What's an example of a "good DAC"?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by EnsisTheSlayer, Aug 30, 2017.
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  1. bigshot
    Well, if you started back in the early 70s like I did, you would have a better idea of how far we've come. We're living in a golden age of sound reproduction now. I understand that it's human nature to find smaller and smaller faults as technology gets better and better. But I remember back to the antediluvian age when we just had to put up with noise and distortion and frequency imbalances and massive time shifting (wow and flutter). It always amazes me to hear people say that vinyl sounds better than CDs. I wonder how much experience they've had with vinyl to be able to maintain that opinion... it can't be much! Vinyl is capable of sounding very good, but it's a struggle all the way and very good sound isn't really typical in practice.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2017
  2. amirm
    I agree. It has never been this cheap and easy to get superb sound.

    That said, audio is broken as hell compared to video. We spend all this effort and money yet the sound we hear is most likely way different than what the talent/producers heard when creating said content. This is unacceptable. In video, we use standards in production and playback, allowing us to near perfectly match the same images that was used in production. Audio is wild west in comparison. Heck, there is no consistency between different shops producing music let alone consumers being able to do so.

    Solving this problem will hugely advance audio reproduction yet there is not an effort let alone solution toward it.
    JaeYoon likes this.
  3. bigshot

    You can blame wives for that. They own the living room and can dictate the size and placement of speakers. Often they'll banish all of it to a concrete slab basement with room acoustics like a tomb. It's not hard to put together a speaker system that gets you into the ballpark of what the engineers heard when they were mixing it, but you have to be single.

    And as for video standards... do you know how many people use that feature that stretches every aspect ratio out to fit the whole screen, and how about the "soap opera" interlacing feature? At almost every friends' house I go to visit to watch TV the sharpness is set way too high.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2017
    nofuss and RRod like this.
  4. amirm
    Nah, can't blame the wife for our own incompetence. :) As I explain here in detail (https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/target-room-response-and-cinema-x-curve.10/), we are so far away from any standards of repeatability. Before we worry about size and placement of speakers, we need to worry about the speakers themselves.

    The aspect ratio problem comes from the movie industry, not video. With video, I can assure the red that I am seeing is the red that colorist/producer saw. With audio, I have no prayer of hearing the same tonality that was heard in the studio. There is nothing to calibrate too. The producer is guessing what I am hearing, and we are guessing what they are hearing. Total confusion. There is no "fidelity" to adhere to.

    In video if you have a TV that has too much green, we can measure and demonstrate that objectively. Nothing like that exists in audio. So folks go and play with DACs, tweaks, amps, speakers, etc. in order to create a sound that is more "real" when real has no definition.

    We need to start to standardize the sound in studios. We need to capture what is heard there and include that as metadata. Then we can try to comply with it in playback. Until then it is all chaos.
  5. bigshot
    I don't think about speaker installations in the same way I do headphones. A room serves different purposes because it adds a bit of itself to the sound. You might have one response curve at one spot in the room, and another response curve in another part of the room. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing because that variation is natural to the ambience of the space. It sounds *real* because it *is* real. The goal of a home listening room isn't to remove the sound of the room from the equation, it's to optimize the character of the room by eliminating detrimental room reflections.

    A recording studio needs consistency so you can balance a mix and send it to another sound house and have it sound exactly the same. Everything is optimized from the single listening position at the mixing board. But that isn't the best approach if you want to build a home listening room... especially if you're lucky enough to have a fairly large and acoustically pleasing room to work with. In the home, consistency isn't as important as creating a balanced, natural ambience for the sound to exist in. It also has to be a space you can live in and share with friends and family. That's a whole different set of priorities from a mixing stage. You can go ahead and create a sound studio in your home and remove every reflection you can. You can focus it all on a single listening position, and make the response curve there perfect. It will be close to what the engineers heard in the studio. But it may not sound as aesthetically pleasing as a room which improves the recording by wrapping three dimensional real space around the recording. And it sure won't be a comfortable room to live in!

    I have a friend who is a sound mixer and he does concert PA installations for everything from a small club to outdoor amphitheaters. I've chatted with him about his theories on tuning his system to suit the venue. He doesn't just try to cancel out the acoustic troubles in the space. That's just the first part of the job. After he's tamed the problems, he tries to balance the quality of the sound throughout the room and use the natural character to his advantage.

    I know there are a lot of stereos in people's homes that sound like a dog's breakfast. That goes without saying. But when I'm finalizing a mix and laying it down, I'm not just hoping that it sounds the same in some people's homes as it sounds in the studio. I'm hoping it actually might sound better.
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2017
  6. Redcarmoose
    I have always felt the Living Stereo LP series was the last and best attempt at some kind of standardization.

    The fact that before multitrack and the Beatles, sound engineers really could try and emulate live playback. They actually had contests where a speaker manufacture would set up a stereo ( outside ) and a jazz band would set up and they would compare how close the whole sound of each production was.

    After The Pink Floyd had alarm clocks and unworldly synthesis flowing in and around the soundstage, just like St. Peppers reality was lost and it was anyone's game what the engineers room frequency response was.

    But for purely recorded room live sets. a mixing room frequency response metadata EQ sheet would standardize it all, if you wanted EQ.

