DAC or MQADAC - That is the Question

MikeT.

Senior Member
I would very much appreciate opinions. I've left vinyl behind and am going all digital. I've got a perfectly good Wyred4Sound DAC-1LE with DSD support. Here are the specs.

The DAC-1 LE can process signals up to 32 bits in length, and 200 kHz in sampling frequency through the coax digital inputs. Because of the limitations of Optical transmission, a maximum of 174.6 kHz has proven to be reliable through the TOSLINK inputs. You will find that some optical inputs will operate at rates up to 192 kHz, but is not guaranteed. The DAC-1 LE USB input will process signals up to 32 bit in length, and sample rates up to 384 kHz PCM or 128x DSD. The heart and soul of the DAC-1 LE uses the 8ch ESS chip in quad-differential mode meaning that there are actually 4 differential D-A conversion circuits for each channel in parallel.

What it doesn't have is MQA which is why I'm considering the Mytek Brooklyn DAC which supports MQA, has headphone out and, oh by the way, a phono preamp, just in case I change my mind about exiting analog. Here are the specs. $2000 purchase price.
CONVERSION: up to 384k, 32bit PCM, native DSD
up to DSD256, DXD, 130dB Dynamic RangeMQA HI-RES DECODER: built in certified hardware
DIGITAL INPUTS: USB2 Class2 (OSX, Linux driverless,all formats), AES/EBU (PCM up to 192k, up to DSD64 DOP), 2x S/PDIF (PCM up to 192k, up to DSD64 DOP), Toslink/ADAT 2x S/PDIF (PCM up to 192k, up to DSD64 DOP), SDIF3 DSD up to DSD256

Here's my questions/thoughts.
- Maybe I should stick with the Wyred4Sound and upgrade my computer. Both the W4S and Mytek have femto clock timing. The W4S seems to spec better?
- Get a Bluesound Vault and Node which will stream MQA from Tidal. (this should negate the need for a computer) $1199
-Add a Bluesound Node2 @ $499
-Add a MacMini @ $499
TOTAL $2197

I think I know where I'm headed but wanted to get some opinions thoughts. I'm really not into headphones and I suppose I can get an inexpensive preamp if I ever decide to go back to analog.........

Thanks in advance for opinions and thoughts.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I think ditching the computer from my file streaming was the best thing I ever did in digital audio. I went with a BlueSound Node2 and Vault2. Sometimes I use the built in DAC sometimes I use one of my very nice standalone DACs. But the convenience of not having to use a computer, and just sitting there with my Ipad controlling everything is priceless to me. The Node2 is out of site, hiding behind my cabinet. The Vault 2 is great, I just stick a CD in and it knows what it is and puts in on the server, with nothing else to do on my end. I'm so much happier... but know that I give lots of bonus points for stuff not being convoluted, not looking like a mess, and generally being user friendly. The only bad part about BlueSound was that setup was a bit wonky but I figured it out. And the Vault needs a hardwire ethernet input. I cheated and used a wifi extender with ethernet out.
 

MikeT.

Senior Member
JohnVF , so you plugged the Vault 2 into the WiFi extender via Ethernet cable? I was wondering how I was going to get this done. Sounds like it works fine.

If I plug the Node2 directly into my router via Ethernet cable and place the Vault in my rack system next to my stereo, would that negate the need for a WiFi extender? I might have to make a call to Bluesound.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Yeah, my modem/router is upstairs far away from any of my stereos. So I got a WiFi repeater/extender whatever you call it from MicroCenter that had an ethernet port on it...and it works great. It receives a signal from the WiFi router upstairs, and acts like an ethernet hub downstairs. The Node2 is, I think, also running off of that extender's wifi connection.

The Vault2 would need to be connected to ethernet. The Node2 can be anywhere you have a system. If you only have one system you'd really only need the Vault, as the Node is the same thing without the server functionality (and it doesn't need ethernet). The Vault can run Tidal, etc, too, and play its own server files. You can also dump files onto the Vault from a computer via LAN connection. It just shows up as a shared drive if I remember correctly. I'm not very network literate but figured it all out.

I have the Vault2 in one system and the Node2 in another...if I only had one system I'd just get the Vault. Someday I'll buy some of the stand alone BlueSound speakers for use elsewhere in the house..and maybe another Node2 or original Node to add streaming/server to an extra system I have upstairs.

I think I made this sound more complex than it is...
 

MikeT.

