External vs internal DAC question

B

bomt697

Enthusiast
Hello, I recently got a basic Hi-Fi setup of: Emotiva Integrated Amp and Bluesound 2i streamer

I understand both have a internal DAC, but would a external DAC like SMSL SU-9 give notable improvement to a relatively non critical ear?
Would $1000s need to be invested before any real difference could be heard?

I guess what I am asking is, is it worth to get an external DAC when both the Emotiva and streamer have a "good" DACs built in

Please advise, thanks!!
-Modi
 
M

MDK210

Junior Audioholic
While having a reputable DAC is good it isn't everything. If your speakers are terrible then a DAC won't save them. So no, it's not worth it.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
DACs are way overrated for sound qualities....its a mature tech and the gear you have have perfectly fine dacs....
 
BoredSysAdmin

BoredSysAdmin

Audioholic Overlord
speakers make up 90% of sound quality, 8% room (especially for bass), and 2% electronics (as long as amps have sufficient power - usually they are)
given this breakdown - do you think it's worth spending $1000s on a new external DAC?
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
speakers make up 90% of sound quality, 8% room (especially for bass), and 2% electronics (as long as amps have sufficient power - usually they are)
given this breakdown - do you think it's worth spending $1000s on a new external DAC?
And a dac isn't a great part of the electronics in general.
 
M

MrBoat

Audioholic Samurai
The DAC in my year, 1985, generic, CD player, still resolves CDs with the utmost clarity. Other than some (that I don't rely on recording quality much, anyway) streaming, I listen to vinyl. Heck, I'm still captivated by the difference in just those two (vinyl-CD) formats alone, and also as the most audible, sound quality improvement in my lifetime. Even the earliest DACs were/are more capable than the recordings they play back from.

If there is anything the external DACs are adding, it would have to be it's own, over-filtered color to the sound. What makes them questionable is, out of one side of audiophilia's mouth, the idea of excess filtering anywhere, is undesirable. Speaker crossover networks with the least amount of components in the signal path as possible, and minimal, to no (bypass mode?) tone control circuits in amplifiers allowed, either. At least with the latter, you can control the tone, but if it's just built onto the chips, you are pretty much stuck with it.

I am further put off by the idea of the external DAC, due to the fact that many (not all) of the same people pushing or, swearing by them, are the same ones who can hear cables, and other gobbledygook, and that need 100-1000 hrs of "burn-in" on all of their electronics.

The idea of needing an external DAC come 2021, is proof that this industry has finally eaten itself out of house and home with redundancy. It's also obvious that the next real technological advancement will have to come from some type of recording quality standardization (NOT compression) on the recorded material end itself. To my ears, that's the only difference left between audible perfection, or not. The best recordings, played back on a measurably neutral system, need no improvement.
 
P

PENG

Audioholic Slumlord
The DAC in my year, 1985, generic, CD player, still resolves CDs with the utmost clarity. Other than some (that I don't rely on recording quality much, anyway) streaming, I listen to vinyl. Heck, I'm still captivated by the difference in just those two (vinyl-CD) formats alone, and also as the most audible, sound quality improvement in my lifetime. Even the earliest DACs were/are more capable than the recordings they play back from.

If there is anything the external DACs are adding, it would have to be it's own, over-filtered color to the sound. What makes them questionable is, out of one side of audiophilia's mouth, the idea of excess filtering anywhere, is undesirable. Speaker crossover networks with the least amount of components in the signal path as possible, and minimal, to no (bypass mode?) tone control circuits in amplifiers allowed, either. At least with the latter, you can control the tone, but if it's just built onto the chips, you are pretty much stuck with it.

I am further put off by the idea of the external DAC, due to the fact that many (not all) of the same people pushing or, swearing by them, are the same ones who can hear cables, and other gobbledygook, and that need 100-1000 hrs of "burn-in" on all of their electronics.

The idea of needing an external DAC come 2021, is proof that this industry has finally eaten itself out of house and home with redundancy. It's also obvious that the next real technological advancement will have to come from some type of recording quality standardization (NOT compression) on the recorded material end itself. To my ears, that's the only difference left between audible perfection, or not. The best recordings, played back on a measurably neutral system, need no improvement.
I cannot tell the difference of different DACs that I have ever owned, internal or external except on cheap DVD player that I had, but in that case the DAC chip may not be responsible (most like not but couldn't rule it out base on what I knew at the time). On the other hand, even my <$50 2008 Philips DVD player's sound as good as anything, almost..

As I mentioned a few times in other related threads (this is the right thread though), the reason I own ext. dacs is a) fun to play with, they don't take up much space, b) affordable (to me anyway) consider one can get the best specs/measurements for under $1200 for those build in an Oppo players, or under $500 for an ext. made in China ones, and c) most importantly, I want to be able to play any high quality digital files I can buy from the likes of HDTracks.com regardless of the formats. I don't mean just high bit rates and high sampling rate files, but high recording/mastering quality music files. Such high quality recordings could be just 16 bit, 44.1 kHz, but it could also be 24b/192kHz or higher, or DSD256, even DSD512 (haven't found more than a couple so far).

So to me, its about playability of the best recording/mastering quality music available, I have CD quality files that could be played by any DAC including those in AVRs, that sound audibly better, more transparent than 24b/192 kHz, but if such files happen to be (often the case in my experience) in much higher bit rate/depth, I have the right DACs for it.
 
