New Zealand - Auckland / Northland - DAC / amp ABX testers wanted

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  1. robthemac
    Tena koutou,
    I'm looking for some people to help design and run a headphone amplifier / DAC blind test in Auckland or Northland (as I currently live in Whangarei, but would be willing to drive to do this).
    I'm a huge headphone fan, having progressed from HD-598 to my beloved AKG K-812, and most recently an LCD-3. However, I'm also pretty well studied in the field of blind testing (in a healthcare context). I came across a very interesting thread regarding blind tests (link below) of audio gear blind test, which has generally found that listeners can not reliably tell the difference between cheap and expensive cables or amplifiers.
    While there are a fair few tests done with speakers, there don't seem to be many recorded tests of cheap vs expensive gear in a headphone context. I want to give it a decent crack.
    My proposal:
    ABX testing (see link below for definition)
    Use high-res digital audio files and  high-end headphones for all tests (e.g. my LCD-3, or anything anyone else wants to volunteer)
    Test A) Compare cheap motherboard headphone out to a high end DAC + amp
    Test B) Compare cheap motherboard headphone out to a high-end DAC, with both running into a high-end amplifier
    Test C) Compare cheap headphone amp to high-end headphone amp, with both running out of high-end DAC
    Run proper statistical analyses on the results to confirm or refute statistical significance.
    I am looking for volunteers who are willing to participate. The more the merrier from a statistical perspective, but I may have to restrict numbers from a logistical perspective. I have some very nice headphones (see above) which we can use, but my DAC (Musical Fidelity VDAC-II) and amp (Marantz PM-5005) are not exactly top of the line, so anyone willing to offer up anything else to use would be greatly appreciated.
    Let me know your thoughts, and if you'd be willing to participate!
    Link for list of blind tests:
  2. Badas
    Hhhhhmmm! interesting experiment.

    In my mind I already kind of know the result. I don't buy into the cable BS. Although I come from a Home Theater background and they distroyed the cable myth years ago.

    Audioholics ran a blind experiment where they ran expensive speaker wire V's 50 foot of tangled tin foil. Most thought the tin foil sounded the best. Actual measured test showed they sounded the same.

    DAC's make a big difference. The switch from the Arcam DAC I had to the Auralic Vega was massive. Possibly the biggest change I have made. I've been lucky enough to listen to a uber DAC the Bricasti as well. Spectacular.

    To me the actual HP and DAC are the most important pieces. Amps not so much. Cables not at all. I have a tube amp and a top of the line SS amp. The difference is there but not enough to get excited about.

    Have fun with the experiment.
  3. robthemac
    Would you be at all keen to test your theories?
  4. Badas

    In what way?
    I wouldn't be interested in pulling my equipment apart. It takes a lot of hours to install cleanly. See below:
    Behind the rack. A lot of cable ties.
    Finished result:
    Last time I went to a meet. It took me about 4 hours to get it back neatly.
    I am open for side by side testing. If you set up a rig beside it.
    Then you could test the different DAC's, Solid State amp v's tube amp then the various HP's.
  5. robthemac
    I wouldn't expect you to dis- then re-assemble something that looks powerful enough to send Armstrong to the moon. 
    But I appreciate the offer of a side-by-side test. Would you be willing to do it blind? DACs and amps are the two things I'm really interested in. 
  6. Badas
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Yeah. Why not. You are the one conducting the test. So I would blind test you.
    I have a seven meter XLR extender. So a person can be located out of the room so they can't see the equipment or what is it is plugged into.
    Does your HP's and amp use balanced?
  7. Yourmomm
  8. robthemac
    No, work got in the way. Still very keen though!
  9. robthemac
    @Badas would you still be open to the idea of running this test?
  10. Yourmomm
    I'll play, if it's on the weekend... And can contribute some gear, too... Although @Badas already has my favorite headphones...As for Amps and dacs, I can contribute:

    Oppo bdp 105d dac
    Chord mojo
    Woo audio wa2 (I see Badas has the much higher specced wa22, here, so might make an interesting comparison, to blind test between these two?)

    My woo is up for sale on trademe though, so I may not have it for long. As soon as it's sold, it'll be paying for an Eddie Current Zana Deux Super, which, again, will make an interesting contribution to this test, particularly if you can get hold of some high value dynamic headphones to compare with my hd600's or dt1770pro... (wouldn't be blind, here though)
  11. robthemac
    Yeah, blind testing headphones is logistically difficult....

    I could offer both the Audeze LCD3 and AKG K812 for the test. While it wouldn't be standardized, I would suggest that listeners choose a pair of headphones that they know well. I definitely don't think I'd pick up on subtle amp/DAC differences with unfamiliar headphones.

    @Yourmomm, are you Auckland based?
  12. Yourmomm
    Nope; Thames. But if I drove all the way to whenuapai this weekend, just to pick up some garden soil, I reckon I could manage travelling for this...bit.more dependent on setups there though, as, like badas, the rest of my gear is pretty untransportable...
  13. robthemac
    I'd happily make the trip from Whangarei to Auckland if we can coordinate something.
  14. Yourmomm
    A more standard way would be for everyone to use headphones with which they were unfamiliar (that would really test any amp manufacturer claims of performance differences)...or, where synergy is so important, for each listener to choose one headphone, and then everyone blind-test all equipment, with each can in turn... This would take much longer, of course...
  15. robthemac
    Yeah it would be standardized, but not particularly sensitive. It would make it quite challenging for the listeners. I think if this test we're to show that we couldn't differentiate between cheap and expensive DACs, critics would rightly point this out as a potential confounder.
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