(Was) not hearing a difference between my NAD DAC and CD player: Border Patrol DAC SE Update

Discussion in 'DACs' started by grundigger, Dec 9, 2017.

  1. grundigger

    grundigger AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    673
    Location:
    South Austin
    I bought an NAD C 546BEE a few days ago from one of our local brick and mortar audio salons. I briefly considered getting a Line Magnetic 515CD player, but I prefer to spend money on DAC upgrades (hopefully not too frequently). I have a fairly revealing preamp, LTA MZ2 (f'in great!), and amp, First Watt F6, going into a pair of Sonus faber monitors. The Sonus fabers will soon be set aside for a pair of Omega super alnicos that are being built for me right now.

    For the life of me, I can't definitively hear a difference, let alone an improvement, when listening to the outboard NAD D 1050 DAC versus the CD player. I usually listen to classical, with jazz and rock making up the other 25% or so of my listening. I even got my wife involved as I switched between CD and DAC (volume was essentially matched, no more sophisticated technology or science was involved in the evaluation, though). I anticipate people saying that it shouldn't be surprising I don't hear a difference, but I would have thought a $500 DAC would improve the sound of a $500 CD player. Guess not.

    I bought the CD player to use as a transport, mostly. Okay, what's the next step? Schiit Yggrasil? PS Audio DirectStream Junior? Holo Audio Spring DAC? Or?
     

     

    Please register to disable this ad.

  2. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    987
    Someone was recently comparing the 1050 to his new then Yggrasil and said it was a night and day difference. However, if you don't mind buying used, for CD-only use you could pick one of those vintage DACs based on 20-bit multibit chips and get 80% of Yggrasil's performance at 1/10 of the cost. I've just got my hands on a Parasound D/AC-1000 and it easily outperforms the DACs I heard that are more or less in the same league as the NAD 1050.
     
  3. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,693
    Location:
    Hillsboro, Oregon
    What file formats are you playing through the DAC?
     
  4. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Messages:
    29,311
    Location:
    In FLUX currently......
    Well, that is NO comparison a 2200 USD DAC vs a 500 USD player. Like comparing apples and oranges not very valuable. Now if the DAC was one of the SMSL DAC's or similar - that would be useful because the price would be similar.

    As far as your NAD - there is more to a CD player than the laser and the DAC chip. This is what you are seeing now. THe analog output is important as well as the DAC used. Does it have one PS or does it split the PS between analog and digital sides. etc.

    Between the 2 - the 1050 uses a Cirrus Logic DAC ship and the CD uses a Wolfson 24 bit. I would think the CD is better (384 MHz/24bit chip) and you can use that as a USB DAC also.
     
  5. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    987
    That was just to say that there are gains to be had when going up the ladder.
     
  6. Bob

    Bob AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,928
    Location:
    West coast
    you might look at the chips used in the DACs. often there's outrageous markups
    (due to fancy case machining, etc) but the vendors are smart enough to look for
    other markets and platforms.

    the AKM4490 (family) and ESS9038 (family) of chips are seen in Metronome high 4-figure
    units, Oppo 205s, and range all the way down to <$100 DAPs. in fact, try the DAPs -
    you can use the audio outputs (maybe digital outs if some units have them) into your amp.

    or use your ears as it's the best instrument on the face of the earth

    There's a xduoo that has 24/192 and DSD256 playback. under $80
     

     

    Please register to disable this ad.

  7. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Messages:
    29,311
    Location:
    In FLUX currently......
    There is more to a DAC than that. How the Analog output is designed. The USB and other inputs need to be done with equal care, not to mention the PS. I was poo poo on better DACs until I bought one and the differences are staggering not mini-steps. Just saying. The 80 dollar ones are a good start but there is big difference. After a point, I am sure the differences get smaller and smaller.
     
    stish likes this.
  8. for_p1

    for_p1 Addicted Member

    Messages:
    5,468
    Location:
    North TX
    You should NOT hear much difference. You need to get into high-res audio to find better sound. Some DACs allow to select one out of many reconstruction filters - you can hear the difference sometimes. But plain DAC is not different from plain CD player on 16/44.1 content.
     
  9. grundigger

    grundigger AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    673
    Location:
    South Austin
    Thanks, I've been on the road, so I haven't been able to read and respond until now.

