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Need a good USB Dac - Reasonably priced - Long Run


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Hello to all,

 

I just joined this site and this constitutes my first posting. I would like to use my PC (winxp) as a transport to a musical sounding USB enabled Dac. Due to the distance between my PC and preamp (ARC Sp16-L), I need to utilize a USB extender going over Cat5 Ethernet cable for 40 feet back to USB.

 

I have looked around and there are not too many well executed USB interfaced Dacs out there. The best I have heard is the Bel Canto 3 yet it is pricey. The information about the Benchmark Dac1 looks intriguing and I have read a ton of accoloades and also, some negative postings about it's sound quality.

 

Are there any other Dacs out there that could interest me? I have a liking for tubes so Scott Nixon is one candidate.

 

Has anyone here used these Dacs in a similar manner to my situation? Can someone shed some light on the SQ of the Dac1-USB, Wavelenght products, etc.

 

My sound card is from M-Audio and it has an SPDIF connector on it. Thee are too many layers and drivers the music has to go through so USB is what i want.

 

Any thoughts/suggestions/advise?

 

Thanks in Advance.

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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Hey Lizard_King - Welcome to Computer Audiophile.

 

I'll start by suggesting NOT to use a USB extender. I hate to rain on your parade but I think you'll have issues if you go down that path.

 

I think you are correct about the current state of USB DACs, but there are some real good ones out there. I would start by looking at Gordons DACs from Wavelength Audio. I'm not sure anyone has a better implementation of USB than he does. If you like the tube sound his DACs are probably just what you're looking for.

 

One of my DACs is the Benchmark DAC1 PRE and I can say it does sound really good. No DAC is perfect, so only you can tell if it fits your needs.

 

You may want to check out the DACs from Empirical Audio, PS Audio, Stello, Audio Research DAC7 etc...

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Thanks you Chris. I have to use a extender if I want to use my main PC. I can but do not wish to use my laptop and the USB HD.

 

I do belive if I use an extender with cat5e, shileded , twisted pair ethernet cable, I can get it to work.

 

I am not a fan of PS Audio, Stan warreen has not been with the company is many years. The stello does not have USB from what I saw on the web site. Empirical Audio is nuts, just look at that price! I would go with Audio Note before EA.

 

I am told using wireless will not work out. How do you like the Benchmark?

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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Thanks Chris. I was looking at Aprilmusic's web siet and did not see the Stello Dac. You are cvorrect, it's look good. A NY Rave member brought a stello to one of our club's (Audio Syndrome) mettings some months back.

 

I have a tube preamp and tube amp. Hopefully the stello has good sound qulaity?

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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I have a Stello DA100S coming in on review in a week or so. This is the signature model so I have fairly high expectations for it based on what I have heard about the other Stello DAC.

 

Have you looked at the Wavelength Proton or Brick DACs? They aren't too expensive for the great quality you get. The Brick is another tube component to compliment your existing tube system.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Chris,

 

Am I to understand you already have Stello Da1000S or you are waiting for one? If yes , you already have it, how dies it sound when using the USB interface and SPDIF?

 

I have not looked at Wavelenght, not sure I am into those. What do you think of the Proton and brick?

 

Liz

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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Hi Liz - The Stello has not arrived here at Computer Audiophile yet. Hopefully next week I will have a chance to start listening to it.

 

You really should take a look at the Wavelength products. Nobody knows more about USB implementations than Gordon Rankin. He is very highly respected in the industry. I've heard his DACs before and have been very impressed. CA member Rick (rom661) has some experience with them as well in very high end systems. Maybe he'll jump in here and give you his opinion of the Wavelength DACs he has tried.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Thank you. Please ask him to contribute?

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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I'm not sure whether to call you Liz or King. I'm Rick and I have used lots of outboard DAC's over the years, until DVD-A and SACD kind of wiped out the product category. Now they are coming back with a vengeance due to the USB/server application.

 

I have both the Wavelength Brick and Benchmark on hand, the latest version of each. I did a write up comparing them but I will be happy to synopsize.

 

The Benchmark is very listenable. It has a choice of single ended or balanced outputs and can be used without a preamp. I don't care for it that way but some seem to be OK with it. It's background is more the pro side of things. Whether that is good, bad, or indifferent is up to the individual. The sound is fairly dynamic and it really doesn't do anything to offend. I spend a lot of time around high end stuff so please weigh my comments accordingly. Not being offensive is an accomplishment of sorts. I have to be careful here because there are a lot of people on the site who own this piece and I sell it. It's major shortcomings are a lack of resolution resulting in a fairly homogenized sound. Low level information, air and soundstaging are not up there with the better gear. It lacks a certain refinement, especially if you listen to much well recorded acoustic fare. I listen to virtually all genres but lots of jazz combos and classical. I do have to say that the first time I heard the Benchmark I was pleasantly surprised and it exceeded my expectations. In fairness that was partly due to the advantages that well executed server based music offers; the Benchmark was my first experience with it.

 

The Wavelength Brick is a very different beast. It is single ended only and the stock version does not provide volume control. The one area where I feel that it loses out to the Benchmark is in dynamics. Not a huge difference but the Benchmark seems to have a little more drive. The Brick has a lot more nuance and sounds more natural. Music has an ease to it and it doesn't do the homogenization thing like the Benchmark does. Naturally recorded instruments, a good recording of cymbal work for example, can be substantially more lifelike on the Wavelength. It is slightly polite so if a guy is mainly into bombastic stuff, that might outweigh its other advantages for you. The Brick manages to make mediocre recordings, like overly compressed 80's rock, sound surprisingly good but it doesn't do it by rolling off the top end as many "musical" components do. Somehow it just seems to leave the music more intact, even though you can still hear the recording deficiencies.

