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Why a DAC - Page 4

post #46 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by stv014 View Post

 

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).

The sad sing is that many of those people, which don't look for transparent but colored gear (to improve "synergy"), frown upon any kind of signal processing.. to me it just doesn't make any sense. What's the reason for this irrational fear?

 

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?

Compare for yourself:

http://www.stereophile.com/content/asus-xonar-essence-ststx-soundcards-measurements

http://www.stereophile.com/content/rega-dac-da-processor-measurements

 

Which Arcam DAC?

post #47 of 56

It just makes me question why people report differences in DAC's....

 

I did notice a difference between Dacmagic and Arcam Rdac but it was not blind so I suppose it could have been expectation bias etc....

 

If all DAC's do indeed sound identical then this means that every review is infact lying and that none of the hifi publications can be trusted because they are all lying....

 

I am quite cynical in general, especially with audiophile usb cables etc...

 

But it does seem like quite an extreme scenario that infact all DAC's sound 100% identical. Everything that anyone ever says about analog stages, CD players, power, DAC design etc. is infact all completely false because all DAC's sound 100% identical?

 

The measurements on the rega dac and STX are actually quite different (except for FR)...


Edited by nicholars - 1/23/13 at 3:23pm
post #48 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicholars View Post

It just makes me question why people report differences in DAC's....

For the same reason people report differences in interconnects, power cables and insane audio "tweaks" like little sacks of pebbles...

 

Quote:

I did notice a difference between Dacmagic and Arcam Rdac but it was not blind so I suppose it could have been expectation bias etc....

rDAC outputs 2.1 Vrms, DacMagic 100 outputs 2.3 Vrms (+ 0.8 dB). That level difference can certainly cause differences. I guess you went for the slightly louder DacMagic.

 

 

Quote:

If all DAC's do indeed sound identical then this means that every review is infact lying and that none of the hifi publications can be trusted because they are all lying....

Some DACs certainly do have problems, like roll-off or "high" noise levels or distortion.. but yeah, after a certain quality level it's just a matter of preference.

 

 

Quote:
The measurements on the rega dac and STX are actually quite different (except for FR)...

I don't know what you're looking at, but most differences are down -110 dB. You have to keep these things in perspective. Most classical recordings don't exceed a dynamic range of ~70 dB.

post #49 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by xnor View Post

 

rDAC outputs 2.1 Vrms, DacMagic 100 outputs 2.3 Vrms (+ 0.8 dB). That level difference can certainly cause differences. I guess you went for the slightly louder DacMagic.

 

 

Some DACs certainly do have problems, like roll-off or "high" noise levels or distortion.. but yeah, after a certain quality level it's just a matter of preference.

 

 

Well actually I found that a) the Rdac treble was smoother b) the bass on the rdac was quite a bit worse than the dacmagic, quite obviously worse not even subtle....

 

If you say it is a "matter of preference" then surely there must be differences? You cant have a preference if they all sound identical? People report "this dac is forward" "this is smooth" etc etc. and they mostly seem to agree eg. most people say the Rega dac is smooth and "analogue" sounding etc.... Maybe it is all completely down to expectation bias and effectively fraud, but I think that maybe the other areas such as dac design, filters, power supply, dac design etc. must effect the final sound? It cant all be completely imagined surely (I agree with you on cables etc though, just I am not sure about dacs... especially as I thought I could tell a definate difference in the bass of the Rdac and dacmagic)

 

It all just seems like a lot of work has gone into the DAC's... if you look at some of the DAC designs from audio GD etc.... It is almost a shame if they really do sound identical to a cheap soundcard when you look at all the effort which has gone into the design....

 

So are you saying that all DAC's sound identical to a Xonar STX for example?


Edited by nicholars - 1/23/13 at 3:56pm
post #50 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicholars View Post

It just makes me question why people report differences in DAC's....

If all DAC's do indeed sound identical then this means that every review is infact lying and that none of the hifi publications can be trusted because they are all lying....

