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December 2013 Mid-Level DAC Comparison - Page 87  

post #1291 of 1331

   There is a world of difference between exchanging arguments and quarreling. Please everybody, cool down and keep to the former. And please guard against interpreting arguments as insults and answering "accordingly" with irony, sharp words and so on. It would be a pity to turn this thread into a fight and, in my opinion, it would be disrespectful to the OP. 

  

Quote:

Originally Posted by Barry S View Post
 

The fast A-B switching and level matching is essential for accurate comparisons.

   This couple of statements is a good example of opinion I disagree with. But for me, disagreeing with them does not make me believe that Barry would be naive, not knowledgeable etc. I just happen to think differently and I'm prepared to explain my reasons.

 

   So, let's just imagine that you are upgrading your gear: selling your old dac, amp or whatever and buying a new, presumably "better" (and often more expensive) one. What is your expectation? To hear an improvement. Perhaps not immediately, but over a little time, say over a few hours (as after a longer period of time the memory of the "old sound" will recede and be partially contaminated by the new impressions), you expect to hear a "better" sound. To be struck by the discovery that "those cymbals are sweeter than I remember", "now I can finally understand what the guys in the background are saying", "the bass foundations of the music seem stronger, more solid now" and so on and so on - and above all, a generally feeling that you are now enjoying your music more that you previously did. This is your objective when you are upgrading. (In most of the cases, you will also notice some things missing - the sound used to be warmer, for example - as there is rarely a piece of gear superior to another on all the subjective parameters unless it is in a totally different class, and often much more expensive too). And how do you make the comparison between the two dacs? Definitely not by fast A-B switching, but rather by being impressed by the new sensorial input over a short period of time as opposed to the memory of the old "sound", memories created over months or years of use.

  

   By using fast A-B switching as a comparison methodology we presume that whatever we can hear on the longer run (minutes, hours or more), as a sum of often each on its own unconscious impressions, we can also hear through fast switching. This presumption has not been proven afaik and some may find it doubtful. I have compared the two CD players in my house, And by fast (not instant, but by swapping cables) switching I could hear something was slightly different (they were much more similar than I would have expected!), but I could not quite put my finger on it. Only after listening to a few minutes in a row on each of them, and going back and forth for a few times, I could articulate my findings, and the differences became subjectively more obvious..

 

   Now let me address a few obvious objections to the validity of the conclusions of the audiophile above:

1.   There is no level matching whatsoever.

   Well, in a way there is. Over time, I will listen at various sound pressure levels, both on the old dac as well as on the new.one. If I can hear the already identified differences both at high as well as at low volume (for example there is a greater sense of space, or transients seem faster and snappier), the lack of level matching becomes unimportant.

2.   Expecting to hear a difference makes you hear it when there is none. We are too suggestible.

   This is a strong argument. We are suggestible indeed. But this can be mitigated by training, and some of us are experienced audiophiles with perhaps tens of years of listening to audio gear. Also, sometimes we expect to prefer the dac A because it's more expensive and "should" sound "better", only to discover to our great surprise that, while the two dacs in question do sound indeed different, it is dac B the one that we prefer. Such findings that go against the expectations (and wishes!) cannot be explained through suggestion. Placebo is an easy explanation, so it's rather overused. It should be just a suspicion, something to guard against, not a certain explanation unless directly proved such is the case.

3.   The memory is unreliable.

   Up to a point. But fast A-B switching does not take it out of the equation. When I'm listening to B, the A sound is already in my memory and that's where I'm taking it from to compare against B. Fast switching means I have little time to forget details of A, but also means 1) that A is just a short, fast impression, perhaps making it more superficial (for example I'm not used to listening to gear with very good imaging capabilities, my hearing is not "trained" enough in this respect and I might miss just how good or bad the imaging is during such a short exposure to sound), and 2) that the B's proximity in time to A might make it more prone to be influenced by B, perhaps by tiring the ear or by some neurophysiological mechanisms on the cerebral cortex.

4.   Whatever differences there might be that cannot be reliably detected by fast switching are too subtle to matter.

   That's a very subjective statement! Your "too subtle" might be my "annoying" lack of instruments placement precision, for example, or vice-versa.

post #1292 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by driver 8 View Post
 

 

Which audio engineers are you talking about?  I've spoken to several on these forums and none have agreed with this.  Tyll -- the man who invented the dedicated headphone amp -- knows he can hear things that his own measurements don't show.

 

Who's no one else?  I've heard fairly apparent differences in every DAC I've owned. 

Agree,   "measurements" are very simplified ways of probing the big picture.

like this:

post #1293 of 1331
On a more serious note, by going through this thread and reading the points raised by Head-fiers, I've learnt not to give into the impulse of buying a DAC or anything else because it's more expensive or because it's got features I probably will not use. I guess its all about picking the equipment that makes the music the best sounding for YOU.
Edited by kothganesh - 1/10/14 at 3:42am
post #1294 of 1331

Exactly.

 

Also, try understanding more about the music you love - much less expensive and so satisfying!

post #1295 of 1331
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by olor1n View Post
 

Relax Gary. It was a benign analogy. Not levelled at anyone, but perhaps applicable in a broad sense to the question of whether minute or "indistinguishable" differences are worth pursuing.

