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December 2013 Mid-Level DAC Comparison - Page 42  

post #616 of 1331
Thread Starter 

I can't volume match and use a switch box to do side-by-side comparisons if I have to use the amp's volume control, because it is downstream of the switch.  To use the switch I need to control volume upstream of it.  While I could test one at a time, it is very difficult to assess and remember subtle differences without nearly instantaneous comparisons, so I would really prefer to use the switch box.

post #617 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post
How much damage am I going to do to the sound by using JRiver to correct ~3dB of volume?

 

It's only 3db... I wouldn't worry about it. Depending on the dac and its volume implementation it might not even be "tossing bits out".

 

And I'd look at it this way: if a dac can't handle a measly 3db of attenuation without changing it's characteristic sound... the designers have done something horribly wrong.

post #618 of 1331
Thread Starter 

Folks:

 

Just to provide transparency, here is the song list I've been using lately.  The list was drawn mostly from songs on the larger list of 250 songs I used the first couple of days, with a couple of outsiders pulled in as well.  The point of this list was to try to find differences between DACs, so the first to make the list were those songs which my notes indicated showed some differences between the Arcam and PWD.  Then I added a couple of other tunes that I thought might be difference makers as well.  As you can see, about half the list is hi-res, half regular FLAC files. 

 

Name

Artist

Album

Bitrate

Duration

Just A Little Lovin'

Shelby Lynne

Just A Little Lovin'

6066

5:21

Anyone Who Had A Heart

Shelby Lynne

Just A Little Lovin'

6172

3:37

The Look Of Love

Shelby Lynne

Just A Little Lovin'

6126

3:22

Honeysuckle Rose

Ella Fitzgerald & Count Basie

Ella And Basie!

3188

2:42

'Deed I Do

Ella Fitzgerald & Count Basie

Ella And Basie!

3230

2:46

Satin Doll

Ella Fitzgerald & Count Basie

Ella And Basie!

3107

3:20

Moonlight In Vermont

Ella Fitzgerald / Louis Armstrong

Ella and Louis

2299

3:39

A Foggy Day

Ella Fitzgerald / Louis Armstrong

Ella and Louis

2407

4:31

Hotel California

Eagles

Hotel California

5152

6:31

Life In The Fast Lane

Eagles

Hotel California

5143

4:46

Dream A Little Dream Of Me

Ella Fitzgerald & Count Basie

Ella And Basie!

3094

4:08

John Barleycorn (Must Die)

Traffic

John Barleycorn Must Die

2851

6:27

Satin Doll

The Duke Ellington Orchestra conducted by Mercer Ellington

Digital Duke

769

4:27

Cottontail

The Duke Ellington Orchestra conducted by Mercer Ellington

Digital Duke

882

4:15

Prelude To a Kiss

The Duke Ellington Orchestra conducted by Mercer Ellington

Digital Duke

751

4:25

Perdido

The Duke Ellington Orchestra conducted by Mercer Ellington

Digital Duke

875

8:29

Take the A Train

The Duke Ellington Orchestra conducted by Mercer Ellington

Digital Duke

830

5:36

The Riff

Dave Matthews Band

Away From The World

917

5:35

Gaucho

Dave Matthews Band

Away From The World

956

4:25

Sweet

Dave Matthews Band

Away From The World

726

4:12

Be Free

Loggins & Messina

The Best Of Friends

755

7:00

Peace Of Mind

Loggins & Messina

The Best Of Friends

741

4:09

Fascinating Rythm

Dave Grusin

The Gershwin Connection

898

5:04

Prelude II

Dave Grusin

The Gershwin Connection

790

5:38

I've Got Plenty O' Nuthin'

Dave Grusin

The Gershwin Connection

969

6:06

Drum Solo

Todd Turkisher

Dr. Chesky's Sensational, Fantastic, and Simply Amazing Binaural Sound Show

6345

1:08

Broken Crown

Mumford & Sons

Babel, Gentlemen of the Road Edition (CD1) Babel Deluxe

816

4:16

Below My Feet

Mumford & Sons

Babel, Gentlemen of the Road Edition (CD1) Babel Deluxe

751

4:52

post #619 of 1331
Thread Starter 

People:

 

After using the list above to listen to the Concero for several hours, comparing it to the DM Source and the Emo Stealth, I am hereby declaring the Concero to be a member of "The Indistinguishables."  It sounds just like the other two, which sound just like the NAD, which sounds pretty much like the Arcam except for the inability to match volume exactly.  I even played with the filters on the Concero for a few minutes.  I thought I detected a tiny change in the way regular non-hi-res files sounded, but nothing that would break the Concero out of The Indistinguishables. 

 

That means the Concero sounds great, and it is extremely portable -- it is very small (~4" x 4" x .75") and runs off of USB power -- no separate power cord.  You can buy a remote for it to control the filters and a few other items, but it has no volume control.  It can be used as a USB-to-SPDIF converter if you have interest in that feature.  At a cost of $650 Canadian including the remote, it is a great alternative for those looking for a portable setup, or with space constraints, and who don't need volume control. 

