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Serious ABX tests: Sony Discman vs High-end sources - Page 9

post #121 of 137
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilS View Post
I seems to me these tests prove diddly squat with respect to the ability to perceive differences between CD players under various conditions.
Actually, I have to agree with you here, but dont tell anyone. Audible differences between CD players are unlikely to be so gross as to cause one CD to output different frequencies to another or produce music that actually differs in rythmn. One CD player may have a marginal difference in response (output level) at some frequencies but none of these tests challenge that particular discriminative ability.
post #122 of 137
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilS View Post
I seems to me these tests prove diddly squat with respect to the ability to perceive differences between CD players under various conditions.
Well, of course they don't. However, they do test whether one is tone deaf. Hi-Finthen seems to think that is relevant to perceiving the difference between CD players--or at least, he's quick to accuse anyone who disagrees with him of being tone deaf. Either way, I thought this would give him the opportunity to back up his claims about his superior hearing.
post #123 of 137
Stereophile ran a similar test comparing a Radio Shack 3400 portable to expensive home CDP's. Through the digital out they showed little difference.
post #124 of 137
Quote:
Originally Posted by tbonner1 View Post
Stereophile ran a similar test comparing a Radio Shack 3400 portable to expensive home CDP's. Through the digital out they showed little difference.
Sure, transports will sound similar... they're going to the same DAC.

Many people have confirmed that the CD3400's analog output isn't so great. Maybe it was decent in comparison to other players at the time.
post #125 of 137
Quote:
Originally Posted by pageman99 View Post
Double blind tests like this are generally useless.

Are the testers testing the equipment or the perceptual skills of the subjects? I'm sure if you think about it you'll realize this test is poorly designed if it can't isolate these two variables. Just because a test is double blind doesn't mean all the variables are accounted for, let alone isolated from each other.

It's almost impossible to design a test isolating one from the other hence, useless.

The conclusions are simply silly.

If I took a random group of people to a driving range and asked them to hit a golf ball as far as they could, I'm sure they would conclude it's impossible to hit the ball 300 yards. Which of course is simply wrong.

We all know it's a learned skill and can be done, albeit with much toil, training and use of innate ability, not to mention desire.

Why do people assume that everyone (or anyone) can tell the subtle differences in musical sounds.

My girlfriend is blind and she can walk right up to my car and grab the handle of the door first time everytime. She just snaps her fingers a couple of times and listens for the echo. This gives her a sonic picture of the car and she walks right up and grabs that handle.

This sounds miraculous. It ain't, it's a learned skill. Honed of necessity. And the average Joe/Jane in the street wouldn't think it's possible. Just because they can't imagine it, doesn't mean it can't be done. And be done effortlessly.

Sigh...

I really do like this thinking way, but 10.000$ amp test makes me wonder though...
post #126 of 137
however, the other think that makes me think is that they did in fact prefer the Sony portable... and that must have a crappy DAC and amp, or so... ...

SO i only can remember what I read a few months ago, when someone in the HP forum was saying he just hated his new 1000$ HP, compared to his older sony earbuds... - even if we prefer it, it doesnt mean a thing! it maybe colouring the sound, and that is what you are used to. However it doesn't mean it was made to sound THAT WAY!

i think it could be the case...
post #127 of 137
Quote:
Originally Posted by ricmat View Post
however, the other think that makes me think is that they did in fact prefer the Sony portable... and that must have a crappy DAC and amp, or so...
Open up the average CD player and 70% or more of the box is full of air.

The models they tested I have no idea about but some vintage Sony PCDP's are more than a match for many full sized machines modern or vintage.

Certainly the transport in my D-50 and D(Z)-555 would put many modern high end machines from the likes of Linn and Meridian to shame, and the DACs are also of very high quality.

Taking into account that there havn't been that many advances in CD players in the last 25 years, since it was more or less set in stone from the outset, and in many respects, notably transports, the technology has actually gone downhill in terms of implementation. Then there is not that much difference between a very high quality DAC from the late 80s and today, the difference is rather in individual preference for the particular colourations added to the output to achieve a pleasing sound...
post #128 of 137
I haven't read the full discussion yet so I won't be replying to that yet, but for now this is what I can say.

Last weekend I went to a HiFi dealer in the neighbouring town and A/B'ed some CDP's and amplifiers. Results? Well, a $15k Linn system crushed my current rig like it was nothing when it comes to musicality. Then, we swapped to a $2k Linn CDP/amp combo and it whopped the $15k like nothing, sooo much better, everything about it just made me tap my foot harder each song I played. Then we swapped to a $3.5k CDP, Linn Ikemi together with my current amp and it whooped both the previous set-ups.

