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December 2013 Mid-Level DAC Comparison - Page 46  

post #676 of 1331
Wish I could get a Naim DAC V1 into Gary's hands. The real magic only begins north of $2K wink.gif
post #677 of 1331
While I am slightly disappointed that many DACs sound the same or similar, frankly, I'm not TOO surprised. In a perfect world you would have several weeks to compare these DACs and the differences would become (or may become) apparent.
Anyway, I think I will be a lot more relaxed when I buy my $1,000 DAC in 2014!
I was rather concerned about:
1. Not being able to audition various DACs side by side
2. Buying a DAC without hearing it
3. Not being able to audition various DACs.

Bottom line is I think I will chill and go hear what I can actually hear LOCALLY and just TRUST my ears! I think I will take a pass on trying to audition every possible DAC in my price range! biggrin.gif

Closing thought: features and ergonomics will carry 50% of my final opinion. .redface.gif

Disclaimer: it's just my opinion, folks!
post #678 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by AiDee View Post

^ You got it Mike!

And LugBug's is the thread wink.gif

I still can't get my head around how good it seems to be. A piano track I used to play (some Debussy I think) was made soupy by the Bifrost, clear and highly resolved by the Bushmaster and close to how I hear it at a piano. Chords were resolved into their component notes yet there was rich timbral/harmonic information too. It sounded completely authentic from this cheap dac - what?!... eek.gif

Cautionary note:
The Bush does not have a USB input.
Which may give some folks fits!

P.S. He used to "play" piano at Cowboy saloons in Disneyland! rolleyes.gif
post #679 of 1331

Maybe you do need to go north of 2K to hear the magic - Metrum HEX, Lynx Hilo, Auralic Vega, Naim, Ayre, Invicta, Lampizator, etc

 

But then again what about all those reviews that state that DACs like the Yulong DA8 or Matrix X-Sabre sound as good as DACs 2 - 3 times their price?

 

Add to this the FOTM syndrome and it all gets very confusing.

 

Then you read about a DAC like the $250 Bushmaster that can supposedly rival DACs 3-4 times its price. Yet one reviewer only gave it 3.5 out 5 stars but gave the Schiit Modi a 5+ rating. I actually still own the original Beresford 7510 which has been collecting dust in a drawer. At the time I thought it was quite a revelation and it eventually replaced an MHDT Paradisea with it.:confused_face_2:

 

My personal experience has been that I have yet to find a DAC in the < 1K range that can better my modded EE Minimax (which is a long forgotten FOTM over here). To me the differences, although sometimes subtle, were easy to discern with studio monitors. I know THIS IS HEAD-FI I'm sorry I won't mention speakers again.

 

The Rega had a smoother, richer sound but felt a bit sluggish as did my first DAC the Paradisea, the Ciunas had good PRaT but lacked a bit of emotion and depth and finally the Yulong DA8 appeared to have more of everything but just felt too artificial (especially in the top end)

 

I almost ran out to get the Dangerous Source but I want a DAC with a standard RCA type SPDIF input. Judging from the pics I don't quite understand the AES/SPDIF input system and I don't want to attach a cheap adapter to my pricey RCA digital cable.

 

So in the end I'm still searching. Will I need to spend upwards of 2K? If so the differences had better be easy to hear - with speakers AND headphones.

 

I'm still hoping this thread will produce a clear winner and make things easy for me.

post #680 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris J View Post

...Bottom line is I think I will chill and go hear what I can actually hear LOCALLY and just TRUST my ears! I think I will take a pass on trying to audition every possible DAC in my price range! biggrin.gif
 

 

Good advice. I'm still sort of shocked because it's a weird feeling looking at all those different DACs and expecting to hear differences and not hearing them.

 

Comparing the LCD-X and the LCD-3--they sound miles apart to me, and switching out our amps, they have very different signatures. Most of these DACs are so close in sound--it's like a hair's width of difference at the limit of your hearing.

