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A suggestion for a good and not very expensive DAC
Old 21st October 2013
  #1
Gear Addict
 

A suggestion for a good and not very expensive DAC

Hi !
i am mostly interested in monitoring and i am looking for a nice DAC.
Budget is equivalent to 500 USD but stretchable in case of a very nice and for me definitive unit.
It should have possibly usb and spdif input.
I have now a cheap Behringer src 2496 (nobody mention it so i think it could be easily bettered ... i guess)
Thank you very much indeed
Kind regards,
gino
Old 21st October 2013
  #2
Lives for gear
A standalone Benchmark DAC would run around $750 used. If you need standalone, you may want to check out Ross Martin DACs. It looks like they have ones with USB ports, but I haven't looked too deep. I hear they sound fantastic.

I'd look at an interface at this budget honestly, just b/c you get more bang for the buck, will probably get better audio drivers (hopefully.. depending on what you pick), and you likely won't hear much of a difference at this price range.

I would add a firewire card and go with Echo Audio. Their DA was fantastic from my experience. I'm not using an RME UCX and honestly.. the Echo held it's own. I don't notice a difference. If anything, the Echo was a little better lol. A tad more bright.... and my mixes came out very nicely.

Also look at Roland Quad Capture / Octa Capture.
Old 21st October 2013
  #3
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Ragan's Avatar
 

Most of the Lucid stuff is some real sleepers. Great quality and pretty cheap used.
Old 21st October 2013
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CPhoenix View Post
A standalone Benchmark DAC would run around $750 used. If you need standalone, you may want to check out Ross Martin DACs.
It looks like they have ones with USB ports, but I haven't looked too deep. I hear they sound fantastic.
Thank you very much and beautiful units (i looked in the web site
http://www.rossmartinaudio.com/index_files/Page496.htm


Quote:
I'd look at an interface at this budget honestly, just b/c you get more bang for the buck, will probably get better audio drivers (hopefully.. depending on what you pick), and you likely won't hear much of a difference at this price range.
I would add a firewire card and go with Echo Audio.
Their DA was fantastic from my experience.
I'm not using an RME UCX and honestly.. the Echo held it's own.
I don't notice a difference. If anything, the Echo was a little better lol. A tad more bright.... and my mixes came out very nicely.
Also look at Roland Quad Capture / Octa Capture

I think i will look to an Echo Audio for a start.
Thanks a lot for the advice
Kind regards,
gino
Old 21st October 2013
  #5
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ragan View Post
Most of the Lucid stuff is some real sleepers. Great quality and pretty cheap used
Thanks but i cannot find the web site
But i see a model 9624 ... really nice
Kind regards,
gino
Old 21st October 2013
  #6
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Ragan's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ginetto61 View Post
Thanks but i cannot find the web site
But i see a model 9624 ... really nice
Kind regards,
gino
Yeah I don't think they're making stuff anymore. I have an AD9624 that I hardly used but it was very solid conversion. I'd expect the DA is good too.
Old 21st October 2013
  #7
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there is a great mod for that dac that could be installed easily, but if you want a definite new product try Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus they go for 600 new.

http://www.behringermods.com/ it should be safe to say, but I don't work for this company.
Old 21st October 2013
  #8
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Try Ross Martin. IMHO, the best deal for a good DAC.

Ross Martin Audio
Old 21st October 2013
  #9
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Try Ross Martin. IMHO, the best deal for a good DAC.

Ross Martin Audio

unless you need it to work with word clock then avoid at all costs.
Old 22nd October 2013
  #10
Lives for gear
I was wondering about this. I heard that it was always set to slave but that it did reclocking so that a jittery master could be corrected. Anyone know if this is the case? I can confirm that my already decent Asus xonar essence st sounded better with this dac.
Old 23rd October 2013
  #11
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GZsound's Avatar
I needed a decent USB DAC for my audio output to feed my monitors. Had to be 24 bit and had to be clean.

