or Connect
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Dedicated Source Components › December 2013 Mid-Level DAC Comparison
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

December 2013 Mid-Level DAC Comparison - Page 8  

post #106 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post
 

AiDee:

 

Some day we should get together and have a very long conversation about the social sciences and statistics... but not here, because Head-Fi would ban us. 

 

Suffice it to say that I agree with your central points and will do my best to apply good review methodologies, particularly fairness -- including level matching -- as well as honesty/open-mindedness -- I truly have no preconceptions going into this test, and don't care which unit wins.  I just want an entertaining competition.

 

As to my qualifications as an audiophile:  for 54 years I have heard live music and a combination of analog and digital recordings, played on a wide range of equipment, ranging from old mono record players as a kid to the finest analog and digital systems some of the old audio salons in metro NYC and Washington, DC had to offer through the mid-90s.  I was one of those people who spent rainy evenings and weekends at the stereo store, driving sales people and owners crazy.  I spent hundreds of hours listening to everything... and buying very little.  Maybe if I had bought more there'd be more such stores around today, but I think the big boxes and the internet did a lot more damage than I did. 

 

I did step away from the hobby for over a decade, as other priorities demanded my time and money.  But my nephew and nieces becoming musicians as teenagers over the past couple of years brought me back.  I wanted to hear their music, but I couldn't stand listening to MP3s via cheap players and their included earbuds.  I thought about going back to my old speaker-based system, but my house is an acoustic nightmare:  all hard surfaces and odd angles, so audiophile headphones are really my only way to get the quality of sound I crave. 

 

In addition to my experience, I also believe I have a very analytical ear/brain.  I am able to focus on details within each recording, and to find differences in how various pieces of hardware reproduce those details.  I do try to maintain some balance by stepping back mentally, to try to hear the whole song... but I will admit that, when I'm doing critical listening, I'm better at discerning detail, and differences in that detail, than hearing the whole.  That's just the way my brain works. 

 

If you read through my past reviews of headphones and amps, I believe you'll find the sort of language you are seeking, with extended (sometimes too extended... I admit I am pretty wordy) discussions of the characteristics of each piece of hardware.  I try to be very precise in my descriptions, so that I convey exactly what I think I hear.  I will use terms such as "warm" or "analytical", but I will also try to provide details and examples of why I concluded that the hardware sounds warm or analytical or dry or accurate.  In addition, I will use analogies where I think they add perspective.  Some of the analogies might not be typical for audio reviews, but I try to use examples that people can relate to, and can use to anchor their own understanding of the points I'm trying to convey. 

 

All of the above being said, I am not a professional reviewer, and this is not going to be a professional review.  This is for fun.  For entertainment -- mine at least, yours I hope.  If I can provide folks with useful information to help guide them in their future purposes, that's great, but I will always caveat this process by adding that this is all my opinion.  My ears.  My brain.  I will always encourage people to try equipment for themselves before buying anything, or at least before buying something that can't be returned easily.  That is one reason why I am so insistent on comparing hardware that can be demo'ed and returned relatively easily/cheaply.  I want everybody to try lots of stuff before buying.  That's how we can all work to keep the industry honest, to weed out the pretenders from the true contenders.

 

So everybody: read my words if you want. Or read every other thread on Head-Fi and Audio Circle, or whatever.  But no matter what, please don't count on me or anybody else to make your choices for you.  In the end, the only person who should be telling you what sounds best is you.

Gary always goes out of his way to answer the doubters....  

 

If you want pretentious, over the top, "every body is better than everyone else" type reviews... head on over to one of the mag review sites, or one of the "professional" reviewers, too numerous to name.

 

Gary's reviews are honest.  Perfect?  No, none of us are.  But, if he hates something, he is not shy about saying that, in his opinion, it SUCKS!  Gary does an excellent job of describing what he hears.  How one piece of equipment affects the musical presentation.

