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Beginner DAC questions - Page 2

post #16 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sapientiam View Post
 

But given that, I'd say your money's best spent on better electronics rather than more expensive headphones. 


This is the first time I've ever heard someone say that... There is an overwhelming consensus on this website that headphones will always make the biggest difference. 

post #17 of 36

Does the presence of 'overwhelming consensus' indicate that its not merely groupthink? I'm more than happy to be wrong - what is the evidence in favour of the 'overwhelming consensus' ?

post #18 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sapientiam View Post
 

Does the presence of 'overwhelming consensus' indicate that its not merely groupthink? I'm more than happy to be wrong - what is the evidence in favour of the 'overwhelming consensus' ?


I don't mean to mention consensus as if consensus itself decides the question. I read it more as: most people, in the course of their Head-Fi journeys, have found that headphones have made the biggest difference in sound quality as they pursue various upgrades. There is no evidence other than what people hear with their own ears -- do you have evidence for your position on this matter, beyond your own personal experiences? I don't know what other kind of evidence there could be, unless someone wants to do a double-blind study...

Personally, I have found that headphones affect sound quality much more than electronics. For example, listening to my $20 IEMs through a dedicated DAC and amp is less satisfying to me than plugging my HE-400 into my laptop. I also noticed a bigger change going from my AKG Q701 to my HE-400 (about $200 difference) than I did going from my HRT Music Streamer II to my Resonessence Concero (about twice the price difference as between the headphones).

My experiences are similar to those of many people on this website. Just do some searches and find threads that discuss this topic. It could be groupthink, but neither of us is in a position to determine whether it truly is. To do so would require the ability to read minds and know when people are fooling themselves. Of course, you be the judge for yourself. Nothing I've said has invalidated the experiences you've had with various headphones and electronics. People do hear things differently. I am merely pointing out that your experiences seem to be idiosyncratic, and hence a poor basis for advice to give a stranger. 

 


Edited by manbear - 1/1/14 at 6:14pm
post #19 of 36

I accept that other people's experiences are different from my own. I've already given the context of my experience - that of being a DIYer - so I suspect this is the major reason to explain the difference.

 

Non DIYers have a very limited set of equipment to experience - that of commercially available kit. OTOH DIYers are more able to learn what makes for great sound by tweaking and modding. In my experience, the commercial kit I've bought isn't optimally designed and can be improved with some very low cost (but high labour) changes, such as re-grounding. Therefore I rather suspect that the 'consensus' view is based on listening to sub-optimal electronics. With sub-optimal electronics, a lot of noise is introduced, modulated by the signal. It begins in the D/A converter - S-D DACs have 'noise modulation'. Hence my recommendation already here that the OP avoids such DACs.

 

So would you agree that the 'consensus' view here is based on the overwhelming preponderance of S-D DACs used as sources? My experiences may well indeed be idiosyncratic - why would that make the sharing of my experience invalid though? My advice has been so far 'get better electronics' - but I qualified that 'better electronics' should be determined by the OP listening for himself, not by price tag.

 

So to summarize, my interpretation here is that the 'overwhelming consensus' is based not on listening to 'better electronics' - its based on listening to commercial stuff which is, in my experience, sub-optimal. Hence we seem to be rather talking at crossed purposes - your introduction of the 'overwhelming consensus' most likely isn't relevant to what I was saying..

 

<edit> You seem somewhat unaware of how our perceptual processes operate, based on remarks like 'mind reading' and ''fooling themselves'. If a person hears something sounding better when there's no change made to the source equipment then that would be placebo effect, not self delusion. Placebo effect is real, not imaginary.


Edited by Sapientiam - 1/1/14 at 6:46pm
post #20 of 36

Actually, this debate has been done on equipment vs speakers. But first, want to mention, DIY is the minority of all audiophile realms, not just here. The fact that you can and do electronics mod's is great, but very much in the minority when compared to the audiophile community as a whole.

 

The headphone first scenario is like the speaker first scenario. While all things must be considered, good speakers (or headphones) are pivotal and should most likely be the most important link in the chain. Why ?

 

Because with great speakers, even mediocre equipment will sound pretty good. Great equipment will sound awesome. But if you have poor speakers or headphones, even the TOTL equipment will sound like crap. Also, while differences in reproduction equipment is related to small nuances in noise, signal, frequency response, etc., speakers have a much wider range of ability (or lack thereof).

