DAC to the Future

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Fretless
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DAC to the Future

Unread post by Fretless » Fri May 10, 2019 9:06 am

Rummaging around in a box of old computer bits, I came across the first outboard DAC that I ever had, dating from around 2005;
a Terratec Aureon 5.1 USB Mk II.

Basically a PC sound-card in a casing and USB-driven At the time I was just starting to play around with MP3's,audio files etc. and was looking for something that would give me a bit of extra flexibility and improved SQ, if possible. One of the handy features of this unit is that it came with Audacity, a useful sound-recording program, and has the ability to take analogue input and digitalise it. I did, quite successfully, copy LP's and cassettes into HD files using this. It has Toslink input and output as well. All in all it is very versatile.

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So I pulled it out and fired it up from my laptop. Hey, it still works! Plugging a pair of AQ Nighthawks in to try it - well the sound is certainly nice clear audio - but audiophile? Not really. Then I wondered if a Raspberry Pi could drive it. I have a few lying around unused now and so I got one of those running with Rune OS and hooked up the Terratec - The Pi found it immediately and music came out of the headphones. Yay! New possibilities.

My bedroom background music installation is just a CD player, amp and Cubes and could use a network player, so I plugged in the Pi & Aureon DAC there, ran an Ethernet cable from the nearest network switch and got it going. Not bad - a little muffled and compressed-sounding, but okay.
Then I remembered that there was a slightly better USB cable lying around and I put the USB through an AQ Jitterbug as well.
(Do the Jitterbug !!!) :dance:

That cleaned up the music quite remarkably. We are still not talking serious quality - but pleasantly listenable it is . And on the network so no more getting up the change CD's. Also volume can be adjusted remotely via the Pi web-interface (although using software-based volume adjustment does have a detrimental impact on sound quality, but well - its just BGM anyway).

Fun and games. It's got me thinking about the other DAC's I've loved and lost though ....
Main: NVA: P50sa - SSP - A40 - LS6 - Cube2
Pi: Allo DigiOne Signature/Volumio/Tomanek LPSU/Jitterbug
DAC: Metrum Acoustics Musette CD Transport: Cambridge CXC
Headphones: AQ NightHawk & NightOwl Amp: Schiit Magni-3
DAC: Cambridge DacMagic Plus + Sbooster LPSU

alfer
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Re: DAC to the Future

Unread post by alfer » Fri May 10, 2019 12:52 pm

I used to find a Maplins DAC provide pleasure and interest. Still have it so one rainy afternoon...

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Fretless
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Re: DAC to the Future

Unread post by Fretless » Fri May 10, 2019 2:12 pm

In the same Jurassic period as the Terratec we got the first pocket MP3 players - where capacity was measured in Mb. The first one of those I had was from Packard Bell, the Audio Key, which had a massive 256Mb in storage - enough for almost 4 whole CD's !!!!!! (at 126 Kbps). Wow!

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Revolutionary or what? But the SQ was crap and it could hardly drive the supplied, tinny earbuds. But it was a start.
So then a player from up-and-coming new firm Creative. Sort of USB-stick in a battery-holder thingy.

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Again poor-to-average SQ and a lack of power, but better than the Packard.
Next up - I had discovered that the sound quality of Ogg Vorbis was considerably better than MP3, so I wanted a player that would support that format. A Samsung arrived, The YP-U1 with a whole Gigabyte of storage - now we're talking.

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I actually used this with a pair of Grado SR325i for a while. The Grado's are gone but the player is stil kicking around somewhere and is occasionally used as a USB memory stick. Nice, solid little device. SQ wasn't at all bad either.

Having decided that file-based audio was the future, I wanted more: more SQ and more storage. There were players which actually had computer disc-drives built in and one of these was the Archos 204 which a belting great 30Gb hard-drive AND a colour screen! The march of technology was relentless. This wasn't a great player, very susceptible to physical movement and would regularly drop-out whist walking (don't even think about jogging)

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Unfortunately this got stolen, along with a large amount of other electronic toys, in a break-in. This was no great loss - the other stuff (wallet, computers, phones) was.

