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Trading out CD for good DAC?

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Steve

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I currently have a Rotel 1072 CD that I use whenever I sit down for serious listening. This is being played through outlaw processor (in bypass mode) and outlaw amp, into my pair of Claritys and REL sub. I also have a 5 disc DVD player for casual use (i.e. the wife, entertaining, etc).

I have finally finished converting my entire CD collection to Apple lossless format. I really like the convenience of pulling up anything, at any time, in any combination. So...I'm thinking about selling the Rotel CD in favor of a good DAC. I was thinking that I could use my laptop to supply digital to the DAC, and then analog from there.

I'm hoping at the end of the day, I will end up with superior sound quality to the existing combination, more convenience, for equal or less money. (unfortunately, I can't afford to put any additional money in due to new child and building a house)

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I read a recent post about the Ack Dact, but I'm concerned about the limitations (running on battery) of this approach for longterm causual use. Any other Dac's I should consider? BTW, the Rotel's are currently going for around $500 on audiogon, so that would be the upper end of my budget for this project.

Thanks,
Steve

PS - something that I could leave on, or has a 12V trigger would contribute greatly to ease of use.
 

sleepysurf

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I would give SERIOUS consideration to the Squeezebox3, which is perfect for PC-based music streaming, and has a very capable Burr-Brown DAC. I have converted all my music to FLAC files, and also listen to Pandora and myriad internet radio streams, thru my ML setup. Although I eventually decided to feed the Squeezebox digital out to a Benchmark DAC-1, the addition of that outboard DAC offered subtle improvement, if any. Many high-end folks are quite happy with the sound of the native Squeezebox, some adding a linear PSU as well. The Squeezebox fully supports Apple Lossless, and is compatible with iTunes (if you are using that). Check out various threads about the Squeezebox here, and elsewhere on the Net.

Alternatively, the similar Roku Soundbridge can be had for slightly cheaper, but it's native DAC and overall capabilities aren't as slick.
 

Jeff Zaret

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Steve,
Just to put a little twist on this, I too have the Rotel 1072 CD and I think there are not many CD players out there that can surpass the "sound" it produces without doubling or tripling your investment. That being said, I think you are at a crossroads of whether to move everything to a "lossless" environment or as you said use the Rotel for critical listening. You may be able to do both too as a compromise.

I just bought a DAC for the Rotel and I am very pleased and amazed of the results. It is from Channel Islands, the VDA-2. I have had this for about 10 days now it is still amazing me what additional information in is reproducing.

If need more info, let me know

Good Luck

Jeff :cool:
 

amey01

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The PC can be ver convenient! Personally, I'd keep the Rotel for serious listening because it is uncompromised - a PC environment is noisy and just not the same, even with an outboard DAC. Then I'd use the laptop with Apple lossless for casual listening without the DAC, adding one when funds become available.
 

Steve

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I've considered the Squeezebox, but I'm building a house, and plan to build an integrated A/V distribution from scratch, which will likely not be compatible with Squeezebox. However, I agree that it is a very slick system.

I figured going with a standalone DAC would provide me the most flexibilty for critical two channel listening. While the strategies and technologies around content distribution are changing rapidly, redbook CD decoding has been around a long time and is static. I figured buying a good DAC for two channel listening would allow me to leverage that particular investment, regardless of what else changes in the delivery stream.

BTW, I'm confused why the noisy PC would have any affect on the sound, since it is not involved in the decoding process.
 

Steve

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Jeff,

Just looked at the VDA-2 online. It looks very interesting. I particularly like the multiple inputs. That would allow me to also use this with my existing DVD player, if I ever wanted to throw in a CD. I see no power switch, so I assume it is always on. Do you use their upgraded power supply, or the standard brick?

Steve
 

sleepysurf

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Steve, you're fortunate to be building a house, and able to incorporate A/V distribution, acoustics, etc in the plan. Unfortunately, technology is changing SO fast, it's hard to predict where we'll be tomorrow, let alone next year! No doubt we'll eventually all be streaming audio (and video), from either the Internet and/or Satellite/Cable source, with optional storage on a centralized Terabyte (or larger) server.

Keep us posted as your design evolves. We'll be living vicariously through you!
 

amey01

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Steve said:
BTW, I'm confused why the noisy PC would have any affect on the sound, since it is not involved in the decoding process.

I'm confused too, but I know the effects are there. It is commonly accepted that there are differences between CD transports (and I've heard those differences) and CD transports are just a digital data stream too. Jitter, noise, timing or something that 2006 science can't explain - I don't know.
 

Jeff Zaret

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Steve said:
Jeff,

Just looked at the VDA-2 online. It looks very interesting. I particularly like the multiple inputs. That would allow me to also use this with my existing DVD player, if I ever wanted to throw in a CD. I see no power switch, so I assume it is always on. Do you use their upgraded power supply, or the standard brick?

Steve
Steve,
The VDA-2 gets its power from the power supply and "clicks quietly", a microprocessor, when the signal is received and locked". I have the upgraded power supply and I use a DIY power cable with it too. I talked with Dusty and he said that with the upgraded supply you will hear more bass definition, which I do. He also said it depends on the equipment involved. If you have a mediocre setup (dangerous statement) you may not hear the difference and not worth it. He has a 30 day trial period and there is a small re-stocking fee if you return it.
I am amazed at the improvement it made to the Rotel and you already know how great it sounds. I use the digital out of the Rotel which will give you higher resolution than the optical (96 vs. 192) which by the way can be used with the Roku and maybe the Squeezebox(?).

