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XLR8R22
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New DAC recommendations and questions

Looking to buy my first DAC for digital media playback.  My budget is ~$400, would prefer less to more as I also need to buy a new phono cartridge soon.  I've been looking at the HRT Music Streamer II, Musical Fidelity V-DAC II, and Cambridge Audio Dacmagic (used is in my price range).  The only real prerequisite is good low end response, as I listen to a lot of techno/electronica, most of which has significant information down in the 20-30hz range, some even lower.  Can anybody give me solid comparisons between these, or recommend something else?

 

Also, I have a coulpe questions about DACs in general.

1.  Is it safe to assume that pretty much any external DAC will improve SQ from digital files on my computer?  

2.  My PC has both USB and a digital coaxial output, which one would be better to use?

3.  Will a DAC affect just music playback?  Or all sound playback?  For example, will the sound quality of a youtube video improve at all?  Or the sound in a video game?

 

Thanks in advance!

Demondog
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I'll try to answer

1.  I suppose there are some poor external DACs, but if you are now using an onboard audio chip, you can most likely do better with a reputable external DAC. Hard to make a blanket statement though.

2.  I think it would mostly depend on the quality of the external DAC's USB, or S/PDIF input, which one is better.

3.  In general, all digital to analog conversion will be improved, but low quality, or low resolution digital material, will still be low quality.

I can't help with specific DAC recommendations, as I don't have direct experience with DACs in your price range, but there are plenty of good ones to choose from.

XLR8R22
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Price range

Humor me, prices aside, what do you recommend?

Demondog
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Humor

I'm using a Grace m903 (replaced an m902) that I really like, though I like it as much for its multitude of features as for the sound.  The m903 sounds distinctly better to me than the older model, but the main improvement for my use is the new asynchronous USB.  I refused to use the USB input of the previous unit, using a USB to S/PDIF converter instead.  The new one has a lot of other nice touches also.

I don't recommend anything I haven't heard.  But for my thoughts on the units you mentioned, I'd probably go for the Cambridge Audio Dacmagic, because a friend of mine (with a much better system) has a Cambridge 840C CDP that I like the sound of, and it shares some things with the Dacmagic, at the least the dual differential Wolfson D/A Chips.  It seems to pack in a lot of technology for the price.

Note:  If I can't have it all, I tend to go towards a brighter/impactful sound, over warmer/lusher.

As for the HRT Music Streamer, I'm not a real fan of USB powered devices, but there are compromises with anything.  It sounds good from what I've read.  The V-DAC II looks even better to me.  I think if you choose any of these, as long as the features suit your needs, I doubt you will be disappointed.

If you can stretch or find a deal, maybe check an Arcam rDac.

Good deal on an interesting unit right now, Emotiva XDA-1.  I don't have any idea how it sounds.  http://www.emotiva.com/xda1.shtm  It's going to be replaced with an improved model.

Reed
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I have owned all 3

I have owned all three of the mentioned DACS.  Here is how I think they fall:

1) MF V-DAC II

2) HRT Music Streamer II+

3) DAC Magic

I currently have an MF V-Link feeding a Rega DAC.  My computer source is a MAC Mini and Macbook Pro laptop.  The Music Streamer II+ only accepts USB input, so it is more limited in input options.  Since the V-link technology is utilized by the MF V-DAC II, I found the USB option the best in my experience.

Hope that helps.

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