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    Late adopter... I need DAC advice

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    j beede

    Posts : 317
    Join date : 2011-02-07
    Location : California

    Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by j beede on Sat Apr 23, 2011 1:21 pm

    My son plugged the analog output of an Apple Airport straight into the inputs of my Mark IIIs and then wirelessly streamed Apple lossless audio from his IPOD. This produced a very convenient "jukebox" that everyone is enjoying. The virtual volume control on the IPOD makes me nervous as there is no other level limiter in the path between the Mark IIIs and the speakers. IPOD-router-amp-speaker... what a simple but effective setup. The sound quality certainly exceeds my expectations as it is. I am hunting for an IPAD to buy today as a result--bad time to be trying to buy one I guess. Supplies are non-existent.

    I use vinyl for critical listening and have zero experience with outboard D-to-A conversion. Now I am interested in trying one out with thus setup. The Apple Airport has an optical output and I would like to replace its internal DAC with an outboard unit. Are any of you doing this now? Can you suggest a DAC that I should consider for a "first try"? Do you have learnings to share to help me make a sensible decision on DAC?
    ...j

    naturall_mystic

    Posts : 9
    Join date : 2011-04-14

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by naturall_mystic on Sat Apr 23, 2011 2:05 pm

    Hi there j beede, I have been using your current set up (Mac to airport to stereo) and enjoy the flexibility immensely. I just purchased a DAC for the same purpose too. I looked at a lot of pre built DACs on Amazon and the web in general. No matter who I asked every product had it's fans and detractors.

    In the end I purchased a DAC board on ebay from China. It arrived with no instructions but the seller was very responsive to my questions. With each response he started with, It really very simple, which at first was a little irritating but after several emails I realized this was just his way of reassuring me. At this point it is in pieces, the DAC board, toroid transformer, and jumpers on my hobby table. I should get it assembled and tested this week.

    The DAC board appears to be pretty good quality though some of the capacitors were soldered in crooked, which sends my OCD into high gear. The model I purchased supports USB, Toslink, and Coax inputs and has RCA jacks for output. It does not have a case so that will be part of the project. It is my understanding that there really is an audible difference between the DAC in the Mac (that rhymes) and a unit like I bought, we will see soon enough. This is a link for the model I purchased: http://cgi.ebay.com/Upsampling-24bit-192-DAC-KIT-TOROID-TRAN-USB-CS4398-/140532299765

    I'll come back to this thread once I have it set up and share my experience.

    j beede

    Posts : 317
    Join date : 2011-02-07
    Location : California

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by j beede on Sat Apr 23, 2011 2:34 pm

    I look forward to hearing about your experience. The kit route sounds like a good idea. I will probably buy a ready-to-run unit as I need to determine whether my "N" router will reliably sync with an external DAC before my 30 days return privileges expire. Are you using a "G" or "N" router?
    ...j

    naturall_mystic

    Posts : 9
    Join date : 2011-04-14

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by naturall_mystic on Sat Apr 23, 2011 6:55 pm

    I use the Apple dual "N" router for the house internet, but for the stereo it is an old "G" Airport express. The network speed really shouldn't have any bearing on what DAC you are using. I also have an "N" Airport Express I can try to see if there is a difference. I'll report those results too.

    bigmm79

    Posts : 23
    Join date : 2010-09-15

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by bigmm79 on Sat Apr 23, 2011 11:12 pm

    I have the Emotiva XDA-1 - it is very reasonably priced and has a lot of flexibility with multiple inputs. It has a volume control, so it can be used as a pre-amp if you are only using digital sources. I haven't heard a lot of stand-alone dacs - but I can say both music streaming from itunes to the XDA and from my dvd player through the XDA sounded
    much better that through the cpu's or dvd player's own dacs. The Cambridge Audio DAC Magic is similarly priced and well regarded.

