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I am wondering if anyone knows if there are any DAC's that have DSP sections that share features commonly found in digital mixing software in studios? Sometimes these are in the form of plug-ins. In particular, are there any DAC's that can add 2nd harmonic distortion digitally before conversion to analogue? I can imagine such a device that has a library of well known tubes and their harmonic distortion characteristics studied, recorded, and then programmed into the library. It would present an opportunity to digitally tube roll. The DAC could offer the harmonic distortion characteristics of tubes while pairing with high power amps with very low distortion. Even if it is more basic like a few slider bars to adjust the amount one wants. Does something like this exist? Can something like this exist or is there a technical limitation as to what can be achieved?

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Not sure about DACs but there would be loads of software plugins that do tube emulation

 

maybe try here (this was just a google search, I don't know if they are any good)

https://www.kvraudio.com/plugins/tube-preamp-simulator/newest#results

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Can't this be achieved using streaming software such as JRiver and a VST plugin to add distortion before feeding the DAC?  

Edited by Snoopy8
Typo

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Why don't you just get a sound card with an inbuilt DSP and use it as your DAC too? 

Something like this: http://scope.zone/index.php?id=1546&lg=en 

 

Professional grade recording device with inbuilt hardware DSP. You'd just connect it to your streaming PC, configure as you want and you're off to the races

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10 hours ago, Midget said:

I am wondering if anyone knows if there are any DAC's that have DSP sections that share features commonly found in digital mixing software in studios?

Yes.   There are plenty of pro/studio DACs which run their own in-built DSP with plugins.

 

.... but not typically of the type you are looking for (adding non-linear distortion).   It's more typically compressors, crossovers, EQ, etc.

 

To get other types of plugins, you would route the audio through a DAW or other outboard hardware (or a computer) .... to apply the effects you wanted.

 

 

For example, with one of my DACs, I can take audio in from any digital input (firewire, SPDIF, MADI) .... the route it in to the computer/DAW.... apply whatever effects I want .... then route it to an anlogue (DAC) outputs (or to anywhere any other digital output, or whatever).

 

10 hours ago, Midget said:

I can imagine such a device that has a library of well known tubes and their harmonic distortion characteristics studied, recorded, and then programmed into the library.

Yes there are plenty of DAW/computer plugings, or outboard hardware (digital, or analogue) which can do this.

 

10 hours ago, Midget said:

Can something like this exist or is there a technical limitation as to what can be achieved?

Yes.... if there were a DAC with a DSP that could load such a plugin  (I'm not sure there is.... the ones I know of come with a more limited set of onboard plugins).

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2 hours ago, recur said:

Why don't you just get a sound card with an inbuilt DSP and use it as your DAC too? 
Something like this: http://scope.zone/index.php?id=1546&lg=en 

Because $$$$.    ;) 

There you go, I was sure it would exist (and be $$)

 

It's overkill for the usecase..... it would be more flexible and less expensive to just have a computer in the loop, and run DAW software.

 

This box is designed to be used for live/latency-free   (althogha a computer can do that too).

 

 

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They are also designed to lift the CPU load off your machine and do it in hardware in the card.  This is just the new generation of the Creamware stuff many of us used to record and play live with in years gone by. A lots the sexiness of this stuff died out when CPUs became so fast and SSDs arrived. 

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I'm yet to hear a plug-in that replicates what valves do, the ones I have listened to have not done it and been a poor replication. The SS guitar amps with this feature failed also, to my ears.

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3 minutes ago, recur said:

They are also designed to lift the CPU load off your machine and do it in hardware in the card.

Yes, I understand that.... but for the usecase (add some non-linear distortion) that's waaaaay OTT.

 

The load and latency from this would be miniscule.... and with any professional equipment (eg. a DAW/DAC interface) it will be all synchronised into the clock domain of the DAC.

 

3 minutes ago, recur said:

A lots the sexiness of this stuff died out when CPUs became so fast and SSDs arrived. 

Exactly.

I mean, I can still understad it for live work (as an IT person, I have a healthy distrust for computers), but....

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5 hours ago, muon* said:

I'm yet to hear a plug-in that replicates what valves do, the ones I have listened to have not done it and been a poor replication. The SS guitar amps with this feature failed also, to my ears.

So you are saying that there is a technical limitation? The best sound engineers can not replicate the distortion characteristic of a valve accurately enough in the digital domain to simulate what gives a valve its specific timbre?

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5 minutes ago, Midget said:

So you are saying that there is a technical limitation? The best sound engineers can not replicate the distortion characteristic of a valve accurately enough in the digital domain to simulate what gives a valve its specific timbre?

I'm saying I haven't heard it, so far.

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Thanks everyone, I was hoping there was something a bit more simple out there on the market without adding another component like a PC. I am surprised out of all the companies that are out there no one has included something like this in a DAC.

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10 minutes ago, Midget said:

So you are saying that there is a technical limitation? The best sound engineers can not replicate the distortion characteristic of a valve accurately enough in the digital domain to simulate what gives a valve its specific timbre?

