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AMP vs DAC ...further exploration


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Of course you are entitled to your own opinion, but what you are taking out of the experience as you described it is not what I would. Upon testing 100 speakers and several DACs with two amps, you are stating that the amps are more important to the sound. My thought was that your first amp was faulty, shitty or had something set wrong (in the event that it had an internal processor) and it was masking the differences between things. It only takes one screwy component to wreck things IME.

 

>>Upon testing 100 speakers and several DACs with two amps, you are stating that the amps are more important to the sound.

 

I am not saying amps more important than speakers, and I also am not saying amps are more important than DACs.

 

What i am saying is that in my experience, in a less than $5K system, that upgrading a $1K amp to a $3K amp will gain you more fidelity than upgrading a dac from a $200 DAC to a $2K dac. That was also at that time. I haven't tried any new dacs in the last couple years, so maybe i would think differently now, and willing to try if someone wants to suggest a DAC under $2k that they think will blow me away over a $300 ifi nano, on the same order that this mcintosh did. What kind of DAC do YOU have that you think will make a significant difference over a $300 ifi?

 

I have tried more than 2 amps. i have had at least 20 different amps/recievers too...however all under $1000. Some sounded better than others, but none made the speakers sing like this mcintosh. I have also heard a good difference using the mic eq on the marantz. The marantz was my favorite among all the amps/recievers and why i settled on it. I did however also like an old vintage NAD monster (218THX) that i tried, but again, this Mcintosh is on a whole new level than any of the other 20 amps/recievers (sub $1000) that i tried.

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Well, have you listened to a Lampizator Chipless, Tubed DSD DAC?

 

No, i have not. is there a concensus on that model among this crowd that it is rated among the best in that price range that believe it is not just a different "sound" but actually better fidelity and worthy of an audition?

 

From what i have read that under $1K, the concensus is that you can't do much better than either the TEAC 501 or the IFI Micro. Is there currently a similar concensus among this crowd of a DAC under $2K that is a "huge" step up from the TEAC/IFI Micro?

 

Dacs i have tried over the IFI micro are sony, marantz, and a used PS audio...and i never heard anything that blew me away, like wow, this is a whole new level. I can't even say anything sounded better using any usb dac that sounded better than doing dlna via a sony sacd. But i also didn't try any of these regen or isolater device either...they weren't around or marketed that much a few years ago when i gave up on ext dacs.

 

Maybe it's time for a new audition of dacs, now that i upgraded the amp.

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You can disregard my last question about what dac you use..i saw your tagline...so i googled your signalyst dac...

 

DSC1 is an Open Hardware, "discrete" delta-sigma D/A-converter specifically designed for 256x and higher sampling rates and optimized for seventh order modulators used in Signalyst HQPlayer.

 

There is no hardware support for PCM at all and minimum recommended sampling rate is 5.6448 MHz. Playback of PCM and lower rate DSD content is accomplished by using realtime software conversion such as provided by Signalyst HQPlayer.

 

 

I am a big miska fan, so i don't doubt its a good product, but seems designed specifically for hqplayer. I tried hqplayer and it's not my cup of tea, so i will pass. I did take miska's advice on the TEAC 501 though and gave it a shot, and was quite pleased....still can't say it was a significant upgrade over other technologies i tried...at least nowhere close to the magnitude of upgrading the amp was.

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Well, have you listened to a Lampizator Chipless, Tubed DSD DAC?

 

I just noticed your tag you show you have ifi DSD nano, which i have tried. Do you now have the "lampizator chipless", and you were blown away with improved fidelity with the upgrade, or why are you mentioning the chipless?

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at the moment, i am using the dragonfly which i kept for my pc usage when i sold the other 10 dacs.... I just (moments ago) repurchased a Korg Dac that i once owned. The Korg doesn't get great reviews, but what many people don't know (but paul here knows), that the software that comes with it is phenomenal for DSD. The software makes a much bigger difference than the DAC itself. Whether you use AUdiogate with an IFI or Korg, marantz, sony or whatever DAC, it makes the bigger difference than the DAC itself also. Sounds much better than jriver or foobar. It's simplistic interface is lacking, but i don't know what the hell it does, but it sounds great, and will upscale everything to DSD rates.

 

I also started a thread in the dacs forum to see if anyone has been happy with any dac upgrade to get more input. Regardless, if i use any external dac, i will also own a KORG for the audiogate software alone.

