Is a DAC worth it if i have DT-1990 pros?

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Should i buy a DAC? I Just bought the DT-1990 pros and i would really like to get the most out of them so i am wondering if buying a DAC will actually significantly improve my audio quality? I mostly listen to music on Spotify but i got TIDAL and honestly im not really sure if i can hear much difference between the 16 bit Spotify music and the 24 bit "HIFI" and Mastered audio from TIDAL. i just don't want to buy a $200+ DAC only to realize that the difference in sound is incomprehensible to me.
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Whitedragem
177
Nov 18, 2020
Actually most of the audio improvements that is spoken about casually by ‘esoteric’ (audiofools/head-fi nutters (of which I AM one)), is noticable due to ‘training oneself’ as to what to look for. When I first started playing with DACs (back in the nineties), I was nearly left to buy based on faith and logic. For me, who could hardly hear the differences, or considered them ‘subtle’ at best, realised that ‘assembling a panel of experts’ to assist really helped me out. They could explain the differences in ways that gave me an idea of which sound was empirically better (audio being so ‘subjective’). They mostly described the differences as to ‘which row we were sitting in’. This would be using a room full of high end DVD players/SACD/CD players of all different pricepoints and they could tell me which way the polarity button of my DAC should be (“can’t you hear the ‘attack on the violin’ being noticably better?”)... And to be fair I had spent over a decade setting up many stereo systems, sometimes professionally, and I had spent many many hours training my ear to hear distortion figures like .1% like I had previously heard 3% distortion, lots of training, that I cannot ‘unlearn’. Nowadays it only takes me seconds to hear a whole slew of issues with just about ANY playback chain (I have owned audio systems in value of more than many peoples homes), I understand WHAT things should sound like, and can lump stuff, quite quickly into its’ respective tier. Audio wankery aside; system synergy is important. Any headphone can have its’ sound tuned. Amps are not just about volume, but more so ‘driver control’, and changing an amp can have dramatic sound differences for any given set of headphones (I have some B&W P7s that I prefer to some Audeze Sine planars depending largely on the amp driving them).. That being said, back when I ‘panelled’ DACs, the differences were subtle. More recently I took a cheap DAC around to a friends house with a ‘studio reference setup(on a budget)’, that we wanted to see if his blurays could sound better that the ‘very impressive’ audio circuit/DAC chip(s) inside. It was so night and day the difference that it didn’t require flicking back and forth between the two inputs to compare. DACs are not the chip, rather the circuit. Hanz Beekhuzen (eek spelling) has a HD audio youtube channel and he covers a few audio myths in some of his posts (he is one of the best reviewers I have ever come across on the internet with regards to audio kit). He is smart enough to not give 2c opinion on any product he hasn’t heard, simply because circuit and implementation (often never disclosed) is more important than the DAC chips used. As an example the DAC chip in an Aurender Flow isn’t the flagship ESS DAC chip from their lineup, yet the output from the Aurender Flow would trounce, in (my overly enthusiastic) opinion, most ESS DAC chips in other devices, certainly anywhere near the Drop pricepoint (5 days to go on the present Drop, shipping before 2021). To get a noticably better sound you might have to spend a couple of thousand on a DAP, so that Drop is one of the audio worlds BEST BARGAINs. (and people don’t know it because the ‘consumer yellow belts (can read spec sheets)’ think that the numbers tell the story of an items musical ability) It really comes down to a range of things, and that starts with the question of what you are presently using ?!