CHORD ELECTRONICS DAVE
Oct 8, 2016 at 4:46 PM Post #4,996 of 18,942

ubs28

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Technically you may be correct, but don't forget that volume controlled in the analog domain just might have advantages over volume controlled the digital domain. It is also safe to say that a preamp provides a layer of isolation from the connected components in a sense. I believe there is more than just euphonics at play.
 
I would also argue in that my tube equipment is forgiving. I find it much more resolute and revealing than any solid state I have had. Maybe some food for you as well?  :wink:

 
If you got alot of money, then try Esoteric. I think you'd be quite stunned how revealing and transparent that solid state setup is. Haven't heard a setup with tubes that sounded good next to it yet.
 
Oct 8, 2016 at 4:48 PM Post #4,997 of 18,942

paul79

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JaZZ,
I am not disagreeing with you. Every single electronic device is a compromise and a recreation in relation to reality. We are recreating an event to suit our tastes in our environment, of which is also a hindrance. Music is colored the second it hits the microphone and can never be perfectly recreated by electronics. Everything has an input and an output, and everything has to work together, creating a series of compromises and trade-offs that we accept no matter the system, in relation to reality. What can we do?
 
Maybe you could offer some guidance on what I can do to eliminate the preamp in my system and share your thoughts on what is wrong with my system seeing that I think it needs the preamp to recreate my ideal event picture? I don't hear anything tonally wrong, nor do I hear any artifacts with the DAC direct or with the preamp in the chain that say something is really wrong. I just hear a different and better to me, presentation with the preamp than without that sounds much more real to me.
 
So to better qualify, these are my thoughts of 2 different DAC's in my system in my environment and my tastes. YMMV... There is no way to draw your own conclusions based on my descriptions with my system and my tastes. Only you can determine what works for you and your system with your tastes, so I encourage you to take part in trials that most manufacturers offer so you can figure out what works for you.
 
Oct 8, 2016 at 5:21 PM Post #4,998 of 18,942

kennyb123

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Some food for thoughts: From a technical, electroacoustic perspective a preamp in the signal path is hard to justify. Both preamp and power amp offer about the same load for the DAVE (25-100 kΩ), so it's safe to say that the output signal is the same and in no way cleaner due to the allegedly disburdening preamp. Which indicates that the perceived «improvement» is in fact euphonic coloration. Now you like what you like and have your own sonic ideal, to which the preamp path obviously lets you get closer. But sometimes it helps to know what's actually happening to find a solution that's even better than the added forgivingness in your case – which I also and especially attribute to tube electronics. In my experience a signal path as direct as it gets reveils the tonal flaws in a system much more than one with a few euphonizing electronics components with friendly harmonic-distortion patterns.

 
My prediction:  at some future time when Chord releases the DAVE replacement, it will be recognized that Rob was able squeeze even more out of the output of his new creation such that some will see that, as amazing the DAVE was, there was still more that a genius like Rob could squeeze out of it.  
 
I am just totally skeptical that absolute perfection can ever be achieved such that a particular product can in no way be improved upon.  Especially when the product has to mate with other products that could be far from this level of perfection.  With all the preamps out on the market, would we accept that there's one out there that could mate perfectly with every single amp on the market?  
 
Oct 8, 2016 at 5:37 PM Post #4,999 of 18,942

ecwl

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I recall Rob Watts saying that some people just preferred a little more 2nd or 3rd order harmonic distortions. When I go to Stereophile measurements of preamplifiers and amplifiers, I've seen great and terrible reviews of components with significant 2nd/3rd order harmonic distortions and great and terrible reviews of components of ones with virtually no 2nd/3rd order harmonic distortions. It seems like it's more reviewer dependent than anything else. Obviously, it may be that there are other aspects of the preamp/amplifiers that make them appealing or not.
 
