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December 2013 Mid-Level DAC Comparison - Page 37  

post #541 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post
 

I was going to use the Emo Stealth, but it won't start with ASIO or WASAPI and when I use the plain USB 2.0 driver the display shows only 44.1K bit rate no matter what I throw at it -- but at least it plays the song.  I need to talk to Emo to see if this is normal.  If so, I test it as is.  If not, it gets returned for another unit. 

 

Gary

Hungry Man

 

Gary,

 

I had the same issue with the Stealth.  Select the WASAPI driver, then go to Device Settings and turn on "Disable Event Style."

 

That *should* get it to work.

 

   -Mike

post #542 of 1331
Thread Starter 

@ Mike Hamel:

 

Thank you!!! I think that worked... I don't have the Stealth hooked up to the amp right now (weak-arsed switch... now I can only hook one DAC up at a time... grumble), but I changed the setup and hit play and it didn't choke, so that's a good sign. 

 

Okay, back to listening to the Arcam.  I'm just listening right now.  I'm pretty tired, so not taking notes.  Just enjoying the music for a few minutes before quitting for the night. 

post #543 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post
Okay, back to listening to the Arcam.  I'm just listening right now.  I'm pretty tired, so not taking notes.  Just enjoying the music for a few minutes before quitting for the night. 

I'm hoping to hear comments soon on this one.

 

My local Arcam dealer(who is also a NAD M51 dealer) has a "before Christmas" sale going. I could pick either up for a really good price. Other reviews I've read of the irDAC go from "fantastically musically engaging" to "soft bass and inferior to the Rega DAC"

post #544 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post
 

@ Mike Hamel:

 

Thank you!!! I think that worked... I don't have the Stealth hooked up to the amp right now (weak-arsed switch... now I can only hook one DAC up at a time... grumble), but I changed the setup and hit play and it didn't choke, so that's a good sign. 

 

Okay, back to listening to the Arcam.  I'm just listening right now.  I'm pretty tired, so not taking notes.  Just enjoying the music for a few minutes before quitting for the night. 

 

 

Gary,

 

Excellent, I'm glad it helped!

 

   -Mike

post #545 of 1331
Thread Starter 

Folks:

 

Here's today's report, and you're going to be disappointed, sorry, since I got no official DAC testing done today. 

 

:mad:

 

I did test the Niles switch and all of my cables, and found that the signal loss was coming from bad connections on some of the cables.  Some of the cheapo Monoprice connectors were very tight, and as Barry S can attest, since he visited today, I have limited space to work with in my current test setup, which is in a cabinet in a corner.  Pushing a balky connector in completely when space is tight and where light is limited can be difficult.  I just failed to get a good connection on some of the wires, but couldn't see it, so didn't know it.  When I connected them properly and tested them carefully against my old Monster cables direct from DAC to amp, the differences were a few tenths of a dB at most -- well within the margin of error.  When I tested them running through the switch vs. direct, I got the same difference, as long as everything was very carefully connected.  So it wasn't the switch's fault, or really even the cheapo cables.  As usual, it was operator error. 

 

That testing took a couple of hours.  Yeah, time also flies fast and far when you aren't really having that much fun.

 

Then Barry came over and we played with the toys for several hours.  The Gungnir continued to be balky.  As in we couldn't get it to work.  Maybe it will work again tomorrow.  If not, I will send it back to its owner who can check to see if that is operator error as well.  It most likely is, but Barry has a Gungnir of his own and he couldn't make this one work either. 

 

Note also that the NAD was pretty balky today too.  It apparently doesn't really like JRiver links too much.  Or perhaps it doesn't like the other DACs I'm linking it to.  I mean, NAD is a classy company, so maybe their equipment just doesn't like associating with DACs from colonial companies with names like "Dangerous Music."  Sounds scary.  So sometimes the NAD works, sometimes it doesn't. 

 

As Barry can attest, it is pretty time-consuming and irritating to start setting up to test a couple of the DACs and the NAD, which was up and running 10 minutes ago before we hooked up one other DAC, or changed one wire somewhere else in the setup, is no longer running.  So we played around with it a while, and sometimes it decided to run.  Until it decided not to again.  I'm pretty sure this is a problem with the drivers interfacing with JRiver, particularly in links, or when links are broken. Or when somebody moves in the room.  Or when anything at all in the universe changes.  In any case, it is really irritating.

