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Suggestions for a low-cost DAC?


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I may be beating this time hard into the ground. I have a Schiit WRYD which will power any down stream USB component better than just the PC USB port for sure. And it removes some nose. Some may say not, I've listened with and without and it's better with 

 

I'll contact Support and confirm it will auto switch. Why would they make their own battery supply if it did not? 

 

I could also try a cell phone charger to see what that does.

 

Haven't gotten one yet. It's on the list to do. Thank you you all.

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1 hour ago, Taz777 said:

 

@left channel Okay, so it looks like the device will auto-switch power inputs. Perhaps the manual is out of synch? I noticed that the manual is dated 2017.

 

In 2017 we managed to convince Pro-Ject Support to at least update it to what you have there. Perhaps they decided not to also recommend purchase of a different PSU for USB because (a) they didn't have the Accu Box or Power Box yet, (b) they didn't want to receive complaints from customers, as after all the S2D does work when powered only by USB, or (c) they just didn't fully understand the issue.

Since then I for one have stopped trying to help them, the designer is no longer associated with Pro-Ject, and I don't expect we'll see many more changes although I do hope to see at least one more firmware update.

 

55 minutes ago, Ottoa62 said:

I'll contact Support and confirm it will auto switch. Why would they make their own battery supply if it did not?

 

You have the designer's own declaration (on pinkfishmedia.net) that it does auto switch. At the time the manual came out, they had not yet announced the Accu Box or Power Box products. The Pro-Ject website tries to divert support questions to local dealers, who usually know less than you do at this point. And last time I checked, their main Support office was understaffed, overwhelmed, and not technical.

 

55 minutes ago, Ottoa62 said:

I could also try a cell phone charger to see what that does.

 

A cell phone charger would be no better than the included PSU. But a cell phone battery bank would meet the designer's recommendation, as would any linear PSU that provides 5V and 1A (or at least 0.5 A as I recall). 

Everyone wants to date my avatar.

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2 hours ago, Taz777 said:

@Paul R I have the iFi Nano iDSD BL. It's really a transportable DAC (portable at a pinch). Sound is okay and it does have a 3.5mm line out. Not really a desktop device, although it does do MQA decoding in hardware. My opinion of it is that it's really a DAC to get the most out of mobile phones when you're on the move. It works well in that respect and there's some clever tech in it to cope with headphones that use balanced or unbalanced cables.

 

@left channel Okay, so it looks like the device will auto-switch power inputs. Perhaps the manual is out of synch? I noticed that the manual is dated 2017.

 

Yes, I have the iFi iDSD Nano original, and have ran it in a main system. It surprised me from the startexactly how good it sounds. I woukd not hesitate for a srcond to put it in a main system, especially running iff the battery. 

 

I recently ordered the iFi iDSD Micro BL, and plan tomostly use it as a headphone Dac/Amp combo, but I have great expectations for it. 

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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2 hours ago, Paul R said:

 

Yes, I have the iFi iDSD Nano original, and have ran it in a main system. It surprised me from the startexactly how good it sounds. I woukd not hesitate for a srcond to put it in a main system, especially running iff the battery. 

 

I recently ordered the iFi iDSD Micro BL, and plan tomostly use it as a headphone Dac/Amp combo, but I have great expectations for it. 

 

Dang, I forgot draft messages can post from my iPhone sometimes, operator error of some kind I am sure. I scrambled down the response above quickly on my iPhone, but I intended to edit out the typos and poor grammar before sending it. Sorry!

 

iFi DACs are little short of amazing to me. Even more so given their very reasonable cost.

 

Yours,

-Paul

 

 

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have a bunch of really cheap DACs that supposedly "measured well" strewn around my house and car ... meh.

 

The Topping DX7s has been a disappointment for me. I purchases it following the glowing review on ASR. Perhaps I got a bad model but I've tracked it down to static which seems to peak every second or so, somewhat like a scratch on an LP, and so I believe its the analog output stage in the DAC. It doesn't vary if I use the headphone output or the RCA outputs. Using an Uptone Regen ISO doesn't help at all. The sound ultimately is really poor.

 

The  iFi iDSD Micro is vastly better when it works. The glitchiness seems to be because its overloaded with features. If the Espressobin NAA running it reboots, the USB power is cut off and it switches to battery mode. Then dies. I keep have to turning it on and off to get it back into USB power mode -- that sort of glitchy stuff. When the iFi is working (mostly) it sounds great though.

 

I'm almost ready to pull the plug and get a Pro-ject Pre S2 Digital ...

Custom room treatments for headphone users.

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analog output stages affect SQ in amps, pre-amps, so.... why not the DAC

 

that is also something that a digital circuit engineer may be inclined to ignore, just like they ignore their engineering heat exchange class...

