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Tom's Hardware Hi-Fi equipment test

post #1 of 79
Thread Starter 
Interesting article

Since they mention DBT, I put it here vs. PC audio forum.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/high-end-pc-audio,3733.html
post #2 of 79

It is only nit-picking, but some of the sample rate limitations listed (like the Xonar STX not supporting 88.2 and 176.4 kHz) are actually due to the Windows drivers, rather than the hardware itself.

 

Also, volume matching could have been done more accurately by measuring the output voltage, rather than acoustic levels. The measurements do suggest possibly high output impedance (increased bass level) for the ALC889, so that could very well have been audible even with relatively high impedance headphones.

post #3 of 79
 
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Anything Above $2 Buys More Features : Not Better Quality
post #4 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by RonaldDumsfeld View Post
Anything Above $2 Buys More Features : Not Better Quality

Says the guy with the $400+ record player lol

post #5 of 79
Makes sense, you can only be "so good" at converting a digital signal to analog. If a $2 chip can do it without significant distortion, it won't sound worse than a $200 chip.
post #6 of 79

I've got a $600 'DAC' as well.

 

Features matter.

post #7 of 79

The /r/headphones guys have linked to this thread, hoping for some controversy. 

 

Quick, someone say something controversial! 

post #8 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by White Lotus View Post
 

The /r/headphones guys have linked to this thread, hoping for some controversy. 

 

Quick, someone say something controversial! 

 

White paint is the superior paint! ALL HAIL THE WHITE PAINT!

 

 

On topic, it's an interesting article. There are some methodology issues that have been mentioned on r/headphones, but it's an interesting read nonetheless.

post #9 of 79

I'm not really sure I understand their testing method. I think actual A/B tests would have been a better idea.

post #10 of 79

Better for them, it saves them a lot of money.

post #11 of 79
The one thing that test does not negate is the possibility that the implementation of the Realtek card or the Xonar might be adding noise depending on the computer itself. So it's definitely not the end to debates on whether or not external DAC/headphone amps can improve audio quality, although it certainly does help to confirm that spending more money on DACs/headhone amps may not offer worthwhile (or any) benefits.

Is that controversial enough? lol
post #12 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

The one thing that test does not negate is the possibility that the implementation of the Realtek card or the Xonar might be adding noise depending on the computer itself.

 

Well, that can be easily found out because the noise should be audible even while no music (or a silent WAV file instead) is playing. If it is not under any system activity, one might just as well save the money. Although both the Realtek and the Xonar might have output impedance issues with low impedance headphones and IEMs, which the large majority of consumer models are to be compatible with battery powered portable devices. On the other hand, the Xonar should normally be well shielded from computer interference, when it does happen, it is most commonly because of a ground loop with a grounded external amplifier.

post #13 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by stv014 View Post

Well, that can be easily found out because the noise should be audible even while no music (or a silent WAV file instead) is playing.

I would disagree because it would seem like the noise floor could vary depending on the implementation (the computer). It might be subtle or might be more noticeable. When I got the ODAC, I thought it sounded a little bit darker in depth of silence than the STX (otherwise, pretty much the same in SQ). But I how would I have known that if I didn't have anything to compare the STX to?
post #14 of 79
I just read the article. I'm not sure of what to make of it. The study only uses 2 listeners who only listen to each song twice with a given amp/DAC combo. Surely this is too small a sample size to come up with a conclusion?
Also identifying the amp/DAC requires good knowledge of the different amp/DACs used and listener A seems to improve (somewhat though apparently not on the last test) on his ability to identify the different equipment towards the later sessions.

Edited by PTom - 2/26/14 at 10:51am
post #15 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by PTom View Post

I just read the article. I'm not sure of what to make of it. The study only uses 2 listeners who only listen to each song twice with a given amp/DAC combo. Surely this is too small a sample size to come up with a conclusion?

There is a specific conclusion that is summarized by the heading on the conclusion page: "A $2 Codec Sounds (to us) like a $2000 Device." The authors rated them all "Great sound quality." That's a very subjective determination, and a very general one.

Given that subjective determination and emphasis of "to us," I think you have to evaluate this as qualitative research of listening case studies. Case studies are what they are smily_headphones1.gif
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