ABX test: Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Soundcard vs. Fiio X1 DAP. Indiscernible from each other.

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by deafmutelame, May 2, 2018.
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  1. deafmutelame
    [​IMG]

    http://support.creative.com/Products/ProductDetails.aspx?prodID=15855&prodName=Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio


    vs.



    [​IMG]

    Test report - general data DAC FiiO X1:
    https://reference-audio-analyzer.pro/en/report/dac/fiio-x1.php


    Integrated Amplifier: NAD C370
    Speakers: B&W 602 S3


    At the moment my digital source is my PC via the Soundblaster X-Fi Xtreme (shame on me, I know) connected to my NAC C370.

    - I am considering the purchase of either a DAC+Headphones Amplifier such as the Chord Mojo ( https://chordelectronics.co.uk/product/mojo/ ) *OR*
    - the purchase of a DAC/AMP & DAP such as the Teac HA-P90 SD ( http://www.teac.com/product/ha-p90sd/ ) *OR*
    - the purchase of a soundcard such as the Asus Essence STX II. ( https://www.asus.com/Sound-Cards/Essence_STX_II_71/ )

    But before that I wanted to make a small test.

    I connect the Soundcard and the Fiio X1 to the C370 via two 3.5mm to RCA cable.
    I match the loudness on both as best as I can.

    Then I can freely and easyly switch between one channel and the other, without transition or clicks or any kind of noise.

    I ask a friend to switch between the Fiio X1 and the Soundcard for me with my eyes closed.

    Result: I cannot discern whatsoever between them. Neither can him.


    This reminds me of a several similar tests that were performed some time ago by the people at http://www.matrixhifi.com

    http://matrixhifi.com/contenedor_discmandac3.htm

    [​IMG] vs. [​IMG]


    http://matrixhifi.com/contenedor_sonydiscman.htm

    [​IMG] vs. [​IMG]


    The result of those tests was: they found very subtle differences between both elements AND all of them concluded that, where differences were found, they prefered the Sony Discman over the DAC3 and the SACD player. :sweat_smile:

    Ha.


    My question:

    As far-fetched as this sounds: am I going to waste a lot of money on a dedicated DAC/DAP when my X-Fi Xtreme soundcard might be indiscernible from it?

    In other words: is the audiophile scene full of horse/cow&bull biological waste? :ox::chestnut:

    Should my money be better spent on a REALLY GOOD set of speakers, the only variable in the "audiophile" equation that might really mean anything?

    :astonished:
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2018
  2. ev13wt
    Yes.
    But maybe you like bling.
    Or you want to impress your friends
    Or yourself

    So there is a market for that. :)
     
  3. castleofargh Contributor
    first, having done some tests with the X1 myself a bunch of times:
    - it can be extremely difficult to time align it with another device, and it lags between songs(compared to my computer and foobar) so I had to try and resync each time so I ended up using 10mn songs instead of my usual "test" songs. PITA and not a very good way to test gears IMO. that and volume level shouldn't be set by ear. if you really tried hard to find differences, those differences alone would probably have been enough.
    - that said, I have nothing bad to say about the X1's line out. decent output, nothing horrible in measurements, I am also of the opinion that we get a pretty fine signal out of it and it was one of the few things I purchased and thought had a really great money/sound ratio.

    about speakers, of course if you have money, you should put it in good speakers(and sadly those are rarely the cheapest), put your money in the room, and in some nice measurement/DSP product(like Dirac and co). those will absolutely make a difference and a pretty significant one at that. then if you have money left, I see nothing wrong with also getting some good source, or one you like for objective or subjective reasons. but if we look at things from a fidelity point of view, then room+speakers will usually be the worst by far, and it makes sense to improve the weak link.
     
  4. deafmutelame
    Thanks ev13wt and castleofargh for your replies.

