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Best DAC-chip out there?
Best DAC-chip out there?
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Old 1st January 2018, 05:36 PM   #1
Colakurt is offline Colakurt  Denmark
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Default Best DAC-chip out there?

I would classify this as a DIY related question, so bare with me.
I am looking for a new DAC/preamp, and it has come to my attention that a lot of the DACs out there are using the same DAC-chip. So part one of my question is, what is the best DAC-chip out there?

I can see that quite a few manufactures are using the ESS SABRE series, especially the ES9018 and the ES9038PRO. But which of these two are the better version?

Part two of the question is not really DIY related, can anyone recommend a pre/DAC of high quality, with at least one analog input and volume control? The DAC section is of the most importance in my setup. So far I have looked at:
OPPO Soniac DAC
Lyngdorf TDA2200/TDAI2170
Benchmark DAC3
Quad Artera Play
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Old 1st January 2018, 06:16 PM   #2
Nico Ras is offline Nico Ras  South Africa
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I know that my comment may sound rather silly, but there is no "best" DAC chip, it is what you expect from it.
Further a high quality pre/DAC is what? Made of solid aluminium, aesthetically pleasing? Again this is a very open ended question.
In my humble opinion most modern DACs will be capable of the job it was designed for. Secondly, pick a pre/DAC that you like and looks pleasing has a brand that you can relate to a costs as much as you willing to spend. It will be good.
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Old 1st January 2018, 06:23 PM   #3
Colakurt is offline Colakurt  Denmark
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I know its an open question, and that is also the purpose, as I would like to hear your experiences with the different chips. But when I say best/good I mean in regard to the most common parameters such as noise, distortion, frequency response, tonality and sound.

When I say a quality DAC Im simply just trying to say that budget is a minor concern in this case. I would rather pay a little more and get something better, than missing out. But of cause a $1000 DAC does not necessarily sound better than a $500 DAC, even if the expensive one is made from carbon fiber and diamond.
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Old 1st January 2018, 07:08 PM   #4
Nico Ras is offline Nico Ras  South Africa
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am certain there are members here that would give you their definitive answer. I would not want to do this as it would be like telling you in which stocks to invest to get rich.

In my opinion look at some threads in this domain and you may find a lot of interesting comments. I think for you asking someone to give a plain answer is the wrong way to go.

You would be hard pushed to find a modern DAC that does not live up to expectations, that reveals terrible distortion or frequency response is highly unlikely. Whether some imagine that they can hear differences is very debatable and probably totally unfounded.

Do yourself the favor - read some of the applicable threads, familiarize yourself with how biased people are and then decide which one you will buy based on advertising, looks, brand, perceived quality but most unlikely someone writing you how it sounds.
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Old 1st January 2018, 07:56 PM   #5
globalplayer is offline globalplayer  Germany
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I use this one with great results:

UMC202HD | Audio Interfaces | Computer Audio | Behringer | Categories | MUSIC Tribe

Very impressive for the money.
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Old 1st January 2018, 09:54 PM   #6
BillWojo is offline BillWojo  United States
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If all your listening to is redbook like me, a Parasound D/AC-1000 with the PCM63 chip is hard to beat. It was state of the art when CD's were at the height of there popularity.

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Old 2nd January 2018, 04:26 AM   #7
MarcelvdG is offline MarcelvdG  Netherlands
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I use a DIY DAC that has no DAC chip in it, so I have no recommendation for a DAC chip or for a commercial DAC. Regarding specification points:

I would certainly recommend a DAC with enough headroom to handle overshoots of its interpolation and/or reconstruction filters. DACs with inadequate headroom may get driven into clipping 3.7 times per second when you play the wrong track, see:

Audio Application Notes tagged "Inter-Sample Overs" - Benchmark Media Systems, Inc.

When the DAC includes linear-phase FIR filters, their passband ripples should be very small because of pre-echoes. If you have access to AES preprints, you can read all about this in R. Lagadec and T. G. Stockham, "Dispersive models for A-to-D and D-to-A conversion systems", Audio Engineering Society preprint 2097, presented at the 75th convention, March 1984.

Regarding dynamic range, DACs with spectacular dynamic range numbers usually sell better than those with less spectacular dynamic range numbers, but anything over 80 dB(A) means you don't hear any noise under normal domestic listening conditions.
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Old 2nd January 2018, 04:43 AM   #8
ionutzxpo is offline ionutzxpo  Romania
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Hi, best DAC chip for my ears is AD1865N-K in voltage mode output...
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Old 2nd January 2018, 07:45 AM   #9
abraxalito is offline abraxalito  United Kingdom
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Best DAC chip for me is the one delivering most bang for the buck. PCM63 and PCM1702 are very good performers but rather expensive and a bit tricky to DIY, I spend my money on TDA1387. Its only a 16bit chip but then the vast majority of digital music is 16bit. Its super-easy to DIY and its very, very cheap.

What makes more of a difference than the chip itself in terms of SQ is the analog stage following the DAC.
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Old 2nd January 2018, 01:19 PM   #10
canvas is offline canvas  Taiwan
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My DAC is based on PCM63P-K2, OPA861 I/V, Sparko Lab's discrete OP, Ian's FIFO and Andrea's SC-cut oscillator. I thought it's pretty good already. Yesterday, I listened to JenH's RTX6001 (based on AK4497) and amazed by the performance of this equipment. I did a AB test on these 2 DACs and they sound almost equally good. I synchronized 2 DACs on Daphile and I can switch the input through the preamp, so that they can be evaluated very quickly. All I can say is that new delta-sigma DAC chips does show their strength over the old technology.

Last edited by canvas; 2nd January 2018 at 01:25 PM.
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