Active / Powered Speakers + USB DAC Vs Passive Speakers + Integrated Amp with built-in DAC: what's best? Discuss

Thank you very much for this! However, you seem to imply that what the chip is in a DAC is ultimately irrelevant to its performance, and only mentioned (always in glowing terms claiming it as the best in the business) by outboard DAC manufacturers as a marketing ploy. I can be cynical enough fully to accept that but you must admit it raises two sets of questions, namely: 1) In that case, what makes for the price difference between a £65 Dragonfly and a >£1500 DAC produced by the likes of dCS or PSAudio or whoever… the entire PiHAT adventure seems to prove that circuitry, in and of itself, isn’t it? Then what? And 2) Why would anyone then opt for the specialised, differentiated, entire-unto-itself DAC box over a more ‘integrated’ solution, be that housed in an amp or an active speaker?

One reason would be so you could switch DAC’s without switching out your entire sound system. I prefer independent devices versus combo devices.

Thank you again! I’m gonna forego asking questions about the equivalence you raised regarding the cartridge-tonearm-turntable system and the transport-clock-DAC system for now, and focus on what you say re|: Pro-Ject and their seemingly inexhaustible add-ons. The reason why I want a T1 Phono SB is definitely not the phono but just as definitely is the SB: as someone who was used, in my analogue days, to a cheap-but-efficient direct-drive SL1200 clone and is still in possession of almost as many 45rpm vinyl than 33rpm, the idea that I have to change the belt manually makes me feel almost as sick as that of the LP12 going through digital chicanery. That, to my great consternation, rules out any and all of the Regas. But, to push your comment further into practical considerations, am I to understand that I’d do well therefore to bypass the Pro-ject’s own phono stage and hook it via phono cables to the Sprout (or any other amp’s) phono input? I have always suspected as much but a confirmation would be handy… Thanks again.

I have always thought the same @Jim_F and still do if you want to squeeze the maximum flexibility and performance out of your setup. Having said this, after I added a pair of Dutch and Dutch 8Cs to my house (not my main listening room) I was blown away by what can be achieved in an integrated setup of this sort for sound quality (that punches way, way above its price), simplicity (2 speakers, vs 2 speakers, pre amp, amp etc, etc) and sound optimized for the room (the speaker have built in parametric equalizers and (supposedly) REW integration coming). The gap between the 2 approaches is getting much, much smaller.

That may be true, however, it’s easier to switch out individual components than an entire system. My next purchase, if I buy anything else, will be an amp and passive speakers to go with my Nucleus and Oppo 203. I’ll use my Bose system for TV only.

Of course that’s true and I noted it. My point however, is that the given the performance level of some of these integrated systems, the reason to change components frequently is diminishing as the upside in sound is getting harder to achieve as the gap narrows. Having said all this, I still have separates in my main listening room…:slight_smile:

I would always recommend individual components unless there is some integrated device that is totally superior in SQ.

I started a whole thread on that topic, last year.

But you know, there really are some reasons. USB-powered DACs can pick up whatever electrical noise might be on the USB cable, so devoting some engineering to signal isolation makes some sense. The filters necessary for proper shaping of the analog signal from the digital input can be compute-intensive, so some pre-processing with the equivalent of a GPU can improve the signal. And you need to do that for two channels. And many audio companies don’t sell a lot of units, so the built-in markup is phenomenal.

What James says is the general rationale (upgrade separately), but I agree with Craig on this: the pace of advancement in DAC technology has slowed enough that buying something with a built-in D/A is probably OK. If I recall correctly, the Dutch & Dutch system has some kind of pull-out tray with the DAC/preamp on it which theoretically can be upgraded separately from the speakers.

It certainly rules out the Planar 1 and Planar 2. The Planar 3 can be powered externally by a Rega Neo PSU (sold separately) which allows for 33/45 speed changes with a button press. Externalising the power supply also offers a small boost in performance. The Planar 6 and above are all now supplied with an external power supply which allows button-press speed change. This is because the more you change the belt, the more you stretch and fatigue it leading to less accurate rotations. Voltage regulated rotation isn’t just convenient, its much more accurate and preserves the belt.

I just checked the T1 Phono SB and you can certainly bypass its internal phono stage. Not all turntables allow you to do this, and you really don’t want to hear what it sounds like when you go through two phono stages. It’s good to see Pro-Ject adding flexibility to their product range as I’ve never heard an internal phono stage outperform an external phono stage, particularly in the Pro-Ject world. It’s a huge pain to have to buy a new turntable just because you get a better phono stage.

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I would find a friendly dealer and try out some variations and trust your own ears as I find the internet can be a swamp of opposing views. If everyone was the same there would be no variety in life. Find someone who offers all sorts though, powered speakers, DACs, all in ones etc even if it means a weekend away and an adventure. You could even try a valve (tube!) or two.

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