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Samsung Galaxy S vs. Musical Fidelity M1DAC - unbelievable, does my DAC work?

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 

Let me start off by saying that this comparison was made totally by accident, it was not meant in the first place to compare the DAC's in my phone and in my 800$ standalone DAC praised by many as one of the best best on the market, but what I found after just being curious about how the phone connected to the amplifier sounds, made me very very ... disturbed, and after about 5 hours of testing by myself and 2 of my relatives, I just had to write about it here. 

 

Headphones used in comparison are Sennheiser HD650, AKG Q701 and Ultrasone HFi2400, all great headphones in the 400-500$ price bracket, and the amplifier used is the Bellari HA540, a 300$ tube amp with loads of gain, and a clear, neutral, uncolored, transparent and very detailed sound. So, a setup more than good enough to be able to tell the difference between the sound coming from a 2 year old 200$ phone, and a 800$ DAC.  Well...

 

Before I go into the comparison and my findings, first let me ask, and this is the most important part of my post....is it possible that a DAC, connected into the PC trough the SPDIF, and then trough RCA's into the amplifier, is NOT actually doing the work, but just receiving the signal that it gets from the motherboard integrated DAC, and then sends it unchanged into the amplifier?

In other words, is it possible that even though the DAC is between the PC and the amplifier, that the PC is actually doing the D to A converting, and not the DAC?   I'm pretty sure it's not possible, but that's the only reasonable explanation why a 800$ DAC would not sound better than a 200$ phone. 

 

I'm not using any ASIO or similar plug in's in Foobar2000, or anything like that. I did try ASIO, made absolutely no difference to sound, except crashing my foobar from time to time and making me unable to control digital volume. So I just deleted it.  The only thing enabled in my Windows 7 sound settings is the "Digital Audio (S/PDIF) - high definition audio device".  That's the DAC, even though it doesn't say any info about the DAC when I open the properties of that device, it just says the driver is provided by Microsoft.

 

So, lets go into details.  Comparison is done so that the DAC is connected to one input on my amp,  and the Galaxy S is connected to the second input on my amp.  They are then matched to be at the same volume by adjusting the volume on my Galaxy S to 14/15 in the basic, stock media player that comes with the phone, absolutely nothing upgraded, flat EQ, no effects, no kernel updates, nothing. Stock phone, like out of the box.  Digital volume on the M1DAC is at max, as well as its at max in the Foobar2000.     Song files used are the same, and are all FLAC's. 

 

After those preparations,  I then press the play button in Foobar and on my phone at the same time, so that songs are playing simultaneously and at exactly the same volume level.

 

After closing my eyes, and then pressing the input selector button, surprise surprise, ABSOLUTELY NO difference in sound.  And I mean, ABSOLUTELY NONE. None whatsoever. Not even changes in sound signature. Zero. I guess that means both have a flat frequency response. I was mindfcked when I first realized that my phone sounds exactly the same as my 800$ DAC.  I mean, what the hell? Is this a joke? Is the Galaxy S a steal for the money, or is the M1DAC a pile of crap?  And in comparison to other DAC (CA Dac Magic) I compared it to in the Hi-Fi store on speakers, it actually sounded slighlty better.   I could not believe what I was hearing so I asked my dad and uncle who happened to be around the house to have a quick listen as well.

 

I used a wide variety of songs, from rock, jazz ,classical, vocal, heavy bass songs, songs heavy on details or high frequencies, or with big soundstages...even used 30 tracks from "The ultimate demonstation disc".  Nowhere did I find even the most subtle differences in the sound between the two, not in signature, not in impact, not in clarity, soundstage, details, separation, imaging, extension in either direction...nothing, on any volume, on any headphone, on any track, no matter how complex or demanding. And when I say no difference, I really mean no difference, both inputs sounded 100% identical.

 

I'm so sorry right now that I sold my Asus Xonar ST and am unable to do the comparison between it and the M1, but they sounded pretty similar too with ST having harsh highs, although I never A-B tested them.

 

I'm sorry if this post sounds weird, or like trolling (as I'm sure it does, I wouldn't believe it either),  but 2 other people except me did blind tests as well, both with a experience in hi-fi and both having pretty good systems, and none of us could hear any differences.  None of us could even tell the slightest difference between the two, let alone say which one is which.   And remember, we were able to change inputs instantly, without any pauses in the music, so its the purest form of A-B testing imaginable.

 

To me, this is an eye opener.  I wish to encourage other people who are able to do similar comparisons, to do so. Compare your cheap DAC side to side with a more expensive DAC, and see for yourself.  Now I believe those posts about comparing 100$ amps with 1000$ ones and not hearing differences in blind testing that I laughed at...

 

I'm still not sure whether I should praise the Galaxy S for sounding so good, or should I beat the M1 with a bat into small pieces for costing 800$ and not being any better than a much cheaper (that also does many other functions) source.


Edited by derbigpr - 6/29/12 at 4:39pm
post #2 of 37

oooh. front row seats.popcorn.gif

post #3 of 37

spdi/f is a digital signal and is one way.  Meaning, that A) if you put an analog signal into a dac through spdi/f (coax) nothing will happen because it cannot process the signal and B) your computer sends the signal and that's it, your dac does not communicate with the sound card, the signal flow is only one way.  Hence why the dac will not show up under your devices in windows.

post #4 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by brainbucket View Post

spdi/f is a digital signal and is one way.  Meaning, that A) if you put an analog signal into a dac through spdi/f (coax) nothing will happen because it cannot process the signal and B) your computer sends the signal and that's it, your dac does not communicate with the sound card, the signal flow is only one way.  Hence why the dac will not show up under your devices in windows.

