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Ultimate DAC for 16/44?


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I bought a Hugo simply because I wanted a HiRes/DSD capable USB DAC and a s/h Hugo came up at a good price. I bought a Bryston BDP because the SQ of my fanless PC wasn't that good into the Hugo and I reckoned that by the time I'd invested time and money into a more audiophile PC, I might just as well buy the Bryston.

 

But I've ended up putting hi res/DSD on the back burner and rediscovering my ripped RBCD collection instead as the pairing just sound so good on 16/44, connected via coaxial. Makes me wonder if the search for more bits etc isn't just a lazy sticking plaster, rather than going back to basics and addressing the fundamentals of getting 16/44 right in the first place (I have no idea what that would mean by the way...)

 

For example, I have lots of recordings of Mahler Symphonies, but comparing a RBCD rip of the Solti Mahler 6 (issued originally as SXL vinyl) with a native DSD Ivan Fischer recording of the same symphony, I felt that the former gave nothing away to the latter in any respect (e.g. I can't see how anyone unfamiliar with the recordings would be able to detect what was RDCD and what was DSD)and overall was a far more enjoyable performance.

 

Anyway, this got me wondering. Could 16/44 be even better with another DAC? If so what would you recommend as the ultimate DAC for 16/44? Maybe for you, your ultimate DAC is the same regardless of format? Or maybe you have in mind something past or present that only plays 16/44 but eclipses all others in that format? In case you were going to suggest the Chord DAC 64, that's not the answer, I have both and the Hugo is clearly superior to the DAC64 in most respects.

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Hugo does not play DSD natiively, it converts to PCM with a decimation step. Thus, any such format comparison with Hugo is highly misleading/ invalid. On top of that RBCD is the Dac sweetspot for Hugo.

 

Higo will beat the Chord 64, as it uses longer tap lengths in its filter. The 2Qute (similar internals to Hugo) with a quality LPSU may beat the mobile/battery powered Hugo and certainly the soon to be released QBD168 with even longer tap lengths should be a step ahead again.

 

For RBCD, people tout many Dacs like the Berkeley Reference, the Phasure NOSa1, Trinity Dac and the Aussie Killer Dac. Me, I am loving the Lampi Big7 for all formats.

 

One key point people forget in the whole Dac debate is the oft neglected TRANSPORT. That is 50% of the SQ right there.

 

Finally, there is the set that says its all moot when you do proper DSP/DRC with either software: Dirac/Acourate/Proteus-Leonardo (Golmund), Spatial etc or hardware Trinnov, DSPeaker, TaCT, Emerald Physics, Prism, etc. (I left out many names in the DRC game).

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Hugo does not play DSD natiively, it converts to PCM with a decimation step. Thus, any such format comparison with Hugo is highly misleading/ invalid. On top of that RBCD is the Dac sweetspot for Hugo.

 

While this thread was not intended to be about DSD, the Hugo is also a big improvement on DSD via my Oppo105 (which I believe is processing natively). I understand that the are also much higher end "DSD" Dacs that do much the same as a Hugo. I have no complaint whatsoever about DSD on the Hugo, it's just that it's such a revelation on RBCD.

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The current Bel Canto DAC "DAC3.7" which I use is a reference playback performance for RBCD. Even using JRiver for converting DSD to PCM sounds astonishing! I have heard many high end DSD dacs and servers and not yet felt my playback of DSD is lacking SQ in anyway.

My Dedicated 2CH System Gallery

 

Custom C.A.P.S. Reference Music Server with UpTone Audio JS-2 External Linear Power Supply > Bel Canto REFLink Asynchronous USB Converter > AT&T ST Optical Glass Fiber > Bel Canto DAC3.7 DAC > Pass Labs XP-20 Preamp > Pass Labs XA160.5 Class A Mono Blocks > Martin Logan Summit X Speakers

 

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I've been very impressed by the Auralic Vega DAC playing 16/44.1 content, especially when driven by the Aries streaming bridge over USB. This combo can breathe new life into red book CDs, especially those mastered from analog tapes of 60's & 70's vintages. I have done several listening sessions comparing 16/44.1 with 24/96, 24/192 and even DXD (24/352.8) of the same material and frankly did not hear any significant difference. Vega/Aries makes 16/44.1 sound so good they make hi-res & DSD essentially unnecessary. The sound is rich in detail, dynamic, musical and capable of realistic soundstage and accurate instrument/vocal sizing. I never knew CDs can deliver this level of sound quality until now. Amazing.

