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Questions from a digital idiot


alex1122

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First off--great site. There isn't much out there on the subject of decent sounding digital which is shocking. Kudos for all the great information and advice. Sorry if these questions are obvious--I am just figuring this out!

 

I have a fairly high end (music only) system and need help in implementing a decent computer based server. Here's what I have and what i know:

 

- Sony C333ES SACD player

- Krell KSL2 preamp

- Counterpoint SA20 hybrid tube/mosfet amp

- Von Schweikert VR4 speakers

- Vandersteen sub

- Decent interconnects, etc.

- I am a musician with good ears, and have completely schizophrenic tastes (classical to punk to rock to jazz)

- I have i-tunes on my desktop PC and an 80GB ipod (not the touch) with everything in Apple Lossless

 

After my cd player started taking 10 minutes to read a disk, I took the ipod dock from my garage/outside system and hooked in to my good stereo. As you can imagine, the sound is pretty shitty (magnified on a decent system), but I am now hooked on the convenience, etc., and am ready to go the next step.

 

I am a PC lifer, but am looking for just an excuse such as this to switch to a sexy little Mac laptop. I am looking at the new aluminum macbook (the 2.0 one), which will allow me to have a cool laptop as my main music source (which I can switch to either system when I get two DAC's) and also for occasional travel and "on the couch" surfing, email, etc. Chris has mentioned and reviewed a number of DAC's, and I would like to know which he (or anyone else with good ears) would recommend in the $400 neighborhood. Here is a list from your site:

 

1) Fubar II

2) Fubar II with upgraded power supply

3) Devilsound ver. II (the 17' length is a bonus for me so I can lounge on couch)...

4) DacMagic

 

I'd like to be able to get a decent length of USB wire (15'?), and remember that the new macbooks do NOT have firewire anymore (not sure if that matters).

 

The thought is I will buy a low priced DAC for now, then eventually move it to the garage system and get a better one for the good system, look into more storage, wireless, etc. At this time, I will be using the macbook as my storage, hooked to my preamp.

 

Another question: at the apple store, it seems like the little white remot starts Frontrow or something like that on the macbook. Does it interface somehow with I-tunes? Does anyone have experience with that? I have a little apple remote (from ipod dock) that would be handy for volume, skipping songs, etc.

 

Last for now: Volume control. Is this done from my preamp, or from the apple? (Or both)?

 

Thanks in advance for your help, sorry if some questions are obvious. Your help is greatly appreciated!

 

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though I think it is pretty hard to go wrong with any of them. I tend to think of most good components to be like different flavors of ice-cream. They're all good, just different, rather than better or worse. If you've read the reviews on each of the DACs, the best you can do is hope that your preferences line up with the reviewers and pick one that sounds like it has the qualities you're after.

 

Anyway, yes, the little white apple remote also gives you transport controls over iTunes, and FrontRow (which is just a different interface for the media on your PC / Mac).

 

Volume control is best handled by the preamp, rather than through your Mac. And if using the optical digital output from the Mac, the Mac's volume controls will be disabled anyway. You typically don't want to use digital volume controls because doing so shaves off bits to decrease the volume.

 

Cheers,[br] - Tim

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Thanks for your advice. As it is impossible to listen to any of these prior to purchase, I am trying to get as much info as possible.

 

Regarding your reference to "optical digital output" are you referring to the "gigabit ethernet" connection or the minijack? I am confused--should I not be looking at using usb?

 

Thanks again for your help!

 

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I was referring to the minijack, which is both a headphone jack AND and optical (toslink) digital output, but USB works too. As to whether or not you *should* use USB is debatable. It is said that the the toslink output is more prone to jitter, then again the audibility of jitter is also debatable.

 

Hopefully you'll get a few opinions of the actual DACs you are interested in, but frankly, I've found that it really doesn't matter how many people agree on a particular product, you may be after something different and there is little chance that they have all the same equipment as you, or that they have the same values as you. I've heard some very well reviewed speakers that just didn't do it for me, for example. However, unlike speakers, I think the general state of DACs is that they all sound more similar than different.

 

Good luck.

 

Cheers,[br] - Tim

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USB is the standard in the PC world and SPDIF (Toslink or coax) in the consumer audio world

Most DACs have a SPDIF input (digital in), a PC without a USB port is hard to find.

The advantage of a USB DAC is flexibility, you can connect it to any PC.