Did briefly try a Cowon M3 - a very strange player with a 20Gb disc-drive and a controller/screen on an umbilical cord. SQ was good but I didn't like the cumbersome way of using it. That went back to the shop - also because somebody ele had filled the drive with their (awful) music and it obviously wasn't new.

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Still looking for a player that would actually satisfy the inner audiophile I discovered Sandisk players and had several models. The Sansa, Sansa Fuze and the little Sansa Clip.

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The sandisk players were excellent all-rounders, could play just about any format and had good, solid SQ and could drive a reasonable pair of headphone. These units got a lot of use.

Then I began a short-lived flirtation with Apple. Life and technology were moving on and the old Apple IPod Classic was rumoured to be shortly phased-out, which meant that suddenly they were being sold off at dump prices. Well we all know this model - which had a massive 160 Gb in storage. BUT you had to use horrible ITunes to work with the things and Apple's own ALAC lossless format if you wanted reasonable SQ.

I got 2 players and used them around the house in various docking-stations, which became increasingly advanced and more HiFi. There were nice models afrom Cambridge and an awesome digital dock from Onkyo

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This dock ran digital output to a DAC and gave me my first, high-end, standalone, file-based source. Sound Quality was nothing short of superb and this unit paved the way for my next move up to network-based players. But I never really got to grips with the Apple way of life and I gave the whole set-up to a friend (who still uses it and is very contented).

My last stop on the pocket-player train is (for now) a Fiio X3 (first gen.) which is in daily use in the car.

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This is an awesome device. it has a solid headphone amp that will drive almost anything, there is an analogue line-out for an amp, Digital output and USB input which means it can also be put into use as a USB DAC with a computer. Amazing little unit with crystal-clear, high-quality sound. Love it.
Main: NVA: P50sa - SSP - A40 - LS6 - Cube2
Pi: Allo DigiOne Signature/Volumio/Tomanek LPSU/Jitterbug
DAC: Metrum Acoustics Musette CD Transport: Cambridge CXC
Headphones: AQ NightHawk & NightOwl Amp: Schiit Magni-3
DAC: Cambridge DacMagic Plus + Sbooster LPSU

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CN211276
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Re: DAC to the Future

Unread post by CN211276 » Fri May 10, 2019 5:33 pm

I bought an MP3 player in 2009, a Creative Zen. Got one with more capacity a year later and they were a big step up from the cumbersome Walkman I had. It was not until 2014 that I considered files/streaming for hifi. Dipped my toe in with the Audioquest Dragonfly Black and liked what I heard. Music from the PC sounded awful before. I have not looked back. Sold my CD players, ripped my CDs, moved from Spotify to Tidal and then Qobuz, upgrading DACs along the way. A smart phone playing hi- res took over from MP3 in 2015. During the process my interest in hifi came back after thirty years and I discovered NVA. :grin:
I set a course just east of Lyra
And northwest of Pegasus
Flew into the light of Deneb
Sailed across the Milky Way

Sonore microRendu/McRU PS, AQ J-bug, Wirewold Ultraviolet, Chord Mscaler/Qutest, Geitnote Apogee, NVA BMU, P90SA, A80sMk2, Phono 1, SSP Mk 2, TSCS, TIS mk2, Cube 1s, Atacama stands, Rega Planar 3, Denon DL-110, Grado SR 325e, headphones.

Second system
Chord Mojo (also HP amp), NVA P20, A20, Cubettes, SSC, LS3.

Out and about
Oppo PM3, Audioquest Dragonfly Red.

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Fretless
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Re: DAC to the Future

Unread post by Fretless » Thu May 16, 2019 11:26 am

Whilst getting to grips with computer audio processing I was also very involved with messing around with my fretless bass and slowly acquired a series of effects devices to muck about with: Loop/echo, synth, E-Bow. I wanted to try some recording and discovered a neat lttle USB unit from Roland which could do that, The Edirol UA25EX.

