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I have been thinking about this for a while now and I cannot come to a conclusion so far. Maybe the friendly people on this forum can help me. Say I have to $2000 to spend on a USB DAC and cables (the number is pure for discussion purpose only).

 

How would you spend the money?

 

1) Buy a $500 DAC a $1000 USB/spdif converter including fancy power supply, and a $500 USB cable.

2) Buy a $1990 USB DAC with USB and a $10 USB cable

3) Buy a $1500 usb DAC, $400 USB power supply and $100 USB cable

4) Buy a $1000 usb DAC, $10 usb cable, since a more expensive DAC will not be better

5) etc

 

I am really not sure. What is the most important step? Is it the DAC chip? The USB implementation, or even the cable? A one box solution is maybe better looking but does it give the biggest bang for buck and what about future upgrades?

 

Would an Empirical Audio Off-Ramp 5 be overkill for a $400 DAC like a Schiit Biforst.

 

Is there a consensus regarding this? Or is it just a crap shoot and hope you get lucky and find a combo that works?

[br]

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I have been thinking about this for a while now and I cannot come to a conclusion so far. Maybe the friendly people on this forum can help me. Say I have to $2000 to spend on a USB DAC and cables (the number is pure for discussion purpose only).

 

How would you spend the money?

 

1) Buy a $500 DAC a $1000 USB/spdif converter including fancy power supply, and a $500 USB cable.

2) Buy a $1990 USB DAC with USB and a $10 USB cable

3) Buy a $1500 usb DAC, $400 USB power supply and $100 USB cable

4) Buy a $1000 usb DAC, $10 usb cable, since a more expensive DAC will not be better

5) etc

 

I am really not sure. What is the most important step? Is it the DAC chip? The USB implementation, or even the cable? A one box solution is maybe better looking but does it give the biggest bang for buck and what about future upgrades?

 

Would an Empirical Audio Off-Ramp 5 be overkill for a $400 DAC like a Schiit Biforst.

 

Is there a consensus regarding this? Or is it just a crap shoot and hope you get lucky and find a combo that works?

Using my money I am choosing:

 

a. $1900 DAC and $100 USB Cable

b. $1500 DAC and $100 USB Cable along with $400 Power Supply

 

if you have a specific need for a USB/SPDIF converter then I would either supplant the power supply or:

 

c. $1200 DAC and $100 USB Cable with $350 each for the converter and power supply

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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There is no consensus on this. There are so many DAC's on the market now, and each has its proponents. And, the landscape is changing very rapidly with all-in-one server/streamer/DAC/amps. Whatever you buy, make sure there is a return policy if you don't like it.

 

For the record, what I did was buy a $2,000 DAC that had the features I wanted (self-powered USB, HDMI connectivity, remote-controlled digital preamp for volume control). I bought a trade-show demo for $1,600 with a full, 3-year warranty from an authorized dealer, spent less than $100 on a USB cable after demo'ing several more expensive ones, and had over $300 left over.

 

I also had a XMOS-based S/PDIF converter and a good digital coax cable, but felt that they did not improve the SQ over the straight USB input. I sold those things for another $200 in my pocket. That said, others here with the same DAC strongly feel that a good S/PDIF converter does improve the SQ vs.USB. So, get as many opinions as you can, and re-read the fourth sentence in my first paragraph.

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There are just too many variables and models, etc. to make a choice that way. Typically the DAC chip and it's surrounding components are the lower cost items. The power supplies, IV stages, and input stages are where the costs and major design decisions usually are. A given DAC may have everything except a good interface section-in that case, spending more for a good interface would make a lot of sense. Or everything may function well except for the power supply, so then spending more on an accessory power supply would make a lot of sense.

 

i think often people will look at their budgets and plan on a series of upgrades-get this DAC for $so much, then add the better power supply, and finally trick it out with a better interface.

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How would you spend the money?

1) Buy a $500 DAC a $1000 USB/spdif converter including fancy power supply, and a $500 USB cable.

