Trell

Trell

Audioholic Samurai
Like so many of you I've had several external DACs (including audio interfaces) over the years. My use of them is for desktop usage driving headphones and monitors, and for some time even a microphone so much needed during the pandemic working from home. I don't recall any sound quality differences between them apart from the obvious like power output and DSP when driving my headphones with impedance of 250 Ohm.

Creative E-MU 0202

Had it for a few years at work as a headphone amp but gave it up in the time when we switched to 64 bits version of Windows and drivers where lacking. It became an ugly paperweight and long time given away. Later on I saw that Creative released 64 bits drivers but too late for me.

1623350102012.png


FiiO Olympus (model E10)

Nifty little USB DAC that was used at work and at home for years. I got two of them but they are not in use any more.

1623350282715.png



RØDE AI-1

An USB audio interface that I bought as a kit along with the nice RØDE NT1 condenser microphone, and is compact and well built. The headphone specs says it can output 390 mW into 300 Ohms and could rive my 250 Ohm Beyerdynamics more than loud enough. Sadly the interface started to make distorted sounds during playback that only could be "solved" by unplugging it, but it was out of warranty. I was pretty pleased with the interface otherwise so I bought a new one. Even that one started to make the distorted sound :mad: and apparently I'm not alone. A new firmware has been issued and the issue has not been noticed on my wife's PC after the firmware update. I still have them both the AI-1 but only one is in daily use.

1623351117461.png


MOTU M2

An excellent USB audio interface with no issues at all for me, and is now only used as a microphone amp after I bought my newest DAC as I wanted a more powerful headphone amplifier.

1623351451863.png



RME ADI-2-DAC FS

My latest DAC fresh out from the packaging. A powerful headphone amp, but has a dynamic loudness function as well as a 5 band PEQ and low/high shelf filters, and tone control. Includes a remote. Preferably I would want an audio interface as not to have to use the MOTU M2, and the new RME FireFace UCX II was considered. What sold me on the ADI-2-DAC FS was the dynamic loudness function, which should not surprise those of you that knows that I like the Audyssey Dynamic EQ.


RME-ADI-2-DAC-2019.jpg
 
Mikado463

Mikado463

Audioholic Samurai
interesting collection ! being first and foremost an analog guy I've always used the DAC that is within the device (CD/SACD player), always wondered if I'd hear any difference with an external one ??
 
Trell

Trell

Audioholic Samurai
interesting collection ! being first and foremost an analog guy I've always used the DAC that is within the device (CD/SACD player), always wondered if I'd hear any difference with an external one ??
For me it's about the features and build quality a DAC/audio interface has as competently designed ones will be audibly indistinguishable from each other, apart from like power levels (headphones), voltage, DSP, output impedance (where relevant) and so on.

I'm only using external DAC for desktop usage where I want to easily switch between headphones and active monitors, have enough power for the headphones, and just high quality sound. I also like to use buttons and knobs to adjust volume and select sources.

In my home theatre I use the DAC inside my receiver for everything, so my Oppo player is just a transport.
 
MR.MAGOO

MR.MAGOO

Audioholic General
Like so many of you I've had several external DACs (including audio interfaces) over the years. My use of them is for desktop usage driving headphones and monitors, and for some time even a microphone so much needed during the pandemic working from home. I don't recall any sound quality differences between them apart from the obvious like power output and DSP when driving my headphones with impedance of 250 Ohm.

Creative E-MU 0202

Had it for a few years at work as a headphone amp but gave it up in the time when we switched to 64 bits version of Windows and drivers where lacking. It became an ugly paperweight and long time given away. Later on I saw that Creative released 64 bits drivers but too late for me.

View attachment 48441

FiiO Olympus (model E10)

Nifty little USB DAC that was used at work and at home for years. I got two of them but they are not in use any more.

View attachment 48442


RØDE AI-1

An USB audio interface that I bought as a kit along with the nice RØDE NT1 condenser microphone, and is compact and well built. The headphone specs says it can output 390 mW into 300 Ohms and could rive my 250 Ohm Beyerdynamics more than loud enough. Sadly the interface started to make distorted sounds during playback that only could be "solved" by unplugging it, but it was out of warranty. I was pretty pleased with the interface otherwise so I bought a new one. Even that one started to make the distorted sound :mad: and apparently I'm not alone. A new firmware has been issued and the issue has not been noticed on my wife's PC after the firmware update. I still have them both the AI-1 but only one is in daily use.

