How much will an external DAC help?


Bronze Member
Username: Ornlu

Post Number: 36
Registered: Apr-04
Well I'm curious.. How much will an external dac really help? Thinking lower end.. $300 used range... something like adcom / musical fidelity etc..

I have an audigy 2 sound card with 24 bit dac chips (although they don't scale well so I have to do on the fly conversion to 48 khz from cds 44.1.

I use this for most of my music listening.
Will an external dac help me at all? Or would it be better to just go with a different sound card, like an M-audio delta.

Silver Member
Username: Edison

Glendale, CA US

Post Number: 784
Registered: Dec-03
They will help - especially when bought used for more quality -

Bronze Member
Username: Ptarmigan

Post Number: 16
Registered: Nov-05
I got an Audigy Platinum card recently and was disapointed with its high end and stereo imaging - though perhaps it needs more break in time?
If that's what you are going against, yes you can improve your sound for CD music reproduction.
I have a Sony DVP-S7000 that produces sound close the the Sony $3,000 CD player. I recently got a Marantz SR4700 surround receiver with built in DACs, not expecting miracles.
I can easily switch between the analog signal from the Sony to the digital from the internal DACs. There is not much difference. The Sony may be a tad warmer, but the built in have a bit more detail and high end, perhaps in part from the build in connections.
I also made this comparison with my Sony XA1ES, with similar results.
This leads me to believe that the built in DACs from a good modern amp are going to be darn good, and there may not be enough of a difference, especially with an older DAC to be worth the trouble.
But if you don't have a DAC built into your amp, an external one is a good idea cause then you can hook up anything with a digital output and get first rate results, including a cheapo DVD. In other words, now I can get sound comparable to my $1,200 Sony DVD with a generic $40 DVD player.


Bronze Member
Username: Ptarmigan

Post Number: 17
Registered: Nov-05
My last post was a slight overstatement.
There is a significant difference between the Sony analog and the Marantz onboard DACs. How audible it is depends on the music you are listening to.
I just compared the two using a string quartet recording, and the Sony was noticeably warmer and cleaner. So a good external DAC may provide similar benefits.
When a receiver is designed, especially the surround models, they may be inclined to a brighter sound for sales purposes. An external DAC may avoid this. But I suspect there is no guarantee, given that there has been a lot of changes in the last 10 years.
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