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old vs new, are new DACS better?


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Right now I have an older DAC, a Wadia 12. My two digital sources are:

 

NAS with FLACs 16/44.1 that stream to an old windows XP laptop and from there to a M2tch HiFace USB to BNC

CEC TL51x transport

 

Since I don't have any high res or DSD content would a new DAC be an improvement? I know DAC technology has changed a lot over the years. But I get the impression this change has been mainly focused on high res, dsd and USB. Since I have a USB to BNC converter and no DSD or high res content would a new DAC like a Schiit Gungir or Metrum Octave mkII be and upgrade or merely a side grade?

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Not familiar with Wadia 12 so the answer is maybe. But keep in mind USB to S/PDIF converters are also getting better. So when you upgrade your DAC, you may also be upgrading your USB converter at the same time. And it should be an upgrade rather than a side grade but it really depends on how good Wadia 12 already is.

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Not too many answers I see, so allow me ...

 

I know DACtechnology has changed a lot over the years. But I get the impression this change has been mainly focused on high res, dsd and USB.

 

Hi,

 

I think your impressions are correct and probably it is the (demanding) market itself which encourages for this (Hires). Now I'm not sure whether we (Phasure) are the only one focusing on Redbook but at least we do and we do that explicitly. And if we then answer your question ... Yes of course things improve a lot (and continuously). But as said, this is because the focus is on it.

 

Not sure why you are not into Hires but me nor my customers are; It is just not necessary and besides that 99% of Hires s*cks for one reason or the other which is reason 1 why Redbook will sound better than Hires to begin with (in almost all cases). And oh, this is not to start a debate about Hires vs Redbook of course, but an attempt to indicate how very good Redbook can be if it's only given the attention it needs. The latter is not to be underestimated.

 

Regards,

Peter

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

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I have enjoyed the Wadia 12. It is a wonderful piece of equipment. If my memory serves me right it is based on the AD1865 which is one of the finest DAC chips every made.

 

I still use a DAC with an AD1865 chip today, as I have yet to find a chip that is better for PCM. If there is an issue it is with the input. The Wadia has a very fine proprietary optical input that used to be paired with their CD transport. This was usually the best way of running the DAC.

 

It has S/PDIF but I feel this is not as good as I2S when used with Computer Audio. I have modified my AD1865 DAC to accept I2S to the chip and that has improved the sound IMHO. An AD1865 will also run to 705.6kHz (16 X Fs) but is limited to 18 Bit.

 

The most important aspect of this DAC is that it is an R2R DAC, this are very rare today probably because they are more expensive to manufacture than Delta Sigma DAC chips, they also will not process DSD. But if you want PCM, Redbook et al they are arguably the best way of going. Anything else is a compromise.

 

On Redbook I tend to agree with PeterSt, treated right it is extremely fine. It may not be the newest thing on the block but given a good R2R Dac it is fabulous and of course there is the widest choice of music material. Which really is the point...I have no interest compromising 95+% of my music collection by having a DAC that is not optimised for Redbook & PCM.

 

Selling me a DAC on the basis it can do both DSD & Redbook/PCM just means I am buying a DAC that is non optimal for the bulk of my music....so I would be inclined to stay with the Wadia or look for DACs that are true R2R DACs that can also deal with I2S.

Trying to make sense of all the bits...MacMini/Amarra -> WavIO USB to I2S -> DDDAC 1794 NOS DAC -> Active XO ->Bass Amp Avondale NCC200s, Mid/Treble Amp Sugden Masterclass -> My Own Speakers

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You are correct, the Wadia uses the AD1865 chip. I have been doing some reading, and it seems R2R DACS are the only bit perfect DACS, Delta Sigma DACS cannot be perfect by design. There still seem to be a few good R2R chips but the are getting more rare.

 

There is a Dutch brand that uses a Burr Brown PCM1795 and has an I2S input, not sure if they they use any digital filter though.

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I think the overall specifications for D/A converters continue to improve. I've owned three generations of dCS DACs. Each iteration (compared using my same reference disks/files) has improved substantially over the last. By improved, I mean (to my ears) more soundstage resolution, "meatier" vocals and instrumentals, and more 3D dimension. The dCS DACS do not use commercially available chips. They design their own using discrete components and Field Programmable Gate Arrays. They can innovate at their own speed without relying on a chip manufacturer.

 

To add fuel to the Hi Res debate, the files / disks that I go back to time and time again for pristine sound are all redbook CD's at 16/44.1 published by Chesky back in the 90's. No equipment can make up for a poor recording.

 

Cincy

dCS Vivaldi DAC, Upsampler and Master Clock

D'Agostino M400 Momentum Monoblocks

Magico S1 Mk2 speakers

Mac Mini running Audirvana

Transparent Opus Gen 5 Speaker Cables

Transparent Ref XL Interconnects

Shunyata and Furutech power cords

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Right now I have an older DAC, a Wadia 12. My two digital sources are:

 

NAS with FLACs 16/44.1 that stream to an old windows XP laptop and from there to a M2tch HiFace USB to BNC

CEC TL51x transport

 

Since I don't have any high res or DSD content would a new DAC be an improvement? I know DAC technology has changed a lot over the years. But I get the impression this change has been mainly focused on high res, dsd and USB. Since I have a USB to BNC converter and no DSD or high res content would a new DAC like a Schiit Gungir or Metrum Octave mkII be and upgrade or merely a side grade?

