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DAC testing, not much difference? - Page 3

post #31 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by eucariote View Post




Very interesting.. Did you have a preference between those 5 dacs?  Or would you judge them to be roughly equal, but differing in their different signatures and compatibility with different headphones?  Between the different amps and headphones I've heard (and even standalone dacs, but I've only heard 3), I always found that I preferred one over another in A/B comparisons.  

 

Keces 131 mk 2 and DAC19 is the one I got the most enjoyment from. They are quite different as mentioned and thus synergize best with different headphones and/or music genres.

post #32 of 167

I won't be surprised if DACs sound the same, especially if the recordings are poor (rock, pop are usual offenders).

post #33 of 167

Over on AVS, there a bunch of guys that will adamantly tell you the differences between DAC's is placebo only. The only important thing to them is room treatment and speakers set up for that space.

I own a Ref-1/Phoenix and a D10 portable. The differences between these are there for sure but the differences are only about the same as going from a really great to really poor recordings. I would say the differences aren't even as big as going from my $35 Senn HD497 to my Senn HD650. The biggest changes I hear are soundstage width, blackness of background and treble/bass refinement.

post #34 of 167

^ Past a certain level of good engineering, that wouldn't surprise me.  Personally I'm open to that possibility but am very curious to hear opinions of people who can A/B such well-regarded equipment as opposed to noncomparative reviews, as they tend to be more sober and informative.  Even so, there might be differences between good dacs depending on different filtering strategies, hardware implementation that could make them sound different (tho not necessarily 'better') and better suited for different headphones.  

 

I heard differences like you describe between my cheaper dacs (d10, udac) and dacmagic on very good recordings, but chose the latter from reading reviews about the compatibility of its warmer signature will my fairly bright (Grado/Denon) headphones.

post #35 of 167

With regards to speakers, room treatments in general will affect the sound much more than a change in DAC.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tim3320070 View Post

Over on AVS, there a bunch of guys that will adamantly tell you the differences between DAC's is placebo only. The only important thing to them is room treatment and speakers set up for that space.

I own a Ref-1/Phoenix and a D10 portable. The differences between these are there for sure but the differences are only about the same as going from a really great to really poor recordings. I would say the differences aren't even as big as going from my $35 Senn HD497 to my Senn HD650. The biggest changes I hear are soundstage width, blackness of background and treble/bass refinement.

post #36 of 167
Thread Starter 

Thanx for replies guys. Thread has taken life of it's own now I see
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Prog Rock Man View Post

From the quotes below I think the reasons why you do not hear much of a difference are -

 

1. That you are more interested in the music than the kit, so you do not listen analytically.

 

2. You prefer a more lush deeper sound for want of a better descriptive over a detailed and bright sound. The differences are in the detail, which to hear clearly you need them to be presented in what is often called a forward sound.

 

You have also realised that a lot of nonsense is spouted and over the top descriptives are used to try and differentiate between kit. I prefer detailed and bright, but I still do not find the huge differences in DACs that others seem to find.

 

 

 

Thanx for analysis. You are of course somewhat right.

 

But don't get me wrong.

 

I'm actually an old rat in the hifi game. Just used to play vinyl :)

I actually find it pretty easy to distinguish different amps, cables etc. digital to Analog sources, once you reach a certain price point IMHO is hard

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by nick_charles View Post

One thing which helped me in evaluating audio kit was a switch box. Once you have a way to instantly switch between sources and thus avoid the whole audio memory thing, it is perfectly obvious that differences between items are *often* simply to do with volume level differences, a DAC that outputs 2.5V sounds different from one that outputs 2.0V.

 

Rigth now I have my media streamer and my bog-standard PC line out connected to my speaker rig and by rapid switching it is clear that there is little if any difference between the two, though the streamer is louder but I measured this before so I am not surprised. The other benefit of a switch box is it lets you see obvious problems like the fact that, bizarrely, my mini-to-rca has the channels reversed (or the streamer perhaps) a rapid switch shows this for what it is, if you introduce a long delay it is harder to identify this flaw for what it is and you might be tempted to characterise this as a *real* difference in sound. Once you have the knack for carefully time-aligning tracks it is a lot of fun...

