External DAC with Connect



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If connecting via toslink, then it will use DAC in the Rotel.

Do you know which is better?
Do you know which is better?

Only you will be able to tell by listening, you will be surprised how good the internal DAC of the Sonos is.
Only you will be able to tell by listening, you will be surprised how good the internal DAC of the Sonos is.
A lot of listening has convinced me that it is as good as it needs to be.
I am not sure whether your kit will allow a valid comparison to be made. The Rotel may well take the analog signal from Sonos and do ADC>DAC on board before amplification, instead of passing it on directly.
If you really want to do a comparison of sorts, you can easily do it for the cost of a interconnect - which too by the way does not need to be expensive - and see what you like. Simpler and faster way to enjoy the music may be to pick one route at random, wire it up, and forget about this subject.
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This is a touchy subject. Let your ears guide you. Personally, I use an external DAC and I think that it makes a difference.
This is a touchy subject.
Indeed.
I came across a forum today, Hydrogen Audio that is firmly on the side of the blind testing based approach, to the extent of incorporating that in its Terms of Service.
See attached, in particular post #9.
http://www.hydrogenaud.io/forums/index.php?showtopic=3974
Given this, it would seem to be a place where there is little discussion about anything, but that isn't so, it seems to be a busy place at first glance.
I use the connect mostly for streaming internet radio of various bps, as well as itunes within my house.

My experience with external DACs has been mixed. When I used the highly regarded Rega DAC, I really could not hear a difference. I think that DAC is likely best with high resolution sources.

When I now occasionally use my oppo 105 coax inputs, there is a very significant difference. Surprisingly so. Even so, I rarely use it, because its kind of a pain to have turn the oppo on, and select the right input. If there was a cheap, dedicated DAC that I could be sure would sound as good as the oppo, I would use it for the connect.

My system consists of the oppo105, the sonos connect, a brio R integrated amp, and PSB T2 speakers.


I can identify with this post. I bought an Oppo BDP - 95, it's one of the Sabre DAC models. Everything that I played though the Oppo from a locally connected NAS sounded far, far superior to the Sonos. Recently, I loaded some of the same ALAC material (Kith Jarrett's Sun Bear concerts) that I play through the Sonos to the NAS drive and did an A/B test. Simply unbelievable! The resolution, clarity, bass definition and the sheer musicality of the Oppo just grabbed me by the emotions.

I use Sonos to bring digital music from my upstairs office to my downstairs living room but I do not use it to play music in other locations (they all have their own independent music systems - 7.1 surround in my media room, 2.0 Emotivas in my office etc.).

Last weekend, I bought a MOON MiND 180 digital streamer and replaced the Sonos with it. The MOON, as did the Sonos, plays through an Audiolab M-DAC to a Quad 99 pre and Quad 909 power amps. I wish that you could hear the difference that MOON makes in supplying the Audiolab with an unadulterated digital signal - absolutely incredible.

The Sonos has stood me in good stead for the past five years or so but its time to retire it or move it to my bedroom.


Last weekend, I bought a MOON MiND 180 digital streamer and replaced the Sonos with it. The MOON, as did the Sonos, plays through an Audiolab M-DAC to a Quad 99 pre and Quad 909 power amps. I wish that you could hear the difference that MOON makes in supplying the Audiolab with an unadulterated digital signal - absolutely incredible.

I can't see a reason for this - you aren't talking about DAC quality, but digital signal quality from the Connect compared to the MOON into the M-DAC. I don't know this device - are there any selectable filters employed that may be causing this difference?
I wish that you could hear the difference that MOON makes in supplying the Audiolab with an unadulterated digital signal - absolutely incredible.
This sounds like a classic case of confirmation bias. On Fixed Volume a CONNECT doesn't even touch the samples, so how can it possibly adulterate them.

That leaves jitter, and IIRC this was measured some years back and found to be low. In any case a decent DAC would re-clock.
I can't see a reason for this - you aren't talking about DAC quality, but digital signal quality from the Connect compared to the MOON into the M-DAC. I don't know this device - are there any selectable filters employed that may be causing this difference?

