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Why a DAC - Page 3

post #31 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by kookoo View Post

So then, what kind of profit margins are these companies making if they can and it seems they are able to persuade people to spend an arm and a leg to buy these devices?

My V100 amp, loved the purchase, the dual headphone plug, the excessive amount of power still available for use @$400 (used) i thought was still an impulse buying decision


There's a big profit margin I guess, because they don't sell millions of amps every month like smart-phones, so they need to make money somehow.

post #32 of 56

An even more extreme example would be $ 12,000 interconnects that are a few inches long and probably cost less than $ 20 in parts.

 

It's similarly ridiculous but some people still buy them.

post #33 of 56

I think it is worth buying a decent external DAC....

 

You can then plug all your electrical sources into it and guarantee you are getting excellent sound from all of them...

 

Get a decent DAC with a sound signature you like, good quality Dac chips, good power supply, analogue output stages etc. And all the inputs and outputs you need.....

 

Then you have a nice hub for all your devices such as TV, Blu ray, PC etc. and you can be assured that they are all excellent audio quality.

 

Personally I would not spend more than about £350 max for a DAC.... But I do think they are worth having.

post #34 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by PiNa.cz View Post

External DAC is about sound quality - bigger soundstage, better transparency, better 3D imaging, more details ... it will bring you closer to the music. With a good DAC you will have a feeling the music you are listening to is playing almost live. You just need to hear it to believe it and I am sure you won't praise your soundcard's DAC anymore wink_face.gif    

This may be true for a cheap, poorly constructed computer or player, but it does seem that modern computers have DACs that are hifi or near hifi these days. A cheap standard sound card (SigmaTel or Realtek in my experience) can be indistinguishable from a top end DAC (except a tiny bit of noise).

Sometimes flaws in amps and dacs can give more soundstage, imaging, details. Better to get an unflawed DAC/amp and use DSP as mixing/mastering does. I use my rockboxed clip+ with stereo width at 185% (another setting must be at 'custom' for this to work; I forget which) and the effect is wonderful.
post #35 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by lorriman View Post


This may be true for a cheap, poorly constructed computer or player, but it does seem that modern computers have DACs that are hifi or near hifi these days. A cheap standard sound card (SigmaTel or Realtek in my experience) can be indistinguishable from a top end DAC (except a tiny bit of noise).

Sometimes flaws in amps and dacs can give more soundstage, imaging, details. Better to get an unflawed DAC/amp and use DSP as mixing/mastering does. I use my rockboxed clip+ with stereo width at 185% (another setting must be at 'custom' for this to work; I forget which) and the effect is wonderful.

 

Do you not believe that the analog output stages, power supplies and implementation on external dacs can offer improved sound quality?

 

I know a basic dac chip can have excellent measurements but from what I have heard / read about, it seems that the actual chip is nowhere near as important as the implementation, analog stages, power etc.

 

Have you tried any external dacs?

post #36 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicholars View Post

Do you not believe that the analog output stages, power supplies and implementation on external dacs can offer improved sound quality?

 

If the DAC performance of the sound card or other "cheap" device is already good enough to be transparent (according to detailed measurements, and blind testing), then - for the purpose of listening to music - the practical value of further sound quality improvements is limited, assuming that they even exist in the first place (some expensive "high end" audiophile products actually measure rather poorly). What is the point of going from 0.0005% distortion to 0.00025%, or from 110 dB dynamic range to 120 dB for thousands of $, for example, if you would not even be able to detect 0.002% distortion or 100 dB dynamic range in a controlled listening test anyway ?

Now of course some will claim that a high end DAC will "improve" the sound in some unmeasurable magical way, but for that to be true, at least one of the devices compared has to be non-transparent. If it is the cheaper one, prove it under controlled conditions. If it is the more expensive one, why spend large sums of money on something that degrades the audio signal (you may call it "enhancement" or "synergy", but that is rather subjective, and not exactly high fidelity - i.e. accurate reproduction; not to mention, it can be done with software DSP in a much more cost efficient and flexible way) ?


Edited by stv014 - 1/23/13 at 12:26pm
post #37 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by stv014 View Post

 

If the DAC performance of the sound card or other "cheap" device is already good enough to be transparent (according to detailed measurements, and blind testing), then - for the purpose of listening to music - the practical value of further sound quality improvements is limited, assuming that they even exist in the first place (some expensive "high end" audiophile products actually measure rather poorly). What is the point of going from 0.0005% distortion to 0.00025%, or from 110 dB dynamic range to 120 dB for thousands of $, for example, if you would not even be able to detect 0.002% distortion or 100 dB dynamic range in a controlled listening test anyway ?

Now of course some will claim that a high end DAC will "improve" the sound in some unmeasurable magical way, but for that to be true, at least one of the devices compared has to be non-transparent. If it is the cheaper one, prove it under controlled conditions. If it is the more expensive one, why spend large sums of money on something that degrades the audio signal (you may call it "enhancement" or "synergy", but that is rather subjective, and not exactly high fidelity - i.e. accurate reproduction; not to mention, it can be done with software DSP in a much more cost efficient and flexible way) ?

 

If someone has the cash and don't mind to spend in a hobby, why not?

post #38 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicholars View Post

 

Do you not believe that the analog output stages, power supplies and implementation on external dacs can offer improved sound quality?

Improved sound quality compared to what? Some external DACs have mediocre performance, other's don't. It's the same with internal DACs.

 

Just because you have a big iron box doesn't mean the stuff inside performs in any way better than the stuff on a PCI (Express) card.

