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Sony PCM M10 as portable player? - Page 12

post #166 of 229
Hey there! Yeah, it's still my "best" portable source.



I bought a factory refurbished HM-801 that arrived three days ago with the latest (and last) firmware revision (v.0.23), but if they can't tell me how to stop it from popping between every track, I'll be returning it under their 30-day guarantee. It's bad enough that playback isn't gap-less, as it is with the M10, but most people are saying it's "normal" behavior for the HM-801 to pop between tracks.

This could end up being my first and last HiFiMan purchase. It's a joke for a lot of other reasons, but the pops are a show stopper. About the only thing that's "right" with the HM-801 is the SQ, which I bittersweetly admit, is phenomenally good.

The PCM-M10 Line Out is not that far off when used with a neutral amp and warm headphones, like the LCD-2, but I'll be looking for another contender to see if I can better it.

No one seems to appreciate that if the PCM-M10 were produced in limited quantities like most high-end head-fi gear, if it weren't mass produced for the legion of amateur musicians and concert goers and field recordists who use it for its intended purpose, a device of its quality would cost the head-fi community three or four times as much. Just compare the PCM-M10 owner's manual to that of any other 96/24-capable DAP. It's got that classic Japanese electronics stamp of quality, through and through. I've been using mine for nearly three years - bug-free and no hardware failures. And no waiting and hoping and hassles of downloading firmware revisions as the manufacturer enslaves their customer base to perform quality assurance testing that simply is not done to any great effect prior to shipping.

I intentionally waited for release of the HM-901 before getting my hands on an 801, assuming that I would skip all the bleeding edge frustration of early adopters by patiently waiting for the last 801 firmware revision. Great idea, in theory, but next to worthless in practice. Even at its most mature evolution, the 801 is a FAIL in my opinion. Great sound wrapped with intolerable compromises. iBasso and FiiO aren't far behind with their "best" DAPs.

:-)

Mike
(PCM-M10 fan boy)
Edited by zilch0md - 9/7/13 at 8:55pm
post #167 of 229
The PCM M10 is a really good device. I just got a CEntrance HIFI-M8 that pulls digital from iDevices. I'm pretty thrilled with it. I waited 10 months to the day from preorder to delivery. While the wait was worthwhile, and Centsnce made it fun with an on line blog and head-fi thread, this will likely be my last preorder. It was a long wait! There was a preorder price accommodation, so I guess I was reasonably well compensated for the wait.

I want to pick up another pair of external mics for my M10. I've had and sold a couple of pairs. My daughter is starting out with some grade school music performances, so I want to pick up a pair of cardioids. The M10 is such a great little recorder. 24/96 fer cryin out loud!
Edited by aamefford - 9/8/13 at 2:20pm
post #168 of 229
I've been following the M8 thread all along, but haven't ordered it and didn't realize you guys had waited 10 months! Congratulations on finally getting it.

I should be embarrassed at having used te PCM-M10 as recorder only three times! :-)

Mike
post #169 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by zilch0md View Post

I've been following the M8 thread all along, but haven't ordered it and didn't realize you guys had waited 10 months! Congratulations on finally getting it.

I should be embarrassed at having used te PCM-M10 as recorder only three times! :-)

Mike

I ordered HIFI-M8 last November.  If you've followed the thread, you are well aware of the "scope creep" that our illustrious pack of peanut gallery arm chair audio designers (as in head-fi at large) introduced into the product, and CEntrance/mgoodman's gracious accommodations to those desires; and the schedule slip(s) that all of this imposed on the project.  I think that CEntrance came out with a wonderful device, that stands to please a lot of folks (I hugely love mine).  I also think it probably cost them at least 25% more $$$ due to the open forum design process.  I will say it was fun to be involved in and to watch. The process made up for any delays.

 

I've only used the PCM-M10 maybe a half dozen times.  I keep thinking I ought to sell it, but on the rare occasions I want a recorder, it is just so good, and I already have it, so it stays in my stuff drawer in a nice little case.  I found a pair of Audio Technica Lav mics on taperssection.com's FS site, I just bought them.  My recorder set-up is basically done, save for a mic spreader bar for stereo recording.  I'll come up with something for that.


Edited by aamefford - 9/8/13 at 12:02pm
post #170 of 229

Thanks for the replies. May be the SQ will improve with burn-in. My previous impressions were for a right-out-of-the-box M10. 

post #171 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by AVFever168 View Post
 

Thanks for the replies. May be the SQ will improve with burn-in. My previous impressions were for a right-out-of-the-box M10. 

