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Thoughts on a bunch of DACs (and why delta-sigma kinda sucks, just to get you to think about stuff)

Discussion in 'Dedicated Source Components' started by purrin, Dec 5, 2013.
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  1. evillamer

    Interesting video on MQA. 
  2. Sonic Defender Contributor

    True, but the 880 is a surprisingly competent headphone. I wish I had never parted with my set.
  3. wahsmoh

    I spent some time last night playing with my DT880. It is a very good headphone and the treble might be slightly etched for my taste but the rest of the sound signature is very balanced. Just don't expect the more pristine imaging and liquid mid-range of the planar with the DT880. The DT880 isn't as wet in the bass department either but it isn't a slouch for an open headphone either. Conclusion, keep the DT880 because it makes a good reference headphone to compare to my newer offerings.
  4. hipnick
    Thank you for sharing this. It was an interesting read, and made me discover some very good recordings from this list:
  5. Sonic Defender Contributor

    That would pretty much sum up what I feel based on memory of my 880 which was the 600ohm version. I really thought it was an excellent value for the very reasonable price used sets go for and when I paired it with an SPL Auditor it was quite a nice match. I still recommend the 880 for those on a budget who aren't overly treble sensitive. While not bright, the 880 does get very close and with edgy material etched treble is certainly a possibility.
    wahsmoh likes this.
  6. bmichels
  7. LancerFIN

