Step up from “Low end” dac

Hi everybody,
Just read a lot about hi end dacs and whilst I understood a lot, quite a bit left me bamboozled with jargon.
I currently use the little Google audio pucks which I put into the back of my Naim amp, Parasound amp and Ruark speakers and I variously use Spotify Premium and Tidal.
What I want to know is, is there a night and day difference between this and e.g. Bluesound Node, Cambridge Audio v2 etc?
The “high end” is unavailable to my financial situation.
Any advice/opinions welcomed.
Thanks in anticipation.

Dennis, there are various opinions on this. I have a couple Google Chromecast Audio pucks as well, and like them. The guy over at Audio Science Review tested them; the conclusion was that if you are using the optical output from them, they’re pretty good, but the electrical output is subpar.

You might look at the reviews chart there: Master Audio Review Index | Audio Science Review (ASR) Forum

There are some excellent low-cost DACs these days from Topping and SMSL, two Chinese manufacturers.


Many thanks Bill, I am using the optical output with my Parasound and Ruark but not with the old Naim. Very grateful for your response, best regards Dennis

I’m also looking for DACs. And while are so many points of view I tend to favour ASR, and as a quick reference I use this image (also from asr).

@ Dennis_Lindridge,

Very happy with this inexpensive DAC. It also plays MQA and DSD files.


There are many many points of view on DACs. Personally I’m a believer that many of the differences we hear in DACs, even the higher end ones, come down to differences in the analogue or “A” part of the DAC. There are some architectural differences. If you fancy trying out R2R / NOS DACs, which are the big other family besides Delta-Sigma, then you could try the Schiit Bifrost 2/64 which is fabulous for $799 if it’s available where you live. If you fancy trying out multibit, I highly recommend the Schiit Modi 3E, which is $129. And I’m a big fan of the Denafrips Ares II (which was recently renamed) but that is getting up towards the $850 range. If you give us a price point you’re trying to hit and what the rest of your system looks like, we can give you a few suggestions.

There’s all kinds of interesting gear, and those who make this into a hobby at whatever price point do a fair bit of comparison and switching. There’s a lot going on at the ~$100 price point, in large part due to the influx of new young headphone listeners on IEMs, and I think it’s a wonderful thing. The Khadas tone board is a wonderful device. Sometimes systems that make no sense on paper can be wonderful - my desktop speaker rig has a $1k DAC feeding a $30 amplifier and $150 eBay speakers and it’s magic. In my main rig I have a $2500 DAC and a $2k turntable, but I’ve auditioned far higher priced items and decided they weren’t for me for reasons that were either audible, or in summer cases because the differences were inaudible. Me of ten years ago would have laughed if you’d told me I’d have any audio gear that cost more than $500. Budgets are set by all sorts of circumstances. Tell us what you’re trying to solve and we will try to help!

Many thanks for the suggestion, however I owe you an apology as I forgot to mention that I dont want anything that requires s computer to set up

Many thanks Johnny, Im afraid you lost me with the jargon in the first minute. I have a parasound halo integrated amp with a built in Dac (a sabre I believe). I stream through a chromecast audio puck and out through some proacs and Im very happy with that. I have other pucks attached to other amps and active speakers and I’m reasonably happy with them. My 2 issues are 1. What product/price point would see a significant improvement. And 2 how to improve tv sound. Many thanks for your response
Best regards

Hmm. I’m going to “read between the lines” and make some assumptions, and please correct me.

  • You have the HINT6? That’s a $3200 amp, and a fairly nice piece of kit. So that speaks to your budget parameters.
  • you care about fidelity and character of music and TV reproduction, but you don’t yet have explicit preferences about what you want out of the sound other than “better”
  • you don’t say if you’re running TV sound also through the Parasound or another multichannel HT amp, so I’ll assume that you’re running 2-channel TV sound through the Parasound

My 2 cents:

