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High end DACs are appearing in big numbers - Page 6

post #76 of 89

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by barleyguy View Post

 

As far as "proper testing", the definition of that depends on what question you are seeking to answer.  If the question is "which of these do I enjoy listening to the most?", I think it a completely valid test to listen, and see which one you enjoy the most.  Enjoyment is not always a scientific pursuit, nor should it necessarily be.

 

Yes, you can save a lot of money by doing scientific tests, especially if you have a confirmation bias that says everything sounds the same.  But is that really the way to pursue enjoyment?


I have no problem with people listening to whatever makes them happy. But people do need to appreciate *why* they are happier with a particular piece of gear. If they like it because they have done the proper/honest listening tests and it genuinely sounds better, then I am happy to listen to their opinion. If they like it mainly because it was expensive and they think they should like it, then they are lying to themselves and to everyone else.

 

FWIW, I pretty much never do comparative listening myself. I get very, very bored trying to listen for differences when I would much rather listen to the music than the equipment. Furthermore, in my case a single beer improves sound quality FAR beyond the improvements that changing any single piece of equipment ever has......

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jessica Filbert View Post

Until you are invited....


tl;dr

post #77 of 89

To no-one in particular:

 

1. Even the professional reviewers are Stereophile etc usually admit that gear above a certain price point is usually more about finding a 'different' sound than something 'better'. That said, I'd still like to hear that dCS stack, but given a choice between that level of kit and a 2012 Camaro, I'd take the car. If that makes me a Luddite, so be it. 

 

2, I absolutely get that some in audio are obsessed with building the ultimate rig - Australian Hi-Fi regularly profiles people who have spent more on ancillaries than the sum total of everything Jessica mentions in the post above. The catch is that most have done this over a lifetime, and each addition has been meticulously thought out. These people have very understanding suppliers who will let them spend a month with the new kit in their home, or they swap kit with other equally obsessed individuals - what they dont do is dash out and buy every big-ticket item with a shiny faceplate and a few glowing reviews. 

 

3. A large part of the debate in this thread is not about the cost of the gear, its the momentum behind increasingly meaningless numbers in the sales pitch for new DACs. I am all for measurements - preferably independently verified - but what use can I possibly have for something which will upsample my music to frequency extremes that make no sense within the context of human hearing ? I dont care if you are a 20 year old Sonar operator - unless the military can inject bat DNA into your veins, 192kHZ is useless.

 

4, Audio jewellery looks great - no question - and I'm certainly not immune to the lure of big name brands. Whether that automatically means a 5000% increase in my enjoyment of music is a tougher question.  

 

The explosion in computer audio is fantastic for the hobby and the industry, but I believe it may have translated into a 'bigger is automatically better' mindset. If we were talking video cards for gaming, I would agree, but we aren't. Read any ad for a modern DAC and its less about the traditional pressure points around perceived enjoyment of music and more about the spec sheet. 

 

End of the day, people will buy whatever they want - that's fine with me - just dont try to tell me how much cheaper it is to be a headphone enthusiast when I know for a fact that many of the big spenders here have expensive speaker rigs and a room full of headphone amps and statement headphones. More power to them, but it begs the question : when did the gear become more important than the music ? Speakers might cost more - a lot more - but over a 5-year period I wonder whether your average 'traditional' audio enthusiast comes out on top financially .....

 

(Jessica, fwiw, your  CDP wouldn't be considered 'high-end' in traditional audio. I don't have anything on that level, but lets be realistic - to a certain privileged subset of this crazy hobby, the majority of the kit discussed on Head-Fi would be 'mid level' at best, and a lot of the Chinese gear would be beneath contempt. You alluded to the name recognition of US-made components, then made a point of slamming Schiit's budget DAC - its fairly clear that you are an elitist. If you want to impress us, give us your impressions of the dCS stack)

 

 

 

 

post #78 of 89
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beefy View Post

 

. Furthermore, in my case a single beer improves sound quality FAR beyond the improvements that changing any single piece of equipment ever has......

 


The indisputable single highest value upgrade for any hifi system. FTMFW.

 

post #79 of 89
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveBSC View Post