 

What the software does is upsample to DSD rates offline. You might try Audiophile Inventory for the same purpose and see what you like better.

 

If you upsample to DSD rates, you take the DAC's filters out of the equation, which tends to minimize the DAC's contribution to the final sound.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> USPCB -> ISO Regen -> USPCB -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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What the software does is upsample to DSD rates offline. You might try Audiophile Inventory for the same purpose and see what you like better.

 

If you upsample to DSD rates, you take the DAC's filters out of the equation, which tends to minimize the DAC's contribution to the final sound.

 

Hi Jud.

 

A side question (pardon OP). Do you prefer the offline Audiophile Inventory upsampled/filtered file or the HQP stream if using similar settings?

 

Cheers

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In my experience, it isn't really THAT simple (I wish it were). The first time I heard a pair of Martin-Logan CLX speakers, for instance, it was with a pair of big-ass Classe monoblocks, and they were simply the best speakers that I had ever heard. The next time I heard them, was at a Magnolia Hi-Fi (Best Buy) as part of a M-L traveling dog-and-pony show. Magnolia, being a McIntosh dealer had paired the CLXs with a pair of the big Mc SS monoblocks (which I notice, they no longer sell) and a McIntosh preamp. I thought the speakers sounded lousy. They were veiled, thick sounding (almost slightly distorted) and after a few minutes, listener fatigue got the better of me and I wandered into another room where a pair of Martin-Logan Summit X speakers were being powered by a Marantz 100 WPC Integrated amp. The Summit Xs sounded so much cleaner than the CLXs that evening, that I can't help but conclude that the Martin-Logan CLXs did not "like" those McIntosh amps! The third time I heard the CLXs was at a Hi-Fi show where they were being powered by a pair of John Curl designed Parasound JC-1 power amps and a JC-2 preamp. Again, they sounded like I remembered them sounding with the Classe electronics, the first time I heard them, I.E. simply transplendant!

 

The speaker/amp interface can be very critical. Most of the time it isn't the difference between good sound and bad, but it certainly can be and with certain combinations, speaker cables can be factor as well. Again, usually they aren't, but in some cases they can be.

 

You need to consider the Best Buy factor. I always seem to be in the extreme minority whenever I bring this up, but a lot of people think that having high end brands in BB is good because so many new people are exposed to the products. My view is that I wouldn't want potential new high end customers exposed to the gear if it hasn't been set up properly. Its a lot easier to get high end gear to sound lousy than consumer grade products. If you look at most of the top brands in high end, the one common factor you'll see, is that they choose their dealers very carefully.

 

I've had several cases where I was demoing speakers and they had them wired up out of phase with each other. When I sat the sales person down in the listening chair and asked him why the imaging was so off, and that the voice was coming from one of the side walls, I was told very confidently that it was the surround properties of the speakers. Needless to say, I walked over to one of the speakers, ripped the cables out of the binding posts, put them back in their proper places and asked him why the vocals were now coming from between the 2 speakers. He asked me to put the cables back the way he had them so we would get surround sound again.

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You can disregard my last question about what dac you use..i saw your tagline...so i googled your signalyst dac...

 

DSC1 is an Open Hardware, "discrete" delta-sigma D/A-converter specifically designed for 256x and higher sampling rates and optimized for seventh order modulators used in Signalyst HQPlayer.

 

There is no hardware support for PCM at all and minimum recommended sampling rate is 5.6448 MHz. Playback of PCM and lower rate DSD content is accomplished by using realtime software conversion such as provided by Signalyst HQPlayer.

 

 

I am a big miska fan, so i don't doubt its a good product, but seems designed specifically for hqplayer. I tried hqplayer and it's not my cup of tea, so i will pass. I did take miska's advice on the TEAC 501 though and gave it a shot, and was quite pleased....still can't say it was a significant upgrade over other technologies i tried...at least nowhere close to the magnitude of upgrading the amp was.

 

There's no rule that says one type of component has to make a bigger difference than any other type of component. Each situation is different and will depend on many different factors. But if you want to choose the best DAC, you need to consider the analog section as well. It accounts for around 50% of what you hear.

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OP: I think some of this confusion comes from your use of the term amp. You seem to be referring to integrated amps meaning amp and preamp vs just the amplifier. I would easily say that a preamp changes the sound more than the amplifier does. After all if your preamp is junk even a Class A Pass amp won't produce hi fidelity sound.

