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PC/MAC with Alpha Dac or Spectral preamp with top level CD player???


SlickenSmooth
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I'd like to have your advice about it as a preamp for my Spectral DMA-250.

How would you rate it against a good Spectral preamp? My dealer likes the Alpha Dac a LOT, but he says he'll always prefer a Spectral preamp to drive a Spectral poweramp. He says it's because of 1) synergy and 2) the Alpha Dac is a good preamp but definitely not as good as a Spectral 30SL G2/ SHAA2 or a 30SS.

I ask this because I have to choose between 2 setups to live with for a while:

1) PC-Lynx AES16 > Berkeley Alpha Dac > Spectral DMA-250 > Magnum MA Cables

or

2) Spectral 30SL G2/ SHAA2 > Spectral DMA-250 > DCS Puccini CD player or Audio Research Reference CD 8 > Magnum MA cables

What's your advice on this? I cannot audition the Alpha DAC as I need to import it.

Thanks.

 

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How about the dCS Puccini CD/SACD player AND use a Mac Mini via optical into that?

 

Try the dCS both with and without the pre-amp too (it has a volume / preamp stage).

 

If you find yourself using the Mac more, consider adding the dCS U-clock later.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Seems like a great idea!

 

But what I'd ultimately like to know is:

 

Using the DAC as a preamp will it surpass a world class pre like the Spectral 30-SS?

 

It'd seem logical to me that a preamp which is completely build to do it's work as a pre would be better than a DAC fuctioning as a preamp. I don't question that the sound of an Berkeley DAC driving my DMA-250 will sound amazing. But I find it hard to believe that it would beat an all Spectral system like the DMC-30SS/ DMA-250/ SDR-4000 CDPRO which I've heard at my dealer.

 

If the Berkeley DAC can do the same as a 30-SS that would save me some BIG BUCKS!

 

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SNS , perhaps I was too oblique, if you only have one source do you need a preamp, traditionally they were used to amplify the tiny signal from a cartridge, and a source switcher, every pre amp I have tried added something to the signal, you have to decide whether you like that addition, I would have thought that a dac with a good analogue output stage and a properly dithered digital attenuator is about as clean a signal as you are going to get.

Listen with and without preamp and then decide

Keith.

 

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With a Spectral power amp you are in a special situation: from what I know, you should never use a Spectral power amp without a Spectral preamp.

Though vice versa: you can combine a Spectral preamp with any (most) power amp.

 

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would be willing to bet that your system will sound better:

Alpha-Spectral Pre-Spectral Power Amp.

If your dealer is honest, and suggests the same, he should be willing to let you try both combinations at home in your system to decide what sounds better for yourself. Ultimately, only a home audition of the Alpha direct, and the Alpha with Spectral pre in your system is going to tell you what you need to know.

It sounds like you are a good customer for your dealer, I would demand to try both set ups at home.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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One of Spectrals Power amp is called: "DMA-160S Studio Universal"

The Spectral Audio homepage says about this model:

 

"The DMA-160S Studio Universal has been designed as a stand-alone reference amplifier for use in various applications in studio monitoring and audiophile systems where a Spectral preamplifier is not available"

 

I guess it's not wrong, to conclude from this description, that the other ("Non-Universal") Spectral power amps are not designed (or at least not optimized) to work together with other preamps.

 

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Thanks for the input everyone! I appreciate it.

 

Barrows why would you think that an alpha dac would do better than a Spectral SDR-4000 PRO CD player in an all Spectral setup? Just curious.. Because my dealer proved to me that synergy is VERY important. Even an complete Scarlatti CD stack didn't sound as good as the Spectral CD player in an all Spectral system. Ofcourse the Spectral CD player costs roughly 5 times more than an alpha dac so it's not totally fair..

 

 

 

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I read the question wrong? I thought the question was whether to go out direct from an Alpha DAC, or to put a Spectral preamp in between the Alpha DAC and the Spectral amp. I was not addressing any Alpha DAC vs. other CD player/DAC issues.

