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MQA DAC Preamplifier with HT Bypass


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I am considering the purchase of a new DAC, my key requirements being:

  • It supports MQA
  • It has a preamplifier built in with Home Theatre (HT) Bypass (supporting balanced XLR inputs from an AV preprocessor)
  • The sound quality should be a substantial upgrade over my Marantz AV8802A AV preprocessor
  • Not essential, but it ideally should have network streaming built in, with the primary objective to stream Tidal

 

I’m finding it surprisingly difficult to find units that tick all the above boxes. Specifically very few DACs have HT Bypass. I’d like to connect the DAC directly to my amplifier to bypass my AV system (but have the AV system connected to the same amplifier via HT Bypass).

 

I could connect the DAC to the Marantz 8802A in pure direct mode but I understand that the Marantz will still do an A to D and D to A conversion for the volume control, which would restrict the performance of the DAC. Correct me if I’m wrong here.

 

So the two candidates I’ve seen so far are:

  • Simaudio Moon 890
  • Mytek Manhattan II

 

Has anyone had experience with the above DAC/preamps? Any other DACs to consider? Really at the start of my investigations so look forward to hearing any thoughts or recommendations based on the above mentioned intentions.

 

My gear is B&W 804D3, Simaudio Moon 860A, Marantz AV8802A, Rel S/3 SHO subwoofer connected via high level inputs, streaming via Audirvana via UPnP or the Tidal app on iOS.

 

Thanks in advance :)

Edited by Ed Sky
clarified requirements
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I have the upgraded Moon Neo Ace which now supports MQA and Roon Ready. Love it and the 890 can only be better. If funds permit down the track I’ll go 890 and separate power amp. 

 

I have the 7702mkII in my ht room which is supposedly superior sonically to the 8802. The 7702 is WAY meatier and warmer sounding than the Moon, powered by an Electra amp which is quite neutral, it is definitely the Marantz creating the sound signature. I never use my ht system for 2 ch

Edited by blybo
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48 minutes ago, Sime V2 said:

Hmmm, Brooklyn’s ………………………make sure you hear one first. 

Of course...... can’t beat a home demo if possible.

Mytek are pretty good value imo, amazing how they can pack so many features in that little box! 

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15 hours ago, blybo said:

I have the upgraded Moon Neo Ace which now supports MQA and Roon Ready. Love it and the 890 can only be better. If funds permit down the track I’ll go 890 and separate power amp. 

 

I have the 7702mkII in my ht room which is supposedly superior sonically to the 8802. The 7702 is WAY meatier and warmer sounding than the Moon, powered by an Electra amp which is quite neutral, it is definitely the Marantz creating the sound signature. I never use my ht system for 2 ch

@blybo so interesting to read your feedback around Marantz vs Moon sound. Glad you are enjoying your Moon Neo Ace, which is an encouraging endorsement for the 890. It is a pricey unit and I'm treading very cautiously because of this.

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12 hours ago, Conch said:

Hey Ed,  you might want to keep an eye out for the soon to be released Mytek Brooklyn Bridge.

https://mytekdigital.com/hifi/products/brooklyn-bridge/

I think it has all the features your after?

cheers 

Liam

@Conch unfortunately the Brooklyn Bridge doesn't support Home Theatre Bypass (well at least not with balanced input) which would be an absolute requirement for me so that I can run this in parallel with my AV setup. I did have a look at the link you provided and it does look like it'll be a hot product.

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11 hours ago, Snoopy8 said:

2 potential candidates are the NAD M12 with BluOS module and PS Audio DS with Bridge option...

@Snoopy8 I hadn't seen the NAD M12 in my research yet... it looks like a very good candidate! I'll investigate further. The price is also a bit friendlier on the wallet :)

 

Have you had any experience with this NAM M12 sound quality wise? I'd be curious how it competes with the PS Audio DS, Mytek Manhattan II, Moon 890 etc. Definitely I'll check out reviews.

