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Thoughts on a bunch of DACs (and why I hate chocolate ice cream) - Page 65

post #961 of 1636
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greed View Post
 

How astute of you.. I wonder how many times purrin will have to sing the same song. 

 

Oh, I don't expect that at all.

 

I did say at the beginning of my post that "I personally don't like the idea of ranking dacs" :wink:

 

That is to say that I value his opinions very much, but I might as well prefer something from the middle of the field in my system. And I'm well aware of that.

 

Even more useful would actually be a ranking with "smooth, warm, cold, detailed, harsh" etc all on a scale from 1-10. Hard to do objectively I know, but it would be very interesting if you were looking to change your system in some direction.


Edited by TwoEars - 5/15/14 at 12:19pm
post #962 of 1636
Quote:
Originally Posted by magiccabbage View Post
 

What do you mean? That purrin will have to keep explaining himself because of comments like the one above? 

 

Yes, it has been explained before and is clearly stated in the review. What you quoted can't be interpreted any other way. These are subjective opinions, and thus subjective rankings.  

post #963 of 1636
Quote:
Originally Posted by TwoEars View Post
 

I would like to upset everyone (well, not really) and say that I personally don't like the idea of ranking dacs.

 

The name of the game is synergy and personal tastes.

 

 

I can understand your point. First, the rankings (unless done on purely objective measures) will  personal and therefore vary person to person and you have the issue that some people have better taste than others :) Second,  as you noted,  the DAC is only one part of the system, so which DAC would make the overall system the "best" will vary depending on the characteristics of the other components.  Even with those caveats, I think trying to rank DACs is useful for several years:

 

1) Rank can be personalized... by the reader.  Reading others rankings helps me discover / prioritize what might be good for me.  How?  When I am hunting for a new component I read reviews of components I have heard myself. I look for people whose reviews reflect what I hear.  and whose stack rank list is similar to mine (of the components we both have tried). When I find someone who wrote reviews I agree with, I figured I have found someone with similar taste.  Things they really like get higher priority, things they dislike get lower priority.

 

2) We are getting close to being about to objectively evaluate (and built) great amplifier / DACs. I think we have a pretty good idea of the characteristics of a "perfect amplifier" and I think there are numerous products are getting quite close to perfection. I think it's reasonably strait forward to objectively measure what is a good amplifier.  I am sure there are subtleties that  haven't yet been identified / measured, but in time we will be able to identify them and build amplifiers that are close to "perfect".  I think DACs are similar, though a bit tougher / more complicated.  So I think we are approaching the day when objectivism measures of these devices could be substantially driven by objective measures.  20 years ago there was a huge difference between the cheap and the good DACs. These days there are a number of <$300 DACs which are quite good, and the gap between the very best DACs and the pretty good DACs (ignoring those that are garbage) is getting smaller each year.

 

3) Remember Garbage in, Garbage Out. I personally think the DAC is the wrong place to try and add color.  I think the DAC is the place were one should be looking for maximum fidelity because if you are messing with tone in the DAC, that limits everything downstream. The biggest variable and where getting something perfect, finding objective measurements, etc  seems most illusive is in the headphones (and speakers).  I think this is the place that personal taste comes into play the most because every headphone (and speaker) made today had to make a series of trade-offs.  No amount of variance of the DAC or amplifier will make headphones sounds the same.  I would challenge anyone to try and make the HD800 sound like LCD-X, or HD650, or Grado RS60i.  My personally philosophy is that people need to select headphones whose sound signature, the trade-offs, are most pleasing to them.  Decent DACs and amplifiers will give that sounds to you. Sure, there are synergies, but these are actually pretty minor provided the component is doing a decent job.  

 

--Mark

post #964 of 1636
Quote:
Originally Posted by verber View Post
 

 

I can understand your point. First, the rankings (unless done on purely objective measures) will  personal and therefore vary person to person and you have the issue that some people have better taste than others :) Second,  as you noted,  the DAC is only one part of the system, so which DAC would make the overall system the "best" will vary depending on the characteristics of the other components.  Even with those caveats, I think trying to rank DACs is useful for several years:

 

1) Rank can be personalized... by the reader.  Reading others rankings helps me discover / prioritize what might be good for me.  How?  When I am hunting for a new component I read reviews of components I have heard myself. I look for people whose reviews reflect what I hear.  and whose stack rank list is similar to mine (of the components we both have tried). When I find someone who wrote reviews I agree with, I figured I have found someone with similar taste.  Things they really like get higher priority, things they dislike get lower priority.

