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DAC suggestions with Sonos


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Hello, all.

 

I am looking for a DAC that would work well with a Sonos unit (Wyred4Sound modified version). The amplifier is an Exposure 2010s2 and the speakers are PMC twenty.21s. The Sonos will mostly be used to stream Tidal (when it becomes available on Sonos). I might also try Deezer.

 

I would like like to spend between $500-$1200 on the DAC. Any thoughts about which particular DAC might work well for this application?

 

Thanks,

mc

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Your Sonos is limited to 16:44.1 (at least mine is) and today's DACs do so much more. You may want to consider where you want your sound to go in the future and let that steer your purchase.

Analog: Koetsu Rosewood > VPI Aries 3 w/SDS > EAR 834P > EAR 834L: Audiodesk cleaner

Digital Fun: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (JRMC) SOtM USB > Lynx Hilo > EAR 834L

Digital Serious: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (HQPlayer) Ethernet > SMS-100 NAA > Lampi DSD L4 G5 > EAR 834L

Digital Disc: Oppo BDP 95 > EAR 834L

Output: EAR 834L > Xilica XP4080 DSP > Odessey Stratos Mono Extreme > Legacy Aeris

Phones: EAR 834L > Little Dot Mk ii > Senheiser HD 800

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Thanks. I think with the Wyred4Sound you can select up to 96kHz. But the general point is a good one --I don't want to spend a fortune on a DAC for what isn't the highest level application...streaming lossless cd (Tidal or other) through the Sonos. So I don't want to spend money on a DAC that has way more functionality than I need, but I would still like my Sonos/DAC combo to sound as good as possible. What should I be looking at? Thanks!

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Hello, all.

 

I am looking for a DAC that would work well with a Sonos unit (Wyred4Sound modified version). The amplifier is an Exposure 2010s2 and the speakers are PMC twenty.21s. The Sonos will mostly be used to stream Tidal (when it becomes available on Sonos). I might also try Deezer.

 

I would like like to spend between $500-$1200 on the DAC. Any thoughts about which particular DAC might work well for this application?

 

Thanks,

mc

 

You could shop for an older top of the line DAC limited to 16/44.1khz resolution. Something like a Van Alstine T8 can be picked up for peanuts and does a fine job. Plenty of others.

 

I seriously doubt many will better what you already have in the Sono's unit though. Rather, you woukd be hard put to better it. Most DAC advances have came with the ability to playback HiRes and DSD, none of which is really a concern in this situation.

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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Thanks. I think with the Wyred4Sound you can select up to 96kHz. But the general point is a good one --I don't want to spend a fortune on a DAC for what isn't the highest level application...streaming lossless cd (Tidal or other) through the Sonos. So I don't want to spend money on a DAC that has way more functionality than I need, but I would still like my Sonos/DAC combo to sound as good as possible. What should I be looking at? Thanks!

 

Re:96kHz.... While the default modification that Wyred4Sound includes an upsampling module configured for 96kHz, the unit is still only capable of rendering 16/44 material. It cannot play 96kHz material. I know because I have one of these units. The mod was worth it and made an audible improvement but make no mistake, it does not add extra functionality to the Sonos. It only improves the power supply and digital output for what it can already perform. 16/44.

 

I bought an Auralic Aries to play hi-Rez 24/192 and DSD. It also plays Tidal.

 

There are any number of DACs in your price range and suggest you demo or listen to them If possible before buying. Choice of DAC depends on the rest of your system as well as the type of sound signature you prefer...

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You could shop for an older top of the line DAC limited to 16/44.1khz resolution. Something like a Van Alstine T8 can be picked up for peanuts and does a fine job. Plenty of others.

 

I seriously doubt many will better what you already have in the Sono's unit though. Rather, you woukd be hard put to better it. Most DAC advances have came with the ability to playback HiRes and DSD, none of which is really a concern in this situation.

 

agree that he could get an older top of the line DAC. From experience, however, I can say that the internal DAC in the Sonos is freaking horrible, though. Sounds like a $20 WalMart DVD player, IMO. Most anything would be an improvement. Someone suggested the DACiTx for $299. That would probably be a decent noticeable upgrade over the internal Sonos output. If you want to spend more, go for it.

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Hi all- Thanks for this very useful discussion, and especially the clarification that even with the modified unit I am still doing 16/44. I am assuming the modified W4S unit is the Remedy reclocker technology that removes jitter, though, and so I don't need to mess around with something like Audiophileo? And then I am gathering that a good DAC (maybe Schiit Bifrost or Gunguir, or new Arcam irDAm, or Meridian Director, or even Rega Dac) is probably the right level to come in at. And perhaps it would be ideal to demo a few in the system and see what sounds best? with thanks- mc

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Mcanaday,

 

I just replied to you question in Audiogon. Anyway, as mentioned here it seems jitter out of the Sonos is rather bad. Using a good coax reclocker into a DAC should bring, in my view, the biggest impact. Not many coax reclockers available, though. I can think of Empirical Audio's Synchro-Mesh.