 

 

 

You are quite right but a well know fact to me at least. However I found that listening to one track. Then turning the volume down and switching source and repeating same track and turning volume up again gave me a clearer picture of the differences. 

It's still quite hard though. The first thing you distinguish is the small differences in coloration of the sound. Brighter , darker etc sounding. It's harder to hear differences in the interpretation of the sound. I mean the way different instruments are portrayed for instance.


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by computerparts View Post

IMO you should completely reserve judgment on dacs until you get a dedicated transport and either more neutral speakers or more neutral amp. However most importantly you should engage in long term listening. I'm under the impression that your amp and speakers are not a good combination for noticing immediate differences between sources. With a setup like that, it's going to be long term listening where you will notice differences. Listen to one source for a few weeks and you will start to become familiar with how it sounds. Then switch it with another source and you should be able to note some differences. Testing properly involves long term listening. Some of the "hyped up" reviews are due to the fact we have lived with a source for a long time. Thus, we are very familiar with how it sounds. So when we switch it for another source, the difference is often immediately apparent.

 


I have listened to lots of neutral gear and I disagree that, that has any impact on ability to spot differences in dac's. It's not really a question of neutrality rather the gears ability to reveal. I'm never going back to boring neutral, analytical gear. My Vienna's are actually quite detailed and revealing. The ability to play detailed and or musical are not mutually exclusive IMHO

 

By now I think I have a very clear picture of the sonic characteristics of the dac'c.

 

 

Stello da100 sig: Warm kind of thick sounding with a little push in midrange. Big soundstage,  a little rolled off at the top which makes it sound less detailed than the Lavry da10. Which I really don't think it is. It's just very colored in its representation and more forgiving of poor recordings than the lavry. I don't find it unfiltered as described by computeraudiophile review. It has this grand, voluminous, analog,  pleasant sound  (just returned it. I probably should have bought it)

 

Lavry da10: Very neutral and linear representation. Big precise soundstage. Very revealing of poor recordings. a little on the bright side but then again its probably just me, as those of you who have read the whole tread know. "Me no likey" too bright sound. I might add that the treble of this box is very nice and clear.

However I quite like the Lavry as it is as close as you get to analytical sound without killing the nerve in the music and taking the combined musical expression apart. As another user wrote: It's very detailed without making the music dead sounding. I thoroughly agree. In comparison with the Stello it sounds a little more digital to my ears.

 

Wadia 12: Something along the lines of the Stello. Not as warm and punchy. Doesn't color the sound as much and in that way doesn't call as much attention to itself . Darker sounding than the Lavry with sort of an oldish analog sound to it. Quite plesant.

 

Digital Audio Denmark ADDA 2402: Extremely detailed, big, precise, detailed soundstage. Highly analytical. Kind of cold and perhaps a little agressive sounding. (didn't spend much time with this one)

 

EMU 0404 pci: A little compressed in it's presentation, a little dark sounding in comparison with other soundcards, a little darker sounding than the Lavry. Deep bass sounds sometimes sound a little retracted. Sometime has a tendency to sound a little harsh. (forced myself to be critical)

But I bet you would be amazed by this little card and the sonics it is able to produce fed a a nice 192khz/24bit recording.

 

M2TECH:  Only tested it against coaxial out from EMU. For the life og me couldn't hear any difference what so ever

 

When you read the above descriptions you might get the idea that the dac's and soundcards sonic representation differences is like night and day. That is, unless you read the entire thread.

So let me clarify. That isn't the case. The differences is very small. Especially between the dac's The clearest detectable differences lie in their coloration of the sound or lack thereof


Edited by nightrhyme - 6/3/10 at 8:55am
post #37 of 167

What I have taken the most from this thread is a major loss of the nagging feeling that I need to upgrade my kit. I am sure that I am 99% of the way there already and spending more may just be a bit different and not necessarily better. 