    Today I have done another ABX test. Same gear but this time I have tested the Soundblaster X-Fi Xtreme against this very cheap DAP:


    [​IMG]



    https://www.agptek.com/product/a02-8gb-70-hours-playback-mp3-bright-white/



    Result: exactly the same. Indiscernible from the Soundcard.

    At this point I'm seriously considering to purchase the Asus Essence STX II soundcard via Amazon (so that I can return it if this goes wrong) and do an ABX test against these two devices and we'll see if I will be able to spot any difference.

    I bet I won't.

    :poop:
     
  5. ev13wt
    I have the Essence ST. I has a decent amp, meaning it does loud "in control". At lower volumes, I would probably agree with you. Should be no difference.
     
  6. deafmutelame
    Ok, I just ordered the Asus Essence STX II.

    I'm going to be VERY pissed at the so called "Hi-Fi" scene if this ends as expected...
     
  7. ev13wt
    You are in a learning phase. Its ok to be pissed. Don't close up your mind all the way though, remember to be open to the possibility that some things do sound different, sometimes even "better". This usually happens when a system isn't "measured" in its entirety, as a system - but specs are given for separate components of the system.

    "Synergy" = this happens when things are correctly implemented as a system, gain levels are correct, no op amps being overdriven, no impedance mismatching going on... all things measurable - but the knowledge is missing in most consumers, so their interpretations come across as "magic synergy"

    "Truth" for them, because it IS magical to them.



    inb4 (won't happen here) "Your headphones suck, you can never tell the difference with those crappy headphones. STAX. Minimum..."
     
  8. ev13wt


    Its called unbridled capitalism. It works because people are too uneducated (realistic) compared to experts in the individual fields + marketing and emotions

    A fool and his money will be parted. Its not only capitalism, its human nature. (still, in 2018.... sigh)
     
  9. deafmutelame

    [​IMG]


    arrrrghh!
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2018
  10. deafmutelame
    Incidentally, after reading your comment I realized that I had forgotten to test this with my headphones!

    ABX again, with my friend switching between the AUX and the CD line inputs of my NAD C370 Integrated amplifier.

    The CD input was connected to the Soundblaster X-Fi Xtreme soundcard.
    The AUX input was connected to the FiiO X1.

    My headphones:

    [​IMG]

    Etymotic Research ER4XR: $349 via Amazon
    https://www.etymotic.com/consumer/earphones/er4-new.html


    After matching loudness levels with a sine wave AND with a testing track, AND after properly syncing the track playing on the soundcard with the track playing on the X1 (within less than a second of difference between them) and after connecting my headphones to the headphone output in the NAD C370:


    they sound exactly THE SAME.

    Please, let me repeat that:


    they sound exactly THE SAME.

    I'm like... WTF!? :scream:
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2018
    Vunz likes this.
  11. amirm
    Why would you spend $230 on an internal sound card? You will be tied up to a desktop and the performance you get will be variable and potentially depend on the host PC.

    There are external DACs for half the price that have excellent performance and plug into a simple USB port.

    Can't imagine in this day and age getting any internal DAC.
     
  12. amirm
    Years ago I had the Soundblaster Gold, Platinum or whatever they were calling it. It would sing like a canary in sync with my PC activities. Gave it to my son who put it in his gaming PC with the same problem.

    Pause your audio and turn up the volume and see if you hear any background noise.
     
    ev13wt likes this.
  13. skwoodwiva
    Oh
    You make no mention of source.
    I can do the same a/b "failure" but I have never failed to Id a 2 miked fone DSD as source. If I could hear no difference, I just it just needed more scrutiny....
     
  14. ev13wt
    Not terribly low ohm, so a great choice in that department. In ears with low impedances can be problematic on high impedance amps (The ratio should be 1:8)

    This is one reason why a change to a higher impedance wire (

    More gear on a desktop... Why? Nobody needs an external DAC, these days most oem onboard is pretty decent anyhow.
     
  15. amirm
    For one you get a nice physical volume control.
     
    ev13wt likes this.
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