If you are only interested in playing CDs, then the Spectral CD player is probably very good, and worth an audition in your system (I have not heard it).

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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Sorry, I was a little too hasty in my response. This is a very complicated question which is impossible to answer without more context: Do you only play CDs and never plan on taking advantage of higher resolution formats? Which CD players are we considering? Are you open to other (better) computer interfaces?DACs than the Alpha? Is this question really:

Computer Audio versus Traditional CD/Universal Player?

I will go out on a limb and state this (which some folks here will disagree with):

If you only want to play CDs, and your CDs will be well cared for (not scratched, and treated with Ultrabit Platinum), and you will use a good CD damper, and you like the Spectral "sound"; I do not think that there is a computer based system which will sonically outperform the Spectral CD player-Spectral preamp-Spectral amp combination. You may be able to get equal performance from a computer set up, and better performance when high resolution files are considered.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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Well right now I only play CD's yes. But higher resolution files and the ease of having all of your CD's in one package defenitely attracts me. That being said I would not EVER sacrifice a tiny bit of soundquality for ease of use.

 

CD's player's being considered:

 

-DCS (all models)

-Audio Research Reference CD8

-Spectral SDR-4000 PRO , the 4000SL is coming this year and knowing Spectral it will be even better (shiver :))

 

Yes other DAC's are being considered too. I chose the Alpha Dac because lots of people say it has lots of synergy with Spectral.

 

Ultimately I'd like to know which route will take me to the 'best' soundquality. So I can start investing now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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to decide if you want to go the computer route. You will not sacrifice quality with a computer audio setup (especially as you appear to be prepared to spend whatever might be needed to achieve the best performance). To get the best performance out of a computer audio set up, I would suggest staying away from anything with an SPDIF interface and only considering interfaces that can operate asynchronously: Async USB, Firewire, and Network players. To get the absolute best performance, you should probably consider the dCS gear (Async USB)-read Chris' review (on this site), and the recent Stereophile reviews, and then get the gear in for audition, with Async U-clock interface. You also should try and find a Linn dealer, and give a listen to the Klimax DS (ethernet DAC) but do not audition it with the Linn speakers!

It does not sound like you would respond positively to tube gear (since you like Spectral), but if my assumption is wrong, you should give a listen to Wavelength Audios' Crimson USB DAC as well.

Remember, the computer audio route is a system, to get the best perfromance out of it requires attention to detail (proper computer set up, properly ripped files, good music playback software, like Amarra, good USB cables)-If your dealer is not well versed in the intracacies of computer audio set up, you will need to learn this for yourself, or find a dealer who is an expert on computer audio. The Linn setup is good for those people who do not want to deal with all the setup issues themself, as Linn requires their dealers to be properly trained, and to do the setup for you.

Spend some time on this site, there is a lot of really good information here. If I could afford it, I would probably go with a dCS setup, with a Mac Mini fitted with a SSD, using one of the new Ipads to control the Mini and an external Firewire HD for music storage. Properly configured, this set up will at least equal any CD player, and in many cases, beat it.

I have a question for you: since you are looking at Spectral gear, do you have any idea if they are going to address the lack of a computer interface DAC in their lineup? Since Keith Johnson is a designer for Spectral, and the recording engineer behind the Reference Recording HRx discs, I would expect some kind of computer interface DAC/player to come from Spectral eventually.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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Sounds good! I'll definitely going to look into that!

 

I think Spectral WILL release a DAC in the near future. If so I'de be happy to buy it. My dealer always says it's best to stay all Spectral if you choose Spectral. He really believes in synergy. Having heard him prove it (with various CD players and amps mixed with Spectral and then an all Spectral) I have to agree. I believe Spectral will only release a computer interface DAC if they know for sure that that it's really really good. They've always been like this.

 

I really like the DCS setup that you described I think I'll have my dealer put it together and have a good listen.

 

My dealer also believes that computer audio will be the future but in his opinion the sound is just not up to par with the very best CD playback yet. But he says within 3 years though it will probably surpass the best CD players.

 

Thanks for your time to explain it to a computeraudio noob like me!

 

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