 

I'll be curious to hear your thoughts on the S2 - esp. if you compare it to an RME...

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7 minutes ago, Ralf11 said:

analog output stages affect SQ in amps, pre-amps, so.... why not the DAC

 

I'm going to say that all else equal, the analog output is what determines SQ i.e. not all ESS chipped DACs sound the same by any stretch of the imagination, and the analog electronics are what primarily determine SQ.

 

7 minutes ago, Ralf11 said:

 

that is also something that a digital circuit engineer may be inclined to ignore, just like they ignore their engineering heat exchange class...

 

I'll be curious to hear your thoughts on the S2 - esp. if you compare it to an RME...

 

Not entirely fair to compare the $400 S2 to a $1300 RME. At that level I'd consider the new Holo Spring 2. It claims DSD1024 and focus on analog electronics (yep uses ESS). The Topping DX7s was supposed to be my experiment to see if I can hear an ESS SQ but I'm not going to blame ESS ;)  So for that reason Pro-ject

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On 2/23/2019 at 9:34 PM, jabbr said:

I have a bunch of really cheap DACs that supposedly "measured well" strewn around my house and car ... meh.

 

The Topping DX7s has been a disappointment for me. I purchases it following the glowing review on ASR. Perhaps I got a bad model but I've tracked it down to static which seems to peak every second or so, somewhat like a scratch on an LP, and so I believe its the analog output stage in the DAC. It doesn't vary if I use the headphone output or the RCA outputs. Using an Uptone Regen ISO doesn't help at all. The sound ultimately is really poor.

 

The  iFi iDSD Micro is vastly better when it works. The glitchiness seems to be because its overloaded with features. If the Espressobin NAA running it reboots, the USB power is cut off and it switches to battery mode. Then dies. I keep have to turning it on and off to get it back into USB power mode -- that sort of glitchy stuff. When the iFi is working (mostly) it sounds great though.

 

I'm almost ready to pull the plug and get a Pro-ject Pre S2 Digital ...

 

Never had problems with my iDSD BL micro. Not one :)

 

On 2/23/2019 at 10:06 PM, jabbr said:

 

I'm going to say that all else equal, the analog output is what determines SQ i.e. not all ESS chipped DACs sound the same by any stretch of the imagination, and the analog electronics are what primarily determine SQ.

 

 

Not entirely fair to compare the $400 S2 to a $1300 RME. At that level I'd consider the new Holo Spring 2. It claims DSD1024 and focus on analog electronics (yep uses ESS). The Topping DX7s was supposed to be my experiment to see if I can hear an ESS SQ but I'm not going to blame ESS ;)  So for that reason Pro-ject

 

I upgraded from the BL micro to the Spring 2, since I'm a total NOS/'bitperfect' nut. The holo spring 2 is a good bit more resolving and natural-sounding than the BL which was my favorite up 'till then. It's also several times its price though.

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Hi, I am enjoying this thread very much. Everyday we run across more information or read something. Does anyone have a SMSL  su-8 vs? I see good reviews on it. I like that it has a remote, so I can run it right into my power amp. The top contender for me so far is the Project S2D. The Topping D50 is right there too.

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2 hours ago, Ottoa62 said:

Hi, I am enjoying this thread very much. Everyday we run across more information or read something. Does anyone have a SMSL  su-8 vs? I see good reviews on it. I like that it has a remote, so I can run it right into my power amp. The top contender for me so far is the Project S2D. The Topping D50 is right there too.

 

I was going to buy the S2D for my headphones system but it won't do MQA via its coax input. If you'll be using a USB source (like a computer) then it should work fine.

 

I haven't been able to find a comparison of the S2D vs the Topping D50. For now, the Topping D50 is good enough for me. I do have an iFi Nano iDSD BL DAC that does MQA, which is fine, but the analogue section isn't anywhere near as good as the Topping D50.

 

The same goes for my Node 2i streamer - it's onboard DAC is fully MQA compatible but the analogue stage is inferior to the D50's.

 

Thus, whilst you can gain MQA decoding with many DACs, if the analogue conversion isn't great then you may as well listen via a decent non-MQA DAC as it'll sound better.

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11 hours ago, Taz777 said:

Thus, whilst you can gain MQA decoding with many DACs, if the analogue conversion isn't great then you may as well listen via a decent non-MQA DAC as it'll sound better.

 

By doing MQA decoding in the player and letting DAC have proper digital filters instead poor MQA ones is also better...

 

You don't really gain anything by moving MQA decoding to the DAC side, instead it has some negative impact.

