Jump to content

DAC advice for a newbie on a budget - HRT MSII related

Recommended Posts

Hi, folks. This is a cool community you've got here. I'm a semi-newbie trying to get great sound at a very low budget. I've done a lot of research and I want to check in with people here to see if there's anything I have failed to consider, and to hopefully get a couple questions answered.


Background: I am ripping my large CD and live bootleg collection, intending to use a computer from now on as my only audio player.


Here’s my current system:


FLAC files on a WD Elements 1.5TB External USB Hard Drive ->


HP laptop running Vista Pro, using Foobar2000 to play securely ripped FLAC files ->


25-foot Monster Y cable (3.5” minijack out to RCA L/R in) ->


NAD 701 receiver->


Celestion 5 bookshelf speakers




The Y cable is terrible, and the laptop’s soundcard isn’t much better. This is all equipment I’ve had for a while (except the laptop). The receiver and speakers were 1994 purchases that have served me well for years. I used to play CDs through a Rotel CDP, but it broke and I wasn’t interested in investing in an almost-dead technology. So here I am.


My budget is very limited – I’m looking to get away with a $300 investment MAX right now, and to do something that is as friendly as possible to eventual modular upgrades. I was going to get a Squeezebox Touch, but I don’t really need the wireless, don’t care about the Internet Radio wirelessly, and don't want to fuss with its server. So I started considering DACs, and was fired up about the MF V-DAC until I read that the MSII is, to many ears, even better, and certainly better value at half the price. Banking half my budget to save for the next piece of the system would be lovely. That said, I would be willing to go up to $300 now for the right DAC solution. My immediate goal is to optimize the equipment I already have, so I can get fidelity at least as good as my old Rotel CDP from the same hifi.


My plan is to replace the Y-cable and soundcard problems with an HRT Music Streamer II (base model) that would run directly with RCA cables into my receiver. So here are my questions:


1.) 24/96 seems great for me for audio. But is there anything that I am failing to consider in passing up 24/192? The next piece of my system is to replace my ancient CRT TV with an HDTV. Doesn’t DVD audio and HDTV audio use 24/192? What if I play Netflix movies from my laptop through into the HDTV with audio through the hifi setup? Does 24/96 cripple me?


2.) I was also intrigued by the M2Tech HiFace, but I don’t understand exactly how it works or how it would interact with a DAC. Could it be used in conjunction with the MSII to provide 24/192 capability?


3.) Since my key goal is optimizing my sound output, am I wrong to start with the DAC? I can’t imagine that anything could be a better first step than bypassing the laptop soundcard and headphone jack, but want to check before I go for it.


4.) RCA Cable recommendations? Something sub $40 would be ideal and sub $20 would be idealer. I don't want to be inhibit the benefits of the DAC, but I don't want more cable than my components really require, either. Are gold-tipped Belkins at $12 crap?


5.) Educating myself on the many issues involved with high end audio has been fun, but I’m constantly realizing that I don’t even know what I don’t know. So, is there anything I’m simply failing to take into consideration?



Thanks in advance for your help!



Link to comment

1) There is very little material available at 24/192 so being "limited" to 24/96 is not a worry, infact most people's collections are still predominantly 16/44.1 CD RedBook format so having 24/96 is more of a bonus.


2) The M2Tech HiFace is a USB to SPDIF interface. It's purpose is to allow people who have a DAC with no USB interface to connect it to a computer with no SPDIF output.


3) With a laptop, the only step you can take really is add an external DAC.


4) Can't really help with cables as you (appear to be) in USA. I've heard people mention Blue Jeans cables as been good value for money but don't know their prices, etc. Here in the UK I'd buy a basic Chord Company or QED cable.


5. Maybe worth investigating and checking how you have Foobar setup, I'm not a Windows expert but I understand that the best way for Foobar and Windows Vista (and a USB DAC) is to use the WASAPI plugin, though a few people say the sound is better via Kernel Stream (KS) plugin.







...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.

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...