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Can quality old DACs still hold their own against the new breeds?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I was asked why I thought the old DACs still held their own against today's technology. I think part of it was only dealing with one rate, 44.1/16 bit. They only had to deal with timing for one bitrate. For the guys that may still have a Project 47, Audio Note, or similar DAC, how do they fare compared to new DACs from a musical presentation standpoint? I would expect new DACs to win on the bench but how about the living room?
post #2 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Happy Camper View Post

I was asked why I thought the old DACs still held their own against today's technology. I think part of it was only dealing with one rate, 44.1/16 bit. They only had to deal with timing for one bitrate. For the guys that may still have a Project 47, Audio Note, or similar DAC, how do they fare compared to new DACs from a musical presentation standpoint? I would expect new DACs to win on the bench but how about the living room?

 

My Sony PCM-7010F professional DAT recorders, which were manufactured about 20 years ago have both DAC's as well as ADC's which were state of the art at that time. These units will record and playback 16/44 and 16/48. I use these units for mastering and archiving radio commercials created by my creative company. I also use these units to record Internet music which can not be downloaded. and to master nature recordings. I cannot distinguish between the sound input from any  source and the recorded sound so I'd say if today's DAC's are better it's in an arena other than SQ.

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

I was asked why I thought the old DACs still held their own against today's technology. I think part of it was only dealing with one rate, 44.1/16 bit. They only had to deal with timing for one bitrate. For the guys that may still have a Project 47, Audio Note, or similar DAC, how do they fare compared to new DACs from a musical presentation standpoint? I would expect new DACs to win on the bench but how about the living room?

 

I may be wrong, but I feel the improvements in recent years have been more in terms of size and power usage, not signal processing as such. This enables these devices to be used in portable audio players and phones.

The principles of audio processing have been largely unchanged. The only difference nowadays is support for higher bits and sampling rates. 

Unless there's a major breakthrough in audio technology, which then gets implemented in hardware, you cannot say new is better. When you're pushing the limits in terms of discernibility, there isn't much incentive to improve further.

 

What I do feel, is a paradigm change in audio listening. 20 years ago you'd have to buy a Hi-Fi to play CDs, your computer won't do it. And chances are, as long as you bought a decent system, it would include a good DAC and amp.

 

Nowadays everyone is used to the poor/mediocre audio that comes with OEM PCs, and its the primary source for most listeners out there. People are getting used to bad quality stuff it seems.


Edited by proton007 - 9/30/12 at 6:49pm
post #4 of 9

DAC chip development has been driven by delivering bettter datasheet numbers for lower production cost. There's no doubt newer DACs measure better (except the TDA1541A hasn't been bettered at 16bits), however we're still not measuring the right things because the older DACs (i.e. multibit ones) sound better.

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
The advent of conversion methods outside the computer have been more robust than the physical architecture of DACs. I see some advances with computer source and I hope some standard gets done soon. Too many conversions taking place and too many add ons that should be built into a digital DAC. The re-thinking of how to use a computer for audio playback is changing too.

I've been holding off on a DAC purchase because of the changing methods and proprietary products. But time is running out to enjoy my music as I'm getting older. So making a decision on purchase has me following the new DAC threads to see what that builder does to separate themselves from their competitors. Mostly it's hi res files and jitter control. I'd feel safe to say 98% of the music is still 44.1/16 bit in most of our collections and you can't create more than what you start with so I don't know what all this number crunching is really doing to the sound.

I hope some of the makers can comment on their thoughts too. I want to be sold on why their ideas are making my listening time more enjoyable. The group could use some healthy debate on the current condition of DACs and computer audio.
post #6 of 9

Nice thread happy camper. and im in complete agreement about most music is still in 44/16, cuase like 99% of my music is. Which is why i dont care about getting a USB-spdif converter that is hi res capable, im just looking at the ART Legato, it only does one sampling rate, but it does it amazingly well.

post #7 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Happy Camper View Post

I've been holding off on a DAC purchase because of the changing methods and proprietary products. But time is running out to enjoy my music as I'm getting older. So making a decision on purchase has me following the new DAC threads to see what that builder does to separate themselves from their competitors. Mostly it's hi res files and jitter control. I'd feel safe to say 98% of the music is still 44.1/16 bit in most of our collections and you can't create more than what you start with so I don't know what all this number crunching is really doing to the sound.

 

Seeing as 44k1 is how 98% of your music is stored, you can buy safely in the knowledge that your DAC converts at this sample rate well. The more modern the DAC chip, the more it seems designed to play back higher sample rates and bit depths, at the cost (in my estimation) of performance at 44k1/16. What could be the point of paying for a -130dB noise floor when the redbook music you're playing comes with its own -90dB noise floor?

post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
I thank you for the logic. I've leaned this way but all the glitz and glamour the new machines receive gets ya thinkin.

Would there be any benefit to getting an USB/I2S converter to feed an older DAC or stay with a USB/Spdif device?
post #9 of 9

If the USB-I2S device has isolation (normally called 'galvanic isolation') then there might be some benefit. Otherwise steer clear of that and go with USB-SPDIF for its ability to be isolated with a simple trafo. Yes there's probably a jitter penalty but to my ears isolation is far, far more important to SQ than jitter is on a multibit DAC.

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