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Will DSP controlled speakers benefit much from an external Dac ?


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Hi guys, after reading reviews and watching youtube reviews of various DSP controlled active speakers, it appears that with at least some of these kinds of speakers there is little to no sound improvement noted, when adding a good external dac and using RCAs into the speaker.

 

I'm guessing the same might apply when upgrading to a better streamer and using the digital connection directly into the speaker, if it has digital inputs.

 

This possible non benefit from using either the analogue or digital inputs into the speaker,   im guessing,  is due to the fact that some if not all of these speakers  have there own DAC inside, as part of the DSP circuitry, which cannot be bypassed ?

Does this negate the benefit of any dac/ streamer upgrades ?

As the current owner of Definitive Technology Bp9020 speakers this could affect my upgrade itis decisions in the future.

Having said all the above, I myself have noted considerable sound differences when changing dacs and streamers, but the Def Techs do not have digital inputs and once again I'm guessing, maybe no internal DAC ?

Any thoughts, experiences, or expertise on this facinating speaker technology subject, to help guide me, is  much appreciated.

 

 

 

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Some active speakers are so transparent that source/upchain component character traits shine through (like the Kii Three for example). Others, not so much.

I guess the real answer is "IT DEPENDS"

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Thanks Hyd

Ok, yes I could see a speaker of that price/ quality being very revealing or transparent.

Assuming it has an internal dac? with a crossover/Dsp circuitry of very high quality, matched very well by the designer to the drivers and cabinet, this high quality too could make dac upgrades a minimal  if not,  non existent or non detectable improvement I'm thinking ?

Perhaps, as you already mentioned, the same would apply to cheaper, poorer quality speakers with dsp, in that they might be not transparent enough to reveal any dac upgrade ?

It seems that having Dsp in a speaker "might" make upgrades of Dac or streamer almost futile ?

 

Maybe it's the repetition of the digital to analogue conversion, first in the external dac, then the analogue to digital conversion, and back to digital  again and then back to analogue once again within the speaker that might negate the benefits of using an external dac ?

Or could it be that the speaker designer has got the most out of the speaker already using dsp ?

I guess it would just be nice to know before hand if dac upgrades are going to work or even be significant enough to justify the cost....

This might be one advantage of non dsp speakers ?

This  hifi stuff can be an expensive can of worms it seems !..

But it is definitely fascinating....

Any further thoughts ?

 

 

 

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I'm going to go the extreme opinion and say a DAC before a DSP controlled speaker is completely useless, and is only adding another two D->A and then A->D conversion. Sure you may get some nice distortion that changes the character of the signal but it's a serious gamble. Instead of a DAC, get an excellent isolation and clocking device and send it a clean coaxial signal (such as a USB to SPDIF with a femtosecond clock), as that can improve the sound from the DAC within the speakers by working as a master clock signal and electrical interference isolation, and avoid an unnecessary extra analogue to digital conversion the speakers would inevitably do with an analogue signal.

Edited by Ittaku
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11 hours ago, Grog Monster 2 said:

Definitive Technology Bp9020 speakers

You are connecting normal speaker cables to it.  I would call it a passive speaker with a built in sub woofer.  The DSP is for the sub woofer.  Another name could be hybrid speaker.

 

11 hours ago, Grog Monster 2 said:

DSP controlled active speakers

I would normally associate this type of speaker with at least 1 bulit in DAC, amplifiers powering individual speaker cones and a DSP engine.  If you feed these speakers with an analogue signal, it has to do a Analogue to Digital conversion, which may have a detrimental impact on SQ.

 

So, to answer your question, your Definitive Technology Bp9020 speakers are impacted both by the quality of streamer and DAC.  A DSP controlled active speaker can be impacted by the quality of the streamer.  The quality of the DAC signal (analogue) is largely irrelevant.

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Thanks Snoopy....

Ok, yes I can see how things differ depending on the speaker used, ie  fully active with full Dsp to every driver/tweeter, Vs a patially active/partially passive hybrid speaker (eg Def TechBp9020) with DSP and amplification to only the inbuilt subwoofer section. Vs a fully passive speaker.

 

So using an external dac (on a bp9020 speaker) should at least show some change/improvement in the passive section, of mid range and tweeters but maybe not for the inbuilt subwoofer ?

The powered inbuilt subwoofer section of the bp9020 is dsp controlled which means it converts the incoming analogue signal back to digital again.