PC's with Toslink are rare (Apple, Toshiba).

A list of USB DACs can be found in the hardware section of my website.

Looking at your equipment I expect a 400,- DAC to move to the garage soon.

 

 

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Anyone else on the DAC choices (or other recommendations)? Hoping for thoughts from Chris since you've heard them all. Also, wondering if you've heard the upgraded devilsound, and the upgraded power supply on the fubar. Sorry for all the questions!

 

On another note, is there any benefit in the sonic sense (other than larger harddrive) of upgrading to the next level macbook with 2.4 processor (vs. the 2.0)? On the same note, since this would be my first mac computer I wonder if anyone has thoughts on that from a computing/laptop stanpoint, as I'll be using the thing for other purposes as well. Thanks in advance!

 

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My aging Powerbook uses a M•Audio Audiophile USB 2496. It's a pretty nice little box, but not in the league of the equipment you're using. I use the analog outs at my vacation spot, but use the S/PDIF into my Sony surround pre (a TA-E9000 ES) at home .

 

The Benchmark Media DAC1 USB has a fantastic rep and it deserves it, but is well over a $1000. Honestly, though, it's the kind of equipment that you use for 10 or 15 years and get rid of reluctantly.

 

If you really want to go nuts, get a MacBook Pro and an Apogee Rosetta 200 with a Firewire card.

 

Or hook a Mac Mini to your LCD TV and use it as a HTPC with a TC Electronic Studio Konnekt 48 to do surround sound and use the excellent, on-board reverb to add ambience to surround and mono tracks as well as movies. The TC unit even has a crossover with bass management. It's not for the casual user, though.

 

So much equipment, so little money!

 

jeff

 

 

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Thanks guys. Ended up with an inexpensive DAC, a Beresford 7520. Seems like a basic DAC shipped from Taiwan. It has a variety of inputs and was relatively cheap, so I bought it. Running it with toslink and macbook.

 

Initial thoughts: Eh. Sounds decent. Not as warm as my CD player, but it's about what I expected from digital audio. I'll A/B with USB if anyone is interested.

 

Thanks again for all your help.

 

 

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I haven't heard the new 7520, but I had a 7510 here for a couple of weeks and it sounded great. Beresfords have a reputation for hitting way above their weight. Does it sound as good as your cdp? Better? Buy another for the garage. The value of very high-end DACs is pretty debatable.

 

Tim

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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Ended up with an inexpensive DAC, a Beresford 7520. Seems like a basic DAC shipped from Taiwan. It has a variety of inputs and was relatively cheap, so I bought it. Running it with toslink and macbook.

 

Initial thoughts: Eh. Sounds decent. Not as warm as my CD player, but it's about what I expected from digital audio.

 

Give it a good burn-in period and the Beresford really opens up! :)

 

--

djp

 

Intel iMac + Beresford TC-7510 + Little Dot MK III + beyerdynamics DT 231 = Computer audiophile quality on the cheap! --- Samsung Q1 + M-Audio Transit + Sennheiser PX 100 = Computer audiophile quality on the go!

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Seeing as you guys seem to really know alot more than I do about this stuff, can you help me with settings in iTunes? I THINK I saw these in one of Chris' threads, but can't seem to locate now (it's prolly right under my nose as wifey would say...).

 

1) I am using toslink out of a Macbook to a 24/96 DAC (Beresford 7520). All my files are 16/44.1. Do I need to change any settings in the midi? (Clock, rates, etc.). iTunes was default at 24/14.4

2) Can I "burn" an SACD from my macbook to iTunes? I tried and the drive just spits it back out. :(

3) If I download some HQ files, do I need to change settings or does the DAC/iTunes know automatically that they are higher quality?

 

I'm confused. Any help would be GREATLY appreciated, as I am clueless on this stuff.

 

EDIT: Tim, you asked about the sound... On first listen, it certainly is better than the ipod dock. Not quite as "smooth," if you will, of my cd player. While I don't follow how "burn-in" could matter in electronic components, I have the thing playing non-stop while Im at work so we shall see.

 

Another question: Can something like the Beresford, with it's built-in preamp, be used as a "power booster" for an ipod dock? One thing I hate about the ipod dock (used in my garage) is the gain out is soo damn low that it adds to the shitty sound. By comparison, music out of the beresford is significantly hotter (louder). Wondering if I could pass it through the gain section to add volume to the amp? Any thoughts?

 

 

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