 

I wouldn't get that much wound up in hi rez. In my view it's a nice to have, but 16/44 done right still can be a significant sound upgrade from where she is now. You might be bringing up to her a problem she doesn't know she has and might end up expecting more from it than there is to hear considering the whole audio chain.

Roon Server: general purpose Gigabyte GA-Z170X UD5, i5 6600, Crucial MX200 SSD, HyperX 1x16GB RAM, Win 10 Pro, convolving in Roon digital xo + DRC + upsampling. Output through ethernet.

Roon Client AudioPC: Uptone etherRegen (with LPS 1.2) into Intel S1200KPR, Xeon E3 1265lv2, Crucial V4 SSD for OS, 8GB ECC RAM, Streacom FC8 Evo case, lab linear PSU, Windows Server 2019, AudioPhil's Optimizer, Acourate (digital xo, room correction)

Rest of Chain: Lynx Hilo as 8-channel DAC, McIntosh MC275 MkIV for mids & treble, Hypex UcD400HG for midbass into DIY dipoles 18" midbass/2x8" mids/AMT tweeter, 2 DIY 12" Rythmik subs, Equi=Core 1800 balanced power, dedicated power lines, room treatments

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Hi Lewinski and all- thanks. I was assuming that the Wyred4Sound modification (which upgrades the jitter clock) was similar to something like Empirical Audio. You think Empirical Audio does something different, or just does it better? And I am still really confused by discussion above that I only get 16/44.1 from the upgraded Sonos. What does it mean then that Wyred4Sound says the consumer can chose output sample for the modified unit (44.1, 48, or 96 kHz.) If it is only 16/44.1 would my best move to buy a NOS dac like the Teradak? Or to try something like PS audio Nuwave where I have the option of selecting "native" function? And then would I be better off configuring the Sonos unit at 16/44.1? Any thoughts? This is confusing! with thanks, mc.

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Hi Lewinski and all- thanks. I was assuming that the Wyred4Sound modification (which upgrades the jitter clock) was similar to something like Empirical Audio. You think Empirical Audio does something different, or just does it better? And I am still really confused by discussion above that I only get 16/44.1 from the upgraded Sonos. What does it mean then that Wyred4Sound says the consumer can chose output sample for the modified unit (44.1, 48, or 96 kHz.) If it is only 16/44.1 would my best move to buy a NOS dac like the Teradak? Or to try something like PS audio Nuwave where I have the option of selecting "native" function? And then would I be better off configuring the Sonos unit at 16/44.1? Any thoughts? This is confusing! with thanks, mc.

 

Oh, I see the confusion. The W4S Sonos Connect upgrade has two functions -

 

(1) It acts just like the Empirical Audio- reclocking the signal to have much less jitter and

(2) It can upsample the *output* signal to be 48K or 96K.

 

The input is always going to be 44.1K, so you can not feed it hi-res material. The output rate, either bit perfect at 44.1K or up sampled, is a factory setting and is basically a one time permanent choice.

 

Now up sampling can have some great effects, but chances are, good old bit perfect 44.1K output is probably going to be your best bet. First, it stresses the equipment less, and second, almost all DACs upsample internally these days, so you are getting the benefit of up sampling anyway. Without locking yourself into the single upsampling implementation into the W4S Sonos. More choice, in other words.

 

Or to put it yet another way, what you *probably* want to do is get the very best signal you can from the Sonos, which will probably be the 44.1k output. Then feed that into a DAC built to provide the best sound from a 44.1K input. As I mentioned earlier, the older generation of DACs, those built to handle only 44.1K can give you some really really good sound from the rechecked clean 44.1K signal out of the Sonos. They are also often optimized for input from S/PDIF or Optical outputs, which is what the Sonos puts out.

 

There are plenty of modern DACs that do that as well - though most are now moving towards an optimized USB input, which also basically also reduces jitter on the input signal, but does so for higher sample rates, all the way up to quad rate DSD or higher.

 

For example:

 

The Benchmark DAC1

Benchmark DAC1 - Digital to Analog Audio Converter - Closeout - Benchmark Media Systems, Inc.

 

The Vision Dac (or earlier models)

avahifi - The VISION DAC

 

A Bryston BDA1

Bryston Limited: BDA-1 External DAC

 

Or you can even look at something like a Logitech Transporter. This can take the output from the Sonos, or even replace the Sonos and actually stream music at 24/96. Sounds great too!