 

I think I'm going to buy a switch and get some level-matching software for my iPhone.  The fast switching is important because the time between unplugging and plugging in cables also messes with perception.

post #681 of 1331
Did you try without the switch? The fact that the measured volume is the same doesn't mean it has no impact.
Crosstalk might be huge and the fact that all DACs are running at the same time blend their sound together to form the ONE perfect $4k DAC biggrin.gif

Seriously, when I first got the Reference 5.32, on a quick listen U thought it sounded identical to the Quad. Then I went to bed at night, made the room completely dark and closed my eyes. It took me probably 15s to hear that the Ref5 was much darker and less energetic.
The same way, after the first drum kick I could tell the NFB-27 was in an altogether completely different league than these 2.

I would be hard pressed to tell the difference so quickly (if at all) while sitting at my desk, lights on, eyes opened. My wallet would have liked that it is my preferred condition for listening to music... Unfortunately, it is not.
I still could hear a big improvement going from the Fostex HP-A3 to the Dangerous Source at work, though.
post #682 of 1331
The lighting was pretty subdued in Gary's house. Swapping cables wasn't easy without a flashlight. It's also super-quiet at Gary's house (except when his dogs greet me like a long lost pal--company!) I closed my eyes when concentrating, but the overall conditions were conducive to serious listening.
post #683 of 1331

After reading this thread, I decided to purchase a emotiva stealth dc-1 to compare with the gungnir and concero for myself, with the hd800 and vali. Will also get an oppurtunity to compare with the M7 using a DNA stratus as well next week.

post #684 of 1331

I really wish Gary had a couple of A-GD DACs to compare.  I'd love to be talked out of getting an M7. :)

post #685 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by thegunner100 View Post
 

After reading this thread, I decided to purchase a emotiva stealth dc-1 to compare with the gungnir and concero for myself, with the hd800 and vali. Will also get an oppurtunity to compare with the M7 using a DNA stratus as well next week.

 

I'm looking forward to your findings, as I've recently ordered a Schiit Vali to audition with my HD800 and I've read (but can't say if it's really true or not) that the Vali > HD800 pairing is very DAC-sensitive.  So, your forthcoming tests are of great interest to me.

 

For the record, I'm disappointed in my new HD800 - at least with the gear I've got currently.  I'm willing to try a few different DAC and amp combos (while trying to avoid tube rolling) to see if I can accommodate the HD800, but if I can't "fix" it, I will be tossing it into the For Sale bin, as I did my "incurable" Beyerdynamic T1. 

 

Mike

(Addicted, perhaps, to the sound of an LCD-2 rev. 1 on neutral signals...)

post #686 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by zilch0md View Post
 

 

I'd like to emphasize Armaegis' post from a couple of days ago.  I think you nailed it.

 

That all said, I've certainly spend moolah completely outside my budget range. Then there's the combined dac/amp units, where you wind up overspending, but then get a separate amp anyways... because this hobby is stupid like that. So really, the moral here is make a budget, stick to it, then log off headfi and get rid of your audiophile friends so you still have some money left to make rent and buy groceries.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Barry S View Post
 

 

Good advice. I'm still sort of shocked because it's a weird feeling looking at all those different DACs and expecting to hear differences and not hearing them.

 

Comparing the LCD-X and the LCD-3--they sound miles apart to me, and switching out our amps, they have very different signatures. Most of these DACs are so close in sound--it's like a hair's width of difference at the limit of your hearing.

 

 

 

My general take on it is that a dac should remain as neutral as possible while amps have more leeway in how much "flavour" to add to the sound. While in theory an amp should be a perfect reproduction of the signal (just at larger magnitude), the load is somewhat complex (impedance, current draw, even temperature, etc) and wonky stuff happens. A dac on the other hand drives a (relatively) stable load and doesn't have as many weird things to contend with. It's performance/deviations should already by near the limits of the human auditory system unless you're listening veeeeery carefully.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cizx View Post
 

I really wish Gary had a couple of A-GD DACs to compare.  I'd love to be talked out of getting an M7. :)

 

That's roughly $2.5k... you could probably take a nice long vacation with that. Or dine out 50 times. A big screen tv. Contribute to disaster relief funds. Buy books for a small school. Etc.

