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December 2013 Mid-Level DAC Comparison - Page 50  

post #736 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post
 

You folks keep speculating... at this point I'm just confused.

 

I got about half way through the song list with the Ciunas and DM Source, and will finish that tomorrow.  Then I will do a bit of comparison between the Ciunas and the Metrum to confirm what I think I heard.  No need to go through the whole list again.

 

I also need to go back and redo a bit of the Benchmark testing, because it turns out I might not have had DSD/192K engaged when I demo'ed it earlier.  Too many DACs, too many drivers to set up.  I checked one Shelby Lynne song tonight and heard no difference with the DM source, but want to do a more thorough check tomorrow.  Again, I don't intend to go through the entire list unless I hear some difference in the first couple of songs.  

 

Then I'll do either the Chordette or the Yulong, or both, and you folks can pay off your bets with each other.

Regarding the Benchmark, make sure that the USB 2.0 functions are engaged on the DAC or you won't be using the USB 2.0 driver...I made that mistake a couple of times...thought the DAC was set up correctly and it wasn't.  Besides not being able to play anything above 24/96 or DSD, I noticed a definite improvement in sound using the newer driver.  In my case, listening to mostly Redbook, it was easy to overlook.  I think, though, I'm going to look at an Eximus or HEX myself as I'm finding the Benchmark to be a bit fatiguing combined with my Focal CMS50 monitors and my HD800s.

 

BTW, great thread and tremendous effort Gary...I get burned out just comparing a few pieces of equipment, what you're doing is phenomenal! 

post #737 of 1331

Just wanted to express my appreciation and support for your efforts, Gary.  

 

I heard the Chordette at a local dealer: I came away very impressed with the signal chain as a whole ( Chordette .. Senn amp .. HD-800 ).  So to my ears, a Chordette is "sufficient", but perhaps not "necessary".

 

I'm very interested in your impressions of the Chordette:  I hope you have time to include it in your survey.

 

Also, I'm inclined toward R/2R DACS:  my Audio-GD DAC19-DSP is the best-sounding DAC I own.  That makes me (also) especially interested in how the Metrum works out.

 

+1 for a Chordette review! Thanks!


Edited by nicko7i - 12/29/13 at 10:39am
post #738 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Barry S View Post


The Hilo seems very flexible--it's too bad it didn't get included in the mix. Then again, it's $2500 and some of the more studio-oriented features aren't that relevant to head-fiers. The DS features are also overkill, but at $900--it seems like a better value.
You haven't been in the Hilo thread. It's $1850 for Head Fi members.
post #739 of 1331
Thread Starter 

Okay, here's the 12/29/13  2 PM US Eastern Standard Time Report:

 

I reran the Benchmark DAC 2 tests making sure this time that the DSD LED was lit when listening to DSD... It was, and I still heard no difference.  So either I was already using the right drivers (most likely) or there is no difference in my system with my ears (less likely but not out of the question).  In any case, the Benchmark stays in the Indistinguishables.

 

Now on to the DM Source vs. the Ciunas.  There is a difference, but it is very slight, more audible in higher resolution recordings and those with less going on for the brain to process.  For example, it is more evident on the Shelby Lynne than on the Verve, and it is even less audible with the Digital Duke big band songs where there is a lot of massed instruments, and which are 44.1.  Those times where there was a solo, I thought I heard a tiny difference, but if I hadn't been A/Bing them, I doubt I would have been able to tell the difference. 

 

I also thought I heard it with the Grusin Gershwin songs, but I heard no difference on the Dave Matthews tracks.  Then I thought I did hear a bit of a difference with Mumford's "Broken Crown" and even on Californication I thought the Ciunas reduced the ringing sensation I get when listening to that track.  Or maybe I was just imagining it. 

 

So what is "it" that I think I'm hearing (sometimes)?  A bit of extra clarity in the mid-range, a bit more fluidity in the sound.  But we are talking tiny amounts.  Think of the difference between looking though a window that was just  cleaned, vs. one that was cleaned maybe a couple of weeks ago.  There are a few spots on the less clean one, and maybe a bit less overall clarity, but you can certainly see everything through it, and most things look exactly the same to you.  Unless the two were side by side you probably wouldn't notice that one was dirtier than the other.

 

This effect is nowhere near as evident (from memory only) as the difference between the DM Source and the Metrum.  I intend to test the Ciunas and Metrum next to see if this holds up.  Here's hoping I can get a decent volume match with JRiver, since neither has internal volume controls. 