Logitech Transporter | DA Converters | San Jose, California 95112 | AudiogoN - The High-end Audio Community

 

Note that I recommend looking at all these on the used market, as they are mostly not available new any longer. But concentrating on that 44.1K mark, as most of these do will, I believe, give you thefts possible sound out of that Sonos. And the best sound from the Sonos is very good indeed, especially with eh W4S upgrade!

 

Hope that helps - Paul

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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My favorite of the sub $500 dacs was the parasound zdac. There is now a second version out but the original is still available from audio advisor for $300. That is a great deal.

Roon ->UltraRendu + CI Audio 7v LPS-> Kii Control -> Kii Three

Roon->BMC UltraDAC->Mr Speakers Aeon Flow Open

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Oh, I think I helped more in confusing you than helping. I didn't realize the Wyred mod aimed at reducing jitter. That's a good starting point then.

 

If you are starting with a good signal out of coax, I also suggest looking into a used Metrum Octave mk.I. I have one fed by an Audiophilleo and the sound is outstanding: their combined price two years ago was $2k, and I recently bought an exaSound e22 with many bells and whistles (femto clock, higher rate DSD capability, etc) that retails today at $3.5k and I can't hear enough difference to justify the price difference by no means. In fact I'm press hard to detect any difference and those are more playback software dependent than hardware I think.

It's important to go for the mk I, which is the two-box model, as the current mk II has good USB input that is something you don't need.

 

Check out the Octave review by HiFi Critic from about two years ago. A rather unbiassed publication having great things to say about the Octave.

 

Sorry for contributing to your confusion.

Roon Server: general purpose Gigabyte GA-Z170X UD5, i5 6600, Crucial MX200 SSD, HyperX 1x16GB RAM, Win 10 Pro, convolving in Roon digital xo + DRC + upsampling. Output through ethernet.

Roon Client AudioPC: Uptone etherRegen (with LPS 1.2) into Intel S1200KPR, Xeon E3 1265lv2, Crucial V4 SSD for OS, 8GB ECC RAM, Streacom FC8 Evo case, lab linear PSU, Windows Server 2019, AudioPhil's Optimizer, Acourate (digital xo, room correction)

Rest of Chain: Lynx Hilo as 8-channel DAC, McIntosh MC275 MkIV for mids & treble, Hypex UcD400HG for midbass into DIY dipoles 18" midbass/2x8" mids/AMT tweeter, 2 DIY 12" Rythmik subs, Equi=Core 1800 balanced power, dedicated power lines, room treatments

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No need to apologize, I think things are getting a bit clearer! I like Paul's suggestion above to just stay at 16/44.1 with Sonos. The question is whether I am better off getting the Wyred4Sound modified unit (configured for 16/44.1) or getting a stock Sonos unit and running it through something like Empirical Audio's Synchro-Mesh? Any thoughts on that? And Paul, how do I figure out which DACs are built for 16/44.1 as you describe above. (When I click on the Benchmark it says 24 bit 192 kHz.) Or is it just a matter of sticking to these high quality older models? Thanks again, I'm grateful for everyone's help.

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No need to apologize, I think things are getting a bit clearer! I like Paul's suggestion above to just stay at 16/44.1 with Sonos. The question is whether I am better off getting the Wyred4Sound modified unit (configured for 16/44.1) or getting a stock Sonos unit and running it through something like Empirical Audio's Synchro-Mesh? Any thoughts on that? And Paul, how do I figure out which DACs are built for 16/44.1 as you describe above. (When I click on the Benchmark it says 24 bit 192 kHz.) Or is it just a matter of sticking to these high quality older models? Thanks again, I'm grateful for everyone's help.

 

 

Honestly? I do not think it matters that much which Sonos unit you get as the better old style DACs have various means in place to control jitter. I would spend the extra $$ on the DAC myself.

 

As to the DAC, well, you have a very rich resource here at CA. Just ask, you will get plenty of opinions.

 

Pretty much all modern DACs, built in the last 5-7 years are going to handle 24/96k or above, but the question is how well? It used to be a DAC that sounded glorious at 16/44.1 could sound like total crap at 24/96k. Even more, DACs that sounded great at 24/96 woukd oftimes sound crappy at 24/192.

 

So what you want to look for are DACs that are known to do very well at 16/44.1, and if they process higher baud rates, that is just low hanging fruit.

 

A PeachTree DAC*IT or ITx might be a good solution. Or just about any other DAC recommended here so far. I can not speak to the RadioShack model however... ;)

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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i think we are over complicating things, i think any descent DAC with digital input will sound great. the relocking voodo is already done with the mod.

i would go for an used w4s or any other with good reviews. i have my benchmark listed if you are interested. Lol great price

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Maybe I'm guessing wrong, but my guess is your are finding yourself overwhelmed by the many good options available to you. I know I was when I was starting up and got answers like "many good options to choose from". You are being given good advice above and people not trying to stir you in a certain direction is a good sign o objective advice.

