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Are "vintage" DACs worthwhile, or is this a tech that does not age well?

Discussion in 'DACs' started by jmkeuning, Jun 27, 2018.

  1. Audioraven

    Audioraven Active Member

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    gvl is correct, the Parasound 1100 uses two PCM63 Burr Browns of the J spec variety.
     

     

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  2. BillWojo

    BillWojo AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    While on the subject of the Parasound D/AC-1000, has anyone modded one yet? I know there is a German company selling a new receiver and filter chip but I'm not convinced it will do much good for Red book.
    Op-Amps will require the installation of sockets, not really a big deal but has anyone gone there yet? I picked up a set of K grade chips. Figured that when I install them I might be open to other mods as well.
    There is so much done right in this build with the three linear PS and overall solid construction that I'm surprised it hasn't developed a sort of cult like following.

    BillWojo
     
  3. restorer-john

    restorer-john Addicted Member

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    Thanks gvl for your response. I do understand what you are trying to convey, but there are a few misconceptions I think. :)

    Day one for Philips was March 1st 1983 with the TDA-1540 ceramic pack 14 bit converter with a 4x OS chipset. Day one resolution was 15.6 bits (according to Philips) Philips used two, one for each channel.

    Day one for Sony, October 1st 1982 was the CDP-101(commercially released in Japan, six months before Philips) with the in-house produced CX-20017 16 bit D/A with a 16 bit resolution. Sony used one and shared it between channels, but made some tweaks to minimise the phase delay.

    Many cheaper machines used the existing Toshiba 14 bit non oversampled converter in the early years of CD. Unfortunately, that meant budget buyers didn't hear what the format was capable of.

    At the time of release, the playback equipment (CD players) exceeded the abilities of any and all recording equipment in terms of ENOB. The A/Ds simply weren't anywhere near 16 bits with decent linearity.

    So we had domestic replay equipment with noise floors down -93dB or more, but recordings (particularly classical with very quiet parts and large dynamic range), that either tailed off into 'fuzz' or echoes that were lost in 'fuzz'. We'd turned up the volume to hear the super quiet bits, not realising that THD at low levels in PCM was extremely high. We were used to analogue where low levels seemed OK (albeit 30dB greater in level) and it was the loud bits that distorted. Digital was the polar opposite.

    As time went on, the A/Ds and recordings got better. Very quickly in fact. It is my belief that much of the early criticism of the CD players themselves was completely unfounded. I have many CD players and plenty of 1st and 2nd gen classics in my collection. They are audibly indistinguishable from many later TOTL units and often very difficult to separate on the test bench.

    The technical test CDs released in 1982/3 showed what the format and the machines of the day were capable of- it was the commercial releases of actual music that hadn't caught up. That said, there are some exceptions and they were frequently used as demos in the early years.

    Cheers.
     
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  4. Decibel_116

    Decibel_116 AK Subscriber

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    Nice post. I think there are a lot of misconceptions over the sound quality/capability of early CD players and their associated DACs. I remember back when CD players started hitting the stereo stores. The issues with both early digital recording/mastering and some of the early internal DACs were being discussed even then. No doubt there were some outstanding sounding DACs produced for CD Redbook and sounded great as long as the source material was of good quality. Quite a few of these are still around today and are sought after for their sound quality. Some, like myself, prefer these for 16/44.1 files over the newer DACs. If you don't have a need to be able to decode HiRes files, the older models can be a good solution.
     
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  5. mjw21a

    mjw21a Super Member

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    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    The Starting Point Systems DAC3 is tonally a beautiful sounding DAC. Not quite detailed enough though. I didn't like the Schiit Modi 2 Multibit at all.... Too forward and to my mind digital sounding.

    The best I've used is a Gieseler Gross DAC though the price is a bit over the top.

