Cheap vs expensive DAC?

Associate
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I'm reading reviews on the expensive chord qutest DAC, user reviews sound like it's "life changing"

Can a DAC really have that much of an impact on sound?... I ask this, remembering the days of "expensive HDMI cables"

Snake oil?
 
Man of Honour
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Take the easy option, go listen for yourself and compare say a cheap DVD player to a good CD player.
If you can’t tell the difference. You get to save yourself hundreds/thousands of £
 
Soldato
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Take the easy option, go listen for yourself and compare say a cheap DVD player to a good CD player.
If you can’t tell the difference. You get to save yourself hundreds/thousands of £

Compare a dvd played to a CD player? What??
 
Soldato
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I think what he is trying to say compare listening to a CD in a said DVD player & then listening to the same CD in a good dedicated CD player. Some can tell the difference & care about it, other's don't.

I wanted to try out a external DAC myself, I'm going down the route of a Raspberry pi 4 & DAC hat for the pi. The DAC hat was £25 so if my old & decrepid hearing cant tell the difference between that & the DAC in my Denon AV receiver, then I can sell the DAC hat on & still tinker with the pi 4.
 
Soldato
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OK - now reading this thread the 2.0 receiver thread was a similar comedy thread.
 
Soldato
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^ you need to get out more, if this is your source of entertainment... Amazing, insight comment though

I'm guessing it's not your intention, but this and your other thread do come across a bit "I've got so much money and this is all such a bore", so I can understand where @jpaul is coming from.

If this is still about you playing Tidal via Chromecast then my opinion on it hasn't changed from the other thread. I think your source device is the bottleneck. Buying a good DAC - either expensive or not - is akin to trying to.polish a turd.

Maybe have a look at the way Roon works with its Chromecast app.
 
Caporegime
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DACs absolutely make a difference.

I've used solid state DACs and tube DACs and I much preferred the tube it just sounded more natural to me although I do understand that tubes do colour the sound and again sound is something that is completely subjective and people like what they like.

You have people who just want bass bass bass. It doesn't matter if you give them the best source material, the best source feed, the best DAC and the best amp if the output isn't all bass they will think it sounds crap.

I've tested and owned DACs randing from a few quid all they way up to £800. Yes there is a substantial difference but the sweet spot is around the £100-£200 mark and after that your paying for minor improvements. The max I'd spend is £200-£300 and I'd buy from schiit they are very high quality and spec for the money.

https://www.schiit.co.uk/dacs

Again how good your ears are at listening is a big variable. I can hear sounds others cannot and can hear my CCTV NVR fan from several rooms away. I can also hear a humming noise from my Dyson fan from the other side of the room when it's off and in standby. Others cannot hear either of these sounds even with good hearing. So someone might think someone is talking rubbish but the truth is their hearing is a lot better than yours.
 
Soldato
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DACs absolutely make a difference.

I've used solid state DACs and tube DACs and I much preferred the tube it just sounded more natural to me although I do understand that tubes do colour the sound and again sound is something that is completely subjective and people like what they like.

You have people who just want bass bass bass. It doesn't matter if you give them the best source material, the best source feed, the best DAC and the best amp if the output isn't all bass they will think it sounds crap.

I've tested and owned DACs randing from a few quid all they way up to £800. Yes there is a substantial difference but the sweet spot is around the £100-£200 mark and after that your paying for minor improvements. The max I'd spend is £200-£300 and I'd buy from schiit they are very high quality and spec for the money.

https://www.schiit.co.uk/dacs

Again how good your ears are at listening is a big variable. I can hear sounds others cannot and can hear my CCTV NVR fan from several rooms away. I can also hear a humming noise from my Dyson fan from the other side of the room when it's off and in standby. Others cannot hear either of these sounds even with good hearing. So someone might think someone is talking rubbish but the truth is their hearing is a lot better than yours.


I’ve been following schiit a while. I picked a 2nd hand amp/dac combo off mm for a friends birthday. I tested them before I gave them . Impressed. I still can’t work out how good the dac in the sennheiser hdvd800 is.
 