 

As I said, that v.s has been done to death.

post #21 of 36

I certainly believe that working with electronics has yielded benefits to you that many others here, including myself, have not experienced. However, there is a gulf here. Even if electronics that you've optimally built yourself yield more improvement than a headphone upgrade, it's not really fair for you to tell someone that electronics will make more difference than headphones. A non DIYer wishing to head your advice might go out and buy some rubbish consumer electronics that won't help at all. Your position seems to really be about DIY electronics in particular (and I don't doubt you there). Still, this is separate from whether money is better spent on headphones or consumer electronics, which is the practical question. 

It seems like OP just wants suggestions for consumer electronics -- would the OP need to reground a multi-bit DAC to really hear an improvement? Would other tweaks be necessary? Or is just getting a multi-bit DAC enough of a start on the path of good electronics that that step alone would yield more sonic improvement than a headphone upgrade?

 

post #22 of 36

I didn't though say what you seem to be attributing to me , to wit 'electronics will make more difference than headphones'. What I did say in reality was about 'better electronics'. Do you think it would help discussion if you dealt with what I actually said rather than merely what you think I said?

 

There is a kind of middle ground between full-on DIY and consumer electronics - the vendors that provide less than total solutions where you get to assemble your own arrangement of boards. AMB labs would be one example though I have no experience of their products whatsoever. It might well work to have a search amongst such sellers, depending on the OP's propensity with a soldering iron.

 

About your later questions - yes the improvement in timbral accuracy comes from having even a fairly cheap multibit DAC. I heard this on the Muse 4 * TDA1543 DAC which sells for relatively peanuts. Regrounding on it (for details there's a very long thread about it which I've contributed to ) will considerably reduce the sibilance though. Whether its better than a headphone upgrade depends on the kinds of music you listen to - the OP mentioned classical was his interest and that's where I've found the biggest improvements myself. I reckon classical music is very much a minority interest here on Head-Fi so that could well be another significant reason for why 'consensus' differs from my own experience. There are good technical reasons for why this (classical vs popular) difference should be so - if you're interested seek out some of Lynn Olson's writings.

post #23 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by arcorob View Post

 

The headphone first scenario is like the speaker first scenario. While all things must be considered, good speakers (or headphones) are pivotal and should most likely be the most important link in the chain. Why ?

 

 

I started out in audio in the late 1970s and in those days people proclaiming 'speakers first'  got laughed at. I recall a cartoon from around that time showing a rusty nail as stylus and a bamboo stick as arm but feeding some high end speakers. "Garbage in, garbage out" hasn't changed in the intervening time, just sources have moved from LP to digital.

post #24 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sapientiam View Post
 

I didn't though say what you seem to be attributing to me , to wit 'electronics will make more difference than headphones'. What I did say in reality was about 'better electronics'. Do you think it would help discussion if you dealt with what I actually said rather than merely what you think I said?


Ok, sure. I don't think anything I've said rides on that distinction. The issue is how available "better" electronics are to the OP. If you think that the OP can buy a multibit DAC that, in stock form, will be a better use of money than new headphones, that's fine. I'm not arguing with that. I just get the sense that you are actually talking about DIY when you are making recommendations about what to buy. It doesn't appear that the OP is a DIYer. For example, are you saying that your DIY electronics will make more difference than headphones, or are you saying that a stock Muse 4 will make more difference than headphones? Perhaps I'm taking things out of context though. 


Edited by manbear - 1/1/14 at 8:11pm
post #25 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sapientiam View Post
 

 

I started out in audio in the late 1970s and in those days people proclaiming 'speakers first'  got laughed at. I recall a cartoon from around that time showing a rusty nail as stylus and a bamboo stick as arm but feeding some high end speakers. "Garbage in, garbage out" hasn't changed in the intervening time, just sources have moved from LP to digital.


Well then I guess times have changed because that is not the consensus today (frankly I question you anecdotal reference since I have also been in audio since the early 70's)

 

And just for frame of reference, I am sure they didn't say GIGO because it was developed as a computer reference to data. Irrelevant, I know.

