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 44  

post #646 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by boatheelmusic View Post

Irritating pop recordings........why bother listening to poorly recorded c**p while you worry about 24 vs 32 bit resolution?

As a professional guitarist, I know how much processing, compression and distortion enter into the recording process.

Thus, for my personal listening I focus on well recorded acoustic jazz.

Better musicians, better music, better recordings.

Of course, YMMV and IMHO.

Bill

I agree that bad recordings shouldn't exist and as a consumer I tend to spend my $$$ on well recorded music. Maybe wishful thinking but hopefully artists and the recording industry will eventually get the message just like the food industry with sodium, preservatives, trans fat, etc

 

There's a lot of good older jazz that unfortunately sounds cr*ppy as well. One thing that bothers me and sometimes makes me question my audio quest is that I find myself listening to certain music for "the sound" and not for the actual music. I try desperately to avoid this.

 

I prefer listening to rock or some good but poorly recorded jazz on my very forgiving "thick sounding" car stereo than to listen to Jazz at the Yawnshop on a $$$ home system.

 

That's why I try and tweak my system for a balance between revealing and musical and search out the best mastered version of a particular recording whether that be Stravinsky, The Duke or Mick & Keith.

 

Hopefully my next DAC will bring me one step closer to that perfect balance. (keeping my post on topic):wink_face:


Edited by Turn&cough - 12/26/13 at 8:32am
post #647 of 1331
Nice first post, lots of good points (some snipped). Welcome to head-fi.

My intensive comparison of three dacs two years ago certainly supports the idea dacs are converging almost regardless of price, and differences are subtle.

OTOH I since heard/bought two dacs which both seem to provide much more information (detail, resolution, call it what you will) and enjoyment than the other three. The differences are not subtle. I'm sure the analog stage has some part in this. Maybe a lot - extensive FR tailoring? Improvement? Or just different sound to suit different ears?

One of these dacs is moderately expensive (~$1700); the other the cheapest of them all (not sure of US pricing - about $250?). I would take either of them over the other three any day.

Which leads me back to another hypothesis that's been aired in this and other threads: not just any old dac implementation will do. The designer/engineer (and maybe even luck) might have just a little to do with the final outcome, and price may not be the best predictor of the talent (and possibly luck) involved!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Katinka View Post

Kudos for this epic thread!



To my ears and taste, classical bowed strings recently recorded in natural acoustics (in real stereo, not too close-miked-and-mixed) are the most revealing about good reproduction.  At the same time the subjective beauty of it also tends to distract me (fortunately in a postive way!) so I am not sure about this.  However, I do know that brass/woodwind have different and relatively few high harmonics compared to bowed strings. Technically, this could affect the kind of detail you may pay attention to. 
     What I'm trying to say here is that personal differences (of taste and of sensitivity) also interact with one's focus and attention to detail.  Gary may dislike the HD800 if he listens to brass and I may like the HD800 when I listen to well-recorded strings.  On the other hand, I'd readily agree with him when it comes to brass or pop music (though he'd not like the HD800 anyway). 
     I understand that Gary would be the last to say his findings have more than individual validity, but I mention it nonetheless because the dacs may differ in e.g. 'airy'-ness due to their analog stages and this may be more or less audible also depending on instrumentation and acoustics in the recording. I hope this makes sense and that he'll include some good strings for testing.

Thank you, Gary, and keep up the good work!
post #648 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post
 

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

 

Nice list!

Big thumbs up for Shelby, Ella, The Count, Pops and Traffic.

But I still F@#$ing hate The Egos, man!

post #649 of 1331
Concerning crappy recordings, there's been an interesting proposition put forward by purrin and some of his fellow - ahem - pirates such as LFF that some of these recordings are exactly what you should use. Along with the good ones.

The reason is these recordings with obvious faults can more quickly reveal certain DAC flaws than the well-recorded and engineered stuff. FWIW, at least one of my test tracks was like this, showing up a flaw in the most expensive of the dacs I originally compared, the nature of which was subsequently expanded with other 'better' test tracks I'd chosen for different reasons.

