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post #46 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wpsupporter View Post

nick_charles, so then my question is this...

 

In a higher end system (say $30,000 and up) would you expect to get the exact same sound no matter what DAC you use, assuming you level match?  For example, would you expect the same sound with a $200 DAC from SHEK compared to a very expensive DAC from say KONDO or LINN?


Yes, as long as the DACs deliver low distortion, flat FR, low noise and have no notable flaws. The great Julian Hirsch summed it up in 1982, why would you expect any two such digital devices to sound different. But don't take my word for it. On the web there are a few DBTs between high end digital and modest digital components such as those by the Spanish Matrixhifi bunch - they almost always conclude that no differences could be heard. They compared a $12K Oracle vs a $200 Pioneer. Of course it is always possible to create something really bad or to do poor comparisons (the sort that hifi reviewers get paid for wink.gif , however your DAC is technically superb so you do not need to worry about that.

 

I repeat my question, with high fidelity technical performance being so easy to achieve nowadays where is the source of difference ?

 

But the real issue here is that in order to make any kind of sensible judgment requires rigorous controlled testing which in other sub-forums we cannot even talk about !

post #47 of 70
I have a great deal invested in my speakers, but I use a $120 Sony bluray player and a Mac mini as sources. It sounds staggeringly good.
post #48 of 70

I've been waiting to see this debate in the sound science forum because I'm very interested to know if there are potentially audible differences in devices that meet and perform according to Redbook standards.  As I said in an earlier post, I suspect that there is "wiggle room" after meeting the standard specifications for a properly performing DAC, but I am dubious as to how audible these differences may be.  I mean, a device may be +/- 1 db across the FR, but one could be +.9 for the majority of the curve and one may be -.9.  Both are meeting a spec, but could sound different I guess.

 

However, I definitely think many consumers, like myself, have heard differences between sources that are likely more to do with different output levels than differences in the decoding of digital data.  I have a source select box and I can clearly hear differences between the analog output of my CD player, contemporary DAC and my 20 year old DAC.  However, I would bet that the output voltages between these sources are all different and that is what I'm hearing, because there certainly isn't any night and day difference in sound quality.  I'm also hesitant to believe that each source is damaged or not performing to spec either.

 

Keeping the discussion alive, as Sound Science is the only place this discussion has weight. IMO

post #49 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hi-Five View Post

....like myself, have heard differences between sources that are likely more to do with different output levels than differences in the decoding of digital data.  I have a source select box and I can clearly hear differences between the analog output of my CD player, contemporary DAC and my 20 year old DAC.  However, I would bet that the output voltages between these sources are all different and that is what I'm hearing, because there certainly isn't any night and day difference in sound quality.  I'm also hesitant to believe that each source is damaged or not performing to spec either.

 

I used a switch box between 3 different very different CDP/DAC combos and even a 0.5db difference in output is clearly audible and the louder almost always seems better. When I recorded the outputs and adjusted the levels and blind tested I could no longer tell the difference...

post #50 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by nick_charles View Post

 

I used a switch box between 3 different very different CDP/DAC combos and even a 0.5db difference in output is clearly audible and the louder almost always seems better. When I recorded the outputs and adjusted the levels and blind tested I could no longer tell the difference...

 

Agreed, I think this is where I'm at on this issue.  I'd love to see a reputable blind test that could prove someone could accurately and repeatably tell the difference between a decent, average DAC or CDP and the kilo-buck+ alternatives.  Thinking I might put my DAC2 up for sale as the purchase was to really satisfy my curiosity on this exact issue.

post #51 of 70

1 dB to .5 dB is about the limit of what I can hear, and it doesn't amount to much. As long as stuff has a response +/- 1 dB, I'd say it's identical. The variation is likely to be at the edges of the audible range, making it even less important.

post #52 of 70

I had a simple DAC blind test on the forum here (unfortunately, the files have been removed by Mediafire since then), where 24/96 format loopback recordings from sound cards can be compared against the original audio that is converted to the same format and level matched with software. I would like to create a similar test with better recording methods (see here), and more devices, although I would need recommendations on what (preferably freely downloadable but high quality) test tracks should be used.

post #53 of 70

Bought simple RCA-switchbox (there's even gold plated connectors!) and made some comparisons.

 

 

Two instances of Foobar2000 synced to play the same tracks. LCD-3/V200 for listening.

 

Smyth Realiser

Violectric V800

ODAC

M-Audio Transit

Behringer UCA202

 

In few cases I thought I heard some tiny differences with pink noise, but more likely it was some remaining level difference. Generally everything sounded indistinguishable to me. I give up.