 

 

Yes, but, obviously, something is not right at the moment, a phone and a stand alone 800$ DAC cannot sound identical, there's just no logic to it.  And even when I use the USB from PC to the DAC (and then in the playback setting the DAC does show up), the sound is identical.


Edited by derbigpr - 6/29/12 at 5:38pm
post #5 of 37
Not really surprising that you find Galaxy S very good (WM8994). I have voodoo-ed mine and it sounds a lot better than NuForce uDAC-2 ($120), which itself isn't far from some older devices costing four times more. Sound signatures are quite different, though. Galaxy S is laid-back, has more body, a great bass. NuForce sounds more harsh and distorted, but has a better sense of speed and is more dynamic.
 
Interesting that you find both devices indistinguishable, especially given this price point. I would expect this being the case with much more expensive devices, above two grands.

Edited by axw - 6/30/12 at 2:04pm
post #6 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by axw View Post

Interesting that you find both devices indistinguishable, especially given this price point. I would expect this being the case with much more expensive devices, above two grands.

 

I tell you, not even the slightest difference in sounds when switching between the sources, even when someone else is pressing the input switching button, and I have my eyes closed focusing as hard as I can to hear any difference.

post #7 of 37

Maybe if you spend another $800 on cables you can hear an improvement in the sound. wink_face.gif

 

Joking aside, this is a pretty interesting find. A good DAC shouldn't alter the sound quality, rather it should be transparent. Maybe in this case, both DACs were good enough to be "transparent," and there is no need to spend hundreds on a super audiophile DAC.   

post #8 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Neosk View Post

Maybe if you spend another $800 on cables you can hear an improvement in the sound. wink_face.gif

 

Joking aside, this is a pretty interesting find. A good DAC shouldn't alter the sound quality, rather it should be transparent. Maybe in this case, both DACs were good enough to be "transparent," and there is no need to spend hundreds on a super audiophile DAC.   

 

 

Yea...about cables, funny thing too.  For connecting the DAC to amplifier I used a 50$ RCA cable,  and for connecting the Galaxy S to amp I used an extremely cheap 1/8inch to RCA cable, which I got in bundle with my motherboard, in fact, there were 4 of them in the box, so imagine how expensive they are. So much for cables... :P

 

And yea, I think you're right about DAC's being transparent.  Both of these simply have ruler flat frequency responses, and those few differences in their measurements like higher SNR in M1 or similar, are way past what a human ear can hear. I doubt anyone would notice a difference between 120 and 110 dB signal to noise ratio. Same with other measurements.  IMHO, spending more than 200$ on a DAC today is a waste of money, especially if you want a neutral sound, and even more so if you want a sound card, which offer much much greater value than separate DAC's.   IMHO, if I had the knowledge I have now,  I'd stick to my Fiio E9 + Asus Xonar DX that I had 2 years ago.  Since then I bought many amps, sound cards and DAC, probably lost 1000$ on reselling them, and I never gained anything worth mentioning. New did any of my amp or DAC updates offer considerable upgrade, and most of improvements were probably placebo.

post #9 of 37
Thread Starter 

I've been listening to the Galaxy S for about 3 hours now...I'm dumbfounded by how great this phone sounds...absolutely stunned.  I'm taking the MF M1DAC back to the store to shove it up someone's bottom. And I advice everyone else who bought a standalone DAC that costs more than 200$ to do the same, you've been ripped off.

post #10 of 37

The Galaxy S was tested against an Audio-gd NFB-12

 

http://dl.project-voodoo.org/RMAA/reports/nfb-12-galaxys-voodoosound-load-hd650.htm

 

it acquitted itself very well apart from crosstalk which while poor is still low enough to probably be no big deal


Edited by nick_charles - 7/1/12 at 9:39am
post #11 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by nick_charles View Post

The Galaxy S was tested against an Audio-gd NFB-12

 

http://dl.project-voodoo.org/RMAA/reports/nfb-12-galaxys-voodoosound-load-hd650.htm

 

it acquitted itself very well apart from crosstalk which while poor is still low enough to probably be no big deal

 

 

Thanks for this info, very impressive measurements, apart from that crosstalk, but its still better than some cheaper DAC's, and what matters is the listening experience. Sounds is extremely clear, well defined, tight, extension in both directions as seen here is very good.  Soundstage is great, separation is great...its just a great sounding source, not just for being a smartphone.

 

And those measurements are straight out of the phone, without a standalone amp, which significantly improve the sound. Plugging the headphones directly into the Galaxy doesn't sound that good, but using the amp in between makes the sound amazing.


Edited by derbigpr - 7/1/12 at 11:08am
post #12 of 37

Wow, Audio-gd measurements are pathetic, even for a $200 DAC.

post #13 of 37

Interesting... Wondering whether I should get a second hand SGS and voodoo mod it for use as a dedicated PMP.  It would definitely be better than my SGS2 but curious to find out how much better it is...

post #14 of 37

Did you try doing a sighted test? biggrin.gif

I think Wolfson is the most popular DAC chip out there, and its possible you'll find it in a few mid to high end DACs as well. So unless there's a clear attempt at using different filters or amp characteristics, you may find them to be similar sounding.

post #15 of 37
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by proton007 View Post

Did you try doing a sighted test? biggrin.gif

I think Wolfson is the most popular DAC chip out there, and its possible you'll find it in a few mid to high end DACs as well. So unless there's a clear attempt at using different filters or amp characteristics, you may find them to be similar sounding.

 

 

You mean blind test? Yes. I did it, and 2 other people did it as well.  And both sources were completely stock, no EQ's, no filters or settings, everything at default.

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