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Audiophile cables, an interesting question. - Page 52

post #766 of 1186
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
 

Now I know why people don't do any controls at all.

Why? Because hooking up a voltmeter to the outputs once to check the levels is that onerous? It's a pretty easy and straightforward task, and if you're going to go to the trouble to do a proper comparison, why wouldn't you want to ensure it's done right? I know you're a huge advocate of doing everything by ear, but it has been shown that if two otherwise identical components are very close (but slightly mismatched) in volume, most people fail to perceive the louder one as being louder. Instead, they perceive the louder one as being better quality, while believing the two to be matched in volume. If you match with a voltmeter, this will not happen, and thus you can get a much more accurate comparison.

 

As for your prior post? Yes, all DACs should really sound the same, unless there's something wrong with one of them.

post #767 of 1186
Quote:
Originally Posted by x838nwy View Post Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
 

All DACs *should* sound the same... shouldn't they?

 

If we use "should" in the sense that it is their ultimate goal, than yes, they should as their goal is to transform music encoded in the digital signal to the most exact facsimile of the original analogue signal as possible. Extending that definition to its conclusion, ALL hifi equipment SHOULD sound the same, be it a $50 mini component system from Kenwood or a $50k uber-fi system and I hope we can all agree that reality strays quite far from the "should".

 

Now do all DAC's sound the same? They do not. I do not design electronics but I do machines and  the processes bear similarities. But before I go further, let me first get the price thing out of the way. Price is no indication of a device's ability. People spending 5 figures on a DAC expects it to look good in the same way you expect your Lamborghini to look nice as well as go like $hit off a shovel. Different companies have different balance points within the features/price/margin/looks/customer service/reliability matrix and that's good for the consumer but will  also give rise to $500 DACS sounding similar to a $1,000 DAC but those examples are more exceptions rather than the rule.

 

With that out the way, I propose the reasons for the difference are as follows:

 

1.) Design constraints: There are always cost, space/volume, supply constraints in design (plus a whole bunch of others) and it is more than likely that in the choosing of components, the design of the board layout, the strategy for isolation, etc are limited by them. If we assume that manufactures of chips and various components that make up your DAC do manufacture goods that are of different abilities/spec/quality between their different models then one of the designer's job is to choose the array of parts available to her/him to synthesize from them what he/she thinks is the "best" possible DAC. The endless permutations of parts then have to conform to said constraints in a particular arrangement before it all gets a go ahead.

 

For example, the designer probably wanted to use transformer brand X, model Y having tested to confirm that it is a better choice (better meaning allowing the DAC to perform better than it can with other solution, or even just better specs meaning with more desirable characteristics) but the resulting package my be too large so he had to keep to brand X but model Z. Perhaps using the preferred chip set means taking up too much power (specially in portable devices). May be the a well designed DAC is outperformed by another, newer DAC simply because of the chips or firmware used. Legacy items are also a bit of an issue - if the main DAC part was and has been very good but its USB implementation is not so great then making better said interface will improve the final sound quality. So constraints play a role in the resulting products. Different companies pose different constraints on their designers/engineers. These constraints affect the parts used and how they are used as such it is logical that the end result is also effected. Different constraints = Different products.

 

2.) Human ability: give me and Jason from Schiit audio the same amount of money and ask us to design and build a DAC within that budget and I'm pretty sure you'll get a pretty decent DAC and a pile of parts. Talent, ability, intelligence, proficiency and knowledge are not attributes that are evenly distributed among mankind. So for $400, one designer can make a rubbish DAC and another a very good one. That's pretty much why how talented and skilled people make a living. So DACs sound different according to the skill of the designer (and others involved in the manufacturing process, but mostly the designer).

 

3.) Design philosophy: this is different to the ability of the designer and it also plays a part in why things work differently. Some designers will believe that using few but extremely high (boutique?) components is the way to go. Others will tend to throw everything inclusive of kitchen sinks at it (Audio-Gd must consume like 1/3 of all components used in the hifi industry or something). Some will not use capacitors in the signal path and some will prefer silver where possible. Some will go for class D and others will not be happy unless it's a SET OTL class A / room heater combo. etc, etc. Each to his own and each will have its characteristics in terms of sq. Which path is best or what the best compromise may be will probably be a debate that goes on for longer than the internet itself.