 

If I wanted to be passive-aggressive I would have asked about your secret benefactor of the Yulong. Sounds like an incredibly generous individual. Kudos that it didn't sway your findings. In any way.


I do need to clear this up, apparently.  The "secret benefactor" was somebody who indicated that he would take the Yulong off of my hands for what I paid for it, if I didn't want it.  The point was not to favor the Yulong, but to make it equal to all of the others, because I could send it away at the end of the testing for minimum cost (<$50 in shipping) just like the others.  Given that the Yulong's NA distributor is in CA and the unit came straight from China, returns are extremely expensive, in effect infeasible, and I would not have ordered a DAC that was not returnable.  As I indicated in the OP, I do not want to be a used-DAC salesman, and if nobody had agreed to buy the Yulong off of me if I didn't want it, it would not have been included in the field.  There is absolutely nothing more to it than that. 

post #1296 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Koloth View Post



Once again, buddy: This is not your private board. The likes of you are of course very successful in driving away people who don’t want to participate in the weekly hypetrains and circlejerks but you’ve not taken over this board completely yet.






Spoken like someone who never got above high-school physics or theory of science.

He's done an excellent job of driving me away.
post #1297 of 1331

Yeah nasty.

post #1298 of 1331

What happened here?  This was supposed to be a fun thread in which Gary did a relatively quick DAC survey to find one that stood out with his headphone and amp.  It was never meant to be a review of each DAC though Gary provided a decent amount of detail about his comparisons.  He stipulated at the start that this was subjective and never meant to be a guideline for anyone else.  With that said, Gary still did a decent job trying to be scientific in the process.  Given more time he may have teased out more differences but who has that kind of time to compare 10+ DACs?  We're all doing a little projecting here because we would do things a little different than Gary but none of us are going to organize such a large simultaneous comparison of DACs.    

 

 


Edited by WNBC - 1/10/14 at 8:19am
post #1299 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by WNBC View Post
 

What happened here?  This was supposed to be a fun thread [...]

 

I'm sorry. I fear I'm all too often drawn into these things :)

 

 

 

So I apologize for my belligerent tone. I'll refrain from participating in those 'discussions' in this thread from now on.

 

Thanks again for your awesome project Gary! Sorry for momentarily usurping your thread.

 

( BTW: I recently compared my (entry-level) DAC (Audio GD NFB12, about 240$) against the headphone out of my Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2. Even though you'd expect there to be substantial differences between the integrated dac and headphone out of a tablet (pretty much the worst place for audio processing) and a standalone device the differences were VERY subtle when using my Sennheiser HD600. Sure, voices sounded a tad bit fuller and the base a bit more pronounced on the Audio-GD but since I couldnt do precise level-matching and had to unplug the phones everytime when switching I'm not confident at all I could hear differences between the two devices when using volume-machted AB-comparisons. While I have no doubt that there are more expensive DACs which would show substantial differences (hence my interest in this thread in the first place) this experience also leads me to consider your findings to be very believable, Gary. )

post #1300 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Koloth View Post
 

 

I'm sorry. I fear I'm all too often drawn into these things :)

 

 

 

So I apologize for my belligerent tone. I'll refrain from participating in those 'discussions' in this thread from now on.

 

Thanks again for your awesome project Gary! Sorry for momentarily usurping your thread.

 

( BTW: I recently compared my (entry-level) DAC (Audio GD NFB12, about 240$) against the headphone out of my Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2. Even though you'd expect there to be substantial differences between the integrated dac and headphone out of a tablet (pretty much the worst place for audio processing) and a standalone device the differences were VERY subtle when using my Sennheiser HD600. Sure, voices sounded a tad bit fuller and the base a bit more pronounced on the Audio-GD but since I couldnt do precise level-matching and had to unplug the phones everytime when switching I'm not confident at all I could hear differences between the two devices when using volume-machted AB-comparisons. While I have no doubt that there are more expensive DACs which would show substantial differences (hence my interest in this thread in the first place) this experience also leads me to consider your findings to be very believable, Gary. )

 

It is my impression/opinion that most devices under a certain price point would sound very similar via usb, as most usb implementations at lower price points are simply lacking. According to purrin, even the usb-32 on the master 7 sounds like **** (even though I think it sounds great, having never heard an off-ramp to i2s). In the case of many of these dacs examined in this thread, I believe the built in usb transports are incapable of fully exploiting the full potential of each given dac. That said in the context of things I don't believe Gary would want to look into yet another expensive piece of hardware, so I find his findings to be pretty close to what I'd expect to hear personally. Once i get around to buying an off-ramp I'd be delighted to send it to Gary to use for yet another round of tests. If he found them all very similar sounding then, that is the time when i'd find myself truly confused. 

 

 

 

Anyway here is a kitten i hope everyone has a wonderful day:

 

 


Edited by blitzxgene - 1/10/14 at 8:57am
post #1301 of 1331
Early on, I suggested an objectivist phase two where those interested could geek out.

We're there and I'm out!

