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Quality Computer Audio Setup - What DAC & Speakers? - Page 2

post #16 of 28
Thread Starter 

So what do you think 3X0? I have a massive library of nothing but 320KBPS - is there anything I can buy or upgrade for better quality sound? A tube amp, better speakers, DAC etc? 

 

If not, then no worries

post #17 of 28

Speakers are going to make the biggest difference in quality. They should be your first priority.

post #18 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Logistics View Post

All this coin dropped on "high-quality" equipment, and yet you still use compressed audio. I've seen significant improvements in sound on inexpensive, but modified equipment when switching to pure CD rips into WAV format vs. very well encoded 320's. It's something to consider.

If your first thought is that you can't hear a difference between 320's and straight WAV rips then maybe a change in equipment is not necessary, unless you just want more bass or piercing highs. I only say this because you said you don't want to invest in marginal differences. And it makes no sense to buy revealing hardware if you're bottle-necked by your recording, anyway.

Have you tried double blind ABX testing? Many of us at head-fi have found that when listener bias is eliminated, the differences between a wav file that came from a redbox CD and a 320K mp3 encoded with LAME from that same wav file are much less than those who have not make them out to be. Sometimes with the difference being indiscernible unless one has really expensive equipment. Doubtful that the A5s are resolving enough that the difference is worth worrying about.

Speakers are the best bet here. A $100 to $150 DAC will be more than enough, with the rest of the budget put into powered speakers or passive speakers/amp.

Christophhh, what kind of sound card do you have with your computer now?
post #19 of 28
Thread Starter 

See, I have heard that before. But no I have not tested it myself. 

In regards to soundcard, I currently own the top of the line iMac - so I think the audiocard is built into the board, not sure exactly what it is. I doubt anything special.

 

So you think the Ascend Sierra-1s & the Schiit Modi DAC would still by my best bet? No tube DAC or tube amp in there?

 

Thanks again for your thoughts and recommendations!

post #20 of 28

Sierra 1s are great, but you would need an integrated amplifier (or pre-amplifier + power/speaker amplifier) to use them. They are passive loudspeakers.

post #21 of 28
Yep. The Modi would work very well for a DAC. But 3X0 is right. You do need an amp to power the Sierra-1s.
post #22 of 28
Thread Starter 

OK so I'm going for:

 

Sierra-1s

Bitfrost DAC (with analog upgrade)

 

Now onto an amp to match the setup. What do you guys think?

post #23 of 28
That Emotiva I listed before would have plenty of power to get the Sierras fairly loud. If you can use a full sized receiver, I use the HK 3390. Have heard good things about people using those with Sierras.
post #24 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by 3X0 View Post

There's a distinction to be made between encoding format and mastering quality. In practice, only one of these makes a significant difference.

 

The argument would have been more compelling if the OP were using some encoding format significantly short of 320kbps.

 

I'm not sure where you were running with that thought.  If one is concerned with either of these than I would imagine they would want to remove the guess-work from the equation and use as lossless a format as possible--in this case a WAV.  And since OP said they don't want to invest in marginal changes (I read this as "I don't want to spend large on little return") then I would imagine he would want to lock down all the inexpensive, but no less important things, first.  To me this means ripping a CD and sticking with WAV's.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post


Have you tried double blind ABX testing? Many of us at head-fi have found that when listener bias is eliminated, the differences between a wav file that came from a redbox CD and a 320K mp3 encoded with LAME from that same wav file are much less than those who have not make them out to be. Sometimes with the difference being indiscernible unless one has really expensive equipment. Doubtful that the A5s are resolving enough that the difference is worth worrying about.

Speakers are the best bet here. A $100 to $150 DAC will be more than enough, with the rest of the budget put into powered speakers or passive speakers/amp.

Christophhh, what kind of sound card do you have with your computer now?

 

Yes, I'm no stranger to ABX testing and definitely no stranger to the power of suggestions.  I've spent innumerable hours testing and retesting equipment, making slight component-level changes and having to come to terms with the fact that sometimes you make an improvement, sometimes simply a change, and sometimes a detraction from the sound, even if that's based soley on your personal preference in sound.  Much of my experience would be testing and then hearing a change I did not expect, such as suddenly hearing details in a track that I didn't even know were there when I was only listening for an increase in highs or perhaps deeper low-frequency extension.

 

That said, and mind you I'm not trying to make waves, but it sort of ground on my ears when you suggested speakers were where you'd see the largest benefit.  If you said "the biggest changes" than I may have agreed with that.  But granted all speakers sound different.  Maybe I should stay out of this arena because the majority of my testing and modifications has been done using headphones so I don't have to worry about room acoustics and reflections and all the other more prominent problems associated with a set of speaker enclosures, but it still makes more sense in my mind to make sure every other portion of the audio chain is good before dropping a large sum on speakers.

