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