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Something has got to be wrong with my system, please help me solve it!

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

My gear consists of a Musical Fidelity M1HPA connected to a DIY USB dac made for me by a friend who knows what he's doing, and he said to me this DAC trumps most things you'll hear in stores. He also made a cable to use between the M1 and the DAC. The DAC is connected via an Audioquest Forrest USB cable to an iMac running iTunes FLAC. 

 

I'm not a cable believer but I'll go through this stuff anyway; the M1 is connected via the including power cable to one of these: http://www.99musik.se/attachment.php?attachmentid=26406&d=1289390622&thumb=1 (I consider myself educated in English but couldn't remember what these are called). The DAC is connected in the same way. 

The headphones used are the Senn HD 800 and the Denon D600. 

 

A while ago, I compared the sound of this entire desktop system using the HD 800, with that of the iPhone 4. The phone had no problem driving the HD 800 and both sources sounded EXACTLY the same, possibly with a slight increase in dynamics using the desktop system. This chocked me, I tell you. 

I simply thought that much of the Hi-fi hobby is audiophile BS, and the iPhone is simply very good sounding. I've heard myself that differences between sources are minimal, not cable-minimal but by no means as large as those between headphones/speakers. 

 

But now, I compared the D600 to the HD 800. The HD 800 has much less bass, a bit smoother, fuller sounding midrange and more even, coherent treble but there was no difference in terms of clarity/resolution between them. WTF?!

I tried disconnecting all other electronics (lamp, router, hard-drive etc) from the power socket but no difference. 

 

Something must be wrong, is it these http://www.99musik.se/attachment.php?attachmentid=26406&d=1289390622&thumb=1 who bottleneck the system? Is it that the power of this house is below average (my friend suggested this, he said I should try an AC cleaner)? 

 

If you help me solve this depressing issue I will be very grateful :) If not, I'll probably sell the HD 800. Don't want to, but what reason is there to keep them when a headphone half it's price does everything better for my needs? 

 

I've heard the HD 800, STAX headphones etc outside where I am and certainly I've heard great differences then. No problem hearing how the SR-009 was significantly more clear sounding than the Audez'e LCD-2 for example. I'm convinced the HD 800s can sound much better as I've heard it myself and that there is something wrong with just my gear. 

 

Thanks! 

post #2 of 17

Hats off to you - you just tipped the holy cow ;-)

 

Seriously though I've always felt that the difference between amps and dacs is way, way overstated (I firmly believe that 95% of the sound you get out of a system is due to the speakers/headphones and that unless you have a truly crappy starting point very little is to be gained there). Also most people (apart from so called "golden ears" or audio professionals) will struggle to make out or much less pin-point differences in amps) - like many I am neither.

 

Similarly differences between different headphones of the same overall "series") i.e. between a Grado SR80 and a Grado PS500 is very gradual - I own both of these and while there is a difference it is subtle and the PS500 are nowehere near 3 times as good as the SR80 even though the cost 3 times more (diminishing returns and all that).

 

There is however a very noticeable difference in sound signature between headphones of different manufactures - a Sennheiser will sound noticeably different than a Grado and an Audeze sounds quite different from both of these - the same goes for speakers. So that's where I put my money. There's plenty of people out there that feel that exactly those very subtle differences mentioned earlier are worth the money, but in my experience there's many more that feel the price/performance ratio doesn't or that they just can't hear any difference at all.

 

And this doesn't even touch on the most important point of all - psychology. This has alone has an impact on your sound perception that is much more profound than many realise - be happy that you are apparently able to cut a lot of this out and just "listen" to what is actually there. Heck I found that depending on the weather, my mood, etc I will perceive sound from the exactly same gear differently on different days of the week and that difference in perception is much larger than say the difference between a Grado SR80 and a PS500.

 

Be happy that you can hear what is actually there instead of getting obsessed with what you "think" should be there :-)
 

post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 

Good point, but you misunderstand me. I KNOW there is a difference, because I've heard for myself that the difference between headphones when the source is good enough can be large. For example, at a time I was at a store trying out the T1, Ultrasone ED8 & ED10 and Grado GS1000. They all sounded pretty much identical! The cause? 

 

A cheap, noisy little CD player for maybe $300, can't remember. When switching over to another room using a much more sofisticated source, the sound just exploded. Massive difference. 

 

With headphones, more expensive USUALLY (excluding the ED10) means better sound. But amps and SOURCES in particular are not obvious. 

