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Serious ABX tests: Sony Discman vs High-end sources

post #1 of 137
Thread Starter 
These interesting tests have been linked at Head-Fi before, but I think they deserve their own thread.

A Spanish website has performed several ABX tests, in some cases matching Sony Discman or entry-level Pioneers against various High-End sources. I find no flaw in the tests: high-end amps and speakers were used, along with dedicated ABX equipment, good ABX methodology with careful equalization of sound levels, and audiophiles as listeners.

Surprisingly, the Google translation is quite usable. I managed to decipher pretty much every sentence.

Index of tests:
http://translate.google.com/translat...language_tools

Here are a few result highlights:

Sony Discman (portable CD player) vs Sony XA3000ES SACD player:
http://translate.google.com/translat...language_tools
50% confidence level, i.e. NO DIFFERENCE!!

Sony Discman (portable CD player) vs Audionote DAC-3 (XA3000ES as transport):
http://translate.google.com/translat...language_tools
90% confidence level, i.e. probable audible differences, BUT EVERYONE PREFERRED THE DISCMAN IN BLIND TESTING!!

Results like these apparently confirm the opinions of people like Peter Aczel ("The Audio Critic"), who often claims that all competently designed CD-players, DACs and amplifiers are indistinguishable. He usually suggests that most of an audio system budget should be placed in speakers/headphones, where there are significant differences.
http://theaudiocritic.com/blog/index...Id=36&blogId=1
http://theaudiocritic.com/blog/index...Id=33&blogId=1
While you're at it, don't miss Peter's "The 10 biggest lies in audio", where common audio myths are debunked.
http://theaudiocritic.com/downloads/article_1.pdf

By now you probably think I'm a die-hard techie anti-audiophile. Not at all (although I admit to being an engineer). I usually invest in quality mid-range sources and amplifiers, I own an SACD-player and several SACDs, and have been considering getting a really great DAC (e.g. Benchmark or Lavry). I also claim to hear subtle differences between low-end and mid-range DACs. But I have always believed that all transports are alike, cables don't matter, lossless is lossless, and MP3s at ~200kbs VBR are pretty darn good.

However ABX results like the above and writings like Peter Aczel's are slowly changing my mind. I'm getting more and more convinced that I would probably fail any proper ABX of DACs, and I'm sure I'd fail an ABX of amplifiers. I guess I have to get together some friends and try it.

So I'll probably lose the SACD-player, forget about the great DAC, get a decent soundcard for my computer, keep my old amplifier, continue loving my HD650s and Ety4Ps and use my money to upgrade my speakers - and be better off for it!

Please share your own ABX-experiences of sources here, or any links to similar stuff you find on the internets!
post #2 of 137
I've always advocated Headphone/Speakers first... but I feel pricey sources are valuable as well. I dunno I don't see any high end sources listed in your post.
post #3 of 137
Ohh man, stuff like this aggravates me. Especially his signal path and final conclusion writings. Some things are a bit over the top for me, but to tell me all amps are the same unless they are faulty is just nonsense.

Lines like this:

"As for the “tube sound,” there are
two possibilities: (1) It’s a figment of
the deluded audiophile’s imagination,
or (2) it’s a deliberate coloration introduced
by the manufacturer to appeal
to corrupted tastes, in which case a
solid-state design could easily mimic
the sound if the designer were perverse
enough to want it that way."



It makes me cringe. Number one, transistors can NOT reproduce tube sound. They've been trying to figure out a way to do so ever since the transistor came out and they can't. Two, even in the digital processing age, DSP effects still can't nail down what tubes do to audio. Three, who is this guy to say my musical tastes are just an ignorant lie or ignorant skew on music? It's what I like, I don't need to sit down and listen to sterile sound just because it's "accurate".
post #4 of 137
Quote:
Originally Posted by Redo View Post
Ohh man, stuff like this aggravates me. Especially his signal path and final conclusion writings. Some things are a bit over the top for me, but to tell me all amps are the same unless they are faulty is just nonsense.

Lines like this:

"As for the “tube sound,” there are
two possibilities: (1) It’s a figment of
the deluded audiophile’s imagination,
or (2) it’s a deliberate coloration introduced
by the manufacturer to appeal
to corrupted tastes, in which case a
solid-state design could easily mimic
the sound if the designer were perverse
enough to want it that way."



It makes me cringe. Number one, transistors can NOT reproduce tube sound. They've been trying to figure out a way to do so ever since the transistor came out and they can't. Two, even in the digital processing age, DSP effects still can't nail down what tubes do to audio. Three, who is this guy to say my musical tastes are just an ignorant lie or ignorant skew on music? It's what I like, I don't need to sit down and listen to sterile sound just because it's "accurate".
Couldnt agree more.
post #5 of 137
Quote:
Originally Posted by brrritish! View Post
Couldnt agree more.
Aren't you the guy who just started a thread saying that you thought we were scamming you because you like blasting metal music through ipod earbuds and a cheapo soundcard and are willing to to maybe spend $40 to upgrade just to get a reaction outta people?

Hmmmm. And now you know about transitors vs tubes. You're a very curious poster, Mr. Brrritish.

