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kawazydude
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Joined: Sep 20 2011 - 7:25pm
High-end AV receiver vs external DAC + stereo amp

Hello friends!

My goal right now is to create a 2.1 stereo setup that will allow me to play music from my Macbook. After much research, I realized that I had two options: (1) external dac -> stereo amp/receiver -> bookshelf speakers or (2) optical line out from my Macbook -> AV receiver -> bookshelf speakers. (BTW, if I'm wrong about anything, please let me know. I'm a fledging audiophile who only recently started learning about all this.) Initially, I intended to go with the first route because many people have stated that the sound quality of an external dac and stereo amp combo would be far better than the sound quality of the internal dac inside of a similarly priced AV receiver. In other words, you'd get more bang for the buck by buying an external dac and stereo amp rather than an AV receiver if all I wanted to do was to play music from my Macbook, as opposed to watching movies on a home theater system (which, at this point, I could care less for).

But JUST when I thought I had it all figured out, I decided to go the second route after seeing a CRAZY deal on a brand new Yamaha RX-A1000 ($1100 retail price, $700 on Amazon) which a local Bestbuy was selling for $430.  I bought it because I thought that the internal dac on a $1100 receiver, which I bought for $430, would be of same (if not better) sound quality than that of an external dac priced at ~$400. And of course, that's not even considering the fact that I'd have to buy a stereo amp/receiver (~$200) on top of the external dac in order to complete my setup if I went with the second route.

So here's my question: Should I keep the Yamaha receiver? Or should I refund it and go with the external dac and stereo amp/receiver route since good stereo sound is all that I'm after?

Thanks in advance for all your help guys!

jackfish
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That $430 would have gotten you

closer to where you want to be with a two channel music system. All the compromises which might make the RX-A1000 a good hometheater receiver are likely to make it a less than suitable choice for a music system. Just look at the list of features it has which will never be used and you tell me.

kawazydude
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jackfish, although there are

jackfish, although there are a lot features in the yamaha that i will likely not use anytime soon, i still thought that the internal dac inside the receiver would be of better quality than any other external dac + stereo amp combo that i could buy for $430.  but i just don't know for sure b/c i haven't been able to compare the sounds of either setup.  Do you, or anyone else, have any recommendations for an external dac and stereo amp totaling around $400-500 that you guys feel would have better sound quality than my current yamaha receiver?  

jackfish
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I think you will probably be fine with that AV receiver if

you understand its limitations.

Here would be an interesting combo...

FiiO D3 DAC for $30 delivered, yes, that is $30! Cambridge Audio Azur 550A integrated amplifier for $399.

mreise
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This is a tough one.  One of

This is a tough one.  One of my partners is a hi-fi retailer and I've done network installs around some of the Yamaha Aventage series receivers.  I like them a lot, but I don't think I'd want one as my DAC in a 2-channel system.  That's not to say that they sound bad and it's certainly a fantastic starting point (I started with a garbage $80 DAC), but I think a dedicated DAC that's been designed for 2-channel listening may sound better.  Right now I've got a Peachtree Audio Dac-It ($449 retail) on loan and I'm blown away by how great it's made my system sound.  All this being said, you did get a fantastic peace of equipment for $430.  

deckeda
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Joined: Feb 1 2006 - 7:41pm
You probably did OK. We may

You probably did OK. We may not be as enthusiastic about it as you, because the assumption that its DAC is as good as a dedicated one, or that it's implemented well, is truly an unknown. So don't try and "figure it out" based on fractional cost amounts. It don't work that way here.

If it were me I'd keep it and really get to know it. You need a baseline setup before you can judge any future changes; now you have a promising one.

Some things to keep in mind:

1) If all your sources are 16/44 (and they probably are) you're OK coming from the Mac's optical output. I suppose the Yamaha has a corresponding TosLink input. Use a suitable, one-piece cable, not an adapter coming out of the Mac into a regular TosLink cable. You can find mini-optical to TosLink cables.

2) If you haven't already, your music collection should be lossless files, not lossy files such as mp3 or AAC. Lossless will be WAV, AIFF or Apple Lossless in iTunes. Some other players such as Decibel or Pure Music can directly play FLAC files, akin to Apple Lossless. (And FLAC files can be freely converted to say, Apple Lossless with XLD or xACT.) Many people say that these software players sound better than iTunes ...

3) For high resolution files you buy from (for example) HDTracks.com or aquire from other means, you'll need a USB DAC or a USB bridge (gives you a digital coax port), because the Mac's optical out doesn't output more than a 48kHz sample rate. There are places online that purport "CD quality" aka Redbook aka "regular" lossless files to be high resolution. They are not. 16-bit, 44kHz lossless files are certainly better than mp3 or AAC, but they ain't hires.

4) As always, learn about your room, move speakers and listening position around, do the "free stuff" first. Remember to have fun!

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