 

2) We are getting close to being about to objectively evaluate (and built) great amplifier / DACs. I think we have a pretty good idea of the characteristics of a "perfect amplifier" and I think there are numerous products are getting quite close to perfection. I think it's reasonably strait forward to objectively measure what is a good amplifier.  I am sure there are subtleties that  haven't yet been identified / measured, but in time we will be able to identify them and build amplifiers that are close to "perfect".  I think DACs are similar, though a bit tougher / more complicated.  So I think we are approaching the day when objectivism measures of these devices could be substantially driven by objective measures.  20 years ago there was a huge difference between the cheap and the good DACs. These days there are a number of <$300 DACs which are quite good, and the gap between the very best DACs and the pretty good DACs (ignoring those that are garbage) is getting smaller each year.

 

3) Remember Garbage in, Garbage Out. I personally think the DAC is the wrong place to try and add color.  I think the DAC is the place were one should be looking for maximum fidelity because if you are messing with tone in the DAC, that limits everything downstream. The biggest variable and where getting something perfect, finding objective measurements, etc  seems most illusive is in the headphones (and speakers).  I think this is the place that personal taste comes into play the most because every headphone (and speaker) made today had to make a series of trade-offs.  No amount of variance of the DAC or amplifier will make headphones sounds the same.  I would challenge anyone to try and make the HD800 sound like LCD-X, or HD650, or Grado RS60i.  My personally philosophy is that people need to select headphones whose sound signature, the trade-offs, are most pleasing to them.  Decent DACs and amplifiers will give that sounds to you. Sure, there are synergies, but these are actually pretty minor provided the component is doing a decent job.  

 

--Mark

 

I have to disagree there. First of all it's pretty easy to make headphones sound like other headphones - just EQ to the same freq response and they will sound very similar (if not exactly the same). Secondly, synergy is probably the most important factor in picking out gear, in my opinion. You can buy a dac and amp combo costing tens of thousands of dollars that by themselves do a decent job, but will be terrible paired together (I've heard plenty!), I've also heard systems under 1000 dollars that sounded alot better than much more expensive setups because synergy between the components was there.

 

I agree with you that people should pick headphones first, and build around them, but if you're not careful about which source/amp you're getting, you can end up with a pretty awful sounding setup and quite a few thousands wasted.

post #965 of 1636
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JakeJack_2008 View Post
 

 

Hi Purrin,

 

My ODAC sounds excellent from my modern Toshiba Satellite (the S-series, released June 2012), so the USB power is good

(how good?)  in this particular  case.

 

Anyway, one can use the ODAC with the Vaunix hub   (recommended by Currawong) or the iFi iUSB, and so on.

What about running the ODAC from good quality batteries - someone on this site  mentioned Clean Power batteries?

Just out of curiosity, would the ODAC benefit more from the Clean Power (or other good quality brands) batteries?

What are pros and cons in terms of the electric power quality of using batteries vs. dedicated power supplies (IFi iUSB, etc.)?

 

Thanx for reading.

 

I've known people who have gotten very good results from ODAC with tweaked external power. Otherwise I cannot say because I have not tried it myself, batteries or otherwise. My results were wonderful from by big PC USB (where I wouldn't be using the ODAC) and horrible from my laptop USB  (where I would actually use it).

post #966 of 1636
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by elmoe View Post

 

I agree with you that people should pick headphones first, and build around them, but if you're not careful about which source/amp you're getting, you can end up with a pretty awful sounding setup and quite a few thousands wasted.

 

Picking headphones first is a good way to go. I think once I really got into things, I started to pick amps first. A very specific type of amp. I really don't recommend picking amps or DACs first until you reach level 78 wizard. This is to avoid, as you said, thousands of dollars wasted.

post #967 of 1636
Thread Starter 

BTW, what @verber said.

 

I think I already said this before buried somewhere: I don't like ranking DACs either, but I decided that not doing so and not putting a personal preference on things would be kind of weak considering that I've attempted to describe specific qualifiers and attributes for each DAC and answered specific questions (e.g. bright vs. dark, synergies, etc.) for each - if asked.

post #968 of 1636
Quote:
Originally Posted by purrin View Post
 

 

Picking headphones first is a good way to go. I think once I really got into things, I started to pick amps first. A very specific type of amp. I really don't recommend picking amps or DACs first until you reach level 78 wizard. This is to avoid, as you said, thousands of dollars wasted.

 

I definitely agree with that.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by purrin View Post
 

BTW, what @verber said.

