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Entry-level DAC with Chromecast built in?


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I'm new to the audiophile hardware world. I have a 20-year-old pairing of a NAD receiver and KEF speakers that I like a lot.  I'd like to cast Primephonic hi-res music from my phone to my receiver. Is there an entry-level DAC with Chromecast built in? 

 

I know about Chromecast Audio, but it tops out at 24/96.  Many of the Primephonic tracks are 24/192.  From an OCD standpoint, I would also like the idea of a DAC with lights to indicate the stream quality.

 

I realize that I might not hear the difference between 24/96 and 24/192 on my speakers, but I listen a lot on headphones (HiFiMan 400i 2020) and would like my receiver to deliver 24/192 sound to my headphones. 

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Yes, Chromecast maxes out at 24/96. But I bet that this will not matter on an entry level DAC. Therefore, I would suggest you get the best DAC you can get for whatever your budget is and connect a used Chromecast Audio (eBay 25 €) via Tosslink. This way you will have a much wider choice of DACs, including used gear.

 Or if convenience is important, check out NAD C338 hybrid  integrated amp (DAC & Chromecast built in): https://darko.audio/2020/09/nad-c-338-review-or-why-you-should-care-about-chromecast-built-in/

Best of luck.

 

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Stick with the gear you have, NAD has switched to Class D instead of class AB amplifiers. A chord Mojo will drive your Hifiman headphones using

a CCK adaptor for micro USB cable to iPhone for best SQ. Add an Audioquest RCA cable adaptor if you have good interconnects you want to run to the amplifier. Only limit for the mojo is 256 DSD.

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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@RedDogCo I read up on the CCA and found that it won't pass 24/192 music to a DAC, even with its TOSLINK optical link. The highest quality it will pass is 24/96. That's probably good enough for my ears, but I'm wondering if there is a DAC that can natively accept a Chromecast connection and provide 24/192 quality. 

 

Separately, would you think that a Topping 50 or Cambridge DacMagic 100 would improve on the CCA's native DAC?  

 

Thanks!

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@davide256 One reason that I want to use my receiver to power the DAC instead of my phone is that I use Android phones and the Android system limits its USB stream to 16/44. (Unless I use USB Audio Pro, which won't work with the Primephonic classical music service.)

 

I could switch to Apple phones to avoid this downsampling, but I'm pretty experienced with Android.

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So why limit yourself to Googles step child, chrome cast? Many Blu ray players support the more universal UPNP/DLNA if your app supports universal standards. And your Blu ray player will already have a 192/24 DAC built in. I do this with a Sony 4K player and an Oppo 103

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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40 minutes ago, CorvusCorax said:

@RedDogCo I read up on the CCA and found that it won't pass 24/192 music to a DAC, even with its TOSLINK optical link. The highest quality it will pass is 24/96. That's probably good enough for my ears, but I'm wondering if there is a DAC that can natively accept a Chromecast connection and provide 24/192 quality. 

I agree about the limitation of the CCA; max 24/96 with Tosslink connection to bypass the internal DAC.

But this resolution is still tops Primephonic Platinum streaming resolution, which is 24bit FLAC: i.e. 24/44.1. So the CCA will not downsample this. 

Also, of you stream from Primephonic (not locally Stores files), the you device will not have any influence on the streaming quality as the CCA will connect to Primephonic directly to establish the stream. 

40 minutes ago, CorvusCorax said:

 

Separately, would you think that a Topping 50 or Cambridge DacMagic 100 would improve on the CCA's native DAC?  

 

Thanks!

I have no experience with the Topping 50. 

I tested the CDM100 2 years ago and IMO it performs better than CCA, but not enough to justify the cost. I bought a Mytek Brooklyn instead back then. 

If I were you, I would buy a mid range used DAC at the same price as a low end new unit. i.e. a used Schiit Bifrost.

 

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@RedDogCo Thanks for the advice.  BTW, Primephonic now offers a Platinum tier that offers many recordings at 24/192. Most of their catalog is still 16/44, but quite a few are 24/96 or 24/192. 

 

I'll look around on eBay for a used DAC.

 

I'm jonesing for a Cambridge CXN, but I'll need to save my pennies for a while.

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@CorvusCorax The CA CXN is a very nice DAC + streamer and the V2 model has CCA built in.  But all these features put it in a higher price class.

If you are looking for a pure dac 2nd hand in the same SQ class (but lower price class), you might also consider the following models:

  • AudioQuest Dragonfly models RED or COBALT
  • Schiit Bifrost Multibit
  • ifi Audio Micro iDSD Black Label

Enjoy the music.

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17 hours ago, CorvusCorax said:

@RedDogCo I read up on the CCA and found that it won't pass 24/192 music to a DAC, even with its TOSLINK optical link. The highest quality it will pass is 24/96. That's probably good enough for my ears, but I'm wondering if there is a DAC that can natively accept a Chromecast connection and provide 24/192 quality. 

 

Separately, would you think that a Topping 50 or Cambridge DacMagic 100 would improve on the CCA's native DAC?  

 

Thanks!