 

These factors play the biggest roles in why DACs sound different. They are all working against arriving at a fictitious 'perfect' DAC however simple a task that may be. The ultimates goal of all DACs is to sound same as I mentioned above, but it is how far and to which side they fall short of this goal is the difference we hear. So they sound different because the things that are "wrong" with them are different.

 

And it's because you've been using the wrong cables. :D

 

Or maybe the right ones but they haven't burnt-in properly yet.

 

Or you didn't look for the direction arrow on the interconnect, did you?

and all those differences adds up and can be found in the differences of distorsions, jitter, frequency response and noise. that we can measure on all dacs.
what you say is all very true and lots of dacs are different in one way or another. no arguying about that. but it's pretty common for a dac to have: noise, distorsion and jitter well under -80db (even crosstalk is well under 80db).

so when those said differences are measured to be under the level of audibility while playing music, is it still wrong to say they sound the same? again I take it that a good dac will have high fidelity in the response signal, so as you said, all dacs tend toward the same sound with more or less success.

in reality I suspect some manufacturers might give up on that part and just add some kind of dsp to please the listener and make the dac to stand out, instead of fighting to get 0.001% less distorsion than the competition.

when we're looking at numbers, what should be audible between ok dacs is usually no other than some slight changes in the frequency responses. I guess even some +0.2 at one end and -0.3db on the other might be enough to feel the roll off and hear that one dac is warmer that the other. but I wouldn't pay 2000$ for a 0.5db EQ ^_^.

 

it all comes down to decide if when we say high end, we talk about measuring well=high fidelity. and if, when we talk about how something sounds, we're meaning something that will be heard(actually heard, not daydreamed).

post #768 of 1186
Quote:
Originally Posted by x838nwy View Post
 

If we use "should" in the sense that it is their ultimate goal, than yes, they should as their goal is to transform music encoded in the digital signal to the most exact facsimile of the original analogue signal as possible.

 

Thankfully, every piece of equipment I own from expensive headphone amp to iPod to blu-ray player to $40 Chinese DVD player all produce sound that is for all intents and purposes perfect. Maybe I've been lucky. But it proved to me that money means absolutely nothing to sound quality in this case.

post #769 of 1186
Quote:
Originally Posted by castleofargh View Post
 

so when those said differences are measured to be under the level of audibility while playing music, is it still wrong to say they sound the same?

 

If you can't hear a difference with human ears, it sounds the same.

post #770 of 1186
Quote:
Originally Posted by x838nwy View Post
 

 

If we use "should" in the sense that it is their ultimate goal, than yes, they should as their goal is to transform music encoded in the digital signal to the most exact facsimile of the original analogue signal as possible.

 

Snippage in the middle.

 

 

These factors play the biggest roles in why DACs sound different. They are all working against arriving at a fictitious 'perfect' DAC however simple a task that may be. The ultimates goal of all DACs is to sound same as I mentioned above, but it is how far and to which side they fall short of this goal is the difference we hear. So they sound different because the things that are "wrong" with them are different.

 

 

more snippage

I think you are working hard to miss the point.  "should" was not used in the sense that is the ultimate goal they all sound the same, though that is of course true.  It was used in the sense that with the accuracy of reproducing the signal nearly all modern DACs keep inaccuracies below the audible level.  So looking at what is on the market they should sound indistinguishable when level matched into an acceptable load at the output.

 

One also wonders about some highly expensive DAC designs.  Are they designed with a goal of genuine fidelity or are they designed to sound different?  Then that difference can be promoted as better justifying the high price tag.

post #771 of 1186
To me "should" implies that they "ought to" sound the same. In other words, same output for same input. And if what they ought to do is the same thing then their goals are the same. "Should" to me is not a scientific word and there's nothing wrong with that, it just implies an idealized situation where reality may be different. So if we measure thing going into and coming out of the chips they ate probaly all the same but when one takes all the crap that surrounds the dac chip (which in a perfect world should be totally transparent) into account, they do not.

Anyway, that aside, to me, and i am sure many others, my dacs do NOT sound the same. I mean, honestly my Dragonfly does not sound like my Gungnir for example. The DF is brighter as the most obvious difference. I did not level match them obviously - who does on a regular basis, really.

