Advice on a D to A converter

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terra_incognita
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Advice on a D to A converter

Post by terra_incognita » Thu Jun 09, 2011 4:47 pm

{Being new to the Forum, I may have posted this in the wrong place - if so let me know.}

I’m building a PC (Windows 7) for my MM library and need to decide on a good solution for D to A conversion. I know there are some good sound cards, but I like the additional noise isolation a USB D/A would provide. I’m considering three units: HRT Music Streamer II +, Audinst HUD-MX1, and the Emotiva XDA-1 Converter/Preamp, but would listen to other suggestions in the $250 - $350 range

What I would appreciate advice on, is the “compatibility” of the D/A with MM, as well as sound quality.

I need to play MP3 (all standard bit rates and VBR), AAC, OGG, WMA, FLAC, WAV, and CDA. I'm having trouble finding info on what the data from MM looks like (via USB), so I’m not sure how to spec the D/A. A suggestion on where to go for these audio standards would help me to self-educate.

Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Peke
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Re: Advice on a D to A converter

Post by Peke » Fri Jun 10, 2011 9:30 pm

I would Rather See what you can buy for that price that is not USB but Internal PCI-E as they have better grounding and isolation.
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terra_incognita
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Re: Advice on a D to A converter

Post by terra_incognita » Sat Jun 11, 2011 8:16 pm

I'm not sure how a card solution can be better isolated than USB; it's inside the PC case, surrounded by all the digital noise. Wouldn't a separate box be inherently better?

mcow
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Re: Advice on a D to A converter

Post by mcow » Wed Jun 29, 2011 11:55 am

I have a standalone audiophile DAC that takes S/PDIF, and I was feeding it with a USB=>S/PDIF box that had excellent specs and resulted in excellent sound (the Hagerman HagUSB). But I had to change that out because the USB signal level kept dropping in response to power events: the refrigerator in the next room would kick in and suddenly the DAC's circuit-protection relays would click and the sound would hiccup. The rest of the computer system never batted an eye: no noise on the screen, no other problems at all. It was driving me nuts. I never figured out exactly what the problem was but I became convinced that USB is just too fragile for a hi-fi audio output from a general-purpose computer. It adds too much software into the loop and, in my case at least, proved to be too susceptible to minor electrical noise.

Instead, I'm outputting to my mobo's Realtek and using the Realtek's digital output for S/PDIF into the DAC. This isn't flawless; I still get occasional short dropouts in the sound, but not enough to cause the DAC's relays to click, and much much less frequently than the problems I had before. I can't hear any difference between the Realtek and the HagUSB (which, per the manufacturer, has extremely low jitter).

I'm also using the Kernel Streaming plugin to handle the output. My DAC decodes HDCD and my FLACs of HDCD source material are detected as HDCD, which means I'm getting bit-perfect output.

Maybe if you had a small dedicated computer in the hi-fi that only ran a player, a disk, and a network connection, then USB would be OK. If I were searching for a DAC with more than S/PDIF, I'd be looking for one that takes IP (internet), i.e. DLNA; preferably wired ethernet. I suppose you could let it take WiFi but, in my environment, WiFi is too spotty.

(PM me if you'd like to buy my HagUSB.)

MusicBringer
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Re: Advice on a D to A converter

Post by MusicBringer » Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:20 pm

mcow wrote:I have a standalone audiophile DAC that takes S/PDIF, and I was feeding it with a USB=>S/PDIF box that had excellent specs and resulted in excellent sound (the Hagerman HagUSB). But I had to change that out because the USB signal level kept dropping in response to power events: the refrigerator in the next room would kick in and suddenly the DAC's circuit-protection relays would click and the sound would hiccup.
Hello mcow, I have seen your helpful posts before and hope I can offer you a suggestion.
I know you are over there in the US and I am here in London but this is how I overcome the fridge/freezer problem.
I got one of these:
Radio Frequency Interference Filter
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B000 ... BTHM9FGMW0
I am sure you can find something similar where you live.
Hope that helps.
MediaMonkey user since 2006

mcow
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Re: Advice on a D to A converter

Post by mcow » Wed Jun 29, 2011 11:39 pm

MusicBringer wrote:Hello mcow, I have seen your helpful posts before and hope I can offer you a suggestion.
I know you are over there in the US and I am here in London but this is how I overcome the fridge/freezer problem.
I got one of these:
Radio Frequency Interference Filter
Thanks for the tip, but I'm really not experiencing problems any longer. I do have occasional brief dropouts, but they happen so infrequently that I can't say what's causing it; could be some event in the power line, could be a momentary CPU choke on the computer. When I still used the USB device, I was getting more severe dropouts several times an hour, and the cause was obvious.

windcrest77
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Re: Advice on a D to A converter

Post by windcrest77 » Tue Dec 27, 2011 12:40 am

External USB D/A converters are fantastic, sound great. There are many devices available in that price range. USB takes the raw data off the bus with no processing for the most pristine sound then converts it to analog or transcoses it to s-pdif. I like the HRT Music Streamer II to go direct to analog at a low price:

http://www.amazon.com/HRT-Music-Streame ... B0038O4UFQ

For a little more money the Musical Fidelidy USB to analog DAC MkII is excellent (the first version got rave reviews and the Mk II blows away the first one):

http://www.amazon.com/Musical-Fidelity- ... =pd_cp_e_2

Or the Musical Fidelity V-Link to go to S-PDIF (if you would prefer to do the D/A conversion in your stereo instead)

http://www.amazon.com/Musical-Fidelity- ... 20&sr=1-20


Since USB DAC's came out I hope to never see a sound card again for music purposes, they are that good, internal sound cards can add all kinds of distortion and usually have poor D/A converters.

