Is there *really* an audible difference between different DACs?
Aug 30, 2017 at 10:14 AM Post #106 of 171

Music Alchemist

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@Music Alchemist
I will be glad if you can show or link to any DAC manufacturer "Timing Accuracy" measurements! Until now I admit that I have failed even to understand the marketing definition of it.
Anyhow, I do perceive different sound signatures among sone DACs. Everything equal, I tend to relate those differences to different tunings purposely applied.
Regards.

As far as measurements pertaining to, for example, the vastly higher number of taps (which correspond to how advanced the interpolation filter is) in Chord products (up to 1,000,000+ compared to only a handful in conventional DACs) go, I'll have to get back to you. There are many pages worth of explanations out there, but those aren't measurements, so I sent a request to the DAC designer.

For the moment, here's something that shows zero measurable jitter in the Hugo 2: https://cdn.head-fi.org/a/9783970.jpg
So proof again that is immune from jitter - no artifacts at all. The only thing you can see is a tiny residual at 11 and 13 kHz these are artifacts from my APX555.

(This is significant because there are DACs that cost six figures yet still have measurable jitter.)

I know right? The difference between $20 cables and $500 cables is like 5% at most

I think the difference between many headphones is only around five to ten percent. DAC differences are more subtle, and cables subtler still. Even some "bad" cables I have that sound clearly inferior to equally cheap but better-designed ones only have maybe a few percent difference in terms of the overall sound.
 
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Aug 30, 2017 at 11:37 AM Post #107 of 171

Arpiben

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Thanks @Music Alchemist .
My expectations when dealing with Timing Accuracy is to have a meaningful quantification in seconds (ms/ps/ns...) not in taps.
You wrote a few posts back about timing accuracy measurements' availability (together with jitter/etc...) that is the reason I came in.Sorry if I misunderstood.
Regarding Jitter, I know the curves and have nothing to comment.
Cheers
 
Aug 30, 2017 at 11:43 AM Post #108 of 171

DangerClose

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Just wondering, how much did that 598 upgrade cable cost?
It's around $20 new.

So, you are saying that a different USB cable from your pc to your dac sounds different? How would that be technically possible? I'm not trying to offend anyone but that's in the same area as 1000$ hdmi cables. It's a digital connection. it works or it doesn't. There can be no differences in sound.

Also, did you do your tests blind? When spending money on something we are quickly hearing stuff that isn't there...

Tests weren't blind, though they sort of were since many times I forgot which cable I had plugged in and could guess which one it was before looking again.

As others have posted, maybe it's because the "just 1s and 0s" are a form of electrical current and current is affected by various things including shielding and cable length. I don't know.

I do know that I stopped using the nice USB cable that came with my Monoprice DAC/amp and instead use an uglier looking one because I like the sound better.

I also use a certain ugly and cheap RCA cable between my DAC and amp instead of the multiple Monster cables and other impressive looking RCA cables I have because I like the sound better. Maybe the good looking ones sound better technically, (or not), but I prefer the sound of the ugly cheap one.

You bring up the usual "it's a mental thing due to spending money on it." If "it's a mental thing due to spending money on it," then I would prefer the HD598 cable I mentioned since I like the materials a lot better than the rubbery stock one. But I don't. And I'd prefer the nicer Monoprice USB cable than the uglier one. But I don't. And I'd prefer the way nicer looking and more expensive RCA cables than the ugly cheap one. But I don't.
 
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Aug 30, 2017 at 11:54 AM Post #109 of 171

DangerClose

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I'm not trying to offend anyone but that's in the same area as 1000$ hdmi cables. It's a digital connection. it works or it doesn't. There can be no differences in sound.
I have HDMI cables that work fine for a month but then suddenly turn the monitor screen black. The signal gets lost I guess for some reason. Removing it and plugging it back in multiple times sometimes works after many times. Sometimes after many many many times. But plugging in a different, and quite nicer quality from the look and feel of it, cable immediately makes the monitor screen come back, and using that cable for many months at a time it has never done the lost signal or whatever problem it's doing.

It's not just one cable that does that. It's multiple ones of the same brand and same kind.

Why does it do that? I don't know. But it does it.

That's not a video quality difference, but it is doing something everyone tells me is impossible.
 
Aug 30, 2017 at 11:54 AM Post #110 of 171

cossix

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As far as measurements pertaining to, for example, the vastly higher number of taps (which correspond to how advanced the interpolation
It's around $20 new.



Tests weren't blind, though they sort of were since many times I forgot which cable I had plugged in and could guess which one it was before looking again.