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It was clearly to show you why PCM would sound better than DSD on the Hugo! If the format is crippled on the Dac why would you think it would "win"?

 

Because I don't think the format is "crippled" on the Hugo, it sounds great with DSD to me and I suspect Rob Watts knows a lot more about the subject than you do. I believe the Berkeley DAC you recommend also requires DSD conversion to PCM for replay? However you miss the point entirely, for a modest investment the Hugo has opened my ears to how good RBCD can be, I started this thread to seek advice as to the very best DAC for RBCD, not to argue pros and cons of DSD replay with all too predictable "Hugo Haters"

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Ultimate DAC.

totaldac. D1

you will forget all the rest.

CloneAudio LPSU for QnapHS-251 fanless - UpTone JS2 for MacMini i7 (SD card only-CAD scripts-MMK fan kit-no disc inside- Audirvana2)- JS2 for REGEN - BelCantoRefLink-TotalDacD1tube(Mullard ECC82 NOS) //Halgorythme single end 300b EML //DiY Open Baffle & Leedh Elfe

Whee was the last time you did something for the first time?

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I am deeply grateful to be the owner of a TotalDac d1-Dual Dac and d1-Server. Google the reviews. However, it clearly is a cost is no object DAC at $12,000. Hand Made, 400 Vishay resistors Ladder Dac, external power supply, dual mono for XLR outputs. Makes a good sounding CD close, but not equal, to a first class vinyl rig with Townsend Rock 7 turntable, Jan Allerts cartridge and EAR phono preamp. The most involving digital I have ever heard. DSD is limited to single DSD 64 only, and it sounds incredible.

 

The handy BASS BOOST option gives you a one channel equalizer to select a boost in bass frequency below a threshold you set. I use it for most commercial CD's set at Plus 6 db at 90 Hz and below. I turn it off via the remote for well engineered recordings. This really adds depth and body to the sound of many CD's, along with capturing more of the room sound of classical recordings. More ROCK to rock and roll. I believe Flat response is for the recording studio, and the BBC curve is what I prefer in my listening room.

 

All the best,

David Levinson

Newport Beach, CA.

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Because I don't think the format is "crippled" on the Hugo, it sounds great with DSD to me and I suspect Rob Watts knows a lot more about the subject than you do. I believe the Berkeley DAC you recommend also requires DSD conversion to PCM for replay? However you miss the point entirely, for a modest investment the Hugo has opened my ears to how good RBCD can be, I started this thread to seek advice as to the very best DAC for RBCD, not to argue pros and cons of DSD replay with all too predictable "Hugo Haters"

Watts has never made a pure DSD playback Dac. He is very knowledgeable but not omniscient. Besides, do you know who or what i know. I just spent the day with the manufacturer (VERY high end) with a soon to be released Dac that slaughtered my Qute EX with Hynes LPSU in EVERY format. His brand makes Chord look positively low end.

 

It seems you need to get your own question straight. You asked for ultimate 16/44 and I mentioned the Berk ref and now you talk about converting DSD.

 

Again I say, Chord DSD relatively sucks, so comparing it to Chord PCM which is its sweet spot will lead you to false conclusions. If you like Hugo PCM, so be it, but dont say it is good because it beats his DSD playback. I posit that "anything" will Hugo's DSD playback.

Get it now?

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I heard it for 2 hours with my demo albums with Voxative arpeggio due speakers and Voxativ 300b amp and TDac server. Pretty good, but it didnt make me forget anything.

Maybe be voxativ was not at the level. :)

CloneAudio LPSU for QnapHS-251 fanless - UpTone JS2 for MacMini i7 (SD card only-CAD scripts-MMK fan kit-no disc inside- Audirvana2)- JS2 for REGEN - BelCantoRefLink-TotalDacD1tube(Mullard ECC82 NOS) //Halgorythme single end 300b EML //DiY Open Baffle & Leedh Elfe

Whee was the last time you did something for the first time?