I'm not sure how much he went into this on head-fi, and unfortunately I'm not allowed to mention the other site he frequents. Here's one of the shorter recommendations from that site: "Nirvana Nevermind - Lithium - Original CD * Should be aggressive sounding, loud, etc. Upper midrange issues will make this track unlistenable/painful"
post #650 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. 

 

I think you mean recording technology, not mastering technology.

 

BTW, some of those old recordings sound absolutely stunning!

Don't assume all old recordings sound terrible.

 

And as for new recordings......................Bruce Springsteen's "Magic" anyone?

A pure wall of distortion, too bad, because the music is first rate.

post #651 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post
 

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. 

 

Mastering is the process of transferring a vintage analog 2 track into Hi-Res digital 2 track sound (for example).

It's ridicuously easy to make an excellent recoring sound bloody awful in the mastering process.

 

I have two vinyl copies of the Shelby Lynne on vinyl (i.e. two different labels, pressings, mastering engineers, etc.), one sounds amazing, the other sounds like bad vinyl from the 70's or 80's.

 

Anyways, I agree, some of those old Verve recordings sound sublime.

For another old jazz recording try Sonny Rollins "Way Out West". be prepared to be stunned.


Edited by Chris J - 12/26/13 at 9:24am
post #652 of 1331
Thread Starter 

Yeah, my whole point was that I don't care what technology was used anywhere in the recording or mastering process, as long as the process results in great sound.  Those who know what they are doing can make the music sound right with 1950s technology, while those who don't can screw up using the most powerful modern tools.  In fact, because of the power of modern tools, it takes less skill and understanding about acoustics and sound engineering to produce/engineer/master recordings, which means just about anybody can try their hand at it.  In fact I wonder whether some of the folks making modern recordings have any skill (or ears) at all.  On the other hand, most music these days is listened to on low-res players through crappy earbuds, so there is no real reason for most pop or rock studios to produce high-fidelity recordings.  Just make it LOUD baby...

post #653 of 1331
One of these dacs is moderately expensive (~$1700); the other the cheapest of them all (not sure of US pricing - about $250?). I would take either of them over the other three any day

AiDee, Is it possible to name the 3+2 dacs ?
Edited by i019791 - 12/26/13 at 9:52am
post #654 of 1331
Sure, the three dacs in my comparison (link given a page or two back) were Schiit Bifrost (un-ubered - the review arose because the original Bifrost had just been released); Meier Corda Stagedac; Eastern Electric MiniMax.

The Bifrost sounded/sounds much like Gary's description of the HD800. Tends to unnatural with acoustic or solo/duo classical material because of short decay, 'revealing' with fast-paced busy material because it separates the notes.

The MiniMax showed pristine, pure upper mids and highs. It's likely the lower mids were just as good, but alas a little (I suspect deliberate) extra boost in the mid to upper bass tended to wash out fine harmonic detail in the mids with e.g. piano and cello material.

The Stagedac was/is a very well-executed, balanced-sounding dac. He went for neutral, and I think it shows with nothing over- or under-done. Jan Meier is a fine mid-price amp designer and engineer (even though some don't like his choice of device), and I think this probably showed in a well-balanced analog stage.

The other two DACs are the BMC PureDAC and - I hardly dare mention this on head-fi! - Stanley Beresford's Bushmaster (I have the first version). There's a thread about the Bushmaster somewhere around here. The Puredac has a short thread. It hasn't received the attention it may have deserved. Perhaps mercifully it escaped the head-fi hype train wink.gif

All my dac comments above are TME, YMMV, FWIW, I have tin-ears etc.
post #655 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post
 

Yeah, my whole point was that I don't care what technology was used anywhere in the recording or mastering process, as long as the process results in great sound.  Those who know what they are doing can make the music sound right with 1950s technology, while those who don't can screw up using the most powerful modern tools.  In fact, because of the power of modern tools, it takes less skill and understanding about acoustics and sound engineering to produce/engineer/master recordings, which means just about anybody can try their hand at it.  In fact I wonder whether some of the folks making modern recordings have any skill (or ears) at all.  On the other hand, most music these days is listened to on low-res players through crappy earbuds, so there is no real reason for most pop or rock studios to produce high-fidelity recordings.  Just make it LOUD baby...

