Integrated DAC question

C

Coco60

Audiophyte
Hi. I'm new to this forum. i bought a new Rotel A12 integrated amp along with Cambridge CXN media streamer and CXC cd transport. Was wandering if i could hook up the CD player directely to the CXN and from there out to the A12 integrated amp for final amplification ? The reason i want to try this is because the CXN has Doubles DAC Wolfson WM8740 24 bits for better sound quality whereas the A12 has only one.
 
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redboat77

redboat77

Enthusiast
Not sure I understand your comments about the "A12 only has one", and why that is affecting your decision, but I'd let the CXC cd transport feed the CXN - they were made by the same company and are likely very well optimized for each other.

If you are really curious, you could also connect your system both ways since the the CXC has both digital optical and digital S/P Dif outputs. So you could route digital output from the CXC simultaneously to the CXN and the Rotel, and then also route the analog outputs of the CXN to the Rotel. Once you have that done, you could then switch back and forth using the Rotel source selection to see which stream sounds best to you.

Hope this helps.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
Just because it has a different dac implementation doesn't mean its audibly different.
 
redboat77

redboat77

Enthusiast
Just because it has a different dac implementation doesn't mean its audibly different.
True. It's very likely either way will sound fine, especially since both units have modern high quality DACs.
 
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lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
Most dacs are not audibly different so the chances are just setting it up in the simplest, most direct way will be the best.
 
redboat77

redboat77

Enthusiast
One thing to consider if you do use the Cambridge CXN to do the digital-to-analog conversion: although it has balanced analog outputs, the Rotel does not have balanced input, so you will need to use unbalanced cables. Thus the relative weak analog signals out of the CXN will be vulnerable to RF interference, which could hurt SNR if you live in a RF noisy environment.

To avoid this problem, it would be better to get the CXC CD player's digital output directly to the Rotel via an optical output. (Yes, this contradicts my previous advice). Also, once the Rotel amplifies the signals, they will be much less vulnerable to interference, so using balanced cables to get the analog signals to your speakers is a much lower priority.

But again, most likely there won't be an audible difference whatever choice you make, and if you are energetic you could wire it both ways simultaneously, and use the Rotel to switch back and forth to see if there is any difference.
 
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lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
One thing to consider if you do use the Cambridge CXN to do the digital-to-analog conversion: although it has balanced analog outputs, the Rotel does not have balanced input, so you will need to use unbalanced cables. Thus the relative weak analog signals out of the CXN will be vulnerable to RF interference, which could hurt SNR if you live in a RF noisy environment.

To avoid this problem, it would be better to get the CXC CD player's digital output directly to the Rotel via an optical output. (Yes, this contradicts my previous advice).

But again, most likely there won't be an audible difference whatever choice you make.
Have you ever had such RFI issues? In 50 years of using audio systems in various homes in several states and cities....not once did I have any RFI because I was using a non-balanced interconnect. If you have ground loop hum issues then sure, an optical connection could be nice.
 
redboat77

redboat77

Enthusiast
Have you ever had such RFI issues? In 50 years of using audio systems in various homes in several states and cities....not once did I have any RFI because I was using a non-balanced interconnect. If you have ground loop hum issues then sure, an optical connection could be nice.
Honestly, I don't know. I haven't made measurements and have no plans to.

But I have noticed that taking digital signals directly to my integrated amp and using its DAC sounds better that routing analog to it. But that could that my integrated amp's DAC is better than the DAC in the equipment before it.

The Benchmark engineers that make extremely low noise/distortion amplifiers seem to emphasize using balanced cables, but they also sell cables to solve the "problem" so they're not an unbiased source (no pun intended).

I can confirm that RFI can definitely be a problem in other (non-audio) applications involving small signals that I am familiar with.
 
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lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
Honestly, I don't know. I haven't made measurements and have no plans to.

But I have noticed that taking digital signals directly to my integrated amp and using its DAC sounds better that routing analog to it. But that could that my integrated amp's DAC is better than the DAC in the equipment before it.

The Benchmark engineers that make extremely low noise/distortion amplifiers seem to emphasize using balanced cables, but they also sell cables to solve the "problem" so they're not an unbiased source.
Balanced connections are nice and all, and would be great if consumer audio used them exclusively, but they don't. Over a long interconnect a balanced cable could well handle rejection of noise better, but even then it may not be an issue for an unbalanced connection. Your anecdote about your setup is relatively meaningless in this regard, tho as it wouldn't make your dac "sound better".
 
redboat77

redboat77

Enthusiast
Balanced connections are nice and all, and would be great if consumer audio used them exclusively, but they don't. Over a long interconnect a balanced cable could well handle rejection of noise better, but even then it may not be an issue for an unbalanced connection. Your anecdote about your setup is relatively meaningless in this regard, tho as it wouldn't make your dac "sound better".
Of course balanced cables wouldn't make the DAC sound better.

My point was that the analog route from an earlier DAC (over unbalanced cables) and the (optical) digital route to my integrated amplifier's DAC did not sound the same, but I don't know what the source of the difference was.

The difference could be from at least two sources: 1) using a better DAC in the integrated amplifier as opposed to using a lower quality DAC in the earlier equipment, or 2) interference in the unbalanced cables which does not happen in the optical digital cables.

The sound difference could be due to either one, so I can't say for sure it was due to interference in the unbalanced cables.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
Of course balanced cables wouldn't make the DAC sound better.

My point was that the analog route from an earlier DAC (over unbalanced cables) and the (optical) digital route to my integrated amplifier's DAC did not sound the same, but I don't know what the source of the difference was.

The difference could be from at least two sources: 1) using a better DAC in the integrated amplifier as opposed to using a lower quality DAC in the earlier equipment, or 2) interference in the unbalanced cables which does not happen in the optical digital cables.

The sound difference could be due to either one, so I can't say for sure it was due to interference in the unbalanced cables.
The sound difference is much more likely simply one of level. Even with slight mismatches of level generally the higher one will sound "better". Yes, you would need to measure to level-match.
 
redboat77

redboat77

Enthusiast
The sound difference is much more likely simply one of level. Even with slight mismatches of level generally the higher one will sound "better". Yes, you would need to measure to level-match.
Certainly level matching is needed to confirm differences.

But household RFI is significant: microwave ovens, electric motors in devices like garbage disposals, and spark ignition internal combustion engines are all non-negligible sources. My team at work built a simple receiver that could detect and show detailed phasing of holdhold devices from over 10 miles away.

And in terms of DACs, my "other" DAC is in a 2008 Samsung TV that was hardly optimized for audio.

The two sources of possible sound degradation I identified - a lousy DAC and RFI - are real suspects.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
Certainly level matching is needed to confirm differences.

But household RFI is significant: microwave ovens, electric motors in devices like garbage disposals, and spark ignition internal combustion engines are all non-negligible sources. My team at work built a simple receiver that could detect and show detailed phasing of holdhold devices from over 10 miles away.

And in terms of DACs, my "other" DAC is in a 2008 Samsung TV that was hardly optimized for audio.

The two sources of possible sound degradation I identified - a lousy DAC and RFI - are real suspects.
I've got various things like microwaves, motors, etc but none have ever caused me any RFI issues nor have I ever had to stop using anything with a dac because it didn't sound good. Hope you figure it out....
 

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