    Polarflu
    Guest

    Re: DAC Advice

    Post by Polarflu on Sat Apr 23, 2011 11:18 pm

    I'm using a PS Audio DAC Link III which is fed an optical signal from my Airport Express. I have used several DACs and this one has a lot of bang for the buck. I just installed one of Bob's stepped attenuators in my amp bypassing my preamp and it sounds great. The PS Audio DAC I'm using has a really nice output stage and large power supply and the output voltage is more than sufficient to drive the amp to full volume (not that I have done that Wink. There are also well regarded mods for the unit I have that can be had by Cullen Circuits (the same people who do the Wyered4Sound gear). I am very happy with my setup.

    j beede

    Posts : 317
    Join date : 2011-02-07
    Location : California

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by j beede on Sat Apr 23, 2011 11:27 pm

    naturall_mystic wrote:I use the Apple dual "N" router for the house internet, but for the stereo it is an old "G" Airport express. The network speed really shouldn't have any bearing on what DAC you are using. I also have an "N" Airport Express I can try to see if there is a difference. I'll report those results too.

    Speed is not issue with the "N" express... people are complaining the "N" AE is losing sync with their DAC resulting in lost signal or pop and clicks. It seems the "G" AE does not have this problem. Of course the AE I bought at Fry's is the newer "N" version. The analog output has been reliable and sounds pretty good. I'd just like to test my router with an outboard DAC to compare the audio quality and to make sure that the AE works with it okay. If I need an 802.11g AE I guess I'll have to find one on Craigslist or ebay.
    ...j

    jdm

    Posts : 45
    Join date : 2011-04-04

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by jdm on Sun Apr 24, 2011 12:44 am

    My 18 year old son and I went to the local HiFi dealer last December and discovered that there is no reason to play a CD in 2011. When the local Audio Research, McIntosh, Watt Puppy dealer is playing music from a Mac Pro notebook it is time to listen up! I am as old school, puriest as anyone and a natual skepic of digital anything. I talked with audio pros around the country, everyone at CES 2011 was thinking digital to analog. Vinyl is great, expensive and it's not quick and clean. So, after weeks of detailed research I have taken my 20 year old stuff to the shed. The new "music server" is simply rediculious sounding. My CD collection never sounded so dynamic. Here is what I put together as a system:

    On the front-end, I have a Apple mini Mac very quiet)and a seperate 2-TB Western Digital running itunes. Some people recommend Media Monkey. The key to this digital content business is Loss-less, CD quality files or better. MP3 and compressed files are for pocket players. On the advice of a west coast expert, I burned all my CDs on the dedicated hard drive in AIFF format (no compression). So the music files are on a hard dive and all the flexability of the software, genres, artist, albums and mixes make selecting music much easier than CD's. If you have an iphone a free app allows you to use it as your remote! I am not an Apple fan, but this is a no brainer for $400 if you buy a used mini mac. The digital part is a bargin compared to the analog...

    I connected the optical output on the mini Mac (toslink) to a new Rega DAC. The Dac is connecet via RCA's to the Dynaco ST-120 amp and the speakers are DIY http://www.zaphaudio.com/ZRT.html and out comes the juice.

    I play my system more than ever because it is easy to mix music and access. I also listen to the digital internet radio (iTunes) from around the world. There are great stations of all interest and they are all free to the pubic.

    Sometimes it takes listening to the kids to keep advancing.... Anyone want to buy an old Rotel CD player?







    Polarflu
    Guest

    Re: DAC Advice

    Post by Polarflu on Sun Apr 24, 2011 1:53 am

    Hey JDM, how do you like those Revelator towers. I am planning to build those same speakers. Do you have any pictures of them posted? I wouldn't mind some cabinet ideas as this will be my first foray into DIY speakers.

    On the music server front, I have been using a mac setup for the last several years and more than happy with the results. Glad to hear you are enjoying your setup. I use my laptop as the front end but am planning to pickup a mini when I see one at the right price.

    j beede

    Posts : 317
    Join date : 2011-02-07
    Location : California

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by j beede on Sun Apr 24, 2011 2:08 am

    We are using an ipod touch 64GB wirelessly streaming ALAC files in real time to an Apple Airport Express. At the moment we are using the analog outputs of the AE straight into the Mark IIIs. No computer needed or wanted in this setup. No stand alone DAC, no preamp. Too much fun!

    jdm

    Posts : 45
    Join date : 2011-04-04

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by jdm on Sun Apr 24, 2011 2:30 am