Senior Member
JohnVF , you just simplified it for me actually. It's highly likely I'll head this way and if I do, it will be a Vault2 for starters with a wifi extender. Maybe a Bluesound wireless speaker for the living room too.
Thanks!
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I really like it. I wish that it ran Tidal off of the Tidal APP instead of its own simplified take on it, but it has worked well enough and sounds very good. The internal DAC is pretty good but certainly of a type. It leans more towards a warm bouncy fun than airy/open/detailed. Running MQA files bridges that and is very very nice from Tidal. I tend to run it with an external nonMQA DAC but have also run it for weeks on end by itself.
 

MikeT.

Senior Member
Now just because I am a contrarian by nature, what about a Mac Mini with Roon instead of the Bluesound Vault 2? The downside is I've got no way to rip my CD's without an external drive and the Mac Mini is white............I keep talking myself back into a corner with Bluesound don't I?
I also have a SONOS Bridge and Connect which would need to go but Bluesound replaces those nicely :chin:wtf::confused: I can keep going, someone please stop me. If I stay with SONOS and a Mac, I don't have MQA except with the Tidal desktop. Geeeezzz. Bluesound Vault 2 seems to have simplicity on its side, fewer boxes, but how about those of you out there that might prefer the computer oriented solution??
 

MikeT.

Senior Member
JohnVF , would you mind telling me what WiFi range extender you purchased? I'm somewhat PC and network challenged and easy set up would be a plus.

Thanks, in advance.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
MikeT.;n56045 said:
JohnVF , would you mind telling me what WiFi range extender you purchased? I'm somewhat PC and network challenged and easy set up would be a plus.

Thanks, in advance.

No problem, I'll try to remember to look when I get home...if you don't hear from me, poke me about it as my brain is all filled up with work and internet nonsense these days. I don't remember off hand, other than it was from MicroCenter.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Ok, so it's an "amped wireless high power wi-fi range extender". Works like a charm and as a bonus my home wireless is better downstairs.
 

MikeT.

Senior Member
JohnVF , many thanks! Perusing some of the options out there this afternoon, the Amped was the the only "5-star" reviewed product I saw. Thanks very much.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
No problem, glad to be of help. I've not had so much as a hiccup from it, and I steam full res with it to the Node2.
 

billfort

Administrator
Staff member
JohnVF;n55995 said:
I think ditching the computer from my file streaming was the best thing I ever did in digital audio.

I was going to avoid posting to this thread as my opening statement would be 180° out of sync with John's statement and I have zero interest in MQA (actually, would like it to see it fail miserably and just go away), and it seemed you are leaning heavily towards John's approach. But having read ds's excellent suggestions here and if Roon is on the table, I'd start with; embracing the good stuff from computer audio for my file streaming is the best thing I ever did in digital audio. :)

A computer in another room running Roon server as the heart of a whole-home digital audio system has proven to be a fantastic way of doing this for me, and it seems ds has ended up on the same track. This is super flexible, easy to use and a great platform to grow and evolve around - first steps are incredibly satisfying and there is SO much more to explore along most any path you choose to take. It even seems Roon is climbing into $bed$ with MQA too if that's on your checklist. :D

I could go on if you are at least thinking about this approach.
 

MikeT.

Senior Member
billfort , hey thanks for your post and I am all over the place with this decision. I've got some money from the sale of my turntable and am going to do something in the next few days. I'm really glad you chimed in. I'm trying to do this "right" just not sure what that means yet. I've read what's been posted here about Roon and it's definitely on the table.

I've been wanting to go the Mac Mini route for a long time. I've got this perfectly good Wyred4Sound DAC-1LE with support for DSD, scads of inputs, USB, SPDIF, Toslink and it sounds really good. I've been listening to it ALL day. The Mini I've been looking at is the 2.8GHz processor, 1TB storage, 8GB memory with Fusion Drive.
As much as I love the idea of Bluesound simplification, particularly the CD ripping process, my gut tells me the flexibility I would get with a Mac Mini would serve me well in the long run. I find myself listening to streaming almost exclusively, so the lack of a CD ripping capability might be able to wait. I want to focus on getting the best sound quality I can. I've been told the Mini is VERY quiet, almost "same room quiet".

And I've got a fair amount invested in SONOS and can add a SONOS Play in another room which my wife has been wanting to do.
So it seems like my main roadblock with the Mini is the lack of a CD ripping capability.
I probably could get a Mac Mini, a SONOS Play and a CD ripper for under $1K. The equivalent Bluesound is @ $1.5K.
As for MQA, I've got a small Explorer2 and all the other options with Tidal desktop, Roon, etc.

