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p.c. to dac recomendations for next step please :)


simonc
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i have just received an m2 tech highface usb to spdif to feed my bryston bda 1. i have to say i am staggered by the improvement in my system and have spent the last 2 days trawling through my entire music library to hear what i have been missing. prior to this i was feeding the bryston via an un-modified usb output.

 

the next logical upgrade would appear to be the Lynx AES 16 although the Weiss INT 202 looks interesting as my pc supports fire wire.

 

has anyone compared these products or have any other suggestions?

 

the weiss also has the ability to knock the pre-amplifier out of the chain. i am sceptical that this could offer an improvement over my beloved avondale audio g1 pre-amp although, i was sceptical about the difference in digital signals and how wrong i was.

 

many thanks, simon c.

 

 

 

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While I am by no means Vulcan, I can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that the two paths are both viable and will improve your total system's sound quality. Further, I can be similarly certain that the jump in performance will be rather minor -- and I'd wager that a side-by-side would prove a challenging experience. The difficulty is that you've already gotten "the bump" and the next step up the chain will, I suspect, not provide a linear improvement. YMMV of course, but were it me, I'd be looking elsewhere for the next revelation and revisit this component after the other major elements are where I wanted them.

 

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thanks for the reply scot,

 

what would you suggest then, i am at that life stage where i have some spare cash, the kids have all grown up and left and i am not allowed a motorbike.

 

a different dac?, or just sit tight for now.

 

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I guess it depends on what you already have in place. My ranking (which may well be unique to me, but then, it's simply a tragic truth that most folks are just dead wrong), is as follows:

 

1. Speakers

2. Amp

3. Preamp

4. Source

5. Speaker Cables

6. Interconnects

7. Power Conditioning

8. Tweaks & room treatments

 

My approach is that each element refines the ones before it. And as such, the farther down the list you go, the less impact each will likely have on your resulting system's sound.

 

About room treatments: I don't rank room treatments very highly, b/c I'm not sure how much anyone has to do and how effective they're likely to be. To do well could well be overwhelmingly expensive or utterly trivial. So, while I think it's important, here's the rub -- room treatments are a component like any other, and like any component, are just as susceptible to synergy. Each speaker sounds different because it performs differently -- that is, wrt to treatments, each speaker will load the room differently. Cabinet placement also impacts this, and in most cases, quite dramatically. Unfortunately, each change may perhaps require different treatments to get the biggest impact, but who the hell wants to re-treat a treated room? As I said, it can be expensive (or at the very least, annoying). Yet, that's exactly what needs to happen to accommodate system changes. Maybe not alter or rearrange them much, but whatever the delta, it's certainly non-zero. Interesting to note that reviewers never do this, no? Anyway, this makes tuning your room to your system the very last thing you should do, IMO. But, I should mention (as I'm sure my fellows will) that this bit about the room treatments is controversial. LOL.

 

Anyway, back on topic. If you're looking to make big changes to your system's sound, swap your speakers.

 

Happy with your speakers? Well, is your amp "enough" to get the most out of them? While many high-efficiency speakers can be easily driven with low-watt amps, it turns out that high-watt amps drive them better. Not always, but often enough to make it something worth checking out.

 

Is your system not resolving enough? Another controversial bit may be that I think a lot of loss occurs here, right at the pre. Might be because volume control is hard and doing it transparently is expensive, so most manufacturers don't bother. Might be impedance mismatching between pre and amp. Dunno. But personal experience has made me more curious (and concerned) about a pre's sonic contribution, so I'm encouraging others to not discount it.

 

Swapping sources is tricky -- and moving up the food chain from a very good source to a great one, with everything else in your system staying the same, is likely to not do much. Why? Well, there's this performance threshold thing, beyond which, increases are no longer even remotely linear. Think asymptotic. Which means that vast sums are likely only to produce fractions of a percent in overall performance -- fractions that you probably never even knew were available and would be perfectly happy to live without. That said, moving from an entry-level source to a high-end source can be terrifically rewarding. Again, you simply haven't gotten over that performance hump yet.

 

Love your total system, but wondering about tweaking it just a hair? Say, moving it from a shade bright back toward neutral? Or wondering where that last bit of articulation might be? Try cables. Try LOTS of cables. Their impact can be quite subtle.