    I am a woodworker and built the cabinets to the exact deminsions as the drawings. I used fiddleback maple face and 3/4 mahogany ply on the sides and back. Madisound will sell you the covered grills for a few $ and makes that part easy. I upgraded the crossover to fancy caps and inducers. They are not the perfect tube amp speakers at 87-88db. When I built them I was planning to drive them with my 40 lb SS AMP and tube Pre-amp. The ST-120 drives them to louder levels than I listen and I like the ST-120 sound better than the SS. The stepped attenuator is perfectly paired with the speakers and I turn it to no more than 1 o'clock. They are the nicest speakers I have ever owned.

    naturall_mystic

    Posts : 9
    Join date : 2011-04-14

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by naturall_mystic on Sun Apr 24, 2011 9:54 am

    Hi jdm, I liked your thread on the ST 120, thanks for taking the time to post it. I am a woodworker myself and will have a system similar to yours soon. I am finishing up a pair of fullrange speakers that utilize the MarkAudio Alpiar 10.2 drivers. Next either an ST120 or ST70 from Bob Latino.

    jbeede it could be your network setting causing the problem. I was having the same issues. Called Applecare and they guided me through changing my network setup and no more lost signal or pops and clicks. I was dumbfounded that it was just a configuration issue.

    polarflux

    Posts : 40
    Join date : 2010-02-12

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by polarflux on Sun Apr 24, 2011 12:45 pm

    I think Airport Expresses like to be close to the base station and are a bit susceptible to RF interference over longer distances. I've had various troubles syncing my Airport Extreme to my Airport Express which showed up as intermittent stutters dropouts. I connected the two via a network cable and the playback was noticeably smoother. When the Airport Express and the base station are close together wireless playback is fine. Although I have been having some other weird playback issues lately, but I don't think it has to do with the wireless connection.

    j beede

    Posts : 317
    Join date : 2011-02-07
    Location : California

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by j beede on Sun Apr 24, 2011 7:48 pm

    Well this is getting weirder and weirder now... The 64GB ipod touch streams perfectly to the airport express. It has run for hours with nary a snap, crackle or pop. Today we tried to use an older 8GB touch and it streams but with numerous dropouts and spitting sounds. We are using the same airport in both cases. Of course both touches are updated and running the latest OS. Now I am hesitant to buy a cheaper/older IPAD to use as a streaming "juke box". Of course there are no "new" ipads available. Neutral

    jdm

    Posts : 45
    Join date : 2011-04-04

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by jdm on Wed Apr 27, 2011 5:54 pm

    It looks like Amarra and Pure Music are the leading interface playback software. They use the librarian parts of iTunes, however they provide much better sonic results on the playback. Seems like the Apple mini is the preferred low noise hardware. This Mach 2 company has a product getting lots of attention.

    http://www.mach2music.com/index.html

    naturall_mystic

    Posts : 9
    Join date : 2011-04-14

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by naturall_mystic on Wed Apr 27, 2011 6:26 pm

    My report back on the DAC I bought on eBay is being delayed as I can't get it to power up. LOL ! Guess that says something. I am emailing back and forth with the chinese manufacturer because they didn't feel documentation was necessary. Anyway time will tell.

    baddog1946

    Posts : 304
    Join date : 2010-02-03
    Location : Costa Rica

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by baddog1946 on Thu Apr 28, 2011 11:12 am

    Hi
    JDM I like your well thought out ideas based on practical experience. nice!
    The real point proven by your thread is that a good digital setup is the wave of the present.
    I just put together a digital audio system using a dedicated Foxxcom low cost computer with an ESI Juli@ sound card then to a custom built DAC and on to my ST-120. Works incredibly good.
    I find the most problematic part of this digital thing is in the quality of the digital media available. You really have to watch what quality and format you choose some of it is BAAD!
    There are also a few mods I tried and work well for noise elimination and some good advice on these systems at the the following link: http://www.mother-of-tone.com/computer_audio.htm
    and http://www.altmann.haan.de/diy_audio_computer/default.htm
    Baddog1946




    Last edited by baddog1946 on Thu Apr 28, 2011 4:33 pm; edited 2 times in total

    frank

    Posts : 95
    Join date : 2011-02-14
    Location : Pacific Northwest

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by frank on Thu Apr 28, 2011 12:15 pm

    j beede wrote: The Apple Airport has an optical output and I would like to replace its internal DAC with an outboard unit. Are any of you doing this now? Can you suggest a DAC that I should consider for a "first try"? Do you have learnings to share to help me make a sensible decision on DAC?
    ...j

    I may be too late to the party here. Did you get your DAC?
    Beware the budget DAC. Google DAC + RFI.
    I got a well-reviewed inexpensive DAC only to find it doubles as a low powered radio transmitter. It transmits over a wide frequency range for maybe a block and a half in all directions. It does sound great though.

