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PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2014 2:11 pm 
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It seems quite a few people use a separate DAC claiming it delivers better sound. I'm all for that but I do have some questions:

I can't find what type of DAC the X10 has but am I to assume it's 'entry-level'? I ask because of this post from 13.10.2013:
Ady wrote:
I am trying to connect my X10 to my Arcam amp using a cheap DAC from maplins. when connected i get no sound at all.

The implication is that the cheap Maplin DAC is better than the X10's. Surely not???

Does the use of a separate DAC render the X10 nothing more than a file storage and track selection device i.e. it would contribute nothing to the production of the audio?

What file types would be playable – those listed in the X10's specs or that of the independent DAC? (It'd be nice if APE files could be played – I currently need to convert any that I have to FLAC...)

Independent DACs have their own power supply, yes? Do they sit in standby or do you have to fire them up every time?

My thanks.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2014 10:57 pm 
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dortmunder wrote:
It seems quite a few people use a separate DAC claiming it delivers better sound. I'm all for that but I do have some questions:
I can't find what type of DAC the X10 has but am I to assume it's 'entry-level'? I ask because of this post from 13.10.2013:
Ady wrote:
I am trying to connect my X10 to my Arcam amp using a cheap DAC from maplins. when connected i get no sound at all.
dortmunder wrote:
The implication is that the cheap Maplin DAC is better than the X10's. Surely not???
MusicBod was using a winpoon dac which I'm assuming must sound better than the one in the X10 (comments on sound quality MusicBod?) and that costs less than £20.00.

dortmunder wrote:
Does the use of a separate DAC render the X10 nothing more than a file storage and track selection device i.e. it would contribute nothing to the production of the audio?
Basically yes, as you are bypassing all of the audio circuits in the X10, but it will still contribute to the overall production with it's own sonic character,
derived from everything before the optical output.

dortmunder wrote:
What file types would be playable – those listed in the X10's specs or that of the independent DAC? (It'd be nice if APE files could be played – I currently need to convert any that I have to FLAC...)
The file types playable are only those listed in the X10's specs. One thing to check though is if the external DAC you are considering has support for the higher sampling rates of High Resolution audio files, like 24bit/192Khz for example. Even if you don't have any High Res files now, it is always a good to keep your options open.

dortmunder wrote:
Independent DACs have their own power supply, yes? Do they sit in standby or do you have to fire them up every time?
Yes they will have their own power supply. I don't think that a stand alone DAC will have a standby mode as the power consumption will probably be very low anyway. For example, the Cambridge audio DacMagic 100 is listed as using a maximum of 5 watts. So I would just leave it switched on.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 8:02 am 
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Hi all,

On the specific point Bertie asked me about, the following *may* help. The WINGPOON DAC was perfectly solid insofar as the soundstage was well reproduced (nice and wide); instrument spacing was positively good; trebles were ok without being bright (although a little grainy); mids were very well reproduced and the bottom end was there although tending to be a little soft. In my opinion, few would spend £20 for a WINGPOON and think it was a rip-off; especially if it was being used as a mere stopgap whilst trying to find something more long term.

When demoing the Marantz PM6005's onboard DAC, I did an A-B with the WINGPOON and the latter definitely sounded duller by comparison. It may be helpful to note that I do not like a crashy, bright sound so I don't regard the PM6005 as being "bright" (at least not in the set up I tried). Apparently, the PM6005 *can* sound bright so it seems pretty clear that speaker and cable combos matter.

As for the overall "should I get an external DAC?" conundrum, it's down to personal preference in terms of any combination of the sound, the physical system set-up and/or the way in which you use your system(s).

One initial distinction to bear in mind is whether the driving force behind system changes is system tinkering in itself or actually listening to music. For me, it's the latter.

At one point, I had a fairly romantic view (misplaced!) that "...it would be great to make the X10 "high(er?) end" by adding an external DAC :? . Once I'd established that £200 for a DAC didn't necessarily provide aural nirvana, I started to think somewhat more realistically :!: .

In the end, the decision to go for the integrated amp / DAC combo (PM6005) was down to a) the sound being (more than) good enough and b) it kept my system to a smaller footprint. Obviously, the X10 + speakers is an even smaller footprint but I have another digital sound source (TV) and preferred my overall set-up to include an external amp (& DAC) for flexibility.