View attachment 48443

MOTU M2

An excellent USB audio interface with no issues at all for me, and is now only used as a microphone amp after I bought my newest DAC as I wanted a more powerful headphone amplifier.

View attachment 48444


RME ADI-2-DAC FS

My latest DAC fresh out from the packaging. A powerful headphone amp, but has a dynamic loudness function as well as a 5 band PEQ and low/high shelf filters, and tone control. Includes a remote. Preferably I would want an audio interface as not to have to use the MOTU M2, and the new RME FireFace UCX II was considered. What sold me on the ADI-2-DAC FS was the dynamic loudness function, which should not surprise those of you that knows that I like the Audyssey Dynamic EQ.


View attachment 48445
Your collection is a lot more impressive than mine!

AudioEngine D1, AudioQuest Dragonfly Red

IMG_3394.JPG
 
Trell

Trell

Audioholic Samurai
Now that I've had my new RME ADI-2-DAC FS for a couple of days and played around with some of its many features, and I'm very pleased with it.

I really like the dynamic loudness feature for listening at low volumes and it works as well as I hoped it would. Since I have calibrated my Genelec monitors using Genelec GLM I've not used the 5-band PEQ for them, but I've use it on my Beyerdynamic headphones to reduce the 8k Hz peak that they have.

The headphone amplifier is powerful and drives my headphones very well at very loud levels. Have to be careful with my hearing here :) A nice little feature is that when switching between headphones and monitors there is a short 0.5 second silence followed by a slow ramp up of volume over a few seconds so that users have a chance to reduce volume in case its too loud.
 
BoredSysAdmin

BoredSysAdmin

Audioholic Overlord
1. Behringer UCA202 - 16/44 - great line out, but horrible headphones amp.
2. AudioEngine D1 - 24/192 - Toslink input - but not balanced outs and notoriously crappy volume control
2. Behringer UMC404HD - 24/192. No Toslink, USB 2.0 requires drivers which are crap. Very good controls and headphone amp. Balanced XLR Out. Minor reliability issues after few years of usage. Bought it cheaply for $80 a few years ago. Unlike some amz reviews, I have zero issues with noise nor pops. The sound quality is good afaik.

I was eyeing Motu M2, but since Trell concerned about its headphones amp - I am hesitant now. My main phones are HD600. These are 300 ohms. Bought these on sale for $250. Best money ever spent on headphones.
@Trell Do you have HD600 or other 300ohm phones and see how does Motu work with them?
 
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Trell

Trell

Audioholic Samurai
1. Behringer UCA202 - 16/44 - great line out, but horrible headphones amp.
2. AudioEngine D1 - 24/192 - Toslink input - but not balanced outs and notoriously crappy volume control
2. Behringer UMC404HD - 24/192. No Toslink, USB 2.0 requires drivers which are crap. Very good controls and headphone amp. Balanced XLR Out. Minor reliability issues after few years of usage. Bought it cheaply for $80 a few years ago. Unlike some amz reviews, I have zero issues with noise nor pops. The sound quality is good afaik.

I was eyeing Motu M2, but since Trell concerned about its headphones amp - I am hesitant now. My main phones are HD600. These are 300 ohms. Bought these on sale for $250. Best money ever spent on headphones.
@Trell Do you have HD600 or other 300ohm phones and see how does Motu work with them?
My headphones are 250 Ohm Beyerdynamics DT 880 Edition and DT 1770 Pro, and for my normal listening the MOTU M2 drives them well enough. It's for the cases when I want to listen loud that the M2 is not quite up to the task with its 23 mW into 300 Ohm.

I don't have the HD600, so can't compare. In the links below there are specs to the headphones as well as some measurements:




Perhaps you've seen this one by Julian Krause that measure a number of audio interfaces?

1623536204140.png
 
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Trell

Trell

Audioholic Samurai
With my new RME ADI-2-DAC and a cheap HDMI audio extractor I've the ability to record the stereo layer of my non-hybrid SACD discs. I now just need to get foobar2000 or some other software up and running to do the actual recording and split it into tracks.

The RME ADI-2-DAC SPDIF input represent itself as a recording device in Windows 10. So far I've connected my Oppo BDP-93EU to the HDMI extractor and from there optical to the DAC. I can listen to SACD through the headphone amplifier in the DAC, and in Windows I see that there is input playing. Certainly a step forward!

Most of my SACD discs are multi-channel and that is harder to rip for backup.
 