As others have posted, maybe it's because the "just 1s and 0s" are a form of electrical current and current is affected by various things including shielding and cable length. I don't know.

I do know that I stopped using the nice USB cable that came with my Monoprice DAC/amp and instead use an uglier looking one because I like the sound better.

I also use a certain ugly and cheap RCA cable between my DAC and amp instead of the multiple Monster cables and other impressive looking RCA cables I have because I like the sound better. Maybe the good looking ones sound better technically, (or not), but I prefer the sound of the ugly cheap one.

You bring up the usual "it's a mental thing due to spending money on it." If "it's a mental thing due to spending money on it," then I would prefer the HD598 cable I mentioned since I like the materials a lot better than the rubbery stock one. But I don't. And I'd prefer the nicer Monoprice USB cable than the uglier one. But I don't. And I'd prefer the way nicer looking and more expensive RCA cables than the ugly cheap one. But I don't.
Nice! I was hoping you didn't drop like $200 on a cable for the 598 haha.
 
Aug 30, 2017 at 1:36 PM Post #111 of 171

DangerClose

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Nice! I was hoping you didn't drop like $200 on a cable for the 598 haha.
Never! Since I don't really even consider the HD598 "hi-fi."

Anyway, regarding all this... I know even just saying this stuff is sticking my neck out and makes a lot of people roll their eyes. And I know even mentioning this stuff means I will be criticized and have to spend even more time defending it and explaining it.

I don't want this stuff to make a difference. I want cables and things to all be the same so I can use the cheapest one or the prettiest one and go do other things.

Which brings me full circle back to the beginning. If people think $500 DACs don't sound different from each other, ok, maybe that's a hard thing to hear. I've never spent time with multiple $500 DACs, so I wouldn't know.

But for more normal stuff, using the same external amp, my Xonar ST DAC sounds better than my Sound Blaster Z DAC which sounds better than my Xonar DG DAC which sounds better than my onboard motherboard DAC. And there are 1000s of pages of posts on this site alone of people saying similar. They can't all be lying.
 
Aug 30, 2017 at 2:35 PM Post #112 of 171

Music Alchemist

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Thanks @Music Alchemist .
My expectations when dealing with Timing Accuracy is to have a meaningful quantification in seconds (ms/ps/ns...) not in taps.
You wrote a few posts back about timing accuracy measurements' availability (together with jitter/etc...) that is the reason I came in.Sorry if I misunderstood.
Regarding Jitter, I know the curves and have nothing to comment.
Cheers

Oh, Chord DACs have timing accuracy down to 9.6 nanoseconds. Apparently, according to the post below, other DACs can only get down to 1.4 microseconds at best. So it's thousands of times more accurate in terms of timing, without even getting into the other aspects. (I might have measurements to show you in the future.)

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/chord-mojo-dac-amp-☆★►faq-in-3rd-post-◄★☆.784602/page-946#post-12445529
https://www.head-fi.org/threads/chord-electronics-dave.766517/page-353#post-12949102
https://www.head-fi.org/threads/chord-electronics-dave.766517/page-344#post-12938860

The interpolation filter becomes much more advanced as you progress from their entry-level to flagship products. (From effectively 26,368 taps in the Mojo, Hugo, 2Qute, and Hugo TT to 1,015,808 in the Blu MkII + DAVE.) I don't understand all the technical stuff, as you'd probably need a degree in mathematics/engineering for that, so if in doubt, ask the designer.
 
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Aug 30, 2017 at 3:54 PM Post #113 of 171

knowhatimean

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If there is a 'bottom line' to whether 'real' differences exist in just about any piece of Audio or Video equipment it may come down to "Does what you listen to (or watch) warrant using equipment with greater ability to show you higher resolution" than may exist in the source material you're using it with ?

There's a point of diminishing returns at some point , if you're not noticing much difference. It's next to impossible to predict what anyone else might consider 'Real' (Yeah, I realize that my comments may appear to to be somewhat of a Buzzkill to this thread, so my apologies in advance!)
 
Aug 30, 2017 at 4:09 PM Post #114 of 171

endgame

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Yes they do. I'm not saying a $500 DAC is going to blow the Dragonfly Red out of the water, but that's not your question. The question is do they sound different. To that, yes, absolutely and it's not hard to discern unless the DAC's are extremely similar.
 
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Aug 30, 2017 at 4:22 PM Post #115 of 171

Malfunkt

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If there is a 'bottom line' to whether 'real' differences exist in just about any piece of Audio or Video equipment it may come down to "Does what you listen to (or watch) warrant using equipment with greater ability to show you higher resolution" than may exist in the source material you're using it with ?