 

I have decided to bite my tongue......................

post #656 of 1331

When I do listening tests, I have a couple songs which are poorly mastered or harsh. I know the specific bad parts and listen for how they are rendered. I find these are sometimes better for picking out specific differences than the "good" recordings. Sometimes I'll just play sine waves too. Not very fun to listen to, but sometimes distortion creeps into a sinewave and it's easier to pick it out from pure tones rather than complex ones. Sometimes you'll have a moving distortion product floating around too, but be careful it isn't an amp thing or pesky ground hum that only kicks in when running low sine sweeps.

 

As for headphones vs speakers, I find headphones in general are better for picking out differences between amps and dacs. Speakers trump easily for presence and staging (of sorts), but factoring in room acoustics and the greater distance from your ears, they lose out on the microdetailing that headphones can offer.

post #657 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by AiDee View Post

Sure, the three dacs in my comparison (link given a page or two back) were Schiit Bifrost (un-ubered - the review arose because the original Bifrost had just been released); Meier Corda Stagedac; Eastern Electric MiniMax.

The Bifrost sounded/sounds much like Gary's description of the HD800. Tends to unnatural with acoustic or solo/duo classical material because of short decay, 'revealing' with fast-paced busy material because it separates the notes.

The MiniMax showed pristine, pure upper mids and highs. It's likely the lower mids were just as good, but alas a little (I suspect deliberate) extra boost in the mid to upper bass tended to wash out fine harmonic detail in the mids with e.g. piano and cello material.

The Stagedac was/is a very well-executed, balanced-sounding dac. He went for neutral, and I think it shows with nothing over- or under-done. Jan Meier is a fine mid-price amp designer and engineer (even though some don't like his choice of device), and I think this probably showed in a well-balanced analog stage.

The other two DACs are the BMC PureDAC and - I hardly dare mention this on head-fi! - Stanley Beresford's Bushmaster (I have the first version). There's a thread about the Bushmaster somewhere around here. The Puredac has a short thread. It hasn't received the attention it may have deserved. Perhaps mercifully it escaped the head-fi hype train wink.gif

All my dac comments above are TME, YMMV, FWIW, I have tin-ears etc.

Thanks!

post #658 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Armaegis View Post
 

When I do listening tests, I have a couple songs which are poorly mastered or harsh. I know the specific bad parts and listen for how they are rendered. I find these are sometimes better for picking out specific differences than the "good" recordings. 

 

Similar feeling.    In the past I used to include several well mastered, beautiful, and highly regarded pop songs for comparing DACs.  

But recently I find out that it is hard to use them to differentiate top DACs.   Because they sound great on almost anything.    Maybe because the engineers 'polished' the sound too much.

 

Some very simple, low budget recordings actually can easier differentiate the DACs:

 

- on entry level or clinical DACs, they sound bad.  distortions, unlistenable.

- on good DACs, they start to become enjoyable.

- on great DACs, suddenly I entered another 'world'.   Actually there are so much information, realistic information embed in those recordings.   They start to sound way more interesting than 'carefully mastered', highly regarded pop songs.

 

 

(Happy Camper: your Hilo will make it to the shootout?   I loaned mine to a friend right now, otherwise I'd like to contribute it to this shootout.)


Edited by yfei - 12/26/13 at 12:09pm
post #659 of 1331
Thread Starter 

Okay folks, I'm going to add Californication, some Neon Trees, and some Fun.... Yeah, it is about time I had some Fun.  I might add a few more MP3s too.  All are crappy recordings, and the latter 2 are MP3, though I could also do the Californication via MP3 if I felt like risking my ears.  Let's see how the FLAC RHCP sounds first...

post #660 of 1331
Try MOG too to get really crazy......
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