 

Kick back, check it out and enjoy the process.  You don't have to agree 100% with his conclusions.  That's not a requirement.  What is BEST for YOU will still be up to YOU, but if you honestly listen to what he has to say, you will probably be able to get some good information and will get some useful comparisons.

 

And, if you're like me, you'll end up spending money to find out if he is right!

post #107 of 1331
As there is evident misunderstanding about my post above, the only comment I made specific to Gary concerned the thousands of subjects notion. And I didn't quote Gary on this specifically as it's an idea I've encountered elsewhere in my years on head-fI. Thus, not specific to Gary at all.

My post was meant, rather, to address an apparent dichotomy I saw develop in the last couple of pages between 'objective' and 'subjective', whereas I feel there is none. Useful work - including audiophile reviews - can be done in the grey area between.

Whether I would or would not agree 100% with Gary's conclusions cannot even be a meaningful question, as I won't be there experiencing the process with him.

Some two years ago I conducted a quite well-received (not that this of itself has any weight) review of the schiit bifrost, eastern electric minimax dac and Meier stagedac. It was a hugely enjoyable and above all educational experience. I wish Gary the same enjoyment.

Gary, the post was not personal nor meant critically, and I'm surprised it came across this way. It was mostly an academic/scientific muse on the problems of review. I thought it might be interesting. Instead it seems to have provoked you into recounting your credentials. I sincerely apologize for having this effect. It was not intended.

I'm entirely happy to delete the post if it has caused offence (or more to the point lacks value), whether to you, potterma or anyone else.
post #108 of 1331
Thread Starter 

AiDee:

 

Don't remove the post, it was a legitimate statement.  I don't agree with all of your points, particularly about the use of statistics in social science or medicine, but that isn't the subject of this forum, so I won't debate you here.

 

As to the rest, I didn't take it as an attack, I took it as an opportunity to explain a bit about who I am, so that people can calibrate their own minds when they read my posts.  The more people know about me, the better they will be able to process whatever information I provide in these reviews. 

 

In fact, they should know a lot more than I've written above.  They should know that, while I will do my best to describe differences in the equipment as completely, clearly and accurately as possible, I know that my own preferences will color the reviews.  Therefore, they should know and remember when reading my posts that I prefer slightly warm to slightly dry/analytical (I grew up in the analog age).  In my view, "v"-shaped sound signatures aren't "fun" they're inaccurate.  I am sensitive to harsh treble, but my ear is drawn to treble, and accurate treble is one of the characteristics I most value -- as in cymbals and bells and other high frequency instruments should sound the way they do in real life, with attack, ring, natural decay... not like an angry cat or a leaky radiator pipe.

 

They should know I rate equipment in large part on how realistically it portrays detail.  I will hunt each piece of music for how the hardware presents tiny details such as how fingers moving on fretboards sound, or whether I can hear chairs creaking, pages being turned, musicians breathing, etc.  The more it sounds like I'm in the recording studio or theater, the better I like it. 

 

Instrument separation is more important to me than sound stage.  I believe sound stage is extremely difficult for headphones to get right given the laws of physics, and I know that most modern studio recordings are laid down track by track anyway, so any sound stage portrayed is artificial.  That doesn't mean that I totally discount sound stage, and I appreciate the illusion that some sound engineers can produce regarding staging, but I find it hard to criticize equipment for not being able to reproduce a sound stage that isn't in the recording in the first place.  Of course live concert recordings are a different thing altogether, but then their quality is dependent on the venue and the miking, so even in those cases I believe sound stage is a difficult parameter on which to base equipment reviews.  I will comment on where I think the equipment places the listener in the room, and whether that sounds realistic, but I won't dwell on it, and my final evaluations will probably put more emphasis on other characteristics.