Hi Kumar. The MOON MiND does not include any selectable filters and it does not do much except give you a well though out control app and negotiate moving the signal along from my eternal drive and NAS to the Audiolab DAC (the job that was previously done by the Sonos except that the Sonos first ran the signal through its own DAC). There are a couple of points here. First the MiND is very neutral and you don't "hear" it - that's good. Second removing the Sonos and allowing the signal to pass straight to the Audiolab DAC HAS without doubt changed the output, it's as though a very thin veil has been lifted from the music. Look, it's not that the Sonos (DAC) is bad - I'm not saying that. I have enjoyed it tremendously over the past four years or so. But alternating back and forth between the Sonos and the MOON MiND reveals a difference.

So, I wondered (of course) whether the difference in subjective assessment was caused by "adding" to the signal path by daisy chaining the Sonos to the Audiolab. I took the Audiolab out of the chain and connected the Sonos directly to my preamp. Yup, the thin difference across the audio spectrum was there. The difference is mainly in the higher regions where (for example) in Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, the high-hats and symbols are more distinct.

My wife and I know the Fleetwood album very well (she far, far better than me!). She is a complete non-audiophile but she could nevertheless hear the difference in those highs. I'm not into smoke and mirrors and I am extremely wary of snake oil sellers. I enjoy my system and I rarely introduce changes in to my system. I do not look for differences - but when I hear them, they are there.
Hi Kumar. The MOON MiND does not include any selectable filters and it does not do much except give you a well though out control app and negotiate moving the signal along from my eternal drive and NAS to the Audiolab DAC (the job that was previously done by the Sonos except that the Sonos first ran the signal through its own DAC). There are a couple of points here. First the MiND is very neutral and you don't "hear" it - that's good. Second removing the Sonos and allowing the signal to pass straight to the Audiolab DAC HAS without doubt changed the output, it's as though a very thin veil has been lifted from the music. Look, it's not that the Sonos (DAC) is bad - I'm not saying that. I have enjoyed it tremendously over the past four years or so. But alternating back and forth between the Sonos and the MOON MiND reveals a difference.
Well I don't know about Kumar, but this has me confused. Are you comparing the CONNECT's DAC with the Audiolab's? Sure, there could well be a difference.

But you originally said
The MOON, as did the Sonos, plays through an Audiolab M-DAC to a Quad 99 pre and Quad 909 power amps.


In that case the CONNECT is simply supplying a digital stream which, as pointed out, is bit-perfect to the source when set to 100% or Fixed volume. No DAC, no 'adulteration'.
Sonos first ran the signal through its own DAC

alternating back and forth between the Sonos and the MOON MiND reveals a difference.


Unless there is a level matched DBT tested difference, subjective/sound level based reasons for hearing differences cannot be ruled out.
Enjoy your system, but others may have the veil removed just as effectively via volume control changes.
As to the first part, when you use the digital outs on Connect to feed an external DAC, the Sonos DAC is bypassed, so the first part quoted above is wrong.
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No offense to Kumar, but he couldn't be more wrong.
Yes dacs do make a difference and like everything in this world there's a price difference for quality. Many options exist with many different input options as well, all depends on your needs and sound preferences. I'm using a Cary Xciter on my Cullen zp90 with fantastic results. Lots of others I know use W4S dacs, Music Hall, PS Audio, Audio gd, Jolida, the list can go on.

That's if you want your Sonos to sound like a darn good cd player, if not....then read no further. Having a dac with a Sonos is almost a must. Sure you can use the one in your receiver if you like and it will give you some improvement but nothing like stand alone quality dacs do. The dac in the Sonos is OK for casual listening I guess, but is really no better than whats in an entry level receiver. Bottom line is, if you want to kick it up a few notches, add a dac.
No offense to Kumar, but he couldn't be more wrong.

That's if you want your Sonos to sound like a darn good cd player

None taken:).
For my part I am a believer in level matched DBTs ever since one opened my eyes to the fact that my darn good CDP, wired to a DAC that was twice as big, heavy and expensive as it, sounded no different from the Connect - with the same results from a SACDP with digital access to its well specified DAC. This allowed me to reduce equipment footprint, and expand music delivery to more rooms without more net spend, although saving wasn't the primary object of the exercise.
Simpler isn't better by definition, but my experience in this case suggests it to be so here.
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None taken:).
For my part I am a believer in level matched DBTs ever since one opened my eyes to the fact that my darn good CDP, wired to a DAC that was twice as big, heavy and expensive as it, sounded no different from the Connect - with the same results from a SACDP with digital access to its well specified DAC. This allowed me to reduce equipment footprint, and expand music delivery to more rooms without more net spend, although saving wasn't the primary object of the exercise.
Simpler isn't better by definition, but my experience in this case suggests it to be so here.