I don't consider my ears all that special, but I can hear the differences between some CDPs, and certainly between many amps. I'm not going to say that I can pick out the most expensive one, but I will tell you which one I like better based on the fact that there are differences. I have two cdps, one retailing for around $3500 and the other for around $1700 (no, I didn't pay that...thank you a'gon). They are both tube players yet with completely different sounds. One has a more open sound with better attack, and the other a more relaxed, warmer sound. Sometimes I prefer the warmth of less expensive one, and sometimes not. Choosing what is "better" isn't always a matter of money, but before I had decent speakers/headphones and amps, I don't think I could have distinguished the nuances of my sources. Heck, my mother even picked out amazingly precise differences between amps when she was visiting, and she had no idea what they were or their costs, and the only thing she cares to listen to is talk radio!

ABXing is interesting, but won't influence my choices. Only my hearing and tastes will do that.
post #6 of 137
Quote:
Originally Posted by boomana View Post
ABXing is interesting, but won't influence my choices. Only my hearing and tastes will do that.

The biggest problem with ABX'ing is it's on the spot instant. For stuff like mp3 vs aac or something, it's the only real way to take the placebo out of the equation. But for high end sources, you have to sit and let your ears appreciate the sounds for days, weeks, or months. Then you can move up to different gear and start to appreciate the differences over a similar period of time.
post #7 of 137
Quote:
Originally Posted by Redo View Post
The biggest problem with ABX'ing is it's on the spot instant. For stuff like mp3 vs aac or something, it's the only real way to take the placebo out of the equation. But for high end sources, you have to sit and let your ears appreciate the sounds for days, weeks, or months. Then you can move up to different gear and start to appreciate the differences over a similar period of time.
Exactly.
post #8 of 137
Don't we generally try to stay away from ABX discussions here, as they tend to devolve rather quickly?
post #9 of 137
Quote:
Originally Posted by Redo View Post
The biggest problem with ABX'ing is it's on the spot instant. For stuff like mp3 vs aac or something, it's the only real way to take the placebo out of the equation. But for high end sources, you have to sit and let your ears appreciate the sounds for days, weeks, or months. Then you can move up to different gear and start to appreciate the differences over a similar period of time.
x2. everything pretty much sounds the same with very quick back and forths.
post #10 of 137
Yeah I really like the double blind test thing because placebo is too powerful and has to be overcome to have any reasonable discussion of gear...... but i really find it difficult to find differences when quickly switching back and forth between and piece of audio gear, even stuff that i'm pretty sure does sound different
post #11 of 137
OP...

Utter nonsense.
post #12 of 137
I've been using a Sony D-NE920 for about 18 months. I upgraded to the NAD C 542 (probably mid-fi with regards to the sources in those links) a few days ago. I can clearly tell the difference between them and no it isn't down to placebo or mentally forcing myself to believe the $400 I dropped has made an improvement. And to be honest, who could give a monkey's what a group of ABX'ers found out - if only 50% could tell a difference or 90% spotted discrepancies, but preferred the Discman anyway then thats their conclusion, but not your definitive answer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nicke2323 View Post
However ABX results like the above and writings like Peter Aczel's are slowly changing my mind. I'm getting more and more convinced that I would probably fail any proper ABX of DACs, and I'm sure I'd fail an ABX of amplifiers. I guess I have to get together some friends and try it.
In most threads I post where newbies ask for advice on headphones, my response is to say so-and-so headphone is regarded as having so-and-so characteristics but the only way to find out is to get it and hear for yourself. The same methodology applies here. You can use Mr. Aczel's findings as (arbitrary, in the case of ABX) a rough indicator, but you can't rationally say to yourself that you will fail an ABX on amps and DACs just from that.
post #13 of 137
Quote:
Originally Posted by DJShadow View Post
And to be honest, who could give a monkey's what a group of ABX'ers found out - if only 50% could tell a difference or 90% spotted discrepancies, but preferred the Discman anyway then thats their conclusion, but not your definitive answer.
There is some difficulty with the translation, but the comparison of the Sony SACD XA3000ES and the Discman Sony E-775 does not appear to conclude that 50% of the subjects could tell a difference. It appears to say that the correct identification of the source was made 50% of the time, which means that the results were random. In other words, no-one could tell the difference.
post #14 of 137
Hey, I own a D-E775, and just sold its older brother, the D-E805.

My guess? Either these people are untrained or they prefer the low-noise, lower-detail resolution of the 1-bit noise-shaping DAC employed in the portable CD player. It probably sounded how they expected "analog-ish" equipment to sound.
post #15 of 137
Quote:
But for high end sources, you have to sit and let your ears appreciate the sounds for days, weeks, or months.
If it takes you a day, a week or a month to determine the difference between 2 sources, then the differences must be pretty damn small or you are over analyzing the music rather than enjoying it. If the difference is that small, then it is not worth an extra $1000+ to me. I realize it may be worth it to others though. Finding microscopic "nuances" in my sound system really doesn't interest me. I would rather just listen and enjoy the music rather than pick it apart.

I think it is funny that everyone is so quick to call this nonsense and disagree with it without actually ABXing. How can you ever know if you don't ABX?
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