 

Unfortunately for Resonessence, I will not be buying one, at least at this time, because I am not looking for a portable DAC right now, and all other things being equal, I would prefer analog volume control to allow me to get more into my amp's sweet spot (otherwise I'm probably gonna have to pay Brunk or Potterma to make me a light sabre... er, I mean one of those fancy attenuators they like to build).  As a result, because the DM Source and Emo are equal in sound performance to the Concero, and have more features that I want, they edge it out as of now.  However, if I decide I do want a portable rig, or a small setup aside from my main rig, I would readily buy a Concero.

 

Thanks again to Mike (Zilch) for loaning me his toy.

post #620 of 1331

I guess this means you would not buy the Ciunas either, but I'm still interested to hear how it compares to the other DACs.  I'm a little confused.  Why not use the volume control on your preamp or main amp.?  In any case, keep up the DAC comparisons.  This is an interesting thread.  

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post
 

People:

 

Unfortunately for Resonessence, I will not be buying one, at least at this time, because I am not looking for a portable DAC right now, and all other things being equal, I would prefer analog volume control to allow me to get more into my amp's sweet spot (otherwise I'm probably gonna have to pay Brunk or Potterma to make me a light sabre... er, I mean one of those fancy attenuators they like to build).  As a result, because the DM Source and Emo are equal in sound performance to the Concero, and have more features that I want, they edge it out as of now.  However, if I decide I do want a portable rig, or a small setup aside from my main rig, I would readily buy a Concero.

 

Thanks again to Mike (Zilch) for loaning me his toy.

post #621 of 1331
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by WNBC View Post
 


Let me clarify:  I would prefer to have an analog volume control so that I can get further into the sweet spot of my 110-wpc/8-ohm Odyssey Cyclops, or even my 32-wpc TBI Millenia, but I'm willing to do without if I like the sound of a particular DAC over the others.  However, if two DACs sound the same to me and one has a volume control, while the other doesn't, I'm going with the one that does. 

 

The Concero is in The Indistinguishables group that all sound the same to me, and two of those DACs that cost <$1K have volume controls, so I would buy either of them before I would buy a Concero, at least for my current setup.  As I indicated, if I had different needs for a system, i.e., small size/portability, and didn't care about volume control or multiple inputs, the Concero would rise to the top of the list.

 

Hope that helps folks understand where I'm coming from on that point.

post #622 of 1331
Thanks, makes perfect sense.
post #623 of 1331

Gary, just a few thoughts and suggestions in case you find them useful. You might add a "Year" column to your song list. I feel I can more or less tell what decade a song was recorded. As you go back in time, the mastering technology was more and more primitive. Looks like you have some tunes from this century in the mix. I like the oldies as well as the next guy, and we want the DAC to cope with them, but I wonder in the end which songs (from which decade's mastering consoles) will separate the men from the boys. 

 

Not sure what you mean by analog volume knob. To be fair I don't know off the top of my head which of your DACs have which features, but to me, if a DAC takes the sample into a 32 bit or floating point domain, then implements digital volume control and digital filtering there, I'm good with it. In fact I think it gives better results than volume control in the analog domain. Or maybe you just wanted a knob, but a knob could control digital as well as analog volume. 

post #624 of 1331

Gary,

 

Well, I was pleased to hear that my little brick of a DAC (the Concero) is indistinguishable from several very good DACs - as opposed to learning that it could not compete. :smile:

 

Going on bang for the buck among the "Indistinguishables," the Emotiva Stealth certainly seems to be a good choice for someone not already equipped with one of its more expensive or less feature-full peers.

 

Thanks again,

 

Mike

post #625 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toe Tag View Post
 

Gary, just a few thoughts and suggestions in case you find them useful. You might add a "Year" column to your song list. I feel I can more or less tell what decade a song was recorded. As you go back in time, the mastering technology was more and more primitive. Looks like you have some tunes from this century in the mix. I like the oldies as well as the next guy, and we want the DAC to cope with them, but I wonder in the end which songs (from which decade's mastering consoles) will separate the men from the boys. 

 

Not sure what you mean by analog volume knob. To be fair I don't know off the top of my head which of your DACs have which features, but to me, if a DAC takes the sample into a 32 bit or floating point domain, then implements digital volume control and digital filtering there, I'm good with it. In fact I think it gives better results than volume control in the analog domain. Or maybe you just wanted a knob, but a knob could control digital as well as analog volume. 

Nope, sorry, doesn't work this way. Yet true at low attenuation levels. Vega was able to keep up with analogue up to -40db, but I am not sure this is the rule for other implementations.

 

And yes on old material used for the task, "Ella Fitzgerald / Louis Armstrong" + LCD3 =  good luck on your pick the difference quest.


