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

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by EnsisTheSlayer, Aug 30, 2017.
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  1. csglinux
    Is this just a gedanken experiment, or is this something we can actually do? I know my measuring equipment isn't up to much, but I'd be happy to work with you to generate a few audio-diffmaker files we could distribute. How would we go about doing this?
  2. bigshot

    If you want to actually know something, you have to make an effort to know. That means challenging your own assumptions and testing to find out for sure. Expectation bias appears to be a big thing with you and you're guarding and protecting it like a pit bull. When you resort to ad hominem attacks, blanket dismissals and responses like "get your ears checked", you're pretty much saying that you don't know what you're talking about and you really don't want to know. Being argumentative doesn't lead to knowledge.

    Just get someone to switch for you then. Sometimes folks make too much of ABX testing. He is saying that there is a "night and day" difference between DACs. A simple single blind test should reveal that if it's true. You only need stringent comparison if you want to find out if a nearly identical sound is actually different or not.

    "Close enough for government work" is all that's needed here. If his results make him mad, which they almost certainly will, he can go the extra mile and prove to himself that there is absolutely no difference. But I'd be satisfied with him just proving that there's as big a difference as he claims there is. I don't think he can do it.

    I do. I plug my iPhone into my rig all the time and it sounds just as good as my Oppo player. How do I know that? I directly compared them. I know that my $40 Walmart DVD player sounds the same as my Oppo HA-1 too. All of my equipment is audibly transparent. If it wasn't audibly transparent, I'd return it as defective.

    Ignorance is just not knowing. Being willfully ignorant is being stupid. And you're the one who called me stupid!

    Welcome to Sound Science. Sorry about your preconceptions.

    I only tell people that their human ears hear sound within the perceptual thresholds of human hearing. If a DAC is audibly transparent, it should sound the same as any other audibly transparent DAC. If it doesn't, it's poorly designed or poorly manufactured and I would recommend returning it for a full refund.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
    reginalb likes this.
  3. reginalb
    I'd be perfectly willing to take it past the thought stage, we'd just need some measuring equipment provided by one of these here engineers, I'd imagine. I am not willing to foot the cash, however. My $30 ADC is my max pay out for these sorts of things which I do only as a hobby.
  4. pinnahertz
    Sure, but how can you be sure the switch itself doesn't tip him off? And how do you propose to do the level match?
  5. reginalb
    I did a DAP test with my Sony ZX1 against several others. I used the music I was going to be testing to set the volume on my ZX1, then measured its output level of a test signal at that volume using Audacity. When comparing it, I used the same test signal, and adjusted the output level of the other units to match the ZX1's.

    Absolutely precise? Heck no. Accurate enough for me to learn that my Clip Zip sounded exactly the same to me? Yup.
  6. JaeYoon
    Speaking of Sony is making a lot of money fooling people here on headfi with their W1MA and W1MZ. People here have spent thousands. W1MZ cost over 3 grand for 1 unit.
  7. bigshot
    The person monitoring the test sets a starting position for the switch at random. You do a few passes at it. A ballpark level match is fine for the large differences he's claiming. If it's under a dB, it's fine for a casual test. These things only become sticky swamps if you go overboard on the technical details. If a casual test doesn't clearly reveal it, it probably doesn't matter anyway.

    I think a lot of the things we attribute to unconscious bias around here isn't unconscious at all. A lot of people want to game the results to feed their ego. If they want to do that badly enough, they're not going to learn anything from the test anyway. Casual tests aren't to prove things to other people. They're to find out for yourself. If you don't want to know and you just want to insist you're right without putting yourself to the test, then level matching precisely and going double blind isn't going to help. People have to start from a place of intellectual honesty.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
  8. castleofargh Contributor
    as it happens, humans are posting in the threads, so we end up with most of the issues known to come from humans. ^_^ I find funny how 4 people with a similar opinion can immediately be grouped as being the subforum's opinion. it tells something about how easily people make global assumptions based on a silly small number of anecdotes. we haven't even reached the subject itself, and already fallacies have come to play.
    I'm kind of annoyed by the "all DACs sound the same" idea. because it gives that extremist vibe that nobody wants to stand for. and it can be debunked by anybody with the right DACs or simply the inability to do a listening test properly. some small volume output difference is a sound differences after all. and most DACs have it. so IMO it really does us all a disservice to insist that DACs sound the same. I ironically spent years saying "extremes are always wrong!" when I saw people discussing politics or racist BS. I thought I was being clever with the self contradicting sentence, but clever isn't for everybody. :sweat_smile:

