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DAP'S - Is there really any difference in the sound reproduction?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by astropin, Sep 26, 2016.
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  1. Astropin
    What I mean to say is if a $85 DAP and a $3500 DAP both have specs that are beyond the capability of human hearing shouldn't they both be "transparent" A.K.A "equal" in their sound reproduction?

    I understand that they will likely have different power output......but once you account for that shouldn't they sound the same if you're using the same headphones (and assuming both can adequately drive said headphones)?

    How can one DAP be more "bassy" than another? Or have more midrange or be "brighter". If they both have specs beyond human capability won't they sound the same?

    I can see where different headphones can sound VERY different even when they profess similar specifications. Headphones don't reproduce sound in a completely flat 20hz-20khz line; Most DAC's do.

    This isn't an argument against buying more expensive DAP's. You usually get something for your extra dollars (possibly the ability to play more formats, better fit-n-finish, longer battery life, better UI.......etc.......but better sound reproduction......really?) Could people consistently pass a double blind between the Xduoo X3 and the Astell & Kern AK380 playing the same recording through the same iem's?
    Goldfish memories likes this.
  2. Ruben123
    Some things. Not all DACs or daps measure flat. Because if they do, they sound the same just as all other daps! Mostly expensive ones alter their fr a bit (sometimes).

    Also output imp could be different and of course sighed testing is disastrous.
    Goldfish memories likes this.
  3. TwilightCoda
    What's the difference between a DAP and a DAC? I know higher-end DAC's use "a more precise clock to create a more accurately timed representation of the music" (yes, I did just quote their marketing), but I'm afraid that I'm not entirely sure what a DAP is.
  4. alffla
    DAP stands for Digital Audio Player
    DAC is Digital Analog Converter 
    So could the same effect be achieved by EQing? :|
    TwilightCoda likes this.
  5. Astropin
    If a manufacturers DAP does not measure perfectly flat in today's day and age then it's broken. If they are purposely messing with the frequency response then that is messed up. I would never by a dap, dac or amp with a manufacturer altered fr........who does this? That's what equalizers are for.

    Sent from my SM-G935V using Tapatalk
  6. Larethio
    You know this thread deserves more attention as this question can be very useful when someone is shopping for something to play their music on other than their smartphone.

    I personally would like to keep everything at the source as flat and transparent as possible and i prefer to have the transducers themselves to be colored as it makes things simpler.
  7. castleofargh Contributor
    while not directly answering , this poorly made post http://www.head-fi.org/t/816311/in-some-rare-cases-headphone-cables-could-make-an-audible-difference#post_12769067 mentions a few possible causes for variations that can occur depending on the headphone/IEM/cable and that may or may not interact with the DAP. damping ratio(the difference between the impedance of the source and the impedance of the headphone) being something that may be important and vary from product to product.
     sure enough almost all DAPs will show measurable differences under given conditions. some may be able to drive a particular load(headphone/IEM) better than another DAP, others might not be amazing anywhere but be able to deal with a wider range of headphones, some will have more power, some will in general have a lower noise floor(that may become audible with the most sensitive IEMs)...
    so yeah all the differences you can think of, a DAP might exhibit them compared to another DAP.
    now one thing is for sure, of all the possibilities mentioned, not one is directly correlated to money! we expect the more expensive device to offer something more, but that's just speculation(or preconceptions from marketing), not a certainty. and the "improvement" if any, isn't necessarily found in sound fidelity.
    my personal opinion is that expensive DAPs are a waste of good money. if it's about paying for sound quality, I'd rather invest in headphones/IEMs that measure well and are close to my preferred signature. then a portable amp that should work well with the particular headphone I picked if said headphone requires anything special. only then would I consider the DAP with the rest of the money, and probably pick it based on features and form factor instead of sound quality anyway. ^_^ but that's me.

    that is simply not true. most DAPs are indeed "generally flat" or very close to electrical flat. but that's more like saying that they won't have a 5db spike out of nowhere at 4khz than to say they are all perfectly flat in the 20hz to 20khz. most serious products are certified with a +/-XXXdb variation over a given frequency range. so that we can expect a given magnitude of deviation from perfect flat. but many DAPs in fact aren't certified anything at all. and those that are, those values are unloaded(meaning without the headphone plugged in). so they do not mean the frequency response won't change once using an IEM(cf. my link above for some reasons).
  8. Astropin

    Well I would think that most DAC's (and DAP's) produced today are at 20hz-20khz +/- 0.5db..........which should be inaudible and I would argue is in fact inaudible in any blind testing.

