Should you color your DAC or your amp?
Aug 23, 2021 at 5:35 PM Post #16 of 236

Atriya

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I have no idea why anyone would want an obsolete DAC when a simple EQ high end rolloff would accomplish the same thing, with the added benefit of being adjustable and defeatable.
If I may ask, are you referring to a specific DAC mentioned in this thread (such as the Qutest)? But I agree, I'll experiment with EQ a bit. If that can indeed improve the sound, it wouldn't be bright at all to go and spend $2k on a new DAC.
 
Aug 23, 2021 at 5:55 PM Post #17 of 236

MohawkUS

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I have no idea why anyone would want an obsolete DAC when a simple EQ high end rolloff would accomplish the same thing, with the added benefit of being adjustable and defeatable.
Because it doesn't accomplish the same thing. I in fact use EQ to restore the highs from NOS rolloff. I've also done the inverse trying to get the same effect from manipulating the FR(There's no denying the superior feature set & generally higher quality inputs of modern DACs.) Not everything audible is limited to the frequency response.
 
Aug 23, 2021 at 6:34 PM Post #18 of 236

bigshot

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How does an obsolete DAC accomplish more than a modern DAC. As I understand it, just take a modern DAC and roll off the highs, and you have basically the same thing as a non oversampling DAC. It's like the "warmth" of vinyl... that is because the high end is rolled off even more to prevent premature record wear. The reason it doesn't sound muffled is because the tiny bit of surface noise is adding those frequencies to make you think you are hearing frequencies you aren't.
 
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Aug 23, 2021 at 6:44 PM Post #19 of 236

Atriya

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TBH, the harshness I'm hearing could not be my D90SE, but rather just my (new) Aryas. I switched to my old HE-400 and it already seemed somewhat reduced (though that could just be the relative lack of resolution of that much cheaper headphone). Luckily I have the HE6SE coming in on Thursday to try out. The Arya has to go back in either case because it was sent to me defective (the right cup intermittently cuts out).
 
Aug 23, 2021 at 7:17 PM Post #20 of 236

Redcarmoose

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http://www.audiodesignguide.com/DAC_Output/index.html

Here is tube output stage DAC. Would it work better than a tube amp? I mean the amp section of the DAC is essentially the same as the amp.......but volume to line out levels always.

There may be a system where the user has everything set up (in solid-state) but wants to add a slight tube aspect so maybe a tube DAC would be useful? But it’s safe to say a full on tube amp may have a different “tube” characteristics than the tube DAC stage?

All we are doing is looking for balance. Balance is subjective. But what we do know is every amp methodology has a different sound character. Some farther out into “warm land” and some amps ruler flat. Still even ruler flat has subjective interpretations, depending on who you are. Same as the Harman Curve. Some will exactly like it, others want to modify the Harman Curve to their liking with a bass bump here or a midrange change there.

It is safe to say some feel that even Apple Phone outputs are not exactly flat. Though they measure flat and are generally regarded as flat, there could actually be a listener who wants “his interpretation” of flat to be even thinner and bright? To him the Apple Phone is too warm. That guy is most likely on the fringes, but he likes what he likes and believes what he believes.

When I say balance, it is interesting as some will balance a warmer headphone with a warmer DAC/amp and still hear all as neutral. There was a new member recently who only had high end speakers before. He started using headphones and purchased the TOTL flagship MDR-Z1R, and combined that with the TOTL DMP-Z1 DAC/amp at a cost of $10,000. To most of us who have a history of equipment, we would say the set up would be on the warm side. But to him he thinks everything sounds totally neutral? Why?

He has no pre experience in headphones. So the headphones and amp are adding the bass boost you get naturally from the room response. Certain low frequency waves bounce off the inside of the speaker and leave the speaker to radiate sideways and back, thus reflecting off walls and returning to the listener as a boost in the bass presentation. Most of the time this feeling of room response goes unnoticed. But it has been proven time and time again to be a reality and is factored in to the Harman Curve for both full-size headphones and IEMs.

If a person believes this “color” is essential, it’s up to the individual listening. There is a grand illusion in SS that all has to follow this “flat” response to be actual fidelity. When in fact there is many frequency response characteristics which fall into an even and correct frequency representation. Even, complete and correct frequency response can actually be many things it finally turns out. And in fact maybe everyone is right. What is right is simply right for the individual. When stuff seems too warm then maybe a small tweak is in order to balance everything again for the individual?

Typically the biggest challenge for new people is being sure they found their sound signature. After a couple years they should be well into knowing who they are. The only danger is moving sideways to a slightly different signature, thinking it’s better when in reality it’s just different.
 