That's why deep down, I wonder if it would have been nice if DAVE has a digital option to add a programmable amount of 2nd and/or 3rd order harmonic distortion computationally. The user can then customize the distortion to their liking. This is of course assuming these distortions are the cause of different people's preferences. And if they are not, the customization option would also prove that people's preferences for various preamplifiers or amplifiers are not due to the 2nd/3rd order harmonic distortions.
 
Oct 8, 2016 at 5:45 PM Post #5,000 of 18,942

JaZZ

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  I recall Rob Watts saying that some people just preferred a little more 2nd or 3rd order harmonic distortions. When I go to Stereophile measurements of preamplifiers and amplifiers, I've seen great and terrible reviews of components with significant 2nd/3rd order harmonic distortions and great and terrible reviews of components of ones with virtually no 2nd/3rd order harmonic distortions. It seems like it's more reviewer dependent than anything else. Obviously, it may be that there are other aspects of the preamp/amplifiers that make them appealing or not.
 
That's why deep down, I wonder if it would have been nice if DAVE has a digital option to add a programmable amount of 2nd and/or 3rd order harmonic distortion computationally. The user can then customize the distortion to their liking. This is of course assuming these distortions are the cause of different people's preferences. And if they are not, the customization option would also prove that people's preferences for various preamplifiers or amplifiers are not due to the 2nd/3rd order harmonic distortions.

 
Most likely it would take more than 2nd- and 3rd-order harmonics, but maybe up to 23th-order harmonics and the like for exactly mimicking the reference preamp's characteristic. Plus a perfect reproduction of intermodulation distortion.
 
Oct 8, 2016 at 6:07 PM Post #5,001 of 18,942

JaZZ

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  JaZZ,
I am not disagreeing with you. Every single electronic device is a compromise and a recreation in relation to reality. We are recreating an event to suit our tastes in our environment, of which is also a hindrance. Music is colored the second it hits the microphone and can never be perfectly recreated by electronics. Everything has an input and an output, and everything has to work together, creating a series of compromises and trade-offs that we accept no matter the system, in relation to reality. What can we do?
 
Maybe you could offer some guidance on what I can do to eliminate the preamp in my system and share your thoughts on what is wrong with my system seeing that I think it needs the preamp to recreate my ideal event picture? I don't hear anything tonally wrong, nor do I hear any artifacts with the DAC direct or with the preamp in the chain that say something is really wrong. I just hear a different and better to me, presentation with the preamp than without that sounds much more real to me.
 
So to better qualify, these are my thoughts of 2 different DAC's in my system in my environment and my tastes. YMMV... There is no way to draw your own conclusions based on my descriptions with my system and my tastes. Only you can determine what works for you and your system with your tastes, so I encourage you to take part in trials that most manufacturers offer so you can figure out what works for you.

 
Paul, don't get me wrong: I'm all for a sound taylored to my own sonic preferences as well and not a slave of a theoretical ideal. You have every right to prefer what you prefer, and I'm in no way disputing that your system sounds fabulous (well, I'm sure), also and especially with the preamp. Maybe I would even agree with you that it sounds better with it than without it. Therefore the «food for thoughts»: Technically it can't sound better in terms of accuracy and high fidelity, so what's left is better synergy, most likely in the sense of forgivingness and euphonic coloration. Forgivingness to tonal flaws in your speakers in your room in particular. Since forgivingness means arbitrarily reduced transparency, I'm looking for a way to overcome the tonal flaws to get both a sound free from irritating effects and maximum transparency. The solution would be to minimize the tonal flaws at the source of them: room acoustics and speaker amplitude response, taylored to your ears, not necessarily strictly to optimal measuring curves: It's hard or almost impossible to grasp the tonal characteristic of a speaker in a listening room from a single measuring curve – which encompasses direct and reflected sound waves, but doesn't differentiate them. The most obvious methods are room treatment and (maybe even more important in your case) careful equalizing. The latter has proven to be indispensable for optimizing my headphones for the direct drive by Hugo and DAVE.
 
Oct 8, 2016 at 6:53 PM Post #5,002 of 18,942

paul79

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I'm hooked on Euphonics!!
 