    instead the proper approach is sadly to be even more objective, and to simply refuse to argue objective claims with someone who comes empty handed(the Hydrogen way). @ironmine in this instance has absolutely no evidence of anything and gave us all the reasons we need not to trust his impressions as a valid reflection of the objective reality. and on the opposite side we have some nonsense argument about everything sounding the same which cannot be practically demonstrated given all the models of DACs around the world. and would fail to do so anyway because all sorts of DACs exist including really bad ones. so it's a non debate where nobody has a point but everybody tries to be right anyway...
    pibroch likes this.
  9. bigshot
    If there are DACs that are colored, it would be useful to identify them by name and model number. I asked for an example of a non-transparent DAC recently, and I was pointed to a $20 DAC that still had measurements below the threshold of audibility. Exceptions don't exist simply because there are always exceptions to every rule. You have to identify them. In my travels, I haven't run across a colored DAC or player yet. I'm not ruling out the possibility that there may be some out there. But until someone finds one, I'll just keep on saying that every DAC or player I've ever heard of is audibly transparent.

    I think it's very safe to say that claims that DACs sound very different are MUCH more likely due to bias or sloppy comparisons than DACs that actually do sound different. I've seen too many of the former, and I've never seen a single example of the latter.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
  10. reginalb
    HiFiman 602 or HiFiMan 801. Both have a USB DAC mode, both have significant treble rolloff.

  11. castleofargh Contributor
    aside from the obvious, level difference, audible noise floor because of a problem, and audible roll off in the trebles(including a all lot of R2R DACs when playing 44.1khz files), I've had very few experiences where I would claim an obvious difference in DACs. I remember an audio GD DAC that sounded like a smooth tube amp. there was clearly more than a signature thing going on, and I remember plugging my DAP into the amp thinking the change had to come from the amp. I can't remember the model(they have some naming habits with numbers and I always mix the models when talking about that brand). but I learned afterward that they were open to doing custom jobs, so maybe what I tried was a custom weirdo DAC? I can't say. at the time I only thought it was a terrible DAC, because it blowed my mind that anybody would want to design a non transparent DAC, but admittedly the sound was very pleasing/relaxing.
    aside from that too obvious to be a brain trick experience, sadly most of the DACs I've had to try over the years were at meets or audio shows, so I wouldn't dare to claim anything, half the time the amp was different too. all in all I agree with the need to have actual evidence of difference, or evidence before making any claim really. it's just that there will be exceptions. I'm not really taking a risk betting that it's going to exist.

    I would put DAPs on the side, because there is a lot that can go wrong in a DAP and I find it unfair to act as if the weird DAPs are reflection of DACs or amps. but admittedly they have a DAC and amp section so it's really just my own point of view. some pretend line outs aren't even line outs, but just the headphone out with a specific level. some won't even reach 0.5V, so getting the same level means pushing the amp and sometimes that alone will make a difference. I'd rather have DAPs left out of the argument altogether.
  12. bigshot
    Do you have a measurement from line out? That would show the performance of the DAC. When you put the load of the headphone on it, you're apt to see the performance of the amp. I'm assuming that you take the line out from the DAC and run it through an amp that is properly matched to your headphones. Same goes for DAPs. That's how I do my comparison tests.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
  13. reginalb
    I have not, but others have. The blog post I'd seen previously is no longer available, but it's a known offender.
  14. bigshot
    Would you say that the line out would measure better than with a load? Because that chart you linked to looks to me like it's right on the edge of being audible. With a load it's just bad in the top octave, which is probably the least important part of sound. If it was flat to 15kHz and then started rolling off, it would probably be fine. I would bet line out would do that or even a little better.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
  15. reginalb
    Thought that included a no load, sorry. The no load looks about identical to the AKG load in that image
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