2) Buy a $1990 USB DAC with USB and a $10 USB cable

3) Buy a $1500 usb DAC, $400 USB power supply and $100 USB cable

4) Buy a $1000 usb DAC, $10 usb cable, since a more expensive DAC will not be better

5) etc

Given your budget I would go with a $1900 DAC and a $100 USB cable (say Transparent Performance). At <2k I don't think the PS or a fancy USB cable are key components.

 

What's the $400 USB power supply anyway?

mini+Roon > RAAT > dCS Rossini DAC + dCS Rossini Clock 

SME 20/3 + SME V 9” + Dynavector XV-1s > vdH The Grail

Audio Note Kondo Ongaku > Avantgarde Duo Mezzo

system pics

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If it were me I would find some person selling their HUGO not have to worry about power supplies, etc and be happy as a pig in sh-t that I just scored one of the greatest DACs ever built at ANY price!!

 

If I couldn't find a used one I would beg, borrow and plead for the extra few hundred bucks to add to my 2k to buy a new one.

 

I have had many and currently own what many consider one of the best DACs on the market but HUGO competes with just about any DAC I have ever heard.

 

Oh and by the way you can use it portably when and if you ever decide to pull it out of your system.

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If it were me I would find some person selling their HUGO not have to worry about power supplies, etc and be happy as a pig in sh-t that I just scored one of the greatest DACs ever built at ANY price!!

 

If I couldn't find a used one I would beg, borrow and plead for the extra few hundred bucks to add to my 2k to buy a new one.

 

I have had many and currently own what many consider one of the best DACs on the market but HUGO competes with just about any DAC I have ever heard.

 

Oh and by the way you can use it portably when and if you ever decide to pull it out of your system.

 

 

How very JV of you Priaptor!!!

 

;-)

Arcam rDAC / Oppo BDP-83 / NAD 315BEE / Totem Arro

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Given your budget I would go with a $1900 DAC and a $100 USB cable (say Transparent Performance). At <2k I don't think the PS or a fancy USB cable are key components.

 

What's the $400 USB power supply anyway?

 

The Audiophilleo costs $479 and the Teddy Pardo TeddyUSB costs $399. I am sure there are some more exotics USB power supplies out there.

[br]

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How very JV of you Priaptor!!!

 

;-)

 

Actually, it is anti-JV the way I see it.

 

First, I pay for my equipment.

 

Second, I don't get any perks such "extended loans", free vacations, etc to pimp products.

 

Third, I have no issue saying a particular product is IMHO BETTER than another, as I have no advertisers, etc that I am dependent on and have no manufacturer whose gear I want to get on an "extended loan" that I can sell on Audiogon for a profit at some future time.

 

Fourth, I never marry myself to any particular brand or specific piece of gear. As DeNiro said in Heat, ""Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat......".

 

Yeah, in my main system I have an MSB Diamond Plus, which I still believe is the best DAC I have heard, have no desire to get rid of it, have used it for two years now, after breaking my cherry on PS Audio, DAC8, DAC2X, etc. However, in the system I have in my vacation home, I have replaced my Vega with the HUGO. I am incredibly impressed by this little amazing guy. From my perch and for my tastes it dominates the Vega. To date it is the closest thing I have heard to an MSB Analog I once tested for my second system but was too expensive for the need. Yeah it is that good. I was skeptical, but the Vega for me was too harsh and really wasn't my cup of tea. The good news, the money I PAID, unlike JV, I was able to recoup close to 80% on Audiogon, which allowed me to buy my HUGO with some nice change left over.

 

So I look at it as the "Anti-JV" in every way shape and form. Maybe enlighten me as to the parallel because self admittedly I am Gump like. ;-(

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I would spend most of the budget on a quality upgradeable DAC (new, discounted or A'gon) that has the main features you are interested in (or has them in the upgrade).

 

If you are happy, you are set. If you get the upgrade itch and budget in the future, you have an upgrade path available.

 

You can always play with cables and external boxes later if desired. If you get a quality DAC first, those extras become less important and are often discarded due to the better DAC's performance outshining the peripherals.

 

Good luck with your quest.

