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  • DAC Comparison

    I seem to have provoked some discussion on another forum by raising a question about DACs and soundstaging, so thought I'd ask here.

    My systems are generally vinyl centric, and I have striven to maintain a decent level of performance on the digital side while not becoming caught up in the component of the month club (things seem to change pretty quickly in this area).

    I have played around with DACs ever since the days of the original Arcam Black Box (anyone remember them - c. late 1980s - the Arcam gear was usually built like a battleship and I still use a CD player in one of my systems - about triple the weight of modern players and has never missed a beat).

    As part of my more recent ain system overhaul, I decided to try a newer DAC. I had been using a Classe DAC-1, a highly rated and quite good sounding unit, but one channel had died on it (I may still see if it is worth fixing). I ended up with a Hegel HD-12 which has turned out to provide very decent sound, and my friend who was using a Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100, IIRC, wanted to A/B them in my system as it was more revealing than his we thought.

    It was an interesting session. Both sounded fairly good even when listening blind, but the minute we switched from the Cambridge to the Hegel, the sound stage expanded a metre or so past the outside of the speakers. Aside from that, we concluded that we both liked the Hegel better and he later ended up buying one, but I was left with the urge to understand how a digital conversion could affect the sound stage like that.

    Has anyone experienced that sort of thing and do you have any idea why it would do that?
    Main:VPI TNT V, SME V, Koetsu Urushi, Vendetta SCP2-D, Conrad Johnson Premier 14, Conrad Johnson Premier 11a, Wilson Maxx 2, Inouye power conditioner, Moon 280D DAC

    #2 Sota Cosmos, SME V, Lyra Clavis, Bryston BP17, Conrad Johnson Premier 15 phono, Classe DR3 VHC, Martin Logan CLS, Hegel HD12 DAC

    #3 Classe DR-7, Classe DR3 VHC bridged monos + PSE V monos (bass), Classe DAC1 DAC, Vandersteen 4A

    #4 (AV) Marantz AV 7702 Mk2, Rowland 5, Wilson Maxx 2, Vandersteen VSM-1 (x4), Hsu VTF-15H Mk 2 (x2)

  • #2
    I hope to do the same with my dac. A friend has a Bricasti dac I'd like to hear and compare with my EAR. Never done this before in a home setting, so looking forward to hearing the differences between components in "normalized" environments. I'm expecting my friend's Bricasti to be better, since mine is a CD/DAC and his being a little more money, but who knows. Good to hear your reports on the Hegel. I hear great things about that DAC.

    Comment


    • #3
      Staging varies greatly in the digital domain some do it well others poorly
      it's not about the quality or tone or detailed either
      a better or worse source matters too
      my tube dacs , the recti effects the staging big time
      when I owned a ps audio ds dac as they rolled formwares
      staging always changed with each roll. A constant as of you rolled back it came or went with that firmware. My msb dac has a new firmware release and USB input as well. Staging is notible in change
      also what changes with staging is something that is not spoken of presitation. Not ease of or tense but distance of where we sit. A bigger souud stage means we sit further back
      less means up close
      but if done well you get both while not as intense of an upclose to a further back one. But still a more upfront one. My lampi changes drastically woth recti roll
      it's why I pic the ones I do of critically listening
      now while staging may vary hiw about tone
      did it change woth staging ?
      analog stuff.
      otari mtr 10 2 track 1/4 made new by soren
      otari mtr 10 2 track 1/4 1/2 combo made new by soren
      sota sapphire used eminent tech ver 2 arm
      new sota nova table has magnetic levitation platter and full speed control and latest motor same arm as above
      thorens td124 sme ver 2 arm
      thorens td125 sme ver 2 arm
      kenwood direct drive sme ver 2 arm
      phono preamp Ml no 25 all re capped
      speakers cust infinity IRS V , new caps and LPS , magnets etc.
      mark levivson pre no 26 amps no 33
      digital three cust servers , win ser 2016 , AO
      Dacs lampi various

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by wspohn View Post
        I seem to have provoked some discussion on another forum by raising a question about DACs and soundstaging, so thought I'd ask here.

        My systems are generally vinyl centric, and I have striven to maintain a decent level of performance on the digital side while not becoming caught up in the component of the month club (things seem to change pretty quickly in this area).