    Not even Master 7 but Master 11.
  8. DreamKing
    If the M11 is really exactly like an M7+M9, I don't get how it is cheaper than the Master 7 by itself let alone how it's about half the price of the M7+M9. But I guess it's cool for those that have it and schitty if you bought them separately, I'd reckon the loss when reselling would be considerable  if you switched to an M11. Obviously worth it, though I wonder why a g-d doesn't just discontinue the M7 and M9 at this point. I wondered if this was off-topic a bit but considering the range of topics being discussed here and it being DAC talk central, pretty hard to be blatantly OT.
  9. gevorg
    They're similar but not exactly the same. The power section is different, the M7+M9 combo has less power "sharing" between analog and digital sections. Whether they're the "same" from an audible perspective, is another question.
  10. Solude
    It's not.  It's very similar but there are differences in power supply, features, dac etc.  How much those things matter is debatable given damn near every other dac/amp/combo doesn't have as overkill a power supply or analog section as most Audio-GD gear.  But the gent that had the M11 and Yggy/Rag combo sold his Schiit.  Which is not to say one is better than the other so much that they are very different flavours.
  11. LancerFIN
    Master 11 is updated Reference 10.32. If people want top of the line gear they'll buy M7+9. It costs double to get those last percents of improvements. Nothing new.
  12. DreamKing
    I see, thanks for the info folks.
  13. DecentLevi
    Good day, I've got some magic audio newz for you all!
    So over the weekend at the SF HeadFi meet I finally got a chance to test drive the Geek Out v2+ portable DAC/Amp from LH Labs. It was a generous member who let me borrow his V2+ and Apple phone to let me test it out. Just seconds prior I had 'trained' my ears to the sound of the Gustard X12 which I consider to be a flagship DAC, then upon hearing the V2+ the first thing that seemed to hit me was confusion of whether I'm listening to a different DAC or not - I mean it was a full bodied, all there kind of a sound and I couldn't discern any shortcomings versus the DAC that is around 50x bigger. I heard good dynamics / punch, spot-on tonal balance, big soundstage and details across the FR. At first I had tried it double-amped by connecting it to my Project Ember 2.0 tube amp, but then after plugging in the headphones directly to the V2+ I seemed to hear better clarity and 'direct'ness for a somewhat more refined sound. I'm sure it could potentially sound even better with a proper double amp implementation, but that has yet to be worked out. The build quality seemed to leave me with a bit of skepticism whether it will hold up thru being 'weathered', but maybe that's just me not being used to the feel of a 3D printed chassis. But overall it really gave a robust, clean sound with an exceptional soundstage, especially for a small portable. I've heard both the v2 and v2+ both have the same specs, except the + version is more portable with it's battery.
    The other 'news' is about the Questyle Q192. (see link)
    This is a DAC/amp combo. My review "This thing was totally within it's $799 value and worth every penny even working for it at hard labor min. wage! It's sound is darn comparable to the Liquid Carbon, but with robust and unique features: Wolfson 8740 chip, adaptive technology that auto-detects the impedance of your headphone to ensure that it's giving it the absolute optimal load - this allows it to drive IEMs to the big cans alike, and I even heard it adjusting to the loads of my cans for the 1 second after swapping each headphone. It really gave me a sound of being in a real moment where the songs were recorded, and I even feel like I have a memory of being on the street watching a street band from one of the songs."
  14. KeithEmo
    You say you disagree with my statement - but, from your explanation, it seems more like you do in fact agree with my point.
    I agree entirely with you that a given technology can in fact make what you refer to as "the rhythmic complexities of the music" easier or more difficult to hear. (I find that electrostatic headphones do a better job of letting me hear subtle details than dynamic headphones and planars- at least all of the ones I've heard so far. I'm not convinced that R2R DACs do a better job of this than D-S DACs, although the time errors introduced by oversampling seem like they might have a negative effect on it.) I also agree that pretty much everything anyone says is "opinion" in some form or another - unless it is a simple statement of objective facts (numbers).
    However, a basic requirement of any sort of intelligent discussion is that everyone involved be talking about the same thing, and using terms with a meaning that is agreed upon. If we're going to have an intelligent discussion about steak, even one that involves your opinion and mine about which restaurant does a better job of preparing steak, it isn't going to be very productive unless we both agree up front that "steak" is "cooked dead cow meat" and that "well done" means to cook it more than "rare". Likewise, your statement that you believe that certain types of DACs "do a better job of conveying the rhythmic complexities of the music" is concise, and I can tell what you mean - it makes sense. You've also stated that you believe it affects how we perceive timing, which also makes perfect sense. This allows us to have an intelligent conversation about it.
    However, that isn't at all the case when someone says "Amplifier A messes up the rhythm and pace of the music". Using the meanings in any standard English dictionary, that sentence is a claim that Amplifier A alters the timing of the signal - which we both know is simply not likely to be true. The words "rhythm" and "pace" both very specifically refer to timing. Therefore, whatever he MEANT to say, what he in fact DID say is that Amplifier A alters the actual timing of the sound. And, since we all know that amplifiers don't actually introduce audible delays, we both know that what he said simply isn't true - it doesn't make sense. Saying that it FEELS faster to go 50 mph on a motorcycle than in a car is a perfectly valid statement, and conveys actual facts about riding motorcycles; saying that a motorcycle going 50 mph is "faster" than a car going 50 mph is simply untrue - and conveys no useful meaning.
    Going back to my particular example, your statement that certain types of DACs "do a better job of conveying the rhythmic complexities of the music" is useful information. Since we know that the actual "base timing" of the signal doesn't change, we can then go on and try intelligently to figure out why one type of DAC might alter the signal in such a way as to make it seem like there is a difference of that type. Since we have all that information, we can avoid wasting time measuring the time between the drumbeats to see if they're really being slowed down by one of the DACs - because we both know that's not what we're talking about.