So that said, my preamp is in essence an analog EQ. No argument from me that this could be more transparently done in the digital domain, but I have to believe that altering or equalizing in the digital domain presents its own issues. I have been in audio long enough to know, there is no free lunch with anything. It very well may be a lesser evil and more superior, but something is happening to the original signal via bit rerouting, throwing something away, to alter the outcome for a possible positive result, but at the same time perhaps, another damaging trade-off.
 
Oct 8, 2016 at 8:47 PM Post #5,003 of 18,942

JaZZ

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Rob Watts was addressing equalizing in a post. He thinks that small signal accuracy in a quality such as offered by the DAVE could be affected by equalizing or certain equalizers, at least more or less. I still have to think it over. But somehow I don't get how that could be with decent algorithms, since it's done before conversion to analogue, so the DAVE still makes the best out of the available signal, small signal accuracy included. How can the unequalized original signal be considered more accurate in absolute terms than the equalized one when it comes to small signals – with respect to the over-all tonal balance? However, 99% of the music we listen to is equalized anyway, probably even at more than one stage, so the virus is already present. Think microphone equalization, sound effects, mastering, remastering... everything in the digital domain (hopefully!).
 
I don't hear any adverse effects from my equalizing practice. Small signals are still there in spades, even more transparent thanks to the missing masking effects from dominating frequency bands, possibly also due to the corrected phase response. In turn I do hear the bad colorations from my headphones when fed with unequalized signals, and they are all too blatant.
 
Your preamp is less an equalizer (metrologically it isn't in the least) than an effect device, producing small, but effective doses of harmonic distortion.
 
Oct 9, 2016 at 12:01 AM Post #5,004 of 18,942

rkt31

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correct, even if there is no equalization in post processing or recording, there is still some as no equipment in recording chain has perfectly flat frequency response. even best of mics have some peak or dip in frequency response, then effects of cable impedance and other equipments including playback. so ultimately there is some equalization which you can't avoid. so key is to not to add further eq unknowingly or without any control. in that respect Dave may be the closest you get. imho because of inherent frequency curves of some recording equipments , some of the so called best and minimalistic audiophile recordings may sound very thin and lacking body on a true high fidelity equipment like Dave which is not the fault of dave. like some of the Allison krauss recordings sound very thin on hugo or even on any dac. in short eq is everywhere and you can't avoid it but the playback source (dac) imho should be as transparent as it can be. you may add your own eq as per your preference in the form of pre amp or other equipments. however I myself refrain from adding any sort of eq even if the recording is faulty to start with. it's my personal preference though. when I fed hugo directly to benchmark ahb2 power amp in low gain mode, it sounded a bit forward. it was not the fault of hugo or power amp because hugo was operating in its optimum output range of 1.5 v to 2.5 v due to low gain mode of power amp and also this benchmark amp is one of the best power amp in terms of noise and distortion. that apparent forwardness in sound was due to the fact I was not habitual of that much direct transparency. this was one of the most direct method of driving speakers as close as you can get to directly driving the speakers from dac.
 
Oct 9, 2016 at 12:21 AM Post #5,005 of 18,942

analogmusic

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Hi Paul,
 
The totaldac seems very interesting, although for me the portability of the Hugo and Dave are really unique.
 
Would you be able to play some Piano music on the total DAC and compare that to the Dave?
 
I also recall one of Rob Watts earlier posts on R2R DACS, posted below
 
Except the job of a DAC is NOT to reproduce the sampled data perfectly but to reproduce the original bandwidth limited analogue signal that was in the ADC before the signal was sampled. And to do this one must convert from a sampled signal and convert it to a continuous waveform - and that actually implies infinite oversampling, something that a R2R DAC can't do as they are limited to 16FS oversampling due to speed and glitch problems. That's one reason (there are many others too) why Mojo filters to 2048FS and has its DAC run at 104 MHz, unlike any other non Chord DAC's.
 