Peace, all
post #1302 of 1331

There's nothing that cats and Marlee Matlin can't save :D.

 

Also, it is close to the life of this thread unless Gary keeps us updated on what he ends up buying and maybe auditioning a couple more DACs ;).  Criticism is fine but we are getting too deep and analytical into one fellow head-fi'ers journey into DACs.  I guess that's part of putting oneself out there in the community.

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by AiDee View Post

Nice save guys, thanks WNBC. I was starting to wonder where the mods were?!
post #1303 of 1331

I've been reading about Lynx Hilo lately and it's one interesting piece of gear. It's a shame it wasn't available for the comparison. The Hilo is designed for mixing and mastering use, and it has some interesting capabilities. There are actually three separate DACs in the Hilo and it can also be used as an AD converter. You can feed it a digital file, convert it to an analog output, route that output through an external analog processing unit, and send it back through the Hilo for conversion to a digital file. So you could add any type of analog processing to a digital file in one pass.

 

One interesting application would be to capture the analog output from different DACs and convert it back into digital files for quantitative comparison.

 

High quality PCM file>DAC1...DAC2...DAC3>Hilo AD>High quality PCM file--------->Quantitate differences between files (e.g., subtract one file from another)

 

Controls: Compare DACs that are audibly different vs DACs that sound the same to see if the process can differentiate and quantitate the differences.

 

The Hilo is not going to be perfect at AD conversion, but it doesn't have to be if the controls work. It's likely to be very good if it's aimed at mastering and mixing engineers. If it works, you could do all sorts of comparisons like DAC1 USB vs SPDIF. The advantages would be the ability to quantify and compare differences, and removing the separate amplifier and headphones out of the comparisons.

 

Has anyone tried this?

post #1304 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Barry S View Post
 

I've been reading about Lynx Hilo lately and it's one interesting piece of gear. It's a shame it wasn't available for the comparison. The Hilo is designed for mixing and mastering use, and it has some interesting capabilities. There are actually three separate DACs in the Hilo and it can also be used as an AD converter. You can feed it a digital file, convert it to an analog output, route that output through an external analog processing unit, and send it back through the Hilo for conversion to a digital file. So you could add any type of analog processing to a digital file in one pass.

 

One interesting application would be to capture the analog output from different DACs and convert it back into digital files for quantitative comparison.

 

High quality PCM file>DAC1...DAC2...DAC3>Hilo AD>High quality PCM file--------->Quantitate differences between files (e.g., subtract one file from another)

 

Controls: Compare DACs that are audibly different vs DACs that sound the same to see if the process can differentiate and quantitate the differences.

 

The Hilo is not going to be perfect at AD conversion, but it doesn't have to be if the controls work. It's likely to be very good if it's aimed at mastering and mixing engineers. If it works, you could do all sorts of comparisons like DAC1 USB vs SPDIF. The advantages would be the ability to quantify and compare differences, and removing the separate amplifier and headphones out of the comparisons.

 

Has anyone tried this?

 

TAS reviewed the Mytek 192, Benchmark DAC2 and the Hilo.

The conclusion was the following:

Quote: TAS
The Hilo DAC/pre has a very similar sonic character to the Benchmark DAC2 HGC and Mytek 192-DSD-DAC—that is to say, not much. Its variations from neutrality were far less apparent than other parts of most systems into which it was inserted. The sonic differences I’ve heard between various brands of state-of- the-art speaker cables or power amplifiers in my system were greater than between all three DACs in this review. Can you say, dead heat, boys and girls?

 

The guy actually finds more difference between cables than these 3 DACs. This should annoy both the subjectivists and objectivists camp equally :D.

post #1305 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post

 

And one final point:  unless you've actually heard my rig, please stop assuming it is a pile of crap.  It isn't.  It is a mid-level rig, which is why I was testing mid-level DACs.  I have no idea if a $3000-$5000 amp would have been more transparent, but the reality is that most people will never own a $3000-5000 amp, myself included, so that isn't really relevant to this thread.

 

I'm sure that someday somebody will plunk down bazillions of bucks to test a bunch of high-end DACs using a high-end rig and a mega-buck testing system connected by solid unobtanium cables, and that they will find stark differences in the DACs.  And I'm sure it will be a very entertaining read, but that's not what this thread was about.

 

A $3000-$5000 amp does not necessarily translate into something better than a mid-level rig. Price doesn't necessarily have anything to do with it. I have experienced first hand several $5000+ headphone amps which were utter duds, at least in terms of me being able to distinguish from one DAC to another.

 

It's my understanding that you are using a speaker amp to power your LCD3s? It's been my experience that high power speaker amps don't resolve as well as even some of the better middle-tier headphone amps. Typically, speaker amps have more amplification stages and are designed for well... speakers. There's a lot of stuff you can get away with speaker amps that you can't with headphone amps (headphones, which directly send the sound to our ears, can be much more resolving than speakers.) I haven't heard your Cyclops amp, but personally I suspect that's your weak link.

 

The differences among DACs will always be subtle, even if rip-off cables or $40,000 DACs (which I have heard) are used.


Edited by purrin - 1/10/14 at 11:38am
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