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e-mu 0404 USB DAC vs multi-level delta-sigma DAC in harman kardon hd970 CDP - Page 2

post #16 of 31
Sorry, OvidiuDanut........check out my profile for the gear that I own.

And I still know that the 0404 USB is a truly excellent DAC that provides a more musical experience, with absolutely no doubt at all, than my alternative gear.

Compared to a $3000 MSRP CD/preamp combo, that is.....that several folks agreed was better than a $20k unit from Krell.........

And compared to the sound of the Cambridge Azur 640C that I owned prior to the MF player, too--because the MF is definitely more open/transparent than was the Cambridge player.....and that was a ~$500 player in 2004, that won a lot of praise. IMHO, it sounded "good", but in comparison to a truly accurate piece, sort of "thick" and overly warm on most well-recorded material.

And not only driving my Senn HD600's via a CK2III or desktop PIMETA........but also with a pair of highly reviewed monoblock amps, driving speakers that many reviewers believe to be extremely accurate.

To each his own.......but I am, in fact, using headphones at least a notch above yours and decent to excellent headamps. (I never indicated that the internal headamp was more than merely sufficient to drive HD600's in all of my previous posts.)

That's also why I asked about how you defined "hi-fi sound".......in American English audiophile slang, it can (at times) mean a bumped-up mid bass and emphasized treble to give a sense of warmth and sparkle that isn't really accurate--but I see that you actually didn't mean it that way.
post #17 of 31
Consider that a "multi-level delta-sigma DAC" is available on DAC chips available in bulk for less than $5 each, and is nothing that will guarantee good performance by itself. I'm not saying that such a chip (or even a cheaper one) won't sound good, but it is no guarantee of great sound. Perhaps the 970 bucks the recent trend of mediocre HK sound that was present during most of the 90's and last few years, but I have not seen authoritative reviews to the contrary. The E-MU 0404 external unit has received almost universal praise, and been directly compared to some DAC's that are significantly more expensive.
post #18 of 31

Thought I'd better chime in here

I own both the E-Mu 0404 (PCI) and the Harmon Kardon HD970. I also have owned or heard several other DACs, upsampling and NOS.

Short answer: The Emu 0404 is better than the HK HD970.

Long/justified answer: I bought the HK CDP the best part of a year ago, mostly for it's DAC capabilities because the analog out on my E-Mu 040 poo'ed itself. I'd owned the 0404 about 1 year before that happened. I currently use the digital output of the 0404 to the 970. I was initially very happy with the purchase, because I got a much wider (possibly artificially so) soundstage and I was also hearing the music 'in a different light' than I was used to with the 0404. Recently I compared with a few other DACs fairly thoroughly on both by headphone and speaker rigs and have come to the following conclusions:

The H970 is very sonically 'colored' in the following ways:
1) The treble is tipped up noticeably, creating the illusion of more detail. However, after a decent listening session (say 3+ hours) this tipped-up-ness may cause fatigue in neutral or already bright systems. If you feed the HD970 from your PC using the optical input, this characteristic will be exacerbated - when I use the optical input, the treble is just downright harsh. With coaxial input, it is decent, but still definitely tipped up compared to some other US and NOS DACS I've heard and found much more enjoyable (without sacrificing ANY detail).

2) The HD970 is completely lacking in LOW bass. It has mid-bass in spades, in my opinion they are boosted just like the treble, to create the old 'OMG this has so much bass' in the HIFI shop, but if you listen to some pipe organ music or a soundtrack like say, Batman Begins, or anything with synthesized bass like KMFDM, and you can tell it simply doesn't provide much analog output signal below it's 'fun' boosted midbass. I liken this to the HD650 sound signature sound, which IMO has boosted midbass (which is why orchestral sounds so nice with them), but is lacking in LOW bass. Please note, this is with the HD650 driven by a proper HP amp - a Gilmore Lite with the dedicated PSU, which is more or less the equivalent of a GS-1, which noone would sneeze at as a HP amp. Anyway, combine the tipped treble and the boosted midbass and yep, you sure have yourself a 'fun' sound. Looking at the sound signature overall, I'd compare the DAC section of this CDP to a Grado headphone. Sure, sounds great, but only a fool would try to claim it is sonically uncolored or neutral. For people who want to get into HIFI, and read the mags that gave the HD970 the awards (which I saw too), I can see why many consider it a great buy. It is fun. But it is NOT accurate (which I value).