 

When I say that imho a DAC makes more difference than an amplifier I mean that switching out two different $500 DACs will sound different than switching out two different $500 amplifiers. As for not hearing a difference with DACs, either your Marantz is really colored (which I doubt) or you are expecting more significant difference than exists. Some people swear that most all DACs sound the same and yet I can hear differences in two different DACs which both use the same chip.

 

I am glad that you like your Mcintosh, I own a MA6300 and it's quite a bargain for it's used price.

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You need to consider the Best Buy factor. I always seem to be in the extreme minority whenever I bring this up, but a lot of people think that having high end brands in BB is good because so many new people are exposed to the products. My view is that I wouldn't want potential new high end customers exposed to the gear if it hasn't been set up properly. Its a lot easier to get high end gear to sound lousy than consumer grade products. If you look at most of the top brands in high end, the one common factor you'll see, is that they choose their dealers very carefully.

 

I've had several cases where I was demoing speakers and they had them wired up out of phase with each other. When I sat the sales person down in the listening chair and asked him why the imaging was so off, and that the voice was coming from one of the side walls, I was told very confidently that it was the surround properties of the speakers. Needless to say, I walked over to one of the speakers, ripped the cables out of the binding posts, put them back in their proper places and asked him why the vocals were now coming from between the 2 speakers. He asked me to put the cables back the way he had them so we would get surround sound again.

 

if you use a mic eq, it will tell you if your speakers out of of phase...but for topic of this discussion i am talking just stereo, and hardware working at manufacturers specification...e.g. everything setup properly.

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What the software does is upsample to DSD rates offline. You might try Audiophile Inventory for the same purpose and see what you like better.

 

If you upsample to DSD rates, you take the DAC's filters out of the equation, which tends to minimize the DAC's contribution to the final sound.

 

THANKS!! i will definetely check it out...i was wondering if there was any good windows software out there (it is windows isn't it?) that supported DSD. jriver is bloatware imo, foobar is ok, hqp needs a gui and better interface and configuration capabilitieis, audiogate sounds great, but lackluster and also they won't sell full version separately without their dac....so this Audiophile Inventory may be just the ticket i am looking for.

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OP: I think some of this confusion comes from your use of the term amp. You seem to be referring to integrated amps meaning amp and preamp vs just the amplifier. I would easily say that a preamp changes the sound more than the amplifier does. After all if your preamp is junk even a Class A Pass amp won't produce hi fidelity sound.

 

When I say that imho a DAC makes more difference than an amplifier I mean that switching out two different $500 DACs will sound different than switching out two different $500 amplifiers. As for not hearing a difference with DACs, either your Marantz is really colored (which I doubt) or you are expecting more significant difference than exists. Some people swear that most all DACs sound the same and yet I can hear differences in two different DACs which both use the same chip.

 

I am glad that you like your Mcintosh, I own a MA6300 and it's quite a bargain for it's used price.

 

I never suggested i can't hear a difference between DACS. i can hear subtle differences, but none that i would consider significant or even "better". and in many cases, some dacs will sound better with some music, and some dacs will sound better with other music. ...the mcintosh made everything sound significantly better and on a whole different level. That is something i never experienced when trying different dacs and at different price points. I would even go as far as saying that i heard a better improvement while auditioning dacs a couple years ago when i started listening to DSD through audiogate software than i did trying different brand/models of dacs.

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if you use a mic eq, it will tell you if your speakers out of of phase...but for topic of this discussion i am talking just stereo, and hardware working at manufacturers specification...e.g. everything setup properly.

 

I don't need a mic EQ for that and neither do you. Just try reversing the terminals on one of your speakers and listen to the difference. Anyone who has undamaged hearing can hear this with no problem. And I was referring to just stereo equipment, which is why my BB story is so ridiculous. Hardware working at manufacturers specs, does not mean its set up properly. Far from it.

 

You don't have to take my word for this either. I'm a ML fan myself, and when I moved into a new area, I called them and asked where I could get a good demo of their ESL's. The closes store they recommended was over 100 miles away. There are 2 Magnolia stores just a few minutes drive from where I live. I asked why they didn't recommend them, and the phone went silent for a few seconds (you could tell they were thinking of something to say), and was finally told something about the original recommendation having some kind of high customer satisfaction score, but I could go to BB if I wanted to. It was pretty clear that they wanted me to go to a real high end store.

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While this could also be true for DACs, my impression is that there are an awful lot of "me too" amps out there, so changing amps is quite likely to have less effect than changing DAC.