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Caporegime
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I'm reading reviews on the expensive chord qutest DAC, user reviews sound like it's "life changing"

Can a DAC really have that much of an impact on sound?... I ask this, remembering the days of "expensive HDMI cables"

Snake oil?

Yes, often snake oil. ABX tests can frequently demonstrate this.

Not that there can't be some differences, see above post re: tubes... but there is a pretty obvious explanation for that, tubes... if a DAC has been built to deliberately alter the sound in some way the of course it can sound different, but generally, there is no magical woo required here, building a DAC is something that can be done relatively cheaply.

The notion that more money = better or that you can judge by the price range just plays into the usual woo, and beliefs ever-present in hi-fi for the past few decades.
 
Caporegime
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I’ve been following schiit awile. I picked a 2nd hand amp/dac combo off mm for a friends birthday. I tested them before I gave them . Impressed. I still can’t work out how good the dac in the sennheiser hdvd800 is.

Their stuff is really good even at the £100-£300 price range you don't need to buy their higher end stuff.

I'd buy them simply because really good value for money and bought and designed in America so it's not cheap electronics from China and really good warranty too.
 
Soldato
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Yes, often snake oil. ABX tests can frequently demonstrate this.

Not that there can't be some differences, see above post re: tubes... but there is a pretty obvious explanation for that, tubes... if a DAC has been built to deliberately alter the sound in some way the of course it can sound different, but generally, there is no magical woo required here, building a DAC is something that can be done relatively cheaply.

The notion that more money = better or that you can judge by the price range just plays into the usual woo, and beliefs ever-present in hi-fi for the past few decades.
Lot of snake oil in the audio industry imo.
 
Caporegime
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Lot of snake oil in the audio industry imo.

It's not snake oil but there is a ceiling of where it becomes pointless spending more.

A £5 DAC Vs a £300 DAC there will be a difference in sound quality.

A £300 DAC Vs a £1500 DAC there will be a minimal difference and tbh your whole chain will need to be top end to even appreciate what the £1500 DAC is capable of. No point running a £30 amp or £200 speakers for instance and using magnetic tape as the source material.

There is a point where yes every product has pretty much hit it's peak and pointless spending more.

As in spending £50 on decent copper cabling is fine but there are people who will spend £500 on cabling which just isn't necessary unless you are wiring a proper cinema or music studio.

Much like a £15 hdmi cable from a reputable brand will be just as good as a £500 hdmi cable.

Wasn't there someone on here who spent £1000 on a cable? I remember them posting a link to the cable they had bought and I was shocked.

It's not snake oil until you hit the law of diminishing returns. Buying a decent DAC therefore isn't snake oil.
 
Soldato
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On their own, the right DAC can make a difference, but typically it’s not big.

It depends on so many factors. If you’re using £50, there’s no point.

When I had a pair of B&W P9, I could tell the difference between onboard audio and a £150 Musical Fidelity DAC/Amp, and that was independent of Tidal vs Spotify.

Don’t think I’d have spent any more on a DAC though.

The main difference I could tell was how clean the signal was, no interference or noise.


For me, it’s about law of diminishing returns - once it’s good enough, I can’t tell the difference.
 
Associate
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I can't speak for the Chord Qutest but it does strike me as being in the diminishing returns price bracket

I recently added an iFi Zen to my setup however and if you're coming from nothing to a DAC then you will notice a world of difference
 
Man of Honour
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The diminishing returns comments are an interesting point, and to a degree, I'm in agreement.
All the same, if you're genuinely interested, it's worth putting a little time and effort in to hear some really good gear. Most dealers are very enthusiastic about showing off their kit, and there's also the better "enthusiast" shows, such as Scalford.
I believe that it helped me to better understand just what I was getting, even if I couldn't afford some of the real top end gear. So with bit of time, I've managed to hear some really good gear from groups including Linn, Naim, Mark Levinson, Esoteric, DCS, Wadia, Meridian, Mckintosh. So whilst my "preferences" on sonic presentation might well be different to others, at least I'm comfortable with understanding what I've got for the dosh, and what's possible.
 
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