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Benchmark DAC1's XLR driving headphones--great results - Page 2

post #16 of 122
Neil - If your balanced Zu has pin 3 lifted, than is it only the signal line of each channel being connected to each pin 2 on the XLRs? I built a Senn XLR cable with each signal to pin 2 and each gnd to pin3. Damn but it sounds amazing.

Your comment on the Mobius adds to my decision whether to send my Mobius for the mod. I'm in audio hell trying to decide. Did you try a mod'd Senn first, and if so, was there a big difference? How much did the Zu XLR mod cost?

Ferbose – I lifted the gnd pin of the power cable and it did smooth out the DAC1. Makes my decision of which one to keep even more difficult. Thanks…… 8~)
post #17 of 122
Quote:
Originally Posted by NeilPeart
Actually, my balanced Zu Mobius I'm using now lifts pin 3 rather than shorts it (according to Zu). The balanced modification is worth the effort (the sound is so clear and powerful), and lifting the ground from the power cord (or removing the removable ground pin from my PS Audio Plus cable, in my case) does make a difference, as all Benchmark DAC1s I have tested have the same grounding issue. Morsel can explain this particular issue further if required.
And to add to drp's comments/questions, are there safety issues with lifting the ground on the dac1? I don't want to accidentally defibrillate myself while listening (how embarassing, to be found electrocuted with HD650's melted to your head looping "I think we're alone now" by Tiffany)

And regarding cable construction for XLR, whichever configuration Larry from headphile used to make my balanced V2 Senn cord, it sounds fantastic.
post #18 of 122
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by zdogg
And to add to drp's comments/questions, are there safety issues with lifting the ground on the dac1? I don't want to accidentally defibrillate myself while listening (how embarassing, to be found electrocuted with HD650's melted to your head looping "I think we're alone now" by Tiffany)
I don't think safety is a real issue.
In Taiwan most household outlets don't have safety ground and the danger of electric shock only becomes serious with high-current devices operating in wet environments. Apparently all my friends in Taiwan are well and alive.
In a properly constructed electronic device the chasis should not have any current flow. Connecting the chasis to safety ground (earth) prevents electric shock if the chasis accidentally gets current flowing into it. At least this is my understanding.
post #19 of 122
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NeilPeart
Actually, my balanced Zu Mobius I'm using now lifts pin 3 rather than shorts it (according to Zu).
Neilpeart, do you feel a particular difference before and after lifting pin 3?
post #20 of 122
I can't truly compare because my cable with Pin 3 shorted is the stock HD650 cable and the lifted cable is a Zu Mobius.
post #21 of 122
FWIW I never shorted pin3 on my balanced stock cable.
post #22 of 122
Thread Starter 
I just wrote an e-mail to Markertek.com to see if they could sell a customized adapter with pin 3 floating. It is annoying that I can't open one of my Hosa XLR-to-RCA adapter. Otherwise I can try cutting away the solder to pin 3 myself.
post #23 of 122
Thread Starter 
The response for markertek.com came back this morning.
They say they only do custom cables but not adapters.
post #24 of 122
Well, I got my DAC1 early this afternoon. Fortunately I had the day off to run some errands, most of which were placed on hold once I got the call that the package had arrived. I'm using a HD650 (probably 150 hours) with a Zu Mobius 1/4" 2.5m cord (probably 25 hours.) Source is my computer feeding the DAC1 using onboard 875p chipset audio via toslink. I'm using foobar for playback, kernel streaming, and have tried upsampling and not, as well as crossfeed.

So far, I have mixed emotions. It sounds really, really good with certain songs. Techno sounds great. The problem is that I'm finding that the majority of my music sounds somehow "wrong" with this setup. Sometimes it feels like a mastering issue - the instrumentation is loud and I can't hear the words at all. Sometimes it feels like there's too much dynamic range; I turn it up, the thing hits a riff and I nearly go deaf; I turn it back down, and suddenly I can't hear 1/4 of the track. In some songs the midrange kind of blooms... like it's clipping or something. In many cases, the sound feels weird... like it's missing some richness that I cannot quite place. It does not sound "musical" and now I know what that means.

Unfortunately my point of reference so far is a Meridian G08 feeding an Emmeline SR71 connected to the same set of headphones. I liked that combination better than what I'm hearing right now In fact, that sound is what I want: crisp, sharp and yet utterly musical... melodic. I just can't afford the price tag.

Any thoughts on where to proceed next? I'll certainly let the system burn (and my ears adjust) for a few weeks. However, should I entertain any of the following to see if the sound improves?

- Switch back to stock cable. I'm hesitant to do this after the pain it was to get the Zu cable in, but the Zu really is bright and I'm wondering if it does not synergize well with the plain/bright DAC1

- Get the XLR adapters referenced by the original poster, and see if the sound gets less... austere.

- Send in the Zu cables to be reterminated for XLR.

- Order a SR71 under the presumption that the magic I heard with the G08/SR71 was due mainly to the amp that sorts out the DAC1's pristine output and makes it sing better with Sennheisers.

- Dump the DAC1, save some cash, beg, borrow, and steal, and get the G08, a SR71, as well as the rest of the Meridian gear (G-series processor, four DSP5000s, etc.) that I'd have to get in order to justify buying a $3k CD player. (Oh, and I'd lose all feduciary credibility with family/friends in the process.) OK, maybe this isn't the best option.