 

But who know, you may be right. But the difference in resolution between the HD 800 and the D600 should be atleast noticable when the difference between the SR-009 and LCD-2 is quite large :p 

post #4 of 17

Main "problem" with HD800 is system matching as you will find if you spend a bit of time reading these boards. HD600 is an excellent pair of headphones also and not too picky when system matching (it does scale up but that's not the issue here) but it's an old model and the new stuff is always more exciting...

post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 

But the HD 800 system matching is about getting a correct tonal balance. It's not like resolution will boost when I switch to a tube amp or special SS, it doesn't work like that. I tried em with the Lebel CS300 and it sure didn't boost in resolution, the sound just got more powerful, vivid, colorful, you name it. It's not rocket science. 

 

That said, it may be some problem with my DAC. What do I know since I've not compared it directly to anything else than the M1s built in DAC section. The increase in SQ was minimal between these, slight gain in resolution. 

 

I'm confused I must say. 

post #6 of 17

I would def look at listening with a different source before concluding that the law of diminishing returns is a ruthless one.

post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 

Can't do that. No hi-fi store where I live. 

post #8 of 17

hehe no worries - I did take your concerns into account, but something being wrong usually results in very noticeable problems and not in everything sounding very similar - and it just also very closely mirrored my experience with the the SR80 vs the PS500 - initial excitment (i.e. really wanting the PS500 to sound better in every respect at the shop) and later a much more self-critical "after-buy" phase, when I started questioning my initial impressions, where I noticed while there were noticeable differences, much better bass, overall better bass,mid, treble balance, the overall detail remained fairly similar. Luckily this was then followed by once again listening in a relaxed mode after a week or two when I just startet to enjoy the music once again stopped worrying about trying to hear every smallest flaw.

 

In my case the amp/dac is a Peachtree Nova which at least for my ears should be so close to perfection that any worry about a problem on that end can be safely discounted (The Peachtree was a pure indulgence buy (I knew the difference to my existing setup would be subtle at best, but it's just a damn beautiful device and the DAC in there is within a hairs breadth of the best of the best) - a reward for myself as I'd gotten a unexpectedly huge bonus that year and ended up with way more spare cash than I knew what to do with ;-) ) To this day I'm still not sure wether I'd actually be able to tell the difference between the nova and my macbook air headphone output in a blind test btw

I sure as hell can't discern wether the tube amp section in the nova is on or not...with my eyes open I'm sure as hell that I can make out a subtle difference, but as soon as I close them and randomly switch it on and off I found that I might as well be guessing ;-)
 

post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by keltren View Post

hehe no worries - I did take your concerns into account, but something being wrong usually results in very noticeable problems and not in everything sounding very similar - and it just also very closely mirrored my experience with the the SR80 vs the PS500 - initial excitment (i.e. really wanting the PS500 to sound better in every respect at the shop) and later a much more self-critical "after-buy" phase, when I started questioning my initial impressions, where I noticed while there were noticeable differences, much better bass, overall better bass,mid, treble balance, the overall detail remained fairly similar. Luckily this was then followed by once again listening in a relaxed mode after a week or two when I just startet to enjoy the music once again stopped worrying about trying to hear every smallest flaw.

 

In my case the amp/dac is a Peachtree Nova which at least for my ears should be so close to perfection that any worry about a problem on that end can be safely discounted (The Peachtree was a pure indulgence buy (I knew the difference to my existing setup would be subtle at best, but it's just a damn beautiful device and the DAC in there is within a hairs breadth of the best of the best) - a reward for myself as I'd gotten a unexpectedly huge bonus that year and ended up with way more spare cash than I knew what to do with ;-) ) To this day I'm still not sure wether I'd actually be able to tell the difference between the nova and my macbook air headphone output in a blind test btw

I sure as hell can't discern wether the tube amp section in the nova is on or not...with my eyes open I'm sure as hell that I can make out a subtle difference, but as soon as I close them and randomly switch it on and off I found that I might as well be guessing ;-)
 


Again, I don't think that's the problem since I have heard much larger differences between even similarly priced headphones elsewhere, in stores or at friends meets etc. 

 

That something is wrong doesn't have to result in noticable problems. That something is BROKEN does, but "something is wrong" in this case means that something isn't what it should be. 

post #10 of 17

No worries - so with psychological reasons out of the way, the next step would be to verify the DAC - maybe your friend has a spare you can compare against? (Ruling out build error)  Or take your gear to your friend to rule out power supply issues (since he doesn't seem to have any). Even trying the dac + headphones in another house (anyone living close by) might help narrow it down - or even better if you know someone close by that has other high-end gear you can test it on.
 

post #11 of 17

What about the output on your desktop music software? Bit perfect output makes a difference. 