 

With regard to the PS Audio DS, I wish this was an option but from what I see it doesn't have Home Theatre Bypass.

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43 minutes ago, Ed Sky said:

Have you had any experience with this NAM M12 sound quality wise? I'd be curious how it competes with the PS Audio DS, Mytek Manhattan II, Moon 890 etc. Definitely I'll check out reviews.

Compared with my Gieseler Gross DAC, the PSA DS was disappointing given how many here rave about it.  At its price point, and with all those fantastic reviews, I was perhaps expecting too much.  

 

No experience with the Mytek nor Moon,  both rated well.  I did research the Mytek Brooklyn at its peak hype, with prices stubbornly at or near RRP!  :sad: 

 

Have not heard the M12, was beyond budget, also into valve preamp.  However, I can provide some thoughts based on my NAD T758V3 AVR.  For 2 channel music, it loses out to my dedicated setup.  But if I only had the T758V3, I could live with it.  Dirac Live (and get full license) makes a big difference.  BluOS was a pleasant surprise, easy to setup and use and recommended.  The M12 will have a better DAC chip and much much better analog circuitry, output stages, inputs.  

53 minutes ago, Ed Sky said:

With regard to the PS Audio DS, I wish this was an option but from what I see it doesn't have Home Theatre Bypass.

Not having a HT bypass should not be a show stopper; just note the volume setting when using it with HT.

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23 minutes ago, Snoopy8 said:

Not having a HT bypass should not be a show stopper; just note the volume setting when using it with HT.

Perhaps I am missing something, but without HT bypass (and corresponding XLR analog inputs) how would I connect the AV system through to my amplifier in parallel? From what I can see the PSA DS doesn't have analogue XLR inputs. I would see the chain of components as follows: AV Pre/pro --> New DAC Prepamp --> Amplifier --> Speakers but don't think the PSA DS would allow me to do so. Unless there is another way to connect this up.

 

Thanks @Snoopy8 for your description of the NAD in comparison to the other DACS.

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I dunno really how HT Bypass works, but in the manual for my Brooklyn plus it has a toggle on/of for theater bypass. 

The bridge is identical to the plus, just with streaming capabilities. 

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33 minutes ago, Ed Sky said:

Perhaps I am missing something, but without HT bypass (and corresponding XLR analog inputs) how would I connect the AV system through to my amplifier in parallel? From what I can see the PSA DS doesn't have analogue XLR inputs. I would see the chain of components as follows: AV Pre/pro --> New DAC Prepamp --> Amplifier --> Speakers but don't think the PSA DS would allow me to do so. Unless there is another way to connect this up.

My comment applies to HT bypass in general. It is easy to do a workaround without HT bypass.

 

I did not know about your XLR analog input requirements, so will leave it to you..  

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26 minutes ago, Sime V2 said:

I dunno really how HT Bypass works, but in the manual for my Brooklyn plus it has a toggle on/of for theater bypass. 

The bridge is identical to the plus, just with streaming capabilities. 

HT bypass is used to allow the concurrent use of home theatre and dedicated music stereo system at the same time. The rationale for this is that many people don't have the space / budget for separate speakers and amplifiers for home theatre versus music use. With HT bypass your home theatre AV unit send the pre output of the front stereo speaker to the input of a stereo preamplifier. With HT bypass activated the preamplifier sends the signal directly to the stereo amplifier without any volume control adjustment. So effectively when watching home theatre the preamplifier is invisible, just feeding the signal to your amplifier. But when playing music, the preamplifier is used solely to drive the amplifier and ignores the AV components.

 

The rationale for all of this is that a stereo preamplifier (with DAC) should provide much better performance for stereo than an AV processor.

 

So to clarify, a setup like this can run in two modes:

Home Theatre: AV Processor --> Preamplifier (via HT bypass) --> Amplifier --> Speakers

Stereo: DAC --> Preamplifier --> Amplifier --> Speakers

 

(In my case I'm looking for a combination DAC / Preamplifier to save space and cost.)