    And even today to a point the engineer room frequency response chart is only going to get us slightly closer even with today's multitrack multiple layers. It's just that every room is different and every system is different.

    I've always liked systems built atop wood second floors with wall treatments. But every room is going to have it's null points, standing waves and points of best focused and ballanced sound.

    There is really a spectrum. Concerts rairly sound the same. Booming bass, muddy drums, though they get better at times. Live clubs can sound like ****. Even brick wall close to perfect places, no clubs are optimal. And the experts who say they are music sound audiophiles because they have seen 100s of live bands in clubs, or have been to 100s of concerts so they know what good sound is? Please!

    Most systems only have a quality to do one genre really really good. Play Led Zeppelin on a 100K Jazz system and it may have the detail of a symphony! In that regard that concert goer expert knows what's missing!
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2017
  7. bigshot
    One of the best recordings I've ever heard was a Living Stereo album of Fiedler's performance of Gaetie Parisienne. Completely natural sounding lots of contrasts in dynamics and timbre. It was also one of the first stereo recordings, made I think in 1954.
    sonitus mirus likes this.
  8. Redcarmoose
    When I hear audiophiles talk of old classical performances captured by two mics hanging from the ceiling in a giant hall and how they are blown away by the lack of artifacts............no mixing, no EQ, ect...ect.

    I believe them.
  9. bigshot
    Living Stereo had three mikes on a lot of their recordings. The thing that set them apart was the fact that RCA had been experimenting with microphone placement and orchestra position in the halls the Boston, Chicago and NYPO performed in for years. They knew the acoustics inside and out.
    sonitus mirus likes this.
  10. sonitus mirus
    Even the Google Music version of this album sounds spectacular. There are 2 actually, the 2005 "Red Seal" version (LSC-1817) that I believe is from the same master as the SACD version and the CD reissue from 1993 (RCA Victor 09026-61847-2). Both sound great.
  11. bigshot
    I discovered the album from a 100 Greatest Recordings LP from Franklin Mint. Nice cherry red vinyl.
  12. gregorio
    1. In TV/Film sound yes, this is largely true but very much less so in music recording studios, that's why in music we have mastering!
    2. No, it will be nothing like the engineers heard in the studio because music studios do not remove every reflection they can!
    3. A room which wraps it's 3D space around the recording is NOT improving the recording, although you may find it aesthetically pleasing. Recordings are mixed and mastered to be played back in consumers' rooms, which of course includes consumers room reflections, unless the consumer has been silly and removed much of the room's reflections! We don't know how each rooms reflections are going to affect the frequency response at the listening position/s but we do assume that there are going to be reflections/reverb, hence why we never mix or master music in dead/dry studios.
    4. That is the opposite to how all the engineers work who I know! If the mix does actually sound better in someone's home it can only be because we haven't mixed it well in the first place. We know it is always going to sound somewhat different in someone's home and therefore not as good as the mix perfected in the studio but we hope that's what's lost in consumers' homes does not detract too much from the essence of what we created. Again, this is why we have mastering and also why we will typically use very poor quality speakers to check/reference the mix.

    1. And that's exactly why I DON'T believe them! There are "artefacts" from using just two mics to capture a classical performance, artefacts which are typically worse than the artefacts of using more mics and mixing/EQ, etc., which is precisely why classical recordings are typically NOT recorded with just two mics and haven't been since the early 1950's! Why do you think we use more mics, mixing and EQ, etc., you think we're trying to make mixes which sound worse than those from 60 years ago?

    2. After multitrack and the Beatles sound engineers really could try (and achieve!) to emulate live playback. The reason they didn't was for artistic reasons! It was the advent of multitrack in the 1950's and the use of it, by producers such as Phil Spectre, to create something different than could realistically be performed live, which lead to the evolution of the popular music genres from the 1960's onwards in the first place! Many audiophiles seem to have the bizarre notion that there is such a thing as a live performance and that we should just capture that live performance instead of ruining it with multitrack, mixing/processing and mastering. The reality is that there is no live performance in the first place and therefore, without the multitrack and mixing/processing there is no music!

    3. In my experience of audiophiles, they generally wouldn't have any idea what they're missing! With headphones for example they often have no idea of the lack of less detail they're missing or the lack of less stereo width or lack of less separation. There is typically an intended amount of everything, including detail, stereo width and separation. Less than that intended amount is lower fidelity BUT so is more than that intended amount and this is where some/many audiophiles go off the rails, often equating "too much" with "better"!

    JaeYoon likes this.
  13. JaeYoon
    So pretty much not to take reviews on this website too seriously. Like one popular reviewer will say these headphones that cost over 1,500 has way more detail and instrument seperation than you can buy for $250, etc?
  14. gregorio
    Not taking the reviews here too seriously is an axiom, for me at least. With regards to your example, the reviewer may be correct and the expensive HPs may have more detail and separation that the cheaper ones. Assuming the $250 HPs already provide enough detail and separation, then the more expensive ones producing even more is lower fidelity, although to some people that might be subjectively preferable.

    JaeYoon likes this.
  15. JaeYoon
    Ah I see you mean.
    So producing too much is lower fidelity. But a good amount is what is close to original production. If artist did not intend it to sound with more detail, and headphones exaggerates the recording, it's straying away. But subjectively can be preferred.
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