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Brighter DAC than EMU 0404 USB?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I have had Benchmark DAC-1 before but it sounds too muddy and dark, so I switched to EMU 0404 USB and it became more transparent. Is there anything brighter than the EMU? Perhaps a soundcard inside the computer?

post #2 of 12

The benchmark DAC is a high end piece of kit ($1000+), it is a million miles from being muddy, many studios and recording artists use them.  The EMU 0404 is a entry level audio interface (6 years old and £200), and I am pretty sure they have been discontinued and replaced.

 

The job of a DAC is to be transparent which is what the benchmark DAC does with bells on, and if there is something distorting the sound its very unlikely to be the DAC.  

 

Perhaps if you gave details of what you are playing/recording, and the other parts of the audio chain then maybe some advice could be given. 

 

I dont mean to sound like an ****** but if you downgraded from a Benchmark DAC to and EMU interface then you may have some serious issues somewhere in your audio chain.  

 

How you connect will not affect the quality of the sound so the internal or USB or optical makes almost zero difference, this can be argued but its really very minor.  Without more information on what you are using for playback there is not much advice that can be given.

post #3 of 12

I second the guy above. The BM DAC-1 is a well reviewed mid end DAC which has been considered a benchmark by many. I don't understand how this is possible! 

post #4 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by KamillaLove View Post
 

I have had Benchmark DAC-1 before but it sounds too muddy and dark, so I switched to EMU 0404 USB and it became more transparent. Is there anything brighter than the EMU? Perhaps a soundcard inside the computer?

 

The benchmark has an almost perfectly flat frequency response ( a drop of about 0.25db at 20K) it is as transparent as it is possible to be within the limits of human hearing there is an insignificant high frequency roll-off. Price means nothing reputation means nothing but the measured performance of the DAC-1 http://www.stereophile.com/content/benchmark-dac1-usb-da-processor-headphone-amplifier-measurements is extremely good.

 

That said the EMU has excellent performance with a perfectly flat frequency response to 20K http://en.goldenears.net/index.php?mid=GR_DAC_Amp&document_srl=4864 but you are not hearing the 0.25 difference in FR 


Edited by nick_charles - 12/6/13 at 3:24pm
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

I have searched around and found that all soundcards are muddier than the EMU 0404 USB, so I will keep this DAC.

 

My ears are sensitive to muddy sound, and the Benchmark DAC-1 definitely has it, it puts a blanket in front of the sound which cannot be ignored. I have made many direct comparisons with it. The DAC-1 is dark, muddy, blurry, boomy and slow, but still more transparent than other DACs like reference dCS stacks and CD players from Cary Audio (which were supposed to be transparent).

 

DAC-1 has slightly more bass than the EMU, but overall it's much worse. EMU is super clean, quick and transparent, it's like opening up a window to the music compared to the grainy DAC-1. I made this comparison when both were using SPDIF from the computer. When switching to USB, it becomes even more transparent. People who don't like the EMU, I think their ears are too slow from old age. I'm a young girl so I can hear the music properly. Music is supposed to sound like real life, not muddy.

post #6 of 12

Too slow lol? If anything old age diminishes the amount of high frequencies an ear can perceive; it has nothing to do with the "tempo" of your hearing.  Thus, you would hear more  high frequencies than someone who's your senior and should want less emphasis on their presence.  By contrast, an older person would want more emphasis so something like the EMU should sound better...which is not the case. Although I don't prefer the Benchmark either it is certainly better than the EMU.  I think you're looking for something more clinical, detailed, and resolving rather than brighter. Anything that has Chinese nomenclature on ebay should work ;) 

post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 

In what way is it better than the EMU? Have you made a comparison or do you base it on price?

post #8 of 12

why ask for advice then ask for people to quantify it later.  The EMU device is a budget recording interface and as such uses budget materials and components. 

 

Maybe then compare the spec's of the two, things like THD, jitter and frequency response. 