The aliasing is certainly not limited - yes you can't hear the images directly - but what they do is degrade the timing of transients, which you categorically can hear and to extremely low levels. So aliasing makes a huge difference to sound quality, as it degrades the accuracy of transient information. Transients are used by the brain for perceiving sound-stage, pitch, timbre and of course the starting and stopping of notes. Ever wondered why conventional digital was so poor at reproducing timbre, why you can't follow the bass tune, why it does not image properly or why it all sounds so un-musical? Its mostly down to the uncertainty of transients caused by sampling the continuous analogue signal. Fortunately this is a DAC design problem - with an infinite tap length infinitely oversampled FIR filter it will perfectly recover the original bandwidth limited analogue signal in the ADC - its just that conventional DAC's do not do a good enough job of this.
 
Another major problem with R2R DAC's is their complete inability to accurately reproduce small signals, as it is impossible to perfectly match the resistors - this is categorically not a problem for my pulse array DAC's as element mismatch creates fixed noise not distortion, as all the elements carry the audio signal (unlike R2R DAC's).
 
Rob
 
Oct 9, 2016 at 2:31 AM Post #5,006 of 18,942

paul79

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Yes, I did compare piano music, loads of it because I find this to be one of the most difficult instruments to get right, and found that they both do a very nice job of this. Excellent attack and sustain for both, with the DAVE giving a bit more energy, sounding more amplified. But.... I find the Twelve is better able to reproduce the wood of the piano for example, has better clarity, and better image focus, with better tonal shadings, perhaps due to its greater transparency.  IMO, YMMV, maybe euphonics, what have you... 
 
There is no doubt the DAVE is great. I would like to compare the DAVE to the D1 Six as I have not heard this Totaldac. I have however, had the Totaldac Monobloc and the DAVE reminds me allot of this DAC in allot of ways relating to presentation and energy. The Monobloc and the DAVE are more lively sounding than the Twelve for sure! I will also say that the DAVE is clearly better than the Monobloc was in overall refinement. I am going off aural memory with regards to the Monobloc, as I have not had it for quite some time, but the DAVE made me think of it for certain reasons. There is also no question, the DAVE has a much better USB input than any Totaldac, meaning the Totaldac are very digital source dependent. So the value the DAVE provides given you don't need reclockers, super expensive Servers, etc. in front of it for it to shine is really there!
 
Vincent did mention that the single chassis D1 Six is better than the Monobloc DAC was, and it also has an output stage that has been much upgraded vs. what was in the Monobloc DAC, so I really think the Six would be very close in performance to the DAVE on a DAC only basis. Again, given the Totaldac has a really good source in front of it. If not, forget about it. The DAVE will decimate because it has a much superior USB input.
 
What I am getting at is, the Totaldac Monobloc had more energy and drive in comparison to the Twelve even, much like the DAVE does, although Monobloc is less refined sounding than DAVE. The DAVE is not allot better than the Monobloc was, but a bit better in every way, and in important musical ways. The Twelve is different... It sounds more transparent to me, better displaying the actual sound of the instruments, the inflections of voices, with better focus, and more dimension. It sounds less amplified and more intimate and personal. MUCH more emotional sounding. It also has the most realistic displays of depth I have ever heard. Not to be confused with laid back, because it absolutely is not. Instruments are present, as if they are in the room with you, even if they are 20-30-40 feet away, they still sound as if they are in your presence if that makes sense, meaning there is body and roundness to the artist with physicality and presence. If this is not accurate, then color me with euphonic euphoria and I frikin love it. It sounds more real to me in my system, YMMV.
 
I am aware that R2R DAC's have drawbacks, the main one being they roll off early in the higher frequencies as consequence, but DACS that use additional output stages also have transparency problems, and to me, in my system, to my ears, the DAVE is no exception to this, even though it has a very damn good output stage.
 