Edited by Andrew_WOT - 12/25/13 at 7:17pm
post #626 of 1331

I was really looking forward to the outcome of these tests but Christmas money/my impulsive nature won me over and I just purchased a Geek Pulse. Hope I won't be getting screwed over with a POS. lol

post #627 of 1331
Thread Starter 

Old material... new material... Mastering technology makes no difference if the recording is as clear as these old Verve recordings are.  Trust me, in the old days it took real engineering skill to record an album and get a high-fidelity sound, and those folks at Verve knew what they were doing.  Those albums have been reissued as audiophile recordings numerous times on various media since at least the 1970s that I know of.  Look at the bit rates people... those are hi-res files.  Do they have a perfectly black background?  No.  But the instruments and voices in most of them sound more real, with much better dynamics, than most modern recordings.  Verve didn't do any wall-of-sound recordings like modern studios produce. 

 

Nevertheless, I do have some very modern recordings on the list, along with some from pretty much every decade going back to the 1950s.  They were chosen because they were considered excellent recordings for their era, and they have lots of different solo instruments and voices, as well as massed big band sounds.  For example, the Shelby Lynne is a recent hi-res release on DSD.  I'm not a Shelby Lynne fan, but when I asked the guys at Super Hi-Rez what recording they would recommend for this testing, that's what they recommended.  And they were right, it is an awesome recording.  I don't really like the music very much, but I can live with it through this test.  Same with some of the HD Tracks' demo material that I used in the first couple of days but didn't make the short list because it didn't seem to reveal differences in the DACS (even the pipe organ pieces... I was sure they would be useful... nope).  The drum solo is a Chesky binaural piece, and I sometimes go back to his binaural electric and acoustic bass recordings.  In addition, most of the Dave Matthews is from last year's album, and the Mumford and Sons is also a year or two old.  Again, the point of using those songs is to try to isolate particular sounds that might stress a DAC, or at least reveal differences, such as massed brass and/or woodwinds playing jazz, or deep bass, or solo drums/percussion, or in the case of the Mumford, the sound of the fingering on the guitar fret board.  Yeah, I am listening to hear how well the DACs reproduce the slide and grab of fingers on a fretboard.  More generally, I am focusing on how a particular instrument or group of instruments or voice changes from DAC to DAC, as well as periodically stepping back to listen to a whole song or two. 

 

In the end, no matter when a song was recorded, a cymbal either sounds the same with 2 DACs or it doesn't,  A bass either sounds the same or it doesn't.  A voice either sounds the same or it doesn't.  Digits are turned into voltages, voltages are turned into vibrations.  The vibrations move the air that moves the tiny receptors in my ear and they send a signal to my brain.  I either register a difference or I don't.  But the only variables in the entire chain ARE THE DACs (including their drivers).  Everything else is the same, so if there are differences, then it is the DACs that are making the difference, if not, they they do not sound different to me.


Edited by Gary in MD - 12/25/13 at 8:00pm
post #628 of 1331

My point is that the chain goes back to include the mixing board and the microphones. They may have been skillful but surely we would all agree these devices have improved over the last 5 or 8 decades. I allow that you are in fact feeding the same snapshot of post-recording post-mix digital samples into each DAC. But I could give you a set of digital samples taken from a cassette recording of an 8-track tape I have, and I'm just suggesting it would not be helpful in telling the DAC's apart. Anyway it does look like a good set of sample songs there. 

post #629 of 1331
Thread Starter 

Trust me... the Verve recordings are audiophile quality.  In fact, I believe HD Tracks has several of them in their "audiophile" collection.  The fact that they were also considered audiophile master recordings back when I was in college ~35 years ago doesn't make them any less audiophile today.  The equipment was cruder, but that meant the engineers had to earn their money with studio setup, etc.  The musicians in those recordings were the top stars of their age, and they got the best people working with them.  The people making those recordings really knew what they were doing, and it is apparent when you listen to them.  There is a reason why these records, out of all of the stuff that has been recorded in the past 80 years, are being released so often in hi-res.  Not that I'm shilling for them, but anybody who likes jazz should really listen to these recordings.  Ella Fitzgerald in her prime was incredible, and the musicians she worked with, including Ellington, Basie and Armstrong, were also amazing.  They're almost worth the outrageous cost of the downloads (they're too expensive even on sale 15% off this week).

post #630 of 1331

@Gary in MD

 

How do the $500 and up dacs compare to the LOW end $100/$150 dacs?

 

I own an hrt music streamer II. I've read a great many comments since I started using this forum that seem to reflect what you're seeing in your tests, that dacs have reached a level of technical excellence even on the low end that people might not actually be able to differentiate between them past the low end. 

 

Really what these test and other commentary are screaming to me is that spending $500 on a dac might be pissing money to the wind. But I don't have the ability to test higher end product so I'm lost in that respect.


Edited by jbarrentine - 12/25/13 at 8:55pm
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