It's all in the DAC?

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Pistom

Original Poster:

5,205 posts

162 months

Monday 29th May 2023
quotequote all
I found this presentation on CD players quite interesting https://youtu.be/TAOLGsS27R0

Basically, it concludes that you can get a pretty good sound out of any CD player if connected to a good DAC.

I wasn't surprised by this and assume the same will be the case with streaming devices.


OutInTheShed

8,244 posts

29 months

Monday 29th May 2023
quotequote all
Assuming the CD player gets the right bits off the disc at the right time, the rest is down to the DAC.

The DAC can't correct for failures in reading the disc or correcting errors.
I recently fitted a new laser unit to an old CD player and that made a huge difference.
Not just the odd discs or tracks it previously failed to play, but also the tracks it previously played but didn't sound as good as my other player.

But any reasonably modern hi-fi separate CD player has probably got a fairly good DAC in it anyway?
'Ordinary' 16 bit DAC CD quality chips are run of the mill items these days.
Any CD player upmarket enough to have a digital output probably has a reasonable DAC?

Would you do better buying the cheapest transport and a separate DAC or buying one unit?
I have a separate DAC, I use it with a Raspberry Pi jukebox effort, I can't tell the difference between that and the CD player's inbuilt DAC TBH.

It's also good to have a separate DAC if you want to feed your TV sound to the HiFi. DAB is a joke here, but Radio 3 is on Freesat if you like that sort of thing.

Actually I think what really might make a difference is the analogue filtering on the output of the DAC and how that interacts with the input stages of the pre-amp.

The technology is fascinating, but the best upgrade to a CD player is .....


.....More CDs to feed it with.

TonyRPH

13,048 posts

171 months

Monday 29th May 2023
quotequote all
The summary in the video is spot on.

It's all in the DAC.

Back in the mid 80's or so, jitter could be an issue - some claimed to hear the effects of it, some could not.

But modern DACs (and I mean DACs from the past 15+ years or so) simply don't have an issue with jitter, wi=hich makes the transport largely irrelevant, whether CD player or streamer.

Regarding the differences between DACs and CD players - I have a reasonably high end CD player from the 80's, a Sony CDP227ESD with dual TDA1541 DAC chips (the TDA1541 was - and perhaps still is - quite revered back in the day), and two have two of them improves linearity.

I also have a Kenwood DP7090 with no less than 4 DAC chips per channel. Another vintage DAC I have (TDA1541 based) is an Arcam Black Box - but the sound that produces it quite coarse which is surprising.

However both the Sony and the Kenwood players are trounced by a modern delta sigma DAC. The top end is far smoother and more detailed.

Is there much difference between modern DACs? I think the technology peaked a few years ago, and whilst the specs. get ever better (Sinad & THD in particular), I think for the most part the only differences are in the filters now.

I have a few modern DACs (it's been a bit of a passion of mine), including Cambridge 851D, Topping D10, Audiolab Q DAC, and a couple of home built DACs.

There really is little to choose between the modern DACs, despite there being a vast price differential.

Just add - the source material is the biggest let down now. I have ripped some audio from DVD (Crossroads concerts etc.) and these are mostly mastered in 24 bit, and the difference in quality can be quite staggering...





P700DEE

1,128 posts

233 months

Monday 29th May 2023
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Whilst there are differences between transports, and more so CD players much of the difference is the DAC. The mistake is to think this is down to the components where as more is down to the analogue stage. All Hi-Fi is built to a cost and yes the law of diminishing returns applies. If you want to get much better than a CD/DVD player you do have to pay $$$. I run a Denon DVD-3910, originally with a Chord DAC64 but replaced it three years ago with the Chord Qutest. Huge improvement and the DAC64 was much better than the built in DAC. I wouldn't pay more than about £300 for a stand alone CD player, CD, DVD, DVD-A, SACD player maybe double but the Qutest is £1400! Cheaper DACs are available that have good reviews, definitely worth testing if you are in the market to upgrade.

Dragster

38 posts

17 months

Monday 29th May 2023
quotequote all
P700DEE said:
Whilst there are differences between transports, and more so CD players much of the difference is the DAC. The mistake is to think this is down to the components where as more is down to the analogue stage. All Hi-Fi is built to a cost and yes the law of diminishing returns applies. If you want to get much better than a CD/DVD player you do have to pay $$$. I run a Denon DVD-3910, originally with a Chord DAC64 but replaced it three years ago with the Chord Qutest. Huge improvement and the DAC64 was much better than the built in DAC. I wouldn't pay more than about £300 for a stand alone CD player, CD, DVD, DVD-A, SACD player maybe double but the Qutest is £1400! Cheaper DACs are available that have good reviews, definitely worth testing if you are in the market to upgrade.
Totally agree with the bold. Analogue stage engineering / topology is key.

I recall Hi-Fi Choice and Stereophile magazine both reviewing the Zanden 2000 / 5000 transport approx 15 years ago; the DAC also used the same 16 bit Philips TDA1541 DAC tech from the mid 1980s along with a valved output stage. Alan Sircom in Choice thought it was, by some margin, the best player he'd ever heard and caused him to redefine the level of performance that CD's were capable of. The Stereophile reviewer wrote similar superlatives placing the Zanden above the best players he'd heard from DCS using the latest propriety Field Programmable Gate Array DACs and also ahead of the top Wadias. John Atkinson in Stereophile wasn't taken with the sound at all but the point stands regarding analogue stages rather than multi bit DACs and high sampling rates dominating performance.