Is it worth to use a DAC between audio interface and amp


My current setup is going through a Focusrite SCARLETT 8I6 3rd gen Audio Interface…

I have my guitar modeler, Fractal FM3, plugged into it via S/PDIF and my computer via USB.

My studio monitors and my headphone amp (Hagerman Tuba or RNHP depending on mood and headphones use) are plugged into the Audio Interface.

I also own a SMSL 500 DAC, gathering dust, at the moment…

Would it be worth it for me to use tu use the DAC somewhere in that chain?

Not at part of that chain but I suspect you’d get improved sound plugging your headphone amps into the SMSL 500 instead of into the Scarlett. You can configured your Scarlett as an audio input DAC and the SMSL as an auidio output DAC.

Thanks for the suggestion…

Just to be clear you mean…

Computer -> DAC -> Headphones Amp - >Headphones.

I’ll check, but I don’t think I’ll be able to hear myself playing guitar that way.

Aahh so you’re looking for hearing yourself play. yeah my recommendation was for improved playback. to hear yourself play and to hear yourself play with little delay your original setup is ideal.

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So i notice a different when not using my m500 DAC in the chain…

Here is how I’m getting the best result for listening to music (pretty typical…) :
Computer => DAC => Headphone Amp => Headphones

But I cannot hear myself play guitar this way, so to hear myself play, I use this chain :
Computer / Fractal FM-3 => Audio Interface => Headphone Amp => Headphone

Essentially exchanging the M500 DAC with my Scarlett 8i6 3rd gen audio interface.

I would like to figure a chain that gives me the same audio quality with my guitar modeler plugged in.

Note: My Modeler, Fractal FM-3, can also act as an audio interface with decent DAC and Headphones amp capability. But again considerable difference compared to say RNHP.

Solution : Get an Audio Interface that has amazing DAC capability (or at least up par to the M500)… does this exist?

I’m not very familiar with interfaces, as I don’t use one, but could you not just use the SPDIF out from the 8i6 to the M500?

@FiCurious, so if I plugged the 8i6 to the M500 via the SPDIF out of the 8i6 to the Coaxial IN of the M500… the signal sent to the M500 will be Digital?

I just want to make sure there isn’t an extra conversion step I don’t need here.

But you may be right!

I think, what I need is an Audio Interface with some better Digital - Analog conversion, than what is currently in my 8i6.

This way, I could use the Interface as my actual Desktop DAC…

Correct. It’d send the digital signal to the DAC to handle the conversion to Analog.

I’m sure @M0N could direct you to interfaces with higher quality DACs inbuilt, but I think that’s going to generally end up being a bottleneck in the chain afaik.

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So you could get a nice studio adc/dac and use an external preamp for your mics and guitars which would work nicely (or you could get just a better interface as well), but it might get a tad costly, but it pretty easily can be done, just depends on how many channels you need

Thanks help for the help…

@FiCurious, I went with the solution for now and it’s working great!

@M0N, did more digging around and the general consensus for a better interface would be to get something in the 3k range.

I initially was hoping the Apollo Twin X Duo would of been enough for my need, but I really doubt the DA conversion will be as good as the SMSL M500.

Imo it might actually be better than the m500 in some respects lol, but indeed you could spend more to get more as well if you wanted to

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If, I was somehow certain it was better than the M500, I would probably get it.

It would simplify my current setup, for not that much of an upcharge (considering I would likely sell the m500 and 8i6)

But it’s a big IF. Lol

I personally don’t need a lot of inputs. 2 is more than enough. In fact : one would be sufficient! Two is future proof if I wanted to record with dual mics or something like that.

So I think it would be an upgrade in refinement, impact, potentially better spatial recreation, but similar detail and both are somewhat neutral although the apollo would be a bit warmer slightly

I mean in that case, you could get a nice studio adc and some separate mic preamps to go along with it, but that might be fairly overkill for what you are after, if you are looking for an all in one solution the UA would offer you a ton of functionality and good sound quality for it’s form factor

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Is it the same when use a Interface with the I2S port?
For example Singxer Sda 2 with a Matrix Audio xspidf or Singxer Su 2.

I don’t think that’s exactly what @sluice is after, he is more looking for an audio interface with a better dac at this point for recording and studio work, not a DDC

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In the same time, I don’t really need a mic preamp, nor a good ADC at the moment.

I connect my Guitar Modeler via SPDIF to my Audio Interface.
So my signal is already Digital. :slight_smile:

Eventually (In years? When kids grow up a bit), I might go back to actual mic’d cab recording for guitar, but it’s out of the question with 2 kids under 2.5 years old…

Ah well gotcha, in that case something like the UA wouldn’t offer as much value, but it would be nice in the future lol

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But, in your personal opinion, you do think the UA Apollo Twin X DA converter is an improvement over the M500?.

I do, but it’s only slightly and if you don’t plan to use the adc and preamp aspect it’s most likely not worthwhile to only use as a dac. I mean you could get something like an adi 2 pro fs, dangerous music convert 2, lynx hilo usb or tb, etc if you wanted a very capable dac and adc/digital interface

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