 

However, later in the day when the NAD was working, we did some impromptu comparisons using Barry's new LCD-X.  I will provide you NO RESULTS from that testing now, because we did not follow my protocol or use my LCD-3s much.  But one critical piece of information was once again gleaned from what we did and bears repeating again:  This is a VERY subjective hobby. 

 

In particular, Barry's ear and taste are pretty much totally different than mine.  He likes one type of sound -- very lean mids-- and I like the exact opposite -- thick mids.  Hence his preference for the LCD-X and my choice of the LCD-3s.   What I think is "better" or "best" in a DAC does not agree at all with what he thinks. He would not be happy with my current setup (particularly the LCD-3) paired with any of these DACs and I would not be happy with either his current or future setup with the LCD-X no matter what DAC he used. 

 

However, we could agree that, with the Odyssey Cyclops and the LCD-X, one DAC sounded leaner, or another one thicker, or a couple sounded really close to each other, or whatever.  We heard most of the same things.  We just couldn't agree on the value of those things... i.e., that one DAC (or amp or cans) was necessarily "better"  or "worse" than the others. 

 

I am telling this story in order to drive home a point I've made many times on these boards, and will reiterate once again here:  I cannot and will not tell you what DAC to buy as a result of this testing.  I cannot and will not tell you which DAC is "better".  You have to decide that for yourself. 

 

I can, and will, describe for you in tedious detail what these DACs sound like TO ME.  which ones have the same flavor, and which ones have different flavors, as well as what those flavors are, as best I can find words to characterize them.  I should even be able to tell you which ones have more of a particular flavor or less of it.  I will tell you which one(s) I will be keeping, and why.  If I can describe the sound accurately (according to my ears, in my system), I hope that will be useful information to point you in the direction of a unit that provides a flavor that you believe fits your preferences.  But that's the best I (or anybody else) can do for you.  You need to do your own comparison testing to gain the final understanding you need to make an informed decision.

 

Okay, more than enough useless jabbering.  I am quitting for the night, and will strive to do 2 DACs tomorrow, to make up for the one I didn't do today.

post #546 of 1331

Points well taken.  We're all living vicariously through you during this DAC comparison.  A crash course in DAC-ology.  Maybe we should get some fantasy DAC brackets up?  

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post

 

I can, and will, describe for you in tedious detail what these DACs sound like TO ME.  which ones have the same flavor, and which ones have different flavors, as well as what those flavors are, as best I can find words to characterize them.  I should even be able to tell you which ones have more of a particular flavor or less of it.  I will tell you which one(s) I will be keeping, and why.  If I can describe the sound accurately (according to my ears, in my system), I hope that will be useful information to point you in the direction of a unit that provides a flavor that you believe fits your preferences.  But that's the best I (or anybody else) can do for you.  You need to do your own comparison testing to gain the final understanding you need to make an informed decision.

 

Okay, more than enough useless jabbering.  I am quitting for the night, and will strive to do 2 DACs tomorrow, to make up for the one I didn't do today.

post #547 of 1331

Bravo Gary!  Your jabbering is priceless.

post #548 of 1331

I can relate so much to your point of "operator error"......

post #549 of 1331

Interesting day yesterday, thanks to Gary's generosity in letting me come over and audition DACs. Imagine a spacious house in the country and a small mountain of DACs, a dense pack of cabling, associated equipment, two very large and affectionate dogs, and two guys--jammed into a small alcove. :beyersmile:

 

I'll echo some of Gary's points and add a few of my own observations. Taste in headphones and components is very subjective. I would have thought Gary and I would have closer tastes, since we both love Audeze headphones, but no--there's a large fork in the road where the signatures of the LCD-3 and LCD-X diverge. The LCD-3 is very lush and mid-centric vs. the airy and neutral (to me) signature of the LCD-X. Gary's observations are going to be valuable regardless, but if you love the rich, lush, and intimate LCD-3 sound--he might be a better proxy. We could agree on, and characterize differences, but couldn't agree if (some of) those differences were better or worse.