 

Okay, enough for now.  I will continue this later, when I'm not supposed to be working.  In any case, AiDee, thank you for inducing me to do this, because I think it will help everybody put my reviews in context.

post #109 of 1331
Cheers Gary, all good then beerchug.gif

Feel free to pm me re statistics. I've been a statistician since the 80s though a social scientist only since the early 2000s. I'm sure we'd have an interesting conversation. Agreed, not here. And I don't waste my time in the 'science' forum.
post #110 of 1331

how about audiolab mdac? i am keen to see a comparison of this.

post #111 of 1331
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by zting View Post
 

how about audiolab mdac? i am keen to see a comparison of this.


I just did a  search and didn't find a North American source for this unit.  Can you find me one?  Given that there are multiple 9018 DACs already on the list, is there a reason to put this one ahead of the others?

post #112 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post


I just did a  search and didn't find a North American source for this unit.  Can you find me one?  Given that there are multiple 9018 DACs already on the list, is there a reason to put this one ahead of the others?

Planet Of Sound.

The M-DAC has won more than a few awards and received more than a few rave reviews.
It has probably received more R&D than some of the other DACs.
post #113 of 1331
Thread Starter 

Planet of Sound has a 10-Day return policy, and the box has to be unopened. 

 

They clearly are still in brick and mortar mode, and not interested in folks who actually want to try their equipment at home.  That's okay, but I can't buy something on those terms.

 

Does anybody else sell the M-DAC?

post #114 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by zilch0md View Post


I, too, hope someone volunteers an Audio-dg DAC, but take note that they offer three distinct series... those based on ESS chips, Wolfson chips, and PCM1704UK mono chips (the SA series), which are described as being more "musical". The latter has a huge fan base and would give you something other than yet another ESS9018 or WM8741 DAC.

I hope someone can lend you one of these:

NOS-1704 - $859 - http://audio-gd.com/Pro/SA/NOS1704/NOS1704EN.htm

SA-2 - $1550 - http://audio-gd.com/Pro/SA/SA2/SA2EN.htm

Mike


I would really love to hear what Gary thinks of the Tranquility NOS DAC, and one of the better Audio GD PCM1704 DAC's in this comparison.  I wish I had one to loan, but all I've got is an  older Audio-GD Compass.  But if there is interest I will ship for review.  Although these were a great value for the money when first released as an entry to hi-fi headphones DAC/Amp's, this all in one probably does not compete with the rest of Gary's list, but you can use the DAC by itself, bypassing the amp.

 

Mark

post #115 of 1331
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rx7mark View Post
 


I would really love to hear what Gary thinks of the Tranquility NOS DAC, and one of the better Audio GD PCM1704 DAC's in this comparison.  I wish I had one to loan, but all I've got is an  older Audio-GD Compass.  But if there is interest I will ship for review.  Although these were a great value for the money when first released as an entry to hi-fi headphones DAC/Amp's, this all in one probably does not compete with the rest of Gary's list, but you can use the DAC by itself, bypassing the amp.

 

Mark


Unfortunately, unless somebody is willing to sponsor those DACs, the cost to include them is just too high, sorry. 

post #116 of 1331

I just solicited an Audio-gd SA-2 from readers of this thread:  http://www.head-fi.org/t/629683/sa-2-musical-dac-audio-gd/45#post_9991424

 

Unlikely to bear fruit, but it never hurts to ask...

post #117 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by rx7mark View Post


I would really love to hear what Gary thinks of the Tranquility NOS DAC, and one of the better Audio GD PCM1704 DAC's in this comparison.  I wish I had one to loan, but all I've got is an  older Audio-GD Compass.  But if there is interest I will ship for review.  Although these were a great value for the money when first released as an entry to hi-fi headphones DAC/Amp's, this all in one probably does not compete with the rest of Gary's list, but you can use the DAC by itself, bypassing the amp.

