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All DAC's sound the same. - Page 4  

post #46 of 373
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dynobot View Post

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That's probably the best way to maintain your subjectivity.
post #47 of 373

Very funny how one impression from n=2 sampled dacs becomes a stand-in for all dacs.  Let's not forget, a blind test on this very forum of sound files from 3 different dacs uploaded by nwavguy led to 7 out of 12 blind listeners choosing the file from the Benchmark dac as coming from the 'best' dac.  That has a probability of p=0.066, which is very very close to statistically significant.

post #48 of 373
Quote:
Originally Posted by caracara08 View Post

so if its all placebo, why do any of you have more than onboard sound > e9 > and whatever headphone?

I run a Mac Mini as a server feeding 256 AAC files through iTunes to my amp and speakers. Before I settled on this arrangement, I made sure that it wasn't audibly degrading the sound. My system sounds excellent. But that isn't because of the cables or amp. It's because I have great custom speakers, I carefully equalized them and I set up the room for the optimal sound. I didn't achieve great sound by guessing or letting my feelings guide me. I did it through organized experimentation, logical analysis and careful listening. I would never have been able to get to this point by subjectivity.
post #49 of 373
Quote:
Originally Posted by eucariote View Post

Let's not forget, a blind test on this very forum of sound files from 3 different dacs uploaded by nwavguy led to 7 out of 12 blind listeners choosing the file from the Benchmark dac as coming from the 'best' dac.  That has a probability of p=0.066, which is very very close to statistically significant.

If one of the DACs was a "bad DAC" that was clearly inferior, it would reduce the chance to about even. Was one of the DACs in the test clearly identified as being the worst?

Were the three files calibrated to be the same line level?
Edited by bigshot - 6/26/11 at 7:54pm
post #50 of 373

Guys don"t you think you're all jumping the gun slightly. I Grant you that a 2000 dollar DAC won't sound much different from a 4000 DAC but a 1000 dollar DAC will sound exactly like a 100 dollar Fiio E7 DAC/amp!!?? I only wish that were true because then this hobby would be a lot more affordable. My opinion is that the further you move up along the audio ladder your audio returns will be less and less. Would I ever spend 5000 dollars on say a Bryston DAC in order to hear a slightly clearer bass line for 15 seconds of a song and just a smidgen more detail in various passages of a song that I really really would have to very closely listen for? Of coarse I wouldn't but there are other people on here who have the funds who gladly would. Truthfully I think the trick on here is just to take what people say with a grain of salt and realize a super cheap DAC/amp won't sound much better then some on board sound cards and that a 5000 dollar DAC will only sound very slightly better then a 1000 or 2000 dollar DAC. In other words just try and keep things in perspective. Personally I'm looking into the bang for the buck products with a proven track record, Products lines from the likes of Little Dot, Burson, Audio GD etc I think have proven themselves for providing good bang for the buck products that give good audio for the money spent. I've yet to run across a unsatisfied customer from Burson or Little Dot.

post #51 of 373
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DigitalFreak View Post

Guys don"t you think you're all jumping the gun slightly. I Grant you that a 2000 dollar DAC won't sound much different from a 4000 DAC but a 1000 dollar DAC will sound exactly like a 100 dollar Fiio E7 DAC/amp!!?? I only wish that were true because then this hobby would be a lot more affordable. My opinion is that the further you move up along the audio ladder your audio returns will be less and less. Would I ever spend 5000 dollars on say a Bryston DAC in order to hear a slightly clearer bass line for 15 seconds of a song and just a smidgen more detail in various passages of a song that I really really would have to very closely listen for? Of coarse I wouldn't but there are other people on here who have the funds who gladly would. Truthfully I think the trick on here is just to take what people say with a grain of salt and realize a super cheap DAC/amp won't sound much better then some on board sound cards and that a 5000 dollar DAC will only sound very slightly better then a 1000 or 2000 dollar DAC. In other words just try and keep things in perspective. Personally I'm looking into the bang for the buck products with a proven track record, Products lines from the likes of Little Dot, Burson, Audio GD etc I think have proven themselves for providing good bang for the buck products that give good audio for the money spent. I've yet to run across a unsatisfied customer from Burson or Little Dot.

Tell me objectively, exactly how a DAC is supposed to enhance sound quality. All a DAC is supposed to is convert digital data to an analog signal.