 

So now I am collecting vintage AKG and B&O headphones instead. A far more worthwhile pursuit.

post #38 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post

I found that if two DACs are tonally exactly the same, usually from the same brand (as they would output the same voltage) then with a quick A/B test, they sound identical.  It's only when listening for a longer period that the differences become apparent.   Sometimes I've heard remarkable differences, such as between a Northstar M192 MKI and Nakamichi Dragon DAC or Audio-gd Reference 1, where the difference was huge.  Also the Benchmark DAC 1 and Reference 1, where the former simply sounded awful and harsh in comparison, where one normally wouldn't notice this if it were one's only DAC.

 

Sometimes I've added a component into my system, feeling initially I can't hear any difference, only to realise what it brought after I've removed it or switched back to what I had before.


Words of wisdom. Over the years, this is what I've come to understand as well. I urge everyone starting out in this hobby to follow Currawong's advice.

Long-term listening impressions and comparisons are the only reliable way to realize the sound differences in audio equipment, unless by chance, you find components that have a very dissimilar MO.

post #39 of 167
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shahrose View Post




Words of wisdom. Over the years, this is what I've come to understand as well. I urge everyone starting out in this hobby to follow Currawong's advice.

Long-term listening impressions and comparisons are the only reliable way to realize the sound differences in audio equipment, unless by chance, you find components that have a very dissimilar MO.

I agree. Unfortunately stores, at least in my country, don't lent you equipment for much longer than a week 
 

post #40 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by nightrhyme View Post

I have owned neutral gear and I disagree that, that has any impact on ability to spot differences in dac's. It's not really a question of neutrality rather the gears ability to reveal. I'm never going back to boring neutral, analytical gear. My Vienna's are actually quite detailed and revealing. The ability to play detailed and or musical are not mutually exclusive.


 

 



I was referring to being able to spot differences immediately, not overall. You have contradicted yourself by saying it's not a question of neutrality rather the gears ability to reveal. Neutral does NOT mean boring, cold, or analytical. A setup that is neutrally balanced will always reveal better than a setup that is not. Anyway my point was balance. IMO your setup is not optimally balanced and leans too far to the warm side of things. Yes it will sound musical but not as transparent as it could, thus veiling to an extent.The Viennas are nice sounding speakers, but the Primare is holding them back. Same with the Primare, it's a nice amp but the Viennas are holding it back. If you switch out your amp OR speakers for something more neutral, the differences between sources will be more immediately apparent. I went from a B&K receiver (which was very musical and warm) with Wharfedale speakers (also laid back and musical). I then upgraded to Classe separates while keeping the Wharfedales and the difference is amazing. It is still musical but it is now much less veiling and much easier to tell immediate differences between sources. Where as before with the B&K, I would have to engage in much longer term listening before noting ANY kind of difference between sources. Also, I recommend a dedicated transport because a cd player's clock and power supply are not optimized for sending digital signals. More often than not, cd players will impart their own dac's character into the sound of the digital signal and that will make it even more difficult to tell the differences between sources. In a more balanced setup, that Wadia will be anything but dark sounding. I have owned it and it's not far off from the 15 which was highly praised in its day. It's probably the best sounding dac you have there IMO.

post #41 of 167
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by computerparts View Post




I was referring to being able to spot differences immediately, not overall. You have contradicted yourself by saying it's not a question of neutrality rather the gears ability to reveal. Neutral does NOT mean boring, cold, or analytical. A setup that is neutrally balanced will always reveal better than a setup that is not. Anyway my point was balance. IMO your setup is not optimally balanced and leans too far to the warm side of things. Yes it will sound musical but not as transparent as it could, thus veiling to an extent.The Viennas are nice sounding speakers, but the Primare is holding them back. Same with the Primare, it's a nice amp but the Viennas are holding it back. If you switch out your amp OR speakers for something more neutral, the differences between sources will be more immediately apparent. I went from a B&K receiver (which was very musical and warm) with Wharfedale speakers (also laid back and musical). I then upgraded to Classe separates while keeping the Wharfedales and the difference is amazing. It is still musical but it is now much less veiling and much easier to tell immediate differences between sources. Where as before with the B&K, I would have to engage in much longer term listening before noting ANY kind of difference between sources. Also, I recommend a dedicated transport because a cd player's clock and power supply are not optimized for sending digital signals. More often than not, cd players will impart their own dac's character into the sound of the digital signal and that will make it even more difficult to tell the differences between sources. In a more balanced setup, that Wadia will be anything but dark sounding. I have owned it and it's not far off from the 15 which was highly praised in its day. It's probably the best sounding dac you have there IMO.