 

Quote:
I know a basic dac chip can have excellent measurements but from what I have heard / read about, it seems that the actual chip is nowhere near as important as the implementation, analog stages, power etc.

Right, the measurements of the chips are irrelevant to the customer, but the measurements of the whole DAC are not.

 

You can imagine that the D/A conversion must be of highest quality if loopback (digital to analog and back to digital) measurements show excellent performance.

 

Let's take a look at Xonar DX (80 $) loopback measurements:

Test 24-bit / 44.1kHz
Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB: +0.01, -0.03
Noise level, dB (A): -109.6
Dynamic range, dB (A): 109.7
THD, %: 0.0008
IMD + Noise, %: 0.0014
Stereo crosstalk, dB: -105.5

 

 

I only found old measurements of an audio-gd product:

Test NFB-12 24bit NFB-12 24bit +HD650
Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB: +0.14, -1.35 +0.24, -1.34
Noise level, dB (A): -96.2 -88.2
Dynamic range, dB (A): 97.4 88.3
THD, %: 0.012 0.010
IMD + Noise, %: 0.018 0.025
Stereo crosstalk, dB: -94.0 -70.4

(This test was using the ADC of the Essence ST, which is better than the ADC of the DX above.)

post #39 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by kn19h7 View Post

If someone has the cash and don't mind to spend in a hobby, why not?

 

That is of course their choice, and may also be based on reasons other than sound quality; what I do not agree with is the claims - with little to no evidence - that all less expensive gear is inherently audibly inferior.

post #40 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by xnor View Post
(This test was using the ADC of the Essence ST, which is better than the ADC of the DX above.)

 

To be fair to the Audio GD DAC, that "measurement" was likely affected by ground loop issues, see also my comments in the sound card based measurements Sound Science thread. For comparison, when testing my Xonar D1 at 48000 Hz with the ADC of the Xonar Essence STX, the addition of my differential amplifier circuit to the loopback (to fix the ground loop) improved the SNR and dynamic range by more than 20 (!) dB.

post #41 of 56

I see your point that the actual dac chips all measure well in modern dac chips anyway.... even cheap ones still have very good SNR etc...

 

My thinking was that good external DAC's such as rega dac, arcam dac etc. are supposed to give a subtle sound signature... eg. A subjective improvement on "transparent"

 

For example the rega and arcam are supposed to give a smoother more analogue sound.... Because maybe transparent is not always best considering the poor quality of a lot of source files and also recordings? Such as quite a lot of people prefer the smoother sound of tubes to solid state even though it measures worse...

 

I do wonder if I am wasting my money by considering getting a more expensive DAC or if I should even downgrade my current DAC... I think it is nice to have a hub for all your devices to connect to which is excellent quality although I am not sure if I should spend even more on one (£400 for a rega dac)... I guess the only way is to buy one and try it... Switching between the Arcam Rdac and Dacmagic I did notice differences in sound.


Edited by nicholars - 1/23/13 at 1:46pm
post #42 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicholars View Post

I see your point that the actual dac chips all measure well in modern dac chips anyway.... even cheap ones still have very good SNR etc...

 

I was referring to the measured performance of the entire sound card (or whatever other device with a DAC), not just the DAC chip. So, that includes the implementation.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by nicholars View Post

 

My thinking was that good external DAC's such as rega dac, arcam dac etc. are supposed to give a subtle sound signature... eg. A subjective improvement on "transparent"

 

That is of course a valid point that transparent does not necessarily sound "better" subjectively in all cases, although the same point can also be made regarding bit perfect digital audio. With digital processing (EQ, crossfeed, virtual surround, simulated tube sound, or anything) and transparent DAC/amplifier, one has more control over the sound signature at lower cost than with colored analog electronics (which, for perfect "synergy", would ideally require having multiple DACs and amplifiers for different headphones, and different genres of music).

post #43 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicholars View Post

Do you not believe that the analog output stages, power supplies and implementation on external dacs can offer improved sound quality?

I know a basic dac chip can have excellent measurements but from what I have heard / read about, it seems that the actual chip is nowhere near as important as the implementation, analog stages, power etc.

Have you tried any external dacs?

I agree, but I reckon that the implementation is very good also for many computers/laptops. I do have an external DAC, the ODAC. Having compared I really can't hear any difference (other than the tiniest bit of noise; using etymotics). That's for a high end laptop and a recent DELL business workstation. I also measured the output impedance on the laptop and it is a surprising 0.5 . Even MAC books have it higher than that. Of course, I wouldn't be at all surprised if cheaper no-name systems weren't as good. Even a dell business laptop of 2005 has terrible audio, appalling noise.

I'm suspecting that audio chipsets have matured as has their implementation. It's quite possible that most of the implementation is off-the-shelf; just a little bit of circuit design to fit the pre-implemented chipset on to the specific motherboard.

Having said all this, I haven't DBT'd. This is my subjective testing only. But my ears were more than satisfied and I have stopped using the ODAC in order to avoid wearing out it's mini-USB socket unnecessarily. It'll still come in useful when I am on my travels and being forced to use other people's laptops/computers.
post #44 of 56

Isnt the ODAC designed to be as transparent as possible though?

 

Arcam and rega dac etc. are supposed to change the sound a bit?

post #45 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicholars View Post

Isnt the ODAC designed to be as transparent as possible though?

Arcam and rega dac etc. are supposed to change the sound a bit?

Yes, that's right. Am I wandering off the topic?
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