3) Compared to the HD970, the 0404 is VERY good!! It is more neutral in every way shape and form. For the price you pay, you do get a very good level or detail and resolution. The bass is comparable, but you don't have the ugly midbass hump I mentioned above. The treble is NEVER harsh like it can be on the HD970.
post #19 of 31
Shrug I am a believer in both. The phillips double crown DAC and its cheaper but still crazy expensive variants are ~20 years old, but really highly acclaimed. The Zanden DACs use them etc. So just because they are old doesn't necessarily mean they are shoddy. I haven't heard this dac myself but I do believe that Zanden knows their ish after I heard their 300B set amp.

With that being said. I think the future is heading towards oversampling dacs. APL, a source maker/modder that I am placing a pretty good of faith in uses between 6-20x of the AKM dacs that the emu/transporter uses per channel in their creations and they have won in a good # unbiased shootouts.
post #20 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by sejarzo View Post
Sorry, OvidiuDanut........check out my profile for the gear that I own.

And I still know that the 0404 USB is a truly excellent DAC that provides a more musical experience, with absolutely no doubt at all, than my alternative gear.

Compared to a $3000 MSRP CD/preamp combo, that is.....that several folks agreed was better than a $20k unit from Krell.........

And compared to the sound of the Cambridge Azur 640C that I owned prior to the MF player, too--because the MF is definitely more open/transparent than was the Cambridge player.....and that was a ~$500 player in 2004, that won a lot of praise. IMHO, it sounded "good", but in comparison to a truly accurate piece, sort of "thick" and overly warm on most well-recorded material.

And not only driving my Senn HD600's via a CK2III or desktop PIMETA........but also with a pair of highly reviewed monoblock amps, driving speakers that many reviewers believe to be extremely accurate.

To each his own.......but I am, in fact, using headphones at least a notch above yours and decent to excellent headamps. (I never indicated that the internal headamp was more than merely sufficient to drive HD600's in all of my previous posts.)

That's also why I asked about how you defined "hi-fi sound".......in American English audiophile slang, it can (at times) mean a bumped-up mid bass and emphasized treble to give a sense of warmth and sparkle that isn't really accurate--but I see that you actually didn't mean it that way.
Come on......maybe its humaine to understand that audio equipament within a certain price range , lets say 200$-500$, can sound different for certain folks but to say that "that several folks agreed was better than a $20k unit from Krell" its pure bogus. Cant happen, period.
The difference from my relatively cheapo DAC ~350$ and the E-MU is visible in every audiophile aspect as day and night. Its simply imposible that a allround soundcard is better than a 20k unit from Krell.

I think that alot of fireworks sparked around the E-MU but soon things will cool down and people will realize that its just a ~200$ soundcard.
post #21 of 31
Correct, it is 'just' a soundcard, but that doesn't mean it can sound more natural and uncolored (and therefore more desirable IMO) than a unit costing twice as much (or more), which claims to be 'HIFI' and has won awards.
post #22 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by OvidiuDanut View Post
to say that "that several folks agreed was better than a $20k unit from Krell" its pure bogus. Cant happen, period.
I don't know if that stated event happened or not, but OF COURSE it could happen, unless you suggest that things that are more expensive must always be better. Maybe most of the time the expensive stuff is better, but there have been so many examples to the contrary it should be obvious that this is no absolute.
post #23 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by rincewind View Post
Correct, it is 'just' a soundcard, but that doesn't mean it can sound more natural and uncolored (and therefore more desirable IMO) than a unit costing twice as much (or more), which claims to be 'HIFI' and has won awards.
Yes, i agree , thats why i said that within a price range it could be so. But, lets be serious, a 200$ vs a 20 000$ unit.......I really doubt even in the area of naturalness and degree of sound colouring that such an exception could ever occur....

@Islewind. No, i didnt say that more expensive stuff is always better. I said that a 20 000 $ unit is always better than a 200$ soundcard, even to the untrained ears... Well, could be an exception if you listen both out of a cheap speaker setup up that cant reveal what the hi end unit has to say....that could happen indeed.
post #24 of 31
OvidiuDanut, making a DAC really does not take $20 000. It's just Krell, being Krell, doesn't put its name on cheap things . The actual DAC chips cost $5-$30, depending on the brand and the number ordered. There are only 5 or so companies making them, too; there are no rare, secret, limited run DACs that are magically better than everything else. What's left after you secured a chip? Quality jacks, quality quartz for jitter suppression, and proper power and signal filtering. All of this has been done for a number of years and there is no magic here either. However, if Krell starts selling $200 items, that'll be the end of Krell.