Edited by jheck - 9/9/12 at 3:49pm
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 

I've tried Amarra and Decibel and neither gave a sound advantage over iTunes.

post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lan647 View Post

My gear consists of a Musical Fidelity M1HPA connected to a DIY USB dac made for me by a friend who knows what he's doing, and he said to me this DAC trumps most things you'll hear in stores. He also made a cable to use between the M1 and the DAC. The DAC is connected via an Audioquest Forrest USB cable to an iMac running iTunes FLAC.   some specifications wrt to the diy dac would be helpful here - in this day & age, there's no reason why usb dacs should not be at least capable of 24/96 operation, indeed even 24/192 now.  what other dacs has your friend compared this unit to? 

 

I'm not a cable believer but I'll go through this stuff anyway; the M1 is connected via the including power cable to one of these: http://www.99musik.se/attachment.php?attachmentid=26406&d=1289390622&thumb=1 (I consider myself educated in English but couldn't remember what these are called). The DAC is connected in the same way.  this appears to be an ordinary power bar - no apparent noise rejection or powerline filtration.

The headphones used are the Senn HD 800 and the Denon D600. 

 

A while ago, I compared the sound of this entire desktop system using the HD 800, with that of the iPhone 4. The phone had no problem driving the HD 800 and both sources sounded EXACTLY the same, possibly with a slight increase in dynamics using the desktop system. This chocked me, I tell you. 

I simply thought that much of the Hi-fi hobby is audiophile BS, and the iPhone is simply very good sounding. I've heard myself that differences between sources are minimal, not cable-minimal but by no means as large as those between headphones/speakers. 

 

But now, I compared the D600 to the HD 800. The HD 800 has much less bass, a bit smoother, fuller sounding midrange and more even, coherent treble but there was no difference in terms of clarity/resolution between them. WTF?!

I tried disconnecting all other electronics (lamp, router, hard-drive etc) from the power socket but no difference. 

 

Something must be wrong, is it these http://www.99musik.se/attachment.php?attachmentid=26406&d=1289390622&thumb=1 who bottleneck the system? Is it that the power of this house is below average (my friend suggested this, he said I should try an AC cleaner)?   unless you can actually hear the effects of powerline noise, i would suggest that power filtration and cables are probably the last things to look at.

 

If you help me solve this depressing issue I will be very grateful :) If not, I'll probably sell the HD 800. Don't want to, but what reason is there to keep them when a headphone half it's price does everything better for my needs? 

 

I've heard the HD 800, STAX headphones etc outside where I am and certainly I've heard great differences then. No problem hearing how the SR-009 was significantly more clear sounding than the Audez'e LCD-2 for example. I'm convinced the HD 800s can sound much better as I've heard it myself and that there is something wrong with just my gear. 

 

Thanks! 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by xaval View Post

Main "problem" with HD800 is system matching as you will find if you spend a bit of time reading these boards. HD600 is an excellent pair of headphones also and not too picky when system matching (it does scale up but that's not the issue here) but it's an old model and the new stuff is always more exciting...  he does not have the senn hd600; he has NEW model denon d600!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lan647 View Post

But the HD 800 system matching is about getting a correct tonal balance. It's not like resolution will boost when I switch to a tube amp or special SS, it doesn't work like that. I tried em with the Lebel CS300 and it sure didn't boost in resolution, the sound just got more powerful, vivid, colorful, you name it. It's not rocket science. 

 

That said, it may be some problem with my DAC. What do I know since I've not compared it directly to anything else than the M1s built in DAC section. The increase in SQ was minimal between these, slight gain in resolution.   YES ... others have commented that the m1 usb dac is a decent 16/48 unit but nothing special .

 

I'm confused I must say. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by xaval View Post

I would def look at listening with a different source before concluding that the law of diminishing returns is a ruthless one.  i absolutely concur with this.   try the hrt streamer II+ with an external usb hub, or perhaps the audioquest dragonfly

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jheck View Post

What about the output on your desktop music software? Bit perfect output makes a difference. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lan647 View Post

I've tried Amarra and Decibel and neither gave a sound advantage over iTunes.  & your response does not make clear whether or not you are using Bit Perfect app.  are you?  if not, some info here:  http://www.hifi-advice.com/bitperfect-review.html

 

without more info, difficult to offer any further suggestions.

post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by geetarman49 View Post
he does not have the senn hd600; he has NEW model denon d600!

Oh, thanks for shouting that :)

post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by geetarman49 View Post

 

 

 

 

 


thank you for summing up everything I was going to say beerchug.gif

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