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How to make sure if the DAC is working?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

So, I have a weird question.  How to make sure that my standalone DAC is doing the sound processing, and not just sending the signal that it receives from the PC to my amplifier unchanged?

 

My chain looks like this:    PC -----coaxial--->  Musical Fidelity M1DAC    -----rca-----> amp   ----->    headphones

 

Now, the weird thing is,  I hear no difference in sound between my PC integrated sound card (some Realtek...)  and the M1DAC (which is a 800$ DAC, apparently one of the best if not the best under 1000$, and the one that I auditioned in the hi-fi store on a speaker system did sound significantly better than Cambridge Audio Dacmagic).   Also, there is no difference between my Samsung Galaxy S (completely stock, no kernel updates, just stock media player it comes with) as a source and either of those.  All three sound absolutely identical. Confirmed by me and other two people in blind tests, using high quality FLAC's in 24bit, Bellari HA540 tube amplifier and Sennheiser HD650, AKG Q701 or Ultrasone HFi2400 headphones, all more than revealing enough.

I understand that there is no difference between my smartphone and my integrated sound card on motherboard, because they're the same quality level DAC's,  but what about the M1DAC?

 

This had me suspicious that my M1 isn't actually doing the processing, because how else would it not sound any different than a cheap integrated chip on the motherboard or inside the smartphone. And when I say no different, I mean no different. Absolutely no difference in sound, none whatsoever, confirmed by me and two other people in A-B blind testing.  And its proper A-B testing, since amplifier has two inputs, so I can play same song file from two sources at the same time, volume matched, and can switch between them without any pauses in music playing, and there is absolutely no difference in sound between either of them, they all sound identical in every single detail and nuance in songs.

 

So, is it possible, that while the DAC does receive signals from the PC, it doesn't actually change them, or fiddle with them, but just sends them unchanged into the headphone amp?  Its the same story no matter which connection between PC and DAC I use...USB, Spdif, Coax,  no changes in sound,  and always all LED's  (incoming bit rate and upsampling bit rate) that should be lighted up are shinning, as if the M1 IS doing the processing and upsampling.   

 

There are two possible answers, either a new 800$ DAC doesn't sound any different than a integrated chip on the 4 year old motherboard and in my 2 year old smartphone, or the DAC is malfunctioning / not doing the sound processing...

 

What do you guys think?


Edited by derbigpr - 6/30/12 at 4:35am
post #2 of 9

The information delivered from the coaxial port is just "0"s and "1"s, so if your DAC won´t be working you won´t hear anything.

On the other hand, your testimony is very meaningful...

post #3 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagual View Post

The information delivered from the coaxial port is just "0"s and "1"s, so if your DAC won´t be working you won´t hear anything.

On the other hand, your testimony is very meaningful...

 

P.S.: take a look at my signature

post #4 of 9

When I bought my CD player I compared a Shanling to a Rotel to a Cambridge CD player. The difference in sound was virtually negligible.

 

I finally bought the Shanling because it had a vacuum tube and solid state output stage and HDCD processing.  It was more about features than it was about sound. However the vacuum tube output does add a touch of warmth to the sound.

 

I'm not too surprised at what you hear, the difference in sound quality between good DACs is very small.

post #5 of 9

@derbigpr, what headphones are you using if you don't mind me asking? At least in my opinion whether you can hear a difference or not with DAC/Amps added in the chain depends a lot on the synergy of the headphones you're using in that chain. I tend to feel that different headphones may reveal more than others the effectiveness of the other components in the chain.

post #6 of 9

I'm not surprised you are unable to hear a difference but if you are concerned and want to see if there really is a difference then do a RMAA loopback test on both.

 

This will give you accurate figures so even if you cannot hear anything it will prove they are different at a technical level.

 

 

 

http://audio.rightmark.org/test_results.shtml

 

Be interesting to see your results.

 

I'd expect the expensive device to be marginally better - but not necessarily. Be interesting to find out.

post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by AnakChan View Post

@derbigpr, what headphones are you using if you don't mind me asking? At least in my opinion whether you can hear a difference or not with DAC/Amps added in the chain depends a lot on the synergy of the headphones you're using in that chain. I tend to feel that different headphones may reveal more than others the effectiveness of the other components in the chain.

 

I'm using Hd650's, Q701's and Ultrasone HFi2400.  I think all of these headphones should be more than good enough for hearing a difference between a 800$ standalone DAC and an integrated sound card on a 4 year old motherboard.

post #8 of 9
I agree,
those 'phones should be good enough, resolving enough.

I can hear the difference between my $2200 Shanling CD player and my $275 iBasso D12
DAC, but the difference is not as big as I thought it would be.
post #9 of 9

The best value for money is in transducers (speakers and headphones).

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