Audiophiles around here? Who is using a DAC?

drmike

100% Tier-1 Gogent
I've been cobbling an audio project for a while.  

Some hardcore audio nuts out there with expensive audio suites and racks of sound adjustment gear. I am not one,  yet.

Been banging my head for a while over the audio rendering from onboard audio cards in most stuff (i.e. portables, droids, icrapples, ARM devices, etc.).... The fidelity of such, tends to be horrendous and dimensionally blah. 

Not like I run fancy stuff, but it's painful to listen to moreso with each passing year. Plus all the compression hell.

This lead me to discovering DACs which are for my use, mainly, USB tethered audio cards with upscaling.  They range from Chinese < $20 blah versions to $10k DACs.   Bunches of them in the hundreds of dollars area.

My question for you lads, folks around here using DACs... What DACs have been good and which blah for you?  I am interested in test driving some.
 

dcdan

New Member
Verified Provider
Behringer generally makes crap, except for one thing: their UCA202 interfaces are great and cheap. I have 4 of these in active use.
 

drmike

100% Tier-1 Gogent
Behringer generally makes crap, except for one thing: their UCA202 interfaces are great and cheap. I have 4 of these in active use.
People seem to love / hate Behringer.  Long lived and somewhat confusing product line / numbering schema.

I have a Behringer rack compressor / limiter / de-esser for shaping the final stage of the audio. The DAC [whichever I end up with] will go into the MDX unit I have.  It's just post processing cleanup [keep audio at level, knock off SSSSSing, clean up pops] compress it to fit in the proper range.

The UCA202 confuses me.   I saw Windows promotion points and no mention of a DAC.   Strikes me as digital patch in solution.   No DAC in that right?
 

dcdan

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My main complaint about Behringer is their generally very poor snr. Their equipment looks good, has all the best and whistles, but the actual audio quality reminds me of those integrated sound cards back in the early 2000's.

UCA202 is actually a DAC+ADC (although I have doubts about its ADC quality). I have just realized you are probably referring to a different type of DAC :)
 

drmike

100% Tier-1 Gogent
UCA202 is actually a DAC+ADC (although I have doubts about its ADC quality). I have just realized you are probably referring to a different type of DAC :)
I totally haven't seen the UCA202 mentioned as a DAC.  Interesting. 

We are talking about the same thing I do believe.

Does the UCA202 plug in and get detected as an audio playback able device (i.e. a soundcard)?

The straight DACs plug in via USB and really are similar process as a cheap USB soundcard.   Able to playback, record from (if support on DAC for such), etc.

The UCA202 isn't a back pipe in method if I was doing live content recording and needed to get such into computer for editing and all.   --- Wondering how much Linux support there is for it - if at all.
 

dcdan

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Yes it does detect as a soundcard (plugs in via USB) and Windows has stock drivers for it. Never tried on Linux, but I know someone who used it on Linux with no issues.
 

drmike

100% Tier-1 Gogent
@dcdan that UCA202 and the low latency UCA222 look alright for import side of things - if I don't go with a similar feature set in a USB mixer.

Hard to find much issue with their $32~ price point....  This peaked my interest :)
 

JahAGR

New Member
Careful with the USB mixers, especially the cheap ones like Behringer. Sound quality is no better than the average on-motherboard sound chip and the flexibility is minimal. That being said, I have one and it's handy when I need to do some quick recording and don't feel like setting up anything more proper

From what I've heard the UCA202/222 are pretty highly rated, especially at the price point. The only thing they really lack is balanced I/O which is probably not very important in a home setting
 
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drmike

100% Tier-1 Gogent
I have a Topping TP30 USB amplifier for my system that uses a Burr Brown PCM2704 DAC.
Tell me more.  I am unfamiliar with the Topping brand, but recognize the PCM2704.

How is the TP30 and what are you using it for? Does it couple to headphones, RCA jacks, other stuff without too much Ohm madness (seems to be issues with matching stuff and uncommon ranges on some of these DAC products aimed at high end studio headphones and such).
 

dave

Member
The Topping brand is Chinese, but I understand they use good quality components.  The amp is usually around $100.

It's popular because it uses a Tripath chip for the amp (class T), which is supposed to have smooth tube-like qualities, and also uses little power.

I'm using it as an amp for my computer.  It connects to my computer with a USB cable, and then I connect some speakers to the amp.  So I don't have to use the usual powered computer speakers.  It's also got a 3.5mm headphone jack on the front.

There is also an AUX input (RCA), though so far I don't really use it.  I haven't had any problems matching it to the speakers.  I'm using wall-mounted Polk Audio OWM3 speakers, mounted to the sides of a 32" monitor.