    I did acquire a Weilang Audio DAC which is based around the same AKM 4497EQ chip as the Gieseler. It has some transformer hum though sounds incredibly similar though without that special something that makes the Gieseler the top DAC I've ever heard. It's just as natural and detailed though lacks the transparency and presence of the Gieseler.

    I'm going to roll the OPAMPS for some HDAM based ones and also try Burson V6 Classics. See if that changes things. I've also some transformers on the way which I suspect might bring it very close indeed with OPAMPS removed.

    Less than a quarter of the cost though so a very worthwhile option. I'll probably stuff woolen socks around the transformer rather than sorting the hum. ;)
     
  6. david1111

    david1111 Active Member

    Messages:
    247
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    I believe there's a lot of excellent older Dacs. Read the reviews that were written at the time of their market introductions, and narrow the list to 2 or 3 Dacs. Then make sure there are 3 or 4 reviews that agree on the the quality of the short-list Dacs, and make your choice, based on which one you think will sound best with the attributes of the other key components in your system.
    $500 should get you a $1200-1500 Dac. (2002 prices).
    I have an MF A3-24 Dac, being fed by a very basic Denon CD changer, and the sound-stage and definition is impressive. Make sure that your transport has a digital coax RCA output. The Toslink digital connections on my CD to Dac sound like s**t.
    I know there are lots of current Dacs that sound great as well, but I would think the comparative ones would cost you a lot more than $500.
    Good luck!

    Dave
     

     

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  7. niws

    niws New Member

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    I tried a Cal Audio Sigma dac way back when and was disappointed with its sound. At the time I had a Micromega DuoBS2 which outperformed it in just about every sonic parameter except dynamic contrasts. I was intrigued by the Sigma because it used a tube in its signal chain and I like the sound of tubes. However, the Cal Audio sounded nothing like the sound of tube equipment I have owned or heard. I haven't heard the Theta Progeny Dac, but I have owned the Theta Pro Basic I and II and have also heard the Theta Pro Gen V. I preferred the Micromega Duo BS2 to the Theta Pro Basics. However, the Theta Pro Gen V is one of the best sounding vintage dacs I have heard. I currently use a Micromega Mydac and it sounds better than the Micromega DuoBS2. I also have a Musical Fidelity V-Dac that also sounds a little better than the Micromega DuoBS2. My totally subjective opinion is that some newer dacs can sound better than older ones because the newer ones may have circuitry that reduces jitter which was not available many years ago. When I was using the older Thetas and the Micromega DuoBS2, I couldn't stand the sound of them unless I used a very good transport and had an Audio Alchemy DTI Pro in the signal chain. With the Mydac, I am using a relatively cheap Harman Kardon DVD player as a transport which sounds ok and my desktop computer through a Musical Fidelity V-Link 192. With the V-Dac, I am using an old Sony ES Changer and Chromecast Audio. Both of my Audio Alchemy units broke and could not be repaired but I can't say that I miss them now.
     
  8. david1111

    david1111 Active Member

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    247
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    The Theta Pro Gen V DAC gets good reviews. I don't know the other DACs you mentioned other than the MF V-dac, and I haven't heard it. I also, have a very basic CDP that I use as a transport. The MF A3-24 that I have makes it sound very good.
    In the review from the guy that designed it, he said that the 24 / 192 upsampling greatly reduces the Jitter. And the A3-24 also has oversized chokes from they're high-end MF Nu-vista CDP, added to the power supply which eliminates any noise or interference from there. So I believe that it actually has the same or better level circuitry compared to the current models, but of course I'd have to listen to two samples to know for sure.

    I, also, have an MF V-link 192 to connect my computer to the system, but my CDs always sound much better then the 96 or 192 Hertz music files I stream or download. It's like the top end and bottom end are stripped off the files. Have you had this issue? Do hi-rez music files sound as good or better than your CDs? I'd really appreciate your opinion on this, niws.
    Happy listening.