 

Wasn't the Wadia 12 introduced around 1993? If so, there have been tremendous improvements in CD playback sound quality since that time.

"Relax, it's only hi-fi. There's never been a hi-fi emergency." - Roy Hall

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - William Bruce Cameron

 

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Until last year I also owned a Wadia 12, albeit modified in 1997 with the faster Wadia 860 opamp which made the sound quieter between the tones. It is a tremendous DAC indeed and not easily bettered.

It is certainly not bettered by the widely acclaimed NAD M51 and the Hegel 25 DAC. It sounds more lively and dramatic, and no less resolved, than these two; only the bass of the newer converters is much more powerful. The Wadia is also timbrally more neutral than the two newer converters which tend to artificially make some timbres sound fuller than they are (depending on recording).

 

My current Berkeley Alpha DAC 2, however, is an entirely different beast altogether. While it presents the music with the same drama and life as the Wadia, and is as timbrally neutral, it offers much more timbral resolution (1). The Berkeley is the first DAC that I have heard that can reproduce from CD the characteristic silky inner sheen from an orchestral violin section playing at low to middle volume. The microdetail within brass sound (solo or in groups) is fantastic.

Spatial resolution with the Berkeley is much more accurate; with the Wadia images become more fuzzy towards the back of the soundstage, with the Berkeley they remain sharp. Also, the soundstage with the Berkeley retains the same width from front to back (2), with the Wadia it becomes more narrow towards the back. Yet the Wadia's soundstaqe is just as impressively deep (well audible in my room acoustically treated with ASC tube traps and sound panels).

 

The bass of the Berkeley is just as powerful as that of the NAD and the Hegel, but better defined and much blacker at the bottom; it squarely beats the bass of the Wadia.

So yes, there is better sound to be had than with the Wadia 12, but at a price. Any old recent converter won't do.

__________________

(1) yet only with proper power conditioning. I have a Tice Powerblock II; straight from the wall the Berkeley may disappoint in that it may not seem much better than the Wadia.

 

(2) again, depending on good power conditioning

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Not sure why you are not into Hires but me nor my customers are; It is just not necessary and besides that 99% of Hires s*cks for one reason or the other which is reason 1 why Redbook will sound better than Hires to begin with (in almost all cases). And oh, this is not to start a debate about Hires vs Redbook of course, but an attempt to indicate how very good Redbook can be if it's only given the attention it needs. The latter is not to be underestimated.

 

Regards,

Peter

 

Well said.

 

I only listen to Redbook as well.

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By the way, I tested the NAD M51 and the Hegel 25 DAC in my own system, thus directly against the Wadia, just like the Berkeley DAC.

 

Given that the Schiit Gungir or Metrum Octave mkII, mentioned in the opening post, are both cheaper than the NAD and the Hegel I would not assume that they would be an improvement over the Wadia 12.

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Selling me a DAC on the basis it can do both DSD & Redbook/PCM just means I am buying a DAC that is non optimal for the bulk of my music....so I would be inclined to stay with the Wadia or look for DACs that are true R2R DACs that can also deal with I2S.

 

Unless of course the Dac has separate PCM and DSD modules in the same box! I agree the 1865 chip can sound good too.

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Thank you for all the replies. It gives me something to think about. Someone did offer me a Weis Dac2. But I think I'll first invest in some acoustic panels. To improve my room acoustics. A few GIK panels 242 would maybe give bigger bang for buck then a electronics upgrade.

[br]

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Thank you for all the replies. It gives me something to think about. Someone did offer me a Weis Dac2. But I think I'll first invest in some acoustic panels. To improve my room acoustics. A few GIK panels 242 would maybe give bigger bang for buck then a electronics upgrade.

 

You're welcome, and I agree on the importance of acoustic room treatment. Installing 6 ASC tube traps and 11 sound panels in my room (per ASC custom room design) possibly has been the most important upgrade I have ever made.

 

Next to bringing other important benefits, like layering and depth of soundstage, far superior timbral separation of instruments etc., the acoustic room treatment revealed that a lot of what I previously had perceived as digital harshness in fact had been unwanted room reflections.

 

Without the room treatment I would not have been able to appreciate the difference between the Berkeley and the Wadia DAC, so I think you have made the right decision, going for room acoustics first over an electronics upgrade.

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Without doubt DAC's are just getting better and better - especially at the lower end.

 

I live near the maker of the PDX DAC and when that DAC first came out it wiped the floor with every DAC I took down there - and I took a few.

 

But about a year ago some DAC's started to give it a real run for the money - some even besting it eg the Chord on DSD. Now I have come across other DAC's I think better on PCM. A new PDX has been produced and it is tough competition - it won a blind shootout - but other DAC's like the PS Audio Direct Stream have raised the bar again - it remains to be seen exactly what is top dog now - there will be a shoot-out a bit later to see what the go is.

 

I also have a new DAC a guy is building for me based on the PCM1793 with a diamond output stage I had been mucking around with (conceptually) as a circuit for a while. Anyway the guy built it with a slight modification to my circuit to allow direct coupling without a cap, and I heard a prototype that impressed me enough to order one. It almost certainly will not be up to the standard of these all out DAC's - but OMG - it was good - it will give them a genuine run for their money - and at a MUCH cheaper cost.

 

I simply cant see it ending - this is really a fast changing area.

 

Thanks

Bill

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