Methinks if you don't like it now, you won't like it 200 hours from now, unless your head burns into the sound. zilch0md likes the sound a lot.  I found it pretty good, on par at least with iPods, maybe better.  I use iPods, I like the interface, and I'm familiar with them.  With the M10, I like being able to playback through headphones if I'm recording, and I like that it will work as a decent music player, but I just don't use it that way.  I use it as intended, a digital recorder that is relatively inexpensive, and very good.

post #172 of 229

Again, I find there's a big difference between headphone out and line out on the PCM-M10 - and I wouldn't say that the line out is good with a neutral amp AND a neutral headphone.  It works well, for my tastes, with a neutral amp and the very colored LCD-2, however, in that it helps to lift the LCD-2's shelved highs (being that the DAC is a little bright).  

 

I admit, though, having compared it to the HM-801, for several hours now, that the PCM-M10 is somewhat "thin" or "dry" - as opposed to full-bodied and lush.  But again, that works well with the LCD-2's signature, in my opinion.  I also think it would work well with heavily-colored headphones like the Ultrasone Pro 900, for example. 

 

Lastly, and this is getting really nit-picky considering how good the HM-801 is, the PCM-M10's Line Out seems to offer no end of detail until the music gets really complex, at which point the DAC sort of just gets confused and starts sounding congested.  For example, a solo vocalist with acoustic guitar sounds just as detailed and "separated" with the PCM-M10 as with the HM-801, but a well-recorded multi-piece symphony orchestra creating a wall-of-sound crescendo just turns into a blurred blob of sound with the PCM-M10.  I'm making it sound worse than it is, but once you've heard the HM-801's PCM1704U-K DACs separate out each and every instrument, the congestion had with the M10's DAC is more obvious.

 

And again, I'll say, that the less than perfectly resolving LCD-2 make a good match for the PCM-M10, in this regard, which would not be the case with something like the Sennheiser HD-800 or Beyerdynamic T1.

 

:-)

 

Mike

post #173 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by AVFever168 View Post
 

Thanks for the replies. May be the SQ will improve with burn-in. My previous impressions were for a right-out-of-the-box M10. 

 

The sound won't change too much so don't expect a lot. Instead it really changes if you use it with some more powerful batteries like LiFePO4 batteries. It really helps to bring out the bass with more authority and slam and also opens the soundstage a bit. It is not a day ang night difference but still audible. 


Edited by ozkan - 9/8/13 at 10:16pm
post #174 of 229

Again, I appreciate everyone’s feedback. Regarding its sound quality (SQ), I am surprised that the M10 got beaten in terms of clarity and soundstage and depth, by the few years old Creative Ti HD soundcard; despite the positive reviews in the M10’s SQ. I plan to compare it against my Onkyo 806 and Yamaha A1000 receivers next. 

Like many of you have said, I also value the M10 as a high quality recorder; which it is a necessity for my other hobby, video-making.  

I first tested the M10 with Energizer NiMH 1.2V (2.4V total) and then with the included 3V power plug.  I did not notice a sound change. Since I will use the M10 mostly as a portable player when working around the house; the SQ good enough for that task.

As I have said before, I was hoping that the M10 can sound better or on par with the Ti HD, but it sounded noticeably worst. However, it IS the best “non-plug in” player I have ever heard; with a surprisingly good built-in amp – because it can drive the D5000 to very loud (too loud) levels; which it was never the case before with other portable players.

I don’t really want to get batteries or amps for the M10, because I doubt it will change the SQ dramatically and that I want to save money for the Bitfrost Uber… Hopefully that $520 DAC will offer a noticeably and substantially better SQ than the $120 Ti HD.  What do you think?   

post #175 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by AVFever168 View Post
 

Again, I appreciate everyone’s feedback. Regarding its sound quality (SQ), I am surprised that the M10 got beaten in terms of clarity and soundstage and depth, by the few years old Creative Ti HD soundcard; despite the positive reviews in the M10’s SQ. I plan to compare it against my Onkyo 806 and Yamaha A1000 receivers next. 

Like many of you have said, I also value the M10 as a high quality recorder; which it is a necessity for my other hobby, video-making.  

I first tested the M10 with Energizer NiMH 1.2V (2.4V total) and then with the included 3V power plug.  I did not notice a sound change. Since I will use the M10 mostly as a portable player when working around the house; the SQ good enough for that task.

As I have said before, I was hoping that the M10 can sound better or on par with the Ti HD, but it sounded noticeably worst. However, it IS the best “non-plug in” player I have ever heard; with a surprisingly good built-in amp – because it can drive the D5000 to very loud (too loud) levels; which it was never the case before with other portable players.

I don’t really want to get batteries or amps for the M10, because I doubt it will change the SQ dramatically and that I want to save money for the Bitfrost Uber… Hopefully that $520 DAC will offer a noticeably and substantially better SQ than the $120 Ti HD.  What do you think?   