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Aug 23, 2021 at 7:24 PM Post #21 of 236

bigshot

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Here is tube output stage DAC. Would it work better than a tube amp?

It wouldn't if you wanted colored sound on your turntable and TV set too.

Flat is flat. It's an objective calibration meant as a starting point. Everything is designed to sound the same so you don't run into chaos when you try to daisy chain more than one colored component. (Red + Blue + Yellow = Brown ick!) You keep your signal clean and calibrated until the last stage and then you color it to your personal taste with EQ and DSPs. But unless you have very odd tastes, the calibration should get you most of the way there. All you need beyond that is a little salt and pepper to taste.

Choosing colored equipment is a good way to churn through a lot of equipment. You'll never get exactly the sound you're looking for because you can't adjust the amount of coloration in a tube amp. It's one particular coloration and take it or leave it. That will lead to dissatisfaction and chucking one tube amp for another slightly different one... and so on and so on. If you use EQ and DSPs you can experiment and hone in on exactly the sound you're looking for, lock it in or change it whenever you want without having to buy a whole new amp or DAC.
 
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Aug 24, 2021 at 7:20 AM Post #22 of 236

gregorio

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[1] A90 is lifeless. [2] Not an amp if you’re looking for more character or that musical connection. Too sterile and boring for my taste.
1. Good, it's an electronic device, it obviously can't be anything but lifeless. The music and the "life" of the music is entirely defined by the music composition and the musicians/other artists who performed it and created the recording.

2. That's a contradiction! How do you make more of a "connection" to the "life"/music created by the artists by adding noise and distortion to it? To put it another way, if you are adding "more character" from a lifeless electronic device, then you are obscuring the "connection" with the actual music/musicians/artists and instead making a lifeless connection with an electronic device!
1. Yes I'm using audiophile terms & I strongly disagree that all DACs sound the same. [1a] I've owned(and own) a number of DACs at the top end of Amir's SINAD list as well as DACs which I'm sure would score very badly and find them all different from one another.
2. Could be noisefloor or microphonics that give tubes their stage, all I can tell you is that I perceive it like a halo or echo effect.
[2a] I do prefer DACs worse measuring than my phone, whether the poor FR measurements are 'why' I prefer it is unknown.
[2b] Prickly/treble nasties means fatiguing, it's fatiguing because it's harder for me to mentally track individual notes & transients in fast music. [2c] I don't know if it's an equipment failure or brain failure, ...

1. You've managed to cram several serious errors into just that first short sentence! First of all, DAC's of course do not produce any sound, they produce an electrical analogue signal. There is no sound until after that analogue signal has been transduced by speakers or headphones. With any half decent DAC, some or all of the measured distortions/noise are outside the ability of speakers or headphones to reproduce, in which case there obviously cannot be a difference in the sound. And, even if there are some distortions that are high enough that speakers/headphones can actually reproduce them in the sound waves they are outputting, almost never do those distortions rise above the threshold of inaudibility. The only exceptions I've ever seen in the last decade or two has been the result of severe incompetent design.
1a. Yes of course, it's trivially easy to "find them all different from one another", for starters they all look different, plus of course they have different prices and different performance measurements! One would have to be pretty stupid NOT to "find them all different from one another"! However, if we eliminate all that knowledge/information and instead try to "find them all different from one another" from audible sound ONLY, then "No", given the rare exceptions mentioned above and some obvious conditions (reasonable listening levels ad level matching for example), they will NOT all be found different from one another. Remember also, this is the sound science forum and science is not dependent on your personal agreement (or even strong disagreement).

2. Noisefloor would not affect the soundstage, unless of course there were such a huge amount of it that it obscures the audio properties that influence our perception of soundstage, distortion certainly could account for it though. A "halo or echo effect" is not what I've perceived, you'd need a really messed up tube amp to create that sort of effect. However, everyone has at least somewhat different perceptions.
2a. That's very refreshing to read! Very few audiophiles will admit to preferring lower fidelity over higher fidelity, presumably because that goes against the actual definition of an audiophile.
2b. Ah, so "Prickliness/treble nasties" are not audiophile terms then, they're terms you've invented to describe your personal abilities/perception. You have to be careful with that in the sound science forum because there are often different accepted terms and/or you can cause confusion by implying something else. For example, "treble nasties" in a DAC's reconstruction obviously implies there's something "nasty" going on with the DAC's treble reconstruction and "prickliness" in the reconstruction filters implies prickly spikes in the response, both of which are of course false assertions.
2c. Well, if it's the built-in DAC in an iPhone (or any other half decent DAC) with a flat treble response, IE. No prickly spikes or "nasties" in the treble, then it's obviously not an equipment failure, so what's left?