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[quote=wisnon;398446 I posit that "anything" will Hugo's DSD playback.

Get it now?

 

No I don't "get it" because my extended listening experience as an owner of the of the Hugo and other products tells me something very different. the Hugo is clearly superior on RBCD, Hi Res PCM and DSD compared to my Oppo 105 ( which is playing DSD natively as I understand it according to my menu choices and is well regarded by me and others on another thread in this forum).

 

The Hugo also removes the gap between RBCD playback and both hi res PCM and DSD. Thus I'm happy that my "revelation" as to the potential of RBCD is based on a valid comparison.

 

To be honest, given RBCD as a mature technology, I was especially hoping for recommendations of DACs from yesteryear as the ultimate on 16/44 alone.

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Hi Norton,

 

I read your question from the moment you put it up, but felt this forum is not for any manufacturer to answer your question. Still I'm burning to do that, so to speak. Now though, it seems that nobody is really capable of answering your quest(ion) because the combination with DSD is too profound, and of course people who adhere DSD will jump in, tell you what you could do to improve etc. and ... I don't think that many DAC('s manufacturers) are around that explicit work on and with Redbook only. And so I thought to give it a chance after all with the risk of this post being deleted because not really appropriate. Still I feel it like answering upon your question "does anyone know ...".

 

Yes. I do. And not vaguely only. Also, people who know me will know just the same that what I am going to say I am saying always but from different perspective, so in the end nothing is "commercial" about it. So just trying to help you, and nice if I sell something, but it is not really about that.

 

Our DAC is the only one as far as I know which takes 24/768 (max) for input. Nice. But rubbish when seen from the Hires perspective because that doesn't even exist. Still it does that, which is not a trivial thing.

It is there to enable the improvement of 16/44.1 only. This is all about the in-PC filtering possibilities and this subject was touched in this thread already.

 

Never ever I play Hires unless coincidental, nor do my customers. Not because we/they do not like Hires per se, but the chance to run into it is fairly small, if you know what I mean (relatively does not exist). But there's also no single reason because or Hires sounds as good (chance is about 0) or it sounds worse (because a. the 16/44.1 is rendered so well and b. because the Hires is so poorly executed). Okay, say your story.

 

The difference with our DAC is thus that it is made for the RBCD job and 100% explicitly. This starts with it being genuine 24 bit R2R (resolving to 23 bits) and ends with the input rate of 24/768 (24/705.6) and the filtering I mentioned. In between there's lots more, like how that filtering is being done, that possibly being the largest contributing part. But technical stuff so never mind much for now.

 

Already the fact (I think) that nobody approaches Redbook like this in such explicit fashion, should tell something. Whether that succeeded into the "best ever" is not up to me to express, but of course I think so. Also, if this were not the case I personally wouldn't be into this, because I don't live from this money. I only share my own "achievement", no matter this may come across as strange to you. I assure you, this phenomenon exists.

 

I am working on improvement almost 24 hours per day and if one little project has finished, the other will be around the corner. This happens, I think, when there's a whole "community" of us, all working on the improvements, and as implied, all about Redbook only. And why not, at least that exists in uncountable multitude.

Small proof ? here : Clairixa USB

Just my latest post about such improvement and look next week and you will see another subject.

 

If this wasn't about selling something then at least it is now clear that someone agrees with you : sure it can be done.

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)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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Do all (some?) of these DAC's do HDCD decoding for 16/44? There are a significant number of audiophile level CDs (obviously Reference Recordings CDs) that are HDCD encoded.

 

Larry

Analog-VPIClas3,3DArm,LyraSkala+MiyajimaZeromono,Herron VTPH2APhono,2AmpexATR-102+MerrillTridentMaster TapePreamp  Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacificMicrosonicsModel2; Dig Play-Lampi Pacific, mch NADAC, Roon-HQPlayer,Oppo105  Electronics-DoshiPre,CJ MET1mchPre,Cary2A3monoamps Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR

Other-2x512EngineerMarutaniSymmetrical Power+Cables Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1.7KR2Rtapes,1.5KCD's,500SACDs,50TBripped files

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Do all (some?) of these DAC's do HDCD decoding for 16/44?