 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by zilch0md View Post
 

 

I'm looking forward to your findings, as I've recently ordered a Schiit Vali to audition with my HD800 and I've read (but can't say if it's really true or not) that the Vali > HD800 pairing is very DAC-sensitive.  So, your forthcoming tests are of great interest to me.

 

For the record, I'm disappointed in my new HD800 - at least with the gear I've got currently.  I'm willing to try a few different DAC and amp combos (while trying to avoid tube rolling) to see if I can accommodate the HD800, but if I can't "fix" it, I will be tossing it into the For Sale bin, as I did my "incurable" Beyerdynamic T1. 

 

Mike

(Addicted, perhaps, to the sound of an LCD-2 rev. 1 on neutral signals...)

 

The HD800 is a picky bugger, but ultimately the amp will make a bigger difference than the dac. Also look up the "anax mod" for the HD800 which helps tame down a bit of the treble edge. If you're still learning towards the LCD2 sound though, the HD800 may simply not be for you. I'd recommend the HD650.

post #687 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by zilch0md View Post
 

 

I'm looking forward to your findings, as I've recently ordered a Schiit Vali to audition with my HD800 and I've read (but can't say if it's really true or not) that the Vali > HD800 pairing is very DAC-sensitive.  So, your forthcoming tests are of great interest to me.

 

For the record, I'm disappointed in my new HD800 - at least with the gear I've got currently.  I'm willing to try a few different DAC and amp combos (while trying to avoid tube rolling) to see if I can accommodate the HD800, but if I can't "fix" it, I will be tossing it into the For Sale bin, as I did my "incurable" Beyerdynamic T1. 

 

Mike

(Addicted, perhaps, to the sound of an LCD-2 rev. 1 on neutral signals...)

 

I'm really hoping the concero or dc-1 will match better with the hd800 and vali than the nfb-10es2 or the gungnir. What is it that you're disappointed with about the hd800?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Armaegis View Post
 

 

The HD800 is a picky bugger, but ultimately the amp will make a bigger difference than the dac. Also look up the "anax mod" for the HD800 which helps tame down a bit of the treble edge. If you're still learning towards the LCD2 sound though, the HD800 may simply not be for you. I'd recommend the HD650.

Indeed, the Anax 2.0 makes a significant difference in the mid to treble transition. Much smoother than the stock sound. It really fixes most of the treble problem for most people but may still be too bright with a SS amp. 

post #688 of 1331
Quote:
Oh, and I can add that as of tonight, you can add the Ciunas to the Metrum as being different from the "indistinguishables". I need to do some detailed testing, but the differences, while subtle, are reasonably clear to me, at least tonight. What I can't say is whether the Ciunas and Metrum sound alike, since I haven't level-matched them. Consider that a coming attraction.

Gary,
where did this perceived difference vanish to? Now even the octave sounds just like all the other mid level dacs?
post #689 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by thegunner100 View Post
 

Indeed, the Anax 2.0 makes a significant difference in the mid to treble transition. Much smoother than the stock sound. It really fixes most of the treble problem for most people but may still be too bright with a SS amp. 

 

I wouldn't pin the "brightness" on SS architecture alone. A tube amp can sound bright just as much as a SS amp. Now, if an amp has a higher output impedance this can result in a midbass bloom which would make a headphone seem less bright, but again that can happen with SS as well as tubes.

post #690 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Armaegis View Post
 

 

I wouldn't pin the "brightness" on SS architecture alone. A tube amp can sound bright just as much as a SS amp. Now, if an amp has a higher output impedance this can result in a midbass bloom which would make a headphone seem less bright, but again that can happen with SS as well as tubes.


Yep, of course. The Vali is on the bright side of tubes for sure. Not all solid states sound bright... but they generally sound bright, compared to lots of tube amps.

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