Do you really want to be coming to a sound science forum and posting advice based on apparently self admitted "brain failure" and a preference for lower fidelity?

G
 
Aug 24, 2021 at 9:18 AM Post #23 of 236

castleofargh

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There is a grand illusion in SS that all has to follow this “flat” response to be actual fidelity.
How can it be an illusion? A correct frequency response is very much needed for fidelity. Anytime we have the means to determine what neutral is, getting it goes toward fidelity. By definition.

You can very much dispute the concept of a universal flat for headphones, and I’ll back you up on it. Because we do need a more or less custom compensation for the missing parts of the listener’s HRTF when we use headphone/IEM.
Or you can simply decide to go for something you enjoy even though it’s not your flat. Nothing wrong with personal choices.
But fidelity is fidelity.
 
Aug 24, 2021 at 9:25 AM Post #24 of 236

Redcarmoose

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Tonality is a range. 21.49
 
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Aug 24, 2021 at 9:32 AM Post #25 of 236

FYFL

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If flat was the objective, neither musicians, mixing engineers nor mastering engineers would introduce tube based gear in their audio chain. They present a product that they feel is the best interpretation of the original idea. And then we come in with our own, personal preferences as to what sounds best or most enjoyable to our own ears. It’s that simple.
 
Aug 24, 2021 at 9:45 AM Post #26 of 236

Redcarmoose

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Exactly.

Studios are not standardized. Right, what is left of the actual performance is gone. It’s lost in time. All we have is a creative statement the producer liked. Maybe it’s better than the original (original performance) but none the less different.
If flat was the objective, neither musicians, mixing engineers nor mastering engineers would introduce tube based gear in their audio chain. They present a product that they feel is the best interpretation of the original idea. And then we come in with our own, personal preferences as to what sounds best or most enjoyable to our own ears. It’s that simple.
 
Aug 24, 2021 at 9:47 AM Post #27 of 236

gregorio

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Your post brings up some interesting points, some are valid, some are not and just serve to re-enforce audiophile misunderstandings/falsehoods.
[1] All we are doing is looking for balance. Balance is subjective. ... [2] Still even ruler flat has subjective interpretations, depending on who you are. [3] Same as the Harman Curve. Some will exactly like it, others want to modify the Harman Curve to their liking with a bass bump here or a midrange change there.
1. No, balance isn't subjective, it's an objective measurement. Our perceptions/preference of that objective measurement is obviously subjective though.
2. Same here, "ruler flat" is an objective measurement but of course, we can each have our own perception/preference of that objective fact.
3. No, it's quite different to the Harmon Curve. The Harmon Curve however is an average of subjective preferences and science therefore predicts there will be at least some for whom it does not apply. On the other hand, a "ruler flat" response is an objective measurement and therefore, given some obvious conditions, science predicts that it always applies without exception, regardless of anyone's subjective preference/interpretation of it.
[1] It is safe to say some feel that even Apple Phone outputs are not exactly flat. [2] Though they measure flat and are generally regarded as flat, there could actually be a listener who wants “his interpretation” of flat to be even thinner and bright? To him the Apple Phone is too warm. [3] That guy is most likely on the fringes, but he likes what he likes and believes what he believes.
1. That may be true but assuming they are operating the iphone correctly, then their "feeling" is incorrect, the iPhone is flat.
2. If someone has a fault with their hearing or perception or just has a preference and wants to change the response of the iphone, that's fine of course but the result by definition is something other than flat. In other words, the iphone is NOT "too warm", his hearing/perception/preference is too cold.
3. He is of course entirely free to like what he likes and believe what he believes but if he comes to a science forum and claims as a fact that iphones are too warm, he will of course be refuted and probably eventually make himself look very ignorant/foolish.
He has no pre experience in headphones. So the headphones and amp are adding the bass boost you get naturally from the room response. Certain low frequency waves bounce off the inside of the speaker and leave the speaker to radiate sideways and back, thus reflecting off walls and returning to the listener as a boost in the bass presentation. Most of the time this feeling of room response goes unnoticed. But it has been proven time and time again to be a reality and is factored in to the Harman Curve for both full-size headphones and IEMs.
This is an interesting point and one I've raised here several times. What is it we want to have "fidelity" in, the actual recording or the intent of those who created the recording? The use of most consumer speakers and the design of many headphones introduces a bass boost, nearly all recording studios therefore have a "house curve" that includes a bass boost and the recording itself is therefore probably slightly bass light. If someone EQ's their listening environment or HPs to flat, they are providing fidelity to the recording but not to the intent of those who created it, the end result will likely be slightly less bass than the creators intended.
[1] If a person believes this “color” is essential, it’s up to the individual listening. [2] There is a grand illusion in SS that all has to follow this “flat” response to be actual fidelity. When in fact there is many frequency response characteristics which fall into an even and correct frequency representation. Even, complete and correct frequency response can actually be many things it finally turns out. [3] And in fact maybe everyone is right. What is right is simply right for the individual. When stuff seems too warm then maybe a small tweak is in order to balance everything again for the individual?
1. Carrying on from the previous point, we don't know how much or if any bass boost has been compensated for in the mixing and mastering and even if we did, an individual still of course has the right to do something different according to their own preferences.

