Digital out comparison. E-MU 1212m vs ESI Juli@
Sep 15, 2005 at 9:49 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 42

nuhi

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This is digital out (S/PDIF) only comparison.


Prelude
After comparing digital output of Realtek AC97 onboard chip in Asus A8V Deluxe with Juli@ it was night and day...that was the main reason why I went along with this upgrade to 1212m which may seem overkill for some.


Equipment
- Cards and drivers: ESI Juli@ v1.18 (analog part removed), E-MU v1.8 (only digital card connected, only ASIO in mixer)
- PC Software: EAC, FLAC, Foobar2000 (ASIO out 24to32, empty DSP, replaygain)
- DAC: North Star DAC 192
- Headphones: Sennheiser HD580 (Rotel RA01 headphone out)


Info
Also you must know that ESI Juli@ costs ~30% less than EMU here, so I don't say this is a fair comparison, it's more like "is it worth the upgrade" thing.
For easy testing both cards were connected to the DAC at the same time, easily switching Input 1 and 2 with a push of a button.
And above all Juli@ is in my system for months so if there is any difference it will be picked up immediately.


Pictures
Pic #1
Both tested cards. Let this not makes you smile, while Juli@ digital part does looks small in comparison, when you take out unneeded DSP parts and connectors on E-mu card there would be drastically more similarity

Pic #2
Juli@ only digital part with brakeout cable. Yes it does work when you unplug analog part of the card

Pic #3
1212m digital card (1010)


1212m advantages
- No brakeout cable, connects directly (picture 2 shows how ugly brakeout cables are, infact may induce connection jitter)

- S/PDIF WDM Resampling. 1212m automatically uses SRC with software DirectSound support to make it up to selected rate in S/PDIF options. This helped me to run Quake 3, which has 22khz rate and DAC accepts from 44.1.
While this is advantage it's also a bad thing not being able to disable it (unless you use internal analog card or ASIO), just remember that most of the movies are at 48khz and 1212m resamples them to selected rate, in my case 44.1. I find it unacceptable to switch rate every time when switching from music to movies. I wonder why they don't implement that in driver to do automatically, such a pitty.

- Deeper bass, more treble, at first I thought there was some DSP at action, but mixer was cleared, session made from scratch and only ASIO added. Good thing I like the sound to be more "fat" than flat. But there seems more hiss as well...hmm I hope this will go away with more burn in. Someone said that 1212m has too high output signal voltage, for sure sounds like it.

- More details, music seems more powerfull, more impact. May be due to lack of brakeout cable, higher output voltage or simply better circuits.

- Cool'n'Quiet no longer makes noise. Sometimes after longer usage without restarting if AMD Cool'n'Quiet power saving is enabled Juli@ makes noise, with 1212m still haven't experienced it.

- Windows x64 driver support, volume control for digital out works, firmware upgradable.


Juli@ advantages
- Better DirectX and WAV support. With 1212m sometimes sound seems distorted, like it is too loud, but in mixer it's not. Juli@ sends all streams directly while 1212m resamples to selected rate (digital only case, and with ASIO it's ok).
ESI cards have this E-WDM driver thing which works and it's very small, big plus.
Since there is no ASIO output video players that I know of (don't mention winamp) Juli@ is better for video playback.

- Flat sound, seems more calm. With 1212m I have experience like someone turned on equalizer and raised bass and treble. Juli@ sounds more neutral despite the flat frequency response they both have in tests.

- Cheaper and very good for the price, maybe best buy.


Conclusion
It's entirely IMHO and with my equipment so no guarantees.
I don't prefer any of these companies nor any of the cards is bad, just different.

Any difference ? Again night and day, but this time it was more like dusk and day.

At first I thought wow 1212m sounds great, more alive...but after 3 days I find Juli@ to be more realistic, has less coloring, 1212m reminds me on Audigy which I own as well (hello resampler).
Seems to me that 1212m has output set too high - hence the "analytical" nature

Basically Juli@ surprised me, size in this case didn't matter. When they fix few issues like C'n'Q and lack of x64 driver it will be even closer fight.

Listening to 1212m is more fun at the moment so I'll keep an ear on this loudness issue for a few more days and then decide which to retire.

For the sake of confirming the investments did one more test.
Compared Juli@ alone (~160$ here) against the combo of 1212m + external DAC (~1400$ total) and while if you put some effort to hear the difference it is significant but I must admit it's not worth 9x the price.

No regrets after all.
 
Sep 15, 2005 at 10:12 PM Post #2 of 42

lan

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Thanks for the effort in this comparision. A few things.

You should let the 1212m burnin.

You should use same thing for both DACs, coax vs. coax, optical vs. optical. If you use coax, both are probably at a disadvatange. I would consider using optical an upgrade. How did you connect things.

Results will vary with digital cable used. What did you use?

Coax already have jitter for a computer system so the extra breakout cable may not be that much worst.

