Objective way to tell if my audio gear is faulty or not?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by Red Dragon, Oct 8, 2017.

  1. Red Dragon
    I know almost nothing about how sound words.

    I recently installed new audio gear. To me it sounds bad, as if it's being muffled.

    I am connecting my PC to a Schiit Modi Multibit DAC, which is connected to a Schiit Magni 3 amp, which is connected to a pair of JBL LSR305/30X studio monitors.

    I am not sure if I am perceiving the sound to be bad simply because:

    a) I am hearing its intended "flatness" (I don't know what "flat" sound is supposed to sound like) and I don't like how the "flatness" sounds,

    or alternatively,

    b) if it sounds bad to me because some of my gear is not performing properly.

    Therefore, in this thread I am asking: is there an objective way by which I can determine whether or not my gear is performing properly?

    Similarly, I need to isolate which component(s) is causing the sound to be this way...but I don't have the luxury of owning other parts to swap out.

    Ideally, I'd prefer to use a software tool that can identify a problem, if one exists.
     
  2. castleofargh Contributor
    for starters, the 30X are powered monitors right? so you can just plug the modi straight into them and see how that goes. could hint toward the amp having issues, or you setting up the output level and various gain settings wrong maybe leading to distortions. did you fool around with the gain switch on the speakers and amp, how do you set the loudness on the amp? etc...

    as for "relatively" easy testing, you can try RMAA http://audio.rightmark.org/products/rmaa.shtml they have a free version. with the right interconnect, you can form loops going back into your soundcard input. and if the soundcard isn't too crappy, you might be able to notice if there is a serious issue somewhere. you would measure the output of your DAC, then the output with the amp in the chain. stuff like that might give some cues if there is something significantly wrong.
     
  3. bigshot
    I would definitely suggest omitting the amp too. Are you sitting close to the speakers? Those aren't intended to fill a whole room- they're near field speakers. The further you stand away from them, the more they will sound flat like midrange. They aren't going to perform particularly well in the bass, but I would expect you know that.
     
  4. MindsMirror
    What cables are you using from the Magni to the JBLs? You should be using a pair of RCA to 1/4" mono cables, like these:
    https://www.amazon.com/Hosa-CPR-201-Stereo-Interconnect-Cable/dp/B000068O16
    If your 1/4 inch end is stereo TRS it will not work correctly.

    What did you listen to previously? Did you use any EQ settings?
    Flat should just sound natural. Try listening to some music or an album that is well recorded, with natural and acoustic instruments and vocals, no electronic music. I'll suggest The Cranberries - No Need To Argue.
     
  5. spruce music
    The 305s should not sound muffled. I have some and they are pretty nice. They will do better in a larger room than many small monitors intended for up close use. Do make sure you have the sensitivity switch on the back set to -10 dbv. If the Magni is working right it really shouldn't harm the sound, and has a higher output voltage than the Modi alone. It probably would work on either sensitivity setting. If you send the Modi straight into the 305 you will need it on the -10 dbv setting to work well.

    The Modi has been shown to be very sensitive to noise on the USB port. As in measurably poor results. That was the Modi 2, but I think it uses the same USB chip as the Multi-bit. If you have a powered USB hub, try putting the powered USB hub between the PC and the Schiit USB input. It need not be anything terribly expensive just a hub with a power supply. This too has been measured and protects the Modi from noise on the PC USB line.

    https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/budget-dac-review-schiit-modi-2-99.1649/

    RMAA has its uses. REW is another free software, but you need a microphone for it. Lets you measure the results of the speaker output to see if everything is working more or less correctly.

    https://www.roomeqwizard.com/

    Another approach that might be free is smartphone apps. You can get FFT or RTA analyzers for free. Most smartphones roll off the response at 200 hz and lower. They often have mikes that are pretty good up to 8khz or 10 khz or more. Play white noise (start with the level very low at first) and see if you have some severe treble roll off happening. That would make speakers sound muffled. Tell us if you have iPhone or Android and we might be able to offer more specific smartphone suggestions.

    FrequenSee and RTA Analyzer are two that would do the trick and I think are on both platforms.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2017
  6. Red Dragon
    Thanks for all the great & thorough information.

    The thing, I'm not confident in my personal judgement that the sound is muffled. I could be describing it inaccurately because I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to listening to music or knowing how it is "supposed to" sound. Perhaps my assessment of muffledness is incorrect.

    Another thing I notice is that voices sound "scratchy" to me (especially on youtube videos where someone is just talking), but I'm not sure if that is just because of my perception/personal bias either.

    I am also unsure about if the sound quality sounds bad to me because I'm listening to recordings that were originally recorded badly.

    Is there any way to have an audiophile assess the sound quality on my behalf? For examples:

    1. Could I run software that would benchmark the sound quality and then give me a results screen that I could paste into this thread, which after analysis, would indicate whether or not my sound is working properly?

