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A natural sounding DAC. Does it even exist? - Page 3

post #31 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by gnarlsagan View Post

Very interesting info! 

 

Currawong and FSonicSmith: I still don't understand "natural." Is it a perception of sound based on one's prior listening habits? For example, if one is used to some type of sound presentation or sound quality that older components exhibit, will that quality come to represent that person's definition of "natural?"

 

My complaint was more with the clearly unnatural sound coming out of many DACs. My recent experience has been with the Calyx DAC 24/192. Using USB input direct from my computer it is detailed but I don't feel as if I"m listening to music. Using my Audiophilleo 1 + Pure Power transport instead, along with a regulated USB power supply, it does. The amount of detail seems to have increased only a tiny bit, but instruments now sound beautiful and real and bring about the same enjoyment I get listening to live music. 

 

The only DAC I have here that I can feed a (measurably poor) optical input is the Parasound, with its PMD100, and still get something that sounds like real instruments. Maybe I should have bought a Berkeley Alpha DAC in the first place (same people who designed the PMD100).

post #32 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by mink70 View Post

 

I appreciate your response, but let's don't get into another eternal argument about objective sound vs. coloration. Most, if not all, perfectionist audio components are "designed to be invisible," but not a single one has yet succeeded. And digital fails in this regard differently than analog. From reading about people's experiences, I don't think I'm alone in finding most inexpensive digital sources to be musicality-challenged. And what I'm looking for is just to relax, forget about the gear and get into the listening. 

The ODAC (and O2 Amplifier) was designed to be completely transparent. Didn't read much into this thread but i think that's what your getting into. Hope this helps :]

post #33 of 42

Analog guys coming to the digital world commonly are fond of the TubeDAC from what I've heard (it's popular among the folks of Audiokarma).

I can't speak for it's quality, though, since I'm quite fond of digital's "cleaner" sound.

post #34 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xaborus View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by mink70 View Post

 

I appreciate your response, but let's don't get into another eternal argument about objective sound vs. coloration. Most, if not all, perfectionist audio components are "designed to be invisible," but not a single one has yet succeeded. And digital fails in this regard differently than analog. From reading about people's experiences, I don't think I'm alone in finding most inexpensive digital sources to be musicality-challenged. And what I'm looking for is just to relax, forget about the gear and get into the listening. 

The ODAC (and O2 Amplifier) was designed to be completely transparent. Didn't read much into this thread but i think that's what your getting into. Hope this helps :]

 

The results are interesting considering. I pinched a friend's ODAC and gave it a run. Where it really shined compared to the high-end gear I have here was if I plugged it into the USB hub I bought from Vaunix (which was designed to power their signal generators and so provides a good power supply compared to that coming from a computer). Then it really scares the high-end gear. It wont replace any of it anytime soon though, because it's a one-trick pony. 

 

I think what is going on is, compared to the more vintage gear, the newer USB audio receivers available are far better than the old BB ones of before. That, along with the new Sabre chips allow much higher fidelity with less effort than was previously required.  The Calyx DAC is an example of that. Ignoring the price it's a relatively simple design compared to the Parasound and Audio-gd units.

 

The thing about high-end audio is, however, that much of the market is still focussed on spinning disks and fussing over CD and SACD transport quality (if not vinyl). I know I can get excellent results from a computer and the newer DACs with asyc and other high-quality USB solutions are examples of that.  What I discovered is that the older DACs without USB, depending on what's inside, in my experience, could be very transport-sensitive and the ones I've tried sometimes sounded harsh if a poor transport was used, leading back to my original complaint about the sound out of many DACs impressing me as being unnatural. There seem to be valid technical reasons for that. The Audiophilleo or other high-quality USB converter effects the same as a top-of-the-line transport and can transform an old, but already over-designed DAC by both dealing with jitter issues, as well as the quality of the S/PDIF output.  

 

I think much of the issue will become moot once the Tenor TE8802, TAS1020B or VIA 32-bit chipsets become the norm in DACs, unless one spins CDs (or SACDs) still. For those people, encouraging them to use a good streaming transport after ripping their collection to a computer is probably the way to go.

post #35 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post

 

The results are interesting considering. I pinched a friend's ODAC and gave it a run. Where it really shined compared to the high-end gear I have here was if I plugged it into the USB hub I bought from Vaunix (which was designed to power their signal generators and so provides a good power supply compared to that coming from a computer). Then it really scares the high-end gear. It wont replace any of it anytime soon though, because it's a one-trick pony. 