 

what is relevant is if you talk to audiophiles today, they will tell you it is the most critical link in the chain (and one of the hardest to get right)

 

The days of a stick and a cactus needle are over...Oh wait...no, the cactus needle is back and goes for quite a bit of money...

 

http://www.stereophile.com/content/soundsmith%E2%80%99s-hyperion-phono-cartridge-cactus-needle-cantilever

post #26 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by manbear View Post
 


Ok, sure, but the issue is how available "better" electronics are to the OP. If you think that the OP can buy a multibit DAC that, in stock form, will be a better use of money than new headphones, that's fine. I'm not arguing with that. I just get the sense that you are actually talking about DIY when you are making recommendations about what to buy. It doesn't appear that the OP is a DIYer. For example, are you saying that your DIY electronics will make more difference than headphones, or are you saying that a stock Muse 4 will make more difference than headphones? Perhaps I'm taking things out of context though. 

 

 

Its a good question - I think he can but it won't be particularly easy to do. Reason being the vendors that care about sound quality tend to be those that follow the 'direct selling' model, meaning they're not widely distributed. So he might have to ask around to get to listen to someone else's or gamble on a few positive impartial SQ descriptions, or try to find someone with a return policy and minimal restocking fee.

 

With a limited budget I have found that modding is the best (most cost-effective) way to get improvements yes, but since the OP hasn't identified himself as a DIYer, I haven't suggested that. I agree totally that its a minority interest.

 

I reckon returning his DACmagic (which it turns out he already has) and getting a Lite DAC-AH (which go for around $140 I seem to recall) would be his best option. A Muse is possible and even cheaper but might be more sibilant unless he uses the Toslink. The money he saves to be put towards better headphones if that suits him or if I were him, more music.

post #27 of 36

So if you buy this

http://www.headphone.com/headphone-amps/amplifiers/grace-design-m903.php

 

Then it would be okay to listen with these

http://www.guitarcenter.com/Sony-MDR-7502-Headphones-100176586-i1126809.gc?source=4WWRWXMP&kwid=productads-plaid^26593249961-sku^100176586@ADL4GC-adType^PLA-device^c-adid^3645655704

 

Because you guys think the equipment is more important ? NOT. Will sound like crap and would net no better sound than a $100 amp/dac

post #28 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by arcorob View Post
 


Well then I guess times have changed because that is not the consensus today (frankly I question you anecdotal reference since I have also been in audio since the early 70's)

 

And just for frame of reference, I am sure they didn't say GIGO because it was developed as a computer reference to data. Irrelevant, I know.

 

what is relevant is if you talk to audiophiles today, they will tell you it is the most critical link in the chain (and one of the hardest to get right)

 

The days of a stick and a cactus needle are over...Oh wait...no, the cactus needle is back and goes for quite a bit of money...

 

http://www.stereophile.com/content/soundsmith%E2%80%99s-hyperion-phono-cartridge-cactus-needle-cantilever

 

I must admit I don't do much hanging out with audiophiles, on or off line. I tend to find they're rather a religious bunch. I get on much better with music lovers, who view their equipment not as the be-all-and-end-all but rather as a means to an end. That of getting more enjoyment out of their recordings.So if audiophiles in general are saying things, in general I'll ignore that. Incidentally just because GIGO came from computers ( my own background too) doesn't make it irrelevant to audio. Just as Goodhart's law (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodhart%27s_law) came from economics but still applies well in other areas beyond that..

 

BTW you lived through the late 1970s and never came across Linn's 'GIGO' marketing ? Seriously?

post #29 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by arcorob View Post
 

So if you buy this

http://www.headphone.com/headphone-amps/amplifiers/grace-design-m903.php

 

Obviously you're not been following along particularly carefully:evil: The Grace doesn't have a multibit DAC does it?


Edited by Sapientiam - 1/1/14 at 8:38pm
post #30 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by NickMDal View Post
 

Sage advice from a stranger can only be good.  I returned the DAC and got my $540.00 back.  Whew!  Thanks for pointing me in the right direction.  That is the most helpful advice someone can receive.


Good for you, if you are happy. Then you got the advice that you needed.

IN the end that is what this forum is designed for. And it works in most cases.


Edited by mironathetin - 1/1/14 at 10:54pm
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