I'm not saying 0404usb is better, just that in case of DACs, diminishing returns kick in quite fast. Also, some CDP or audiophile DAC, whose output is tuned for "house sound" may be more to your liking, but will not necessarily be more hi-fi, where "fi" stands for "fidelity".
post #25 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ahriman4891 View Post
OvidiuDanut, making a DAC really does not take $20 000. It's just Krell, being Krell, doesn't put its name on cheap things . The actual DAC chips cost $5-$30, depending on the brand and the number ordered. There are only 5 or so companies making them, too; there are no rare, secret, limited run DACs that are magically better than everything else. What's left after you secured a chip? Quality jacks, quality quartz for jitter suppression, and proper power and signal filtering. All of this has been done for a number of years and there is no magic here either. However, if Krell starts selling $200 items, that'll be the end of Krell.

I'm not saying 0404usb is better, just that in case of DACs, diminishing returns kick in quite fast. Also, some CDP or audiophile DAC, whose output is tuned for "house sound" may be more to your liking, but will not necessarily be more hi-fi, where "fi" stands for "fidelity".
I can see where you're coming from But i'm still skeptical since i've tried the E-MU myself and i saw its capabilities. Anyway if you or anybody else see "the holy audiophile grail" in the E-MU, hey, who am i to disagree? If you enjoy it keep it and none of us will have to be sorry again for your wallet
post #26 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by OvidiuDanut View Post
But, lets be serious, a 200$ vs a 20 000$ unit.......I really doubt even in the area of naturalness and degree of sound colouring that such an exception could ever occur....
I was serious, I was only comparing the 0404 to the HD970, which is what the OP wanted, I was igoring the other stuff on here

But anyway, having heard what I have, I'd say you only need look to DACs costing ~500USD to be a VERY big jump better than the E-Mu 0404, a jump anyone could hear.
post #27 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by OvidiuDanut View Post
Come on......maybe its humaine to understand that audio equipament within a certain price range , lets say 200$-500$, can sound different for certain folks but to say that "that several folks agreed was better than a $20k unit from Krell" its pure bogus. Cant happen, period.
The difference from my relatively cheapo DAC ~350$ and the E-MU is visible in every audiophile aspect as day and night. Its simply imposible that a allround soundcard is better than a 20k unit from Krell.

I think that alot of fireworks sparked around the E-MU but soon things will cool down and people will realize that its just a ~200$ soundcard.
I think we are dealing with some translational issues here......

First, some reviewers preferred the MF CD-Pre24 (at an MSRP of $2995) to the Krell (at an MSRP of $20k or so). I didn't state that I compared the 0404 USB to the Krell, I stated that my 0404 USB sounds better than my MF, which is not considered to be that bad of a piece. What I meant by including the statement regarding the Krell is that price is not the main factor in the sound of a piece of gear.

You can find a lot of Krell power amps on sale on Audiogon after their owners shell out the big bucks only to find them unlistenably bright and harsh. They cost a lot more than other amps, but that doesn't make them better.

That Krell is also at least 5 year old technology, too.......so why couldn't a new $200 soundcard actually sound better?

The amount of detail and ambience that is resolved in my CD>FLAC>Foobar 0.8.3>ASIO>0404 USB>CK2III>HD600's is significantly greater than CD>MF CD-Pre24>CK2III>HD600's. The 0404 USB provides both a deeper and more transparent low end, more clarity through the mids, and a more extended high end. The MF sounds slightly muddy and flat in comparison.

The other interesting thing is that in classical material, with the 0404 USB I can much more easily hear slight intonation issues, creaking of the podium, and other sounds that I didn't ever hear in a couple of years of listening to those very same CD's on the MF. I've gone back and played that material again to be sure in the past week, and the MF does not reveal those details, even though I know they are now there and can listen for them very specifically. The timbre of brass instruments is especially much more lifelike via the 0404 uSB.

I attend numerous live Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts, along with chamber and wind ensemble events every year--I judge gear based on how it reproduces true acoustical sounds recorded in real performance venues, not studio/spot mic'ed/questionably processed recordings.

As far as I am concerned, the more detail that is resolved, the better the DAC. If it makes an older recording sound "worse", well, all that means is that there are problems with that old recording that previously went unheard.