So, to me A/B'ing stuff can be good to get a good idea of what something in <said price range> can offer. However, I do agree that one would need much more time than a few hours to adapt to the CDP's characteristics to fully enjoy it's flaws and qualities.
post #129 of 137
Quote:
Originally Posted by memepool View Post
The models they tested I have no idea about but some vintage Sony PCDP's are more than a match for many full sized machines modern or vintage.

Certainly the transport in my D-50 and D(Z)-555 would put many modern high end machines from the likes of Linn and Meridian to shame, and the DACs are also of very high quality.
Could you expand on this a bit and provide some specifics in support of your assertion? It seems rather hard to believe.


Quote:
Originally Posted by memepool View Post
Then there is not that much difference between a very high quality DAC from the late 80s and today, the difference is rather in individual preference for the particular colourations added to the output to achieve a pleasing sound...
In the context of the present discussion (i.e., whether there are audible differences among CD players), this seems to be internally contradictory, but maybe I'm missing something.
post #130 of 137
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilS View Post
Could you expand on this a bit and provide some specifics in support of your assertion? It seems rather hard to believe.
There has been a shift from bespoke CD mechs towards DVD mechs in recent years presumably driven by the fact that fewer are being made.
Linn for instance have replaced the transport on the Ikemi with a noisy plastic Sony DVD transport on their Unidisk. Meridian use DVD transports even on their redbook-only players whilst Shanling have bought up stocks of NOS Philips swing arm pro mechs to use on their statement machines because they presumably believe they are superior.

In short the computer market now drives the industry and dedicated audio mechanisms are not being made anymore apart from by a very few manufacturers like Teac.

It could of course be argued that adavnces in error correction mean that any tracking errors introduced by less heavily engineered mechanisms can be fixed down the line, but it could be countered that this has an influence on sound otherwise why would Teac, who of course build CD and DVD mechanisms as well, bother with a high end mech like the VRDS for their Esoterics.

Compare this state of affairs to 15 years ago when Sony threw all their R&D behind building the best possible transports for high-end discmans to minimise read errors, before RAM buffering was a workable proposition.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilS View Post
In the context of the present discussion (i.e., whether there are audible differences among CD players), this seems to be internally contradictory, but maybe I'm missing something.
There are of course audible differences between CD players and that's not contradicted by saying that a well engineered player from 15 years ago is necessarily going to sound inferior to a more modern machine purely by virtue of the fact the latter was made more recently.

There are many ingredients going into what makes a CD player good and all of them can influence the overall sound of the unit. Some areas have benefited from improvements in technology, others like transports have deteriorated.

Of course economic factors play a huge role in this. In the 80s CD players were a luxury item which were much more expensive per se. Multibit DAC's were expensive to produce and that kept prices high for most of the decade.

In the 1990s when Philips came up with Delta Sigma DACS, the prices tumbled and CD was ready for the mass market.

However many designers like Marantz's Ken Ishiwata felt that the earlier technology still had a lot to offer to the higher end of the market which is why Marantz started the move back towards multibit in the late 1990's and why chipsets like the Philips TDA1541 are still popular today.
post #131 of 137
memepool, thanks for the response. Interesting.
post #132 of 137
bottom-up, do you think it is worth buying a good expensive "transport->DAC->Amp"?

or will some decent, say 5.1 amp with it's integrated DAC (denon or smt) do the same work?


Cheers

Quote:
Originally Posted by memepool View Post
There has been a shift from bespoke CD mechs towards DVD mechs in recent years presumably driven by the fact that fewer are being made.
Linn for instance have replaced the transport on the Ikemi with a noisy plastic Sony DVD transport on their Unidisk. Meridian use DVD transports even on their redbook-only players whilst Shanling have bought up stocks of NOS Philips swing arm pro mechs to use on their statement machines because they presumably believe they are superior.

In short the computer market now drives the industry and dedicated audio mechanisms are not being made anymore apart from by a very few manufacturers like Teac.

It could of course be argued that adavnces in error correction mean that any tracking errors introduced by less heavily engineered mechanisms can be fixed down the line, but it could be countered that this has an influence on sound otherwise why would Teac, who of course build CD and DVD mechanisms as well, bother with a high end mech like the VRDS for their Esoterics.

Compare this state of affairs to 15 years ago when Sony threw all their R&D behind building the best possible transports for high-end discmans to minimise read errors, before RAM buffering was a workable proposition.



