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December 2013 Mid-Level DAC Comparison - Page 51  

post #751 of 1331

I wonder how adding a high end usb transport might change the perception of each dac. However that would make quick switching and the point of testing the implementation of each dacs usb solution null. It would probably break your budget limit, though a $1k dac (or lower) with an off-ramp (or something similar) could supercede a $2.5k dac with a less extravagant transport. 

post #752 of 1331

Purrin's 17 DAC comparison and the spreadsheet you can find if you google compares some DACs ability to resolve detail.

 

What has been said repeatedly is that the HD 800 would be better for these tests.  While I agree with Gary's assessment that the LCD-3 is what he uses and what he's testing for, the HD 800 is better at resolving these details.  High end speakers, too, I'd imagine.  One of the main points drawing me to the M7 is it's reported detail resolution ability.  I haven't heard it, and I'm not even sure my 38 year old ears would be capable of hearing the difference, but it's out there, and so I want to try it.  It's a curse. :)

 

Gary, I'm convinced that you're right.  Yet, I'm sure that if someone spent a whole day listening to one song with all of these DACs with HD 800s or good speakers, they'd hear some detail differences.  It's totally not worth it.  I only posted that to address what Toe Tag was saying.

 

I'm anxiously awaiting your results. :)

post #753 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by blitzxgene View Post
 

I wonder how adding a high end usb transport might change the perception of each dac. However that would make quick switching and the point of testing the implementation of each dacs usb solution null. It would probably break your budget limit, though a $1k dac (or lower) with an off-ramp (or something similar) could supercede a $2.5k dac with a less extravagant transport. 

Maybe what we need next is someone with limitless resources to evaluate all the claims of all the hi-fi manufacturers and all the superfluous devices like these to sunder these assumptions once and for all!  (or until the next shielded SATA-3 cable's effect on sound is reviewed, and whether music is sweeter if the drive connected via that cable is formatted with NTFS or ExFAT.)

post #754 of 1331

Reading Gary’s comments the past few days, I can’t help but nod my head a bit and feel that my own, much less controlled experiences comparing DACs quietly at home over the past couple years ended up about the same. Once I got beyond a certain minimum level of reproduction quality (typified by something like the Benchmark DAC1, JKDAC32 or possibly the ODAC) the differences were really quite small and I had to listen really, really carefully to very specific passages to determine if there was any difference at all.

 

For normal listening with some distractions, it doesn’t take all that much DAC to sound close to the real high end stuff. And a lot of the stuff under $1k is very similar - this is a good thing. It’s not necessary to break the bank to get great DA conversion these days, imo.

 

So, from my own personal experiences and my own biases when entering this thread, I have to admit it’s been interesting and just a little relieving to read that Gary has had a lot of pretty much indistinguishable experiences with good quality DACs - and he’s gone to great extents to level match and have quick source switching. Not 100% of the DACs are the same but the differences are small and a good number of the sub $1k DACs sound about the same.

 

I’ve always had a much easier time noticing the differences with amps and, naturally, headphones and speakers. A lot more variability and, occasionally, design “flavour” with amps.

post #755 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by cizx View Post
 

Maybe what we need next is someone with limitless resources to evaluate all the claims of all the hi-fi manufacturers and all the superfluous devices like these to sunder these assumptions once and for all!  (or until the next shielded SATA-3 cable's effect on sound is reviewed, and whether music is sweeter if the drive connected via that cable is formatted with NTFS or ExFAT.)

While I don't have such means, I'm simply going off what purrin has been reporting when using an off-ramp 5. Based on his observations, I wouldn't call every device superfluous. 

post #756 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by blitzxgene View Post
 

While I don't have such means, I'm simply going off what purrin has been reporting when using an off-ramp 5. Based on his observations, I wouldn't call every device superfluous. 

Not every device, no.  I was being a little flippant, and trying to be funny.  Reading posts on ComputerAudiophile.com makes me laugh sometimes.

post #757 of 1331
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toe Tag View Post
 

@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. 

 

 

1.  Again, there is no difference in detail resolution in these DACs, only in detail presentation. 

2.  All of these DACs have >100 hours on them, some of them way more than that.  I doubt any of them are going to change materially from this point on.  In fact, I don't really believe that any of them changed drastically up to this point, but other people do believe that solid state electronics require burn-in and I didn't want to get into that argument in this testing, so they have all been burned in as much as possible, and certainly more than most "experts" claim is necessary to achieve good results. 

