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To DAC or Not to DAC

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Hi, I have been reading various topics on the forum with interest and have decided to join this great forum.


I have been messing about with PC's and tech for years but would like some advice setting up a good quality PC based system where I can enjoy my music in either the lounge or my office.


In the lounge I have a Denon 3808A receiver which is a fabulous piece of kit when watching movies on Bluray.

I am adding a pair of B&W CM7 speakers which can be amp assigned from the receiver so when listening to music I can choose 2 channel stereo which will activate the 2 B&W speakers.

The denon receiver is a quality bit of kit and has it's own DAC etc. so when streaming music from the PC the denon should be able to handle everything.


The idea I have is to have my own music room in the office where my PC is based so will be adding a pair of B&W CM1 speakers.

I have an old Sony receiver which I will use for the time being as I am saving up for a cyrus 6xp amp.


My question is do I really need a separate DAC and if so will it really make a difference?


My confusion starts because the PC motherboard has built in sound and audio codecs. It is a good quality board with the Via VT1828S DAC which provides 24bit/192KHz output (input SNR 95dB Output SNR 100dB) via S/PDIF or Toslink which I can connect directly to the amp.


How different will the sound quality be with a separate DAC?


Oh, I will be streaming AIFF or Flac files.


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Its always possible to improve your sound but if you can live with what you have then no need to upgrade.If you are using room correction (Audyssey) and use mixed media (BR, Stereo and McH audio etc) then what you have can be a hard to beat combination. If your audio collection is mostly stereo then a competent dedicated DAC and 2-channel amp is going to outperform a multichannel audio video processor just by simple math of cost assigned per module (audio, video, DSP, codecs, room EQ etc etc) divided by number of channels but its a whole lot less versatile and it will only outperform it so to speak in a narrow range of use (i.e 2 channel audio).


Your better off getting your collection digitised tagged, scanned and put in some kind of order, using a low cost silent PC/Mac mini and driving that into the Denon AV amp and your dedicated front speakers and then seeing how it goes sonically before changing the hardware. The versatility of a PC and sophisticated software like Jriver is still worth the investment and will lead to enjoying your collection all over again. JRiver can be used for multichannel andvideo playback as wel as TV, complete system with audiophile grade audio engine.


Once this is all bedded down and your still looking for gains, consider a separate DAC for stereo listening (Motherboard sourced digital audio is the lowest level of the digital audio food chain, a dedicated card next followed by outboard DAC (USB or firewire)) and if you can compare a quality stereo audio only amp versus your biamped? receiver that will help you see if amplification is the real bottleneck. There are also other low cost devices which can do a better job of providing a quality low jitter digital out from the PC and from there to your Denon AV amp via digital in rather than a fully fledged and more expensive converter would do which you would then need to feed into your AV amp analog inputs (doing this probably bypasses any Audyssey). SO engancements could be done is stages.


Music Interests: http://www.onebitaudio.com

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