Software: Realtime Debian 11-64, JRMC28-64, Custom VST3-64, CamillaDSP-64 (2x8 channel 64-bit FIR multi-pass convolution), RePhase, REW, Custom Driver Level DRC-FIR upgrades, JRMC CloudPlay, Pandora, Spotify, dBPowerAmp Reference,

2 Channel: A-Tech Fabrication i7-3770K/NVMe/Passive Cooling-No Moving Parts->OKTO DAC8 PRO->QuadAmping - MagTech/Mark Levinson #336/IcePower ASP1000->Magnepan 20.1's, NEO8's & OB/Dipole Subs

Home Theater: Anthem Statement D2V->W4S 7x1000->Magnepan 3.6's/CC3/MC2's+Martin Logan Descent I Subs

Office: Core-i7 3770S/SSD->Xonar Essence STX->W4S µDAC->W4S STI-1000->Magnepan Mini-Maggies

Garage: Dell Laptop->W4S uDAC->AdCom Amp->B&W Rock Solid

 

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Actually, it is anti-JV the way I see it.

 

First, I pay for my equipment.

 

Second, I don't get any perks such "extended loans", free vacations, etc to pimp products.

 

Third, I have no issue saying a particular product is IMHO BETTER than another, as I have no advertisers, etc that I am dependent on and have no manufacturer whose gear I want to get on an "extended loan" that I can sell on Audiogon for a profit at some future time.

 

Fourth, I never marry myself to any particular brand or specific piece of gear. As DeNiro said in Heat, ""Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat......".

 

Yeah, in my main system I have an MSB Diamond Plus, which I still believe is the best DAC I have heard, have no desire to get rid of it, have used it for two years now, after breaking my cherry on PS Audio, DAC8, DAC2X, etc. However, in the system I have in my vacation home, I have replaced my Vega with the HUGO. I am incredibly impressed by this little amazing guy. From my perch and for my tastes it dominates the Vega. To date it is the closest thing I have heard to an MSB Analog I once tested for my second system but was too expensive for the need. Yeah it is that good. I was skeptical, but the Vega for me was too harsh and really wasn't my cup of tea. The good news, the money I PAID, unlike JV, I was able to recoup close to 80% on Audiogon, which allowed me to buy my HUGO with some nice change left over.

 

So I look at it as the "Anti-JV" in every way shape and form. Maybe enlighten me as to the parallel because self admittedly I am Gump like. ;-(

 

 

 

Priaptor, my comment was tongue-in-cheek and meant as a joke... obviously!

Arcam rDAC / Oppo BDP-83 / NAD 315BEE / Totem Arro

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Dumb question. What does "JV" mean?

 

 

 

JV is Jonathan Valin, The Absolute Sound reviewer.

 

Sorry kumakuma, I actually hate when people do that, the "inside joke" thing, and I just did It with this JV comment. Sorry to the OP for going completely off topic also.

Arcam rDAC / Oppo BDP-83 / NAD 315BEE / Totem Arro

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JV is Jonathan Valin, The Absolute Sound reviewer.

 

Sorry kumakuma, I actually hate when people do that, the "inside joke" thing, and I just did It with this JV comment. Sorry to the OP for going completely off topic also.

 

Thanks for letting me know. I would never have guessed that.

 

It is interesting that he used to write mysteries.

Sometimes it's like someone took a knife, baby
Edgy and dull and cut a six inch valley
Through the middle of my skull

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Step 1... walk into a HiFi dealer

Step 2... ask what DACs they sell

Step 3 (optional)... listen to a variety of DACs in your budget

Step 4... present credit card

Step 5... walk out the store

 

Oh ... erm ... should I read more than just the thread title??

 

Eloise

(in a particularly wicked mood this afternoon)

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Step 1... walk into a HiFi dealer

Step 2... ask what DACs they sell

Step 3 (optional)... listen to a variety of DACs in your budget

Step 4... present credit card

Step 5... walk out the store

 

Oh ... erm ... should I read more than just the thread title??