I hear ya man, everyone is different. We all don't hear the same either, different strokes for different folks and all that.

However, I think if you were to be exposed to more of the good gear out there, you may have a different opinion. I think for the average joe, looking to dump his cdp in exchange for streaming will find unless he gets a good dac in the mix, he may be disappointed with the SQ he gets.
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Btw...many people use cdp's with digital inputs or USB inputs with great results. Except you won't find digital inputs on your standard BestBuy cdp. The OPPO's are fantastic for this too, especially the 105.

Also, there's more to a dac than a simple dac chip. One other point of concern is the analog output stage and how well that is built. That's why your better cdp's sound better too. Design and what they do with the signal once it enters also varies between dacs. Many different implementations to do the same thing. Choosing a dac is like choosing a cdp, pre amp, amp, speakers, etc, you want one who's sound signature will compliment the rest of your gear, not fight it.

What Sonos has going for it is it's software. The best out there for the money short of a SOOLOS system. Sonos is easy to setup and use so that any wife or electronically challenged person can do it....and it simply works. Have mine for 5 years now with zero hiccups, zero dropouts. The wife would kick me to the curb before the Sonos.

Also, there's more to a dac than a simple dac chip. One other point of concern is the analog output stage and how well that is built.

Of course. The better built ones probably measure better too. The question is - does all of this translate into better sound quality that can be identified in a level matched DBT in as high a resolving system as one wishes to use to test for this if the resolving power of the ears/brain combination is going to be the limiter? If it can't be so identified, what is the benefit of the better build/measured performance? And why pay more for it, or provide more space for it?

However, I think if you were to be exposed to more of the good gear out there, you may have a different opinion. I think for the average joe, looking to dump his cdp in exchange for streaming will find unless he gets a good dac in the mix, he may be disappointed with the SQ he gets.

I think that the average joe, who may find the Connect to be expensive enough on its own compared to a modern CDP, may also like to hear from someone like me that has over fifteen years exposure to digital source kit costing a few multiples of Connect, to the effect that the Connect was found perfectly capable of replacing all said digital kit with no sound quality difference found in a level matched DBT. Those on the other hand that think that the Connect is too cheap to sound good are free to pursue their different path:)
Indeed, the average joe would be best served using Sonos play units and bypassing this question completely!
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To each his own obviously, but if you want better sound you have to throw your hat in the ring and experiment some. There are those who simply are satisfied with what they have and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

There are also those who seek better sound, and a bang for their buck. This is why we have variety in audio gear, in anything really. The world would be dull with one product for all.
To each his own obviously, but if you want better sound you have to throw your hat in the ring and experiment some. There are those who simply are satisfied with what they have and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

There are also those who seek better sound, and a bang for their buck. This is why we have variety in audio gear, in anything really. The world would be dull with one product for all.


Then there are those who actually use double blind testing to see if what is claimed to be heard can actually be heard. Unless you have done this, it is all subjective and should be labeled as such. This is also the reason why fantastical claims like sonic differences between digital cables is met with such scorn.
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Then there are those who actually use double blind testing to see if what is claimed to be heard can actually be heard. Unless you have done this, it is all subjective and should be labeled as such. This is also the reason why fantastical claims like sonic differences between digital cables is met with such scorn.

DBT testing....lol, who hasn't ? Yet are you trained to even listen ? Do you have a revealing system to even worry about any of this ?

I've been an audio guy for going on 40 years, been around the block and then some with low-fi to hi-fi and diminishing returns. They say that seeing is believing, in audio it's hearing is believing. Unless your willing to experiment some with your own gear in your own home with your ears, then opinions on anything audio related carry little weight. No offense there.

Audio isn't a one size fits all, plenty of room to expand your horizons if you so wish.
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Look, not trying to get into a pissing match about cables, dacs or whatever audio related. All I'm saying is to experiment with some decent stuff and not the cheap consumer grade stuff from BestBuy or Amazon.