Is there any data that shows that differences between dacs are inaudible? It is possible that the outputs from the dac chips themselves are the same, but what about other parts such as the output stage? In fact, i just recalled that the volume controls on some dacs actually 'lose' bits so these actually effectively do their d->a work off a different input as to one that does not 'lose' bits so even if it's same output for same input, the two outputs will not be the same in this case.

I will try to look for some dac measurements to go with all this, but before i got off into google land, non-bs companies like schiit do offer dacs from $99 to $800 and they are not the type of guys who'd do this if they all sound the same...?

In the end, if you're happy with what you have, i'm happy for you. If you don't need to spend more than $50 for a prefect dac then i totally envy you. But to label everything as sounding the same and calling any measurable difference inaudible is to me non-scientific. A while back Purrin and a bunch of other guys did dac comparisons with surprising results. It was no abx but they knew what they were doing and as far as i can tell had no affiliation with any brand tested. I don't know the man, but from his posts i don't think Purrin would hesitate to say they all sound the same if they in fact did... Many instances show a cheaper dac beating one 3-4 times the price and i'm cool with that, but in those tests if the sounded the same there would be no reason to report that they did.
post #772 of 1186
Quote:
Originally Posted by x838nwy View Post

To me "should" implies that they "ought to" sound the same. In other words, same output for same input. And if what they ought to do is the same thing then their goals are the same. "Should" to me is not a scientific word and there's nothing wrong with that, it just implies an idealized situation where reality may be different. So if we measure thing going into and coming out of the chips they ate probaly all the same but when one takes all the crap that surrounds the dac chip (which in a perfect world should be totally transparent) into account, they do not.

Anyway, that aside, to me, and i am sure many others, my dacs do NOT sound the same. I mean, honestly my Dragonfly does not sound like my Gungnir for example. The DF is brighter as the most obvious difference. I did not level match them obviously - who does on a regular basis, really.

Is there any data that shows that differences between dacs are inaudible? It is possible that the outputs from the dac chips themselves are the same, but what about other parts such as the output stage? In fact, i just recalled that the volume controls on some dacs actually 'lose' bits so these actually effectively do their d->a work off a different input as to one that does not 'lose' bits so even if it's same output for same input, the two outputs will not be the same in this case.

I will try to look for some dac measurements to go with all this, but before i got off into google land, non-bs companies like schiit do offer dacs from $99 to $800 and they are not the type of guys who'd do this if they all sound the same...?

In the end, if you're happy with what you have, i'm happy for you. If you don't need to spend more than $50 for a prefect dac then i totally envy you. But to label everything as sounding the same and calling any measurable difference inaudible is to me non-scientific. A while back Purrin and a bunch of other guys did dac comparisons with surprising results. It was no abx but they knew what they were doing and as far as i can tell had no affiliation with any brand tested. I don't know the man, but from his posts i don't think Purrin would hesitate to say they all sound the same if they in fact did... Many instances show a cheaper dac beating one 3-4 times the price and i'm cool with that, but in those tests if the sounded the same there would be no reason to report that they did.


Ask the fellow who used the should how he meant it. 

 

Otherwise all your objections to the idea (not blind, not level matched etc.) are all the old practices that let people get fooled.  Who level matches on a regular basis really?  I do.  Even sighted you will find that one step greatly reduces differences in gear quality you thought you were hearing.  I don't know Purrin, but if they didn't level match then I would say they did not know what they were doing.  It simply is required due to how human hearing works.  No amount of care or attitude can change that factor.  Humans need level matching for useful comparisons.  The simplest and most important step in such procedures, but getting people to believe its necessity seems a Sisyphean task.

 

Now if a device like a DAC gets the same data stream, puts out an analog result that is close enough to be audibly transparent it will sound the same.  Chips to make it happen don't matter, analog design don't matter, switched or linear supplies don't matter, just the resulting signal.  The resulting signal is what you actually listen to in the end. 

 

Finally you are constructing a comforting straw man there. 

 

But to label everything as sounding the same and calling any measurable difference inaudible is to me non-scientific.

 

That is not what is being done here.  The reverse is what you are trying, which is saying any measurable differences, any difference in circuitry, any thing creates changes which can be heard.  That simply is not the case.  You then attempt to support that idea once again using casual sighted listening opinions to back it up.  It is old, and it is insufficient for this forum. 