There's a point of diminishing returns at some point , if you're not noticing much difference. It's next to impossible to predict what anyone else might consider 'Real' (Yeah, I realize that my comments may appear to to be somewhat of a Buzzkill to this thread, so my apologies in advance!)

I get what you are saying.

Real or imagined, it comes down to perception. For me, I can easily perceive the differences between high-end speakers and headphones. They are easily measured and their effects easily heard. Better performing transducers, clearly sound better. When it comes to expensive properly performing DACs, they may perform better but so far, I have not been able to perceive a superior quality difference - especially one that warrants spending $1000-5000.

As far as perception goes, I'm happy that my brain is able to fill in the blanks and create pure audio bliss at the lowly level of an ODAC. It sounds amazing to me and thats all that matters. :)
 
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Aug 30, 2017 at 5:06 PM Post #116 of 171

knowhatimean

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I get what you are saying.

Real or imagined, it comes down to perception. For me, I can easily perceive the differences between high-end speakers and headphones. They are easily measured and their effects easily heard. Better performing transducers, clearly sound better. When it comes to expensive properly performing DACs, they may perform better but so far, I have not been able to perceive a superior quality difference - especially one that warrants spending $1000-5000.

As far as perception goes, I'm happy that my brain is able to fill in the blanks and create pure audio bliss at the lowly level of an ODAC. It sounds amazing to me and thats all that matters. :)
Exactly what I was saying ! So I would say for your listening purposes,there's no real need to spend more for the higher priced 'spread'

I'm at the other end of the DAC spending spectrum & wouldn't go back to any of the other DACs I was using before my current DAC (Metrum Hex NOS). It's making a significant difference with the mostly Orchestral & other acoustical based music I listen to. (Although my Equi=Tech 1.5Q BPT, which would have cost quite a bit more then the DAC new, sets up the DAC with a quieter Noisefloor than I would have ever thought was possible; As a result I can hear valid micro level dynamic musical information.) (That more than likely doesn't exist in most non-acoustic music... which I don't listen to any way)

He,he,he...... Most music DOESN'T actually benefit hearing into the Noisefloor & if you could ,you probably wouldn't like what you were hearing ! Don't Worry .... Save Money..... Do do do -ta do .....
 
Aug 31, 2017 at 8:01 AM Post #118 of 171

knowhatimean

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^ You have to get the Pavane level 2 at least as your next upgrade
He,he,he...... The only 'Upgrades' I can consider are minor ones these days as I'm no longer able to spend the kind of $$$$ on my Audio that I was able to in the past !

Fortunately, when you've reached a playback system level you're pretty happy with, even $$$ or $$ upgrades can be satisfying. Upgrades are a definite rare thing you do, when you've reached a "fixed income" level (or as close to it as you want to be).
 
Aug 31, 2017 at 2:24 PM Post #119 of 171

ergopower

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I have HDMI cables that work fine for a month but then suddenly turn the monitor screen black. The signal gets lost I guess for some reason. Removing it and plugging it back in multiple times sometimes works after many times. Sometimes after many many many times. But plugging in a different, and quite nicer quality from the look and feel of it, cable immediately makes the monitor screen come back, and using that cable for many months at a time it has never done the lost signal or whatever problem it's doing.

It's not just one cable that does that. It's multiple ones of the same brand and same kind.

Why does it do that? I don't know. But it does it.

That's not a video quality difference, but it is doing something everyone tells me is impossible.

The contact is made of brass or phosphor bronze. Both of those materials oxidize in normal environments to the point where the dielectric withstanding voltage of the oxide film cannot be overcome with low level (mV) signals. Manufacturers are meant to plate the contacts with non-oxidizing metals to prevent this. Skimp on this, and the plating wears off quickly, exposing the base metal and effectively creating an open circuit. When you plug and replug, you wear away the oxide that has formed and you temporarily have a clean brass/phos bronze surface and all is well. Then the oxide begins to reform. A well-made cable should be able to be mated/unmated 100 or more times before the plating wears through. And it wouldn't surprise me to find some shady manufacturers don't check plating at all and let unplated cables go into inventory.
 
Sep 18, 2019 at 7:37 AM Post #120 of 171

498552

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I can't hear any difference between my PC's 1150 DAC, an Asus U7 MKII or an Ol DAC.

For most people listening at their PC I would say don't bother buying a DAC.

With easy to drive headphones I would say don't bother with an amp either.
 

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