There are other companies that use a similar approach to the Twelve:
 
The Trinity DAC has no output stage, and is R2R
The MSB Select has no output stage, and is R2R
 
Oct 9, 2016 at 4:46 AM Post #5,007 of 18,942

x RELIC x

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Yes, I did compare piano music, loads of it because I find this to be one of the most difficult instruments to get right, and found that they both do a very nice job of this. Excellent attack and sustain for both, with the DAVE giving a bit more energy, sounding more amplified. But.... I find the Twelve is better able to reproduce the wood of the piano for example, has better clarity, and better image focus, with better tonal shadings, perhaps due to its greater transparency.  IMO, YMMV, maybe euphonics, what have you... 

There is no doubt the DAVE is great. I would like to compare the DAVE to the D1 Six as I have not heard this Totaldac. I have however, had the Totaldac Monobloc and the DAVE reminds me allot of this DAC in allot of ways relating to presentation and energy. The Monobloc and the DAVE are more lively sounding than the Twelve for sure! I will also say that the DAVE is clearly better than the Monobloc was in overall refinement. I am going off aural memory with regards to the Monobloc, as I have not had it for quite some time, but the DAVE made me think of it for certain reasons. There is also no question, the DAVE has a much better USB input than any Totaldac, meaning the Totaldac are very digital source dependent. So the value the DAVE provides given you don't need reclockers, super expensive Servers, etc. in front of it for it to shine is really there!

Vincent did mention that the single chassis D1 Six is better than the Monobloc DAC was, and it also has an output stage that has been much upgraded vs. what was in the Monobloc DAC, so I really think the Six would be very close in performance to the DAVE on a DAC only basis. Again, given the Totaldac has a really good source in front of it. If not, forget about it. The DAVE will decimate because it has a much superior USB input.

What I am getting at is, the Totaldac Monobloc had more energy and drive in comparison to the Twelve even, much like the DAVE does, although Monobloc is less refined sounding than DAVE. The DAVE is not allot better than the Monobloc was, but a bit better in every way, and in important musical ways. The Twelve is different... It sounds more transparent to me, better displaying the actual sound of the instruments, the inflections of voices, with better focus, and more dimension. It sounds less amplified and more intimate and personal. MUCH more emotional sounding. It also has the most realistic displays of depth I have ever heard. Not to be confused with laid back, because it absolutely is not. Instruments are present, as if they are in the room with you, even if they are 20-30-40 feet away, they still sound as if they are in your presence if that makes sense, meaning there is body and roundness to the artist with physicality and presence. If this is not accurate, then color me with euphonic euphoria and I frikin love it. It sounds more real to me in my system, YMMV.

I am aware that R2R DAC's have drawbacks, the main one being they roll off early in the higher frequencies as consequence, but DACS that use additional output stages also have transparency problems, and to me, in my system, to my ears, the DAVE is no exception to this, even though it has a very damn good output stage.

There are other companies that use a similar approach to the Twelve:

The Trinity DAC has no output stage, and is R2R
The MSB Select has no output stage, and is R2R


The one question on my mind regarding the TotalDAC is, do all the sounds have a similar 'enhancement' to the sound, or is it dependant on the recording? What I like about the DAVE is that if a recording is close mic'd and/or produced flat then the DAVE shows me this quite well. If it's recorded in a live performance then I sense the room/space/depth easily. I absolutely hate it when a piece of gear gives me a false sense of a larger space where it shouldn't exist. Also, with the DAVE, I find that (as Rob says) hard sounds sound hard and soft sounds sound soft, etc., not just a certain quality or enhancement to every recording.

With regard to these things I'm wondering if the TotalDAC makes everything euphonic, or if one can sense the music more as it was recorded/mixed? Of course the only way to truly judge this is to be present at the recording, or to know the conditions of the recording/mix, but at least I feel with the DAVE I get a clear impression of how it was originally recorded. I haven't been able to pick that out before as easily. How is the TotalDAC regarding this?