 

Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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On 2/23/2019 at 11:06 PM, jabbr said:

Not entirely fair to compare the $400 S2 to a $1300 RME. At that level I'd consider the new Holo Spring 2. It claims DSD1024 and focus on analog electronics (yep uses ESS). The Topping DX7s was supposed to be my experiment to see if I can hear an ESS SQ but I'm not going to blame ESS ;)  So for that reason Pro-ject

 

What? Holo Spring is a discrete DAC and doesn't use any COTS DAC chip (ESS or anything else)...

 

Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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1 hour ago, Miska said:

 

By doing MQA decoding in the player and letting DAC have proper digital filters instead poor MQA ones is also better...

 

You don't really gain anything by moving MQA decoding to the DAC side, instead it has some negative impact.

 

 

Hi Miska,

 

I'm not sure how this could work. All of the MQA DACs that I have provide a fully decoded and converted MQA audio signal on their respective analogue outputs. For example, take my Node 2i streamer. It has an onboard MQA DAC. If I use its RCA jacks (analogue output) then I get analogue audio output that is the result of a full MQA decoding from the streamer. However, the signal presented on its coax digital out is only the first unfold - and this is what I'm using as the input to my non-MQA Topping D50.

 

So it looks like I cannot present an MQA decoded digital signal on the digital out of the player to feed into another DAC.

 

Perhaps I have misunderstood something - if I could get a full MQA decoded 24/192 PCM stream out of my Node 2i and into the Topping D50 then I'd be a very happy man! Currently I can only get up to 24/96 (which isn't bad by the way, it sounds fantastic, but isn't the full deal).

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18 minutes ago, Taz777 said:

However, the signal presented on its coax digital out is only the first unfold - and this is what I'm using as the input to my non-MQA Topping D50.

 

So it looks like I cannot present an MQA decoded digital signal on the digital out of the player to feed into another DAC.

 

Perhaps I have misunderstood something - if I could get a full MQA decoded 24/192 PCM stream out of my Node 2i and into the Topping D50 then I'd be a very happy man! Currently I can only get up to 24/96 (which isn't bad by the way, it sounds fantastic, but isn't the full deal).

 

The thing is - there is nothing more to unfold! The rest, what they call "rendering" is upsampling using their filters, exact filter for that is selected based on data in the MQA stream. But your DAC's filters are likely better than those ones.

 

Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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6 hours ago, Miska said:

 

What? Holo Spring is a discrete DAC and doesn't use any COTS DAC chip (ESS or anything else)...

 

 

I have no idea why I wrote that Holo used ESS. Thanks for correcting that. 

 

I think >$1000 offtopic for a “low cost DAC” thread, but I’d love to hear Holo Spring 2 next to T+A (DSD1024 version) ie compare mostly analog electronics for discrete DSD DACs.

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1 hour ago, jabbr said:

I think >$1000 offtopic for a “low cost DAC” thread, but I’d love to hear Holo Spring 2 next to T+A (DSD1024 version) ie compare mostly analog electronics for discrete DSD DACs.

 

Me too!

 

By the way, in that expensive category, I've heard the Nagra Classic/HD DAC at DSD128 and it sounded pretty amazing. Cannot wait to hear the HD DAC X at DSD256 (if such possibility comes).

 

Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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I’ve had the S2 DAC for a year now, from Jussi’s recommendation. Had the micro iDSD BL too.

 

S2 DAC’s firmware is rock solid - never had any funky behaviour that needed a power cycle.

 

I actually find the bass of the S2 DAC to be tighter a cleaner - connected to THX 789 amp and headphones. I found iDSD BL’s bass was a little woolier/bloated (just a little, nothing night and day).

 

I’m feeding the S2 DAC DSD512 via HQP Embedded.

 

This combination (S2 DAC + THX 789 head amp) isn’t far subjectively (to my ears) in SQ from my Hugo2 directly driving the same headphones - not as far as the price difference anyway...

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By the way, are you both using S2D same way? At least looks like it. I think it sounds notably cleaner when volume is set to 0 dB and controlled from the headphone amp. The built-in headphone amp is not bad either, but the ESS volume control sort of lets it down to some extent.

 

And you both have "Distortion compensation" turned on?

Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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54 minutes ago, Miska said:

By the way, are you both using S2D same way? At least looks like it. I think it sounds notably cleaner when volume is set to 0 dB and controlled from the headphone amp. The built-in headphone amp is not bad either, but the ESS volume control sort of lets it down to some extent.

 

And you both have "Distortion compensation" turned on?

 

Yes I use it like you - I set S2 DAC set to 0dB volume and distortion compensation on.

 

HQPe volume set to fixed -9dB. 

 

I then only use THX 789 headamp for volume control.

 

Didn’t enjoy the SD DAC’s in-built headamp section , driving my MrSpeakers Aeon Closed. Sounded anaemic. THX 789 amp brought overall subjective performance much closer to Hugo2 driving same headphones - closer than price difference would suggest.

 

 

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