 

BTW, I would give Wyred a call and ask about their Sonos mod. Do they suggest buying that and connecting to a DAC or using a stock unit and connecting it to their own reclocker and from there to a DAC?

 

Here's an attempt to boil it down to concrete alternatives. Browsing Audiogon listings in DA Converter between $500 and 1200, I see a couple Bryston BDA-1 and a Bel Canto DAC 3, and a couple Chord Chordettes. The Chords are almost current units, very good from reports, but probably you would be paying for features you won't use, and it was /is $1800 new, I think.

The Bryston and Bel Canto are two excellent options, dated by current computer audio standards, but would be very very good for your needs. Check out reviews online as there are plenty.

Bryston for sure, and I believe Bel Canto as well, have a reputation for reliability, which is important in this case. Neither one had good USB input, a non issue in your case, but likely a factor that is diminishing their prices these days. They were above $3k new, I think. FWIW, back then I had both on my radar screen. The Bel Canto has a very good volume control too.

 

I hope this helps.

Roon Server: general purpose Gigabyte GA-Z170X UD5, i5 6600, Crucial MX200 SSD, HyperX 1x16GB RAM, Win 10 Pro, convolving in Roon digital xo + DRC + upsampling. Output through ethernet.

Roon Client AudioPC: Uptone etherRegen (with LPS 1.2) into Intel S1200KPR, Xeon E3 1265lv2, Crucial V4 SSD for OS, 8GB ECC RAM, Streacom FC8 Evo case, lab linear PSU, Windows Server 2019, AudioPhil's Optimizer, Acourate (digital xo, room correction)

Rest of Chain: Lynx Hilo as 8-channel DAC, McIntosh MC275 MkIV for mids & treble, Hypex UcD400HG for midbass into DIY dipoles 18" midbass/2x8" mids/AMT tweeter, 2 DIY 12" Rythmik subs, Equi=Core 1800 balanced power, dedicated power lines, room treatments

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I agree with LewinskiH01, because you are so focused on your needs you're actually at a buyers advantage. Good gear is being sold on the used market to make room for 24:192 or DSD or USB, all things you don't need. As LewnskiH01 pointed out, I would use a price range filter in Audiogon and then research each product that looked interesting, Bryston and Bel Canto were high end / SOTA at the time and either would probably be an awesome DAC for your 16:44 needs

Analog: Koetsu Rosewood > VPI Aries 3 w/SDS > EAR 834P > EAR 834L: Audiodesk cleaner

Digital Fun: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (JRMC) SOtM USB > Lynx Hilo > EAR 834L

Digital Serious: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (HQPlayer) Ethernet > SMS-100 NAA > Lampi DSD L4 G5 > EAR 834L

Digital Disc: Oppo BDP 95 > EAR 834L

Output: EAR 834L > Xilica XP4080 DSP > Odessey Stratos Mono Extreme > Legacy Aeris

Phones: EAR 834L > Little Dot Mk ii > Senheiser HD 800

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For $ 900 plus shipping you could try a miniDSD DDRC-22DA

 

I have the DDRC-22D feeding a NAD D3020 and it works very well indeed

 

Room correction can bring very noticeable improvements and the Dirac software does it well with some flexibility. You need to spend several hours over a couple of days to get the best settings, but the results are well worth the effort invested.

 

brings Sonos content up to another SQ level

 

DDRC-22DA | MiniDSP

Sound Test, Monaco

Consultant to Sound Galleries Monaco, and Taiko Audio Holland

e-mail [email protected]

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Very nice!! Let us know how it works for you.

Roon Server: general purpose Gigabyte GA-Z170X UD5, i5 6600, Crucial MX200 SSD, HyperX 1x16GB RAM, Win 10 Pro, convolving in Roon digital xo + DRC + upsampling. Output through ethernet.

Roon Client AudioPC: Uptone etherRegen (with LPS 1.2) into Intel S1200KPR, Xeon E3 1265lv2, Crucial V4 SSD for OS, 8GB ECC RAM, Streacom FC8 Evo case, lab linear PSU, Windows Server 2019, AudioPhil's Optimizer, Acourate (digital xo, room correction)

Rest of Chain: Lynx Hilo as 8-channel DAC, McIntosh MC275 MkIV for mids & treble, Hypex UcD400HG for midbass into DIY dipoles 18" midbass/2x8" mids/AMT tweeter, 2 DIY 12" Rythmik subs, Equi=Core 1800 balanced power, dedicated power lines, room treatments

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Thanks to all for your generosity and insight in helping me sort this out. I bought a used Bryston BDA-1 just moments ago. So that part of this puzzle is solved. I'm excited and can return to work feeling like I accomplished something this long holiday weekend!

Great choice! Let us know how you like it!!

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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