However the difference in sound between my DNM amps and any other I've heard is probably bigger than any difference I've ever heard between DACs.

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What the software does is upsample to DSD rates offline. You might try Audiophile Inventory for the same purpose and see what you like better.

 

If you upsample to DSD rates, you take the DAC's filters out of the equation, which tends to minimize the DAC's contribution to the final sound.

 

omg, i just googled...

 

they have a $2000 mahogany version?

Versions from $33 to $2000??

 

Do i need to go to the $2000 version to get the one that upsamples everything to DSD rates? If so, i will stick with audiogate.

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While this could also be true for DACs, my impression is that there are an awful lot of "me too" amps out there, so changing amps is quite likely to have less effect than changing DAC.

However the difference in sound between my DNM amps and any other I've heard is probably bigger than any difference I've ever heard between DACs.

 

As Jud pointed out, if we use DSD software, the DAC may have less impact. By the poll, 20 said DAC and 10 said AMP or preamp, so that DAC sayers may be a majority, but not a monopoly. I recall Jud saying a year ago or so that his amp made a big difference in his system (at the time I read it, and as much respect as I have for him, I still never considered upping the ante on the amp)...i just couldn't fathom an amp making that much of a difference...but i guess hearing is believing for me. I have a whole lot more respect for the amp now than i did previously.

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omg, i just googled...

 

they have a $2000 mahogany version?

Versions from $33 to $2000??

 

Do i need to go to the $2000 version to get the one that upsamples everything to DSD rates? If so, i will stick with audiogate.

 

Yuri sells to studios, who I imagine would be the market for any $2000 version (not aware of such a version). I have the PROduce-RD version if I recall correctly, which I believe is in a similar price range to Miska's software.

 

It has a free trial.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> USPCB -> ISO Regen -> USPCB -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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He asked me to put the cables back the way he had them so we would get surround sound again.

 

Great story. :)

 

I've actually seen similar stuff at stores that purported to be high end.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> USPCB -> ISO Regen -> USPCB -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Hi Jud.

 

A side question (pardon OP). Do you prefer the offline Audiophile Inventory upsampled/filtered file or the HQP stream if using similar settings?

 

Cheers

 

I prefer offline. Would love Miska to offer this, but for various good reasons he has decided not to.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> USPCB -> ISO Regen -> USPCB -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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As Jud pointed out, if we use DSD software, the DAC may have less impact. By the poll, 20 said DAC and 10 said AMP or preamp, so that DAC sayers may be a majority, but not a monopoly. I recall Jud saying a year ago or so that his amp made a big difference in his system (at the time I read it, and as much respect as I have for him, I still never considered upping the ante on the amp)...i just couldn't fathom an amp making that much of a difference...but i guess hearing is believing for me. I have a whole lot more respect for the amp now than i did previously.

 

How did you have the Marantz receiver (SR5008/9) configured while you were evaluating these DACs? I assume you had the standard red/white RCA from the USB DAC you were evaluating running to an RCA input on the Marantz. Did you change any system settings on the Marantz (i.e. running Audyssey EQ), or were you just listening in Stereo mode on that input?

Office: iPod classic/iPad -> Shure SE425 IEM Home: Oppo BDP-83/Synology DS211j -> Integra DTR-7.8 -> Revel speakers

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How did you have the Marantz receiver (SR5008/9) configured while you were evaluating these DACs? I assume you had the standard red/white RCA from the USB DAC you were evaluating running to an RCA input on the Marantz. Did you change any system settings on the Marantz (i.e. running Audyssey EQ), or were you just listening in Stereo mode on that input?

 

i audititioned the dacs on several amps, both with and w/o eq...as previously stated i was also content with an NAD 318thx....but no dac was even close to as significant as the difference between the mcintosh and any other sub $1K amp.

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Yuri sells to studios, who I imagine would be the market for any $2000 version (not aware of such a version). I have the PROduce-RD version if I recall correctly, which I believe is in a similar price range to Miska's software.

 

It has a free trial.

 

ok, thanks..i definitely have it on my radar now, and added to my lengthy todo list...appreciate the input!

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I prefer offline. Would love Miska to offer this, but for various good reasons he has decided not to.

 

btw, i found your other thread where you discussed Audiophile Inventory and compared to other dsd software. I am curious if you ever gave audiogate a run to see how it compared...imo it sounds phenomenal compared to other windows software i have tried.

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