 

I've seen the internals of the A5's and they look very decent.  Changing the internals on such units would only see marginal changes.  Now, I don't think think the Line-Out from a modern iMac is an example of garbage, but it's certainly not an ideal source.  I would absolutely suggest a better source than the iMac on-board sound hardware.

 

So if OP uses CD-rips, encoded or not than I would suggest a DAC that can run at 16-bits, 44.1kHz so as to avoid any sampling changes for one thing.  Even if doesn't yield a perceived difference in output, it will avoid any unnecessary processing cycles by the CPU.  I would make sure any given DAC used has film capacitors in the line-out stage if it uses them at all.

 

I agree with Cel4145 in that you should not be spending anything over a hundred or two on a DAC.  I would probably end up buying a much less-expensive unit and upgrading it's internals, but that's just me; I'm a cheapskate.

post #25 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Logistics View PostI'm not sure where you were running with that thought.  If one is concerned with either of these than I would imagine they would want to remove the guess-work from the equation and use as lossless a format as possible--in this case a WAV.  And since OP said they don't want to invest in marginal changes (I read this as "I don't want to spend large on little return") then I would imagine he would want to lock down all the inexpensive, but no less important things, first.  To me this means ripping a CD and sticking with WAV's.

 

That said, and mind you I'm not trying to make waves, but it sort of ground on my ears when you suggested speakers were where you'd see the largest benefit.  If you said "the biggest changes" than I may have agreed with that.  But granted all speakers sound different.  Maybe I should stay out of this arena because the majority of my testing and modifications has been done using headphones so I don't have to worry about room acoustics and reflections and all the other more prominent problems associated with a set of speaker enclosures, but it still makes more sense in my mind to make sure every other portion of the audio chain is good before dropping a large sum on speakers.

 

I've seen the internals of the A5's and they look very decent.  Changing the internals on such units would only see marginal changes.  Now, I don't think think the Line-Out from a modern iMac is an example of garbage, but it's certainly not an ideal source.  I would absolutely suggest a better source than the iMac on-board sound hardware.

I am saying that the quality of the recording is of paramount value, and that the encoding is only important up to the point where you can no longer confidently distinguish the absent transparency. To most ordinary humans, 320kbps using the latest encoders would be beyond their capability of confident distinction from a lossless file. That said, there is the laudable argument of liberating all shadow of a doubt and the fact that lossy encoding is indeed lossy, but the extent that this lost information is perceptible in everyday practice is a point of dubious contention.

 

As to the latter bolded point, absolutely. Speakers measure in nonlinear distortion, tailored amplitude curve, and directionality (a function of frequency). As a rule, speakers are never ideal or even close to ideal in any of these measurements. To the point of transparency, speakers are far enough from ideal to be an untenable solution. Fortunately for us, tremendous variety is available as a "consequence" of this non-ideality.

 

The iMac actually has a very competent DAC stage, with its Achilles heel being a high impedance analog output stage. This shouldn't be much of a problem with outboard amplification.

post #26 of 28

Don't take this as aggressive, but your posts inspired me to create this meme.  I was at work and couldn't stop laughing out loud.  It's a good thing I work in my own department.  lol!

 

post #27 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by 3X0 View Post

I am saying that the quality of the recording is of paramount value, and that the encoding is only important up to the point where you can no longer confidently distinguish the absent transparency. To most ordinary humans, 320kbps using the latest encoders would be beyond their capability of confident distinction from a lossless file. That said, there is the laudable argument of liberating all shadow of a doubt and the fact that lossy encoding is indeed lossy, but the extent that this lost information is perceptible in everyday practice is a point of dubious contention.

 

As to the latter bolded point, absolutely. Speakers measure in nonlinear distortion, tailored amplitude curve, and directionality (a function of frequency). As a rule, speakers are never ideal or even close to ideal in any of these measurements. To the point of transparency, speakers are far enough from ideal to be an untenable solution. Fortunately for us, tremendous variety is available as a "consequence" of this non-ideality.

 

The iMac actually has a very competent DAC stage, with its Achilles heel being a high impedance analog output stage. This shouldn't be much of a problem with outboard amplification.

Quite the pontification on the subjects addressed.

 

For what it's worth I'm of the opinion that even if I may not be able to discern between a well encoded high bit-rate MP3 vs. a RedBook Standard Lossless file there is indeed an appreciable difference in speakers from each one to the next.

 

The biggest thing I would like to realize myself and I think other people should to is to worry more about the sound signature than anything absolute. It's a game of preference, nothing absolute, individuality shines brightly emphasized by the arguments of which is best. As long as your equipment doesn't have and excessively high noise floor or piss poor balance you're doing well and finding your preferred sound is what it's about.

post #28 of 28
Thread Starter 

What do you guys think about using the Neuhaus T-2 with the Ascend Sierra-1s? I've decided those are the speakers I'm going to get!


Here is the specs of the T-2 amp (which I already have): http://www.neuhauslabs.com/amplifiers/

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