Comment for rincewind.......we are discussing the 0404 USB, not the 0404 PCI, and they are completely different. Different DACs, i/o, etc. etc. Only the name is similar, there is no commonality between the PCI and USB.....all the name means is 4 ins, 4 outs.
post #28 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by OvidiuDanut View Post
I owned the 0404USB for about 3 weaks and after that i got rid of them asap.
There is no hi-fi sound in the AKM dac of emu however praised may it be. I'm done with soundcards. Except maybe for some RME cards or Lynx II, no soundcard is able to provide hi-fi sound. Now i have a standalone DAC and its ages ahead the E-MU.
I have to agree with this completely. I've had emu 0404, 0404 usb, x-fi elite pro, modded emu 0404.

None of them sounded hifi'ish.
post #29 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by OvidiuDanut View Post
1. "Hi-Fi sound" can be a relative term but i'll describe you to better understand what i mean by comparaison of facts. The sound of the 250 euro DAC i purchased is way more transparent, delivers a more natural sound, much better understood soundstage, better imaging, more texture of the instruments sound than the 0404USB could do. I compared it with a 500 de euro CDP and it sounds better even than the CDP. 0404USB is no way near that.
That is EXACTLY how I'd compare the emu 0404 usb (and other soundcards I've heard) to even my own receiver that actually has an inferior dac.

Quote:
But if you really want to get the most of headphones like HD580/600/650 or AKG 701, E-MU is not the way to go, neither as amp nor as dac.
Agreed. The hd650 really wants something better than what soundcards can deliver. The texture and realism these cans can do is just not there. And secondly I'm weirded out that a lot of people seem to think the emu 0404 usb sounds absolutely awesome. Far far from it. I'm driving the hd650's (and 580's) with a black cube linear and the Rega Ear and it just doesn't sing as it could. I can hear the potential (great dynamics and extension) but it just lacks texture and "naturalism" whatever that is. It's not as bad as the 0404 pci version was, but it's far from the holy grail.
post #30 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by sejarzo View Post
I think we are dealing with some translational issues here......

First, some reviewers preferred the MF CD-Pre24 (at an MSRP of $2995) to the Krell (at an MSRP of $20k or so). I didn't state that I compared the 0404 USB to the Krell, I stated that my 0404 USB sounds better than my MF, which is not considered to be that bad of a piece. What I meant by including the statement regarding the Krell is that price is not the main factor in the sound of a piece of gear.

You can find a lot of Krell power amps on sale on Audiogon after their owners shell out the big bucks only to find them unlistenably bright and harsh. They cost a lot more than other amps, but that doesn't make them better.

That Krell is also at least 5 year old technology, too.......so why couldn't a new $200 soundcard actually sound better?

The amount of detail and ambience that is resolved in my CD>FLAC>Foobar 0.8.3>ASIO>0404 USB>CK2III>HD600's is significantly greater than CD>MF CD-Pre24>CK2III>HD600's. The 0404 USB provides both a deeper and more transparent low end, more clarity through the mids, and a more extended high end. The MF sounds slightly muddy and flat in comparison.

The other interesting thing is that in classical material, with the 0404 USB I can much more easily hear slight intonation issues, creaking of the podium, and other sounds that I didn't ever hear in a couple of years of listening to those very same CD's on the MF. I've gone back and played that material again to be sure in the past week, and the MF does not reveal those details, even though I know they are now there and can listen for them very specifically. The timbre of brass instruments is especially much more lifelike via the 0404 uSB.

I attend numerous live Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts, along with chamber and wind ensemble events every year--I judge gear based on how it reproduces true acoustical sounds recorded in real performance venues, not studio/spot mic'ed/questionably processed recordings.

As far as I am concerned, the more detail that is resolved, the better the DAC. If it makes an older recording sound "worse", well, all that means is that there are problems with that old recording that previously went unheard.

Comment for rincewind.......we are discussing the 0404 USB, not the 0404 PCI, and they are completely different. Different DACs, i/o, etc. etc. Only the name is similar, there is no commonality between the PCI and USB.....all the name means is 4 ins, 4 outs.
It seems to me that in the end of things we all clasify product x, in our case the emu usb, by comparing them with our prior gear. If you say that for you it resolves more detail than your other gear very well than, enjoy it. For me too my new DAC as a stated before resolves more detail than the EMU and also makes many of my previously well regarded recordings fall short in quality.....

@Maarek

Yes Maarek i find the radically different opinions regarding EMU a bit odd too. When i bought it, i bought based on rave reviews, but i came to realize rather fast that its not quite so.... Time will tell about the 0404USB....
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