 

Power is a non-issue in most locations in the US, IMO. Just make sure you have enough and that nothing is coloring it. A dedicated circuit eliminates 99.9% of all your power problems, and will make most of your line conditioners irrelevant, except as a power distribution (1 plug to many plugs), but then, power strips are generally much cheaper.

 

Specialty power cords are tough. Do they make a difference? Maybe. But you have to ask yourself why any company that sells $10k+ amps sends along a $2 off-the-shelf power cord along with it. Are they just stupid? Ignorant? Uncaring? Or do they simply not believe they make a difference? Nelson Pass is something of an amplifier-designer legend actually tells his customers to not add a fancy aftermarket cord to his amps. Makes you wonder why. Anyway, if you feel the need and have cash burning a hole in your pocket, feel free. Many have reported that there are gains to be had here, but I've not found this to be true. YMMV.

 

Footers, stabilizers, RF shields, whatever should be the last thing you add. Things vibrate. Vibrations can be bad. Stopping that must be good, right? But the bit about the power cords applies equally here. A $25k pre-amp with cheap plastic footers? What's the deal? Surely brass would have been better! Right? Hmmm.

 

Long story short -- the answer to your question is "it depends". So, what do you have?

 

BTW, being a stereophile (as opposed to an audiophile) is a fun hobby for someone in your shoes. My best advice? Bring it home and listen to it. If you love it, keep it. If not, my goodness but there are some tremendous options out there to choose from. Keep playing!

 

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hi scot,

 

thanks for your reply.

 

my system comprices the following:

 

xp based pc

m2 tech high face

cambridge audion digital cable

bryston bda 1

cambridge audio analogue cables

avondale audio g1 pre with tpx2 psu

cambridge audio analogue cables

lumley reference st 70 valve power amp

naim speaker cables

atc scm 40 speakers

 

i am very pleased with the system overall, it has to perfrom well as the atc's although incredibly neutral, don't suffer poor quality sources very well and will let you know for sure if a component or recording is not up to par.

 

the original reason for the computer audio path was that my naim cd player died after 8 years of loyal service. my immediate reacvtion was to demo a new cd player until i cam across this site.

 

i have never previously experienced more bang per buck in audio, the high face being the prime example, since i started down the caomputer audio path. it sounds though that i am about to enter the diminishing returns section so i may just hang on for, as you put it, 'the next revelation'

 

i have not really experimented with cables either interconnect or speaker, the naim cables are laid under a floor now so thay will not be changed unless i move house.

 

ooh damn it, thats that then, down to the motor cycle showroom.

 

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If I was you, I'd leave the hiface and BDA well enough alone for now. It probably won't get much better than that for a computer audio front end and it's major components and interfaces. You have a good DAC and made up for it's poor USB interface. You might consider tweaking the server though. Solid state drive, external storage for music. I know a lot of people advocate that the source is the most important component, but I think it's the least important. But still very important.

 

I very much disagree that room treatment isn't a good thing to do or whatever it was that Scot said. Room acoustics and yours speakers is the most important part of the system and I would focus all my time, money and effort here in a heart beat. You didn't mention much about your room. Is it dedicated for listening, or a living room area? If dedicated, get room treatment. Bass traps for starters. If it's shared, considering the more wife friendly designer bass traps. If you dramatically improve your room, speakers, speaker placement etc, it will make future upgrades to the DAC more worthwhile, not to mention it will make your current DAC sound fantastic. Concert halls, the major venue for music enjoyment, are acoustically engineered for a reason. Apply that to your room. Its better than any electronic upgrade you can make, and it will make future "toy" upgrades all the more worthwhile. Don't hang out at the computer audiophile board. Go hang out on the Audio Circle Acoustics board.

 

Dedicated 240V balanced power, Torus RM20-BAL. Mac Mini/Ayre QB-9. LSA Group Signature integrated. Eminent Tech LFT8B speakers. Real Trap and GIK bass traps.

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thanks for the info.

 

certainly gives me something to ponder. the room is a living room i.e. tv , armchairs etc so there is not much scope for substantial changes to the room layout.

 

i have been offered a no obligation trial on a weiss int unit so i will give it a try just for the hell of it and let you know my thoughts.

 

thanks again.