  • first get a better streamer for your Parasound that’s capable of passing a better bit-rate; Chromecast tops out at 48/24. You may be fine with that, in which case feel free to skip. You can build your own Ropieee/RopieeeXL but based on your comments I’m guessing you may not want to try. In which case, give the Allo USBridge player (assuming you want to output USB) or they have a SPDIF if you want to go that route. I personally think that USB is probably a better route for you, but you’ll have to decide that. Honestly maybe the Wiim mini or forthcoming Wiim pro will be upgraded to Roon Ready soon, and then that’s what I’ll recommend to people in your situation. But it’s not ready yet.
  • then get a different sounding DAC - I would lean into something that is actually based on a different architecture than the nice DS DAC in your Parasound. Give the Schiit Bifrost 2/64 a shot. It’s a fabulous DAC for the price and will give you a taste of a different approach.

None of this really addresses the TV question. I’m off the opinion that if you’re on 2-channel TV, you’re going to see a far greater impact from moving to 5.1 than any other change. But that’s a whole different question. DACs will make a quite minor difference to 90% of what you watch.

Actually, now rereading, maybe skip the streamer for now, get the Bifrost and feed it with the Chromecast for now. When Wiim comes out with a Roon-ready device, get that instead of the Chromecast.

Others will have very different opinions about “what the right DAC is for you”. I’m just trying to be opinionated since that seems to be what you want.

Not going to disagree with most of what you wrote but I am running my Chromecast at 24/96 via Toslink. The challenge is getting fast enough WiFi to it to keep it running without the odd moment of silence.

But it is not the finest streamer in the land, but they are very convenient.

The CCA firmware was upgraded to provide 24/96 in December of 2015, according to Archimago.

Will not argue with this, nor with the idea of convenience in most places I listen to music being of primary value. I really hope that the Wiim can manage to be cheap, convenient, and high quality. Chromecast is totally smart. And thanks for correcting me on the bitrate limitation - that’s plenty enough for diminishing returns. But gosh I want proper Roon Ready out of the same firm factor / convenience. Seems like we are getting closer.

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Frankly, for a streamer, “Chromecast inside” is pretty darn close to Roon Ready, as is a Pi running Roon Bridge. A streamer doesn’t really do much beside transfer the bits. When you use the electrical output of a combined streamer/DAC/preamp, there’s more to it, but even then, with the CCA you can control the volume. What more would Roon Ready bring to the table?

By the way, I’ve seen rumors that there’s a new CCA in the works at Google. Hard to believe.

If Wiim can pull off full Roon ready along with everything else they have then it will be a stellar little device and they will sell a lot of them in the Roon community

Google have just killed too many products for us to have any faith in their long term development. Though they have certainly put in the backend work for other suppliers of Chromecast to benefit. Maybe they just wanted to extend the audio world beyond Airplay only, which I have never liked. In that case they have mostly succeeded. I prefer to buy devices that have Chromecast, Airplay and Roon and the CCA pucks work great where Chromecast is missing.

Thanks Michael,
I did buy 3 or 4 of them when they first came out and 2 more later. I’m satisfied but just wondered what/how much would be better. Many thanks Dennis

Many thanks Johnny, yes I welcome opinions. I did have full surround in my previous house but now i have hifi in one room, good quality audio in other rooms but tv is totally seperate away from parasound. Thanks very much for your opinions which are most welcome.
Best regards Dennis

I am very happy with my Bluesound Node 2i and I even bought a second one for my fiance’s residence to upgrade her 1989 Kenwood system, haha. It is Roon Ready, does Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Hi-Res and MQA. I purchased my first Node 2i in 2019 new for $549 and the second one six months ago from Amazon for $350, which looked brand new and looked like it was factory repackaged. This was my first ever purchase of pre-owned electronics
and I was very impressed. Everyone considers this low-end, but it does really well for the price. If you are looking for a streamer that does a lot inexpensively, the Node 2i or the newer Node would be a great place to start.

Many thanks Stephen, that has always featured in my thoughts, probably sine they first started. The latest one (amp) would address the tv issue, theonly downside is the redundancy of all the google audio pucks. My understanding is Cambridge audio,s (v2 and Evo) are chromecast. Many thanks for your input. Best regards Dennis