 

I think what is going on is, compared to the more vintage gear, the newer USB audio receivers available are far better than the old BB ones of before. That, along with the new Sabre chips allow much higher fidelity with less effort than was previously required.  The Calyx DAC is an example of that. Ignoring the price it's a relatively simple design compared to the Parasound and Audio-gd units.

 

The thing about high-end audio is, however, that much of the market is still focussed on spinning disks and fussing over CD and SACD transport quality (if not vinyl). I know I can get excellent results from a computer and the newer DACs with asyc and other high-quality USB solutions are examples of that.  What I discovered is that the older DACs without USB, depending on what's inside, in my experience, could be very transport-sensitive and the ones I've tried sometimes sounded harsh if a poor transport was used, leading back to my original complaint about the sound out of many DACs impressing me as being unnatural. There seem to be valid technical reasons for that. The Audiophilleo or other high-quality USB converter effects the same as a top-of-the-line transport and can transform an old, but already over-designed DAC by both dealing with jitter issues, as well as the quality of the S/PDIF output.  

 

I think much of the issue will become moot once the Tenor TE8802, TAS1020B or VIA 32-bit chipsets become the norm in DACs, unless one spins CDs (or SACDs) still. For those people, encouraging them to use a good streaming transport after ripping their collection to a computer is probably the way to go.

 

Is there any USB hub that you'd recommend that isn't $200? (If you're talking about the one I think you are, the Vaunix Lab Brick.) And why would you say the ODAC is a one trick pony? What is it's one trick and what can other DACs do that it cannot?

How would you classify the sound on a normal PC USB port?

post #36 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by gnarlsagan View Post

Very interesting info! 

 

Currawong and FSonicSmith: I still don't understand "natural." Is it a perception of sound based on one's prior listening habits? For example, if one is used to some type of sound presentation or sound quality that older components exhibit, will that quality come to represent that person's definition of "natural?"

 

Here is another idea: Does one's perception of "natural" correlate with the setting one imagines for the music? For example, do "natural" sounding components aid in creating the illusion of more space or distance from the listener to the sound? If so, is this phenomenon caused by lack of definition? A more specific example: if I am listening to an orchestra in a concert hall, there will be echo, low level audience noise, sound reflections etc. Do these extra non-music sounds correlate to a lack of definition in analog playback and therefore result in increased realism or natural sound? If this is partly the case, then digital might represent an impossible to achieve fidelity that doesn't occur in natural human hearing, only in well placed microphones and recording equipment. 

 

Thanks in advance if you can address some of these questions. 

No. The OP referred to "tone". When most of us talk about natural sound in the discussion of digital's shortcomings, it's about tone. Do trumpets convey the throaty rasp of trumpets? Does piano have the tone(s) of real piano? Refer back to my analogy to digital video and think of audio bits as video pixels. From an appropriate distance you don't see the individual pixels but get too close to the screen or glass and you do and once in while there might be transmission glitches where the scene breaks up entirely. Old analogue film used to have it's own host of defects-jumps, blips and film blemishes we learned to ignore, but the image always appeared more, well, what we call "film-like". Analogue sound contains more gross defects than digital, but when done right, it gets tone correct. I am not trying to convince any of you that one is inherently superior to the other. If you go to an audio show, you will inevitably find a room that features Shindo and Audio Note (which I don't own btw) and you will hear how refreshing the sound is compared to the high power mega-bass systems featured in most rooms. All of home audio involves compromises. You can't have it all, no matter how hard you try. The Shindo/Audio Note combo (or any number of low power SE tube amps featuring hand wound custom transformers paired with Lowther single driver cross-overless speakers) represent an extreme of the sacrifice range-emphasizing tone over all else-sacrificing the low end, high end of the frequency scale, sacrificing slam/macrodynamics, but nailing micro dynamics. 


Edited by FSonicSmith - 11/24/12 at 6:19am
post #37 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by Taowolf51 View Post

Is there any USB hub that you'd recommend that isn't $200? (If you're talking about the one I think you are, the Vaunix Lab Brick.) And why would you say the ODAC is a one trick pony? What is it's one trick and what can other DACs do that it cannot?

How would you classify the sound on a normal PC USB port?

 

http://aurorasound.jp/BusPowerPro.html but that's not much cheaper after shipping from Japan and you'd need an adaptor for the ODAC.

 

The ODAC is a one-trick pony because it does only one thing: Give you fixed audio output from computer-sourced USB. 