    I guess I have a particular sensitivity to this sort of thing because I have a very technical background. The current "audiophile world" seems to have developed a nasty habit of making up terms, or re-defining terms that already have perfectly well known meanings. Sometimes this probably happens because the person involved simply doesn't know any better (a tape recorder actually could alter the rhythm of a piece of music - if it had poor speed accuracy, but an amplifier cannot). Other times it happens because of a reasonable attempt to describe something unknown using known terms (like trying to describe how steak tastes with some spice added that you're not familiar with). However, other times, it is a pretty obvious transparent attempt to add "mystique" to things - for various reasons. (If you're SELLING a premium-priced tube, it sounds a lot more "significant" to say that it sounds "smoother and darker" than to say that it has 2 pF more grid-to-cathode-capacitance than the one that costs 1/10 as much. It may even make what I'm trying to convey easier to understand to non-technical customers. However, it also helps me sell you my expensive tube - by NOT providing the information you could use to find a cheaper tube that sounds the same because it has similar electrical characteristics.)
    This is the part that bugs me. If I were into tube rolling (which I'm not), and I found some particular brand of ridiculously expensive tube that sounded better than all the rest in my particular amplifier, the next thing I would do would be to make electrical measurements of that tube... so I could find cheaper tubes that have the same electrical characteristics, which would enable me to get the exact same performance for a lot less money. Instead, what I find is that many people seem to actually prefer to spend absurd amounts of money on mystique... and pretend as if "there's something else going on".
    From a technical perspective, all DACs are SUPPOSED to do the precise same thing. Two "perfect DACs" would sound exactly the same - regardless of what technology they use. Therefore, if you do hear a difference, then one or both of them must be doing something wrong. It only makes sense that, that being the case, we can figure out what that something is - and redesign EVERY DAC out there to avoid doing it. (If we get that right, then, maybe, in a year or two, every $2 D-S DAC will sound just like your favorite R2R DAC - which will save us all a lot of money... or maybe, instead, there will be some new technology altogether - that combines the low cost of D-S DACs with the sound of R2R DACs).
  15. KeithEmo
    Quite so - but the context is also a bit different between a TV and a DAC.
    There is an "inherent flaw" in digital photography.... Imagine you're taking a picture of a perfectly sharp black and white checkerboard. Unless you have a ridiculous amount of skill and luck, your digital picture will contain quite a few GREY pixels. This happens because, since each sensor site (pixel) in the camera is perfectly sharp, some of them will be "seeing" an area that falls on the dividing line between a black square and a white square, and so isn't fully white or fully black. Since the camera records the average brightness across the sensor site, that pixel will be stored as a shade of grey (half-white + half-black = grey). Another way of interpreting this fact is that, in the digital image, the edges between the black and white squares will have been "softened" or "blurred". This blurring process happens a second time when that picture is displayed on a normal TV - because most TVs do not maintain a specific 1:1 relationship between pixels in the image itself and display sites on the screen - for several reasons. So, in fact, virtually all TVs "soften" the picture, and all of them therefore apply "artificial sharpening" to offset this effect, and have the picture end up being "visually normal". (This can be avoided with computer-generated artwork, and computer monitors usually do display each pixel as a separate display site if you set the proper resolution, which is why computer monitors often look sharper than "TVs" - sometimes to the point of looking "unnatural".)
    In other words, since the processes involved conspire to make all TV images slightly less than sharp, and with most TVs that "sharpness" control really IS a continuum - and controls the amount of artificial sharpening that is added. (There is no setting that actually softens the picture; you're simply dialing in the amount of phony sharpening to select an amount that makes the "pre-softened" picture look "normal" to you.) Of course, the process is a lot more complicated these days since various types of artificial sharpening - or blurring - may be applied at several points in the video compositing and editing work flow.
    However, through all that, the video or still image that you're looking at is still, in some sense, "the numbers" or "the original pixels". It doesn't have to be converted into a different format. If your TV had a reconstruction filter equivalent to the one in a DAC, then you wouldn't see dots or pixels - you would see a smooth image that simply resolved to a blur if you magnified it enough. (Some old monitors actually did have a frosted surface to blur away the pixels; but today most people find the softness unacceptable.) Apparently our eyes do a good enough job that no explicit "reconstruction filter" is necessary. (In other words, that TV picture is equivalent to the stair-step output of a DAC missing its output filter - which is why you can still see individual pixels if you look closely enough.)
    In contrast, with a DAC, the reconstruction filter IS applied (or should be). The goal IS to deliver an actual analog signal that is equivalent to an original analog signal. And the digital signal is SUPPOSED to contain enough information to allow that original analog signal to be reconstructed perfectly. So, if we started out with a black and white checkerboard, and ended up with a black and white checkerboard with narrow grey lines between the black and white areas on our screen, we don't have an accurate representation of the original image. However, at least theoretically, we CAN reconstruct our digital audio numbers in such as way as to get back EXACTLY the original analog signal - within the limitations of the sample rate and bit depth we used. (You could equate that to making sure that those grey areas in the picture are absolutely narrow enough that they cannot be seen by human eyes.) Getting back to your point, though.... All that counts is how well our reconstructed analog output waveform matches the original - it simply doesn't MATTER whether we've used the original samples or not, as long as the new samples we've calculated are actually related to them in such a way that they produce the same analog output. (With the picture, since we ARE looking at the pixels, it will probably be noticeable if we alter them. With the DAC, since we're NOT listening to the samples, changing them isn't a problem - as long as it doesn't mess up the result.)
    Therefore, complaining that a certain DAC "throws away all the original samples" is technically meaningless - and being unhappy that this happens is an "aesthetic judgement".  (It's sort of like noting that the salt on your table "came from the earth", rather than being the reaction product of hydrochloric acid and lye in a lab. The latter sounds rather "worrisome", but will actually look, feel, and taste exactly the same.)
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