Digital Audio Players have their personality/Balanced?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by JaeYoon, Oct 9, 2017.
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  1. JaeYoon
    Now I want to ask some questions and this is only neutral place I can ask without receiving pseudo science answers.

    Now idea in many threads in Portable Source Gear is that every portable music player sounds different. Some in $100 -400 range. Others in $500-1200 range and above.

    I noticed many many people not just reviewers talk about that one portable sounds fantastic. Then in another thread they trash their last player saying this one using latest ESS or AKM or whatever chip sounds more better. Higher detail and smooth!

    Now the question comes as electrical signals go from power supply, all these expensive capacitors, DACs, then to AMPs or amp where it's magnified and then to your headphone.

    From what I read in the other dac thread. There can be minor subtle differences in sound.
    So that leaves Dac/Amp that can influence sound. Now I also read up that the amp uses distortion to shape the sound.

    Now reviewers here do not use any abx switchers. But not just reviewers, there's always posts from regular members even who say you should leave that player and get this one. It sounds way better, the treble is up there! Bass is controlled. Guitars and violins sound more lifelike! Seperation is excellent!
    Man this new dac is excellent it helps the player alot!!
    "If you want to seriously experience this player. You need to use balanced output."

    I even see people post using a 3.5mm to 2.5mm adapter that they massive soundstaging and mids gain more detail and guitard become more lifelike.

    The balanced output. We need to talk about this. Why is audiophile version of balanced output so pesudo sciencey like.

    In a professional studio environment you have many factors. Audio equipment is at a longer distance than usual consumer equipment distance.
    Cables are being run around incredibly noisy systems. Hence why balanced helps out studios, but for the home consumer audiophile there is so much pesudo science going on.

    How come in order to enjoy my device that connected from my butt pocket to my ears. Needs a balanced output to hear differences people talk about.

    What is this voodoo magic that manufacturers put in the balanced outputs that alter electrical signals in such a way to do such tasks?
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2017
  2. bigshot
    I've done A/B switched line level matched comparisons of DACs, DAPs and players and I've never run across any that had a sound different than any other. They were all flat and clean. Everything from an Oppo HA-1 down to a $40 DVD player from Walmart... all sound the same. I'm sure there are things out there that do sound different because they've been deliberately manipulated to create a "house sound". But that is likely high end DACs and players. If I ever came across anything that sounded different, I would return it as defective.

    As for balanced cables, I have a friend who rents sound systems, anything from a small club to an amphitheater. He was doing an outdoor gig a couple of hundred miles from home, and when he got there, he found out his assistant had only put one run of cable into the truck. It was too far to go back to get the other one, so he sent the assistant to a local home improvement store and told him to get some rolls of duct tape and a spindle of lamp cord. He ran the left channel with the balanced cable, and the right with lamp cord taped to the ground. He did a sound check and it worked fine.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2017
  3. ev13wt
    Welcome to sound science.

    Never mistake hype or dollar for performance.

    If you want to make money in this industry: see above. :p

    Good gear is good gear, great is great. Good enough for suspension of disbelief? Almost all headphones except the worst.
  4. JaeYoon
    Thank you! I will be sure to avoid any high end dacs and players. I have no doubt those boutique companies would deliberately alter the sound for their "house sound" in order to convince the end user it sounds different so it's better! Hence reviewers who receive these free products tend to only have greats pros over cons.

    :p thanks for welcome!!!
    Absolutely that is good heed of advice.
    ev13wt likes this.
  5. ev13wt
    All gear can sound different. Many manufacturers do it on purpose.

    "House sound"

    Edit: lol
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2017
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  6. JaeYoon
    I also noticed some of these companies or a lot do not provide objective measurements. :c
  7. ev13wt
    Even the big companies followed because they had to.

    Response: From 5 Hz to 35000 Hz (c) Beyer

    Obviously better than something like 55 to 18000 +-0.5 dB
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2017
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  8. castleofargh Contributor
    we flew over some of these point in PM, but there are 2 clear and independent things to discuss here:
    1/ should we give any credit to what people say when we know for a fact that it all comes from anecdotal evidence gathered in what can't even begin to qualify as a test? of course the rational answer is no. you can decide to listen anyway, but at your own risk.

    2/ are there methods to limit differences and audio issues? of course there are. avoid any gear with extreme specs(crazy high sensi, crazy weird impedance going real low, exotic designs from some guy who claims everybody else is wrong and he knows better...). correctly follow the impedance bridging rule of at least 1/8 between amps and headphones, that alone will render several causes of variations inaudible, even more so if we're talking portable gear. and when you do care about fidelity, do some measurements which are the only means to assess objective fidelity in the first place, or at least try to find as much specs as you can.