Otello
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Re: Advice on a D to A converter

Post by Otello » Tue Dec 27, 2011 8:30 am

terra_incognita wrote:

What I would appreciate advice on, is the “compatibility” of the D/A with MM, as well as sound quality.

I need to play MP3 (all standard bit rates and VBR), AAC, OGG, WMA, FLAC, WAV, and CDA. I'm having trouble finding info on what the data from MM looks like (via USB), so I’m not sure how to spec the D/A. A suggestion on where to go for these audio standards would help me to self-educate.


Just to clarifie:

- DACs work with PCM, Period. File formats (Flac, Wave, etc.) are converted by the music player (MM) with its input plugins.
- A DAC with USB input, actually is a DAC with an on-board USB>SPDIF sound card.

By the way, I agree about the HRT beeing one of the best solutions in its price range.

jmsmrtn98
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Re: Advice on a D to A converter

Post by jmsmrtn98 » Sun Jan 15, 2012 7:20 am

The Edirol UA-25 is a very good converter.
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windcrest77
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Re: Advice on a D to A converter

Post by windcrest77 » Sun Jan 22, 2012 5:30 pm

Otello wrote:
terra_incognita wrote:

What I would appreciate advice on, is the “compatibility” of the D/A with MM, as well as sound quality.

I need to play MP3 (all standard bit rates and VBR), AAC, OGG, WMA, FLAC, WAV, and CDA. I'm having trouble finding info on what the data from MM looks like (via USB), so I’m not sure how to spec the D/A. A suggestion on where to go for these audio standards would help me to self-educate.


Just to clarifie:

- DACs work with PCM, Period. File formats (Flac, Wave, etc.) are converted by the music player (MM) with its input plugins.
- A DAC with USB input, actually is a DAC with an on-board USB>SPDIF sound card.

By the way, I agree about the HRT beeing one of the best solutions in its price range.



I agree but the best outboard USB DAC's have their own asynchronous clock and buffer that eliminates all the jitter that typically occurs with a sound card constantly getting interrups because it is hooked to the general-purpose computer bus.

If you can find a DAC with its own asynch clock you can make the D/A conversion process immune from anything that maye be happening on your busy computer data bus, as long as the computer can keep the buffer in the DAC full. Remember a computer bus is doing a lot more than dedicating itself to your music stream, its moving data for the hard drives, monitor, your flash drives, polling interuppts, etc. The idea of an external DAC with its own clock is to be immune from all that too.

Otello
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Re: Advice on a D to A converter

Post by Otello » Mon Jan 23, 2012 9:58 am

windcrest77 wrote:
Otello wrote:
terra_incognita wrote:

What I would appreciate advice on, is the “compatibility” of the D/A with MM, as well as sound quality.

I need to play MP3 (all standard bit rates and VBR), AAC, OGG, WMA, FLAC, WAV, and CDA. I'm having trouble finding info on what the data from MM looks like (via USB), so I’m not sure how to spec the D/A. A suggestion on where to go for these audio standards would help me to self-educate.


Just to clarifie:

- DACs work with PCM, Period. File formats (Flac, Wave, etc.) are converted by the music player (MM) with its input plugins.
- A DAC with USB input, actually is a DAC with an on-board USB>SPDIF sound card.

By the way, I agree about the HRT beeing one of the best solutions in its price range.



I agree but the best outboard USB DAC's have their own asynchronous clock and buffer that eliminates all the jitter that typically occurs with a sound card constantly getting interrups because it is hooked to the general-purpose computer bus.

If you can find a DAC with its own asynch clock you can make the D/A conversion process immune from anything that maye be happening on your busy computer data bus, as long as the computer can keep the buffer in the DAC full. Remember a computer bus is doing a lot more than dedicating itself to your music stream, its moving data for the hard drives, monitor, your flash drives, polling interuppts, etc. The idea of an external DAC with its own clock is to be immune from all that too.


Yes, I agree 99%, but I cant see any relation with my msg. you quoted. ;)

1% is: there's no completely jitter free clock.
for the record, I use an Apogee Big Ben master clock & reclocker between sound card and DAC; the difference with and without (with a hi-end system) is day and night, even if my DAC (Apogee Rosetta) has its own input buffer and local clock.
Big Ben is one of the best reclockers money can buy, but if you want to pay BIG money, MSB DAC with the optional clock module is even better...

gturner
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Re: Advice on a D to A converter

Post by gturner » Tue Jan 24, 2012 7:17 pm

I've got the NAD DAC 1 and I'm surprised how good it sounds. It comes in two parts, one part is a USB dongle that you attach to your computer and the other end is a small box you plug into your stereo. There's no setup, it just works. I've got one beef with it though. Once you turn it on, it may interfere with your wifi network's operation. Twice, I was unable to use "Remote" with iTunes until I unplugged the NAD DAC 1's USB dongle. I'm not sure how stable "Remote" is so I can't say for sure but it's something I thought I should mention.

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