 

Is it possible DACs can sound different?  Yes it is, but it will show in the measurements at a level that could be expected to be audible.  But in modern DACs even fairly inexpensive models it is very uncommon. 

post #773 of 1186

DACs should sound the same, in the same way that the wheels should stay attached to your car when you're hurtling down the highway.

That is, barring incompetence or wanton sabotage, they will sound the same.

post #774 of 1186

Purrin did not level match, so there's that -- everything is moot.  Besides, his whole basis was judging the DACs by personal preference, which is pretty much subjective. Not gonna fly 'round these parts.

post #775 of 1186
Quote:
Originally Posted by paradoxper View Post

Purrin did not level match, so there's that -- everything is moot.  Besides, his whole basis was judging the DACs by personal preference, which is pretty much subjective. Not gonna fly 'round these parts.

Not saying his preferences are gospel, but it indicates differences between dacs.

Also i was under the impression that there's an analogue stage after the dac chip which handles the output to other things. Does the performance of this not matter?
post #776 of 1186

Right. He indicated differences between DACs through subjective measures. Makes a ton of sense in this venue, er, or not. 

Esldude touched on your question 2 posts up.


Edited by paradoxper - 5/31/14 at 6:18pm
post #777 of 1186
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
 

 

Thankfully, every piece of equipment I own from expensive headphone amp to iPod to blu-ray player to $40 Chinese DVD player all produce sound that is for all intents and purposes perfect. Maybe I've been lucky. But it proved to me that money means absolutely nothing to sound quality in this case.

I don't associate money with SQ.  But, I hope that outrageously priced DAP sounds bad so that I feel better about not buying it.  People do not buy equipment thinking that high price = quality.  Most reasonable audio enthusiasts here atleast do some research or audition them so that they are not taking a huge financial risk.  I'm probably one of the most skeptical of hi end audio and it took me a very long time to get into the higher end stuff.  Some people more comfortable taking risks vs others.  Some people are just mindless and just buy probably because they don't have a budget limit.  I've seen some ridiculous setups.

 

Anyway, those that do not A/B DACs or have experienced testing many DACs can speculate all they want, but it will never be anything beyond speculation.  Why? Because how can you make a conclusion without trying?  Only form of deduction here is by trying out the high end to low end regardless of cost, and making a conclusion. Does DACs matter, and does price go along side good sounding design?

 

Just saying the tried argument of specs show they are all the same, doesn't really fly IMO.

post #778 of 1186
Quote:
Originally Posted by SilverEars View Post
 

I don't associate money with SQ.  But, I hope that outrageously priced DAP sounds bad so that I feel better about not buying it.  People do not buy equipment thinking that high price = quality.  Most reasonable audio enthusiasts here atleast do some research or audition them so that they are not taking a huge financial risk.  I'm probably one of the most skeptical of hi end audio and it took me a very long time to get into the higher end stuff.  Some people more comfortable taking risks vs others.  Some people are just mindless and just buy probably because they don't have a budget limit.  I've seen some ridiculous setups.

 

Anyway, those that do not A/B DACs or have experienced testing many DACs can speculate all they want, but it will never be anything beyond speculation.  Why? Because how can you make a conclusion without trying?  Only form of deduction here is by trying out the high end to low end regardless of cost, and making a conclusion. Does DACs matter, and does price go along side good sounding design?

 

Just saying the tried argument of specs show they are all the same, doesn't really fly IMO.


You are making the assumption it is speculation.  I can tell you one of the things about level matching is those multi-kilobuck DACs everyone thinks sound so much better than the DACs of a few hundred dollars suddenly sound a whole lot more similar when levels line up.  Many still think they hear a difference, but not the size difference they previously thought.  Not speculation either.  There are others here with experience of a wide variety of DACs.  Further as the comparisons adopt controlled methodology those differences evaporate.  For such huge differences they have been awfully hard to actually pin down. 

post #779 of 1186
Quote:
Originally Posted by paradoxper View Post

Right. He indicated differences between DACs through subjective measures. Makes a ton of sense in this venue, er, or not. 
Esledude touched on your question 2 posts up.

Umm yes they do indicate differences were perceived. Consistently so. Do things not count as fact unless level-matched? When you change songs do you need to level match to confirm that you have, in fact, done so? I don't think you would, so there IS some information we can gain from listening without level matching, correct? I wasn't present at the time, but i doubt they were doing their listening at wildly different levels and at these levels they found differences. Not if the perceived differences only came about through things being louder, the loudest dac in the test surely would have done. I do not recall that it did. (Will check.)

