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December 2013 Mid-Level DAC Comparison - Page 7  

post #91 of 1331
It is quite obvious that the OP wants to do purely subjective reviews, i.e. non repeatable / verifiable. His results will be relevant to him alone.
post #92 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by skamp View Post

It is quite obvious that the OP wants to do purely subjective reviews, i.e. non repeatable / verifiable. His results will be relevant to him alone.

Only in the sense that every review ever done by anyone is only relevant to the reviewer.
post #93 of 1331

Have you had any experience with DB Audio Labs Tranquility DAC? Thanks

post #94 of 1331
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by vnttg View Post
 

Have you had any experience with DB Audio Labs Tranquility DAC? Thanks


V:

 

I was thinking great thoughts as I read their web marketing... then I got to the bottom line:  30-Day trial 10% restocking fee.  That's a deal killer unless somebody agrees to buy this unit from me after the test no matter what, and/or comes up with $150 up front, before I order it, to cover that fee. 

 

If you look at the OP, I stated that except for the winner, I will pay only CONUS shipping on these units.  Period.  Others can sponsor a DAC by fronting the money to me for other costs, and I will either send them the DAC at the end of the test if they pay the full cost of the unit (I'll still cover CONUS shipping costs ), or I will send it back to the seller using the bucks fronted by the sponsor. 

 

Sorry, but returns are part of the cost of doing business in the internet age.  Sellers need to cover those costs in their price.  Yeah, it raises the price for everybody, but not that much if the hardware is really as good as the marketing hype says it is.

post #95 of 1331

Some poster a while ago mentioned pro audio equipment and I personally use a audio interface for both production and playback, usually the only downside is average heaphone outputs on budget interfaces.  I would suggest that if you want to investigate this avenue it may be interesting, maybe look into the RME Fireface UC as it should be within your budget and they are very well regarded for small/home studio's.  People often overlook pro audio gear for some reason, I cant understand why when you often get more for your money.

 

Having said all that I would quite like santa to bring me a new toy in the DAC department to save me moving my AI around the house :D


Edited by Tablix - 11/17/13 at 8:52am
post #96 of 1331
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by skamp View Post

It is quite obvious that the OP wants to do purely subjective reviews, i.e. non repeatable / verifiable. His results will be relevant to him alone.


The only repeatable/verifiable reviews are lab tests using fully calibrated equipment.  Then all you get are numbers and graphs.  Somewhat useful, but not fun for most people.  And not really indicative of how a unit sounds.

 

I suppose we could also do a large survey... say a few thousand people, all using the same exact setup and processes, i.e., fully blind A/B, the same exact music, listening for the same amount of time, etc., and they could all vote for their favorites.  Of course if you did it internationally, you'd have to figure out a way to eliminate cultural biases, not to mention people's mood swings, blah, blah, blah.  And even then there'd be a few percent margin of error, so the test would not be perfectly repeatable.  There's a reason why nobody has done that survey:  it isn't feasible/practical.

 

Finally, in some sci-fi world we could calibrate every human's hearing and preferences to be exactly the same... but what a boring world THAT would be.

 

To reiterate what Potterma said:  Aside from those using the above techniques, every other review ever done in the history of the world is subjective.  Deal with it.

 

What I am offering is my opinions, using an open, fair process (yes, I will level match, to the best of my ability... but I will also experiment with each DAC to see what it takes to get it to sound its best), with detailed descriptions of why I rate each unit the way I do.  I have also offered, and will reiterate that offer, that anybody who wants to show up at my house when this gear is here and do their own demo is welcome (within reason... you can't live here for a month, at least without paying for room and board).  A mini-meet would be fine, or if you just want to stop by and audition the hardware, that's okay too.  Just PM me and we'll try to work it out. 

 

Sorry, that's the best I can do for you, Head-Fiers... I think it's about the best anybody could do, but I'm open to suggestions for how to improve the process.

 

Gary

post #97 of 1331
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tablix View Post
 

Some poster a while ago mentioned pro audio equipment and I personally use a audio interface for both production and playback, usually the only downside is average heaphone outputs on budget interfaces.  I would suggest that if you want to investigate this avenue it may be interesting, maybe look into the RME Fireface UC as it should be within your budget and they are very well regarded for small/home studio's.  People often overlook pro audio gear for some reason, I cant understand why when you often get more for your money.