 

As an aside, I just received the Version 3 of the Wavelength Cosecant today. There is a lot of break in to be done but out of the box it was impressive and seems to improve on everything the Brick already does well, while also being substantially more dynamic.

 

Hope that was helpful and didn't wear you out.

 

Audio Research DAC8, Mac mini w/8g ram, SSD, Amarra full version, Audio Research REF 5SE Preamp, Sutherland Phd, Ayre V-5, Vandersteen 5A\'s, Audioquest Wild and Redwood cabling, VPI Classic 3 w/Dynavector XX2MkII

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Thank you Rick, I appreciate it. I have heard the Dac1 (non USB) in a sysyem going through a Rogue Audio tube preamp feeding a BAT SS amp. When the owner bypassed the preamp, the SQ was much improved. It had drice, rhythym, dynamics, etc. I was not able to listen long yet I may get some time there tommorow.

 

A really great DAC is best suited yet they are expensive. Some reasonably priced dacs out there like Scott Nixon, Audio Note , MF, Hagerman , etc. seem like a good choice. It has to do with USB implementation.

 

See my above posts how I have to use an extender. If that does not work I will have to break out my laptop and use my external hard drive when I feel like listening.

 

I have a SACDMods.com modified Denon 3930CI DVD player that will hold it's on agaisnt may separates costing way more money. The output stage is the Zap filter Mk2 board along with a D-clock.

 

I want my PC to sound close to my Player at least 95% if possible.

 

Liz

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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I don't think you will have any difficulty outperforming your existing player. My Wavelength/MacBook replaced a $7000.00 CD player in my system and I have no regrets. My system is fairly revealing. It is not lunatic fringe insanely priced stuff but I consider it reference quality, including ARC REF3 preamp, Classe CAM400 monoblocks and Vandersteen 5A speakers. The convenience and management of the server based music is great but the performance for the money is superb. The advantages of a properly implemented, moderately priced server over a traditional CD player are substantial in terms of sound quality.

 

Have fun and good luck with your project. There are others better qualified to advise you on your extender issue.

 

Audio Research DAC8, Mac mini w/8g ram, SSD, Amarra full version, Audio Research REF 5SE Preamp, Sutherland Phd, Ayre V-5, Vandersteen 5A\'s, Audioquest Wild and Redwood cabling, VPI Classic 3 w/Dynavector XX2MkII

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Yesterday I had the opportunity to kisten the Dac1 again . We made comparisons : His cd player, the Player through the Dac, the Dac through the preamp, the Dac connected directly to the amp and also going throgh a tube buffer.

 

The Dac1 (non usb) sounded best either directly connected to the amp or through the tube buffer.

 

Liz

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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Hello,

 

I reached out today to Gordon of Wavelenght. I could tell from the beginning, this is a highly educated man who has knowledge and experience. He was kind enough to inform me that a USB extended over ethernet cable is NOT the way to go. For my purposes, a USB over Fiber Optic cable is the way to go because that is what he uses and it works great. The company that nakes this is called "Opticis" and the model number is M2 - 1xx.

 

For those of you who need to use a long run for USB , this seems to be the way to go. As per Gordin, the USB when utiulized correctly is vastly superior to SPDIF.

 

Gordin, thanks again Guru.

 

Liz

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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Hi Chris,

 

You are welcome. Are you using an extender as we type or just a USB Cable? Ihave read that Kimber Kable makes dedictaed USB cablke with silver in the conductors. You may wish to check that out.

 

I am thinking of a good USB tube DAC when the time is right.

 

Liz

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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Chris,

 

So you use the kimber already. You are up to the times my friend. What type of distance do you need to run. The USB/Fiber cables is complete, you will not need to use another cable. It starts out with a Standard "A" connector and i belive it goes to another "A" connector. You can get an adapter or, get a cistom lenght with a "B" connector I think?

 

Liz

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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Hi,

 

1.5 meters is too too long. The USB is good for 15 feet so you are within Spec.

 

Liz

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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I know this sounds bizarre but I am also using the Kimber USB and I actually preferred the Belkin that came with the DAC until I removed the ferrite rings from the Kimber cable. I mentioned my disappointment in it to someone who contributes to the forum (I don't know if they want to be quoted) and they said they had the same experience until they removed the rings. I am not even going to try to hazard a guess as to why it would be so, but it did make a difference. Based on what I heard with the rings still on, I would have returned the Kimber.

 

I'm just sayin'......

 

 

Audio Research DAC8, Mac mini w/8g ram, SSD, Amarra full version, Audio Research REF 5SE Preamp, Sutherland Phd, Ayre V-5, Vandersteen 5A\'s, Audioquest Wild and Redwood cabling, VPI Classic 3 w/Dynavector XX2MkII

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Sure Rick you're just trying to stir it up a little bit in the forums :-) Only kidding of course. There are a couple competing ideas about using ferrites and whether or not they are the best way to accomplish something. I'll leave it at that because the rest is way over my head.

 

I guess I really can comment on the "ferriteless" sound as I still have the ferrite rings on my cable.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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The Usb/Fiber Optics cable comes with a weak power supply. I am told that need to be replaced with a Regulated 5 Volts unit. Should you have hold voltage in teh AC, you can damage you Dac!

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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I was told by a reputable source that the power supply that comes with the Opticis cable can be problematic so you are better off obtaining a Regiated power supply that does not exceed 5 volts.

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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