Help with DAC vs FireWire Solo
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Thread: Help with DAC vs FireWire Solo

  1. #1
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    Default Help with DAC vs FireWire Solo

    Alright, so it might be weird to ask on this forum, but I don't know who else to ask. I am confident you guys know more than I do about sound quality, etc. My question is basically strictly for listening audio quality purposes, would I be better off with some type of DAC or my FireWire Solo?

    I don't record music and probably never will. I bought the FW Solo more for hoping to improve sound quality for listening to music instead of just through my headphone jack. It definitely sounded better than just the headphone jack, but I'm wondering if something like this uDAC-2 from NuForce would be even better? http://www.nuforce.com/hp/products/iconudac2/

    My setup right now is a 2010 or 2011 iMac (I forget). I only have one FW port and it's an 800. Sucks, I know. Because I wanted to run my external HD on that, but I use a FW 400-800 cable for my FireWire Solo. Then, for speakers, I have a pair of M-Audio BX5a. From the FireWire Solo I run TRS cables to the monitors. It has served me well for a few years but I just wonder if I could be getting any better quality sound from something like that little DAC?

    But that DAC looks to only have the red/white cables (RCA?) and my BX5's don't have that kind of input. I read about some RCA to XLR adapter cables, but then the line would be unbalanced vs the balanced TRS cable setup I have now.

    Thoughts?
    - iMac 21.5" 3.6ghz i5 8GB Ram
    - M-Audio FireWire Solo
    - M-Audio BX5a studio monitors

  2. #2
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    Default

    The thing about any DAC is that listening quality is almost entirely subjective.
    One persons poison is another ones cure.

    As the DAC in question is within the same price range
    the difference may not be that discernible.
    Also balanced to balanced connections generally tend to be far better.
    You may find that after buying the iconudac2 that you were better of
    keeping the firewiresolo.

    First and foremost see if you can get access to an IconDAC2, make a selection
    of music that you know very, very well and listen to the Solo and then the Icon
    and make a decision then as the best judge is going to be your ears as you are the listener.

    There is also a product called Ammara which improves upon the Mac OSX
    interpretation of recorded audio check out the link here
    http://www.sonicstudio.com/amarra/
    and there are various audiophile forums that will also offer up further suggestions
    that you maybe interested in exploring.

  3. #3
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    And I more thing when I have listened to music via Amara on my Mac or Foobar on my PC
    and upsampled my audio to either 96kHz or 192kHz the sound opened up remarkably.

  4. #4
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    Default

    I wouldn't entirely agree about its subjectiveness. Its true to a point, but there are also some very "real" stats to check out when choosing a DAC. THD, SnR, etc. You compare a laptops built in DAC to a Mytek Stereo96, or Lavry unit, and its night and day. Of course, monitors, etc are also going to have a huge impact, but a DAC is quite important.

    But yeah, the DACs in a single price range are usually similar, until you bump up to the next price point. You have your laptop jacks, ipods, etc. Those are dimeadozen cost-cutting dacs. Then you have prosumer interface market dacs. For the most part, they are going to sound a lot better than a laptop or something. These units are usually a $150 to $1500, and are all likely going to sound fairly similar. Then, you have your mastering grade, top notch DACs. Mytek, Lavry, Prism, MH, Crane Song, etc. The jump in sound quality is not as drastic as the jump from laptops to an interface, and for 99% of people, definitely not worth the money. However, when I A/B my profire interfaces to my Avocet or ULN-8s DAC, there is a noticably improvement in sound quality. You mainly hear it in the highs and transients. The spacial imaging and stereo field is much more defined as well.

    My $0.02
    ---------------
    New Recording Setup: iMac 2011/ULN8/Profire 2626/Axiom61Pro
    Experience with the following M-Audio products: Profire series/Projectmix IO/Firewire Family series(410, 1814, etc)/Axiom series/Axiom Pro series/Oxygen series/Fast Track series/+more

  5. #5
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    Totally agree.

    Simply put it's like cars performance wise.
    You get what you pay for.

    A Mini will never be a Ferrari.

    And that makes hhmm lets see $0.08 and counting

    ;-)

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