Deciding on a DAC and Sonos connection for an audiophile room


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I mostly use Sonos for multi-room ambient sound. But I am trying to build a hi fi room that is connected to my Sonos. I would like to play lossless files stored on my computer (computer located in a room remote from the prospective hi fi room), managed by iTunes (perhaps with Amarra or another player add-on) and appreciate that a DAC would likely improve the signal that any ZP 90 (Connect) sends to my integrated amp. So, here's my question: With the Sonos system limited to 16/44 resolution, why bother with the newer and expensive high end DACs that have asynchronous 24/192 USB ports etc... Isn't the ZP 90 a limiting component in the chain from computer to amp? I was also wondering if it would make sense to run a CAT 6 ethernet cable from the router feeding the Bridge near my computer directly to the Connect rather than having the Connect pull in the digital bits "over the air" (or maybe this is where Sonos folks jump in and talk about sonos' "bit perfect" transmission so the real focus should be on the DACs ability to eliminate jitter and do its other "magic)?

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152 replies

I am glad things worked out for you; others visiting this old thread in the future may want to read all of it for a more complete analysis.

If you are satisfied that the three items referred above are in good shape, then it is time to think of a DAC between the zp90 and the amp. To make any difference, it will have to be an expensive DAC, the Sonos DAC is itself quite decent. Before buying the DAC, I suggest you audition at home, level matching volume as best as you can before making a comparison. Louder always sounds better in quality, even if the db difference is marginal. It is quite easy to be fooled into thinking that the new DAC is delivering better sound, when all it may be doing is getting the amp to sound louder at the same volume setting.

For the record, a small correction to the above: I now doubt that even a more expensive DAC will make an audible difference to the sound quality, provided the level matching is done, and psychological bias eliminated via blind testing.
Of course more expensive/external DACs may come with sound customisation options allowing for better sound, but that is not down any lack in the Connect DAC, and an apples to apple comparison then involves more than just the basic DAC performance.