There are of course audible differences between CD players and that's not contradicted by saying that a well engineered player from 15 years ago is necessarily going to sound inferior to a more modern machine purely by virtue of the fact the latter was made more recently.

There are many ingredients going into what makes a CD player good and all of them can influence the overall sound of the unit. Some areas have benefited from improvements in technology, others like transports have deteriorated.

Of course economic factors play a huge role in this. In the 80s CD players were a luxury item which were much more expensive per se. Multibit DAC's were expensive to produce and that kept prices high for most of the decade.

In the 1990s when Philips came up with Delta Sigma DACS, the prices tumbled and CD was ready for the mass market.

However many designers like Marantz's Ken Ishiwata felt that the earlier technology still had a lot to offer to the higher end of the market which is why Marantz started the move back towards multibit in the late 1990's and why chipsets like the Philips TDA1541 are still popular today.
post #133 of 137
From what I've read, tubes do in fact have very measurable differences compared to solid state--they all inherently have something like 1% THD. I'm not surprised that the ABX test showed a difference between solid state and tube components. However, whether or not a tube or a solid state amp sounds better is completely a matter of personal opinion, and I personally don't think it should be taken scientifically--at this point the argument really becomes more philosophical, kind of like string theory that can't really ever entirely be proven. I mean, less distortion should be more faithful to the source--but is that actually how you like to listen to the music? Is the "right" way to listen to music the way it was created, or the way you want to "interpret" it?

I've always been part scientist/engineer and part audiophile. I've built an ABX system before and done extensive research on its methodology (for more info, I might be posting something in the DIY section about it in the future if I have time). I have to say that there is some merit in the fact that you need to get to "know" your system before you can tell the subtle differences among high-end equipment. In fact, you'll also need to take some time becoming accustomed to the ABX test itself before you can really tell results.

I can't find the document at the moment, but while I was doing a research paper on my ABX system, I found the original documentation for the methodology in a paper from the 50s. It was in an audiology journal, and iirc the paper was trying to determine the minimum frequency difference humans could discern. It turned out to be something as low as 0.3Hz after many ABX tests--in fact, the listeners were given several months to accustom themselves to the ABX system before being given the final test. The ABX tests usually performed these days do not nearly give as much time for practice. This isn't to say that ABX isn't a valid test--it's just that it may require much more time in order to attain sufficient resolution to discern between very subtly different sources.

Of course, this also implies that you probably can't reliably tell a difference between two subtly different pieces of audio equipment without spending quite some time with the system, which probably invalidates many "first impression" reviews of equipment. Of course, you hit another philosophical point in audio here: if the point of audio is to make you happy, and an expensive piece of equipment will seem to sound better and make you happy, what does it matter if there is a real difference or not? Why do people spend money decorating their houses or even painting walls or whatnot when doing so creates no functional advantage?

Now let me get this clear before anyone tries to flame me without understanding what I believe:
a) I do not believe the ABX test is invalid
b) I believe there may be differences among high-end audio equipment and that there is presently insufficient scientifically valid data to come to a conclusion on this matter.
c) If I were forced to give a conclusion without further experimentation or data, I would say that according to measured figures there probably is a difference between tube and solid state, but not much of a difference among most other audio equipment.
d) More distortion can be a good thing; perceived sound "quality" is really dependent on the listener's own tastes.
e) Even if there is no difference between a more and less expensive piece of equipment, it probably looks nicer and it probably still seems to sound much better. All that matters is that it makes you happy, right?
post #134 of 137
Quote:
Originally Posted by memepool View Post
There has been a shift from bespoke CD mechs towards DVD mechs.
Thanks for taking the time to write all this; it was very enlightening.
post #135 of 137
Quote:
Originally Posted by ricmat View Post
bottom-up, do you think it is worth buying a good expensive "transport->DAC->Amp"?

or will some decent, say 5.1 amp with it's integrated DAC (denon or smt) do the same work?
If you have invested heavily in CD as a medium then I'd say it's always going to be better to have a dedicated CD player, whether it's a transport / DAC combo or just one integrated box is another matter.

You can of course built an audio only PC which is quiet enough to sit in your listening room but it's probably not going to save that much money, if that is a consideration, by the time you factor in quiet powersupplies and fans etc...and there are companies out there who specialise in doing this anyway.

Also I would think that a dedicated 2 channel DAC will probably be better than a high end surround sound amp for the same reason that a pre-power amps like the Naim are always going to sound better than even the top of the range reciever. Generally the more focused products are the better they sound as a rule of thumb.
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