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Entry Level DAC purchasing advice


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Happened upon this topic and it took me right back..... I tried quite a few budget Dacs back when I was getting started on my first proper system. It's half the fun of this gig - trying a new component here, a room tweak there...and on and on it goes.....

 

As it happens I've still got two of them hanging around. One is an Audio GD NFB-3, the other a home build done by a Stereo.net member back in the day - I know it has dual Wolfson chips but not much else. OP welcome to borrow them if keen - they're just sitting there taking up room.

 

Anyone remember the Havana tube dac? A mate had one and it added a bit of warmth to his system. Perhaps OP could use a tube Dac to tame things down a bit?

Edited by el toro
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Totally agree @sir sanders zingmore, have been absolutely floored by the amount of people responding to this newbie topic with helpful suggestions that have broadened my options past the usuals found on google searches. @el toro’s offer takes the cake for generosity though. Very appreciative of everyone taking the time to respond to this.

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Bravissimo @el toro! SNA ers slice through pandemic obscurations. I know that more of us have more time on our hands, hence more possible listening time, and computer time too. SNA, solving the world's Audio problems one by one. Cheers. 

 

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On 01/09/2020 at 8:52 AM, Sterg237 said:

Hi all, lurker for a few weeks, first time poster. From what I’ve read in these forums, seems like you have a great community here.

 

I’m in the market for an entry-level DAC. Nothing advanced, all I want to do is stream Spotify from a Chromecast Audio. Vinyl is my focus, this is to just give me access to what I don’t own. I’ll bypass the CCA’s internal DAC via a Toslink cable and connect to my Yamaha A-S501 via RCA (therefore avoiding the amp’s internal DAC).

 

This is my first stereo system and has been put together through second hand purchases during Melbourne lockdown. As a result I haven’t been able to listen to the items and have ended up with a cool, clinical, detail-focused system (read: bright). Over the next 12 months I’ll rectify that by swapping out items for warmer sound. I’m learning quickly that the search is addictive, but, as my girlfriend continually reminds me, this current system is just a starting point.

 

Anyway, I digress, back to the DAC. Are there any recommendations for a DAC that can add warmth or character? Is that even possible or is a DAC nothing more than a conversion tool?

 

I’ll again be trying to take advantage of the thriving second hand market, so looking up to $500 used. One that seems highly regarded when it comes up, as an example, is the Arcam irDAC.

 

Looking forward to the discussion and thanks in advance.

 

Chris

I think a DAC won't solve your bright sounding system but if you were to try one I recommend the Topping D50 or E30. 

I have the D50 DAC and L30 pre amp and headphone amp. it blows me away with the sound. Really well made items a really cheap prices.

 

 

Can you take a photo of your set up (system in the room)? 

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Thanks for the recommendations @misternavi, the Toppings have been a popular suggestion.

 

I’m not looking to solve my brightness  problem with a DAC. Streaming is very much secondary to vinyl for me. I started this forum mainly to get suggestions for an inexpensive DAC that wouldn’t add to my brightness issues. We definitely look at a speaker upgrade in coming months.

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Great to see so many inputs from SNA members.

 

I would echo the strong plug for Gieseler DACs.

 

I started my own journey in a very small way, buying a small matchbox-sized DAC/headphone amp that plugged in between mu desktop computer (iMac) and headphones.  Reading up on SNA for much needed education to take me beyond simple Spotify streaming to the desktop, led me to buy a Schiit Modi 3 that was then plugged into the main system in the lounge.

 

More SNA reading saw me a happy buyer of a Gieseler Klein III. That ca $600 purchase was a significant upgrade from the then $199 Modi 3 even though the latter is highly regarded in its price bracket.

 

A recent change of streamer (network bridge) meant that my USB-input model of Klein III was no longer usable in the main system, so I bought a Topping E30 that popped up here on the classifieds. That E30 will probably be spare when I order Clay Gieseler's latest Klein IV, not yet available.

I have moved my Klein III onto my desktop and it replaced the Schiit Modi 3 which sold quickly here on the classifieds. I have a review of my findings between the Klein III and the Modi 3 in the user reviews of Gieseler DACs compiled by @Snoopy8 (Jeez, there are a lot of SNAers named snoopy!)

 

All of this ramble is to add my own 2c that I believe the Gieseler Klein III is well worth the $600-700 price against a $200 DAC, although the E30 does give a lot for the money. I haven't done an A-B test between the Klein III and the E30 when using USB inputs from desktop feed, something I'll do in due course.

Edited by lenticularis
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Thanks @lenticularis, that was very helpful advice. The Schiit Modi is something that has come up a few times in searches as well-regarded, so I was surprised that no one mentioned it earlier. I figured the online reviews were marketing. So it was good to get your opinion on that as an inexpensive option.

 

I always prefer to buy locally made and owned products, so I have a keen eye on the classifieds for a Gieseler, as well as many of the others suggested to me throughout this thread.

 

I second what you said, I've been blown away by the amount of users offering me really informative and beneficial advice. I was not expecting to get out of the single digits in regards to replies to my initial post!

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On 02/09/2020 at 9:23 PM, misternavi said:

I think a DAC won't solve your bright sounding system but if you were to try one I recommend the Topping D50 or E30. 

I have the D50 DAC and L30 pre amp and headphone amp. it blows me away with the sound. Really well made items a really cheap prices.

 

 

Can you take a photo of your set up (system in the room)? 

where did you get your topping from..?  I'm looking at the D90

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Guest dr_carl

I find my SMSL to be great value. Fits in well with my amp, speakers, room, ears. Lots of features, good AKM chip, exactly only the connectivity I need. Happy customer. 

So low price that it can be a painless experiment anyway. 

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1 hour ago, dr_carl said:

I find my SMSL to be great value. Fits in well with my amp, speakers, room, ears. Lots of features, good AKM chip, exactly only the connectivity I need. Happy customer. 

So low price that it can be a painless experiment anyway. 

I've been watching this thread closely. Without getting into the MQA debate, how does the SMSL M500 stack up against some the the other DACs discussed in this thread sub $500. I've had my eye on the SMSL M500 (about $600 aud) for some time but haven't had the courage to pull the trigger. 

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