Mark

Or the Ultra-Fi DAC41, the updated version of the Tranq. I own one and could consider lending it, how long would I be without it though? I don't have a backup DAC, just onboard audio and an old CD spinner. tongue.gif

Here is their site: http://ultrafi.biz/ I'm not sure on the return policy but I'd certainly think they'd be open to lending a review sample. Why not send them a quick message and if they say no then I'll see if I can let you borrow mine. Been thinking of swapping it for one of the Saber DACs and this comparison would be very useful(specially if you could source one of the big A-GD DACs, though those things are so huge shipping would probably kill that idea.)

I'd also recommend throwing in a cheap CD player. The Toshiba XR-35 I'm listening to right now can be found for <$50 on ebay and gives any DAC I've heard a run for it's money in some categories. It'll give you a good idea of what the computer itself adds to the equation. Also, Jplay software? Helps to bring the PC sound closer to that of a good disc spinner. biggrin.gif
post #118 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by zilch0md View Post
 

I just solicited an Audio-gd SA-2 from readers of this thread:  http://www.head-fi.org/t/629683/sa-2-musical-dac-audio-gd/45#post_9991424

 

Unlikely to bear fruit, but it never hurts to ask...

 

I might lend my SA-1 but I doubt the dark LCD-3 is a good match for it.

 

I read this thread quickly but I read someone (brunk, IIRC) offered to lend the HE-6 and/or HD-800. Those would be more suited for the dark/warm SA sound.

Unless Craig is willing to lend you the SA-2 - which is more neutral / less rolled off - but I doubt he is willing to part with his new toy, even for a week or two :p

 

The Ciunas DAC might be a more interesting challenger here. I think I can part with it for few weeks, my Chord QuteHD will do just fine :tongue_smile:. BTW, I'm glad you added this one to the shootout, it certainly deserves more talk around here! While a LPSU is a nice improvement (I tried the Main Cables R Us and Teddy Pardo), the stock SMPS is not that bad honestly. It's enough to appreciate the different approach to sound the QuteHD delivers.

post #119 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Clemmaster View Post

I might lend my SA-1 but I doubt the dark LCD-3 is a good match for it.

Unless Craig is willing to lend you the SA-2 - which is more neutral / less rolled off - but I doubt he is willing to part with his new toy, even for a week or two tongue.gif


Hmm...let me think about it. Let me read through the thread. It would be great to see an AGD 1704 unit represented.

Although I've only had it two weeks!

Gary- are the amps you will be using balanced or single ended?

And USB input only? Not to stir up problems as I am just popping in ...but wouldn't feeding each DAC with the same dedicated transport kind of level the field, really hearing the difference of the DAC itself rather than what is probably wildly varying quality of USB implementation? Just thinking out loud.

Craig
post #120 of 1331
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MohawkUS View Post


Or the Ultra-Fi DAC41, the updated version of the Tranq. I own one and could consider lending it, how long would I be without it though? I don't have a backup DAC, just onboard audio and an old CD spinner. tongue.gif

Here is their site: http://ultrafi.biz/ I'm not sure on the return policy but I'd certainly think they'd be open to lending a review sample. Why not send them a quick message and if they say no then I'll see if I can let you borrow mine. Been thinking of swapping it for one of the Saber DACs and this comparison would be very useful(specially if you could source one of the big A-GD DACs, though those things are so huge shipping would probably kill that idea.)

I'd also recommend throwing in a cheap CD player. The Toshiba XR-35 I'm listening to right now can be found for <$50 on ebay and gives any DAC I've heard a run for it's money in some categories. It'll give you a good idea of what the computer itself adds to the equation. Also, Jplay software? Helps to bring the PC sound closer to that of a good disc spinner. biggrin.gif


Couldn't find enough info on that site to figure out whether the DAC41 is a contender, as in all I saw was a picture, no information.  I suppose I could call, but that seems a bit strange for somebody trying to sell stuff on the internet.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Dedicated Source Components
This thread is locked  
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Dedicated Source Components › December 2013 Mid-Level DAC Comparison