    Yes there could potentially be some impedance issues (in rare occasions) but other than that I would think virtually all modern DAP's should sound exactly the same given the same recording and headphones/iem's. If you are hearing "noise" then I would think you are having some sort of impedance issue with that particular dap / iem combination.

    So when I said flat I meant flat as far as the limits of human hearing. If you're seeing a modern dap or dac with greater than a +/- 0.5db from 20hz-20khz............don't buy it. If the manufacturer is purposely "coloring" the frequency range (which I had never heard of before this thread).......don't buy it.

    In fact we could probably take this one step further and say that most modern smartphones are also probably completely "transparent" and therefore could serve you just as well as a $4,000 DAP......as far as sound reproduction goes. They may lack the power output to driver higher ohm / less sensitive headphones but other than that they should perform just as well.

    I do own a DAP. But I didn't get it becasue I knew it would sound better than my smartphone. I got it becasue I liked the idea of storing my entire CD collection in a lossless format in one tiny little unit. I don't really like my phone being a jack of all trades. Some things are better/nicer in their own separate container.....for me anyway.
    I don't think so. A smartphone is not purpose-designed as an audio player... it's a phone first, audio player second. Part selection will reflect this. For example, the board designer may have opted for a lower power DAC to improve battery life for the device at the cost of noise performance. Or board routing might run some audio path right next to some clock source to reduce area by sacrificing audio path isolation. There is far more to audio quality than just frequency response. You have to remember the frequency sweep is probably at very high SNR, drowning out any spurs that might be present in the spectrum. Try measuring some single tone tests from your phone vs a DAP and see how it lines up... I think you'll find they are substantially different.
    As to the original topic of whether or not there is a difference between an $80 DAP and a $3500 DAP... I suspect that, like most things in life, there is a rule of diminishing returns involved... But sight unseen, I would speculate that there is probably a measurable difference as you go up the price range to a certain extent. Once you pass a certain price threshold, I'm inclined to believe it becomes more about things like casing and interface than about the audio quality.
  10. stalepie
    I can only notice small differences, but am editing this because my experience is too slim to really comment on the matter... 
  11. Headzone
    Considering how bad the dac sound is in android phones, I would gladly pay over 200$ just to make sure it sounds as good as my desktop dac.
  12. gregorio
    Actually some smartphones are great. Within the limits of human hearing many/most of the iphones are effectively perfect, providing the amps can drive your IEMs/cans.
    The rule of diminishing returns certainly does apply. An effectively perfect DAC chip can be bought wholesale for around $2, beyond that, any returns have already diminished beyond audibility. Of course, there are other parts to a DAC or DAP beyond just the DAC chip and some of those parts can, under certain circumstances be audible.
    It's very unlikely the DAC in an android phone is anything less than audibility perfect. Which android phone model can't afford to incorporate a $2 chip? I've certainly not heard all android phones and I don't doubt there are some with signal paths incompetently designed enough to be audible. Good news is though, you won't have to pay over $200 to get as good as your desktop DAC.
    citral23 likes this.
  13. Ruben123
    My old 2010 HTC has very audible hiss even at very low volume levels and my 2012 Sony distorts like hell at the higher volumes, though due to the EU volume cap I must use it at those volumes. Both are certainly a no go. Though my Samsung i9000 with voodoo installed is great, I use it at home driving my in ears, and main hi-fi, but also on the road. No hiss, enormous amount of power, micro SD capability, good battery life (use it every day and only have to charge it once in two weeks or so).
  14. Headzone

    I had the original ipod nano with the wolfson dac chip, and it sounded ok. The 2/3G cirrus models were brighter to my ears, they actually sounded a bit artificial.
    I thought android phones/their audio paths were just oem designs in general. It is generally the same factory where the basic components come out for these phones.[citation needed] Expect for the few special models like the new LG.
    How much is the measured smartphone distortion? In the new Chord Mojo, for example, it is 0.00017% THD. I haven't heard the Mojo but I very much suspect it is capable of solving microdetails like a dedicated desktop DAC. My android phone is not.
  15. Ruben123

    Yeah how high should the THD be, do you think, to be able to actually hear the distortion? Probably around 3% or so.
    Goldfish memories likes this.
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