 

The whole signal chain is important. Even with the same amp, the LCD-X and LCD-3 offered some different perspectives on the qualities of the DACs. The Arcam irDAC seemed to be almost keeping up with some of the more expensive DACs like the M51 and PWD MKII with the LCD-3, but it sounded grainy and etched in the treble with the LCD-X. The Concero sounded too closed in with the LCD-3, but was better matched with the LCD-X.

 

We spent a good bit of time comparing the Dangerous Source, M51 and PWD MKII. This was the only comparison where we matched the levels and threw in some quick single-blind testing. I can't emphasize the importance of level-matching enough. It really strips away the variability and background "noise" in doing comparisons. These DACs are all outstanding--and surprisingly close in sound (with the LCD-X/Cyclops).

 

The Emotiva DACs didn't do much for me--they sounded a bit closed in and muffled compared to everything else, but were definitely better with the LCD-X, than with the LCD-3.

 

I'm sorry we couldn't get the Gungnir running, but I'll be bringing mine (with USB) to Gary's for testing. You guys have no idea how difficult it is to do this testing. Every time we switched out a DAC or reconfigured, two or three DACs would stop working until the full setup was re-stabilized or rebooted. It eats up a lot of time and takes limitless patience--so kudos to Gary for trying to keep everything running. Some gear, like the M51, is very temperamental under these conditions--although I'm sure it runs fine in a straightforward system. Still, you really respect the DACs that just plug in and run--even under difficult conditions.

 

Like Gary, I highly recommend listening for yourself over relying on the observations of others--there is no substitute!

post #550 of 1331

Excellent posts gents! Kudos for emphasising two very important points that should go without saying but are often overlooked.

 

The subjective nature of this hobby makes it impossible for an individual or source to be the one authority. Understanding someone else' preferences can be difficult, particularly when members fail to disclose components used and to convey their perception of the gear. When there's honesty, rather than grandstanding, and when you can calibrate your own experience with a person's impressions (even if you disagree), only then can you derive some value from posts on a forum about something as subjective as audio perception.

 

The other vital point is that what is heard is the sum of all parts. Head-Fi is fixated on which amp is best for a particular headphone and rarely do you read a discussion on the importance of the source component to the whole chain. This disregard may be fine when you're meddling with the entry level, but when you step up to the HD800, LCD-2/3/X, HE-6 etc, it becomes strikingly obvious that there's more to it than 0's and 1's.


Edited by olor1n - 12/22/13 at 6:52am
post #551 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Barry S View Post

 

The whole signal chain is important. Even with the same amp, the LCD-X and LCD-3 offered some different perspectives on the qualities of the DACs. The Arcam irDAC seemed to be almost keeping up with some of the more expensive DACs like the M51 and PWD MKII with the LCD-3, but it sounded grainy and etched in the treble with the LCD-X. The Concero sounded too closed in with the LCD-3, but was better matched with the LCD-X.

 

 

Someone on another forum actually preferred the rDAC (not irDAC) to the M51. Stating the latter sounded too thin.

 

As mentioned - this is a very subjective hobby and one man's "thin" is another man's "neutral".

post #552 of 1331

Thin is the last word I would use to describe the M51. If anything, it's a tad on the warm side of neutral and many reviews share this impression.

 

One thing to note with the M51 though is that sound varies with firmware installed. However, that rDAC must be the HD650 of dacs if someone can deem the M51 lean in comparison.

post #553 of 1331

I recently bought a Yulong DA8 based on comments that it had a sound that was on the warm side of neutral. Surprisingly I found its top end too thin for my tastes and sold it on after two weeks.

 

I'm still looking for that "perfect" balance of sweet treble, meaty mids and tight bass. The Ciunas was close but lacked a little pizazz.

 

My next DAC probabbly won't be ES9018 based. PCM, AK, CS?  However I must admit the upcoming ES based Oppo has caught my attention.

post #554 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Turn&cough View Post

I'm still looking for that "perfect" balance of sweet treble, meaty mids and tight bass. The Ciunas was close but lacked a little pizazz.

Give the Dangerous Source a try.

-Mike
post #555 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by mhamel View Post


Give the Dangerous Source a try.

-Mike

Pro audio = analytical. Popular misconception? I can get it locally will try and check it out on Monday (if they let me take it home for a trial)

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