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Can't hear the difference.

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I've currently got the Sennheiser HD-800 and the Objective 2 headphone amplifier.

 

I've always bought new stuff like amplifiers and DACs and always assumed and thought the music sounded different on the new thing. Then at some later date I would set up this test where I can listen back-to-back with little break in the music. The more expensive DACs and amps quickly end up on sale after I find no difference at all between the cheap and expensive parts when I don't have to rely so much on audio memory.

 

 

Today, I set up a scenario where I can listen to any song from both my Asus Xonar Essence STX line-out and my intergrated motherboard Realtek chip. The latter being possibly among the worst analog outputs you might find today as far as measurements go and the former being among the best. I can switch between the outputs with under a second of break in the music. I've volume matched the outputs using a Radioshack SPL meter. I haven't really done this comparison before as I've always assumed the Realtek would be terrible. I've listened to it at some time and felt subjectively that it's no good at all. However...

 

Listening to both of them back to back with little break in between, with the song continuing from the same spot... I can't hear the slightest difference. None at all. They're effectively identical to what my doctor would call a perfectly healthy hearing. The RMAA measurements I've taken suggest the Xonar is vastly superior in most aspects, but it just doesn't seem to translate to anything tangible. It just creates this predisposition and opens the door to self deception.

 

To this date, I haven't been able to hear a real difference between a 1000$ DAC and a few $ DAC. I haven't been able to hear a difference between a 500$ discrete headphone amplifier and a supposedly 2$ chip amp. Or 100$ interconnects compared to 3$ interconnects. I've been able to imagine differences between all of them and convinced myself they exist, but these imagined differences haven't been able to stand up to a more objective test method.

post #2 of 12

Very interesting.

 

I know it's all very subjective when you leave behind the measurements and go with your ears but what you're discovering with your experiments lends further evidence to my growing belief that a huge percentage of the claims to superior sound quality of the makers (and users) of audio hardware is baseless.  Ear/sound interfaces such as speakers, headphones, etc. are of course exceptions being obviously highly variable in the way they sound.

 

 Reminds me a lot of the wine industry. 


Edited by Andolink - 10/9/12 at 6:18am
post #3 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andolink View Post

Very interesting.

 

I know it's all very subjective when you leave behind the measurements and go with your ears but what you're discovering with your experiments lends further evidence to my growing belief that a huge percentage of the claims to superior sound quality of the makers (and users) of audio hardware is baseless.  Ear/sound interfaces such as speakers, headphones, etc. are of course exceptions being obviously highly variable in the way they sound.

 

 Reminds me a lot of the wine industry. 

 

I concur.

 

Placebo effect operates in full swing in this hobby.

post #4 of 12

I've experimented with enough material and devices to really appreciate CD's over everything else with the exception of DAT. I also enjoy computer audio through my home theatre; and, for the most part, 256k variable bit rate sounds indistinguishable from 24/96 downloads. I do not have much investment in SACD since I really can't hear the difference which is so apparent on paper. As far as devices go, my 12 year old Sony TA-E9000ES resolves my digital files as well as anything else out there that I've ever heard at any price. At any rate, I'm done chasing after equipment which promises a more satisfying experience. I'm happy with what I'm enjoying now.


Edited by sterling1 - 10/10/12 at 11:01am
post #5 of 12

The only thing I would ask is how much experience have you had with this hobby in general? What is your experience comparing many different headphones and systems? I feel like over time, my hearing has become more refined. As I listen and compare, I can pick out more subtle differences as the YEARS go on. Before it was more general observations. Now, I can discern real differences in headphones that I know I could not hear a few years back. Extrapolate that to decades of experience for some of these guys, and you have yourself a set of ears that are able to listen for certain things that newer people don't know what to be listening for. I am nowhere near able to hear some of the stuff some of these people around here hear. But I am alot better than I used to be.

 

I feel like the ability to hear the subtle stuff is a learned trait through experience. That's why jumping to the top of the headphone chain, and missing the journey, is so discouraged. The refinement is lost on you. 

 

EDIT: Now, having said that, I do firmly believe some of the "upgrades" around here are definitely snake oil to a certain extent, or "audiophile jewelry" as I've heard cable upgrades called. redface.gif


Edited by SoundFreaq - 10/10/12 at 11:48am
post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 

I don't think anyone is challenging differences in actual transducers. Just the digital chain and possibly amplifiers as long as they're built towards transparency.

post #7 of 12

No, I understand that. I was just using that as an example. Extrapolate my experience to amps/DACs. 

post #8 of 12

Mmm fair enough about the dacs.

 

At least, let's say I personally agree.

 

I used a xonar dg for a few years, was great. No noise, never any problems. Cheap product, 20 bucks or so. Then I upgraded to the Xonar Essence. First thing I noticed: it was way louder. But other than that... I can't really say there's all too much difference. Doesn't mean there isn't any, but it does mean that for me personally it seems that there is no difference.

 

As for amps: I can definitely tell huge differences between them. I've used an old mitsubishi speaker amp, a marantz pm7200, an Onkyo tx8255 and the xonar essence headphone amp. The xonar sounds open, but also hollow and non musical. The mitsubishi lacks details and overpowers everything with its bass response. The marantz in class A sounds best but has all kinds of problems in terms of sound stage and congestion during heavy passages. The onkyo's headphone amp is just awful and way too bright to be enjoyable.

 

I guess there's truth in your ears needing refinement, but I also think there's a point where the differences become so subtle that you have to wonder what kind of money it is worth.
 

post #9 of 12

Another thing is that none of us are mentioning is our ages.  Younger ears can of course detect much more in the way of subtle differences than my 54 year old ears can (and I have tinnitus besides).


Edited by Andolink - 10/11/12 at 8:58pm
post #10 of 12

Those who are younger can hear much higher into the frequency range, topping at around 19k.  However, they cannot hear as low.  So although you might not be able to hear past 10k you can hear much lower than those that are younger than yourself.  

post #11 of 12

It depends on what you are listening out for. Many people just pay attention to the loudness, or lack of it, of the bass, and to how clean the treble sounds. But the professional listener listens out for a lot more.

post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

I don't really believe that personally. I think it's a cop-out "believers" use. Especially since they seem to have such a hard time getting through the blind tests.

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