Dortmunder: most of the high street chains (e.g. Richer Sounds, Sevenoaks, Superfi, Peter Tyson) stock an X10. I'd definitely do some demoing, playing music files from a USB stick through the X10, trying various combos of standalone DACs + amps as well as integrated amps with onboard DACs. Definitely ask for A-B tests. If you have phono/interconnect cables familiar to your ears, take them along so that standalone external DACs can be connected to separate amps on your terms insofar as is possible. Speaker wire and speakers will be variables so matching those items in the demo will be trickier :shock: .

The downside of dealing with the above mentioned stores is the huge variability in the quality of advice. I got lucky when demoing the PM6005 but other experiences have been very firmly filed in the vault marked "shockers" :o .

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 11:49 am 
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Thank's MusicBod. It sounds like the Winpoon DAC was a bit hit and miss, but ultimately worth it's £20.00 asking price.
There are a lot of options for improving the X10's sound quality and they very much depend on the individual system and requirements.
I would not recommend spending a large amount on a DAC just for the X10 either, but it does make sense to listen to as many DAC's and Amplifiers/DAC's
as you can. To see what is the best solution and what you may be missing out on. Which leads me neatly on...

If it's "aural nirvana" that you are after then the best sound quality/value for your Hi Fi Dollars, can be found when streaming your music files to a networked player.
A Hi Fi dealer demonstrated this to me when I brought in the X10, with a view to improving it's sound quality. I was also able to confirm the huge improvement that
I had just heard, on my own system. http://www.cocktailaudio.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1022&start=10 (bottom of the page)

This does however render the X10 as a storage medium only and a NAS or PC are better choices for this.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 2:33 pm 
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Hi, gents, and thanks for all the comments/info.

MusicBod's approach reminds of a book I had back in the 70's - “Teach Yourself Hi-Fi”. It concluded with the very sensible advice 'listen to the music, not the equipment'. I wish I still had that book just for the nostalgia factor...

It seems to me that adding a DAC may improve sound quality but I don't believe it would be a massive improvement. I say this after playing the hi-res versions of the newly released Led Zeppelin remasters (first three albums) and the Beatles Stereo Box Set. The sound is just superb and that's just my X10, Denon amp and Monitor Audio speakers (amp and speakers 16 years old).

Like MusicBod, I prefer kit and cable to be minimal which is another reason for not wishing to add a component which may or may not be worth the cash. The X10's DAC must be fairly good and I still don't believe a cheapo one would outdo it.

Network players were something I looked at but dismissed due to their lack of interface. The X10's screen and the number of ways to choose what to play is amazing and would be almost impossible to improve on, in my view. Apps? No thanks, I just want a player and a remote.

By now you're probably thinking I should just get an X30. I would if it wasn't so overpriced. Hopefully, the industry will realise there's a market for devices such as the X10. Sony introduced one last year:
http://www.whathifi.com/news/sony-launc ... loads-site

For now, I'm happy with what I have but I'll keep an eye out for the next wonder product.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 18, 2014 11:59 am 
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Further to this discussion, I have a Spitfire MkII DAC which retailed at £250 originally. I use this on an Airport Express (optical) and from an i-pod dock (cable) and it improves upon them considerably. I tried its optical input on the X10 and could hear no difference whatsoever. I concluded that the DAC in the X10 must be at least as good as the Spitfire. That's not to say that another make of DAC of the same price area wouldn't sound better. There's no end to experimenting! Just be advised that 96kHz sampling frequency is the highest the X10 delivers from its digital optical output. My further experiments show that it's quite difficult to notice the difference 192kHz makes compared with 96kHz - other variables creep in and have a greater significance. Now, if money were no object..........


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 27, 2014 7:09 am 
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Very interesting to hear that two different owners have found the X10's onboard DAC to be as good as it appears to be. In light of that, Bertie's advice not to spend too much on an external DAC seems well founded.

When I get a moment or two, I will try an A-B test with the Marantz PM6005's onboard DAC versus the X10's DAC. For the latter, I'll use the X10's line out into an RCA line input on the PM6005. Both tests will be done with the PM6005's bass/treble bypassed (i.e. "source direct" mode).

In the meantime, early impressions of the PM6005 are generally good (the X10 is connected via optical, relying on the PM6005's DAC). Compared to the Arcam A65, the PM6005 gives the impression of more "space" within the soundstage and although both give decent detail, the PM6005 sounds less "restrained", has greater overall weight of sound and is "faster". Those same characteristics mean the PM6005 doesn't sound as smooth as the Arcam but, as things stand, it's more likely than not I'll be sticking with the PM6005.

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