3.  The point of testing them against each other with switchgear in an otherwise identical chain is to avoid my brain burning in with any of them, or even if it does, to allow quick A/B comparisons that would reveal differences between them.  Please remember that this whole exercise has been aimed at finding differences, and I don't think that my brain becoming accustomed to one sound or the other hurts at all in that exercise; nevertheless, given how many DACs I've listened to in the past couple of weeks, I don't think that brain burn-in has been a problem.  Burn out is a real threat though...

4.  This is Head-Fi, so I'm not sure that a comparison using speakers is appropriate for this forum, but would be great for AudioCircle or AVS, or whatever.  Anybody wants to take that on, go for it, but I'm not doing this again with DACs for a REALLY long time. 

5.  Flavoring is added throughout the chain, and in my view there is no "right" or "wrong" place for it.  Every component adds some flavoring, even "neutral" is a flavor.  It is now apparent to me that significant differences in flavor are more prevalent/obvious in components other than DACs, but that doesn't mean that this is a right or wrong thing, it is just a choice made by the folks who are designing and building the various elements of the chain.  In the end, the whole point is for each individual to build a chain from source to transducer that produces whatever flavor pleases them the most.  The composition of that chain is irrelevant as long as the listener is happy with it. 

post #758 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by LCfiner View Post
 

Reading Gary’s comments the past few days, I can’t help but nod my head a bit and feel that my own, much less controlled experiences comparing DACs quietly at home over the past couple years ended up about the same. Once I got beyond a certain minimum level of reproduction quality (typified by something like the Benchmark DAC1, JKDAC32 or possibly the ODAC) the differences were really quite small and I had to listen really, really carefully to very specific passages to determine if there was any difference at all.

 

For normal listening with some distractions, it doesn’t take all that much DAC to sound close to the real high end stuff. And a lot of the stuff under $1k is very similar - this is a good thing. It’s not necessary to break the bank to get great DA conversion these days, imo.

 

So, from my own personal experiences and my own biases when entering this thread, I have to admit it’s been interesting and just a little relieving to read that Gary has had a lot of pretty much indistinguishable experiences with good quality DACs - and he’s gone to great extents to level match and have quick source switching. Not 100% of the DACs are the same but the differences are small and a good number of the sub $1k DACs sound about the same.

 

I’ve always had a much easier time noticing the differences with amps and, naturally, headphones and speakers. A lot more variability and, occasionally, design “flavour” with amps.

 

I would have to agree. I've always found that DACs are the hardest to compare let alone review them. I've owned 3 headphones where I found it a bit easier to distinguish between DACs and those were the HE6, HD800 and SR007 Mk1. However if I was given a blind test there is no doubt I would fail miserably assuming similar level DAC. 

post #759 of 1331
I think the ambitious size of the efforts are too much. That's a lot of sound to try and analyze. I've done it with two at a time. I've been over at prepro;s with three of them. To have 14(?) would need a method of eliminating. It could be broken down to 5 groups of three. Grade each group. Pull the #1s and the best #2 for a semi and three for the finals.

As for burn in, I feel once the electronics are up to temperature and stable under load, they sound their best. That could be 5 min or 5 hrs. I've a tube amp that gives it's best 3D imaging after 12 hours or more on. Don't know if that's the tubes plates changing properties being influenced or the power supply settling. That way you're only burning 6 DACs at a time. The review set leave on the entire review and the warmup of the next review the day before. You'd want at least a day for each group. Two for the semi and a day for the finals. That's an eight day effort. All I know is I'm glad I'm not taking this on and admire Gary's efforts. .
post #760 of 1331

I agree.  Armchair testing all these DACs is bad enough for me... I can only imagine the effort that Gary's exerting. :)

 

Assuming all the indistinguishables remain so, what are the differences in functionality worth in the final decision?  Is DSD worth more than an integrated headphone amp, etc.?

post #761 of 1331

Keep up the great work Gary, we all appreciate you :)

post #762 of 1331
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cizx View Post
 

Purrin's 17 DAC comparison and the spreadsheet you can find if you google compares some DACs ability to resolve detail.

 

What has been said repeatedly is that the HD 800 would be better for these tests.  While I agree with Gary's assessment that the LCD-3 is what he uses and what he's testing for, the HD 800 is better at resolving these details.  High end speakers, too, I'd imagine.  One of the main points drawing me to the M7 is it's reported detail resolution ability.  I haven't heard it, and I'm not even sure my 38 year old ears would be capable of hearing the difference, but it's out there, and so I want to try it.  It's a curse. :)

 

Gary, I'm convinced that you're right.  Yet, I'm sure that if someone spent a whole day listening to one song with all of these DACs with HD 800s or good speakers, they'd hear some detail differences.  It's totally not worth it.  I only posted that to address what Toe Tag was saying.