    'Frank

    mantha3

    Posts : 298
    Join date : 2010-11-10

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by mantha3 on Thu Apr 28, 2011 8:08 pm

    Nice outline of your system JDM. You are builing quite the system with the new AMP and speakers. Those speakers are jems. I was close to builing those and I went with a Classic 3 Way speaker design by Troels Gravsen. Troels has really nice designs with the same drivers you built your speakers on. Scanspeak is nice stuff. Spendy! The tweeter was really interesting. Post a photo of these bad boys.


    Polarflu
    I'd build the cabinets as JDM did. I built using maple. Many European designs use a hardwood mix like JDM or I did.. Or Baltic Birch is popular. Much debate on this topic.. Many would push MDF wood.

    I like this thread. I'm planning this in the not too distant future as well.. 1 or 2 Terrabite drive with non compressed tunes... I'm doing the ITunes as well. I also try the 50 music channels I get on my Cable TV service with Digital cable.. Pretty cool.. Digital high quality.

    Good thread, I'm taking notes.

    mantha3

    Posts : 298
    Join date : 2010-11-10

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by mantha3 on Thu Apr 28, 2011 8:09 pm

    BadDog1946,

    How much Watt/Channel does that ST-70 on Steriods put out? I saw that on the Mapletree Audio site.. That thing looks nuts! nice

    naturall_mystic

    Posts : 9
    Join date : 2011-04-14

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by naturall_mystic on Thu Apr 28, 2011 8:40 pm

    Well the DAC powered up ! It is rather funny. It came with no documentation. Every question answered I asked of the the seller began with "It's simple !". Which it was if you had the documentation. Finally I convinced the seller that it would be useful for both of us to just email me the documentation. It works great! Goodness the sound quality is remarkable. I have tried both USB and TOslink with no problem at all. Tomorrow I'll try the upsampling board that came with it. My files are all over 192K so I doubt it will provide a benefit but am curious to know. Now I need to find a box to put it in. It is harder than I thought to find a quality aluminum box the correct size. That may be another DIY project. Soooo Mac to DAC. Dac to Tube amp. Tube Amp to Fullrange MarkAudio speakers. I think I am in for a new and wonderful sound experience.

    j beede

    Posts : 317
    Join date : 2011-02-07
    Location : California

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by j beede on Thu Apr 28, 2011 9:48 pm

    We are still enjoying the "juke box" effect using the ipod touch streaming ALAC files to the Airport Express with analog output to the Mark IIIs. No Mac, no PC, no fan noise. Crazy levels of convenience and access to music! I am still trying to buy an ipad... no luck so far. I need to find a DAC so I can be certain that the optical output from the AExpress really works reliably. This is one cheap but effective digital streaming setup.
    ...j

    mantha3

    Posts : 298
    Join date : 2010-11-10

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by mantha3 on Fri Apr 29, 2011 9:26 am

    Natural Mystic,

    The e-bay link you provided does not work.. Is this what you have?:

    http://shop.ebay.com/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p5197.m570.l1313&_nkw=192+DAC+Kit&_sacat=See-All-Categories

    baddog1946

    Posts : 304
    Join date : 2010-02-03
    Location : Costa Rica

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by baddog1946 on Fri Apr 29, 2011 6:58 pm

    Mantha
    Good question. I'm trying to get some info on the board in that thing.
    Baddog1946

    naturall_mystic

    Posts : 9
    Join date : 2011-04-14

    Re: Late adopter... I need DAC advice

    Post by naturall_mystic on Sat Apr 30, 2011 9:38 am

    Sorry about the bum link. It worked when I posted it but the seller has closed his account for some reason. I am glad he stuck with me on getting the thing working, though the reason I couldn't get it working was because he gave me incorrect wiring information to begin with. We all make mistakes. Mantha3 that is not the same board. If I could figure out how to post pictures or a PDF I could simply post the documentation and a picture of it.

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