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I think 2020 might see me buy my first DAC. I've purposely avoided learning anything about DACs because I don't need any more rabbit holes to explore. If you had a budget of about $2K and just wanted to hook things up and hit the ground running what would your short list be?

 

I've get terabytes of digitized music (ripped CD) already on a NAS for casual listening around the house via SONOS. Thinking I might need to tie some digital into my dedicated analogue room. I have a very limited Internet connection due to my location. Not really interested in streaming anything. Considering ROON so if the DAC was a ROON endpoint that would be a bonus....but not knowing too much about ROON I'm not sure if that even matters.

 

Please give me the Cliff Notes and get me up to speed. What do I need to know and what should I be looking at? After a small bit of poking around I'm liking the Mytek Brooklyn DAC +, what are your thoughts on that? 

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I really like the Benchmark products I believe the new DAC3 is right around your price range but deals can be had on used of course when they pop up. I've never tried the 3 myself but have had the DAC2 and the HDR models all are top quality, come with a remote and volume control but that can be bypassed if using strictly as a DAC.

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Cliff notes to avoid the DAC rabbit hole:

 

1. Try Roon - it sounds like a good fit for you given your TBs of ripped music and multiple streaming end-points (Sonos plus a new DAC)

2. Compare the list of Roon tested DACs with the Darko DAC index to find one or two that meets your needs.

3. Read/watch a few more reviews of the DACs on your shortlist.  (DAC reviews and reviewers are usually very annoying.)

4. Go with Roon plus a Roon tested DAC and be done.

 

I've been using Roon to stream directly to a PSAudio Directstream Jr for 2 years now - awesomely simple.  I own two other DACs in the $500 range - Schitt Bifrost and a Channel Islands VDA2 - that sound great as well.  The DSjr is definitely better than them but there is a steep law of diminishing returns with DACs.  I choose the DSjr because it was reported to have a relaxed analog quality (it does), it supports Roon, and it is based on an FPGA chip which means I get free code upgrades once a year or so that usually improve SQ.

 

Good luck.

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The Mytek is a good choicce. DAC’s are a deep rabbit hole, just like the rest of this hobby.Set your budget, choose the features and connections you need/want, look for a sale going on if possible, buy from a reputable dealer in case there is a warranty issue and try to avoid looking back once you have settled in with your new dac. You have chosen a good price point with many coices, do your best to mate it properly with your amplifier.

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23 minutes ago, pbphoto said:

2. Compare the list of Roon tested DACs with the Darko DAC index to find one or two that meets your needs.

 

My OPPO 203 is listed as a Roon Tested device. I've already got it connected in my HT/Audio room but hate the interface built into the Oppo to browse/listen to music on my NAS. Am I correct in assuming Roon would give me a much better interface and eliminate the need for my projector to be on in order to browse the Oppo's interface?

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This topic couldn't come at a better time as I'm researching this as well. I may go the budget friendly route first with the Schitt Modi 3 and test out to see if I can tell any difference at all. I do have a Hifi berry dac HAT on my raspberry pi that is a endpoint for Roon. Roon is awesome ,I run Roon off of my MacBook.

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With that budget, Benchmark DAC-3.  It does EVERYTHING.  I love my DAC-3.

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15 minutes ago, mark1101 said:

With that budget, Benchmark DAC-3.  It does EVERYTHING

 

Thanks, but I don't have to spend it all ;) I'm more than happy to get great, but not crazy over the top silly. That said I'd rather do it once and be done with it versus constantly wondering should I get something different/better. For example I had a HT that was Forte II L/R, academy center and surrounds. Next it was Chorus L/R with Forte Center, Academy surrounds. Maybe another iteration or two, I know I had some Heresy IIs in the mix. Eventually it was Khorn L/R, Belle center and 4X Heresy surrounds. I very much wish I had just done the Khorn/Belle from the start. Looking to avoid that here. Hate to admit it out loud but I could envision a day when my TT and Vinyl is in a big truck and I'm waving goodbye. Baby steps first with the DAC.

 

Based on what I am hearing from @pbphoto it sounds like Roon might be the first logical step (with oppo). @rockhound no need for a Roon Nucleus or some other dedicated "core"? Why? Remember I'm still learning.

 

Seems like Roon is like Plex but just for music. Am I correct in thinking that way? If so why not a dedicated Plex server, is it the Roon interface and its devotion to music only? Given my dedicated room is both HT and Music would Plex be an alternative I should look into for the management of content? What say you @Thaddeus Smith? We have had some Plex discussions via PM.

 

DAC already seeming like a Rabbit Hole. Thanks to all for the info so far.

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21 minutes ago, rplace said:

 

My OPPO 203 is listed as a Roon Tested device. I've already got it connected in my HT/Audio room but hate the interface built into the Oppo to browse/listen to music on my NAS. Am I correct in assuming Roon would give me a much better interface and eliminate the need for my projector to be on in order to browse the Oppo's interface?

You would tell the "Roon Core" the path to the music files on your NAS.  The "Roon Core" runs on a MAC or Windows PC and is the central clearing house for all music sources and endpoints.  Roon leaves your music files alone- it simply scans them and imports their meta data into its own DB/interface.  You would then tell Roon to stream music files directly to your Oppo which becomes just a DAC-endpoint within Roon.  In other words, you would not use the Oppo's NAS browser at all.  In my case, I never touch my DSjr - all streaming/browsing is controlled via Roon.  Hope this helps.

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8 minutes ago, pbphoto said:

The "Roon Core" runs on a MAC or Windows PC and is the central clearing house for all music

 

I went the NAS route a few years back to not have a PC running 24/7. I'm a software developer by profession so reasonably computer/network competent. Why do I see a Roon Nucleus at $1300 over a repurposed PC/Mac or perhaps a low power consumption NUC? Does roon need a lot of horse power?