Any thoughts? More to the point, any "my Zu/DAC1/650 sounded dry and shrill until I __________ and now it sounds musical, lush, rich and simply wonderful!" success stories?
post #25 of 122
Quote:
Originally Posted by swiego
Any thoughts? More to the point, any "my Zu/DAC1/650 sounded dry and shrill until I __________ and now it sounds musical, lush, rich and simply wonderful!" success stories?
Dude, your story sounds identical to my initial experience with the DAC1. I also had HD650's, Zu Mobius, Toslink out with Kernal streaming, etc (although I used Chaintech card, I imagine yours is close enough to bit perfect and should be similar). I assume you are talking about using the headphone out of DAC1's built-in amp.

My first impressions were very similar to yours; I found myself cranking the volume to fill in the "empty" sense I was getting (and subsequently getting blasted during louder patches). Very dry, soundstage was wide but very flat and lacking depth, vocals and midrange actually seems very distant, there was a brightness/edginess to the treble. But everything sounded super clean and precise...I read in the manual that the jitter-free-ness might produce some effects that people wouldn't be used to (mainly affecting the midrange) and so I gave it some time.

With Zu burn-in and amp burn-in the sound got better (or my ears adjusted, depending on your stance on burn-in ) but it still didn't sound great to me; it just sounded "wrong" somehow, and I was getting little enjoyment from listening. I then got an MG head mark II, did some tube rolling, and hooked it to the DAC1 with outstanding results; everything sounded "musical" again, the entire perspective of the music was brought forward with more immediacy/presence, and wow, was there depth to the soundstage (though a little more narrow). But some of the detail/cleaness was lost. I was happy though.

Then I got headphile to make me a female xlr cable, plugged it into the back and used the volume pot to control volume...wow! Not as immediate/present as with MG Head, but much more so than headphone jack. Bass, midrange, treble, all fantastic, soundstage wide AND deep, dynamics perfect...

I was, and remain, somewhat disappointed with the headphone out jack on the DAC1 (others will disagree, different strokes and all), but my experience with the other approaches have been incredible. I wouldn't switch back to stock cord, I'd burn in your Zu (it really sounds a lot better than the stock cord with the DAC1) and either get it XLR'd, or get your stock cable XLR'd. In the absence of that, get a good standalone amp to use with the DAC and I bet you'll be much happier.
post #26 of 122

...

Since the Zu Mobius represented a large increase in performance over the stock cable (IMO, of course), I imagined it would be quite difficult to regress to the original. Still, I performed the XLR modification on the stock and found a gigantic increase in soundstage, bass impact and overall cohesion. The HD650 using stock cables via the XLR was better than the HD650 using the Zu when driven from the amp output, and it was better in nearly every facet except bass detail and treble resolution. I knew the zenith of the DAC1/HD650 for me would be driving the HD650 from the XLR output using a balanced Zu Mobius. Thus I sent my Mobius to Zu along with a $20 check. About 2 weeks later my XLR'd Zu Mobius arrived and from the outset I was wowed. The detail of the single-ended Zu was there, along with the slam and impact of the XLR stock; the treble was resolving and shimmering, yet the soundstage was as expansive as ever; the midrange was sweet and articulate and the overall cohesion was absolutely involving. In fact, this very system encouraged more than a few listeners to remark how dark and veiled the Stax Omega II sounded in comparison (and the Stax was driven by the $2500 Kevin Gilmore Blue Hawaii)! Sure K1000 exhibits a unique soundstage and incredible upper-level imagery, the L3000 has a special mid-bass sound, the R10 has the best midrange of any dynamic 'phone (IMO), the Qualia is the most resolving transducer on the planet and the PS-1's copious bass quantity is still un-matched. However, none of these match the synthesis of musicality and resolution that my HD650 system achieves (again, IMO); the only system that is superior in this regard is the HE90/Blue Hawaii rig (and it is marvelous to say the least), but that'll scare away even the most well-heeled audio-fanatics with its $9000 price tag. Having heard these great ‘phones I truly feel that the HD650/XLR Zu is my headphone plateau until I wed Miss Natalie Portman (or at least engage in an illicit affair with the starlet) and receive the Orpheus as a nuptial gift. I’m done with headphone audio and the relief/accomplishment washes over me like only the warm, seductive waves of the Mediterranean can.

post #27 of 122
Are there any special requests or considerations to make when sending the cables back to be reterminated? Any particular connector types, etc? Or do I simply ask them to be reterminated to male XLR connectors for balanced input?
post #28 of 122

...

You need female XLR connectors as the DAC1's XLR output is male.
post #29 of 122
Thanks everyone for your input... I appreciate it. I'll call Zu in the morning and look into reterminating the Mobius cables... I can switch to stock while they're out

As an aside, is it safe to assume that everyone here plugs their DAC1 into their regular wall socket using the power cord that comes with the unit?
post #30 of 122
Quote:
Originally Posted by swiego
As an aside, is it safe to assume that everyone here plugs their DAC1 into their regular wall socket using the power cord that comes with the unit?
Actually, I've got a SignalCable DigitalAC power cord (about $70 on signalcable.com) running into a Oneac power conditioner (about $40 on ebay)...this setup is an improvement over stock cable-->wall but the improvement is much more subtle to my tin ears than the one you'll experience going XLR. NeilPeart has an upgraded powercord/conditioner setup as well and has spoken highly of it in the past.
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