        I have played around with DACs ever since the days of the original Arcam Black Box (anyone remember them - c. late 1980s - the Arcam gear was usually built like a battleship and I still use a CD player in one of my systems - about triple the weight of modern players and has never missed a beat).

        As part of my more recent ain system overhaul, I decided to try a newer DAC. I had been using a Classe DAC-1, a highly rated and quite good sounding unit, but one channel had died on it (I may still see if it is worth fixing). I ended up with a Hegel HD-12 which has turned out to provide very decent sound, and my friend who was using a Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100, IIRC, wanted to A/B them in my system as it was more revealing than his we thought.

        It was an interesting session. Both sounded fairly good even when listening blind, but the minute we switched from the Cambridge to the Hegel, the sound stage expanded a metre or so past the outside of the speakers. Aside from that, we concluded that we both liked the Hegel better and he later ended up buying one, but I was left with the urge to understand how a digital conversion could affect the sound stage like that.

        Has anyone experienced that sort of thing and do you have any idea why it would do that?
        Since there is two of you did you get to observe both dacs in two systems ?
        analog stuff.
        otari mtr 10 2 track 1/4 made new by soren
        otari mtr 10 2 track 1/4 1/2 combo made new by soren
        sota sapphire used eminent tech ver 2 arm
        new sota nova table has magnetic levitation platter and full speed control and latest motor same arm as above
        thorens td124 sme ver 2 arm
        thorens td125 sme ver 2 arm
        kenwood direct drive sme ver 2 arm
        phono preamp Ml no 25 all re capped
        speakers cust infinity IRS V , new caps and LPS , magnets etc.
        mark levivson pre no 26 amps no 33
        digital three cust servers , win ser 2016 , AO
        Dacs lampi various

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Alrainbow View Post

          Since there is two of you did you get to observe both dacs in two systems ?
          No, he brought his DAC to my place; we didn't try the opposite and compare them in his system. However he informed me that the improvements we heard at my place were replicated in his home system once he had his Hegel.
          Main:VPI TNT V, SME V, Koetsu Urushi, Vendetta SCP2-D, Conrad Johnson Premier 14, Conrad Johnson Premier 11a, Wilson Maxx 2, Inouye power conditioner, Moon 280D DAC

          #2 Sota Cosmos, SME V, Lyra Clavis, Bryston BP17, Conrad Johnson Premier 15 phono, Classe DR3 VHC, Martin Logan CLS, Hegel HD12 DAC

          #3 Classe DR-7, Classe DR3 VHC bridged monos + PSE V monos (bass), Classe DAC1 DAC, Vandersteen 4A

          #4 (AV) Marantz AV 7702 Mk2, Rowland 5, Wilson Maxx 2, Vandersteen VSM-1 (x4), Hsu VTF-15H Mk 2 (x2)

          Comment


          • #6
            Many people forget/don't realize that a DAC's analog section has just as much, if not more, effect on sound quality as the digital converter section does. My guess is that the widening of soundstage you heard is mostly due to the superior analog output stage of the Hegel DAC. Just my two cents.

            Comment


            • Joe Pittman
              Joe Pittman commented
              Editing a comment
              I totally agree. In addition the power supply has a huge impact on sound quality, imaging, timing, etc. I like seeing separate power supplies for the digital and analog sections.

            • Audioraven
              Audioraven commented
              Editing a comment
              I agree with you, Joe. I totally forgot about the power supply piece of the sound quality puzzle.

          • #7
            I don't know how many my msb has ? But my lampi has many over ten
            the ps audio has a few too. Anolog sections and psu must account as well. But as a unit it's all part of it and rarely can we change out either part.
            analog stuff.
            otari mtr 10 2 track 1/4 made new by soren
            otari mtr 10 2 track 1/4 1/2 combo made new by soren
            sota sapphire used eminent tech ver 2 arm
            new sota nova table has magnetic levitation platter and full speed control and latest motor same arm as above
            thorens td124 sme ver 2 arm
            thorens td125 sme ver 2 arm
            kenwood direct drive sme ver 2 arm
            phono preamp Ml no 25 all re capped
            speakers cust infinity IRS V , new caps and LPS , magnets etc.
            mark levivson pre no 26 amps no 33
            digital three cust servers , win ser 2016 , AO
            Dacs lampi various

            Comment

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