 

If that's all DAC's do, tell me why should I break the bank for a component that simply converts digital data to an analog signal? As far as I know, DAC's do nothing to improve sound quality.

 

One is better off getting a better source/recording of their music if they really want better quality than buying a "better" DAC.

 

Reminds of me the HDMI cable farce. I've seen HDMI's that cost $50+. The one I bought on eBay for $1 performed exactly the same as the $50 HDMI.

Like DAC's, HDMI serve only one function. They don't tamper with the video quality. Marketers that claim that their $100 HDMI "enhances video quality" are lying because HDMI serve no other function than simply transmitting data.

 

Also it isn't just me who don't hear the difference. aameford has had higher-end DAC's so if you don't believe me because I had "cheaper" DAC's believe him:

 

Quote:
Generally wouldn't get sucked in, BUT...  In theory, if a dac is "good"  it should sound the same as other "good" dacs - wait, here me out - a dac is supposed to decode the music as it was recorded, and render it as it was recorded, not add a sound of its own.  So, if a "good" dac (or any dac for that matter) is doing its job appropriately, it should sound like another "good" dac doing it's job appropriately.  My limited experience with dacs (apogee duet, Cambridge audio dacmagic, pico dac/amp, headroom UDA with max dac, udac2, CEntrance Dacport LX, the V-Dac, headphonia dac cable, Leckerton UDA-4), and they all sound mostly the same, and just varying degrees of "good".  Amp and headphones are likely the limit in hearing just how "good" a dac is. Cables - meh.  As long is it is a good conductor, quality built, and of appropriate size for the load, I can't tell the difference.

 

It really feels like some of the posters here are ignoring a lot of the other posters here just so they can make a point. Little did they know, their point has already been addressed numerous times.
 

 

post #52 of 373
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by eucariote View Post

Let's not forget, a blind test on this very forum of sound files from 3 different dacs uploaded by nwavguy led to 7 out of 12 blind listeners choosing the file from the Benchmark dac as coming from the 'best' dac.  That has a probability of p=0.066, which is very very close to statistically significant.



If one of the DACs was a "bad DAC" that was clearly inferior, it would reduce the chance to about even. Was one of the DACs in the test clearly identified as being the worst?

Were the three files calibrated to be the same line level?


The statistical test asked the probability of one option (of three) being chosen 7/12 times, assuming a random distribution of discrete choices as described by a binomial distribution.  nwavguy says he volume-matched the files- I can't link his outside site detailing the methodology because that got many of the posts deleted (head-fi anti-spam policy) but you can google NuForce uDAC-2 Listening Test.  In fact one file did get chosen consistently as the 'worst' file 6 out of 12 times - the original CD track. tongue.gif  Only the dac choices were used in the above analysis- but even if one was chosen the worst 5/12 times that would still be strictly speaking random. 

 

Are you saying that one dac can't be the 'best' but one can be the 'worst'?  confused.gif

 

post #53 of 373
Quote:
Originally Posted by bisayaboi View Post

Tell me objectively, exactly how a DAC is supposed to enhance sound quality. All a DAC is supposed to is convert digital data to an analog signal.

 


This is subjective - but I'll state it all the same.  I only have entry point gear.  Mortgage and family dictate that for now my spending is limited, so I read a lot, try things out when I can, and then try to buy smart.  I have the E7.  I know it's entry point - I don't particularly care what other people think either.  They can call it a toy.  It still does what I want it to do.

 

When I'm traveling and using my netbook (sometimes it is easier than the iPod), the sound quality is not great.  I get quite a bit of noise.  Plugging the E7 quite simply gets me better sound.  It's cleaner.  I could point you to online reviews from reputable people - but in the end who really cares.  The point is, the E7 is doing on a budget exactly what I expected it to do.  And it's not placebo either.  I got my wife (who's hearing is better than mine) to have a listen.  It's not a blind test - but she doesn't care about audio anyway.  I simply asked which sounded better, or if they sounded the same.  She had no reason to state anything other than her real opinion.  She also preferred the E7 in the chain (I tried to keep the line level as close as I could).

 

Here's the funny part - in one of BCasey's responses (could be another thread) he actually said that on his own netbook the E7 was clearer/cleaner - but on his laptop there was no difference.  He then proceeded to say the E7 wasn't worth $100 for him - I'm totally OK with that.  I still can't get the whole "snake oil" thing though when it did improve the source (eliminating static) on one of his audio sources.  If it does, then how can it be snake oil?