 

@Sime V2 have you tried to plug your DACs directly to the amplifier, bypassing your Marantz 8805 (assuming they have volume control)? In theory the Marantz is doing an analogue to digital and digital to analogue conversion of your DAC even in pure direct mode, so may be limiting the performance of your DAC.

 

With regard to the Brooklyn, thanks for checking out the manual to see that it has a toggle switch for theatre bypass. This would probably do the trick, but I don't think it has balanced XLR inputs so it would compromise the quality of the AV input from the Marantz a bit.

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2 minutes ago, Ed Sky said:

have you tried to plug your DACs directly to the amplifier, bypassing your Marantz 8805 (assuming they have volume control)? In theory the Marantz is doing an analogue to digital and digital to analogue conversion of your DAC even in pure direct mode, so may be limiting the performance of your DAC.

I think you have asked me this before but I forgot to reply. 

I need to use the 8805 as a pre because it handles bass management, my room has a rather large bass bump when the 805’s run full range, so running my 805’s at an 80hz cut off solves the problem. And I prefer sub bass over the typical sound of full range speakers bass anyway. 

In regards to what the 8805 does to the analog sound once it goes into it is not important to me, why you ask? 

I regard any dac as a source, as we all do, so the better the source, the better the output, regardless of whether it’s converted in the 8805 or not. I’ve gone from a 2qute-Qutest-Qutest/M Scaler and a Brooklyn plus, all 4 have had vastly different results, and for the better as the tech improved. 

But you are correct, sure I might not be getting the full benefits of my 2 DAC’s, but I’m getting a benefit in my current configuration. One reason I’ve kept the Brooklyn is because it’s a great way to show the benefits of the m Scaler, if you A/B/C it (Brooklyn direct from source/Brooklyn in bypass mode through the Scaler/Brooklyn being upsampled to 384 by the Scaler) there’s a massive difference being heard, and it more obvious through it than the Qutest, and easier to quickly AB also, but the Scaler/Qutest at 1m taps is king. 

But the point is, even if the 8805 is doing its own conversion, the difference at the source level is noticeable enough to make the system as a full unit, substantially better. 

The M-Scaler in combination with the 8805, both being rather new in the system, has completely changed the way my system sounds. So much so I’ve done more long periods of music listening lately than I ever have before. 

So it’s not simply the case of getting the best performance from any dac, but the dac getting better performance for the system as a whole ?

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50 minutes ago, Ed Sky said:

 

@Sime V2 have you tried to plug your DACs directly to the amplifier, bypassing your Marantz 8805 (assuming they have volume control)? In theory the Marantz is doing an analogue to digital and digital to analogue conversion of your DAC even in pure direct mode, so may be limiting the performance of your DAC.

I know the question was for Sime, but I did run my DAC directly to my active speakers for many months.  Adding a hybrid tube preamp changed a detailed, clean but clinical sound to more warmth, more bass without losing the detail.  I now have a pure tube preamp and doing tube rolling.

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1 hour ago, Snoopy8 said:

My comment applies to HT bypass in general. It is easy to do a workaround without HT bypass.

 

I did not know about your XLR analog input requirements, so will leave it to you..  

Sure, I've just updated the post to clarify the XLR requirements as I didn't specify this initially. :)

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10 minutes ago, Snoopy8 said:

I know the question was for Sime, but I did run my DAC directly to my active speakers for many months.  Adding a hybrid tube preamp changed a detailed, clean but clinical sound to more warmth, more bass without losing the detail.  I now have a pure tube preamp and doing tube rolling.

Hmmm, now you got me thinking... tube preamp, you're not the first to recommend. Baby steps I guess

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48 minutes ago, Sime V2 said:

I think you have asked me this before but I forgot to reply. 

I need to use the 8805 as a pre because it handles bass management, my room has a rather large bass bump when the 805’s run full range, so running my 805’s at an 80hz cut off solves the problem. And I prefer sub bass over the typical sound of full range speakers bass anyway. 