 

Having said all that I would quite like santa to bring me a new toy in the DAC department to save me moving my AI around the house :D


Interesting hardware.  Certainly lots of inputs and outputs, some of which I have no clue about :blink:

 

We do have some pro audio equipment on the list... the Benchmark DACs were originally intended for studio use, as is the Hilo, and the Dangerous Source (just added to the potentials... should have added it sooner) and the Grace m903, which has been discussed.  I'm willing to try anything that folks might think is competitive (remember, I'm using a speaker amp to drive my LCD-3s). 

 

People just need to weigh in on which of these units should be in, and which ones should be out and why.  I will make a final decision in the next week or two (I'm sort of hoping that some of this equipment will be discounted over the holidays, so I almost certainly won't order anything before Black Friday). 

 

And by the way, if anybody hears of any sales on any DACs that might be competitors, let me know ASAP.  I haven't gone looking for this year's deals thread... does anybody know if there is one yet?

post #98 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by skamp View Post

It is quite obvious that the OP wants to do purely subjective reviews, i.e. non repeatable / verifiable. His results will be relevant to him alone.

IMO, objective measurements are interesting and useful to a point. But I'm more interested in careful, well-written subjective impressions from someone down to earth any day of the week. I would never buy something based on a single subjective review alone, nor would I buy something based on measurements alone. Listening is an inherently subjective, individual activity. Why should Gary, or anyone for that matter, not care about results that are most relevant to him? It's nice of him to take the time to share, and I'd rather take his results with a grain of salt than gripe about his reviewing techniques. One could even say that such griping would be useful to me alone -- other people certainly don't gain anything from reading it. You are free to do a review your own way.
post #99 of 1331

If you want a why for trying the RME device there are a few reasons.  Multiple OUTS allows for wired multi-room setups if you like that option.  Next is the purpose built RME drivers to reduce jitter, I cant think of any other device that offers purpose built drivers but I could be wrong.  And finally the objective of design for the RME devise is for 100% neutrality so not always the same as more "audiophile" brands.

 

The benchmark DAC is also a home studio stalwart, and is also out of my reach financially :D

post #100 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post
 


... snip ....

 

What I am offering is my opinions, using an open, fair process (yes, I will level match, to the best of my ability... but I will also experiment with each DAC to see what it takes to get it to sound its best), with detailed descriptions of why I rate each unit the way I do. ... snip ...

 

Gary

 

Back to level matching for a moment.  I have been frustrated with my Radio Shack sound level meter for level matching.  only resolution is integer dB (no tenths).  I broke out my iPhone and launched SPLnFFT and while it provided a substantially different answer than the Rat Shack, it did at least allow me to adjust within 10ths of a dB.  display was steady enough with pink noise that I had no problem making much more precise adjustments.

 

So, kudos to you and your iPhone SPL app!  I don't know which of the hundreds of available apps you are using, but I like SPLnFFT.  Many of the available apps only display integer dB readings, some just a relative graph...  The 10ths of dB display is really quite nice.  The FFT display is fun and informative, as well.

post #101 of 1331

Arcam irDAC is one of the most interesting DACs under 1000 as is the Concero HD.

Would be interesting to see a reasonably prices pro DAC as well from for example RME.

post #102 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post


This, already on the list, but not confirmed, pending inputs from the group:

http://stereodesk.com/collections/dacs/products/metrum-acoustics-octave-mk2

They have 30-day returns, shipping cost only from Massachusetts, which should fit my limit.

Go for it, I have the Octave mark 1, and love it's expressive naturalness
post #103 of 1331
For Gary's sake, the MkII has a built-in USB interface, where the MkI relied on external USB to S/PDIF devices.
post #104 of 1331
Hmm. Careful reviews are not entirely subjective. True, there are typically hidden individual differences which contribute some level of unquantified error variance.

Against this, we share a common audiophile language with reasonably well defined and specified terms (dry, bright, warm etc).

Whilst any two audiophiles will almost certainly never agree on all the samples they might call "dry", it does seem they will agree in most cases. (I define "audiophile" here to mean a person who has experienced a range of equipment, listened in varying conditions, is familiar with a particular range of terms and above all has directly compared listening impressions with others). This apparent agreement suggests to me that what audiophiles experience is not a purely subjective phenomenon and that it has a specifiable model.