Also, regarding the output stage, all DACs have an analogue output stage including the Trinity and MSB. The DAVE essentially uses it's line out to also drive headphones because of Rob's unique approach, which is no separate headphone amp stage as such in the chassis for the sake of transparency. It's well documented by Rob so not really comparable to other DACs with a headphone amp.

Edit: I just want to be clear that I'm trying to get a handle on what the TotalDAC brings with regard to what I've mentioned is all. Simply curious is all.
 
Oct 9, 2016 at 5:19 AM Post #5,008 of 18,942

lovethatsound

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It's well documented by Rob so not really comparable to other Dacs with a headphone amp.This is a good point,when chord do finally release the amp that goes with the Dave ,if it does what it does with headphones,just imagine what it's gonna do to a speaker setup.I think only when that amp is out,your really gonna know what the Dave will really sound like with speakers.:blush:
 
Oct 9, 2016 at 7:05 AM Post #5,009 of 18,942

JaZZ

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From what I get the TotalDAC is even more direct than the DAVE in that it doesn't even have a line-out stage. All the more it would be a shame to not make use of it, but it seems to be dependent on a preamp of some sort just for volume regulation. I probably would go for a passive attenuator in the form of a voltage-dividing network.
 
Oct 9, 2016 at 7:37 AM Post #5,010 of 18,942

DaveRedRef-III

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I think it's quite common that power amps are designed to work with "matching" pre-amps. In a sense the power amp is "faulty" if not paired with the synergising pre-amp.

It seems there aren't many people running DAVE direct into their power amps, apparently due to lack of synergy.

Romaz appears to be the only person running speakers directly from DAVE:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/766517/chord-electronics-dave/4815#post_12874117


In line with your suggestion of synergy, I think it may be worth owners of Dave to try matching it with Chord's own power amps. I have the SPM1200 MkII and it works well for me with no preamp. It is very fast and provides
Output Power:
2 x 350 W RMS into 8 Ohms
2 x 620 W RMS into 4 Ohms
2 x 750 W RMS into 2 Ohms

The remainder of this post is directed toward all readers who would be interested.

For me, (I use my Dave with speakers rather than headphones), I think 'the' most important aspect of matching Dave to other components is speed. One should imo get this right before you consider any tweaks to taylor the sound to your liking. Without sufficient speed, we do not hear fully what Dave can do and it will not be a truly natural presentation because the transient presentation will be compromised. Here is an example of what I mean.

When a bass guitar string is plucked it's sound signature is dynamic in an 'unusual' way. All Guitar strings are tbh but the bass is easier to identify for this purpose. What makes bass guitar note dynamic unusual is that the peak weight of the sound is not immediately after the plucking of the string, there is a delayed 'throw' to the peak dynamic much in the way a bull whip works. This is because guitar strings are elastic. If there is a speed bottleneck in your hifi system this true bass dynamic will not be there and guitar strings will sound hard. The chances are the culprit in the system will be your speaker cables because they are normally the longest cable in your system and will therefore accentuate any speed deficiency. If anybody is wishing to test the speed of their system in this manner but is unfamiliar with the real dynamic of a bass guitar I would suggest listening on headphones first or better still go see some live music at your local pub. A double bass will work also by the way.

Now some may say "I don't listen to music with bass guitar so why bother?" the reason is that with sufficient speed your speakers will work much better. The extra speed delivers a wider more open bandwidth. Deeper bass, cleaner top end, more open mids, better imaging.

For anybody interested, so far the only speaker cable I have heard which 100% passes the test (at any price) is the TQ Black Diamond. I would assume the Silver Diamond too as the company rates it higher. So far this has not been an exhaustive test of many cables so I am confident there will be other cables which match Dave well in the speed dept, however I have tested some 5 figure cables which have failed my test so it's not about throwing money at it. Some manufacturers focus on speed some don't it seems. Using Dave without suitably fast components and then criticising it is rather like driving a Ferrari with 60 profile tyres and then claiming a Maserati can beat it round the track. :)
 

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