    2. If I were to call an audiophile via my landline phone, then play music and hold up my phone's receiver to the sound, would the audiophile on the other end be hearing the same sound that I hear? Would that be a good way to receive a trustworthy analysis?

    3. Is there any software I could run that would record sound as I play it, and then produce a file that I could send to an audiophile, which would allow them to determine whether or not my hardware has performed properly?


    After reading that post, I tried plugging the cables directly into the Modi. The sound is the same, as far as I can tell. I left the gain switches at their default based upon reading the manual and forum posts which seemed to indicate that the default positions were the best for my use case.

    In regards to your suggestions about RMAA, those comments went over my head. I don't understand why I'd want to form loops to my soundcard when I'm trying to figure out if my dac/amp/speakers are performing to spec? Isn't the soundcard which I'm not using irrelevant to that equation?

    Yes, I'm sitting close to the speakers which are on my computer table.

    I am using Belden 1505F Stereo Audio Cables, 1/4 inch mono to RCA which I bought from Blue Jeans Cable.

    I didn't try any EQ settings. I have no idea what 'natural' should sound like, so that's a big part of my problem. Maybe I'm expecting things to sound differently than they are supposed to due to my personal biases?

    The switch is definitely set to -10dbv.

    Unfortunately I don't own a cell phone so I can't use cell phone apps.

    I don't have a USB hub either but I could potentially buy one.

    I don't have a microphone either but I could potentially buy that too.
     
  7. bigshot
    Put on a CD of a well recorded string quartet or acoustic jazz group. I'm betting you're just listening to badly compressed youtube videos and electronic music with no baseline for how it is supposed to sound. Even with the best speakers, lousy sounding recordings still sound lousy.
     
  8. MindsMirror
    Natural is what you hear every minute in the real world. If you listen to a good acoustic recording, does it sound muffled compared to what the actual instrument or vocals would sound like in the room?

    RMAA is used to measure the output of the amp or DAC, using your sound card as a recording/measurement device. If you can provide a RMAA measurement we can see if the problem is with the DAC. I think that is unlikely though. It's also unlikely that both your speakers sound muffled in the same way. It is probably your expectation, or the recordings which you're listening to.

    Provide a link to some music which you're using and we can see if there is a problem with the recording itself.
     
  9. Red Dragon
    I downloaded and installed RMAA. I tried to run the playback and recording test three times. Each time, a window from RMAA popped up that says: "Audio device error: Test waveform was not recorded properly."

    How do I solve that problem and make the test go through?
     
  10. MindsMirror
    What kind of sound card or recording device are you using?
     
  11. bigshot
    There really isn't much reason to calibrate to tones if you don't even know what natural sound sounds like. Just set the tone controls so it sounds "good".
     
  12. Niouke
    maybe you expect too much?
    - Monitors are not made to make the music fun to listen, but to be accurate and the resulting sound can be perceived as dull
    - I have comparable entry level monitors from M-AUDIO (AV 40's) and while I won't say they are muffled, they are not crisp either and definitly not the kind of gear I enjoy listen to every day.
     
  13. Red Dragon
    I don't have a soundcard exactly, but I was trying to use my motherboard's onboard Realtek chip which is an ALC1150.

    However, I am not sure what are the proper settings to select in RMAA?

    The "Playback/Recording" drop-down menu lists a lot of options. The first menu has prefixes like "MME," "DirectSound," "ASIO," "Kernel Stream," and "Win Sound." Under those prefixes, I have options to choose the "Speakers (Modi Multibit)" or "Speakers (RealTek High Definition Audio)."

    The second menu only gives me two options: "[ASIO] ASIO for Generic USB Device" or "[ASIO] ASIO JRiver Media Centre 23."

    I'm not sure what device has "tone controls" on it?

    I hear what you are saying. On the other hand, I'm also confused, because the Schiit gear and the LSR305s receive universal acclaim from audiophiles; therefore it doesn't make sense to me how it could be so that after I've dropped just under $1200 CAD (after all taxes, shipping fees, handling fees, currency conversions, etc.) to buy good audio gear, it still sounds like garbage IMO.

    My Schiit/LSR30X setup is giving me sound that IMO is barely better than my previous bad-sounding ALC1150 Realtek onboard sound that is connected to an ~20 year old Kenwood XD-550 system which costs me about $300 CAD when I originally bought it. I thought dropping this money was finally going to give me great audio. But it's not. :triportsad:
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017
  14. Niouke
    I may be mistaken about the model, but on a $1200 CAD setup you put <200$ in the speakers themselves? As most DAC (and solid state amps) are audio transparent you could have put nearly all that money in the speakers themselves with results from another world really. I'm not an expert myself but DAC and AMP influence on sound quality is often over hyped by the audiophile crowd.

    I sincerely hope that there is a fixable malfunction in your setup, I'd suggest cross-testing your componants one by one.
    - Plug the speakers on your older source, if they perform better you will have a lead
    - Test your source with other speakers, maybe a headset?
     
  15. bigshot
    ^ this

    Better transducers are always going to give better bang for the buck
     

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