    I'm well aware that the NAD DAC is mid-fi, but it's pretty good mid-fi. I have no illusions about it being in the same class as a better R-2R DAC like a higher end Schiit or Audio Note. I'm a fan of Non-Oversampling DACs, and of course the NAD isn't one of those. However, I'm a little annoyed that a similarly-priced CD player by the same manufacturer is essentially identical in sound. It's a fact; I accept it; I'm also annoyed. :no: I'll probably get over it. BTW, I appreciate dissimarly-priced gear being compared. In my many years of playing with audio gear, I know price isn't always the best indicator regarding audio performance, and especially when your preference for certain flavors of sound or presentation is taken into account. But, yeah, more often than not, you do get what you pay for.

    I've been playing 44.1 kHz/16 bit CDs exclusively; I also have a Thinkpad with Daphile installed that has hi-res files. But I prefer playing CDs.

    I also agree with botrytis about analog implementation of DACs. The chips are important, but how well their power is regulated and rectified, in addition to how the output is handled is crucial. That's why I like Audio Note, at least in principle, since I haven't heard their DACs in person yet. But I have direct experience modifying class D and Tripath amps and I know a stiff power supply is important.

    I'll probably order an Audio Note DAC 2.1 kit before the year is out.

    Thanks for your thought-provoking answers!
     
  10. grundigger

    grundigger AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    673
    Location:
    South Austin
    You are right.
     
  11. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Messages:
    29,311
    Location:
    In FLUX currently......
    I have not heard a tube DAC I have liked. Most have so much background noise that it annoys me (that includes the AN DAC).
     

     

    Please register to disable this ad.

  12. grundigger

    grundigger AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    673
    Location:
    South Austin
    Okay, I'll bite: What have you liked?

    I had a Maverick TubeMagic D2 and I thought it kind of sucked. I really wanted to like it, but it left me uninterested in the sounds, let alone whatever music it made. I did various opamp swaps too. You're persuading me to forget the AN DAC. Maybe I'll trying the Yggdrasil. The NAD isn't terrible, but it also doesn't satisfy me. I was going to jump whole hog into vinyl yet again, but I'm really feeling lukewarm about that, especially since it's going to cost the better part of $10k for the analog setup. I play the piano and working on making music is a lot more satisfying to me in a lot of ways than passively listening to recordings. But I want my stereo to sound good, as I do want to listen to great music, something I'm incapable of producing . . .
     
  13. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    987
    While I generally have nothing against tubes I can relate to not liking tube-buffered DACs. If you want a tube buffer to mud the sound throw it in downstream of the DAC or get a tube preamp. I can see the point using tubes for the I/V conversion and such, but a tube buffer following op-amps is just a gimmick.
     
    WobblySam likes this.
  14. GChief

    GChief AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,311
    Location:
    Eastern NC
    Ummm tubes sound better :beatnik:

    :beerchug:
     
  15. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Messages:
    29,311
    Location:
    In FLUX currently......
    TOTALLY AGREE!!! :bigok:
     
    nyhifihead likes this.
  16. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    987
    Based on the feedback I read the NAD 1050 is a soft-sounding DAC. Any tube-buffered NOS DAC will be even more soft sounding with more HF roll-off but may render mid and low frequency content with more realism and more "flow" to the music. You may enjoy it or not depending on your preferences. The Schiit multibit offerings are on the other end of the spectrum, very clean and crisp detailed sound a bit in your face. I'm extrapolating from a Modi Multibit I had to their more expensive multibit units based on what I read about user experiences.
     

     

    Please register to disable this ad.

  17. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Messages:
    29,311
    Location:
    In FLUX currently......
    gvl has it right - think of putting tubes in your system like adding a compression system. If you want to understand - use this track by Hugh Masekela from HOPE - the Coal Train. It is recorded live and is so bloody dynamic even digital may not do it justice but the soft clipping of tubes will roll off the dynamics, making less impressive.
     
  18. gvl

    gvl Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    987
    When used judiciously :)
     
    Archguy and GChief like this.
  19. motorstereo

    motorstereo AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    10,369
    Nice to know I'm not alone in not liking the sound of a tubed dac. I used a Grant Fidelity tubed dac for a few years and I preferred the sound of solid state output over the tubed output. Now I understand why I preferred the ss but I was in the minority with that as even Grant recommended the tubed output. Most claimed it would reduce the harshness of digital which it probably did but to my ears it was also doing something else that was taking away from the music.
     
  20. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    Messages:
    29,311
    Location:
    In FLUX currently......
    That harshness is dynamics and that hard digital ceiling and tubes roll that off (which now adds an artifact).
     
    motorstereo likes this.

Share This Page