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New to Forum - Deciding on DAC on CD Player, standalone player, or DAC on Computer

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New to the forum. I have a good feeling from what I have read so far that I will be able to find the answers that I have been trying to get answered by going to the specialized AV Forums and find that they answer questions with more questions. Thanks for any help in advance.


I have an Outlaw 1070 receiver and love it. They are hooked up to a pair of Axiom M60's and no subwoofer (the bass is plenty and never felt I needed to add one.) At this time, I do not use a center, but have an Infinity that is not being used. For the rear, I use an old pair of Infiniti bookshelves and they do the job.


I am looking to buy a DVD/CD player or a standalone CD Player or most recently I have been reading about a DAC and now I am totally confused.


I currently own a Pioneer 563A which is adequate, but I think I am ready for another one unless an added DAC will do the job. A friend loaned me an original Rega Planet (10 years old) and when I hooked it up, I noticed the difference in the soundstage, presence, and definition, if not a little laid back relaxed sound, which is perfectly fine as I listen to everything flat. It wasn't a drastic difference, but it was noticeable. With it’s age, the cost would be $250 to purchase her machine and it was well cared for and used sparingly. I am willing to go more if you think that it will work for me after reading the following.


My listening habits are as follows:


I do not have any DVD-A and SACD disks and have no intention of ever using them. I own thousands of regular CD's and this will be my prominent listening. Mostly rock, but I also like blues, contemporary jazz, and have soundtracks and New Age. I can easily go from Deep Purple to Buddy Guy to Guys and Dolls in one sitting.


My CD or CD/DVD player will be used 85% CD listening and 15% DVD, so as you can see the importance will be in the music.


I have seen OPPO but it seems to more video oriented instead of audion. I have read about Cambridge, Arcam, and Rotel as well.


Should the audio out of the machine be used with an optical out or coax out or are the RCA outs good enough. Is one more preferable and is it substantially better than regular audio cables out? I realize if I use a DAC it is optical out.


The more I read about DAC's the more I think this is what I want. Also, can the DAC be split so that I can hook it up to a CD player and to the computer so that I can get 2 bangs for my buck. Can I use the computer as the transport to the DAC as well? Computerized music is where it's headed and I would like to be ready.


I need someone to tell me why DAC's are the way to go, if they are indeed the way to go. If not, recommendations of a machine are also needed. I am looking in the $300-500 range for either of my solutions, but if convinced, I could go more. This is long term and I'm not going to let a few bucks get in the way.


I know this is a lot and I thank you so much in advance for your help.




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The short answer is: you will always need a DAC, so "DAC's are the way to go", so to say, because you will always need one to convert your digital signal to an analog one (except for analog sources, of course). Whether you "need" a dedicated, stand-alone DAC, or whether you'd be happy with one that is built into a receiver, computer or a CD/DVD player is something only you yourself can find out by auditioning different devices.


A few random answers:


The future clearly is moving towards music servers that deliver a clean digital signal to a device that contains a DAC (internal or external), so I would look into that, as opposed to a stand-alone CD player. This website is all about that, so browse around. However, if you also watch movies, a good universal player is still worth consideration.


Oppo makes very good players that can deliver "audiophile" music (depending on your definition of "audiophile"). So, I wouldn't exclude them yet. Give them a try. Cambridge audio uses the same transports as Oppo in some of their devices but packages them differently and a bit more robustly.


You can run as many sources as you want into an external DAC by using switches.


So much for now.


Have fun!


Best - MM


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Hi Rapsy - welcome to C/A


In the 300-500 dollar range, I think i'd either look at the Oppo or maybe something like a 200-300 disk Sony CD player. Your Pioneer has some type of DAC in it I suppose already. If you can jump a wee bit higher I'd look at a simple DAC (say under $100) and a used Mac Mini. I don't like having to swap out every CD each time so given the budget the Sony has some utility appeal.


The alternative would be your friends player, but it's kind of old. So I'd lean towards the Oppo unless you want the shuffle idea for

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I rambled on in the original message, so let me be more concise.


I am looking to improve my source which is now a Pioneer 563 Universal player. I don't care about the video too much. The music is the thing.


I was considering improving the source with a new CD Player, but then thought that maybe I should invest in a DAC which would improve the Pioneer dramatically and I will be able use it also on my computer, as I have been putting more of my music on the computer. The way I understand it is that the standalone DAC with my existing player may even make a better sound than a new CD Player.


The question is: Will the sound be dramatically improved by the use of a DAC ($300-500 price range) with my current player as compared to buying another CD Player in this price range and can I use the DAC with the Pioneer and the computer output? I assume it will go out of the Pioneer optical out, but where does it go out of the computer? To benefit from a DAC, it has to go out of an digital out so where would it go out from the computer? I don't need a new source if I am going to be using a DAC as I have the Pioneer and a computer. Correct?