 

I'm anxiously awaiting your results. :)

 

One more time:  The HD 800 cannot reveal detail that is not in the recording.  In fact it can actually cause some detail to be missed in the parts of the audible spectrum that it does not reproduce accurately (low bass, upper mids, and the parts of the treble region not included in its spike).  It does reveal low-mid-range detail because it leaves everything else out.  But there is a lot more to music than low mid-range and a spike in the treble region.

 

I am pretty certain that I'm not missing any detail in any part of the spectrum when listening to these recordings.  Folks, there are only so many instruments playing , and so many singers singing... so many chairs creaking or people breathing in the background... I heard all of them with Barry's LCD-X, which is almost as analytical as the HD-800 except that it produces more bass, and I hear all of them with the LCD-3.  The DACs that all sound alike sounded alike with both the LCD-X and with my LCD-3.  I understand that you desperately want to believe that there is some difference in the sound of these DACs, and that the HD800 is this magical tool that will allow that to happen... But it just isn't so. 

post #763 of 1331

eh... lots of people disagree.  I've had the HD 800 and the LCD-3 and now the LCD-X, and I can't honestly say that I've heard more with one than the other... but I want to believe that this is all for something... that there's a point to these improvements in technology, weight, power consumption, and cost.  

 

you're threatening the veil that shrouds us all.  if you pierce it, do you know what will happen?

 

boom.

 

;)


Edited by cizx - 12/29/13 at 9:22pm
post #764 of 1331
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Happy Camper View Post

I think the ambitious size of the efforts are too much. That's a lot of sound to try and analyze. I've done it with two at a time. I've been over at prepro;s with three of them. To have 14(?) would need a method of eliminating. It could be broken down to 5 groups of three. Grade each group. Pull the #1s and the best #2 for a semi and three for the finals.

As for burn in, I feel once the electronics are up to temperature and stable under load, they sound their best. That could be 5 min or 5 hrs. I've a tube amp that gives it's best 3D imaging after 12 hours or more on. Don't know if that's the tubes plates changing properties being influenced or the power supply settling. That way you're only burning 6 DACs at a time. The review set leave on the entire review and the warmup of the next review the day before. You'd want at least a day for each group. Two for the semi and a day for the finals. That's an eight day effort. All I know is I'm glad I'm not taking this on and admire Gary's efforts. .


Just to clear this up again as well.  I haven't tested 14 at once.  I did group them.  I started out listening to one at a time, then two at a time for a day or so each.  When I couldn't hear any significant differences between two at a time, I actually hooked up 5 at a time for a while and tried to compare them, just to see if one of them jumped out at me when I switched between all of them.  Nothing did.  After listening to some for days, and deciding I either didn't like the flavor (PWD) or that they sounded the same as the DM source (NAD, Arcam, Concero, Gungnir) those units were "retired" based on either my preference or value (features vs. $).  The Emo Stealth was also set aside for now, as it sounds the same as the DM Source, and I didn't need 2 Indistinguishables in the setup to compare with the others in the final group (actually, Barry and I made that decision quickly when we needed the space for his Gungnir...). 

 

The DM Source has thus been my "reference" DAC representing the Indistinguishables in testing against other DACs for the past several days.  I am comparing each of the others (Metrum, Ciunas, Benchmark, Chord, Yulong) to the DM Source.  Those that don't sound different will be considered Indistinguishable (the Benchmark).  If an Indistinguishable offers good value, it will be evaluated again at the end.  If not, it goes back (the Benchmark -- big feature set, but pretty much the same as the DM and Emo for twice the price).  Those with audible differences (Ciunas and Metrum for sure, Chordette maybe, Yulong I dunno, I haven't listened to it) will end up facing off against the DM and Emo in the final showdown (the latter two will be facing off in features, particularly their headphone outs). 

 

In the end there can be only one.  Or maybe two, if they are cheap enough. 

 

As to warm up, the DACs that are in the system are powered on all the time, for days at a time.  I am not looking forward to my electric bill, but hey, it's for a good cause.  Or I thought it was when I started this...

post #765 of 1331
Honestly I find it strange that all DAC sound like the Benchmark. Wasn't this guy described as bright and lean? I hear nothing of that with the Dangerous Source.

About the Ciunas: it's most likely the most neutral DAC of the bunch. Thanks to its battery, it should have the blackest background of the bunch which should bring out details. Weird that you can't hear that honestly.

Then come the forceful DACs like the Chord. Typical British PRaT that only crave for rock songs being played. These bring out details by forcing on the transients a bit. The NFB-27 is among those two.

I'm trying to spoil you here biggrin.gif
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