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Is the Source Criminally Underrated ?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

Okay so my current setup is very modest I currently own Beyer DT 990 Pro headphones, a Fiio E7 DAC (really want the E17!!) and a Fiio E9 Headphone Amplifier. And my current setup does really well for me, I can't even imagine the more expensive dedicated setups....anyway I find that music in my system sounds different depending on the source that's playing my music. Somewhat obviously.

 

Here's the thing though, I play lossless music on my PC/laptop (plus Foobar/WASAPI etc) with my setup and it sounds okay - but when I play the same lossless music with my setup via my PS3 instead the difference is like night & day it sounds so much better on my PS3 and I'm not sure why as I'm using the same DAC (E7) but yeah my rig on laptop or PC sounds okay but my rig on my PS3 sounds absolutely awesome!!

 

 

post #2 of 22

The better the source...the better your gear will sound.

 

After years in this hobby I have learned that the source must be the number one focus.

post #3 of 22
Every system can change significantly just because of a single component. In your case, is the PS3 driving the same set of cans/IEMs as the E7? Or is your PS3 hooked up to a home theater? If that's the case then it's not just the PS3 that's making the difference. In any case, yes, source is typically "underrated" in this section of Audiophilia, mostly because of the usual, primary source type here: portable, limited storage and battery life. Even if you have huge storage in HDDs, like the iPod Classic, the buffer isn't enough and you end up spinning it all the time it's only marginally better at energy efficiency compared to an old Discman, lasting longer only because battery technology has advanced. It's not like in more traditional home audio; just look in those forums and they have a choice for keeping a climate-controlled room for their LPs in support of the system (compare that to having just 32gb SDCards, if you can even use them). Or even cars - even before mobile receivers that can take digital audio through HDDs, flashdrives and iPods/iPhones, there's a lot of places in a car to stash CDs, or even CD Changers that send digital data to the receiver (like Alpine's AiNet system). Actually, I won't be surprised if serious car audiophiles still stash CDs in the age of USBs audio because of a simple problem, same reason why I haven't jumped into all this: none of them seem to be able to process anything above 320kbps through USB input. On the flipside, you still have people here who'd pay up to $800 for a portable player whose circuitry looks a lot more like a mini-version of a $500 CD Player than a $300 iPod.
Edited by ProtegeManiac - 4/30/12 at 6:29pm
post #4 of 22

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Thommohawk View Post

...I'm using the same DAC (E7) but yeah my rig on laptop or PC sounds okay but my rig on my PS3 sounds absolutely awesome!!

 

 

 

 

I'm confused. There is no way to use the DAC on the E7 with the PS3. Somewhere in there you are using a different DAC than the E7.

post #5 of 22

I thought DAC's were overrated.

 

Well how big is the difference between 100$ and 1000$ DAC? Anyone done a blind test?

post #6 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Headzone View Post

I thought DAC's were overrated.

 

The DAC in this particular case was always the same. Therefore, the difference is either before it (not a bit perfect stream, EQ, etc.), or after it (not the same amplifier/headphones/speakers), or just imagined. It may even be something simple like the PC having noisy fans. normal_smile%20.gif Although I am not sure if the OP really used the E7 as a DAC with both the PC and PS3, or only as an amplifier in one case.


Edited by stv014 - 5/1/12 at 2:43am
post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 

I should add that when I use my E7/E9 set up on my PS3 I use the relevant cable so that I can plug a PS3 audio signal into the line in port of my laptop. This is then set to playback in settings and set to play using my E7/E9 combination unit. Same headphones and equipment all hooked up - laptop lossless in Foobar sounds okay, same music lossless on PS3 sounds amazing. 

 

Not sure why, but the difference between them really is night & day and impossible to be a placebo effect when the difference is so apparent and obvious. It just doesn't make sense to me though why there's such a huge difference but there is....


Edited by Thommohawk - 5/1/12 at 4:40am
post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thommohawk View Post

I should add that when I use my E7/E9 set up on my PS3 I use the relevant cable so that I can plug a PS3 audio signal into the line in port of my laptop. This is then set to playback in settings and set to play using my E7/E9 combination unit. Same headphones and equipment all hooked up - laptop lossless in Foobar sounds okay, same music lossless on PS3 sounds amazing. 