Will the DAC improve both sources? It seems to me if it does, then I have gotten 2 improvements for the price of one. I don't know as I only learned about DAC's in the last few days and am a little lost.


Thanks so much again.




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Hi Lenny - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. Thanks for asking your question as I'm sure there are many people looking to do either the same thing or something very similar.


It is very tough to say if spending $300-500 on a DAC is going to get you the difference you are looking for. The Pioneer unit you have does offer an SPDIF toslink output that could feed an external DAC. If you purchase a DAC that has Toslink and USB input like the PS Audio DLIII you would be able to use your Pioneer player and your computer with this DAC. Your computer will send the digital stream out the USB port to a USB DAC. If you get a DAC with SPDIF only then you would have to make sure your computer has this output or just purchase a card that will send out the SPDIF stream.


I am not familiar with the sound of your Pioneer player so I can't be certain about what will make a difference. I do know that once you get a DAC and connect it to your computer you'll be hook because of the convenience and the great sound.




Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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Thanks Chris.


It's a pleasure to be here and I look forward to being a part of the community.


I started looking into a DAC as I figured I could get two bangs for my buck with it improving my source (CD Player) and the computer output.

* Is this a viable line of thinking?

* Is the computer's disk drive good as a transport when using the DAC out of the computer?

* If the computer's disk drive singal is going out of the USB port into the DAC, is it the same with harddrive music in the computer going out the USB port as well? IF so, I assume software is driving it into the USB port? Does the software make a difference as to what is leaving the computer? Is there a good software program for this?


I haven't ruled out buying just a CD player yet, but I am leaning towards the DAC. I did some reading on the PS Audio you recommended and it looks good except I really don't know what I'm reading yet and it's 2x what I want to spend at this time? Any others I should be looking at?


Also, is there good music management software for managing large collections, I guess the quality that would be on a music server? I tried JR River and it looks good but hasn't been updated in 2 years and I'm sure there are more.


I am sure I will fill the board with questions that have been asked before, but I tend to ramble and then become quiet.


Thanks in advance.





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A DAC would be the way to go rather than another CD player, if you bought another CD player you would be no further ahead when it comes to computer audio (the future). As you said, you could use a DAC with both your existing CD player and your computer.


For the budget you mentioned you should be able to get a decent DAC but it likely will only do 16bit/48kHz over USB even if it does higher resolutions over S/PDIF, but if your source is mainly CDs (16/44.1) this may not bother you. It should also be better quality than the internal DAC in your existing CD player.







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Hey Lenny -


* Is this a viable line of thinking?


Certainly. You can get two bangs for your buck. I just don't know how much improvement you'll hear using the DAC connected to your traditional dic player. For computer audio the improvement will be great.




* Is the computer's disk drive good as a transport when using the DAC out of the computer?


I'm not totally sure what you're asking here, but I'll offer an answer that may cover it anyway. I think you are asking about the internal DAC on a computer v. using an external DAC. Internal DACs on computers are absolute crap. Period. Using the computer as a transport only connected to an external DAC is the way to go and can offer fabulous audiophile quality.




* If the computer's disk drive singal is going out of the USB port into the DAC, is it the same with harddrive music in the computer going out the USB port as well? IF so, I assume software is driving it into the USB port? Does the software make a difference as to what is leaving the computer? Is there a good software program for this?



Your computer send the digital audi signal out the USB port when an external DAC is connected. Whether it is from the internal CD/DVD player or from the hard drive. With software it is possible to select the output your music flows through. For example on my Mac I can select the internal speakers as my output, SPDIF or at this very moment a FireWire DAC. I select this through a software program built into OS X called Audio Midi Setup. Very simple. As far as playback software goes (iTunes, Windows Media Player, JRiver, Foobar, etc...) there is a huge difference between programs. Some programs will alter the signal and others will not. Operating systems matter just as much. Mac OS X and iTunes is bit perfect. Windows and iTunes is not bit perfect. I highly recommend iTunes on a Mac. It is by far the easiest and in my opinion the best system for audiophile playback.






Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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I forgot the second half of your question, oops!


You should check out the two Stello DACs here http://www.hifi500.com/

The DA100 and DA100S are pretty nice units and more reasonably priced.


J River is my suggestion on a Windows PC and you must use the plugins to bypass the KMixer. The J River Media Jukebox has been updated recently and is free now. iTunes is great at managing fairly large libraries, but right now on Windows you'd need to use the Airport Express to output a bit perfect stream.


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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This is my first post. I have been a silent observer for some time now.

I recommend trying out the Blue Circle USB Thingee. For the money, this is a great digital to analog converter. However, it only accepts a USB input so it will not work with your Pioneer DVD player. I suspect that once you try it you will be recording your cds onto your computer and using it as the main source. For what its worth, this is exactly what I have been doing. So far I have not done a critical comparison against my $2000 cd player yet, since most of my listening has been as background music, but I can say that my Powerbook with the Thingee is quickly becoming my main source of music.

It is available through UHF Magazine’s website here:






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