear the difference.


I don't know much about your PSBs, but the Yamaha is fine, the DAC in the Yamaha is probably fine as well, and any upgrade is likely to be very subtle at best. If you want to make a big difference in the sound of your system, an upgrade of your front speakers is usually the best bet. If you're really happy with them, spend the money on new music.




I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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That makes a lot of sense. The Yamaha is 9 years old but was close to their top of the line at the time. (Has DTS decoding built in and can accept an external decoder for future formats). It has digital inputs, and I am using the coax now. Not sure if it is better than the DAC on the PC card, but for CD bitrates it is fine and sounds better than the DAC in the squeezebox for sure. (I am using the analog outs on the card for computer speakers - the pc is in a separate room). I guess if I want to listen to DVD-A I would need an external DAC as I don't think the Yamaha's DAC can handle it, but this is not an issue now.


I used to have a pair of bose speakers which I bought when I bought the amp. I sold them, bought the PSBs, had money left over, and the PSB's sounded a million times better to me. I know they dont compare to speakers selling for thousands of dollars, but they are a great value. The 5T's I have are their "budget" floor standing speakers. They make higher end stuff too. Thank you for your input.


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Also, one reason why I was considering the additional amp is so that I can use the A/B speaker selection switch on the Yamaha to power two separate pairs of speakers. The power amp would power the speakers in the main living room, then the yamaha would power the porch speakers (outdoor Niles speakers) and a pair of in ceiling speakers in the back room of the house. I have a speaker selection switch that can handle up to 6 pairs of speakers but do not think that the amp can handle all that (two more pairs + the main room). The house is already wired with speaker cable.


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The amp can handle all of that if either a) your switcher is impedance-matching, or b) you don't run more than two pair at a time.


An impedance matching switcher will lower the available volume as you add speakers and increase the load, so it's not the best solution if you really want to rock the whole house, though.


A better solution than adding another amp, though, would be to replace the old Yamaha with a new 7.1 Yamaha, which will allow you to use 5.1 channels in one room and send the other two, in stereo, even from a different source, to another at the same time, so the kids can watch Shrek 2 in 5.1 in the living room while you listen to Miles Davis from your SACD player out on the porch. Sweet. And of course you'd get all the other benefits of a modern AV receiver -- a more current DAC, the latest surround sound processors, etc.


I'm a big fan of the better Yamaha receivers. If anything in the business says that midfi is elitist nonsense, it is Yamaha. They are killer surround receivers, one of the best headphone amps this side of dedicated head amps in the $500+ range, and push that Pure Direct switch and you're firmly planted in audiophile territory. MHO, YMMV...you get the picture.


Regarding speakers, I'm a big fan of actives, because years of listening to really good headphones has made me too sensitive to the distortions of passive crossovers. Besides, nothing short of hugely expensive amounts of brute power can deliver the control and dynamic range of actives. But I don't know exactly how you would wire active fronts into a 5.1 surround system. I'd have to think about that one. Ashley James, another regular here, is a manufacturer of actives. Maybe he'll weigh in and answer that one before I hurt my head.




I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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"replace the old Yamaha with a new 7.1 Yamaha, which will allow you to use 5.1 channels in one room and send the other two . . . "


That is "Sweet."


3-4 zones from one amp. 24/192 DACs - the newer Yamaha's are really nice.


My Niles speaker selector switch has a "protection" button. Is that what you were referring to?


It still might be cheaper to get a second used amp and hook it up to the zone 2 out on my current Yamaha to provide extra power for the other zones, but I guess the trade-off would be the upgraded DAC and other modern amenities.


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