 

Hi Larry, I doubt you'll find many DACs nowadays that decode HDCD 'fully'. I no longer have my Pacific Microsonics Model Two (recently sold it to a mastering studio in Paris), but I can still playback HDCD-encoded CD rips on my Phasure NOS1a (which doesn't have a PDM100/200 digital filter - actually, no filter at all). The best way to do this is to rip the CD with a ripper capable of using the HDCD.exe plugin (I use dBpoweramp). This creates 24/44.1 files, with the HDCD info decoded. But there is still some uncertainty as to whether HDCD.exe is capable of decoding all of the HDCD processes that may have been encoded onto the CD.

 

HTH.

 

Mani.

Main: Okto dac8PRO -> 6x Neurochrome 286 mono amps -> Tune Audio Anima horns + 2x Rotel RB-1590 amps -> 4 subs

Office: MOTU UltraLite-mk5 -> 6x Neurochrome 286 mono amps -> Impulse H2 speakers

Vinyl: Technics SP10 / London (Decca) Reference -> Trafomatic Luna -> RME ADI-2 Pro

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Hi Larry, I doubt you'll find many DACs nowadays that decode HDCD 'fully'. I no longer have my Pacific Microsonics Model Two (recently sold it to a mastering studio in Paris), but I can still playback HDCD-encoded CD rips on my Phasure NOS1a (which doesn't have a PDM100/200 digital filter - actually, no filter at all). The best way to do this is to rip the CD with a ripper capable of using the HDCD.exe plugin (I use dBpoweramp). This creates 24/44.1 files, with the HDCD info decoded. But there is still some uncertainty as to whether HDCD.exe is capable of decoding all of the HDCD processes that may have been encoded onto the CD.

 

HTH.

 

Mani.

 

Hi Mani,

 

Do you rip all your CDs to 24/44.1 only to get the embedded HDCD code, or for other different or additional reasons?

 

Thanks,

 

Roch

 

PS/ I have to agree with Wisnon, the TRANSPORT is a very important part of the chain.

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Do you rip all your CDs to 24/44.1 only to get the embedded HDCD code...

 

Hi Roch, I have the 'HDCD DSP' permanently selected in dBpoweramp. This will automatically detect an HDCD-encoded CD. When it does, it engages HDCD.exe and rips to 24/44.1 (it actually only needs to rip to 20/44.1 to store all the data on the HDCD-encoded CD, but the default is 24/44.1 - the extra 4 bits aren't needed, but do no harm). Otherwise, all regular (non-HDCD) CDs are simply ripped to regular 16/44.1 files (i.e. the HDCD.exe plugin is not engaged).

 

FWIW, my HDCD CDs are among the best sounding CDs I have. My own personal opinion is that this has very little to do with the HDCD processes themselves, but far more to do with the quality of the Model One and Model Two ADCs.

 

Mani.

Main: Okto dac8PRO -> 6x Neurochrome 286 mono amps -> Tune Audio Anima horns + 2x Rotel RB-1590 amps -> 4 subs

Office: MOTU UltraLite-mk5 -> 6x Neurochrome 286 mono amps -> Impulse H2 speakers

Vinyl: Technics SP10 / London (Decca) Reference -> Trafomatic Luna -> RME ADI-2 Pro

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Thanks Peter,

 

a Phasure DAC is already on my shortlist for potential future DACs in my system.

 

 

 

Hahahaha!

So you did listen after all:

 

For RBCD, people tout many Dacs like the Berkeley Reference, the Phasure NOSa1, Trinity Dac and the Aussie Killer Dac. Me, I am loving the Lampi Big7 for all formats.

 

One key point people forget in the whole Dac debate is the oft neglected TRANSPORT. That is 50% of the SQ right there.

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Hi Norton,

 

I read your question from the moment you put it up, but felt this forum is not for any manufacturer to answer your question. Still I'm burning to do that, so to speak. Now though, it seems that nobody is really capable of answering your quest(ion) because the combination with DSD is too profound, and of course people who adhere DSD will jump in, tell you what you could do to improve etc. and ... I don't think that many DAC('s manufacturers) are around that explicit work on and with Redbook only. And so I thought to give it a chance after all with the risk of this post being deleted because not really appropriate. Still I feel it like answering upon your question "does anyone know ...".

 

Allow me to repeat once more: I was not debating the merits of DSD.