It's all relative. If you're listening to a HD600 or DT880 on a Schiit Asgard, obviously buying a $5,000 DAC would be dumb. On the other hand, if you have a SR-009 and a BHSE, you should definitely be using a reference level source. That doesn't necessarily mean throwing $20K at Esoteric or dCS. Something like the Eximus DAC could do perfectly well in a $10K electrostatic rig. One of those cheap TDA1543 DACs would be a lot less effective.
Meh. I just got in a new Xonar Essence One (open box to boot) for my HE-6/SLI-80 rig and I really like it. Lots of connections, great features, and it's surprisingly well built. The amp portion is about average, they claim it will drive any set of headphones in the world, but I'm sure the designers hadn't contemplated anything like the HE-6. However, that's not the reason I ordered it. The software and DAC have been fantastic. There are offerings out there that aren't nearly as polished that cost more than twice the price. Personally, I think there's a ton of expectation bias in the high-end DAC market (and cables), but that's just my opinion and I have no axe to grind with people who enjoy indulging in such things. But I guess I'm just curious how the flagship DACs are "more effective"?
Quote:
That's the thing about this or really any hobby or passion, it's often not rational. Nobody "needs" a BMW M5, a 528i looks the same and does basically the same thing. Nobody needs to spend 10% of the median household income on headphones. Technically nobody needs to spend a dollar on headphones, just buy an iPod or something that comes with earbuds in the box.
It's a coincidence that you mentioned the M5, I drive one, and the decision to go that route over a regular 5-series sedan wasn't that hard. After climbing inside and getting the feel, and then hearing the V10 rev, I was sold. Yeah, it was a little excessive, but the occasional trip to the local airport for some fun really brings a smile to my face. smily_headphones1.gif
post #80 of 89
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magick Man View Post

and then hearing the V10 rev, I was sold. Yeah, it was a little excessive, but the occasional trip to the local airport for some fun really brings a smile to my face. smily_headphones1.gif

and the smile of the many trips to the gas station... 11mpg city 17mpg hwy. 216 miles per tank.
Edited by Maxvla - 3/26/12 at 7:42pm
post #81 of 89
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxvla View Post


I don't buy the 'if my headphones cost X amount my amp and dac must cost X amount' logic. If you audition gear that you find works best for you and your other gear it shouldn't matter what the price is. If you end up liking an inexpensive amplifier but an expensive dac for your mid-priced headphones, but in the end you think it's an amazing setup, then so be it.


I was generalizing. Unfortunately with these sorts of discussions that often happens. The HD650 is famous for scaling with amplifiers, and it's not stupid at all to spend thousands of dollars on an amp for one if you happen to love the HD650 and want to get the best out of it. That being said, generally I still think that a balance of components will usually provide a better overall performance/value. Not always. I'm pretty familiar with the DT880, and in that particular case I don't think using something like a Berkeley Alpha with a DT880 makes a ton of sense. If somebody wants to do that, fine, all things for all people.

 

At the same time, those with no experience with equipment costing more than $400 maybe shouldn't criticize those of us that choose to spend more because "it's all diminishing returns nonsense, you can't hear any actual difference, measurements, blah". There are two sides to that coin.

post #82 of 89
Agreed with all above.
post #83 of 89
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxvla View Post

and the smile of the many trips to the gas station... 11mpg city 17mpg hwy. 216 miles per tank.

Most of the time I ride my CMX450 or drive the bug, the M5 isn't for every day.

and I've owned worse, I had a blown `78 T/A w/ a 455... I could watch the gas gauge drop when the carbs fully opened.
Edited by Magick Man - 3/26/12 at 8:26pm
post #84 of 89
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magick Man View Post

Personally, I think there's a ton of expectation bias in the high-end DAC market (and cables), but that's just my opinion and I have no axe to grind with people who enjoy indulging in such things. But I guess I'm just curious how the flagship DACs are "more effective"?
Quote:
That's the thing about this or really any hobby or passion, it's often not rational. Nobody "needs" a BMW M5, a 528i looks the same and does basically the same thing. Nobody needs to spend 10% of the median household income on headphones. Technically nobody needs to spend a dollar on headphones, just buy an iPod or something that comes with earbuds in the box.
It's a coincidence that you mentioned the M5, I drive one, and the decision to go that route over a regular 5-series sedan wasn't that hard. After climbing inside and getting the feel, and then hearing the V10 rev, I was sold. Yeah, it was a little excessive, but the occasional trip to the local airport for some fun really brings a smile to my face. smily_headphones1.gif

 

The input stage, sample rate conversion, filters and DAC chip/s are all important parts of a DAC, but what really makes a high-end DAC are the power supply and the analog output stage. Most of what you hear from a DAC is the final stage. The same is true for CD players. The transport mechanism itself definitely plays a role (otherwise there would be no difference in sound from digital only transports at all) as do the filters, sample rate conversion and internal DAC stage, but most of what makes a CD player is the analog output.

 

mark%20levinson%20no360S%20inside%20500pix.jpg

levinson%20390SOH_lo%20res%20inside%20500pix.jpg

 

These components vs. more pedestrian products are not that different from an M5 vs. a 550i. You know you're paying BMW A LOT more for the relative performance gained. The 550i is extremely fast, and in public road situations, the M5 is totally unnecessary. You buy it because you want it, not everything has to be rational.

 

 

 

post #85 of 89
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveBSC View Post


At the same time, those with no experience with equipment costing more than $400 maybe shouldn't criticize those of us that choose to spend more because "it's all diminishing returns nonsense, you can't hear any actual difference, measurements, blah". There are two sides to that coin.