But it does seem like quite an extreme scenario that infact all DAC's sound 100% identical. Everything that anyone ever says about analog stages, CD players, power, DAC design etc. is infact all completely false because all DAC's sound 100% identical?

I'm not saying this myself at all. I'm only thinking it likely of half-decent makes of computer using off-the-shelf implementations. Take any random DAC and there's a good chance there would be significant differences. Even if the DAC is excellent, if the amp section has high output impedance then a lot of lower impedance phones are going to have differences in both bass and treble even if they have no distortion or noise and excellent cross-talk. Ie. Mac books (at 27 ohms, which is shockingly high). And the amp section, technically, isn't the DAC. And just output impedance can go a long way: Imagine the bass-light etymotics: they get rolled off bass at the very low end but boosted at the more immediate 80Hz, and their over-bearing (to some, not me) brightness is tamed. Strike 1 the Mac Book.

The would imagine the most likely to have issues are custom implementations where a lot depends on the electronics engineer. From what I've understood, audio electronics engineering is a whole dimension beyond mere electronics engineering. Think of a talented young electrical engineer taken on to produce a USB DAC. Easy peasy, he says to himself. So far as I know, that's not right.
post #51 of 56
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the input guys, I think a couple of things really stood out in this whole discussion; If I have the money to spend on this hobby why not (I agree within reasonable limits of spending). I believe I can find a friend with a HRT musicstreamer II DAC to try out. Just like nicholars, I still hold a fair amount of skepticism towards all this DAC business. Lastly was something said on page 2 which was to make the purchase based also on other things which can help improve the setup like input & output switching, like the DACMagic Plus

post #52 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicholars View Post

 

Well actually I found that a) the Rdac treble was smoother b) the bass on the rdac was quite a bit worse than the dacmagic, quite obviously worse not even subtle....

Dunno, maybe the rdac is doing something it shouldn't (imho).

 

And regarding special power supplies, it seems to be using a simple 6 V DC power adapter.

 

Quote:
If you say it is a "matter of preference" then surely there must be differences? You cant have a preference if they all sound identical? People report "this dac is forward" "this is smooth" etc etc. and they mostly seem to agree eg. most people say the Rega dac is smooth and "analogue" sounding etc.... Maybe it is all completely down to expectation bias and effectively fraud, but I think that maybe the other areas such as dac design, filters, power supply, dac design etc. must effect the final sound? It cant all be completely imagined surely (I agree with you on cables etc though, just I am not sure about dacs... especially as I thought I could tell a definate difference in the bass of the Rdac and dacmagic)

Sure you can have a preference if they sound identical. Connectivity, supported formats, design, output level etc. I guess you get the idea.

 

Without doing a blind, level-matched comparison I am certain that people hear clear differences. But those usually go away in a proper test.

 

Regarding people saying the same thing .. yeah there are also people that tell you how component X sounds although they have never even heard it. They're just parroting whatever they read. And most reviewers don't do blind tests. They see the device and the brain automatically "connects" anything they read about it with what they hear. There's also this huge fear/pressure that if you do not hear like the others your hearing is bad..

 

Quote:

It all just seems like a lot of work has gone into the DAC's... if you look at some of the DAC designs from audio GD etc.... It is almost a shame if they really do sound identical to a cheap soundcard when you look at all the effort which has gone into the design....

Yeah you can put a lot of work into anything. Doesn't guarantee anything. tongue.gif Yahzi wrote in the testing claims and myths threads that another guy was claiming "a cable vendor has taken a decade to design and build a tonearm cable".

 

I do not know how the Audio-GD stuff sounds cause I'm not buying it and as stv014 wrote the measurements posted above seem to have ground-loop problems, so I'm not saying it's crap. biggrin.gif

 

Quote:

So are you saying that all DAC's sound identical to a Xonar STX for example?

No, I'm saying that after a certain quality level (which can be reached without spending a couple of hundred $$$) is reached, sonic differences are usually imagined.

Now there might be expensive DACs that are marketed as extremely high-end, high-fidelity and what not but still do not reach that quality level, that is flat frequency response, low noise floor, etc.