Edited by hekeli - 12/3/12 at 3:07pm
post #54 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by hekeli View Post

Bought simple RCA-switchbox (there's even gold plated connectors!) and made some comparisons.

 

 

Two instances of Foobar2000 synced to play the same tracks. LCD-3/V200 for listening.

 

Smyth Realiser

Violectric V800

ODAC

M-Audio Transit

Behringer UCA202

 

In few cases I thought I heard some tiny differences with pink noise, but more likely it was some remaining level difference. Generally everything sounded indistinguishable to me. I give up.

 

You should feel liberated, you now have one less thing to worry about and less to distract you from the music !. After many years of experimenting with different sources I'm happily using a $90 DAC/amp from eBay to power my DT880s and could not be happier, of course at 54 I don't hear as well as I used to....

post #55 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by nick_charles View Post

 

You should feel liberated, you now have one less thing to worry about and less to distract you from the music !. After many years of experimenting with different sources I'm happily using a $90 DAC/amp from eBay to power my DT880s and could not be happier, of course at 54 I don't hear as well as I used to....

 

Yeah I kind of figured this before, but it's funny how different instant switching and gap of even some second is. Really plays with your mind.  Difference or not, it's meaningless to me. I need the Realiser anyway, it does help mentally to have something expensive. wink.gif

post #56 of 70

So I have a Xonar card that proforms quite well.

 

Would upgrading to an external DAC like the schitt or Odac make much of a difference?

 

I might need a portable DAC down the line so I plan on getting a schitt then but for now...

post #57 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by ukon16 View Post

So I have a Xonar card that proforms quite well.

 

What Xonar card is that exactly ? I have and tested the Xonar D1 and Essence STX, and if the cards are performing optimally (no interference, ground loops, incorrect settings/usage, etc.), then in my opinion an external DAC would only be useful for the portability, but not for any real sound quality improvement. The built-in headphone amplifier on the cards (if there is any on the particular model) is not quite perfect, though, so depending on the card and the headphones used, an external amplifier like the O2 could make a useful (but in most cases not major) difference.


Edited by stv014 - 1/5/13 at 12:12pm
post #58 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by stv014 View Post

 

What Xonar card is that exactly ? I have and tested the Xonar D1 and Essence STX, and if the cards are performing optimally (no interference, ground loops, incorrect settings/usage, etc.), then in my opinion an external DAC would only be useful for the portability, but not for any real sound quality improvement. The built-in headphone amplifier on the cards (if there is any on the particular model) is not quite perfect, though, so depending on the card and the headphones used, an external amplifier like the O2 could make a useful (but in most cases not major) difference.

 

The low end DG I believe

post #59 of 70

I find this thread interesting because at issue here is not "do different cables make a difference", instead it is "do different DACs make a difference".

 

People like me who have a desire for a scientific approach to the creation of Hi Fi stuff, as opposed to magic are just as susceptible to suggestion and autosuggestion as those who are quite happy to accept pseudo science and magic.

 

The expensive audiophile DAC may come with improvements that are the product of genuine scientific consideration, however the DAC that comes in you PC or Mac or a budget CD Player may just be so good that it is impossible to improve on in any meaningful way.

 

In discussions about "do cables make a difference" one argument I put is that a reasonably well made audio cable loses very little information, so, if there is a significant change after introducing a different cable, then this different cable must be damaging the fidelity. Of course exactly the same case could be made about DACs.

 

There is a consumerist assumption that spending money on things means they must be better and this is seen at its most graphic in Hi Fi.

 

An underlying problem throughout Hi Fi today is that there is no double blind testing taking place to remove the effects of suggestion and auto suggestion. I write about how I think that suggestion and autosuggestion are very powerful for Hi Fi enthusiasts here:

 

Suggestion and Autosuggestion in the Assessment of Audio Products

 

I remember very well when Hi Fi magazines in the UK did indeed test audio "blind". These were not double blind tests but rather they would do a group test of maybe five or six components and not know which was which during listening. This was much more impressive than the reviewing which became foremost towards the end of the 80s which is where the reviewer "tests" the audio component without consideration for suggestion or autosuggestion and indeed reviews the component as if it were some sort of performer itself.

post #60 of 70
I think science is somewhat to blame for audiophoolery too. Numbers and specifications get thrown about without relating them to the most important context of all- The thresholds of human perception. If high bitrate lowers the noise floor and higher sampling rates extend the high frequency response, it doesn't matter if humans can't hear it.

There should be an audio equivalent of the USDA daily recommended allowance on the sides of cereal boxes... In parenthesis after the spec should be the threshold point, so folks can instantly see if they're over the line into overkill or not.
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