As for the statement "analog design doesn't matter" really? Where's the proof of this? Isn't amplifier/buffer design all about reducing distortion? What if it was poorly designed? We've seen competent companies stumble before - meridian explorer with it's high output impedance, akg 812 with its funky square wave response (source: inner fidelity) so some quite blatant oddities that would have showed up in the design stage do reach the market. Who's to say there are none in dacs?

There's so much absolutism around here. It is so decisive when people say things "sound the same" or "don't matter" or "inaudible". But without any data it's just the same as others saying "unicorns". The people who say otherwise have to drag up all sorts to meet with blunt statements with no actual factual data or even any reasoning to back it up.

Dac chips do the same things therefore all dacs sound the same. Great. Now that's pretty much the same as saying all computers with the same cpu and clock speed perform tasks at the same speed regardless of ram, hdd, operating system other software. It may be measurable with a stopwatch but surely a few seconds are unnoticeable by humans therefore they're the same. What?

In the final part of his post eslude mentioned that (and i paraphrase) it is possible for dacs to sound different and also that it is "fairly uncommon" for them to do so. Now this is, i think, quite a bit a way from "all dacs sound the same".

I am not advocating that *all* things that can be measured can be detected by the human ear. But there is a trend here of:

1.) stating that non difference can be found through measurements, then
2.) well alright some can be, but it's not audible

And both are without any justification other than saying pretty much that dacs are dacs. I'm pretty sure we all understand there's more than a chip in that box and everything has to be designed and the design may or may not influence the outcome. It is clear that in some cases they do. There's an article and i think a youtube clip from ps audio (iirc) about the role the reference voltage plays in their new dac. Basically it says that their fpga works against a reference voltage and if this voltages shifts the conversion goes awry. Now in a lab with a controlled simulated mains supply this may work perfectly, but a good designer will design in a good tolerance to real home supplies while a bad designer may not thus things will possibly sound odd with the latter. Just an example of how other parts in a dac can make a difference. Not saying it will, just that it can. It is for me to find information that it does (in any case not just this) AND for people who think otherwise to produce their information that it does not. Not just keep banging on about things are "inaudible" and "no difference".

And even if we ignore all results/comments however unscientific, the reasons i mentioned earlier (3 of them) remain as possible causes of differences in the eventual output. And if there are possible causes we should look into information on what is and is not audible.

Finally, no company wants to increase cost so if they really do make no difference, why bother with designing these things? It cannot all be marketing/trends/fashion because if it is, dacs will look a $hit ton better than they do now cos that will be all that matter. Benchmark and i think Mytek are also in the pro industry so they must be doing something right and reasonable. People made a song and dance about how many companies use Sony CD transports but the industry as a whole accepted it, so why not do the same with DACs? It would make a load of sense, surely to just buy a dac board the same way they did transports because not so long ago a lot of the more established manufacturers really had little knowledge about digital audio and that would save them a load of money trying to design their own. A lot of facts that have nothing to do with placebos or bias also point to the possibility of there being something more to dacs than "they're all the same" and "nope, inaudible".

Lastly, just because it has the word "science" in the title of this forum it does not exclude discussions about observations. Purrin's test is just as valid here as the statement saying "all dacs sound the same". How many dacs have you listened to? Is it a representative sample? Level-matched? What are the control conditions and variables? Was it a double blind test? If this venue is open to one, it must open to another.
post #780 of 1186
Quote:
Originally Posted by esldude View Post
 


You are making the assumption it is speculation.  I can tell you one of the things about level matching is those multi-kilobuck DACs everyone thinks sound so much better than the DACs of a few hundred dollars suddenly sound a whole lot more similar when levels line up.  Many still think they hear a difference, but not the size difference they previously thought.  Not speculation either.  There are others here with experience of a wide variety of DACs.  Further as the comparisons adopt controlled methodology those differences evaporate.  For such huge differences they have been awfully hard to actually pin down. 

So what you're saying is fact? Not, speculation?  You think the difference is only in the loudness level?  I think you're narrowing the possibilities.  I alludes you see people as simpletons, very negative thinking.  You don't think your speculation isn't simple?

 

Can you list me what DACs you have tested?


Edited by SilverEars - 5/31/14 at 7:36pm
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