>>>>Someone said that 1212m has too high output signal voltage, for sure sounds like it.

I think this only applies to analog outputs.

>>>>- Windows x64 driver support, volume control for digital out works, firmware upgradable.

Volume control where? You can use the one in foobar but the others shouldn't be working in the mixer for bit perfect results.


>>>>Juli@ sends all streams directly while 1212m resamples to selected rate (digital only case, and with ASIO it's ok).

How can this be verified? Playing mutliple rates requires resampling doesn't it? Whether windows, it's own mixers/drivers, or something does it?

>>>Juli@ is better for video playback.

The E-WDM does bitperfect in directsound/wavout?

>>>Flat sound, seems more calm. With 1212m I have experience like someone turned on equalizer and raised bass and treble. Juli@ sounds more neutral despite the flat frequency response they both have in tests.

This is interesting and requires further investigation. I find more bass and treble maybe better because it's more exciting sound. I find "lesser" cards to be the flatter ones.

>>>>Seems to me that 1212m has output set too high - hence the "analytical" nature

I don't see a correlation between high output and analytic nature.

--lan
 
Sep 15, 2005 at 11:01 PM Post #3 of 42

nuhi

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>>>>You should let the 1212m burnin.

After 3-4 days of usage it didn't change nor I expect it to...we are talking about digital part only, 3-5 small capacitors ?

>>>>Results will vary with digital cable used. What did you use?

It was Supra Trico and VDH Ultimate (from analog interconnect one channel).
Thougt about it, that's why tested 2 days while switching cables...haven't heard any difference. The difference between cards is so big that it clouded anything else if existed.

Optical cable which I tried is bad and sound is muddy with it...Monster LightSpeed 100 (sythetic fyber). If you tell me that glass fiber cable will return my faith in TOSLINK I may get one in the near future. I have read Stereophile RME jitter difference so I know what you mean.

>>>>Volume control where? You can use the one in foobar but the others shouldn't be working in the mixer for bit perfect results.

In E-MU's mixer I can control volume everywhere...even in Windows Mixer.
In Juli@ couldn't, only in Foobar2000 DSP.
I find it easier with mixer but yes it seems like there is some processing there.

>>>>>>>>Juli@ sends all streams directly while 1212m resamples to selected rate (digital only case, and with ASIO it's ok).
>>>>How can this be verified? Playing mutliple rates requires resampling doesn't it? Whether windows, it's own mixers/drivers, or something does it?

Select 44.1 for S/PDIF output when playing WDM stuff (dx, wav).
Internal clock in the mixer and DAC both always show 44.1 even when streams played are 48khz...so no doubt here.

But in ASIO clock is changed properly regardless what is selected.

>>>The E-WDM does bitperfect in directsound/wavout?

I think so. Read it somewhere and I see that volume can't be influenced with Windows mixer and clock is changed properly.

>>>>>>Flat sound, seems more calm. With 1212m I have experience like someone turned on equalizer and raised bass and treble. Juli@ sounds more neutral despite the flat frequency response they both have in tests.
>>>This is interesting and requires further investigation. I find more bass and treble maybe better because it's more exciting sound. I find "lesser" cards to be the flatter ones.

Same here...I said it so in the conclusion. But with 1212m there is sometimes crackling like it's clipping where I didn't hear it before.
But test with diap.ape was ok...if you know that "ambulance" clip test.

>>>>I don't see a correlation between high output and analytic nature.

Exaggerated lows and highs and it sounds like it's on the verge of clipping.
Difficult to explain and it may be that I hear what couldn't be heard before.
Try to raise volume above 0dB and you'll know what I mean.

I sure would like to think that Juli@ had weak signal and that this is normal but this little hiss and too much bass doesn't convince me. I do like it it's just I'm trying to be as objective as possible.

One more fact. As it always turns out with testing there was a friend visiting.
And without me telling him what I think he confirmed all I heard.

I could be just too used to less dynamic or something...if I change my mind I sure will let you know.
 
Sep 15, 2005 at 11:37 PM Post #4 of 42

lan

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3-4 days is good. I usually notice large changes 12-24 hours in. Maybe about 1 week to settle down.

Although analog cables work, it's best if the cables were made for the high bandwidth and length for digital use. A low bandwidth and reflective cable will just add more jitter.

It can be argued the cable can mask any changes in the transport. but jitter is a hard thing to hear so if you hear little changes I'm not surprised.

There are different glass toslinks even. Of course with different cables and sound, there maybe plusses and cons on the effects of the sound.

Ideally in patchmix you'd use a SEND in the ASIO strip to SPDIF out that way no volume control is in the path.

Select 44.1 for S/PDIF output when playing WDM stuff (dx, wav).
Internal clock in the mixer and DAC both always show 44.1 even when streams played are 48khz...so no doubt here.


Yes it does show 44.1khz. But I thought the 48khz sound was actually slowed down to 44.1 not resampled. That's how I always thought it to work.