 

I still think a lot of the issue lies with expectations.  I did not expect night and day.  I simply wanted to eliminate the digital noise.  The E7 does that for me.  Not snake oil.  Not placebo.  Just better circuitry.  And for the money I paid (about $90 NZ - about US $60-70 when I got it), it is definitely worth it to me.

post #54 of 373

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bisayaboi View Post

Tell me objectively, exactly how a DAC is supposed to enhance sound quality. All a DAC is supposed to is convert digital data to an analog signal.

 

If that's all DAC's do, tell me why should I break the bank for a component that simply converts digital data to an analog signal? As far as I know, DAC's do nothing to improve sound quality.

 


You are right that a DAC is not supposed to add anything to the sound. A perfect DAC just converts digital to analog, reproducing what was originally recorded. The problem is that every DAC also adds its own distortion and noise while doing this conversion. With bad DACs, this is plainly audible. Good DACs can have very low distortion that is below detection by human hearing. So in that sense, a good DAC provides a sound quality enhancement over a bad one.

 

I get it that there is a point where distortion levels decrease to the point of being "good enough". And improving on that will yield little or no humanly audible benefit. And I don't disagree that the point can be reached on an affordable budget. But there is still value in owning a well designed overkill DAC. It's a luxury item, just like a gold watch. Except in this case, the overkill DAC really does perform objectively better than its budget counterpart (whether you can hear the difference or not).

post #55 of 373
Quote:
Originally Posted by DigitalFreak View Post

Truthfully I think the trick on here is just to take what people say with a grain of salt and realize a super cheap DAC/amp won't sound much better then some on board sound cards and that a 5000 dollar DAC will only sound very slightly better then a 1000 or 2000 dollar DAC.

I've never found price to be a good way to predict the sound quality of equipment. Expensive is just as apt to sound terrible as cheap. With speakers and headphones, expensive is generally good, but there's usually something in the midprice range that sounds just as good if you search a little.

Whenever I adopt a new format or piece of equipment I run tests on it to see how it performs. Sometimes friends are interested and let me play with their equipment too. Although I'm not an electrical engineer, I try to understand how things work and what makes for good sound.

I've learned that transducers make a huge difference in sound quality. With speakers, placement in the room and the acoustics make a huge difference too. Equalization can work wonders. Beyond that, the differences fall off sharply. A cartridge can make a difference in tracking which can affect sound quality, but turntables are generally either noisy or quiet. Older is better than newer for turntables. Solid state amps all sound the same as long as they are powerful enough to push the load put on them. SACDs sound exactly like CDs with the same mastering. All CD players of a reasonable quality sound the same. External DACs are unnecessary if your CD player is relatively recent. iPods sound great through the line out. Compressed audio can sound as good as lossless if you use the right codec and compression rate. High bitrates are only necessary for mixing, not for normal listening. multi channel sound is a bitch to balance. Two channel is much easier to tame. On speakers, mono often sounds best. CDs can sound much better than LPs, but they don't always sound better because of sloppy engineering. Generally older music sounds best in the format of original release. Remastering too often blunts or alters the sound. Monoprice cables are fine. No need to spend more. Music is what matters most.

There is over thirty years of experience in audio. Have fun with it!
Edited by bigshot - 6/26/11 at 11:35pm
post #56 of 373
Quote:
Originally Posted by eucariote View Post

Are you saying that one dac can't be the 'best' but one can be the 'worst'?

No, I'm saying that if one of the three was obviously bad, then 7 out of 12 would be statistically random for the two remaining choices.

But if the one chosen as worst 6 out of 12 times was the unaltered master source file, I don't have a lot of confidence in the 7 out of 12 choice of the best. It seems to me that it wasn't a very well designed test to come up with results like that.
post #57 of 373
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post

 1 Solid state amps all sound the same as long as they are powerful enough to push the load put on them.
2 All CD players of a reasonable quality sound the same.



1 With a speaker amp solid state I tried an Onkyo TX 8255 really sharp cymbals something definitely off in the mids/treble a bad spike and dips somewhere and bloated bass.If this is all I had had my speakers would be very disappointing sounding and I would hate my speakers blame the speakers if this was true.

Compared to the Marantz PM 5004 not sharp lovely/pleasant sounding really thick mids and very nice bass.

Onkyo sounded offensive to me and the Marantz I loved how my speakers sounded with them.