 

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Simon, don't write off room acoustic improvements so quickly even though we're talking about a living room. First of all, bass traps are typically placed in the corners of a room. That's a real blessing because its probably the one place in a room you can work with. Secondly, there are furniture grade bass traps now that don't even look like bass traps. They look like corner tables. I have no idea how much that new toy costs that you're going to listen to, but I would bet the same money put towards products like the ones listed below would yield far more impressive results. A component upgrade can only yield so much benefit if all of what it offers is being masked by poor acoustics.

 

http://www.gikacoustics.com/gik_elite_pillar.html

 

http://www.gikacoustics.com/gik_elite_table.html

 

http://www.gikacoustics.com/gik_artpanel.html

 

 

 

Dedicated 240V balanced power, Torus RM20-BAL. Mac Mini/Ayre QB-9. LSA Group Signature integrated. Eminent Tech LFT8B speakers. Real Trap and GIK bass traps.

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thanks bill,

 

tats interesting advice. we also have a large blank wall that needs 'something' so it may be worth investigating one of the art panels. they have an outlet here in the uk too so i will give them a try.

 

many thanks.

 

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Hey simon, just wanted to say I couldn't agree more with Brian about your room. Treating my room and dealing with providing high quality electricity to my system have BY FAR been the most dramatic, effective changes besides the speakers. I can't emphasize enough how important these two factors are. If you have a good pair of speakers, good room, and good electricity every change after that is much more fun and honest as to what you want for your ears. The other way around isn't nearly as enjoyable and can drive you insane (DAC, cables, tweaks). The room treatment brings me to my question; what have you done for the electrical side of things?

 

david is hear[br]http://www.tuniverse.tv

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I couldn't agree more with the comments about the room, room treatments and clean, fast power. They are too often overlooked and under rated. I'm absolutely certain that attention to this detail has gotten me a sound well beyond the $$ invested in gear.

 

http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?action=gallery;sa=album;id=3830

 

If I've done this link properly I will share with you how I've approached these issues myself.

 

Happy listening.

 

Plinius SA-Reference, EMM Labs DCC2/CDSD, Soliloquy 6.5 Full Range Speakers, Mac Mini, Pure Music, dB Audio Labs Essential USB Cable, Empirical Audio Offramp 4 with Turboclocks & Hynes Regulator upgrades - Power Conditioning & Cabling by Silver Circle Audio

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Simon, yes GIK does produce products in the UK now. There are other acoustic manufacturers in the UK too, but I forget which ones. You might ask the group at the Wigwam UK audio board. I would not just slap up a panel in some location because you have space there. It needs to be well thought out. I would ask advice from a good acoustics person in the UK. Or you can do nicely with email correspondence including photo's of your room with a company like GIK. If you search the Wigwam board, you'll find posts from people that have bought from GIK and read about their impressions of that acoustic treatment has done. It's not hard to figure out really. There are some pretty straight forward basic things that you'd do to get started. Namely bass traps in corners, and some absorption panels at reflection points. But it depends on your speakers and room and getting some advice is the place to start. I'd send off a quick email to GIK with pictures of your room and ask them what would be the first thing to do. Even tell them what you're not willing to do. They can work around constraints. Since you're in the UK, maybe AC isn't as big a concern as it is for us in North America. That's what I've heard.

 

Bryan

 

Dedicated 240V balanced power, Torus RM20-BAL. Mac Mini/Ayre QB-9. LSA Group Signature integrated. Eminent Tech LFT8B speakers. Real Trap and GIK bass traps.

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hi guys, thanks for all the advice on the last 3 posts. this leads me off of course on a completely different path and one i had not even considered before. i will contact and seek advice although, having done an acoustics course years ago for 3 years, should have paid more attention to this at the start-doh.

 

the power here is ok but i have never spent cash on audiophile power leads. i remember an over zealous hi fi sales man trying to push a £300.00 4 way 'star earthed' adapter on me. i could not hear any difference and that was when i was a teenager and could hear above 15k.

 

thats just my experience of course. my wife was frightened by a spider in the pram and you'd be hard pushed to change her bias also.

 

room tweaks and power conditioning aside, i am enjoying this digital stuff, it aint as clear cut as i first imagined, its as subjective as i ever remember. digital is the new analogue!

 

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