In regards to what the 8805 does to the analog sound once it goes into it is not important to me, why you ask? 

I regard any dac as a source, as we all do, so the better the source, the better the output, regardless of whether it’s converted in the 8805 or not. I’ve gone from a 2qute-Qutest-Qutest/M Scaler and a Brooklyn plus, all 4 have had vastly different results, and for the better as the tech improved. 

But you are correct, sure I might not be getting the full benefits of my 2 DAC’s, but I’m getting a benefit in my current configuration. One reason I’ve kept the Brooklyn is because it’s a great way to show the benefits of the m Scaler, if you A/B/C it (Brooklyn direct from source/Brooklyn in bypass mode through the Scaler/Brooklyn being upsampled to 384 by the Scaler) there’s a massive difference being heard, and it more obvious through it than the Qutest, and easier to quickly AB also, but the Scaler/Qutest at 1m taps is king. 

But the point is, even if the 8805 is doing its own conversion, the difference at the source level is noticeable enough to make the system as a full unit, substantially better. 

The M-Scaler in combination with the 8805, both being rather new in the system, has completely changed the way my system sounds. So much so I’ve done more long periods of music listening lately than I ever have before. 

So it’s not simply the case of getting the best performance from any dac, but the dac getting better performance for the system as a whole ?

I understand now. I just assumed you were running your Rel's with the high level input, but if you need bass management for music then the Marantz will do that well. And it's great to know that plugging in a good DAC into the Marantz, not even running in direct mode, can improve the sound quality so substantially... gives me food for thought. 

 

Yesterday evening I was experimenting with Audirvana's up-sampling capabilities and I was pleasantly surprised at the SQ improvements. (I was just up-sampling from 16/44 to 24/88 as my wifi network has dropouts if I go much higher.)

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@Ed Sky just to add, I’m not using direct as you mentioned, though I do at times depending on the album, and I’m not using Audessey either for music(2ch) I use eq mode and taylor the sound to my liking. 

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23 minutes ago, Ed Sky said:

Hmmm, now you got me thinking... tube preamp, you're not the first to recommend. Baby steps I guess

Yes, baby steps is the way to go. You can add a tube buffer later.

30 minutes ago, Ed Sky said:

Sure, I've just updated the post to clarify the XLR requirements as I didn't specify this initially. :)

Adding this narrows the choices, will rule out any DAC which has a powerful output stage that can act as a pseudo preamp.  

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28 minutes ago, Snoopy8 said:

Yes, baby steps is the way to go. You can add a tube buffer later.

Tell me more. Are you saying that you can add tubes after a solid state preamplifier to get the benefits?

28 minutes ago, Snoopy8 said:

Adding this narrows the choices, will rule out any DAC which has a powerful output stage that can act as a pseudo preamp.  

Would I be able to use these DACs though as I wouldn't have a way to run them to my amplifier with the home theatre equipment working as well?

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34 minutes ago, Sime V2 said:

@Ed Sky just to add, I’m not using direct as you mentioned, though I do at times depending on the album, and I’m not using Audessey either for music(2ch) I use eq mode and taylor the sound to my liking. 

I haven't played around with EQ much. I'll give it a go. I recall in a previous thread you said you copied the EQ settings from Audessey. I'll give this a go when I have time to dedicated time tweak.

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23 minutes ago, Ed Sky said:

Tell me more. Are you saying that you can add tubes after a solid state preamplifier to get the benefits?

I am no expert, but I believe you can add it before or after.

25 minutes ago, Ed Sky said:

Would I be able to use these DACs though as I wouldn't have a way to run them to my amplifier with the home theatre equipment working as well?

That is a different question. Your challenge is a one box solution to handle DAC duties and switch to XLR for HT, plus streaming.  A two box solution, say DAC plus streaming, and a preamp with HT bypass will have many more choices, including used ones.

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