If your happy with what you have, cool, rock on and enjoy the tunes. If you want to hear better, educate yourself a bit and get your feet wet experimenting yourself. It's not rocket science, nor does it need to be, but nothing was ever discovered sitting on the couch wondering.
DBT testing....lol, who hasn't ? Yet are you trained to even listen ? Do you have a revealing system to even worry about any of this ?

I've been an audio guy for going on 40 years, been around the block and then some with low-fi to hi-fi and diminishing returns. They say that seeing is believing, in audio it's hearing is believing. Unless your willing to experiment some with your own gear in your own home with your ears, then opinions on anything audio related carry little weight. No offense there.

Audio isn't a one size fits all, plenty of room to expand your horizons if you so wish.


Ahhh "trained ears" and "revealing system", the old "Your hearing must suck or your system must suck!" thinly veiled insult from the audiophools. You guys have to get some new material, for you have no idea about my training, hearing ability, or my system. Yet you fling the insult out anyway, for it is your only defense.

Furthermore, I don't need better training or a better system because others have done the testing for me. Just like I don't have to personally listen for the background radiation for the Big Bang, because Penzias and Wilson already did it for me.
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Ahhh "trained ears" and "revealing system", the old "Your hearing must suck or your system must suck!" thinly veiled insult from the audiophools. You guys have to get some new material, for you have no idea about my training, hearing ability, or my system. Yet you fling the insult out anyway, for it is your only defense.

Furthermore, I don't need better training or a better system because others have done the testing for me. Just like I don't have to personally listen for the background radiation for the Big Bang, because Penzias and Wilson already did it for me.


That's about the equivalent of listening with someone elses ears. Are you saying science has never gotten anything wrong ? History may beg to differ.
Not trying to insult you, trying to get you to step outside the box that some put themselves in for various reasons.
constructionguy,

Audio Salesman 101 shows budding sales staff how to control the listening session and point the "obvious" comparison outcome in the desired direction. It's very simple, really. It's a great show and the customer goes home happy. It's usually not the case that the salesperson is attempting to stick the customer with a lemon, the sales person may truly believe that he or she is doing the customer a favor, but the outcome has been influenced by the salesperson. Audiophiles think that they operate on a plane above all of this, but in the end they are human too. Magicians are masters of misdirection. There is nothing sinister, it's just a good show, and wonderful fodder for psychologists to work with. Dig into this a little and you'll discover some wonderful demonstrations where seeing is believing, but not really what happened.

We are not claiming that there cannot be any audible differences, only that many of these "obvious" differences disappear during controlled listening tests.

Controlled tests are hard to set up and boring for the participants. It's much easier to stick one's head in a room for a few seconds, declare "obviously better," and move on. Even for home demonstrations with familiar surroundings, things can go wrong. Changes in the environment must be tracked as well as the condition of the listening panel. If one has been recently exposed to noise sources, such as riding in a car, bus, train, or plane, it takes a while for our hearing to recover.

Level differences that are difficult to measure will have a major impact on the results. Home listeners are not usually equipped to make these measurements and correct the mismatch. Unless someone has overtly convinced me that they have correctly matched the levels, I throw their observations into the "war story" bin and mostly ignore it. I realize that this is irksome and crushing to the audiophile, but I am jaded by too many "my dog is better than your dog" show-downs. Nothing is proven and everyone goes home mad.
That's about the equivalent of listening with someone elses ears. Are you saying science has never gotten anything wrong ? History may beg to differ.
Not trying to insult you, trying to get you to step outside the box that some put themselves in for various reasons.


Cliché #3 - "Science gets stuff wrong!!"

Yes, science gets stuff wrong. How do they prove it wrong? By carefully constructed experiments based on a new hypothesis that prove what was thought before to be incorrect. Carefully constructed experiments like a double blind study, none of which have ever proven the nonsense that digital cables, if operating correctly, make any difference in sound. If you conduct such an experiment and you actually prove there is a difference, then science will be proven wrong. Until then, you are simply reporting your bias . Good luck with that experiment..

As I have said before: "Trust your ears (in a double blind test)!!"