 

Ouch. Thats a fair point, even if I have spent too many hours annoying one of the few guys with a dedicated hi-fi shop anywhere in Australia. The sticker price on some of the kit at his shop still leaves me shaking my head, but he knows he only needs to sell one of the big ticket items a month to make rent - the rest is dealing with bottom feeders like me. When I think about it, even his prices have become more 'real-world' since I staggered into the place 3 years ago. Still haven't heard a complete system there that made me want to take out a bank loan to relocate it to my place, but that might be more about his choice of music (baroque or somesuch) over my own preferences, and his obsession with vinyl. Should have bought his remaining stock of K501s - he was ecstatic to find a buyer for the 'old headphones'. An eccentric guy catering to a dwindling market, but I respect the fact that he's still in business while the others faded years ago. 

 


 

 

post #86 of 89
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveBSC View Post


These components vs. more pedestrian products are not that different from an M5 vs. a 550i. You know you're paying BMW A LOT more for the relative performance gained. The 550i is extremely fast, and in public road situations, the M5 is totally unnecessary. You buy it because you want it, not everything has to be rational.

That would be a fine point, if I could tell a difference. However, after a certain level of quality I can't discern any differences in DACs during blind testing, that isn't the case with good tube amps. It's the same with cables, for me at least. I suppose I've found my personal line in the sand and going beyond it doesn't benefit me.

The M5, OTOH, I can take to the runway or the track and I can definitely point out where the extra money went. smily_headphones1.gif
post #87 of 89

A decade of DACs (stuff I bought, enjoyed and moved on from; I assure you during the earlier years, I thought the DACs I bought sounded just as good as "giant" $5k DACs)

 

Emu 0404 -> Emu 1212 -> Zhaolu 2.5 (thought it sounded better than "major brand" $5k CDP . .. silly me)  -> SD SB3 -> Presonus CS -> Benchmark DAC1 (newest version) / CAL Alpha (for that NOS sound + triode output) -> <listend to a whole bunch of mid-priced DACs> -> SD Transporter -> Electrocompanient ECD1 -> <listend to a whole bunch of hi-end DACs, decided it's not worth my time to dither and go cheap again, like all previous times> -> Linn Klimax DS 2010 variant -> done for now.

 

 

post #88 of 89
Quote:
Originally Posted by estreeter View Post

 

Ouch. Thats a fair point, even if I have spent too many hours annoying one of the few guys with a dedicated hi-fi shop anywhere in Australia. The sticker price on some of the kit at his shop still leaves me shaking my head, but he knows he only needs to sell one of the big ticket items a month to make rent - the rest is dealing with bottom feeders like me. When I think about it, even his prices have become more 'real-world' since I staggered into the place 3 years ago. Still haven't heard a complete system there that made me want to take out a bank loan to relocate it to my place, but that might be more about his choice of music (baroque or somesuch) over my own preferences, and his obsession with vinyl. Should have bought his remaining stock of K501s - he was ecstatic to find a buyer for the 'old headphones'. An eccentric guy catering to a dwindling market, but I respect the fact that he's still in business while the others faded years ago. 


One high-end dealer that I used to visit a lot was a place called SoundEX in Philadelphia. The place was absolutely humongous by high-end dealer standards, thanks to being located in basically a suburb instead of somewhere like NYC. Due to their size, they were able to have about 24 showcase rooms, each dedicated to a single setup. Most of the rooms were in the the low 5 figure range, but they had three or four reference level setups at any one time. I remember visiting once and comparing Room 1 - Focal Grande Utopia Be, all ARC Reference components, and Room 2 - Dynaudio Confidence C4, all Mark Levinson components.

 

At the time, the Focals were 6 times more expensive than the Dynaudios, and yet the Dynaudio room absolutely destroyed the Focal room. Admittedly I've never heard a Focal speaker that I've found to be even remotely engaging, but that was my first experience with a Utopia (TOTL, no less), and I expected a hell of a lot, especially at $90K/pr. The plucky $15K/pr Dynaudios bested them so badly that I was stunned. There wasn't much deep bass (possibly the room, I'd need to hear the C4 again in another environment to be sure) but above 40Hz or so, the Dynaudios were revelatory, and threw one of the most amazing soundstages I've heard in my life, at any price.

 

Most of the high-end systems I've heard, particularly in dealer showrooms and at shows have been more like the Focal/ARC room. Superficially impressive mostly due to scale (big speakers sound big) but largely flat, unbalanced, and generally uninspiring. I'm sure that poorly designed rooms have been a large part of the issue in many cases, but the truth is there's a lot of very expensive stuff out there, and much of it just isn't that great.

 

When it all comes together though, as in that Dynaudio/Levinson room (maybe $30K in total) it's magic.

 

post #89 of 89

True - I've never thought much of the acoustics in his shop, but he doesnt seem to give a hoot. I also have no idea re the sweet spot, but I listened from different parts of the shop and it always sound airy and somehow detached from any emotional involvement. The chances of him putting on Van Halen's 'Eruption' and cranking it up are about -15.  biggrin.gif

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