This means the analogue signal from the extenal dac is converted inside the speaker to digital for the DSP to ocurr and then its converted back to analogue by a dac before being amplified by the inbuilt amplifier and then the subwoofer driver gets the final analogue signal.

 

It would seem to indeed be a hybrid  and a somewhat complex speaker design.

I cannot say ive ever seen the hybrid term used for any speaker but it seems to fit at least this model def tech speaker.

Obviously Def tech believe this is the way to go, and other speaker designers have their favoured designs.

All having their benefits or disadvantages in one way or another.

 

So the consensus thus far seems to be,  that an external DAC is of no benefit with a fully DSP controlled speaker, and should I buy a fully DSP controlled speaker such as a KEF LX or Edifier S3000 pro,  I would need to be happy with its DAC as I would get no benefit from a DAC upgrade ?

 

This would make an audition of full DSP speakers even more important than with a passive or hybrid speaker, as you are not able to change its sound with a different DAC,  but  it maybe possible with the digital signal from a streamer.

 

Very interesting , but at the same time a little disapointing for anyone wanting to try an upgraded dac.

 

Any further observations anyone has  of these DSP speakers is appreciated.

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1 hour ago, Grog Monster 2 said:

 So the consensus thus far seems to be,  that an external DAC is of no benefit with a fully DSP controlled speaker, and should I buy a fully DSP controlled speaker such as a KEF LX or Edifier S3000 pro,  I would need to be happy with its DAC as I would get no benefit from a DAC upgrade ?

I think you are missing the point of choosing a DSP Active speaker.  You get off the treadmill of picking and matching components.  You get a simplified setup where the components are carefully matched together to give a better sound.

 

It sounds like you still want to pick your DSP, DAC, pre-amp, power amplifier and speakers individually.  Nothing wrong with that and many people continue to do this. 

 

I went through a change in thinking in this thread.

https://www.stereonet.com/forums/topic/263582-what-have-i-done-i-now-have-a-stereo-pair-of-mutant-stormtrooper-helmets-with-gold-bling/

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1 hour ago, Grog Monster 2 said:

This would make an audition of full DSP speakers even more important than with a passive or hybrid speaker, as you are not able to change its sound with a different DAC,  but  it maybe possible with the digital signal from a streamer.

There is very little scope for "changing the sound" of a digital signal with a streamer. They can provide better isolation from electrical noise, interference, and improve clocking signals which can have audible effects, but they cannot "voice" the sound the way a DAC potentially can since it ultimately converts it to analogue. Caveat: this is another unpopular opinion and others disagree with me on this, even though the digital data itself is identical from all streamers.

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Another way to think about what is covered above is the degree of integration of the DSP into the 'active' speaker - ranging from full integration with active feedback from speaker cones at one end (ala Ryhtmik subs, Kii's) back to simple amps in the speakers with no integration.  Broadly the greater the integration the less benefit from external DAC.

Potentially off topic, but the other part of the streamer discussion worth a mention is the role of integrated room correction (so Dirac etal) in some that can definitely sit ahead of active speakers and have an impact on sound.  

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10 hours ago, gibbo9000 said:

Potentially off topic, but the other part of the streamer discussion worth a mention is the role of integrated room correction (so Dirac etal) in some that can definitely sit ahead of active speakers and have an impact on sound.  

Very true, I was speaking only about streamers that do not have any DSP capabilities of their own.

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The method instead to look for, is to current drive loudspeakers, rather than digital signal process. digital Signal processing  is neither here or there with any benefit to you, rather can be viewed as a forms of then paid for distortion.

 

Think instead of having the very best analog techniques driving your speakers, of which current drive is one.

https://www.current-drive.info/

 

 

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It appears to me that there are two issues in your original post. "Will a DAC improvement be audible with DSP controlled active speakers?" and "What does that say about my existing speakers?"

 

DSP active speakers use digital processing to control the individual amplifiers for each driver (or driver section) within each speaker cabinet. Some such speakers take a digital signal from the source, some an analog signal (usually from a system DAC or pre-amplifier). To provide an analog signal from a digital source there must be a DAC somewhere. If a system DAC is improved that will pass the improved analog signal to the speakers. Depending on the quality of the speakers and their internal processing this improvement will come out of the speaker cabinets and into the listening area.

 

As far as I can tell the Definitive Technology BP9020 speakers do not have an internal DAC although they do use an inbuilt amplifier for the subwoofer. As such they appear to require an analog signal as input and therefore, if the overall quality is sufficient, would benefit from an improved system DAC.

 

 

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