BoredSysAdmin

BoredSysAdmin

Audioholic Overlord
 
Kvn_Walker

Kvn_Walker

Audioholic General
If I hadn't been able to get a good deal on my TEAC, I'd have shopped around for one of the RME DAC's. Even the v1 was a beast.
 
S

sterling shoote

Audioholic Field Marshall
These days I mostly use my 2.1 Parasound's P6 DAC to enjoy Hi-Res music on my computer via usb connection between computer and DAC. I like that the processing permits high and low pass filtering adjustments, which supports subwoofer integration. The Parasound also receives optical and coax S/PDIF input from a Sony CDP-C601ES CD Player and a Sony PCM-7010F Digital Audio Recorder, not because those units have DACs which do not perform well but because I have run out of analog inputs on the Parasound to accomodate those two components. Overall, the Parasound's DAC is indistinguishable from my OPPO-205's DACs for stereo play; but, since the OPPO does not manage bass and the Parasound produces better low volume detail and blacker background from its analog section than my Sony TA-E9000ES, I choose it instead of the OPPO or Sony TA-E9000ES Pre-Pro.
 
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J

Jerkface

Audioholic
interesting collection ! being first and foremost an analog guy I've always used the DAC that is within the device (CD/SACD player), always wondered if I'd hear any difference with an external one ??
Theoretically, there'd be an improvement, as the DAC within a standard CD or SACD player is basically one little IC board with the bare minimum circuitry to accomplish the task of producing that analog signal out of the waveforms.

In practice? Mostly going to be a SNR improvement, but dropping it from -96dB (theoretical best you'll get out of a CD player) to -120dB (I've seen a few DACs that claim this kind of noise ratio) isn't necessarily going to be audible, because that CD is only generating a maximum of 96dB worth of dynamic range. SACD and DVD-A and other higher-rez sources is a whole other story at 144dB or more range, but even then you're running into maximums from your other gear further down the chain. (My XiangSheng preamp, for example, sits at -90dB, while my Denon HEOS Link is -100dB - so I'm not benefiting from its lower noise floor)

Much like the OP, though, most people who use outboard DACs have other reasons for using them beyond just improving SQ over the internal DACs on their frisbee spinners. I use the HEOS as my Bluetooth source box, because the idea of a Bluetooth circuit sitting an inch or so away from hot tubes (as it would have if I'd gotten the 728a with built-in Bluetooth) just seemed like a bad idea. Other people have other purposes.

Summation: If you want, try it out. If not, I wouldn't sweat it a whole lot.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
People get so excited over dacs outside of functionality, it's fascinating. Can't say I've ever heard a particular difference in a dac implementation myself but don't have a use for a stand-alone model either. Maybe if I had a dedicated 2ch desktop setup for work or something. I do prefer to keep things digital until the last, tho, so my disc players act as transports only but even with the vaunted dacs of an Oppo player I tried and didn't see anything but a disadvantage for using the player's dac.....
 
J

Jerkface

Audioholic
People get so excited over dacs outside of functionality, it's fascinating. Can't say I've ever heard a particular difference in a dac implementation myself but don't have a use for a stand-alone model either. Maybe if I had a dedicated 2ch desktop setup for work or something. I do prefer to keep things digital until the last, tho, so my disc players act as transports only but even with the vaunted dacs of an Oppo player I tried and didn't see anything but a disadvantage for using the player's dac.....
Yeah, like I said, sometimes the minimal gain itself is lost due to downstream SNR.

Back in the day, when all but the most high-end spinners had super-cheap DAC circuits, it was a consideration, because the DAC tech back then wasn't nearly as good as it is now. These days, hell, you can buy a DVD player with a 24/96x5.1 channel DAC built in for a hundred bucks, and that chipset will be more sophisticated than what you'd get on a $1500 outboard DAC in 1995.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
Kinda like no one in the 60s or 70s could enjoy hifi with the specs of the day :) So just how does the audible experience improve every year for the last what 50 years according to those marketing/reviewing folk particularly work out? :)
 
J

Jerkface

Audioholic
Kinda like no one in the 60s or 70s could enjoy hifi with the specs of the day :) So just how does the audible experience improve every year for the last what 50 years according to those marketing/reviewing folk particularly work out? :)
Well, "enjoy" is a completely subjective term. Fact is, the average user can "enjoy" anything that gives them tons of bass, mainly because of the effect subharmonic frequencies have on brain waves, affecting the pleasure centers. Ironically that wasn't an option back then, at least not until widespread adoption of tape media, because too much bass would skip your needle! :D

Digitizing music made it easier to make huge gains in both audio quality and cost in very rapid fashion. So the game changed radically from 1985-present.

