Does an external DAC make sense

Posted by: Richard walker on 14 January 2019

As of the last two weeks I am the proud owner of an NDX and a supernait 2 - connected via a  highline and the sound is great.

In order to connect my modified mac mini via  Audirvana and USB to the system it seems I need an outboard DAC.

Budget is about 1K ( GBP)

It seems that my options are Naim DAC or Naim V1 secondhand hugo 1 or qutest.

Does anyone have any suggestions ?


Left field option could be to "Just" connect via optical and spend the money on a PSU

The DAC doesnt need to be portable .



Posted on: 14 January 2019 by Jan-Erik Nordoen

All you need is a USB to S/PDIF converter, not another DAC...

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by Richard walker

Thanks. Any particular recommendations ?

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by Jan-Erik Nordoen

IIRC, Richard Dane has considerable experience with these converters, and has recommended the Gustard (link). A search on this forum should turn up some candidates.

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by Simon-in-Suffolk

Richard, from my perspective, if you are paying for a quality transport, you donít want to use a converter on the digital output, as that will undue much of the expensive precision quality the transport framing clock in the transport is providing... therefore if using a Naim transport absolutely best use a DAC with a 75ohm BNC or failing that phono SPDIF input for optimum performance... , or if using USB then use a USB output transport and DAC. In my opinion although the Hugo mk 1 has class leading performance with SPDIF, itís USB input falls quite a bit behind.

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by Hmack

I used to use a Chord Hugo1 with a Sonore microRendu in my second system, and initially connected the two over USB. It sounded pretty good, but I was aware of the fact that the USB performance of the Hugo1 was less than optimal. I subsequently added a Gustard U12 USB to SPDIF convertor (as in the link above) and that did indeed (to my ears) offer a subtle but distinct improvement in quality. I would certainly recommend the Gustard, but of course there are other alternatives out there and some may be even better. 

Unfortunately, using the Gustard does have one disadvantage in that DSD files (certainly those of the highest quality) will no longer play successfully on the Hugo (or the NDX for that matter).

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by ChrisSU

If you like the NDX, just run a UPnP server on your Mac (or something) and use that, as an external DAC will make it completely redundant. 

Posted on: 14 January 2019 by analogmusic

I would try to connect via optical first if you really do need to use a pc.

having lived with usb for years now and moved to spdif, thereís a difference in the musicality of both types of connections (regardless of cables, streamers and laptops) that I can now clearly hear and I would avoid usb for anything else except dsd files. 

Spdif just sounds more engaging to me compared to USB


Posted on: 14 January 2019 by Innocent Bystander

On a Mac Mini  can bypass all of Appleís audio drivers and circuitry, feeding out on a dedicated USB bus, sounding better than when Routed through the MMís optical output. However, whilst that may be OK with DAC V1, the Hugo - which otherwise is a fantastic device with a sound that belies its cost - is very susceptible to the inevitable RF on the contamination, with negative effects (the MMís own optical output would sound better). With a Hugo you need  a good isolator. One that has a reputation for being very good despite low cost is tge Gustard U12: I used that myself, to great effect. You feed the USB signal in, and can use either optical or electrical SPDIF to Hugo. I used that for a couple of years, until I discovered Dave DAC...

Much to find searching the forum, though if you donít achieve that in the next few hours the imminent forum change means you may find that it is a couple of weeks before this forumís archive is available to search.