 

Not sure why, but the difference between them really is night & day and impossible to be a placebo effect when the difference is so apparent and obvious. It just doesn't make sense to me though why there's such a huge difference but there is....

 

 

I'm not much into console gaming, so what is that "relevant cable" that hooks up the PS3 to the laptop? Thing is, if its between two USB sources, like a laptop and a tablet, the difference in sound can be software related or hardware related if the DAC benefits from having a true 5v USB current that it gets from the laptop but not the tablet. I'm assuming the PS3 doesn't have USB out, which is why it's plugged into the laptop, so:

 

1) if it's an analog out cable from the PS3 going into the laptop's analog line input (the microphone input?) then that basically means that you decoded the digital audio using the PS3's DAC first, converted it to digital using the laptop's soundcard, then fed that signal into the E7. Which means the PS3's HD Audio DAC chip is better than the E7's (not completely unheard of, given how some people have converted PS1's into CDPlayers, or some Pioneer DVDPlayers - DV6xx and DV9xx - are great enough to double as CDPlayers), but you've actually degraded it again by using the laptop's soundcard to encode it again and then decoding it again with the E7.

 

2) if it's an optical cable from the PS3 going into the optical input (whether dedicated or multi-function 3.5mm) on the laptop, then it goes through the soundcard and out the USB, you've basically done the reverse of what people do with asynchronous USB, or USB to SPDIF inputs/processors, and converted the PS3's SPDIF signal into USB. Despite this, if it sounds "better," then most likely there's something in the software that's different. Most likely the Sony's processing is superior still, even if it's more than just a pass-through. In which case, even if that were so, the laptop had a minimal role to play in it, so it's mostly the PS3 with a more dedicated OS as digital source and a laptop functioning as a SPDIF-to-USB box, as opposed to a laptop OS running all sorts of things. Think of it in terms of how your gaming desktop computer will need to have, at times, twice the processing power of your console unit (and you still upgrade it much sooner than the console) even if you're running virtually the same games.

 

Also, it could be because the PS3 is "doping" the signal digitally, so it does it regardless of whether it has to use digital or analog out. Like Alpine's MediaXpander (is this still around? I've been using Pioneer for five years) which basically adds a different layer of EQ to the bass and treble to compensate for what is lost in lossy encoding, so you end up thinking even actual audio CDs sound better on it than the non-MediaXpander unit. I mean, if installing a different media player, without using the EQ and using Asio, etc (I use MediaMonkey, Foobar and Blackbird, and they all sound a lot better - warmer and clearer, more "alive" - than Windows Media Player with FLAC plug-in) can make a difference in making it all clearer, digital reprocessing could also help the PS3.


Edited by ProtegeManiac - 5/1/12 at 3:27pm
post #9 of 22

Yeah I'm curious about how this is actually hooked up. 

 

If you've got two digital sources feeding the same DAC, amp, and cans, with the same signal, there should be no difference (before you bite my head off: note that "the same signal" bit). 

 

It's entirely possible you've got something screwy going on here, or you're simply believing a difference exists when none does (and this is not meant as an insult; it's an understood reality of the human mind - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimenter's_bias). 

 

Anyways, to the broader question, "highest quality possible" from end to end is an ideal - of course if we take more data into account, we get to a point of equivalency at certain bits of the chain, or places that usually represent large deficiencies. For example the distortion products of many headphones, speakers, and so on are substantially larger than anything else in the chain - that's a problem. The reality of different DACs, amps, etc will become a non-issue once you've met certain burdens. Of course if you've got the best equipment in the world and dump garbage into it, it isn't going to help you. 