Please, have at it with additional comments if you are so inclined. I'm VERY APPRECIATIVE!!!
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I have no experience with Roon so can't and won't comment on its relative merits vs BlueSound and MQA (which I love). Note that ease of use was the motive for me in switching to BlueSound, but the sound quality has at least exceeded my expectations. I have an EMM Labs CD/SACD player collecting dust upstairs as the sound quality of the Node2 into my Berkeley Alpha DAC is just as good (I'm waiting for MQA to enlarge its catalogue before deciding on an MQA DAC). Personally, a computer in the setup kept me from using my server. I found it to be a convoluted PITA.. my goal was "pick up iPad, play any title from my music." That has been achieved... I'm VERY happy. But I also play recordss still. I'm down to BlueSound Server/Tidal, and LP. But it's only one of several ways to do this.

I'm sure either way would work out and sound great, they're just two different ways for two very different personality types.

The Roon based setup above may be just as user friendly, I don't know enough about it to comment.
 

MikeT.

Senior Member
JohnVF , I see you are running the Node 2 into your Berkeley Alpha DAC which is really a "primo" DAC from all I've read. Are you just using the Vault 2 as your server and/or is connected to another DAC in your primary system. That may make a huge difference in my decision making. I've pretty much decided to keep my Wyred4Sound DAC.
That's a least ONE decision made.

 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
I run the Vault2 directly into my Leben Cs300x integrated amp in my bedroom system, which has for speakers a pair of Elac Uni5s. So I can do MQA in that setup. While that system sounds very good, my main rig is better. I do have another good DAC around here, a BMC PureDAC, but I don't bother using it with the Vault as I actually like how the Vault's DAC sounds in that setup. Its good enough to avoid complexity and clutter in a setup where I don't want any.
 

JohnVF

Administrator
Staff member
Apparently you can integrate BlueSound into Roon. I'm unfamiliar with Roon so don't really know what that means... but they're "Roon Ready".
 

MikeT.

Senior Member
JohnVFdsnyder0cnnbillfort , thanks VERY much for all your input! And on top of all that, I chatted with my wife for a while about this decision and she reminded me of a few conversations of the past about Mac stuff in particular. So Mac Mini is the way I went, she went to get groceries for the week and I went to the Apple Store. She's the best.
Not hooked up completely yet but I will download Roon and proceed from there. Maybe even the Tidal desktop app. I'll post more as I go but thank you again. Lots of ways to go from here.

Oh, and did I say thank you!!!


 

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billfort

Administrator
Staff member
Sorry for the late reply Mike life getting in the way of my hobbies a lot of late.

If you are on track for building around your home network and a ‘computer' running Roon server/core is part of this, there are a few things I can share based on experience and a warning I will start to ramble on!

Since you are using a mac mini and macs are something I know absolutely nothing about, I can't help much there except to suggest a few general points. You can spin the labeling or name of this puzzle piece; use different operating systems, simplify setup and operation, even put it in a pretty case, but a mac mini (or bluesound vault, Sonos connect, etc.) is still an ‘evil computer'. :)

A recommended configuration is a SSD solid-state drive for boot/OS/Roon and a larger conventional drive(s) for holding your stored music apparently, this gives you the best Roon & overall performance and it's certainly worked well for me. I am sure 1 internal drive for everything is fine (as long as you do backups!) but a down-the-road upgrade might be SSD + large HD or better yet, an external NAS. To do rips you will need an optical disk drive and ripping software as Roon does not have a ripping function, but I believe there are a few mac options for that now including Jriver.

I use a simple Windows 10 box (OS & Roon server on a SSD drive, stored content on separate NAS device) that has an optical drive for ripping & is tucked away mostly out of site. It's main function is running Roon server for the whole network but when I'm in the listening room, it also runs HQPlayer (upscaling engine) and sometimes Audiogate (vinyl ripping) or J-River (CD ripping). After initial setup, CD ripping in Jriver is down to simply popping a CD into the tray and clicking ‘rip' to make a WAV (my choice) copy to my storage drives Roon ‘watches' that folder and adds the new content to its library, complete with all the fancy meta-data, hot linking and info it is so good at. It's that simple for getting any file into the system actually; save the file from a memory stick or download to your storage drive and it quickly turns up in Roon.

I can control any Roon audio output point with a tablet or Android phone (again, I'm not an apple guy) but I love the Roon interface and like to interact with it on a larger display with keyboard - that might be a laptop or a large TV/monitor with wireless keyboard/mouse. In my main listening room, I sometimes use my phone but mostly a 24" LCD display connected with a long HDMI cable to the hidden box (PC) and a Logitech K400 wireless keyboard/touchpad.
 
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