Edited by xnor - 1/23/13 at 4:48pm
post #53 of 56

I wouldn't be too suprised if you are right tbh.... I think the only way for me to conclusively tell is when I have a bit more spare cash I will just buy a Rega Dac / Mdac and a Xonar STX and compare them, maybe get someone to do blind A/B testing...

 

My logic along with all I have read online tells me that you may be right about dacs... But then listening to the Dacmagic VS Arcam DAC I am pretty sure they did sound different.

 

I suppose you can deliberate about the "measurements vs subjective opinions" thing all day and still not make any progress unless you actually try it yourself. Also the thing I like about external dac is the functionality of plugging in all you devices and also they look nice.... But I am not sure that is worth the prices that some of them sell for.

 

A lot of people do seem to agree on certain dacs characteristics etc. for example quite a lot of people say the dacmagic is a bit harsh / digital sounding and also the Arcam Rdac is smoother with not great bass etc. Oh well I guess I will have to just try it because my logical head is sceptical of dacs but I can't ignore the differences I personally noticed and also how many other people notice the same things etc.


Edited by nicholars - 1/23/13 at 5:20pm
post #54 of 56

Just be very careful with matching levels and removing biases when doing the test.

 

I'm glad there are still some sceptical people around. :) Of course in this forum you'll find 90+% subjectivists, most of which never seem to have heard the word bias. If you take a look at other places, like hydro gen audio, you'll see the opposite.

 

Regarding people agreeing on certain characteristics, yeah agreeing is the right word. I've edited my post above, maybe you didn't see that part of my response.

 

 

DacMagic is harsh? Rdac is smooth?

Quote (avforums.com hardware reviews):
When it came to the actual listening tests the DacMagic Plus performed admirably with a neutral tone and detailed reproduction, regardless of which filter you chose.

 

Quote (tnt-audio.com review):

I have briefly auditioned the rDAC and found it a bit harsh and forward.
post #55 of 56

My point is that we have established that it is not really that difficult to get a transparent DAC with good specs.... But the source files and recordings are not always great and it may be desirable to have a slightly coloured sound....

 

But I think that the "audiophile" dacs such as Rega dac and Arcam rdac can have theyre own sound signature such as a very detailed eg. Dacmagic or a smoother signature eg. Arcam Rdac.... Maybe I am wrong.... Not neccessarily objectively "better" than a cheap DAC which plays transparently such as the 02 DAC or something..... But more suited towards someones preferences.... eg. clinical and detailed vs analogue and smooth etc.

 

Anyway I will have to test it out myself to see if I think that the Rega dac is really worth the money over the Dacmagic or if it is basically the same... I will have to get someone to do the testing for me so it is blind and not influenced by my own expectations!


Edited by nicholars - 1/23/13 at 9:24pm
post #56 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicholars View Post

My point is that we have established that it is not really that difficult to get a transparent DAC with good specs.... But the source files and recordings are not always great and it may be desirable to have a slightly coloured sound....

 

A statement of the 'objective' point of view might be: If the specs are 'good enough', the equipment is transparent. Is transparent a good thing or a bad thing? Answers to questions like that lead to subjective statements, sometimes restarting old Religious Flame Wars between the Subjectivists and Objectivists. (That's a bad thing.)

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by nicholars View Post

But I think that the "audiophile" dacs such as Rega dac and Arcam rdac can have theyre own sound signature such as a very detailed eg. Dacmagic or a smoother signature eg. Arcam Rdac.... Maybe I am wrong.... Not neccessarily objectively "better" than a cheap DAC which plays transparently such as the 02 DAC or something..... But more suited towards someones preferences.... eg. clinical and detailed vs analogue and smooth etc.

 

Maybe you are right. Other DAC's may have a sound signature. Objectively, DAC's like these aren't transparent. Subjectively, if somebody likes their DAC, cheap or expensive, transparent or massively colored, who can object? [pun intentional. sorry.]

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