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Fun unit with inputs for 2 guitars/mics/whatever and a host of input/output possibilities. One drawback is that it isn't a standalone device and has to be hooked up via USB to a host computer in order to work.

This box has been lying around unused for a while and I was looking at the bedroom Pi player when I remembered it. If there is one problem that I regularly suffer from it is audiophilitis (or an obsessive desire to get any audio installation running to maximum possible SQ). So I tried putting the UA25EX in place of the Terratec DAC. It worked! Picked up the Pi as a host computer and slipped into DAC mode.

It that all? Well- no. This OCD Hifi nut wasn't done yet. Better cables? The Edirol has RCA output and I have, long ago, come by a pair of MIT interconnects with the huge signal-filter boxes (bigger than a Pi case) in the middle. These can sound very brght (NVA amps hate them) but I tried them here and got a very clear and detailed sound with no harshness. The old Sansui AU217 amp is very forgiving on cables and it takes a lot to disturb its generally sweet and restrained temperament. Hmm. Improvements.

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Next thought. The Pi player was the first HifiBerry Digi+ I assembled and so doesn't just have USB output, but also digital coax and Toslink sockets from the Digi+ board - AND the Edirol DAC has optical input. Toslink cable attached and the software switched in Volumio from USB output to the Hifiberry board.

Hey - that works as well! Slightly better than the USB connection in terms of clarity and definition. Are we there yet? Not quite. Still not entirely happy. The AudioQuest Jitterbug - is it still necessary as the DAC is now only pulling power from the Pi? Checked that and saw that the Jitterbug works on 3 separate areas: 1) cleans and filters noise in the USB audio signal, 2) filters unwanted noise from the USB power supply line, 3) quietens the power supply noise within the USB host device (the Pi board, here). So with options 2 & 3 still to be considered I left the JB in place.

Toslink cable - grabbed the first one I could find. Sometimes it's useful to have boxes of old hifi bits around - you never know what you'll be needing. But I do have a Profigold Oxypure OXYA5601 Toslink somewhere. Put that in place and the sound of this modest little installation just opened up and filled out to an impressive degree.

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These Interconnects from cheapo, mass-market cable company Profigold were a major find for me. For under 30 quid these optical links are the only ones that rival a good coax cable in terms of jitter and clarity. The OCC coax model from this line, OXYA4801, is quite simply the best digital interlink I have heard at any price (and it's also under 30 GBP at Amazon). Because these cables aren't from an expensive esoteric audio company they have absolutely NO credibility in snobby HiFi circles - they just do the job and sound amazing.

Here on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Profigold-Perf ... 2403268031
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Profigold-Perf ... B004VS9S7I

So I have assembled a thoroughly enjoyable little Cube(tte)-based Network stereo in the bedroom. Constructed entirely from stuff that I had stashed away and lying about.
Now that's what I call music! :banana-wrench: :banana-guitar: :banana-dreads: :banana-guitar: :banana-wrench:
Main: NVA: P50sa - SSP - A40 - LS6 - Cube2
Pi: Allo DigiOne Signature/Volumio/Tomanek LPSU/Jitterbug
DAC: Metrum Acoustics Musette CD Transport: Cambridge CXC
Headphones: AQ NightHawk & NightOwl Amp: Schiit Magni-3
DAC: Cambridge DacMagic Plus + Sbooster LPSU

jimbob
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Re: DAC to the Future

Unread post by jimbob » Thu May 16, 2019 1:50 pm

Thanks for the heads up with the cables, I’m in the market for some at the moment.
Squeezebox Touch - Colin Wonfor mini pre - EWA M50 Power Amp - NVA Cube 2 mk1 - SSC - LS3

NVA P90sa - NVA A60 MK1 - DIY Cubettes - SSC - LS2


DIY concrete open baffles in progress

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CN211276
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Re: DAC to the Future