 

I think I already said this before buried somewhere: I don't like ranking DACs either, but I decided that not doing so and not putting a personal preference on things would be kind of weak considering that I've attempted to describe specific qualifiers and attributes for each DAC and answered specific questions (e.g. bright vs. dark, synergies, etc.) for each - if asked.

 

 I did enjoy reading your ranking a lot, thanks for the effort!

post #969 of 1636

First off, thanks for recording your endeavor here for everyone else's benefit. Regardless of the actual findings, the fact that this thread even exists is helpful.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by purrin View Post
 

I think I already said this before buried somewhere: I don't like ranking DACs either, but I decided that not doing so and not putting a personal preference on things would be kind of weak considering that I've attempted to describe specific qualifiers and attributes for each DAC and answered specific questions (e.g. bright vs. dark, synergies, etc.) for each - if asked.

 

2 things:

1) I know it would be a bit of work, but the bright/dark, warm/cold, analytical/natural type comparisons are pretty helpful to prospective buyers who may not have easy access to the products. As such, it would be great if those thoughts could be rolled up into page 1. This is one of those things where a forum thread tends to be a semi-horrible way to organize this information, but we don't really have a good alternative since setting up a wiki to do this would be a lot of work.

2) Any advice on what to listen for when noticing some of those USB vs non-USB comparisons? I briefly spent some time doing this with a Gen2 Gungnir and a V800 and couldn't really find any specific differences with USB vs non-USB in terms of sound quality. Most differences could be summed up as "USB problems". i.e. certain players made noises on start of a new file, etc.

 

P.S. Ever listen to a Violectric V800?

post #970 of 1636

Think of USB input as a transport.  Look for things like background blackness, clarity, resolution, dynamics.  Most of the effects of a USB implementation can be related to reducing jitter and filtering dirty computer power.  It isn't going to change the overall tonality or characteristics of the DAC.  Depending on how resolving the rest of your system is it is easy to miss.

 

I have also found it takes a bit of experimentation to find tracks that are able to show you those differences.

post #971 of 1636

I usually also find it really hard to pick out differences between the inputs on a DAC. I think in general the difference between the inputs is much smaller than the change in tonality from one dac to another.

 

If I can hear a difference between the inputs it's usually "more of a feeling" than an absolute. I have sometimes felt that the USB input of some dacs provide a little bit more mellow and relaxed listening experience, whereas the spdif input are a little bit more dynamic and in your face. It's a very minute difference and if I hadn't experienced on several dac's and several times I could easily have discarded it as placebo. Well.... I still shouldn't discard it completely as placebo but such have been my impressions.

 

I'm not saying that one is better than the other because that depends on the dac and what you're looking for.


Edited by TwoEars - 5/16/14 at 6:00am
post #972 of 1636
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stapsy View Post
 

Think of USB input as a transport.  Look for things like background blackness, clarity, resolution, dynamics....It isn't going to change the overall tonality or characteristics of the DAC.  Depending on how resolving the rest of your system is it is easy to miss.

 

Maybe I just haven't heard a really bad USB implementation, but I haven't noticed those types of differences between inputs on the 3 outboard DACs I've tried with multiple inputs. I've certainly heard them with different amps and sources, just not from multiple inputs on the same DAC.

If my particular amps and headphones aren't resolving enough to detect that type of input, I'm happy to chalk that one up as being a non-issue for all practical purposes.

 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stapsy View Post
 

I have also found it takes a bit of experimentation to find tracks that are able to show you those differences.

I guess that is the thing that I'd actually like to know. If there were particular tracks or types of tracks people were using to find these differences, I'm curious what they are. I think I"ve got a fairly diverse set of tracks I use to demo already, but input switching can be rather painfully tedious.

post #973 of 1636

It is going to be somewhat system dependent, I did a test last weekend between another USB converter and the OR5 with my PWD. The results were quite similar.  There was a slight raspiness to some vocals that was cleared up with the OR5 and an increase in small details like vocal inflections which overall sounded more real to me.  In a search to obtain optimal sound quality these types of small differences become more noticeable.  It is the difference from saying "wow this sounds awesome" to "I can't tell I am listening to headphones anymore".

 

 

 

With the Mjolnir and LCD3 I would imagine you could hear differences if they existed. I haven't heard the Mjolnir but the LCD3 was quite resolving.  Part of it is identifying weaknesses in your downstream equipment.  For example I have noticed that HD800s do tend to take on a grainy quality in the midrange when using lower end gear, whereas the Code-X remain quite strong in this area.  It is hard for me to say where you will notice the difference with the LCD3 as I haven't listened to them extensively.