Sorry mate didn't mean to start a theoretical discussion. You seem like a knowledgeable guy and I really value your opinion

 

You really think the Wadia 12 is better than the rest ? Hmm I'll give it another listen, got an extend on the loan.

Do you happen to know it's original price and what price would you value it at today today ? Saw one sell it used here for 375$

 

Was also looking in to the soon to come wadia 121


Edited by nightrhyme - 6/1/10 at 9:31am
post #42 of 167

No problem. IMO yes I think that Wadia should be the best in that group, especially in your setup. Although I can't say anything about the Denmark, but it sounds more like a professional product rather than one to use for personal enjoyment. IMO much of the older stuff sounds better than today's stuff until you get into the no compromise price range. Main reason again, IMO is due to upsampling. Out of all the upsampling dacs I tried, only one sounded like it was doing things right. But it was also the most expensive dac I ever owned. If memory serves correctly, the Wadia 12 originally sold for at least $2500, but could have been more. $375 is a good price, I see them usually go for around $450. It was one of best dacs I ever owned along with a Theta and Audio Research dac. Two things I noted that the Wadia excelled in was transparency and pin point imaging. Happy listening.

post #43 of 167
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by computerparts View Post

No problem. IMO yes I think that Wadia should be the best in that group, especially in your setup. Although I can't say anything about the Denmark, but it sounds more like a professional product rather than one to use for personal enjoyment. IMO much of the older stuff sounds better than today's stuff until you get into the no compromise price range. Main reason again, IMO is due to upsampling. Out of all the upsampling dacs I tried, only one sounded like it was doing things right. But it was also the most expensive dac I ever owned. If memory serves correctly, the Wadia 12 originally sold for at least $2500, but could have been more. $375 is a good price, I see them usually go for around $450. It was one of best dacs I ever owned along with a Theta and Audio Research dac. Two things I noted that the Wadia excelled in was transparency and pin point imaging. Happy listening.


Thanx so much for you opinion and price estimates. Have been listening to the wadia for a couple of hours now and sure enough. It''s actually quite nice. Its sound doesn't stand out in comparrison with the other dac's. But it's quite pleasent to listen to and offers some more body to the musical presentation.

Might buy it if I can get a good price. But it will only be a wait DAC as I really need one that will accept 192/24

 

So also looking at wyred for sound dac with the much discussed Sabre chip

Any thoughts regarding this one ?

post #44 of 167

Glad to hear you like the Wadia. It's one of those rare little gems these days. Not sure about the wyred for sound stuff. Like I said, I'm a fan of the older stuff lol. 192/24 is a very high sampling rate. I know of some dacs that can accept that high of a signal but they are very expensive. MBL and DCS come to mind. The new Audio Research Dac 7 might but I'm not sure on that one. Just curious but what do you have that is sending a signal with that high of a sampling rate?

post #45 of 167
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by computerparts View Post

Glad to hear you like the Wadia. It's one of those rare little gems these days. Not sure about the wyred for sound stuff. Like I said, I'm a fan of the older stuff lol. 192/24 is a very high sampling rate. I know of some dacs that can accept that high of a signal but they are very expensive. MBL and DCS come to mind. The new Audio Research Dac 7 might but I'm not sure on that one. Just curious but what do you have that is sending a signal with that high of a sampling rate?


Regarding 192/24 I'm just weird that way. I like to be future proof as I'm the type that rarely updates. Sometimes it's time and I upgrade the most important parts in my system and  then I return to what it's really all about: Enjoying music. For now I only have some 96/24 recordings. But if I owned a 192/24 device I would surely hunt these files. As far as I understand both the w4s dac and the NAIM dac can handle 192/24. The whole talk about the sabre 32bit chip gets me all excited. But then again I know that the choice of chip often has little to do with how well a DAC ends up sounding


Edited by nightrhyme - 6/3/10 at 8:57am
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