I bought one of these for under $100. Great unit:Native Instruments Traktor Audio 2 | Sweetwater.com
Old 23rd October 2013
  #12
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by GZsound View Post
I needed a decent USB DAC for my audio output to feed my monitors. Had to be 24 bit and had to be clean.

I bought one of these for under $100. Great unit:Native Instruments Traktor Audio 2 | Sweetwater.com

I've never used this, but are you suggesting that an entry level usb adda for DJs with usb power is going to compete with a dedicated studio DAC with a proper isolated power supply and proper analogue circuitry with xlr conenctors?

I won't pretend for a moment to be an expert but I've not heard any prosumer stuff that sounded as good as even the mid range DACs from the likes of RME, Lynx, and so forth.
Old 23rd October 2013
  #13
For this kind of money; look at for an apogee mini-dac secondhand. These dac's are try amazing. Even if they are older units.
Old 23rd October 2013
  #14
Gear Maniac
 

The tech boffins at Cirrus-Logic, Burr_Brown, Analogue Devices, AK Semi etc have done a wonderful job over the last 15 years or so. There is now no reason to expect even a reasonably low budget DAC in good working order to sound anything other than transparent to the human ear.

Some spec better than others on paper but even those people who claim to be able to hear a difference are almost always careful to note how small that perceived difference is. Especially compared to transducers.

Then again some people still maintain different brands of cable sound different. So this might depends on whether you are a realist or a romantic.

For portable use I've got an Audio 2 as mentioned above. Sounds the same as my studio MOTU which costs 7x as much and uses the same AK chips as RME products.

I tested that when I first got it by looping the output back into the input 4x. Still couldn't really distinguish a difference of any significance.

So yeah. A new mid range USB unit is going to sound as good as the old school studio DAC. How much more transparent than transparent do you need to be to sound better than transparent?

At yur budget look at Native Instruments, Focusrite, Roland and maybe the bottom end of the MOTU range.
Old 23rd October 2013
  #15
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RonaldDumsfeld View Post
The tech boffins at Cirrus-Logic, Burr_Brown, Analogue Devices, AK Semi etc have done a wonderful job over the last 15 years or so. There is now no reason to expect even a reasonably low budget DAC in good working order to sound anything other than transparent to the human ear.
Some spec better than others on paper but even those people who claim to be able to hear a difference are almost always careful to note how small that perceived difference is. Especially compared to transducers.
Then again some people still maintain different brands of cable sound different. So this might depends on whether you are a realist or a romantic.
For portable use I've got an Audio 2 as mentioned above.
Sounds the same as my studio MOTU which costs 7x as much and uses the same AK chips as RME products.
I tested that when I first got it by looping the output back into the input 4x. Still couldn't really distinguish a difference of any significance.
So yeah. A new mid range USB unit is going to sound as good as the old school studio DAC. How much more transparent than transparent do you need to be to sound better than transparent?
At yur budget look at Native Instruments, Focusrite, Roland and maybe the bottom end of the MOTU range
Hello ! i am convinced at the point that i start to wonder if my basic Behringer SRC 2496 can be really beaten remarkably.
I think it has AKM dacs (good sounding)
By the way i will look seriously to the Echo dac you mention
I think i have finished my search.
I will report as soon as i will get it anyway.
Thanks sincerely to you and all the nice people helping me
Kind regards,
gino
Old 23rd October 2013
  #16
Lives for gear
Well Ronald I wouldn't dispute your own experiences of course, but the quality of a converter is not measured by its chip. They're all great, and often the same in higher and lower models. The principle differences that affect the sound are in the analogue circuitry and power supply.

I now actually wish that I knew more than I do. I would be able to talk about ICs and discrete components, capacitors, pcbs and so forth. All I do know is that they're important, that their cost adds up and that they make a difference between good and great sound.

IME these usb prosumer devices do not sound as big, clear or open as good standalone DACs. The fact that the difference is small does not indicate that the cheaper boxes are up to the standard of the standalones. The differences are small but crucial.

