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just about to upgrade digital

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so i'm using a krell s-300i integrated amp. for digital, i use a win 7 laptop and cambridge dacmagic plus with their asynchronous windows drivers for usb output.  i just recently called to order a cambridge 851n, but not necessarily for streaming, more for ability to plugin a usb hard drive or nas drive.  it looks like the dm+ to 851n will be a fairly good step up so i'm looking forward to it! there is a slight chance i'll get it between dec 25th and jan 1st but i think it won't come until after the new year.  all in all though i've been pretty happy with the sound, but per my thread about listening height, i'm expecting that to make the biggest impact.

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Congrats on the upgrade.  Digital is a strange beast.  I went whole hog into the digital world a couple of years ago when it got to be too difficult to work with vinyl.  I have been learning a lot, even though I don't understand the engineering terms per say.  A lot of variables enter into digital and your home's power is one of the biggest issues IRT how clean the power is to your units.  

I have about 30TB of mostly high res music on a server, but I'm also streaming a TON.  Digital is heading to nearly all streaming as the services become better and better.  Roon doesn't yet sound as good as other interfaces, but it's so easy adn fun to use, especially if you have a digital library.  Going forward we are going to see folks purchasing the best DAC they can afford and using a server.  I loved my Ayre QX5/20 DAC/Server/Roon end point etc....  It's where things are heading and they are going there quickly.  

Lot's of good DACS in most price ranges.  

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that seems to be the case that there are a lot of good sounding ones. i wish there were more real-world a/b/c comparison reviews of dacs - or maybe more "plain" talk about them. but they all seem to be pretty good albeit most reviews i read all say "there is no sound to this dac" which is supposed to be neutral i guess.

back in the 90's i a/b compared a rotel 865 CD player with and without a california audio labs sigma tube dac and i thought my co-worker had switched speakers on me! from 804's to 803's which were wider apart - the sound stage was wider, deeper and taller!  of course the sound was warmer and fuller as well.  so i'm a little worried about reviews that say every dac is neutral. but like i mentioned, the dacmagic+ is nothing glaringly wrong and i assume the 851 is better all around.

but yeah, i don't know about the future. streaming seems to suck for me b/c i don't buy a new cd every month so why keep spending monthly on listening to the same music.  to me the best solution is download or buying a cd and then burning it.   the whole "pay monthly" fad started a while back and definitely has it's place when you average out over time, but not for me yet.

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I love streaming.  As I said, I have 30TB that sounds great (most of it).  That said I love to stream and listen to new things.  So easy, plus it sounds SOOO much better in the car than anything else (I do still have a CD changer in the glove box).  I am lucky as I get a military discount with Tidal so I pay half price, but to me it's worth it.  

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  • 5 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...
On 1/31/2021 at 6:15 PM, GdnrBob said:


Did you get your equipment?


hello! wow i can't believe how long it's been, but YES woo hoo i got the 851N and loved it after some emails with tech support.  nothing a hard reboot didn't fix. i forgot there was a power button on the back of it. the 2TB WD MyPassport hard drive I plugged in was not recognized and the 851 would go into a reboot loop!  tech support was very helpful and responded every time, even followed up with me after i told him i'd use it all weekend and see what's up.  like i said the hard reboot fixed it. but i did find that the USB ports are limited in the power they can supply. but the front one works like a charm with my 2TB now.

anyway, i mostly listened to background music while i was working. BUT THE BIGGER NEWS IS IN ANOTHER NEW POST I'M ABOUT TO MAKE!

ok as for how it works, it's great. i wish i could design the phone app though as it's a little - not what i would have done. ha. but wow the sound is stunning!  or maybe it isn't (neutral - haha)?  it's way better than the dacmagic+ and laptop. honestly at this point i don't know if it's my other upgrade or just the dac but i can hear everything in every song now. highs are sparkly, sound stage is wider and deeper and man on some stuff holographic! like flowing into the room.  

i suspect that i'm getting a double wammy b/c of the new speaker stands (surprise ruined). but when i did scooch down to listen to reference songs - nora jones, sam maclain, clair marlo, i never got vocal sounds with such range from the dacmagic+ .  by range i mean every loud/quiet/soft/hard every inflection is now jaw dropping.

i'm doing almost all FLAC burned with easyaudiocopy program on  my pc from CD. norah, jazz at the pawn shop, and some others are hi-res downloads. 

what's really shocking to me, i have some .ogg files from the old days, 320kps rates, and even though it's different music and even though the 851N up samples them, they are no where near as good as FLAC from CD or hi-res. i mean they are obviously flat and lack any nuance or detail. on the dacmagic+ and laptop, it was not this shockingly different.

i did read some review that said the 851N doesn't do a good job when things in the high freq. range get busy - like an orchestra with a lot going on, loud and peppy, but i am not hearing that. however, i am hearing faults of recordings. for example, i was a big fan of telarc CDs and have StarTracks 1 and 2, Time Warp, Round Up, the Round Up Magnificent Seven song always got a little compressed at the loud parts back when i demo'd speakers and stuff with that song. even on b&w 800's with all krell everything and MIT cables.  so i know it's that CD and not the 851N compressing stuff. HOWEVER it could be that the actual sound of those loud parts compress themselves with everyone playing loud at the same time - all instruments. 

the telarc beethoven's 9th is amazing even with the chorus at full tilt, i can still hear just about all the voices, though some blend together, but not much. it doesn't get washed out at all.

i love the internet radio option with the 851N too - for background/working music. but there is a LOT of stations to search so that can get clunky.  i might try a subscription service, but now i want to replace some of those .ogg files with actual discs if not hi-res versions.

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