    Dave
     
  9. niws

    niws New Member

    Messages:
    28
    Dave,
    I haven't tried streaming any hi-rez files from my computer. I use JRiver to play back my ripped cds and have it set to upsample up to 192K. I have not noticed any significant degradation in sound quality like you mention when playing back my ripped files, but that may not be a good comparison. I do slightly prefer playing cd's through my transport than the computer (slightly richer sounding midrange), but I use computer playback more for background listening. I also stream Spotify Premium and Pandora through my desktop.
    I do like the MF V-Link 192. I found it improves the sound of my HP Desktop computer significantly compared to using the coaxial digital output of the computer.
     
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  10. slow_jazz

    slow_jazz AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Nothing wrong with older dac's.
     
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  11. david1111

    david1111 Active Member

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    Niws: well then, I guess my issue of poor sounding hi-rez files is the software. Some one had suggested that earlier to me,but they didnt have an MF V-Link 192. I've be using VLC as a player/interface (cuz I'm cheap), and I should really get a decent hi-rez music player like JRiver or Roon etc. I'll work on that. Thanks a lot for the info, it really helps.

    Jmkeuning: slow_jazz is on the ball when he said the older Dacs are good. My MF A3-24 is about 18 years old and it really is great. Very musical and yet detailed. And theres lots of other ones depending on your taste.

    Dave
     

     

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  12. Wildcat

    Wildcat Audio Sommelier

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    That is a point right there. Anyone (including all of us here) can interpret measurements any way we'd like to get a specific outcome. One person can twist measurements to make anything look like the greatest DAC on earth; another with the same measurements could show it to be a polished turd. Anyone who listens to music with their spec sheets and measurements rather than their ears I can never trust completely; it almost reeks of "agenda." Like, let's prove someone wrong by exposing (*gasp*) the measurements.

    See, that is what bothers me. I've heard plenty of things at audio shows that are supposed to be so "great" and cost a small fortune yet, to my ears, they are sorely lacking in a pleasant sound reproduction. The specs are top tier, yet why does it sound so uninviting?

    Yet I also think that listening and totally ignoring specs is the incorrect way to go about it also.

    I prefer a balance. Some specs can explain some of what we are hearing, yet in the end, what sounds best to our individual ears is what we should be placing in our systems. Specs don't tell the whole story, but they are a part of it. If I believed all the specs, then why does my current power amp sound so much more lifelike and powerful than a well-spec'ed amp I had in the system briefly that sounded clinical, lifeless and gutless (with nearly double the power rating)?
     
  13. EyeGee

    EyeGee Big Ears Subscriber

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    Location:
    Northern California
    I own an Assemblage 2.0 which I enjoy with a small collection of HDCDs, but it's also fine with Redbook. I compare that with my (older) Rega DAC, which I enjoy for its filtering choices. That said, the difference using either of these two DACs is not that significant compared to the built-in DAC on my Onkyo player, which uses Wolfson WM8726 chips.

    I also have a Schiit Modi multi-bit which I intend to move soon. In general I prefer the warmer, less "digital" sound of the older "vintage" DACs.
     
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  14. pdm4606

    pdm4606 Super Member

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    Figure this, if I can buy a simple cheapo DAC for $8 to $12, why mess with old stuff.
    I have 4 cheapo DAC's that work fine and do the job I expect.
     
  15. david1111

    david1111 Active Member

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    Location:
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    Hmmm ... ten bucks average dac cost. An unusual statement.
     
  16. GChief

    GChief Not well known, super member or other silliness Subscriber

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    They are actually fairly plentiful...
     

     

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  17. Hyfi

    Hyfi Addicted Member

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  18. Hyfi

    Hyfi Addicted Member

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  19. bimasta

    bimasta Super Member

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    ^^ That one might beat a vintage DAC... but I'd have to hear it...
     
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  20. GChief

    GChief Not well known, super member or other silliness Subscriber

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    Ha, I missed the K :confused: and was reading about it and was like:banana:
     
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