But in ASIO clock is changed properly regardless what is selected.

think so. Read it somewhere and I see that volume can't be influenced with Windows mixer and clock is changed properly.

You need to try the AC3/DTS wav file test to playback on receiver to see if it's bit perfect or not. Maybe somebody else has already tried.

But with 1212m there is sometimes crackling like it's clipping where I didn't hear it before.

That's interesting. I wonder if it's something with the hardware configuration of your setup.

Exaggerated lows and highs and it sounds like it's on the verge of clipping.
Difficult to explain and it may be that I hear what couldn't be heard before.
Try to raise volume above 0dB and you'll know what I mean.


You shouldn't be going above 0db. That would lead to clipping. I can't go above 0db anyway since those volume controls on my patchmix are not in my signal path.
 
Sep 16, 2005 at 8:11 AM Post #5 of 42

Glassman

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before claiming anything I would run S/PDIF loopbacks and cross-loopbacks between cards to insure everything's bitperfect and that we are comparing really just the effects of jitter of both card.. please do that, that will raise the credibility of your review quite a bit.. because talking about higher voltage level on digital output affecting the sound clearly is not
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Sep 16, 2005 at 10:36 AM Post #6 of 42

nuhi

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Quote:

Originally Posted by lan
Although analog cables work, it's best if the cables were made for the high bandwidth and length for digital use. A low bandwidth and reflective cable will just add more jitter.


That's why I switched them every now and then. And besides that both of these are known as good digital cables despite VDH is primary analog.

Quote:

Originally Posted by lan
Ideally in patchmix you'd use a SEND in the ASIO strip to SPDIF out that way no volume control is in the path.


And this is where the show began. First thank you for pointing me there, it did bypass mixer, finally.
What now I'm not sure is that it seems like this fixed my problems...if one of you can confirm that, try with and without any SEND to S/PDIF or similiar bypass and concentrate on hiss and bass.

To add to it I tested in RMAA and oh boy it does make a difference.
First thing that confuses me is that there is even difference if you put SEND in WAV or MAIN inserts. IMD is off the charts without SEND.

Quote:

Originally Posted by lan
You shouldn't be going above 0db. That would lead to clipping. I can't go above 0db anyway since those volume controls on my patchmix are not in my signal path.


I wasn't, that was just an example. Now with bypass it seems better but to exclude placebo give me few more days.



Glassman,
Here you go but what's that with IMD, can it be that out of sync clocks distort that much ?

I used SEND in S/PDIF input to WAV and from WAV to S/PDIF.

One with another
Solo performance
 
Sep 16, 2005 at 11:16 AM Post #7 of 42

1UP

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Thanks for the impressions.

From what I understand, RCA is patently suboptimal for S/PDIF as it is nearer 30ohms. So, is it ultimately flawed to compare the sound quality differences of different transports, if one is not able to guarantee perfect impedance matching (i.e. 75ohms) over S/PDIF between all the sockets/jacks/cables between the transports and the DAC tested?

Otherwise, are we just talking about the compatibility of the various impedance mismatches, where the given mismatches seem to give a better subjective result when using transport A with DAC B?

Ideally, transport comparison needs to be on a more objective footing, otherwise we are in the realms of speakers/headphones - i.e. just personal taste.

Is that a fair position?
 
Sep 16, 2005 at 12:56 PM Post #8 of 42

nuhi

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1UP, just tried TOSLINK from Juli@ to 1212m and it's same as with RCA according to RMAA.


Just wanted to add one more thing.
Further proof why RMAA shows different results if SEND is in strip or main insert is because the one in strip disables strip volume as well as main while main leaves strip volume control functional...meaning more processing done to the signal.

Now imagine my first observations without any bypass.
 
Sep 16, 2005 at 1:14 PM Post #9 of 42

Glassman

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if all controls are at 0dB there is no processing at all.. are you slaving the cards to each other when you do cross-loopback? and try to do the comparisons in wavelab instead of RMAA, it's much better for things like this..

oh wait, just tried it - mixer does something to the data.. let's see what it is, my guess is dither to 24b..
 
Sep 16, 2005 at 7:42 PM Post #10 of 42

thomaspf

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I take this discussion as yet another indication that the software bundle with the Emu cards is way to complex for getting a simple bit perfect playback scenario to work. Maybe you should use the Juli@ to verify that the EMU is actually sending a bit perfect stream.

It seems the easiest route is to get a Juli@ use it in bit perfect mode with ASIO and worry about jitter either by buying a buffered DAC or slaving the card to the DAC clock.


Cheers

Thomas
 
Sep 22, 2005 at 12:32 AM Post #11 of 42

Glassman

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Sep 22, 2005 at 10:44 AM Post #15 of 42

stefan

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I don't really understand what is going on here...
confused.gif
but it's almost enough to put me off getting a 1212m (or 0404 for that matter) to get SPDIF out....
eek.gif

(now busy searching juli@)...
 

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