I was pretty shocked how drastically different my speakers sounded with the two amps

I do like the Onkyo for a TV/Movie 2 channel setup though.

 

2. $200-$300 1991 era Yamaha CD Player vs current Marantz $349 CD player the Marantz clearly sounds better.

 

 

 


Edited by mibutenma - 6/27/11 at 12:05am
post #58 of 373
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoga Flame View Post

The problem is that every DAC also adds its own distortion and noise while doing this conversion. With bad DACs, this is plainly audible. Good DACs can have very low distortion that is below detection by human hearing.

The degree of distortion of even inexpensive modern DACs is below the range of human hearing. Most DAC's chips are made by the same handful of manufacturers. The difference between expensive ones and cheap ones isn't the chip. It's the output circuitry. It isn't rocket science to create a clean preamplifier at the power levels we're talking about here. You can spend a lot of money, but it's going to sound pretty much the same as long as the quality is of a reasonable level and the design of the chip is recent. The circuitry and DAC built into the average WalMart DVD player is just as good sounding as the most expensive outboard DAC. One might need a headphone amp to correct for impedance issues between a portable player and home cans, but the DAC probably is not the problem if something doesn't sound great.
post #59 of 373
Quote:
Originally Posted by bisayaboi View Post



Tell me objectively, exactly how a DAC is supposed to enhance sound quality. All a DAC is supposed to is convert digital data to an analog signal.

 

If that's all DAC's do, tell me why should I break the bank for a component that simply converts digital data to an analog signal? As far as I know, DAC's do nothing to improve sound quality.

 

One is better off getting a better source/recording of their music if they really want better quality than buying a "better" DAC.

 

Reminds of me the HDMI cable farce. I've seen HDMI's that cost $50+. The one I bought on eBay for $1 performed exactly the same as the $50 HDMI.

Like DAC's, HDMI serve only one function. They don't tamper with the video quality. Marketers that claim that their $100 HDMI "enhances video quality" are lying because HDMI serve no other function than simply transmitting data.

 

Also it isn't just me who don't hear the difference. aameford has had higher-end DAC's so if you don't believe me because I had "cheaper" DAC's believe him:

 

 

It really feels like some of the posters here are ignoring a lot of the other posters here just so they can make a point. Little did they know, their point has already been addressed numerous times.
 

 




Wonderful here's where I get into a huge argument. If you look into how DAC's work you're right they just convert digital to analog BUT that's only half the story. The idea behind a better DAC is finding a DAC that converts all that digital information in it's entirety all the while without adding any distortion to the signal. The better it reads that signal in it's entirety WITHOUT creating distortion while it's converting it the better the signal that gets fed into your amp. We can argue all night long and get into details such as distortion levels, jitter levels, cables (I'm not a believer of cables for small computer headphone rigs by the way), discreet op amp use on gear etc and it won't matter because in the end if you've made up your mind there's really nothing more I can say to make you change your mind. This is an open forum and I'm simply posting my two cents and that's all I'm doing. In the end you do what you want it doesn't matter to me and it shouldn't matter to you what I think or say.

 

I have listened to different equipment and I have heard differences in sound. Were they night and day? For the most part no they weren't. Heck if you really want to put your money where your mouth is I dare you to try an interesting experiment. Get your hands on 2 or 3 different DAC's and pair them with 2 or 3 different amps and over the next few months mix and match them and see if you notice a difference. Trust me once your brain has gotten used to a certain rigs signature for a month and you change it around you will notice differences. You really want to mix it up try this take 2 or 3 different headphones of mid hifi quality and take notes on how they react to each different configuration of your rig. While we're at it why stop there? Take different genres of music and mix and match them with your mixed and matched rigs and see how the songs sound and which headphone sound best with which genre on which rig.