I'm happy with it, but my only complaint is the volume pot has gotten a little noisy/scratchy over time as they sometimes do.  Moving it back and forth a bit will clear it up for awhile.
 

blergh

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Verified Provider
A dac is a dac is a dac, more or less. Lots of humbug about different chips "sounding" different and people with golden hearing being able to tell them apart. Common sense is not usually applied, or  science (unless it slightly points to their advantage).

What is your intended usage?
 

pcan

New Member
My favorite cheap chinese USB DAC is the Fiio E10, and I will soon buy the newly released E10K. It is not the best DAC on the market, but:
- the price/quality ratio is optimal,
- it is small and portable, easy to connect to any computer,
- Amazon will deliver it in a few days (unlike some cheaper China exports with similar specifications).

The DAC chip is 24bit/96 KHz, and the headphone output is good enough to drive almost any Hi-Fi headset.

I used to have a high-end stereo system, but on my current home I haven't the required dedicated room anymore, so I sold it; now I mainly use the headphones or a pair of bookshelf speakers (plus subwoofer) connected to a small tube amp I built a few years ago.
 

drmike

100% Tier-1 Gogent
A dac is a dac is a dac, more or less. Lots of humbug about different chips "sounding" different and people with golden hearing being able to tell them apart. Common sense is not usually applied, or  science (unless it slightly points to their advantage).

What is your intended usage?
:) Good ole @blergh .

There is lots of "martketing" with lots of overpriced DACs.  Chin-import stuff likewise is potluck.  But yeah, I agree with your sentiments mostly.

Goal is to get clean audio rendered for ears and shaped accordingly (that's post processing after the DAC).   Those ears are my own for now. 

It's just part of a simple Linux audio hacked suite. Audacity, JACK and mplayer mostly.  Nothing really complicated or musician level.

Working on voice recordings for now.   Cleaning up pre-recorded stuff.  Yanking source materials off of various media and getting them digitized, archived on DVDs and a general breakdown that still renders/plays well even with compression [saving original recording uncompressed].
 

blergh

New Member
Verified Provider
:) Good ole @blergh .

There is lots of "martketing" with lots of overpriced DACs.  Chin-import stuff likewise is potluck.  But yeah, I agree with your sentiments mostly.

Goal is to get clean audio rendered for ears and shaped accordingly (that's post processing after the DAC).   Those ears are my own for now. 

It's just part of a simple Linux audio hacked suite. Audacity, JACK and mplayer mostly.  Nothing really complicated or musician level.

Working on voice recordings for now.   Cleaning up pre-recorded stuff.  Yanking source materials off of various media and getting them digitized, archived on DVDs and a general breakdown that still renders/plays well even with compression [saving original recording uncompressed].
Sounds like you could use more or less anything ranging from cheapo fiio/firestone and up.
 

drmike

100% Tier-1 Gogent
@blergh  The FIIO's look interesting.  Heck of a price (low).

@pcan ...

"I mainly use the headphones or a pair of bookshelf speakers (plus subwoofer) connected to a small tube amp I built a few years ago."

So, for someone getting started in this area - without the tube amp and without a proper speaker setup, what might you recommend [new or used].   Headphones are nice, but I can't deal with them much - prefer to work with a speaker setup [bookshelf speakers sound my speed].

All the input is appreciated!
 

pcan

New Member
Bower & Wilkins 685 (2 way loudspeakers) powered by the T-Amp are a small and cheap speaker system I put togheter a while ago for a second home and still enjoy. The B&W 685 have been recently rewamped and rebranded 685 S2. At $700/pair at Best Buy (about the same price level in Europe) they produce a clean and neutral sound, very nice and with decent low frequency emission despite the small size. I would avoid going cheaper than that.

The T-Amp (or most tripath clones) is a "toy amplifier" but still impressive. It does not have enough power to drive the 685 at full level, so you should avoid to turn the volume too high because the clipping distortion could damage the tweeters. I tried the 685 with a more powerful but still cheap NAD 741 integrated amplifier for a while, and the sound was better. A good higher-level matching for the B&W is the Rotel product range. I briefly heard the RA-12 and it sounded good; it also has a built-in WM8740 24 bit/192kHz DAC. The price is completely different, of course.

I am now experimenting with the Hi-FiBerry AMP (I am a beta tester) connected to the B&W 685. This is a cheap full digital audio system; the Raspberry Pi is streaming audio trough the LAN, sending the data digitally trough i2s bus to a special DAC with internal class-T digital amplifier. Results are good, altough power is still limited (about 20+20w in the best possible conditions).
 
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