After 7 months of dabbing in audio devices (DACs/AMPS) I was able to finally conduct a fully blind audio test. I left the room for the changes to ensure I had no knowledge of the source that was selected.
The two devices used were the Audio gd Sparrow Basic Optical and my intel DP35DP High definition audio onboard sound. Two 320 kbps mp3 files were used on the test. There was 8 runs conducts, and each time I was asked to identify the source. Sennheiser HD580's were used.
D = Audio gd Sparrow
MB = Onboard Intel High Definition Audio
Template: Run #: (source) - (my guess)
Run 1: MB - MB
Run 2: MB - MB
Run 3: MB - D
Run 4: MB - D
Run 5: D - MB
Run 6: D- D
Run 7: D - MB
Run 8: D - MB
5/8 of the tests I guess incorrectly. To add onto this, I was not confident at all about my guesses.
This test sums up what I have been feeling since joining head-fi and listening to different types of audio gear. I have critically listening to an ipod shuffle, Sound blaster extigy, Head Direct EF2, hot audio DAC Extasy, Intel high def audio onboard sound, and Audio gd Sparrow. With all these devices, I was never able to distinguish any of them from one another - that is to say they all sounded devices these same to me. I used multiple headphones during tests, but mostly the "hard to drive" HD580.
It is clear to me now that audio devices today have gotten so good. Whether its a 40 dollar ipod, a 200 dollar external sound device, they all sound excellent. Now I have not heard high end audio devices, and can not comment on them. However, this test is in agreement with the audio skepticism I formed since hearing my first amp recommended form head-fi, in which it sounded the same as my original source.
I am not saying that external DACs and headphone amps are useless. However, this "hobby" is one in which the term "diminishing returns" is as true as it gets.
For me, my days of "hi-fi" are over, as "mid-fi" is as good as it gets for me. Maybe not for everyone.
For newcomers, please don't believe you need to spend lots of money on DACs and amps to get good sound. Most of the posts on this forums are highly opinionated, exaggerated, or just false. Grab a pair of nice headphones (which do make a HUGE difference) and enjoy.
For everyone (especially people with their first set of gear), conduct blind tests- its easy to think you hear something, but a blind test is the only way to be objective.
I don't want people reading to see this as a threat to head-fi, like I am out to make it that everything is snake oil.. Im NOT . These are only my humble opinions.
Edited by Crazy*Carl - 6/4/10 at 9:07pm