 

Okay, now off to work on the Ciunas and Metrum.

post #740 of 1331
Good update, thanks!
post #741 of 1331

Won't matching volume using digital volume control tuncate bits? Always thougfht digital volume control will trow bit/resolution away, might not have a big influence if the volumes of both devices are close.

 

Kudos to Gary for his excellent work..

post #742 of 1331
Yeah!
post #743 of 1331
Thread Starter 

It doesn't throw too many bits away to drop the Ciunas volume to 97 or 98%.  Just a little bit of bits.  Sorry.

 

In any case, I am truncating the testing, since I can't match the Ciunas and Metrum perfectly, even with digital volume controls.  They are about two tenths of a dB off with white noise, and JRiver works in 0.5 dB increments.  Sigh...

 

That caveat in mind, I tried listening anyway, and they are definitely different from each other, with the Metrum having a bit more emphasis/smoothness?/clarity? in the upper mids than the Ciunas.  This could be pure volume effects, but it is the same difference I hear against the DM Source when it is perfectly level-matched with the Metrum, just not as obvious between the Ciunas and the Metrum. 

 

Interestingly, I can hear a difference between the Metrum and the Source in white noise when evenly matched.  The Metrum sounds brighter, higher in frequency.  So while the total noise volume is the same, the Metrum appears to be shifting the average up the spectrum a bit.  Whether you like that shift or not is a matter of personal preference, of course.

 

I kept the Source in the link for this testing, and periodically switched it in to see what bringing it in did for my perceptions.  It in fact confirmed what I thought when listening to the Source against each of the others separately:  The Ciunas is basically in the middle between the Source and the Metrum.  It has a bit more upper-mids emphasis/clarity?/smoothness? than the Source, but discernably less than the Metrum in many cases. 

 

So if you want a bit of the flavor that the Metrum offers, but not as much as it adds, and also want to pay about half the price, the Ciunas might be for you.  I can tell you that it sounds fantastic. 

 

But so do the others I've tested so far. 

 

Now it's off to check on some football, and then watch a hockey game, and do some other stuff as well, before putting the Chordette in the system tonight.  I'm as curious as many of you to find out what it sounds like...

post #744 of 1331

Great points!  Plus, Gary is not determining which DAC is better than the rest.  He's determining what DAC works best with his headphone amp and LCD-3.  Doesn't make sense for him to use a HD800 if he was not going to buy a HD800 for use later on.

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by zilch0md View Post
 

Revisiting the choice of headphone debate...

 

Having recently purchased the HD800, but coming from three years of enjoying the LCD-2, it struck me last night that Gary's use of the LCD-3, fed by his Odyssey Cyclops Extreme, has been critical to obtaining meaningful results in evaluating all of these DACs - not because the LCD-3 is necessarily "the best" headphone by any given criteria, but because it is simply among many possible candidates that perform well on a variety of upstream components. 

post #745 of 1331

Let me just say it. If you test a dozen DACs, and half of them sound exactly the same, my conclusion is that those DACs are "right" or "neutral" and the other DACs are, well "flavored" not to say "wrong". I mean what are the odds that all 6 "same" DACs all aimed for exactly the same kind of "wrong" or "flavored"?

post #746 of 1331

The differences in DACs should be in their ability to resolve details and their tonality.  Tonality is easy to pick up in a quick A-B test, but detail resolution isn't as easy.

 

For what Gary's doing, the indistinguishables that all have a similar tone are basically the same.  Detail resolution would really need to be tested in a different manner and with different equipment, as has been said repeatedly.  The question of whether or not hearing an extra rasp or wheeze or slide of a chair in the coffee shop down the street is worth an exponential increase in cost is up to the person buying the DAC, and this thread really isn't going to help them.

 

I'm just trying to get out of this without spending $2k+ on a DAC! :)

post #747 of 1331
Thread Starter 

Well, it is possible they all heard the Benchmark and decided to copy it's sound.:D  Yeah, not likely... but possible.  Benchmark has made a bunch of money selling DACs, and market theory does say that as long as the barriers to entry are low, people will rush to produce what others are making a profit on...  However, I actually agree with you that it is more likely that most of them are simply attempting to be "neutral" and reproduce the signal that the zeroes and ones say should be reproduced, without any added flavor. 