post #10 of 22

The fact that I can quite easily ABX different softwares (Amarra vs Decibel vs iTunes for example) with my current setup (HD800, Phonitor, Violectric V800, basic cables), while all of them supposedly bit perfect (and without obviously using computer up sampling), tells me that there might be a lot more potential improvement to be made with digital audio. We're seeing now widely different solutions appearing on the market (like for example a multitude of USB to SPDIF adapters, al of them using slightly different designs), we'll probably need a bit more time to sort out which implementation gives the best results. So yes, I think source is underrated, but I don't limit my definition of "source" as just a DAC, and I don't think it's just by spending more money on one specific DAC that it's going to improve, but by research and development of DACs, transports and softwares in general.

post #11 of 22

I dont know about the source being criminally underrated - plenty of love for the DX100 - but this thread has been criminally ignored:

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/582370/streaming-audio-devices-review-and-information-thread-updated-4-23-with-jf-digital-review

 

There are some very big names moving into this space, but I still think the Head-Fi focus is on shiny new DACs. I look forward to revisiting this thread in 2014 to see how the cards played out - my tip is to avoid USB-only DACs .... 

post #12 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post

Yeah I'm curious about how this is actually hooked up. 

 

If you've got two digital sources feeding the same DAC, amp, and cans, with the same signal, there should be no difference (before you bite my head off: note that "the same signal" bit). 

 

Here's how I have it hooked up, and if anyone has similar equipment it'd be great if you would try this and let me know what you think, but I have mine hooked up like this:

 

PS3 (with lossless files)

3.5mm cable out to the line in port of the laptop (set to listen/record the line in port on windows side)

Fiio E7 plugged in to the Fiio E9

Fiio E9 plugged in to the laptop via USB

Headphones plugged in to the Fiio E9

 

And that's it.

 

I get dual audio streams 1 from PS3 and 1 from laptop.

 

Laptop audio sounds same old average regardless of what else is hooked up or not. It's not bad but it's just not brilliant either. And I use Foobar with lossless files and wasapi etc.

PS3 though to me sounds miles better. A lot more immersive, like the band or artist is actually playing in the same room as you.

 

Anyone with a Fiio E7/E9, laptop and PS3 do try it. See what you think. Because the difference for me between playing music on my PS3 compared to laptop software using the same hardware is night and day.

post #13 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thommohawk View Post

Here's how I have it hooked up, and if anyone has similar equipment it'd be great if you would try this and let me know what you think, but I have mine hooked up like this:

 

PS3 (with lossless files)

3.5mm cable out to the line in port of the laptop (set to listen/record the line in port on windows side)

Fiio E7 plugged in to the Fiio E9

Fiio E9 plugged in to the laptop via USB

Headphones plugged in to the Fiio E9

 

Is the line output of the laptop also connected to the E9, or do you play the digital audio stream captured from the line input with the E7 using some software ?

Since you are using the analog output of the PS3, it is quite likely that you are comparing audio that is not level matched, in addition to the possibility of DSP being applied by the PS3.

post #14 of 22

In my experience PS3 sounds pretty mid HIFI. Not clean with a slight harshness that is characteristic. Bass are there, trebles are extended but there something quite not magical with PS3, sound is OK at most. Not involving like high end digital sources. In my humble experience that is what I found about PS3.

That is playing PCM optical output.
 

post #15 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post

Yeah I'm curious about how this is actually hooked up. 

 

If you've got two digital sources feeding the same DAC, amp, and cans, with the same signal, there should be no difference (before you bite my head off: note that "the same signal" bit). 

 

It's entirely possible you've got something screwy going on here, or you're simply believing a difference exists when none does (and this is not meant as an insult; it's an understood reality of the human mind - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimenter's_bias). 

 

Anyways, to the broader question, "highest quality possible" from end to end is an ideal - of course if we take more data into account, we get to a point of equivalency at certain bits of the chain, or places that usually represent large deficiencies. For example the distortion products of many headphones, speakers, and so on are substantially larger than anything else in the chain - that's a problem. The reality of different DACs, amps, etc will become a non-issue once you've met certain burdens. Of course if you've got the best equipment in the world and dump garbage into it, it isn't going to help you. 

 

Just to add, I think DACs reach the point of diminishing returns much quicker, at a much cheaper cost than the rest of your equipment.

So criminally underrated? Not really.

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