Unread post by CN211276 » Thu May 16, 2019 5:12 pm

On the subject of cables I bought these for my Mscaler following sensible price user recommendations.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/1-5-ft-Purpl ... 2749.l2649

They are a worthwhile improvement over the ones supplied by Chord.
This is a silly price alternative which is being shilled a lot, including by an arse on Facebook.

https://www.wavehighfidelity.com/storm- ... -bnc-cable

A huge amount is being made of the RF issue in the shilling. I had my doubts about this, all the more so as the hifi is situated a good way from the router. Nevertheless I decided to give these a try.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/10Pcs-Ring-C ... 2749.l2649

I was quite surprised by the difference they have made. The upper frequencies are a lot smoother and I no longer need to activate the warm filter. Clearly my Mscaler is picking up RF from the cable. I have another set on order and will see if this brings additional benefits.
They might not be as pretty as Wave Storm, but do the same job. :grin:
I set a course just east of Lyra
And northwest of Pegasus
Flew into the light of Deneb
Sailed across the Milky Way

Sonore microRendu/McRU PS, AQ J-bug, Wirewold Ultraviolet, Chord Mscaler/Qutest, Geitnote Apogee, NVA BMU, P90SA, A80sMk2, Phono 1, SSP Mk 2, TSCS, TIS mk2, Cube 1s, Atacama stands, Rega Planar 3, Denon DL-110, Grado SR 325e, headphones.

Second system
Chord Mojo (also HP amp), NVA P20, A20, Cubettes, SSC, LS3.

Out and about
Oppo PM3, Audioquest Dragonfly Red.

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Fretless
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Re: DAC to the Future

Unread post by Fretless » Thu May 16, 2019 5:29 pm

Wave High Fidelity :

Special introductory discount price of £1,410. Usual price per 1m pair of cables is £1,650.00

Are these people serious?
Main: NVA: P50sa - SSP - A40 - LS6 - Cube2
Pi: Allo DigiOne Signature/Volumio/Tomanek LPSU/Jitterbug
DAC: Metrum Acoustics Musette CD Transport: Cambridge CXC
Headphones: AQ NightHawk & NightOwl Amp: Schiit Magni-3
DAC: Cambridge DacMagic Plus + Sbooster LPSU

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CN211276
Posts: 2359
Joined: Tue Aug 09, 2016 9:29 am
Location: Cardiff
Wales

Re: DAC to the Future

Unread post by CN211276 » Thu May 16, 2019 6:56 pm

Fretless wrote:
Thu May 16, 2019 5:29 pm
Wave High Fidelity :

Special introductory discount price of £1,410. Usual price per 1m pair of cables is £1,650.00

Are these people serious?
The shill has posted a lengthy pdf review on Facebook extolling the virtues of the cable. Im thinking of posting the ferrite ring link after it and having a bit of fun. :lol:
I set a course just east of Lyra
And northwest of Pegasus
Flew into the light of Deneb
Sailed across the Milky Way

Sonore microRendu/McRU PS, AQ J-bug, Wirewold Ultraviolet, Chord Mscaler/Qutest, Geitnote Apogee, NVA BMU, P90SA, A80sMk2, Phono 1, SSP Mk 2, TSCS, TIS mk2, Cube 1s, Atacama stands, Rega Planar 3, Denon DL-110, Grado SR 325e, headphones.

Second system
Chord Mojo (also HP amp), NVA P20, A20, Cubettes, SSC, LS3.

Out and about
Oppo PM3, Audioquest Dragonfly Red.

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Classicrock
Posts: 2146
Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2013 12:51 pm
Location: Bristol
Great Britain

Re: DAC to the Future

Unread post by Classicrock » Fri May 17, 2019 11:21 am

I discovered ferrite rings over 20 years ago - checked a couple TDK brand at a show to try. I find them best on mains cables for digital. Too many can make the sound overly smooth and dull. DSJR has been recommending them for years.

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