Surely you are not implying that the very existence of high end gear is all marketing hype?

Oh and Ginetto, if you buy a cheaper DAC it will sound fine. But if you haven't heard the better stuff how will you know what you're missing?
Old 23rd October 2013
  #17
Lives for gear
I don't think the differences are small. but anyways. there was a long winded loop back test on gearslutz that ended up being removed and it showed that converters are in fact not transparent. some are very close, like the ross martin, and some are purposefully not.

and it's because of the input and output circuits, the algorithms etc. some converter manufacturers use fully discrete, some use tube and some use direct coupled. there is so much more that comes into it then the converter chip alone.

piling a bunch of cheap protection and preamp circuits into your converters is not going to help things at all. cutting costs on power supplies is also not going to help.

with a budget of $500 it would be pretty hard to go past the ross martin for monitoring. mainly because it only costs $180 and out specs nearly every converter available.

maybe specs aside you don't like the sound of it maybe you do. problem is getting your hands on one because ross martin audio is notoriously very busy.
Old 23rd October 2013
  #18
Gear Maniac
 

If the OP is looking for dedicated DAC only unit. Something that doesn't do anything else but convert digital stereo to analogue stereo. Not with any audio interface like additions. Like a Weiss or Lavry or something but not costing $3000. He might want to take a look at the ODAC.

ODAC

$100 as a bare board or $150 in a box.

It's a good read at any event. It's an open source hardware project by an engineer called NwAvGuy. The plan is to design something that not only sounds as good but even measures as good as a Benchmark DAC1.

He doesn't quite manage that in the end but it's damn close. The blog is an interesting read. He takes you right through the design build, test, compare cycle in a series of iterations. Honest about problems and detailed in his testing methodology.

So you get as close as possible to documentary proof that you have 99.99% the performance of a DAC costing 10x more.

I'd still buy an full interface though myself. More flexible.
Old 23rd October 2013
  #19
Lives for gear
Looks cool but I didn't see asio drivers. The input is mini usb so wouldn't it then run on Windows mme drivers?
Old 23rd October 2013
  #20
Gear Maniac
 

It's an open source hardware design. By design. I wouldn't be surprised if someone has written open source s/w for it by now but of course it doesn't complete with drivers. It's only USB 1.1 compliant. ASIO4ALL probably works.

I'm not suggesting anyone here actually buys one.

The point is to prove it's not necessary for a 'low end theory' poster to spend anything close to serious money on DA conversion. Without me having to do all the typing. NwAvGuy does all the hard explaining in his entertaining design blog.

Never even seen one myself. But it really does look like any established manufacturer with at least one competent engineer and some modest test gear could sell a DAC that performed within 99.99% of the most expensive available for ~$75.

I just couldn't be arsed to explain why or how myself when someone else with more authority has already done a better job than I could reasonably expect to have done.
Old 24th October 2013
  #21
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GZsound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaolin View Post
I've never used this, but are you suggesting that an entry level usb adda for DJs with usb power is going to compete with a dedicated studio DAC with a proper isolated power supply and proper analogue circuitry with xlr conenctors?

I won't pretend for a moment to be an expert but I've not heard any prosumer stuff that sounded as good as even the mid range DACs from the likes of RME, Lynx, and so forth.
Hmm... that's an interesting question. My unit has TRS connections, which I guess are not as good as XLR?