 

Yes, an amp at $200-300 price range will change the SQ of M10 dramatically. Believe me because the dac itself is so good and clear sounding. Even a C&C BH2 is way better than M10's built in amp. If you can pair it with O2 or Headstage 4G, you can be shocked at how it sounds.;)


Edited by ozkan - 9/13/13 at 3:00am
post #176 of 229
Quote:
Originally Posted by ozkan View Post
 

 

Yes, an amp at $200-300 price range will change the SQ of M10 dramatically. Believe me because the dac itself is so good and clear sounding. Even a C&C BH2 is way better than M10's built in amp. If you can pair it with O2 or Headstage 4G, you can be shocked at how it sounds.;)

 

Thanks ozkan,

 

I vigorously agree!

 

The headphone amp of the PCM-M10, in my opinion, rates no better than a 3 on the 10 scale of what is possible with headphone amps, but the PCM-M10's proprietary 96/24-capable sigma-delta DAC rates at least 9 on the 10 scale of portable DACs.  The PCM-M10's Line Out is the best kept secret in all of Head-Fi.  You can tell people about it until you are blue in the face, but they figure any device that can be purchased for $200 can't possibly compete with an $800 HiFiMan HM-801 Line Out, for example, with its legendary cult-worshipped, dual mono PCM1704U-K DACs.  Assumptions are made based soley on price differences.  They need to listen to the PCM-M10 Line Out.   

 

Of course, the more efficient the IEM or headphone used, the less noticeable will be the benefits of a more powerful headphone amplifier, but even with moderately efficient headphones like the Sennheiser Amperior, there's a big difference in dynamics, bass control and extension to be had with an amp like the Meier Corda Stepdance, 2Stepdance, Quickstep.  

 

Your earlier post, above, regarding the use of an external battery for the PCM-M10, makes sense to me, even though I've never tried it.  If the voltage is even a little bit higher (be careful), the headphone amp will have greater swing, and even if the voltage is identical to that of internal AA batteries, the ability of various Lithium chemistries to deliver higher levels of current when demanded could explain the improvements you hear with the PCM-M10's headphone amp.  But, as you say, the improvements had with this can only be subtle.

 

----

 

I've spent a lot of time in the past week A/B testing the PCM-M10 Line Out vs. the HiFiMan HM-801 Line Out, into various amps (Meier Stepdance, iBasso PB2, DACmini CX, TBI Millenia MG3, and Emotiva Mini-X a-100).  All into my favorite headphone - Audeze LCD-2.

 

 

 

Using a FiiO HS2 switchbox that allows me to just turn a knob to go back and forth between the PCM-M10 and HM-801 Line Outs, while both sources are playing the same track, started simultaneously to get them synchronized, I've concluded that, in terms of sound quality alone, the HM-801 is offering me only two subtle advantages and only two subtle disadvantages vs. the PCM-M10 sound quality:  The HM-801 Line Out offers just a little bit more detail and separation, most noticeable in congested tracks where a lot is happening that has to be sorted out by the DAC, and not noticeable at all in simpler tracks, such as acoustic guitar solos.  On the down side, the HM-801 Line Out is less neutral and less balanced in frequency response than the PCM-M10.  When I told a friend of mine about this lack of smoothness in the HM-801's frequency response, he pointed me to a review by Mike at Headfonia, where he had observed the same thing.  

 

Quoting Headfonia comparison of HM-602 and HM-801:

 

As a result of the treble extension, there is more sibilance on the HM-801 than on the HM-602. I also find vocals to have better presence on the 602 than on the 801. Moreover, while the additional bass weight and low bass is welcome, the transition from midrange to bass is actually smoother and more linear on the 602. I think overall the 602 has a more likeable sound signature, while the technicalities are still a little short from the bigger brother.

 

It's subtle, not really a problem, but not as nice as the more more neutral and flat frequency response of the PCM-M10 Line Out, for sure.  

 

These pros and cons are hair-splitting.  They are both 9 out of 10 for portable DAC quality, in my opinion (leaving 10 for some portable DAC I've not yet heard).  I'm really left with no reason to keep the HM-801.  I'll be returning it under their 30-day return policy.  I can make that decision on sound quality alone, ignoring the huge price difference AND the outrageous differences in build quality, ergonomics, cosmetic appeal, user interface, firmware quality, and battery life - for which the PCM-M10 completely blows the HM-801 out of the water on all counts.  And all for 1/4th the price.  The HM-801 only comes close to competing with the PCM-M10 in sound quality.  