 

 

Quick changes are alright to identify obvious changes.  In my experience they tend to gloss over more subtle changes.  I would suggest you try the following.  Listen to one input for a couple hours and write down notes about the sound.  Things that jump out at you, things you like, things you don't like, etc for each track. 

 

The next day do the same thing with another input (don't refer back to your previous notes during this step).  Then compare the notes.  Now go back and try some faster switches.  I have found this makes it easier for me to identify and then validate the things that I hear.  It also gives me a good point of reference when you force yourself to internalize what you hear by writing it down. 

 

If all else fails just rely on your emotions.  Hearing the OR5 the first time gave me the chills.  Switching cables from Cardas to DHC put a huge smile on my face (and I didn't know which was which).  Sometimes that is the easiest way for me to identify if I hear a difference or not.

 


Hearing is a skill just like anything else.  It takes time to practice and hone that skill especially when looking at small changes.  You need to give yourself time to adjust to the changes.  My method isn't perfect but it has worked for me.  I don't stress about it though because that would take all the fun out of it.


Edited by Stapsy - 5/16/14 at 12:15pm
post #974 of 1636
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stapsy View Post
 

Quick changes are alright to identify obvious changes.  In my experience they tend to gloss over more subtle changes.  I would suggest you try the following.  Listen to one input for a couple hours and write down notes about the sound.  Things that jump out at you, things you like, things you don't like, etc for each track. 

This is the approach I usually take, though it's usually more like days or a weekend instead of hours. It's the one I used to decide to demo my latest sets of gear, but I made the mistake of buying 6 new toys at the same time (2 cans, 2 amps, 2 DACs). Technically 4 amps and 4 DACs, but I didn't really evaluate the ALO Pan Am and Modi/Magni at all.

 

I've always tried to demo audio gear with a relatively wide range of source material, looking for general purpose performers that worked across the board.

 

I guess what I was thinking is that input-handling deficiencies in DAC implementations might generally suffer from the same types of problems and therefore lead to the same types of sonic shortfalls. If so, I was thinking there might be a few go-to tracks that people like for highlighting those types of problems. For the Gungnir + Audeze LCD-3/LCD-XC pairing, I always felt some listener fatigue, but I couldn't put my finger on the cause until I added a few more tracks into my demo suite. Once I found the right track, the offensive characteristics were readily apparent all the time. To my ears, it was not at all subtle.

 

Sometimes 2 weeks sounds like a very long time. Sometimes it doesn't seem like anywhere near enough. :)

post #975 of 1636
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BeyerMonster View Post

 

2) Any advice on what to listen for when noticing some of those USB vs non-USB comparisons? I briefly spent some time doing this with a Gen2 Gungnir and a V800 and couldn't really find any specific differences with USB vs non-USB in terms of sound quality. Most differences could be summed up as "USB problems". i.e. certain players made noises on start of a new file, etc.

 

To follow up on what Staps said:

 

  1. Think of it as a transport/interface combination. For example USB from macbook and optical from macbook are kind of the same thing since the macbook as a transport actually does have its own sound. Sound's BS'y, but it's true. Even different generations of macbooks have their own sound. My Windows laptop (with most services turned off) sounds different from my desktop computer sounds different from my CD-player, etc.
  2. The only thing about the Gen2 I could say was that is was better than the Gen1 USB = coaxial from the mobo out from the same computer.
  3. Changes could be anything. Less grain, less digititus, warmer more liquid presentation, more open, more extraction of low level information, better separation / layering, etc.
  4. On most DACs, the changes were small. The only DAC where USB / non-USB / transport made a huge difference was the AGD-M7.

 

 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BeyerMonster View Post

 

2 things:

1) I know it would be a bit of work, but the bright/dark, warm/cold, analytical/natural type comparisons are pretty helpful to prospective buyers who may not have easy access to the products. As such, it would be great if those thoughts could be rolled up into page 1. This is one of those things where a forum thread tends to be a semi-horrible way to organize this information, but we don't really have a good alternative since setting up a wiki to do this would be a lot of work.

 

I've done this with smaller sets of DACs (4-5) at a time. It's out on the Internet somewhere, just not here. Just too much of a clusterfk to do so with 25+ different combinations. Also, this round of comparisons is over since I've changed my amp, added a headphone, and built new speakers. I guess I'll have to start a new one and will keep the matrix approach in mind.


Edited by purrin - 5/17/14 at 10:34am
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