As far as noise in a PC, they are notorious for noise. It is actually on the buss and associated peripheral devices within the PC. Some are noisier than others but this is transferred through the buss and eventually through the outputs. In comparison to stereo equipment, it is very noisy but to what extend one can hear it is also debatable.

Jeff :cool:
 

Steve

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WRT PC noise, I work in the industry and am very familiar with the quality (or lack) of the power supplies and associated circuitry within your typical PC. It's amazing that they work as well as they do...most of the time. I guess I'm just trying to understand how that can affect a digital output. I guess noise could possibly affect the quality of the clock being send over the digital output with the data. Perhaps a good DAC will be able to clean this noise up, if it is present. Don't know. I'm just speculating...of course, also trying to rationalize a cheaper solution. :D

It would be interesting to hear from someone much more familiar than I regarding this issue.

This might be another arguement for the Squeezebox approach, since presumably they have a much cleaner environment between ethernet and DAC. Just thinking out loud.
 

Craig

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I'm confused too, but I know the effects are there. It is commonly accepted that there are differences between CD transports (and I've heard those differences) and CD transports are just a digital data stream too. Jitter, noise, timing or something that 2006 science can't explain - I don't know.<!-- / message --><!-- sig -->
PC noise is absent with the Squeezebox format. It's not the same as outputting directly from the PC. The SB is remote from the PC and is only receiving streamed data from a hard drive over a lan cable or in my case, wireless. The SB3 has a very clean sound especially when playing lossless format recordings. The PC has an advantage over a typical transport in that it can correct errors during the data extraction process and storing that data on a hard drive.

Of course PC's do not use audiophile grade power supplies, wiring and EMI filtration and so forth but the PC has an advantage in that it can send out perfect data streams to a remote unit designed do a much better job of converting digital to analog and outside of the nasty EMI environnment of a PC.

There must be a reason why separate a transport and dac system performs better than combined units. Not always, but in the high-end world it seems to be the ultimate setup much like seperating the preamp from the amp.
 
T

Taz

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Jeff Zaret said:
Steve,
Just to put a little twist on this, I too have the Rotel 1072 CD and I think there are not many CD players out there that can surpass the "sound" it produces without doubling or tripling your investment. That being said, I think you are at a crossroads of whether to move everything to a "lossless" environment or as you said use the Rotel for critical listening. You may be able to do both too as a compromise.

I just bought a DAC for the Rotel and I am very pleased and amazed of the results. It is from Channel Islands, the VDA-2. I have had this for about 10 days now it is still amazing me what additional information in is reproducing.

If need more info, let me know

Good Luck

Jeff :cool:
Jeff, have you compared the VDA-2 to others I am looking at getting a DAC for my SB3 or possibly my DVD or CD players if the quality is better. The price on the VDA-2 for lack of better words is cheap compared to others I have looked at. cheap is great if the quality and sound compare to some of the ones in the $1000 range. Any thoughts
 

mondoribo

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Another experience with VDA-2

I tried the VDA-2 (with upgrade power supply) as an outboard DAC with my Rotel RCC-955 changer. Direct A/B test into different inputs on my preamp with identical cables. Could not hear any difference, other than a difference in gain. My wife has better ears than I, and could also not hear any difference. Since the whole DAC/power supply combo ran >$700, and I couldn't hear a difference, I returned it. Dusty was a very nice person to deal with though. He said the Rotel CD players were very "analog sounding" when I told him I couldn't hear the difference. Basically, it cost me about $70 (the restocking fee) to try it out, but still, if you can borrow something from a dealer and try it first, that would be a better idea.
 

Jeff Zaret

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mondoribo said:
I tried the VDA-2 (with upgrade power supply) as an outboard DAC with my Rotel RCC-955 changer. Direct A/B test into different inputs on my preamp with identical cables. Could not hear any difference, other than a difference in gain. My wife has better ears than I, and could also not hear any difference. Since the whole DAC/power supply combo ran >$700, and I couldn't hear a difference, I returned it. Dusty was a very nice person to deal with though. He said the Rotel CD players were very "analog sounding" when I told him I couldn't hear the difference. Basically, it cost me about $70 (the restocking fee) to try it out, but still, if you can borrow something from a dealer and try it first, that would be a better idea.
The Rotel RCC-955 is a diffrent animal than the RCD-1072. For one they use a very good Phillips transport and the new RCD 1072 uses the Sony transport. The reason for the change was Rotel could not get spare parts form Phillips any more.
I am not sure if the RCC-955 was HD or would deode up to 192k but that would be the only differences internally that I know.
In all honesty, I did not think I could hear a lot of difference but there are subtle differences which are noticable and pleasing to me. I do have nice equipment and it was a nice surprise.

For my 2 cents

Jeff :cool:
 

Jeff Zaret

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Taz said:
Jeff, have you compared the VDA-2 to others I am looking at getting a DAC for my SB3 or possibly my DVD or CD players if the quality is better. The price on the VDA-2 for lack of better words is cheap compared to others I have looked at. cheap is great if the quality and sound compare to some of the ones in the $1000 range. Any thoughts
Taz,
I have heard others but did not compare them in my system. I know of Dusty's reputation and he is a straigthforward guy and easy to deal with when you call.

Dusty sells direct so there is no middleman or store markup. I believe it is only a 10% restocking fee. All I can say is give it a try at worst it will cost less than $100 to find out.
I was pleased with the results.

If yo need more infor let me know.

Jeff :cool:
 
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