 

At everything else, it's a big FAIL, in my opinion - especially with its deplorable firmware.  I intentionally waited until the HM-801 was replaced (with the HM-901) before buying it, just so that I could get the last firmware revision - to avoid all the bugs that early adopters have had to suffer.  Well, even with the v.0.23 firmware, using the HM-801 is like learning the path through a minefield - avoid this and it will work - avoid that and it will work. In contrast, the bug-free PCM-M10 is a complete pleasure to use.  Yes, it has none of the typical features of most DAPs (had with even a Sanza Clip+), as it was designed to be a recorder, not a DAP, but in the end, its interface is much friendlier than that of the HM-801.  And if you're using it as a Line Out to an external amp, the 30 hours of play on a pair of AA's beats six hours of play from the HM-801 by a factor of five!  And while I'm beating up on the HM-801, let me add that its rechargeable LiPo battery costs $80.00 to replace, but it's bound to go out of production eventually, just as the HM-801 itself has.  And let's not forget the size and weight differences - especially when you consider carrying four extra batteries for the HM-801, at an additional cost of $320, to achieve 30 hours of portable play.

 

The portable card reader to Line Out winner is:  The Sony PCM-M10!

 

Mike


Edited by zilch0md - 9/14/13 at 7:29pm
post #177 of 229

I'm thinking there's still room for improvement over the Sony PCM-M10 Line Out so, having returned the HM-801 for a refund, I've ordered a TASCAM HD-100 Mk II digital recorder, that should arrive on Tuesday:

 

TASCAM is the professional division of TEAC.

 

There's no telling if its Line Out is better or worse than that of the Sony PCM-M10, until I actually compare them (with the FiiO HS-2, as shown in my previous post).

 

One thing's for sure, looking only at the parts count, with microphones and mic pre-amps, and all those jacks, switches, and buttons, it appears to offer a lot more bang for the buck at $299, than the refurbished HM-801 did at $749.  This recorder is yet another example of the affordability of mass-produced electronics compared to the price of gear that sells exclusively to the relatively niche market of headphone users.  

 

I'm guessing it can't beat the PCM-M10 by much, if at all, in terms of sound quality at the Line Out, given that neither of them were designed to be DAPs, but I'll find out...

 

Tick, tock, tick, tock...

 

Mike

post #178 of 229

What I hate about Sony's recorder is the playback option... I want to shuffle through ALL OF MY card 64GBs!!!!! ;-p

 

If the Tascam has better playback options, let us know.

 

 

Thanks.

post #179 of 229

I already know that there is no Shuffle option on the TASCAM HD-100 MkII.  I've read the entire manual. It's similar to the PCM-M10 - you have to select and play one folder at a time.  Put everything in one folder and you still can't shuffle - you can only scroll through the list.  No search by album, by artist, by song, no play lists.  

 

I'm already accustomed to this with the PCM-M10, so all I'm hoping for is the possibility of a "better" Line Out, but I hear you.

 

What I really want doesn't exist:  A portable device with good battery life that has a card reader with gap-less playback support for FLAC to 96/24, with the simple UI of even a Sanza Clip+, but with a killer DAC to Line Out, no headphone amp, and no other bells or whistles whatsoever.  Keep the parts list down and the quality extremely high.  I just want a card reader to Line Out with a good UI - with which to drive a portable amp of choice.  This market has so many portable amps to choose from, but where are the portable sources that don't have a built-in amp to headphone out?

 

Instead, the closest I can come to my dream device is a selection of buggy DAPs, where early adopters live for the next firmware download.  Relatively speaking, these Japanese field recorders are bullet-proof. They are exceptionally well-documented and thoroughly tested before they are released to the market.  And the pricing reflects the fact that they are sold in much greater numbers than the half-baked DAPs that are slopped onto this tiny headphone enthusiast market.

 

In short, I'm a lot happier putting up with a device that's doing exactly what it was designed to do, even though I'm pressing it to serve a different purpose, than I am putting up with a device that, even in its last firmware revision, continues to fail at doing its intended purpose.

 

Anyone who hasn't spent 30 minutes with a PCM-M10 would be amazed at how well made it is and how well it functions.  It's a gem compared to most of the portable DAPs out there. I can live without sort, search, and shuffle features - if that's what it takes to enjoy a player that's bug-free and robustly built.

 

Mike

post #180 of 229
Uh oh! Sony has a new field recorder...

The Sony PCM-D100 has been released in Asia!



Supports recording and playback DSD 2.8MHz/1bit, linear PCM 192kHz/24bit

Optional 2x or 4x up-sampling on playback

Supports DSD/WAV/FLAC/MP3/WMA/AAC

Supports SDXC cards

Separate 2-channel record level adjustments

With four AA alkaline batteries, recording times of about 25 hours are possible

About $1000 US

http://www.head-fi.org/t/679589/leak-sonys-new-portable-linear-pcm-recorder-pcm-d100-upgrade-of-the-famous-d50s/0_20#post_9809926
Edited by zilch0md - 9/17/13 at 4:18am
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