 

The sound out of a computer's USB? Harsher than out of the hub. 

post #38 of 42
Odac and o2amp in a budget. Benchmark dac1 if you want to spend more.
post #39 of 42

If you get a chance to listen to Red Wine Audios Isabellina, this might be what you're after...Check it out:-)

post #40 of 42
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by FSonicSmith View Post

No. The OP referred to "tone". When most of us talk about natural sound in the discussion of digital's shortcomings, it's about tone. Do trumpets convey the throaty rasp of trumpets? Does piano have the tone(s) of real piano? Refer back to my analogy to digital video and think of audio bits as video pixels. From an appropriate distance you don't see the individual pixels but get too close to the screen or glass and you do and once in while there might be transmission glitches where the scene breaks up entirely. Old analogue film used to have it's own host of defects-jumps, blips and film blemishes we learned to ignore, but the image always appeared more, well, what we call "film-like". Analogue sound contains more gross defects than digital, but when done right, it gets tone correct. I am not trying to convince any of you that one is inherently superior to the other. If you go to an audio show, you will inevitably find a room that features Shindo and Audio Note (which I don't own btw) and you will hear how refreshing the sound is compared to the high power mega-bass systems featured in most rooms. All of home audio involves compromises. You can't have it all, no matter how hard you try. The Shindo/Audio Note combo (or any number of low power SE tube amps featuring hand wound custom transformers paired with Lowther single driver cross-overless speakers) represent an extreme of the sacrifice range-emphasizing tone over all else-sacrificing the low end, high end of the frequency scale, sacrificing slam/macrodynamics, but nailing micro dynamics. 

 

Exactly right. One of the best descriptions I've read yet of the issue I was asking about. Analog at it's best, though grossly flawed, manages to capture tone—not just the exact timbres of instruments, but things like weight, presence, and body. As well as qualities that sometimes bring reviewers to describe a component as tonally colorful or dramatic. The very aspects of recorded sound that convince us that a real musical event is happening in front of us. These aspects don't exist on the same spectrum as THD, frequency extension, and the rest of the commonly measured data. As FSonicSmith points out, certain components prioritize these qualities above all else, which is why I've spent a long time saving for the Shindo gear I currently own. Audio Note belongs to the same camp, as does a lot of the better vintage stuff. Some reviewers prize these qualities as well—just read Art Dudley in Stereophile, the best writer ever on audio (and a Shindo/Audio Note owner.) While digital surpasses analog in many aspects of playback—and certainly in convenience—it cannot seem to crack the all-important realm of tone. Tone, by the way, does not equal coloration (as some folks seem to believe)—Shindo and AN amplification measures superbly. Interestingly, digital has the same problem in the realm of photography. While digital cameras have exceeded film emulsion in terms of resolution, sensitivity, dynamic range and virtually every technical parameter, sensors cannot seem to capture the pleasing warmth and organic qualities of film. Dozens of applications now attempt to give digital images the look of a particular slide or negative film, with pretty poor results. The main reason why the commanding majority of the top fine art photographers—and many top photojournalists—continue to shoot film instead of the far more convenient, economical and technically capable digital imagers. I suppose that film, like vinyl, can be said to have tone.

post #41 of 42
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by spicahead View Post

I am the original owner of Spica TC-50s, speakers renowned for their natural sound. I've never wanted to replace them, and instead, have always bought components that would augment their performance. Most recently, I bought a Schiit Bifrost, a DAC that is designed to be natural. I recommend it 100%.

Funny, I still own an old pair of Spica Angelus speakers. Some of the most remarkable ever built, by the brilliant, sadly out-of-commission John Bau—I wrote about them years ago for Listener. I know a lot of folks who have held on to their Spicas. They are unique and weird and wonderful.

post #42 of 42

I'll chime in. A musical and relaxed dac that doesn't sound smoothed over and cost under a grand? That's a tall order. IMO You're better off hunting down some vintage dacs. I own a Pink Triangle turntable with Accuphase cart which I have always held in high regards as a benchmark for any dac I come across. I have owned many dacs and players and only two stand out. Both cost well over a grand. Out of those two, one sounds nearly indistinguishable from the Pink Triangle and the other just well...annihilated it and was the closest thing to sounding like live music I ever had. Those two dacs are the Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1B and the MBL 1511D. The Audio Note is the one that sounds indistinguishable to the turn table. It has been the only dac that I owned that just nails tone on every instrument (especially cymbals) and cd's sound just like vinyl. I'm sure Audio Note's higher end models will sound even better but I've been very satisfied with the Dac Kit 2.1B and I highly recommend it to any vinyl aficionado looking to get into digital. Bottom line, you've got to spend over a grand to get exactly what you're looking for. Although there are some fine cheaper vintage dacs with good tone, they all smooth over to some degree in my experience.    


Edited by computerparts - 12/8/12 at 10:32pm
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