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Old 6th September 2012, 09:54 AM   #1
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I've just got into HiFi and really need a DAC to improve my listening experience, at the moment I tend to listen to music via Spotify Offline Mode (320kbps) or iTunes Apple Lossless format.

I need a DAC that I can connect via USB to my Macbook Pro and then to my HiFi via Phono leads.

I've looked online at various options from Cambridge Audio, Arcam, Beresford etc etc but then looked at Ebay and saw an endless supply of finished DACs and DAC kits...could someone answer the following:

What's the main difference between these kits and big name brands?

What finished DAC or DAC kit would you recommend?
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Old 7th September 2012, 06:43 AM   #2
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I've only bought kits from Taobao, not eBay so don't know if my experience is relevant here. The seller I bought from does though sell on eBay through an intermediary (raindrop_hui). His designs are not optimized through listening, I reckon this is probably the biggest difference when compared to the big name brands. I'd hope that the brands listen to their designs and modify them accordingly in development.

I'd recommend designs from eBay provided you don't much care about the sound or are willing to tweak them yourself (not expensive, but time-consuming) for more satisfying sound.
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Old 7th September 2012, 06:45 AM   #3
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It would be great news if the known brands really listen to the stuff they sell.
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Old 7th September 2012, 06:47 AM   #4
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Yeah I am basing my hope that they listen on my experience working at a well known speaker company. They listened a lot, but perhaps speakers are different from electronics in this regard. I had a friend at that time who worked at QED - he listened to his designs too but I agree QED is not a 'big name brand' in the hifi world.
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Old 7th September 2012, 03:07 PM   #5
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I'm all about the sound...I was just intrigued as to why there was such a price difference between a "branded" DAC and one that was unbranded and being sold on Ebay for 30.

It's strange that some of the sound processing boards used in expensive DACs are also available for less than 30...I fully understand that a nice case etc costs money but is that the only difference or are these "branded" DACs being massively increased somehow and if so how? A standard upgrade seems to me to improve power in any HiFi device but when in comes to DACs I've been reading that "off grid" DACs offer better quality due to not being affected by fluctuating power from the wall socket or laptop.

What DACs are people using here? The Bushmaster seems to have the best feedback however it is 200ish....
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Old 7th September 2012, 03:49 PM   #6
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Various reasons for the price difference - eBay sellers are running much lower overheads, they're perhaps single-person Chinese businesses with no western-level salaries to pay. Also they're sourcing the parts in China where they're much cheaper than in UK. Probably also the parts come from the secondary market where they're cheaper still than through normal distribution. Then the 'brands' have to do marketing and there are mark-ups at the distribution and retail levels. When I was working in the business the cost of building the kit would be increased by at least 300% by the time it got to retail.
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Old 7th September 2012, 03:56 PM   #7
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So based on that a 30 to 50 Ebay special will sound just as good as a 200 branded DAC but just not look as nice???
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Old 7th September 2012, 04:02 PM   #8
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No, in my experience UK designers do listen to their designs, the eBay designer I know does not. At the prices we're paying on eBay and Taobao, there's no margin in there for R&D. So with the online merchandise its really a stab in the dark if its going to sound any good - but then that is so with some of the branded stuff
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Old 7th September 2012, 04:08 PM   #9
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the best DAC for Mac via TOSLINK Opt is
24-Bit-Audio-D/A-Wandler ADA 24 | ELV-Elektronik

a Verry nice resolution .... !!!

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Old 7th September 2012, 04:09 PM   #10
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So when you say the UK designers are listening to their designs...what changes potentially could they make to improve the sound? I'm just struggling to understand the core difference "sound wise" between a DAC PCB on Ebay and a finished branded version.

For example I know that a branded DAC uses an Asus DAC and that is available in it's raw PCB form on Ebay for 40...
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