 

What I said was that to compare a strong RBCD Dac playback in 16/44 against it's relatively weak DSD playback (they do decimate after all, and that is fact not conjecture) is not a particulatly convincing argument to make. There are technical reasons given by Rob Watts as to why RBCD is better than Hires and DSD on his Dac. If one is patient in searching, it all can be found in those massive threads at Headfi, but basically its all about noise shaping vs ease of catching timing.

 

Note that I concluded by giving the names of several Dacs that people tout for RBCD playback, which is the main point of the thread in any case.

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Wisnon, assuming that you maybe have got agitated a little bit ...

 

I sure wanted to direct to what you said in your first post. But to me this seemed over-doing things. Besides that, someone may feel a bit annoyed to announce three times that he does not want to hear about DSD. And in the end this is the only reason why I injected my post, which I did not plan to do at all (when only the first post was there).

 

Let me put it differently, and it is just a real life example of how I can be deeply annoyed myself, spending half of my day in finding solutions to problems. Just a made up story, representative of what I mean :

 

---------

OP: I have some problems with noise and now I like to run my DAC on batteries; nothing in the DAC is prepared for this, so where can I start ...

 

A1: I would use LiFePO4 batteries. But are you suffering from ground loops ?

 

OP: I don't know. But I also don't care much. I figured that the batteries will solve my problem, plus I'd like it anyway. How to go about with those batteries ?

 

A1: Try to connect a fairly thick wire between your amp's cabinet and an output terminal of your DAC and let us know what happens.

 

OP: I don't like to solve a problem like that, if any.

 

A2: If you get your grounding right then a normal power supply sounds better.

 

OP: Any answers about where to connect the LiFePo4 batteries ? I investigated a bit and I like them.

 

A1: But batteries can not supply power so fast.

 

A2: Correct. I'd even make the power supply to everything differential.

 

A3: Can that be done in an existing design ?

 

...

 

---------

 

So like that. Poor OP. But I said that I myself get annoyed at looking for problems to solve. Too many forum threads everywhere proceed like this, just because people refuse to obey the prerequisites of the one who asks the question, who now is going to spend 10 more posts about justifying his needs which for him were clear to begin with. And in the end he doesn't even get an answer because nobody knows the answer. And for me ? on to the next forum found by Google.

Better start at the end of such threads ! ;)

 

Preaching Me and sorry about that ...

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

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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To be honest, given RBCD as a mature technology, I was especially hoping for recommendations of DACs from yesteryear as the ultimate on 16/44 alone.

 

I own a Hugo that I use in my second system and I agree it sounds great.

 

In my main system I have a 15 year old Marantz CD player that has a DAC based on ancient TDA1541A ladder DAC chips. I no longer use it to play CDs, and I use the S/PDIF input instead. The transport I use is a Bel Canto uLink powered by an AQVOX psu connected to the CD player with a Black Cat Veloce cable. It is driven by a BeagleBone Black via a Black Cat USB cable. The BeagleBone has its own linear PSU, 3M and Stillpoints RFI/EMI shielding lining the case and connected via one of those controversial Audioquest ethernet cables (a Cinnamon in my case) to my network and a NAS.

 

Wisnon made this point:

 

One key point people forget in the whole Dac debate is the oft neglected TRANSPORT. That is 50% of the SQ right there.

 

I believe my old DAC driven by a very good modern transport as described above, is much better than it was originally when used with a CD transport. I feel I am getting a lot more detail and resolution out of it. Unfortunately the CD transport is broken at the moment and so I can't do a direct comparison to confirm that. I don't think the sound is anything like the modern state of the art, perhaps including the Hugo, but it is very listenable. Perhaps DACs like the TDA1541A are more sensitive to transport improvements than other more modern chip types.

System (i): Stack Audio Link > 2Qute+MCRU psu; Gyrodec/SME V/Ortofon 2M Black/EAT E-Glo Petit/Magnum Dynalab FT101A) > Glow Amp One > Klipsch RP-600M/REL T5x subs

System (ii): Allo USB Signature > Bel Canto uLink+AQVOX psu > Chord Hugo > Tandy LX5/REL Tzero v3 subs

System (iii) KEF LS50W/KEF R400b subs

 

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