2. Here you've got a problem though, it's not a "grand illusion" that's pretty much the definition of fidelity or at least a large part of it! It's generally not terribly difficult to measure fidelity; take a signal, a music recording for example, pass it through a device, say a DAC and perform a null test between the before and after signals. The result is nothing except the difference, the higher this difference, the lower the fidelity. To achieve a low difference (high fidelity) a flat response is necessary.

3. No everyone isn't right and what is right is not simply right for the individual. Again, if "stuff seems too warm" to them but is actually ruler flat, then they would not be right to state that "stuff is too warm", they would be wrong! If they want to make the output "colder" to suit their perception/preferences, that's entirely up to them and no one here would suggest otherwise. Of course they can't achieve that by changing any half decent DAC because their outputs are generally ruler flat!
[1] Typically the biggest challenge for new people is being sure they found their sound signature. [2] After a couple years they should be well into knowing who they are. The only danger is moving sideways to a slightly different signature, thinking it’s better when in reality it’s just different.

1. I would say that the biggest challenge is separating all the nonsense audiophile marketing and beliefs from the actual facts and therefore being able to make informed decisions.

2. After a couple of years, a beginner's listening skills, perception, hearing and preferences are ALL likely to have changed (at least somewhat, if not drastically) and are likely to continue changing for the rest of their lives. On top of that, they've got point #1 to overcome and the end result is commonly a never ending vicious circle of being suckered into repeatedly buying/replacing audiophile equipment.

Tonality is a range.
Yep, you don't need to post a support for that claim, as it agrees with the very well established science that everyone here is aware of. That range of tonality is roughly 20Hz to 20kHz although for the vast majority of adults, it doesn't extend beyond about 16kHz.

G
 
Aug 24, 2021 at 9:59 AM Post #28 of 236

Redcarmoose

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@https://www.head-fi.org/members/gregorio.69811/

Missing Jude’s point here 21:53.....There is a range of neutrality.

These are his words not mine.

 
Aug 24, 2021 at 10:08 AM Post #29 of 236

gregorio

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[1] If flat was the objective, neither musicians, mixing engineers nor mastering engineers would introduce tube based gear in their audio chain. [2] They present a product that they feel is the best interpretation of the original idea. [3] And then we come in with our own, personal preferences as to what sounds best or most enjoyable to our own ears. It’s that simple.
1. Ah, you seem to be confused. A flat response is the objective, NOT a flat output!

2. A flat frequency response will exactly reproduce the frequencies on the recording that the musicians, mixing and mastering engineers spent days/weeks/months putting there.

3. And then you come in and change that! That's your choice of course BUT:
A. That's not higher fidelity, it's lower fidelity.
B. You're not going to achieve that with any half decent DAC or AMP because they have a flat response. And, studios only use flat response ADCs/DACs and Amps.
C. That's not making a connection with the music/musicians, it's breaking that connection in favour of your own preferences.

You should also be aware that many/most musicians, mix engineers and mastering engineers do not introduce tube based gear in their audio chain and when they do, they introduce very specific types and amounts of tube distortion. They don't expect/intend you to come along and and stick another layer of different tube distortion on top of that!

G
 
Aug 24, 2021 at 10:12 AM Post #30 of 236

FYFL

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Exactly.

Studios are not standardized. Right, what is left of the actual performance is gone. It’s lost in time. All we have is a creative statement the producer liked. Maybe it’s better than the original (original performance) but none the less different.
Often times, even musicians aren’t sure what outcome they are looking for. Some participate throughout an entire process to certain degree, some don’t. In that case mixing/mastering engineers are left with their own creative vision and experience to make it work. It’s an art form and results vary. Perhaps in headphone world some guidelines are standards are in fact useful and justified but in stereo speaker domain with so many variables (room being the largest offender), flat FR doesn’t mean a whole lot. Unless you want to turn your living space to anechoic chamber. :wink:
 

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