 

Eloise

(in a particularly wicked mood this afternoon)

 

My audio dealer does not accept credit card I think. Only cash or money transfer :)

[br]

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Step 1... walk into a HiFi dealer

Step 2... ask what DACs they sell

Step 3 (optional)... listen to a variety of DACs in your budget

Step 4... present credit card

Step 5... walk out the store

 

Oh ... erm ... should I read more than just the thread title??

 

Eloise

(in a particularly wicked mood this afternoon)

 

sounds good, but i am too lazy to walk....buy on amazon and return until you are satisfied...plus they take credit card. (griN(

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Another option. Don't get an USB DAC, as they will let you down. If you must do USB, audition a bunch and buy a second hand one, along with a second hand USB-SPDIF converter.

Could you expand on your statement as to how or why USB DACs let you down?

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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Could you expand on your statement as to how or why USB DACs let you down?

 

A computer is ridiculously noisy (electrically) and USB is a beautiful path for this noise to enter your DAC. I put scope pictures on one of the IFI threads if interested. I have tried many DACs incl >$10K and they all benefited from a separate USB-SPDIF converter. Granted it was the Berkeley one which is not cheap.

 

Another cheaper route to clean it up a bit is the SoTM card in your PC or an IFI USB. But I guess my point is not to get stuck on the USB input as a must. Even Berkeley's latest DAC does not have USB.

 

There will be many second hand quality DACs available because everyone suddenly needed to have a DAC with the USB port inbuilt. Many USB implementations are not well designed, forced into a small form factor or bandwagon marketing stuff.

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A computer is ridiculously noisy (electrically) and USB is a beautiful path for this noise to enter your DAC. I put scope pictures on one of the IFI threads if interested. I have tried many DACs incl >$10K and they all benefited from a separate USB-SPDIF converter. Granted it was the Berkeley one which is not cheap.

 

Another cheaper route to clean it up a bit is the SoTM card in your PC or an IFI USB. But I guess my point is not to get stuck on the USB input as a must. Even Berkeley's latest DAC does not have USB.

 

There will be many second hand quality DACs available because everyone suddenly needed to have a DAC with the USB port inbuilt. Many USB implementations are not well designed, forced into a small form factor or bandwagon marketing stuff.

Thank you

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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sounds good, but i am too lazy to walk....buy on amazon and return until you are satisfied...plus they take credit card. (griN(

 

No Amazon in the Netherlands. When I buy of Amazon US I have to pay import duties, VAT, shipping, etc etc

 

A computer is ridiculously noisy (electrically) and USB is a beautiful path for this noise to enter your DAC. I put scope pictures on one of the IFI threads if interested. I have tried many DACs incl >$10K and they all benefited from a separate USB-SPDIF converter. Granted it was the Berkeley one which is not cheap.

 

Another cheaper route to clean it up a bit is the SoTM card in your PC or an IFI USB. But I guess my point is not to get stuck on the USB input as a must. Even Berkeley's latest DAC does not have USB.

 

There will be many second hand quality DACs available because everyone suddenly needed to have a DAC with the USB port inbuilt. Many USB implementations are not well designed, forced into a small form factor or bandwagon marketing stuff.

 

The more I think about it the more I think you are correct.

 

My current, digital setup up is like this:

Synogolgy NAS DS214-->old XP laptop in docking station-->M2tec Hiface BNC-->Wadia 12-->Integrated amp.

 

On my NAS I have about 600-800 16/44.1 albums and zero hi-res. So what would be the first thing to improve? I lean towards a power supply for the HiFace.

[br]

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No Amazon in the Netherlands. When I buy of Amazon US I have to pay import duties, VAT, shipping, etc etc

 

 

 

The more I think about it the more I think you are correct.

 

My current, digital setup up is like this:

Synogolgy NAS DS214-->old XP laptop in docking station-->M2tec Hiface BNC-->Wadia 12-->Integrated amp.

 

On my NAS I have about 600-800 16/44.1 albums and zero hi-res. So what would be the first thing to improve? I lean towards a power supply for the HiFace.

 

Buy from Amazon.co.uk

 

That is already in the EU and duty free to the NL.

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