 

While the EMU is most likely fine for general playback if you are mixing and mastering, or an audiophile nut, you may then consider how important the differences are.  For 95% of people, me included, you will be happy with the EMU but if you got a fat wallet or huge golden ears you may need the Benchmark.

 

Personally  I am pretty happy with my $200 interface but I use a Roland Quad ;D

 

Its not all about the zero's on the price tag but they are generally there for a reason with pro audio gear.

post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by KamillaLove View Post
 

I have searched around and found that all soundcards are muddier than the EMU 0404 USB, 

 

That is an absurd statement, unless you have examined all the major soundcards on the market, the better ASUS cards for instance are superbly transparent.

 

My ears are sensitive to muddy sound, and the Benchmark DAC-1 definitely has it

 

That is simply not true, as mentioned earlier the Benchmark is very low noise, very low distortion and has a very flat FR, it is very transparent

 

, it puts a blanket in front of the sound which cannot be ignored. I have made many direct comparisons with it.

 

How did you level match for these comparisons ?

 

The DAC-1 is dark, muddy, blurry, boomy and slow, but still more transparent than other DACs like reference dCS stacks and CD players from Cary Audio (which were supposed to be transparent).

 

DAC-1 has slightly more bass than the EMU, but overall it's much worse. EMU is super clean, quick

 

The EMU is certainly technically very good but what do you mean by quick ?

 

and transparent, it's like opening up a window to the music compared to the grainy DAC-1.

 

What do you mean by grainy ?

 

I made this comparison when both were using SPDIF from the computer.

 

How long was the switch over time, once you have a gap of a minute or more all bets are off, did you use the headphone amp stages on both, how did you check that the levels were the same ?

 

When switching to USB, it becomes even more transparent. People who don't like the EMU, I think their ears are too slow from old age. I'm a young girl so I can hear the music properly. Music is supposed to sound like real life, not muddy.

 

You should have better high frequency hearing. That however does not mean you are better at making an objective judgment.   Seriously how do you know that what the Benchmark outputs deviates from its input signal ?. Many people mistake excessive brightness for transparency, but again both the Benchmark and EMU are as close to transparent as you could wish, the EMU does have a rather high output impedance (22ohm) on its headphone socket which might skew the FR depending on what headphones you use.


Edited by nick_charles - 12/9/13 at 3:42pm
post #10 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tablix View Post
 

why ask for advice then ask for people to quantify it later.  The EMU device is a budget recording interface and as such uses budget materials and components. 

 

Maybe then compare the spec's of the two, things like THD, jitter and frequency response. 

 

While the EMU is most likely fine for general playback if you are mixing and mastering, or an audiophile nut, you may then consider how important the differences are.  For 95% of people, me included, you will be happy with the EMU but if you got a fat wallet or huge golden ears you may need the Benchmark.

 

Personally  I am pretty happy with my $200 interface but I use a Roland Quad ;D

 

Its not all about the zero's on the price tag but they are generally there for a reason with pro audio gear.

`

Actually both the EMU and Benchmark have exceptional performance parameters, both can easily be considered transparent , i.e having levels of noise/distortion/deviation from flat FR that are simply not audible.

post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 

Asus soundcards were the first ones I looked at. My friend has compared Benchmark DAC1 against Asus Xonar, he said the DAC1 was much muddier. I searched around and found that EMU 0404 USB is brighter than the Asus Xonar.

 

I made the comparison with both headphones and studio monitors using the same volume, both short-term and long-term testing. The difference was not subtle. Now my Benchmark DAC1 is just sitting and gathering dust, I wish it was better but it's not. It has a certain grain, haziness, darkness, it doesn't sound like real life. I like how it's built compared to the plastic EMU, with great connectors and solid build, great specs too, good on paper, but the sound is worse than EMU.

post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

I have the Benchmark DAC1 with the black front plate, maybe I should try the one with the white front plate? My EMU 0404 USB is white.

I'm scared I will waste money when trying another DAC1.

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