I normally judge my equipment by the results. I use the unit to drive my studio monitors. Getting airplay on 2400 radio stations world wide on my last production. I guess it sounds just fine.
Old 24th October 2013
  #22
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaolin View Post
Well Ronald I wouldn't dispute your own experiences of course, but the quality of a converter is not measured by its chip. They're all great, and often the same in higher and lower models. The principle differences that affect the sound are in the analogue circuitry and power supply.
I now actually wish that I knew more than I do. I would be able to talk about ICs and discrete components, capacitors, pcbs and so forth. All I do know is that they're important, that their cost adds up and that they make a difference between good and great sound.IME these usb prosumer devices do not sound as big, clear or open as good standalone DACs. The fact that the difference is small does not indicate that the cheaper boxes are up to the standard of the standalones. The differences are small but crucial.Surely you are not implying that the very existence of high end gear is all marketing hype?
Oh and Ginetto, if you buy a cheaper DAC it will sound fine.
But if you haven't heard the better stuff how will you know what you're missing?
You are very right. I really do not know what i am missing.
Just looking at the pictures in the web my dream object is something like the Rosetta 200 (even if my present need is a DAC a AD section could be interesting for the future ... some simple recordings)



i like it very very much. Never heard of course.
And for what i see very very missing in the 2nd hand market.
All happy users ? it could be.
But i read great things also of Echo Audio, RME, Steinberg.
Everthing should just work beautifully for me.
Thanks again
Kind regards,
gino
Old 24th October 2013
  #23
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RonaldDumsfeld View Post
If the OP is looking for dedicated DAC only unit. Something that doesn't do anything else but convert digital stereo to analogue stereo. Not with any audio interface like additions.
Like a Weiss or Lavry or something but not costing $3000.
He might want to take a look at the ODAC.
ODAC
$100 as a bare board or $150 in a box.
It's a good read at any event. It's an open source hardware project by an engineer called NwAvGuy.
The plan is to design something that not only sounds as good but even measures as good as a Benchmark DAC1.
He doesn't quite manage that in the end but it's damn close.
The blog is an interesting read. He takes you right through the design build, test, compare cycle in a series of iterations.
Honest about problems and detailed in his testing methodology.
So you get as close as possible to documentary proof that you have 99.99% the performance of a DAC costing 10x more.
I'd still buy an full interface though myself.
More flexible.
Hello and thank you very much for the link
I have difficulty to think that it is that good. Impressive.
I have to read for the weekend (my boss is just arrived)
I understand that a full interface would be much more flexible
But i am very only on monitoring
For now.
Thanks sincerely again
Kindest regards,
gino
Old 24th October 2013
  #24
Lives for gear
there is a ross martin dac ready to go for $250 on his website. no knowledge of the specific model. I've got the gearslutz unit not the slim.

Sale
Old 24th October 2013
  #25
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Danny Downer's Avatar
The Ross Martin Homepage is a nightmare :D
Old 24th October 2013
  #26
Lives for gear
yep it's shocking.

I bought mine second hand. I wouldn't put in an order because of the delays people have had. at least the sale page is already built and ready to go or cruise the second hand pages.

I run 16 channels of lynx and my music partner and I will upgrade those to ross martin when it works for us.
Old 24th October 2013
  #27
Lives for gear
Hey Gzound

Nothing wrong with TRS - they're balanced and sound great. I ran out of XLR cables, used TRS and feel no need to change.

Glad to hear of your success, but I wouldn't judge your technical quality based on the artistic appreciation of your fans.
Old 24th October 2013
  #28
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Tashez's Avatar
 

A second hand RME unit will work great and cost around $500
Old 24th October 2013
  #29
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I'm currently looking into the Emotiva Stealth DC-1 to use as a backup... not much info. on these, but price is right and (audiophile) reviews are good.

Anyone have/used one in a production situation that can chime in?
Old 24th October 2013
  #30
Lives for gear
I had a look at this one and I'm sure it sounds great. There's loads of great audiophile DACs out there these days. The thing you need to check with all audiophile DACs is the Windows Audio problem. (Not sure about Macs). Windows will resample audio to its default rate unless you select ASIO or WASAPI in your DAW or player. Maybe it was just me but my Windows 7 box kept reverting to 16/44.1 after setting it to 24/44.1. And then for some reason that option disappeared! I got out of all that and just got a proper ASIO soundcard with spdif out to my DAC. So you'd need to check if their usb driver supports a bit perfect mode like ASIO or just use it's spdifto a soundcard running ASIO.
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