S

sterling shoote

Audioholic Field Marshall
Since the dawn of digital, the best place to fit a DAC into a system has been somewhat controversial. If you believe DAC technology is not mature technology then the external DAC makes sense. Just trade in your DAC when you sense there's been some sort of advancement in DAC technology which you appreciate. This is going to be less of a hassle than replacing stereo components containing a DAC, a stereo preamp/DAC or integrated amp/DAC; and, it means less money needed to purchase digital source components, since there's no expense for a DAC.

On the other hand, if there's need for preamp or integrated amp to finish out a system consisting of both analog and digital source components the preamp/DAC or integrated amp/DAC will be less expensive, as will be digital source components purchased in the future. My new Parasound P6 Preamp/DAC gets me low volume detail and black as coal backgrounds from all my digital sources. I am very pleased with it.

Now, if your pleasure is multi-channel music and/or movies then a stand alone DAC is going to cost a fortune, there are only a few out there and those are not marketed to consumers. Instead, the multi-channel DAC will be found in AVRs, Pre-Pros, as well as some of today's Ultra Blu-ray Players; yet, the trend seems to be Universal Players, sans DAC, outputing to the Pre-Pro or AVR via HDMI. And, since multi-channel music and movie technology is marching on it means spending gobs of money on an AVR or Pre-Pro which is built to last will only assure a less than state of art performance from the product before it flames out.

At any rate, in my case, I've got a CD Player with internal DAC, a DVD/CD/SACD Player with internal DAC,a UBP Player with internal DACs, an Airport Express with internal DAC, (2) DAT Recorders with internal DACs, and a Creative Sound Blaster X-FI HD External Sound Card with internal DAC. In all my experimentation I've concluded two things. My latest DAC built into my preamp delivers a sound which I perceive as being better in some manner than from the sound from components with DACs built years ago, as well as better sound than from my 20 year old Pre-Pros DAC/Digital Processor. One more thing my system presents AAC from iTunes to Airport Express to Parasound P6 S/PDIF input for a sound which seems to be on par with hi-res music so I no longer purchase hi-res music other than multi-channel SACDs.
 
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S

sterling shoote

Audioholic Field Marshall
And that would be most likely due to level differences
For sure, a volume level divergence could sway perception of greatness. I too had the view that, in general, today's DACs were no better than yesterday's, other than having the ability to decode a multitude of the latest hi-res digital formats. My first experience with such a DAC was three years ago upon purchase of an OPPO-205. Its DACs lead to me experimenting with hi-res downloads, which suggested the hi-res was no more satisfying than AAC. At any rate, a few months ago my 20 year old Pre-Pro went silent, forcing me to replace it with a Parasound P6. This unit has an internal DAC and upon first play of music on iTunes via Airport Express to Parasound's optical input I clearly heard more detail, as well as blacker backgrounds from music familiar to me than I had from same music/connection to my 20 year old Pre-Pro. Now, I also have the OPPO connected to one of the Parasound's analog inputs and the music does not sound more detailed than when played out to another analog preamp. This suggests that it is indeed the Parasound's DAC which is better defining the music, not analog circuits. So, the bottom-line for me is it seems DACs have indeed improved in some manner beyond the capability to decode a multitude of digital formats.
 
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S

sterling shoote

Audioholic Field Marshall
Sure it did.
Since you have no means to confirm or deny my experience, only having the wherewithal to deliver an informed or uninformed opinion from whatever experiences you have had with the subject, I take it that your comment is in jest.
 
Long Audio Beard

Long Audio Beard

Enthusiast
I think you will certainly get an improvement with an external DAC, and for streaming you should go with a multibit style DAC, see this article, and I would do the Modi Multibit if I were you no doubt....


I tried the DAC in my network streaming player, then I tried the DAC in my integrated amp, then I moved to some various external DACs and clear differences to me not hype
 
S

sterling shoote

Audioholic Field Marshall
I think you will certainly get an improvement with an external DAC, and for streaming you should go with a multibit style DAC, see this article, and I would do the Modi Multibit if I were you no doubt....


I tried the DAC in my network streaming player, then I tried the DAC in my integrated amp, then I moved to some various external DACs and clear differences to me not hype
Just a sidebar but the current iPhone/iPad does not have a built-in DAC and some of today's UBD Players do not have internal DACs. From these components, to fullfill multi-channel needs, as well as stereo in home use, the stand alone DAC is not an option, since they're a stereo proposition, unless there's a budget for a professional multi-channel DAC. The solution is the AVR, or Pre-Pro DAC and Bluetooth or WiFi to accomodate the portable stereo source devices. For a system which contains legacy digital components with or without DAC, a preamp or integrated amp with DAC may make some sense if the system is in need of a new preamp or integrated amp.
 
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mtrycrafts

mtrycrafts

Audioholic Slumlord
I think you will certainly get an improvement with an external DAC, and for streaming you should go with a multibit style DAC, see this article, and I would do the Modi Multibit if I were you no doubt....


I tried the DAC in my network streaming player, then I tried the DAC in my integrated amp, then I moved to some various external DACs and clear differences to me not hype
I would think you lacked proper protocol for proper comparison, like very tight level matching, using double blind bias controls with statistical analysis, right?
If not, your experience is only meaningful to you as it is certainly biased to begin with.
 
Long Audio Beard

Long Audio Beard

Enthusiast
I would think you lacked proper protocol for proper comparison, like very tight level matching, using double blind bias controls with statistical analysis, right?
If not, your experience is only meaningful to you as it is certainly biased to begin with.
hmm Ok
 
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