 

You really want to get crazy try mixing and matching gear with a full blown stereo driving good speakers. I guarantee you with good speakers every little add on in the chain will bring different nuances to the sound. If you really want to go insane try moving that same stereo from one room to another and play with the positioning of the speakers. Guess what, you'll find that those same speakers that sounded great in one room now sound like utter crud in another room simply because of the acoustics of the room. Now take those speakers away and add a completely new set of speakers and marvel how good they sound. Now take the whole stereo back into the original room with these new speakers and sit back in astonishment because these new speakers now sound like utter crud in the original room the first speakers were in. Take away the preamp add a new one see what that yields in the sonic signature in the original room with the new speakers. Let's go really nuts and throw in some tubes. Why limit ourselves to solid state? Heck while we're playing with tubes lets bring in a Woo Audio amp for our headphone rig and thicken up the sound and see how it does with our different DAC's then lets mix and match it with our different headphones. Since we're taking notes let's mix it up even more and roll different types of tubes into our Woo and see how it reacts to our DAC's in relation to our headphones. Why stop there let's just get rid of the original stereo tubes we originally played with and just plug the Woo amp directly into our stereo and really do some experimenting with our headphones. Let's not stop there lets throw in a honest to goodness old school turntable. According to many people who are younger then me a CD can't be beat in audio but considering I grew up listening to vinyl as a teen I beg to differ and many others here would agree with me. Now lets go out and bring in different records recorded during different eras. Why stop there now let's experiment with different cartridge types on our turntable and see what that yields with speaker A vs speaker B and while we're at it lets have a listen on our Woo amp and see how that sounds and compare it to our other headphone rig amps. Since we're playing with vinyl lets yank the turntable from our stereo and mate it with our rig and play mix and match over the next few weeks. Hope you're not getting dizzy because I've only scratched the surface on manipulating sound signatures with different gear.

 

Where am I going with all this? All I'm trying to point out is in this sort of hobby most people are looking for a specific sonic signature that's pleasant to their specific tastes which can be achieved in a myriad of ways. Whats pleasant to one person can sound like utter crud to another. What one person perceives as a worthwhile difference another person won't because they're not looking for the same kind of sonic signature or they simply refuse to spend that amount of money to get that little nuance in their music. Most of us here aren't here to collect gear we're here to try and find information and experiment with it in order to find that specific sound that will make the music we love sound almost perfect to our brains. You're here saying a good DAC doesn't matter well alright then fair enough you're entitled to your opinion. I'm not disputing your ears you've simply found a good enough sound from your onboard audio. Congratulations your journey has come to an end you've found a setup that makes you happy and I'm happy for you. The fact you seem to overlook though is others on here haven't and we're still looking for that sound and the gear we're experimenting with makes a difference in what we hear. If it doesn't make a difference to you well fair enough your entitled to your opinion and your opinion is respected even though you and me disagree. I do ask though that you not be outraged defensive or snooty when others voice their opinion. Other people are entitled to their opinion just like you're entitled to yours. That is the idea behind an open forum isn't it?

 

Bless \m/


Edited by DigitalFreak - 6/27/11 at 12:11am
post #60 of 373
Quote:
Originally Posted by mibutenma View Post

1 With a speaker amp solid state I tried an Onkyo really sharp cymbals something definitely off in the mids/treble a bad spike and boomy bass.If this is all I had had my speakers would be very disappointing sounding and I would hate my speakers blame the speakers if this was true.

The problems you describe are equalization issues. A simple EQ adjustment would make both amps sound identical if the output wattage rating is the same. All speakers and rooms require some degree of equalization. No speakers are flat out of the box. If you aren't EQing right now, you should consider it. You would certainly get much better performance out of your speakers regardless of what amp you use if you EQ.

As for your cd players, any 2011 player is going to sound better than a 1991. DAC technology has improved over the past decade. But a 2011 $50 WalMart DVD player will sound just as good as your $350 2011 Marantz.

Digital freak:

If people want to create colored sound, that's what tone controls are for. Trying to come up with the right combination of colored equipment to result in the specific sound signature you're looking for is an inefficient and expensive way of attacking the problem.

The goal should be to build a system that is flat and clean.

Rebook is clean by definition. CD players have distortion levels well below the threshold of hearing. Equipment manufacturers prop up inaudible numbers to make their model look better on paper than the competitor. But the fact is, jitter is a non issue in modern CD players, as is harmonic distortion.

As for flat, that is reasonably easy to achieve in headphones if you are willing to spend a little money on your cans. With speakers, it's considerably more problematic, but it's possible without breaking the bank if you are willing to put a little work in on room arrangements and equalization.

Once you have worked out the noise and the spikes, you can use the bass and treble controls to salt and pepper to taste. It's easy to find the coloration you're looking for because you're working from a clean balanced baseline.

Home audio only gets expensive and difficult if you leave it up to the random chance of mix and match. If you work towards a clearly definable baseline, then finding your own sweet spot is easy.
Edited by bigshot - 6/27/11 at 12:22am
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