External DAC for the S30

Hi all, I firstly got the S30 because it offered a complete solution, and upgraded with the S60 power supply but still currently using the built-in DAC.

It doesn’t sound bad at all, my turntable and phono stage do sound better, but it’s hard to compare like for like in that situation, so my question is how much would I need to spend and how much of an improvement would I get by going to a USB connected DAC?

ie: would I need to spend quite a bit to out-do the built-in DAC or would a fairly entry level/mid level DAC still give me an improvement?

All depends on the DAC and your understanding of mid level, I would say that adding a DAC would be a good idea.

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More pointedly then, at both ends of the scale: would I need to buy something relatively high end to improve on the built-in dac (ie, its pretty good already), or would I find a sub $1K NZD DAC still improves the quality of output (ie, it’s easily improved upon?)

Hi Andy,

I purchased an EX (ex demo from Antipodes) a couple of years ago and at the time was told the DAC in it was ok but basic and there just to get people going. Not sure if the same DAC was used in the S30 but if the same principle applies and given there are some very good DACs available around the $1k mark I’d say it would be worthwhile.

I was also advised that SQ could be improved by disabling the internal DAC. They did this for me before shipping the unit so didn’t do any comparisons.

hi @MarkR thats good to know! thank you. It’s only a matter of time before I succumb to it and purchase an external DAC, but definitely don’t want to skimp and find that i’ve spent money for little or no improvement.

There are some affordable DACs that deliver a nice bang for the buck. Your best bet would be to try to audition one.

A used Chord Mojo would set you back a little over $200. It’s an absolute steal at that price. Even if it is on par with the DAC in the S30, it might still be more to your liking as it has time domain performance that beats even far more expensive DACs. Only downside with the Mojo is that you’ll need adapters but those don’t have to be expensive.

It is always worth keeping an eye on the 2nd hand market especially if you can buy from a good dealer. A friend of mine previously owned an S30 on which he initially used the internal DAC. He then started using the in built DAC on a Gato DIA 250 NPM integrated amplifier which he said brought noticeable improvements (I can’t comment either way as I didn’t compare one to the other). After chopping the S30 in for a K30 he’s up until recently continued to use the DAC in the GATO until such time as he could save up for a better DAC. Recently whilst browsing the Elite Audio website I came across a Gustard Pro DAC in good condition & for a fairly bargain price. I immediately made my friend aware of the unit & he purchased it without even listening to it & even got a few extra quid knocked off the initial asking price. He couldn’t go wrong really, as Elite Audio not only offered him a full refund if he didn’t like it, they also had a very small mark on the fascia repaired so it’s now immaculate & they then threw in a full 12 month guarantee, just for good measure. All for somewhere around the £850 mark (I can’t quite recall the exact figure, but it’s around there). Anyway, it’s turned out that he absolutely loves the unit & he’s been blown away by the improvement in SQ. Given that, I very much doubt it’s going back up for sale anytime soon, but keep looking as just like as in this instance, there are quite often bargains to be had. :slightly_smiling_face:


Hi @andychampionsound
First of all it really depends how you use the S30 in your setup. In my experience S30 is best used only as a player. It just does not have a lot of power being a server and player (& DAC?) at the same time. So the more you can separate these functions by putting a separate streamer before - and a DAC after the S30, the better the sound will be. Playing your music from a S30 internal SSD (Samsung PM893 recommended) vs streaming will also sound better.

A superior external DAC (usb in) will improve the sound without spending too much. This will allow you to tune the sound to your liking compared to the build in DAC. More analytical vs. more warm or more analogue for example. Your ears will tell you so make sure you can try before you buy.

If ever you choose a 12v DAC (ex. Chord2Qute) an extra and not to underestimate uptick in sound quality is also to be expected if you power it with (a good dc cable and) the excellent S60 power supply (12v) since it has two 12v outputs.

I have the S30/S60 combo too , used as both server and streamer, but never listened to the onboard DAC.

The DAC in the DS I owned previously sounded pretty good but I enjoyed better sound with USB to an external DAC, in that instance a Rega.

Then, I tried a Denafrips Ares (their cheapest) and was astounded by the performance.
An upgrade to the Denafrips Pontus proved to be another upgrade in sound.
Analogue sound, an enormous soundstage, lots of detail and tonal control are some of the rewards to be had by going external.

For the money, especially the Ares, they are worth your consideration and they pair very well with the S30.

Good luck!

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I also can recommend the revealing and precise Denafrips Ares (called Enyo today). It fills your room with a more defined and bigger soundstage. If upgrading in the Denafrips DAC line expect to hear even more of all this goodness; fuller timbre and richer and more clear instrument placement, more definition in the base.

The compact Ares makes a nice fit with the S30/S60 combo in black/silver if that is important to you. Also easy to find used @ $650 US (through hifisharkdotcom).

PS for optimum sound quality do upgrade the S60’s DC cable (like Audio Sensibility Signature Silver DC Cable) and play from local SSD (sorry for the repeat).

Hi Andy, I am in same position , and am still happy with S30 dac.
Possibly looking at a Chord Qutest which will give me access to a MScaler in future.

I had an Denafrips Ares but found it too laidback with already smooth S30.

Good match are the Aqua Acoustic Dacs , the La Voce , just about affordable, otherwise they are silly money.

I have been down the path with MScaler and a TT2. My advice would be that you pass on MScaler and put the money into a better Antipodes server instead. And as far as a Qutest, for less money you can get a Gustard x26pro, A26 or R26. I sold my TT2 after hearing how good the x26pro is. Scaling with PGGB lifts sound quality to an insane level.

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Denafrips - Antipodes does seem to be a popular combination. I started with EX/Ares then S30/60 followed by a Venus and a K30. I have tried a few different DACs along the way, including the Qutest. I plan a DAC upgrade this year and top of the list is a Terminator 2 as it’s an upgrade path I’ve been very happy with.

So we can agree an upgrade is worthwhile but you are on your own when it comes to which one is best for you. :slight_smile:

Kenny thanks for advice - have learnt a lot frim your posts on various forums - I’m considering Qutest / Hugo and why I have thethe s40/ 30 / 60 is because. Prefer the small form factor .

I would love a Pontus or a terminator , but the have small waf .

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The Ares sounds like the sweet spot then, if waf is an issue. It’s tiny compared to the Pontus.

You probably won’t be disappointed but if so, they get snapped up pretty fast on the 2nd hand market.

If your system is fairly resolving, as mine is, it won’t be too laid back. It actually tamed mine a bit, which was an unexpected, but pleasant, outcome.

Hi Roadrex , had an Ares , found it dull . Maybe because it followed an Aqua Acoustics La Voce ., which was very detailed .

I had an Ares and found it to be a wonderful, resolving little thing.
Not sure whether this is helping the OP though as every one of the other links in our chains are obviously different.

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The 2Qute definitely needs a better power supply, it makes a day and night difference.
Unfortunately the Qutest is not a 12V device. But if you find a 2Qute and if it works with the s60 - I don’t know about the noise that the dac generates into the s60 - it might be a steal.