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high quality balanced DAC (small-ish, lightweight a plus)


justin
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I think it may finally be time to do away with CDs for the meet rig.  Plus, shipping the CD player back and forth to meets is costly and takes up expensive table space, and they eventually break.  Time to go DAC-only.  At RMAF, i did have a few people come up to me wanting to play their files off SD cards or USB flash drives, and I was not equipped to do this with my CD player...another DAC advantage as I know some of them support this.  Something small and lightweight would also be a plus as it makes travel/shipping easier.  any recommendations?

Edited by justin
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For small and balanced I have the Ayre QB-9 and the Weiss DAC2.  Both sound great with headphones but the Ayre would allow USB connection which might be more future proof than the Firewire on the Weiss.  However the Weiss allows Spdif in so it is a bit more useful as the Ayre is USB only.

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Although I'm no Dinny, in my experience the limitation is still the output stage but even the cheapie DACs like the Emotiva sound pretty damn good. Plus you are at a meet/show so there are many more sonic limitations that are more significant than the DAC.

Edited by morphsci
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But there are some people who will respond badly to a midfi source at a meet, and will "hear" flaws if they see something they perceive as inferior.

Unfortunately, I do not know of any DAC that can cure someone of being an ass.

Not sure the Zdac would be able to accommodate USB drives.

Why not?

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I carry the DA11 occasionally, it is not that big or heavy so I would probably try one of these

 

Benchmark DAC2, Lavry DA11, Mytek 192 DSD

 

Or there used to be a HeadAmp 24/96 DAC/amp prototype (like a successor of the Pico if I am not mistaken), a balanced version of that would be interesting and stylish :)

 

A laptop usually has an SD slot anyway.

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As a Zdac owner, I certainly would not consider it a Mid-Fi DAC. Although the price may reflect Mid-Fi status, the SQ is pretty damn good. Put against my Buffalo II the winner to my ear is the Buffalo, but that's more about neutrality than detail. The Zdac has a slightly warmer presentation, but that could be a positive in many situations. IMO there are a lot of "lower cost" DACs blurring the Hi-Fi line today.

 

That said, the Ayre QB-9 is one of the best DACs I've heard.

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I carry the DA11 occasionally, it is not that big or heavy so I would probably try one of these

 

Benchmark DAC2, Lavry DA11, Mytek 192 DSD

 

Or there used to be a HeadAmp 24/96 DAC/amp prototype (like a successor of the Pico if I am not mistaken), a balanced version of that would be interesting and stylish :)

 

A laptop usually has an SD slot anyway.

 

:palm: doh...yes, i would have it connected to my laptop.  the CD player could not be, which was why it was an issue.  i guess the playback off SD card or USB stick isnt really needed.  it's just too bad there's no clean way to do it with an iPad instead of a full size laptop.

 

Thanks for the help, you've all reached your quota for audio discussion in 2013. 

Edited by justin
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I have the DA-11 too and is pretty light, but doesn't play native DSD, which some people might want to try in a meet. Playing DSD over USB, there're the ones already mentioned by Padam and there's also this Matrix X-Sabre DAC. Its price is tempting and build quality seems pretty good. Unfortunately I haven't been able to try it yet, and the Chinese manufacturing it, haven't replied to my info queries so far. It's great they have a US distributor.

There's also the Lynx Hilo, but it's more expensive and I have no personal experience with it either. It gets rave comments from the pros, plus has AD capabilities too.

 

However, being overkill team, you need to show off a bit, so a dCS, EMM Labs / Meitner, MSB... ;D

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:palm: doh...yes, i would have it connected to my laptop.  the CD player could not be, which was why it was an issue.  i guess the playback off SD card or USB stick isnt really needed.  it's just too bad there's no clean way to do it with an iPad instead of a full size laptop.

 

Thanks for the help, you've all reached your quota for audio discussion in 2013. 

 

Hi Justin,

 

Craig liked my set-up at the Bay Area Meet and wanted to replicate it:

  • Pure i20 dock $99
  • dock extender cable $15
  • lightning adapter $12
  • digital coax RCA cable or Optical cable for digital output

Connect any iDevice (except Shuffles) to your DAC.

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Hi Justin,

 

Craig liked my set-up at the Bay Area Meet and wanted to replicate it:

  • Pure i20 dock $99
  • dock extender cable $15
  • lightning adapter $12
  • digital coax RCA cable or Optical cable for digital output

Connect any iDevice (except Shuffles) to your DAC.

 

is there a way to add a SD card to the mix?  i'm not sure its possible to use an iPad as a digital source while it pulls files off an external card/drive.

Edited by justin
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I have the DA-11 too and is pretty light, but doesn't play native DSD, which some people might want to try in a meet. Playing DSD over USB, there're the ones already mentioned by Padam and there's also this Matrix X-Sabre DAC. Its price is tempting and build quality seems pretty good. Unfortunately I haven't been able to try it yet, and the Chinese manufacturing it, haven't replied to my info queries so far. It's great they have a US distributor.

There's also the Lynx Hilo, but it's more expensive and I have no personal experience with it either. It gets rave comments from the pros, plus has AD capabilities too.

 

However, being overkill team, you need to show off a bit, so a dCS, EMM Labs / Meitner, MSB... ;D

 

if that X-Sabre DAC is really machined from a solid block of aluminum, thats pretty ridiculous even if it is Chinese aluminum machined in China.  I use a machine shop in China now for as much as possible (and its the best work I have ever received, by far) and it would still cost me a few hundred $$ to carve out that block.

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is there a way to add a SD card to the mix?  i'm not sure its possible to use an iPad as a digital source while it pulls files off an external card/drive.

 

If you used the set-up I described plus the Resonesscence Invicta, you could have the iDevices + SD Card.

Add a Squeezebox Touch and you would have the USB Jump Drive too.

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