Within my domain at least (group dynamics and social perception), these kinds of model appear largely robust against cultural differences. That is, culture is important, but it doesn't overwhelm other factors.

Finally, I am surprised at the notion thousands of subjects would be needed to obtain validity and replicability (aka 'statistical power'). This is certainly not the case in the social sciences, nor in many parts of medicine (the other domain in which I have research experience, as a statistical consultant). If it were, little research would ever get done! (And the reason little has been done in our hobby area? Because it's a minor area of little theoretical interest or applied value. Research funding is a precious and limited resource, so...).

Lacking a well specified and tested model I suggest - I don't think this is a stunning revelation to anyone here! - the audiophile experience currently inhabits the ground between purely objective and purely subjective. As such, I think there is such a thing as good review method, and poor. Good review method takes every practical step to apply known objective checks (e.g. SPL match) and to center itself within the practices and understandings of its domain (e.g. use our shared language - 'dry', 'warm' etc - carefully and appropriately).

I look forward to seeing Gary apply good review method within the limits imposed by this ambitious project.
post #105 of 1331
Thread Starter 

AiDee:

 

Some day we should get together and have a very long conversation about the social sciences and statistics... but not here, because Head-Fi would ban us. 

 

Suffice it to say that I agree with your central points and will do my best to apply good review methodologies, particularly fairness -- including level matching -- as well as honesty/open-mindedness -- I truly have no preconceptions going into this test, and don't care which unit wins.  I just want an entertaining competition.

 

As to my qualifications as an audiophile:  for 54 years I have heard live music and a combination of analog and digital recordings, played on a wide range of equipment, ranging from old mono record players as a kid to the finest analog and digital systems some of the old audio salons in metro NYC and Washington, DC had to offer through the mid-90s.  I was one of those people who spent rainy evenings and weekends at the stereo store, driving sales people and owners crazy.  I spent hundreds of hours listening to everything... and buying very little.  Maybe if I had bought more there'd be more such stores around today, but I think the big boxes and the internet did a lot more damage than I did. 

 

I did step away from the hobby for over a decade, as other priorities demanded my time and money.  But my nephew and nieces becoming musicians as teenagers over the past couple of years brought me back.  I wanted to hear their music, but I couldn't stand listening to MP3s via cheap players and their included earbuds.  I thought about going back to my old speaker-based system, but my house is an acoustic nightmare:  all hard surfaces and odd angles, so audiophile headphones are really my only way to get the quality of sound I crave. 

 

In addition to my experience, I also believe I have a very analytical ear/brain.  I am able to focus on details within each recording, and to find differences in how various pieces of hardware reproduce those details.  I do try to maintain some balance by stepping back mentally, to try to hear the whole song... but I will admit that, when I'm doing critical listening, I'm better at discerning detail, and differences in that detail, than hearing the whole.  That's just the way my brain works. 

 

If you read through my past reviews of headphones and amps, I believe you'll find the sort of language you are seeking, with extended (sometimes too extended... I admit I am pretty wordy) discussions of the characteristics of each piece of hardware.  I try to be very precise in my descriptions, so that I convey exactly what I think I hear.  I will use terms such as "warm" or "analytical", but I will also try to provide details and examples of why I concluded that the hardware sounds warm or analytical or dry or accurate.  In addition, I will use analogies where I think they add perspective.  Some of the analogies might not be typical for audio reviews, but I try to use examples that people can relate to, and can use to anchor their own understanding of the points I'm trying to convey. 

 

All of the above being said, I am not a professional reviewer, and this is not going to be a professional review.  This is for fun.  For entertainment -- mine at least, yours I hope.  If I can provide folks with useful information to help guide them in their future purposes, that's great, but I will always caveat this process by adding that this is all my opinion.  My ears.  My brain.  I will always encourage people to try equipment for themselves before buying anything, or at least before buying something that can't be returned easily.  That is one reason why I am so insistent on comparing hardware that can be demo'ed and returned relatively easily/cheaply.  I want everybody to try lots of stuff before buying.  That's how we can all work to keep the industry honest, to weed out the pretenders from the true contenders.

 

So everybody: read my words if you want. Or read every other thread on Head-Fi and Audio Circle, or whatever.  But no matter what, please don't count on me or anybody else to make your choices for you.  In the end, the only person who should be telling you what sounds best is you.

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