But even back then, hell, you've got an article right here in this forum that goes over how the game changed radically as speaker design tech made breakthroughs enabling the cabs to get smaller and the overall frequency response to get wider and more balanced. There were physical limits to the "miniaturization" of hifi, because you still have to move air to get boom, but that didn't stop people from going to absurd lengths in the 90's to turn everything into a clock radio and still claim it sounded good.
 
Trell

Trell

Audioholic Samurai
With my new RME ADI-2-DAC and a cheap HDMI audio extractor I've the ability to record the stereo layer of my non-hybrid SACD discs. I now just need to get foobar2000 or some other software up and running to do the actual recording and split it into tracks.

The RME ADI-2-DAC SPDIF input represent itself as a recording device in Windows 10. So far I've connected my Oppo BDP-93EU to the HDMI extractor and from there optical to the DAC. I can listen to SACD through the headphone amplifier in the DAC, and in Windows I see that there is input playing. Certainly a step forward!

Most of my SACD discs are multi-channel and that is harder to rip for backup.
For recording the stereo SACD layer I'm trying out Audacity on my first SACD: Dire Straits - Making Movies. After the recording I'll have to split it into various tracks and convert to appropriate format. That should work as other people does this for ripping LPs. The RME ADI-2 DAC FS is a nifty little piece of hardware.
 
P

PENG

Audioholic Slumlord
To me it has always about "playability" if there is such a word. Recording/Mastering quality of the contents are most important to me, and most build in DACs in integrated amps and BDPs except Oppo's top models are poorly implemented such that they could not play the super high resolution digital files where many of the best recording/mastering music are found. If recording/mastering quality is not that great, no DACs, preamps/power amps can "sound good" even if you have the best loudspeakers. If recording/mastering quality is great, even a mid range AVR with the best speakers/rooms will produce great "sound quality" in terms of transparency better than the >$100,000 dacs and amps playing poor recording quality contents. Its not the bite rate/bit depth either, as long as we are talking about the so called 16bit/44.1 kHz/CD quality or higher, i.e., again, its just recording/mastering quality..

External DACs typically can play just about any resolution in the price range from about $200 and up, except the likes of PS Audio, Audo Quest's that imo are like Bose, way over price but apparently popular thanks to their marketing teams.:D

I do realize I seem to be the only one (or among the very few on this forum) who think recording quality is most important though so clearly a case of ymmv..:D
 
J

Jerkface

Audioholic
I do realize I seem to be the only one (or among the very few on this forum) who think recording quality is most important though so clearly a case of ymmv..
Nah. Recording quality is crucial, especially with a high-end system, because you're literally hearing all of it, including the clams.

The "loudness wars" discs are the WORST on a high-res system.
 
Trell

Trell

Audioholic Samurai
To me it has always about "playability" if there is such a word. Recording/Mastering quality of the contents are most important to me, and most build in DACs in integrated amps and BDPs except Oppo's top models are poorly implemented such that they could not play the super high resolution digital files where many of the best recording/mastering music are found. If recording/mastering quality is not that great, no DACs, preamps/power amps can "sound good" even if you have the best loudspeakers. If recording/mastering quality is great, even a mid range AVR with the best speakers/rooms will produce great "sound quality" in terms of transparency better than the >$100,000 dacs and amps playing poor recording quality contents. Its not the bite rate/bit depth either, as long as we are talking about the so called 16bit/44.1 kHz/CD quality or higher, i.e., again, its just recording/mastering quality..

External DACs typically can play just about any resolution in the price range from about $200 and up, except the likes of PS Audio, Audo Quest's that imo are like Bose, way over price but apparently popular thanks to their marketing teams.:D

I do realize I seem to be the only one (or among the very few on this forum) who think recording quality is most important though so clearly a case of ymmv..:D
I'm more looking at the total recording/mixing/mastering where all three parts are important, but obviously a botched recording can be hard to repair. I've multi-channel SACD where the mixing is not to my liking at all where the stereo layer is far better. And botched recording (probably) with mics distorting/overloading.

Then there is the actual content and I do have multichannel SACD that sounds very nice but is boring and uninteresting, at least to me.
 

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