 

Then there are the other designers, a smaller number, who just don't like following the crowd, or see the need to find their own niche in order to make a living, or just don't like the way the zeroes and ones sound, preferring to design something less perfect, but closer to what they hear out of their analog equipment, or through tubes, or some other flavor of sound that they particularly like.  Perhaps those folks are attempting to cater to those who don't really love "neutral."   Some people (myself included) might prefer a less analytical, or less "digital", sound, even if it isn't a perfect re-creation of what the zeros and ones say the sound should be. 

 

I can say that the amount of difference in these DACs is miniscule compared to the differences between amps or cans, so none of these DAC designers is being particularly adventurous with the tweaks they are making to neutrality.

post #748 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toe Tag View Post
 

Let me just say it. If you test a dozen DACs, and half of them sound exactly the same, my conclusion is that those DACs are "right" or "neutral" and the other DACs are, well "flavored" not to say "wrong". I mean what are the odds that all 6 "same" DACs all aimed for exactly the same kind of "wrong" or "flavored"?


My impression from listening is that the DACs that didn't sound nearly identical were inferior. Gary may feel differently, but to my ears, the similar grouping of DACs was technically superior, with the best resolution, soundstage, and neutral presentation. That doesn't mean someone wouldn't prefer a more colored DAC, but even if I'm sensitive to treble energy, I don't want a DAC smoothing and blurring high-end detail.

 

I don't think it's unreasonable to think that the best/similar sounding DACs are well-engineered, performing exactly as they should, and sound essentially the same regardless of how long you listen, model of headphones, or speakers you use.

post #749 of 1331

@cizx, I too am thinking to replace my DACport, though actually I have a DACport LX. Not to steal Gary's thunder, but to speculate about "the next shootout", we could take a couple of the cheapest "sound the same" "winners", and then throw down with some even cheaper DACs, like the CEntrance DACport LX.

 

I suppose a second followup shootout could be this "detail resolution" concept. You say it has been said repeatedly, so what equipment is needed and how is the test different? It uses the same lineup of DACs, but speakers and not headphones? Or it uses IEMs? And this "detail resolution", should I assume there is no electronic equipment that can measure it, that its the exclusive province of golden ears? Too bad we can't do it now, since it would require most of the same stable of DACs Gary already assembled. But at least he could advise on which ones have loaners, 30-day return etc. 

 

What I'd like to see is the current shootout, or even one of the 2 alternatives proposed above, but with more "burn in". For me, burn-in is real, but I agree with a post up above, that burn-in happens in the brain, not in the solid-state electronics. I mean think about it, which changes more over a period of days and weeks. Though such a test would require much more time, and so probably fewer DACs could be tested. 

 

@Gary, regarding flavoring, it should be asked, for those who want flavoring, is it best added by the DAC, or the amp, or the headphone? My opinion: it should be added (if at all) only in the digital domain, via software or firmware in the DAC... and be up front about it and not a matter of mysticism or marketing hype. 


Edited by Toe Tag - 12/29/13 at 8:21pm
post #750 of 1331
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cizx View Post
 

The differences in DACs should be in their ability to resolve details and their tonality.  Tonality is easy to pick up in a quick A-B test, but detail resolution isn't as easy.

 

For what Gary's doing, the indistinguishables that all have a similar tone are basically the same.  Detail resolution would really need to be tested in a different manner and with different equipment, as has been said repeatedly.  The question of whether or not hearing an extra rasp or wheeze or slide of a chair in the coffee shop down the street is worth an exponential increase in cost is up to the person buying the DAC, and this thread really isn't going to help them.

 

I'm just trying to get out of this without spending $2k+ on a DAC! :)


There is no more detail being resolved in any of these DACs compared to the others.  I hear every instrument and/or voice in any of them, including the $500 Emo Stealth.  I hear every imperfection in the Shelby Lynne recordings (there are several), and every chair creak at the beginning of Dave Matthews' The Riff; I hear Ella flubbing the lyrics in Honeysuckle Rose, Louis clearing his throat (or whatever that noise is he makes before he makes his entrance) in Moonlight in Vermont, etc.  Really cheapie DACs might leave out detail, but once you get into this class, the detail is all there.  It is just a question of slight changes to equalization in the output, or filters that remove higher level harmonics, or whatever tricks Metrum and Ciunas and Chord (yeah, Chord too, though that is very preliminary and subject to change as I listen more) are employing to flavor the sound a small amount.

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