Chromecast doesn't do gapless playback and doesn't sound good IMO. I'm looking for a similar solution and was thinking of getting mini windows PC and using a PC remote app on my phone to control it. Can power it with a power bank, hopefully it sounds good. 

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If I use a Chromecast Audio connected to a Topping D50s via the 3.5mm-to-Toslink jack, will the sound effectively be DACed twice -- once by the CCA and again by the D50s?  Or can the CCA pass an unadulterated digital stream to the D50s for analog conversion?

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No, the signal does not get DACed 2x with the mini-toslink connection. 

The 3.5mm output jack on the CCA performs dual functions:

1. If you put a standard 3.5mm jack into it, it provides an analogue output from the internal DAC.  

2. When you put a mini-toslink connector into it, it delivers a digital signal directly from the internal streamer and bypasses the internal DAC.

 

By definition, a DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) only processes a Digital signal to an Analogue signal.

There are DAC models out there which perform multiple functions and which may have analogue input.  If that is the case you need to read the fine print in the specs to see how that signal is processed.  (It will either bypass the DAC chip or it will be converted to Digital first before being converted back.)

 

I hope this helps.

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7 hours ago, chauphuong said:

Powerbank uses switching mode, so is not a good power source.

I see, do you have a link to the ali express one you recommend? Thanks

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On 2/11/2021 at 2:00 AM, RedDogCo said:

No, the signal does not get DACed 2x with the mini-toslink connection. 

The 3.5mm output jack on the CCA performs dual functions:

1. If you put a standard 3.5mm jack into it, it provides an analogue output from the internal DAC.  

2. When you put a mini-toslink connector into it, it delivers a digital signal directly from the internal streamer and bypasses the internal DAC.

 

By definition, a DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) only processes a Digital signal to an Analogue signal.

There are DAC models out there which perform multiple functions and which may have analogue input.  If that is the case you need to read the fine print in the specs to see how that signal is processed.  (It will either bypass the DAC chip or it will be converted to Digital first before being converted back.)

 

I hope this helps.

Excellent explanation.  Your replies have been very helpful.  I decided to go with a CCA and a Topping D50s.  Both arrive today.  Once I find time to hook them up, I'll report back.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I also use a CCA connected to a Topping D50s with mini-toslink.  I'm happy with the sound quality and the convenience.  Cast to the CCA, voice control through Google Assistant, or Bluetooth streaming directly to the D50s for a little bit more improvement to my ears.  I have tested running the D50s off a battery pack rather than the internal power supply and it does sound better that way.  An external power supply would be the next improvement I make. For the small price of this equipment it has given my old stereo system more life.

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Which battery pack do you use? Do you leave the battery pack plugged in to the wall power socket, or do you charge it up from time to time?

 

I'm happy with the CCA and Topping D50s combo so far. The only slight niggle is that the CCA maxes out at 96KHz and so can't stream 192KHz, but I don't know if could hear the difference between 96 and 192 anyway. 

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I don't normally run the D50s off a battery pack. It was just something I tried as a test.  I thought it sounded a little 'cleaner' but I'm fine with running it off a USB charger.  Maybe I will get an external power supply at some point.  When I stream to the D50s through Bluetooth I can hear the improvement versus casting to the CCA then into the D50s through the mini-toslink connection.  Definitely more dynamic range through Bluetooth streaming.  The D50s tells me that the input signal when I am streaming Tidal Masters is 96 kHhz.  When I play the same Tidal Master cast to the CCA the D50s says the input is 44.1 kHz.

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I suspect that the reason you're seeing the Tidal Masters at the 44.1 kHz on the DAC is because the DAC can't process the MQA stream; Tidal probably steps the stream down to 44.1 kHz. For stereo components, only those that are explicitly MQA-compliant can decode MQA.  

 

When you stream it via Bluetooth, your phone's Tidal app is decoding the MQA and sending the resulting signal via Bluetooth to the DAC.  The Bluetooth LDAC protocol maxes out at 96 kHz, so your phone is downsampling the MQA stream to 96 before sending it on to the DAC.

 

So, you're hearing a better stream via Bluetooth because of the hardware's MQA limiation. Streaming over Bluetooth will also tax your phone much more: it's actually receiving the signal, decoding it from MQA, and re-encoding it to Bluetooth...  instead of asking the CCA to handle all the streaming directly from Tidal.

 

I'm new to all this... so take with a grain of salt. 

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6 hours ago, MK79 said:

I don't normally run the D50s off a battery pack. It was just something I tried as a test.  I thought it sounded a little 'cleaner' but I'm fine with running it off a USB charger.  Maybe I will get an external power supply at some point.  When I stream to the D50s through Bluetooth I can hear the improvement versus casting to the CCA then into the D50s through the mini-toslink connection.  Definitely more dynamic range through Bluetooth streaming.  The D50s tells me that the input signal when I am streaming Tidal Masters is 96 kHhz.  When I play the same Tidal Master cast to the CCA the D50s says the input is 44.1 kHz.

CCA sounds bad, even your phone headphone out might sound better. 

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