    because many here will follow such rules, they will often find that gears sound pretty close from one another. and because those mistaking change for improvements and their ears for spectrometers are always seeking ways to create change while not respecting those rules, they will often find that almost everything sounds different. even without accounting for all the lies, all the biases and placebo, people making mountains out of a pebble, and how most don't know the first thing about proper listening test, there will still remain a divide in feedbacks and personal experiences based on those who care for electrical laws and those who don't know/don't care. which for fidelity draws a clean line between right and wrong, but for personal taste anything goes.
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  9. Killcomic
    The more I read about this subject the more confused I get.
    I don't believe that the $2 DAC chip in a $1000+ A&K DAP sounds better than the $2 DAC chip in a $100 Fiio DAP, however, I'm in the camp that sources do sound different.
    I've been testing phones to replace my Fiio X1 2nd gen and I came close to it. I got my hands on an old Xperia Z phone and it sounded pretty good compared to my DAP.... for a while. Then I started noticing the music was not as... I dunno... fun to listen to.
    I figured out that the lower bass was severely scaled back.
    I tested the Galaxy S5 and the soundstage lacked depth. Also, details which were present in other sources sounded muffled.
    I used my old Sony 4GB Walkman and the mid bass bled into vocals.
    FYI- I disabled all 'enhancements' while testing.

    I doesn't make sense to me. I know what I'm hearing, but I'm having trouble understanding why. I mean, sources that meassure flat should all sound the same, yet they don't to me.
    Is it output impedance, power delivery or something else? Is it the firmware doing silent sound processing in the background or, as in the case of Android phones, different audio plugins have their own characteristics.
    This is driving me mental.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017
  10. castleofargh Contributor
    after going through the same sort of mental breakdown about sources, I started trying and learning how to measure stuff. and while it did nothing to ease my mind because with each answer comes 15 new questions, it did show that many of the stuff I assumed to know were false or limited to very specific contexts, which of course, most of my listening experiences were outside of. :sweat_smile:
    to start with the easy stuff: flat response. most devices are in fact not flat, even when measured unloaded. they might be flat within +/-2dB from 20hz to 20khz, but that would mean up to 4dB variations compared to some other gear with the same sort of specs.
    but that's only the beginning, as I mentioned most specs are given unloaded. meaning the device is measured without a headphone. instead it only has something like the 10kohm of the measurement device(so high it's almost like the circuit is left open for the DAP). it happens fairly often that an amplifier won't actually measure as flat once plugged into a 100ohm headphone or a 16ohm IEM. and of course this isn't actually limited to frequency response. distortion levels, maximum power, noise floor, crosstalk... they can all stay really low and stable, or they can all go to **** depending on the device, what we plug into it and how loud we listen.

    so that's already enough to go mad. we need measurements for the load(headphone) we'll be using and listening level we'll be using, which of course you will almost never find anywhere for DAPs where most manufacturers give specs as if it's a DAC so that they don't have to show how bad the amp section of the DAP really is. to be clear, chances are that most of the specs you saw are irrelevant for your use.

    then there is the impedance part of electrical fun. for various reasons it is possible that your headphone will sound different depending on the impedance ratio between the headphone and the DAP. but for some other headphone, the same situation could result in no audible change at all. which makes people telling you how some DAP is warm or whatever when it won't be with your IEM. pretty fun :imp:. so until now we couldn't rely on specs for the most part, now we can't rely on the opinion of people if they don't use the same IEM. not cool, but at least we can relax that it wasn't a case of 2 flat responses that sound like different signatures. it's way more complicated but very logical from an electrical point of view and the 2 sources probably aren't flat if the signature feels clearly different.
    because I wouldn't want to leave you with false hopes, despite what you could think, precise volume level matching is very important before judging gears. I'd go as far as saying that you knowing which device you're using is messing with your hearing, but the volume matching is IMO even more important because that's real sound difference, you don't even have to make stuff up to reach false conclusions. and to make that super fun, often times DAPs don't have a volume setting with intervals small enough to match 2 DAPs withing 0.1dB(the way it should be for any listening test).

    so yes it's a total mess, without measuring your own gears under your own conditions, it can be tricky to ever know what is going on and why you hear something different/better. and while measuring everything, it can still be quite the puzzle. but be relieved knowing that ohm's law survives audio gears. :v:
    Killcomic and JaeYoon like this.
  11. Killcomic
    Crikey! Glad to hear wasn't going mad(der)!
    I guess the take away is to auditon all new sources the way you would normally use it.
    I knew it couldn't be as easy as looking at a chart.
  12. bigshot
    You can actually know rather than believe if you just set up a simple line level matched direct switchable comparison. All it costs is a switchbox.
  13. Killcomic
    I might order one from Ebay at some point.
  14. Brooko Contributor
    Unfortunately largely true - however the "most" is definitely not "all" and for this I have to applaud companies like FiiO who are making an attempt to provide meaningful specs including:
    - output under load
    - impedance for all outputs
    - distortion, SNR, and other figures (under load) for all outputs
    - graphed responses (again under load)

    Basically they're not trying to hide anything - which makes informed choices easier. Wish more companies did the same.

    Example -
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2017
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  15. JaeYoon
    That is something I haven't seen a dap company do. I asked another dap company if they could do that and they outright told me "yeah we can do those measurement. But it's our right to choose not to release this to the public"

    Fiio is a honest one at least.
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