(rhetoric as I likely DO NOT HAVE any of the parts you use)(but put it up so that people can offer partly qualified opinions, yes?) It really comes down to your specific use. Hans would qualify that in his car 256AAC files offer ‘transparency’ due to road noise and listening levels etc. If you listen to orchestral music, and you have played an instrument, I would ‘subjectively’ say DO IT! (large gains to be found) Nothing wrong with ‘compressed music’. (actually there is, but ‘semantics’) I played The Temple from Jesus Christ Superstar (Australian version) from a low bit rate MP3 and the whole family (me included) heard instruments and detail unheard previously. (although I thought it sounded very ‘flat’/lacking stage depth)- admittedly it was using a great product (1/10th the quality of the Aurender Flow if the numbers are to be believed) as a transport, feeding into a twenty year old ‘DAC’ (a Proceed AVP2), into some valve power amps and some 2 way speakers ‘from the seventies’. The total sound system wouldn’t have set me back two grand, and that playback was the best that I have heard that song (soundstage issues aside) which is special given it was the second CD I had ever purchased. Of course my child then booked a relisten for the same track from a lossless file! Your DT1990s are top of the tree (sane money) headphones, very detailed and analytical. Would you notice DAC improvements? I would say yes, but ‘is it worth it’, depends on too many criteria that is not my knowledge to assume. I would consider getting the right amp for them (not just for volume), and if being practical with my coin, I would have that part also perform DAC duties. (For any sane money nothing is going to beat that Aurender Flow presently on Drop.. as an amp AND as a DAC, and better still -it is portable so you would never need sacrifice ‘that level of sound’) It might be higher than a budget considered towards the project, but it would also step you up so many levels that the differences would be ‘night and day’. Even for so called ‘spotify/tidal’ etc compressed services. Sometimes saving money just leads to ‘chasing the tail’. And many many sidegrades... Due to the nature of headphones being portable, I would encourage mayhaps trying some hi end DAP in a music store.. the 2K pricepoint sound is around where that Aurender would get you in many instances (it isn’t a DAP, and so naturally offers better bang for buck than its initial ~$1400 asking price equates to, and everything headphonery just keeps going up and up in prices for equivalent prices.. maybe not planar headphones which are on their way ‘down’ in price/performance) Of course this is all just subjective opinion. I would buy an Aurender Flow in a heartbeat, and my headphones wouldn’t be ‘as nice as yours’. I put a write up on headfi once about respective value to be found/why a system budget should factor a balance of the parts involved... IT dengrated quickly to an argument, and to be fair, was created due to muppets in another thread, titled something akin to ‘the world is flat’ where lots of neophytes argued that amps don’t matter etc.. My subjective experience in life had told me som many of the ‘myths’ were NOT, and so I created a write up to explore the theme a little (it was probably written to give some counterbalance to some zealots respective perspectives, and after six hours of ‘science’ I quickly wrote up a blurb.. - my apologies if it ‘doesn’t read well’) https://www.head-fi.org/threads/3-different-headphone-types-3-amps-1-song-that-does-not-remain-the-same-impressions-to-guide-what-differences-to-expect-and-bang-vs-buck.708391/

(Edited)
Kaffine
1
Nov 18, 2020
Thank you so much for the reply, I found it quite informative and thank you for pointing me to that amazing deal, I just bought the Aurender Flow and am exited to see how they sound with my 1990 pros.
Whitedragem
177
Nov 18, 2020
That combo is what many an audio addict would call an ‘end game setup’. The time you have saved yourself is valuable, and the sound level of the three parts are ‘well matched’ (all three being top tier DAC/AMP/CANs) rigs like you have just built are the reason WHY so many get confused about whether lossless files even matter- Those internet streaming services through that rig will sound so much better than CDs (through lesser kit) (and hi res will scale and be obvious). In fact, you could run the ‘lesser’ internet service through that and it would sound better than a more expensive monthly service through any of the mainstream junk that everyone touts as ‘five star’. Congratulations for circumventing yourself a hobby (building a rig), and getting on with “enjoying the music”. Peace (aka love) Also it appears to be a somewhat servicable device. I would encourage finding a large m2 drive that goes inside (doesn’t have to be a ‘fast one’ per se), and then you have a one box to rule the world setup. I would certainly line that out into any car Auxillary input as well for a massive stereo system upgrade. (quite likely friends home rigs as well) Thankyou for taking the time to reply. made my day ;-)
(Edited)
RayF
21946
Nov 16, 2020
CAUTION: approaching the Emperor Has No Clothes zone!