 

8 minutes ago, pbphoto said:

 Hope this helps

 

Very much so! I've been reading up at https://www.audioadvice.com/videos-reviews/roon-everything-need-know/ other suggestions?

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9 minutes ago, rplace said:

 

I went the NAS route a few years back to not have a PC running 24/7. I'm a software developer by profession so reasonably computer/network competent. Why do I see a Roon Nucleus at $1300 over a repurposed PC/Mac or perhaps a low power consumption NUC? Does roon need a lot of horse power?

 

 

Very much so! I've been reading up at https://www.audioadvice.com/videos-reviews/roon-everything-need-know/ other suggestions?

Darko has some info on Roon.

 

I run Roon core on a 2013 iMAC that acts as our family computer, but in reality, sleeps most of the day.  Roon needs a local SSD for disk IO because it is basically a mini database - then the music files themselves can be hosted on NAS.  RAM and CPU requirements are reasonable but higher than what you would get inside your average NAS server.  CPU can get high when doing DSP functions, especially on DSF files.  I believe the Nucleus devices are prepackaged turn-key NUCs.  You could also look at QNAP NAS - configure your own with enough horsepower, and download the Roon app that runs on the QNAS - similar to what you can do with Plex.  Or you could run the Roon Core on your MacBook as mentioned above.  The Roon core has to be running someplace when you are listening to music - whether the Roon core is hosted on the same device as your music file storage doesn't really matter.  If you understand NAS and are somewhat tech savvy, then you don't need one of these white-glove "audiophile" Roon core solutions.  Keep it simple.

 

 

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Buy used... save monies.

DAC's dont go bad...

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55 minutes ago, rplace said:

Seems like Roon is like Plex but just for music. Am I correct in thinking that way? If so why not a dedicated Plex server, is it the Roon interface and its devotion to music only? Given my dedicated room is both HT and Music would Plex be an alternative I should look into for the management of content? What say you @Thaddeus Smith? We have had some Plex discussions via PM.

 

Music management in Plex is a dumpster fire. And playback via my Shield TV resulted in forced resampling that I didn't like.

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35 minutes ago, rplace said:

Why do I see a Roon Nucleus at $1300 over a repurposed PC/Mac or perhaps a low power consumption NUC? Does roon need a lot of horse power?

 

No, but apparently yes? I just deployed a VM on my ESXI host last night and allocated 32GB of RAM and 12 cores. It's running the Roon server and HQPlayer software and it basically idled all night long while playing tunes, in spite of anecdotal reviews of high cost music servers which indicate big beefy 20 core Xeons are an absolute must.

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Interestingly also.. the concept of DAC shopping has completely gone out the window with my current active setup, since everything will ultimately have to go through the 24/96 DAC in my Yamaha SP2060 XO. So the latest pursuit has shifted towards keeping things in the digital domain as long as possible, with sonic "improvements" now happening in software. Head over to my build thread in the Technical section for last night's latest efforts on this.

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his signature set up looks more similar to mine in that, he's probably going to want to get that conversion done as early in the signal chain as possible, minimize conversion redundancies and let that signal sing down the analog chain.

 

I think 2k is a GREAT starting point and you're going to be impressed by what you hear at that price range... but there's always more. :)

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29 minutes ago, Thaddeus Smith said:

 

Music management in Plex is a dumpster fire. And playback via my Shield TV resulted in forced resampling that I didn't like.

 

So Plex for my movies as I slowly convert from DVD/BRay to stored on my NAS much like I did with music? Then Roon for music and current but growing digital library?

 

Any chance Roon and Plex can live on the same non-PC device and just use the NAS for storage? Something like:

NAS>>Plex or Roon>>Devices for listening/watching

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4 minutes ago, rplace said:

 

So Plex for my movies as I slowly convert from DVD/BRay to stored on my NAS much like I did with music? Then Roon for music and current but growing digital library?

 

Any chance Roon and Plex can live on the same non-PC device and just use the NAS for storage? Something like:

NAS>>Plex or Roon>>Devices for listening/watching

 

Where does your Plex Media Server role currently live - a native app on your NAS? Not sure which NAS units support running the Roon core function, if any.

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47 minutes ago, Thaddeus Smith said:

 

Where does your Plex Media Server role currently live - a native app on your NAS? Not sure which NAS units support running the Roon core function, if any.

QNAP

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50 minutes ago, Thaddeus Smith said:

 

Where does your Plex Media Server role currently live - a native app on your NAS? Not sure which NAS units support running the Roon core function, if any.

 

Nowhere....yet....I downloaded, installed, configured on my work laptop (very powerful) and got it working with SmartTV's built in version of PLEX client (the one with audio content problems we discussed with my .MKV files) and it seemed to work just fine. I was going to buy a Shield but never did. Had some "issues" with laptop that may or may not have been PLEX related so I uninstalled and forgot about it till now.

 

My particular QNAP NAS is not powerful enough to run PLEX

 

Nice read on your Yahama set up on Tech forum. I too need foolproof simple for my wife music and TV; in addition to nobody else cares about ultimate audio for me. However, my Xilica does not do digital inputs as far as I know. Right now I can keep it all analog:

TT>>Phono step up for MC cart>>Preamp>>Xilica (DSP to Analog)>>Amps.

 

If I go DAC I don't see how to keep it all digital because I have to go:

DAC (digital to analog)>>Preamp (analog)>>Xilica(DSP to Analog)>>Amps

 

Movies would be:

Digital from network>>OPPO (D2A 8.1 out analog out)>>Sunfire Pre/Pro>>L/C/R direct to Xilica then to amps, but surrounds analog to amps to passive networks/speakers

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