To be honest, there's not much demand for it because of the catch 22 - people choose solid state because they don't want the added distortion and prize the lack of valve colouration, and existing manufacturers would be silly to burn their source of revenue. The second harmonic distortion generation is only part of the picture, but is easy enough to replicate. One famous manufacturer handed out 2nd harmonic generators at a trade show for example, but it was such a cheap and nasty device that it was (intentionally?) made not good enough for actual hi-fi usage, but was good enough to demonstrate that at least this aspect has been known and emulated for decades already.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/gramophone-dreams-26-nelson-pass-harmonic-distortion

Bob Carver is infamous for his amplifiers over the decades, many of which have received accolades, but he's also responsible for an infamous demonstration (the Carver challenge) that you can electrically emulate any other amplifier's sound and it might well be indistinguishable in blind testing. He then released a few amplifiers that were affordable "imitators" of the sound of some famous yet more expensive amplifiers - including amusingly enough one of his own amps!

https://www.stereophile.com/content/carver-challenge

Of course if you make a less powerful, lower current variant of the original amplifier then once you turn the volume up it won't perform as well, and since a lot of the cost of an amplifier is in the power supply and output stages, it's a gross simplification to say you just create an amplifier with a mirror image signal of a good amplifier. Nonetheless, history has shown that not only is it doable, but it's effectively "been done", but the world doesn't care about blind testing in this industry.

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But to answer your question specifically, there are tube buffers which do exactly what you want, but separately (rather than as part of the DAC). None are particularly expensive but they all likely achieve your aim with varying quality.

https://shenzhenaudio.com/products/yaqin-sd-cd3-6n8p-tube-signal-upgrade-hi-end-buffer-processor-for-cd-player

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32 minutes ago, Midget said:

So you are saying that there is a technical limitation? The best sound engineers can not replicate the distortion characteristic of a valve accurately enough in the digital domain to simulate what gives a valve its specific timbre?

Given that even the same tube will sound different at different points in its lifetime, I imagine the best you could hope for is a 'snapshot' of how a particular tube sounds.

 

 

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1 minute ago, sir sanders zingmore said:

Given that even the same tube will sound different at different points in its lifetime, I imagine the best you could hope for is a 'snapshot' of how a particular tube sounds.

 

 

Oh yeah, no tubes past their prime thank-you-very-much! 

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Posted (edited)
20 minutes ago, Midget said:

Oh yeah, no tubes past their prime thank-you-very-much! 

sure, but how do you define their prime… in my experience it's certainly not when they are brand new

Edited by sir sanders zingmore

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5 minutes ago, sir sanders zingmore said:

sure, but how do you define their prime… in my experience it's certainly not when they are brand new

Is that because they... burn in?

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6 minutes ago, Ittaku said:

Is that because they... burn in?

of course

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Ittaku said:

To be honest, there's not much demand for it because of the catch 22 - people choose solid state because they don't want the added distortion and prize the lack of valve colouration, and existing manufacturers would be silly to burn their source of revenue. The second harmonic distortion generation is only part of the picture, but is easy enough to replicate. One famous manufacturer handed out 2nd harmonic generators at a trade show for example, but it was such a cheap and nasty device that it was (intentionally?) made not good enough for actual hi-fi usage, but was good enough to demonstrate that at least this aspect has been known and emulated for decades already.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/gramophone-dreams-26-nelson-pass-harmonic-distortion

Bob Carver is infamous for his amplifiers over the decades, many of which have received accolades, but he's also responsible for an infamous demonstration (the Carver challenge) that you can electrically emulate any other amplifier's sound and it might well be indistinguishable in blind testing. He then released a few amplifiers that were affordable "imitators" of the sound of some famous yet more expensive amplifiers - including amusingly enough one of his own amps!

https://www.stereophile.com/content/carver-challenge

Of course if you make a less powerful, lower current variant of the original amplifier then once you turn the volume up it won't perform as well, and since a lot of the cost of an amplifier is in the power supply and output stages, it's a gross simplification to say you just create an amplifier with a mirror image signal of a good amplifier. Nonetheless, history has shown that not only is it doable, but it's effectively "been done", but the world doesn't care about blind testing in this industry.

What you left out of that intersting storey is that, the Golden Ears of the industry were not up to the challenge... They miserably failed to distinguish between the two amps...so went home and used media to swing mud at Carver... 😄....just like Linn did back in 70s...with Far Eastern Turntables...

Edited by pulinap

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Posted (edited)

Carver is awesome, this is why so many of us here are running Carver amps :ph34r:

Edited by muon*
typo

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2 minutes ago, pulinap said:

What you left out of that intersting storey is that, the Golden Ears of the industry were not up to the challenge... They miserably failed to distinguish the two amps...so went home and used media to swing mud at Carver... 😄....just like Linn did back in 70s...with Far Eastern Turntables...

Yep so rather than say they don't care about blind testing, I should have said they covered up and have spent the next 3 decades dismissing blind testing.

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Every Friday and Saturday night is SNA blind testing :lol:

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every night in melbourne for the next six weeks … hic...

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I have long held a theory that a little bit of even harmonic distortion ( not just 2nd harmonic ) adds a certain magic or air to music and partially explains that certain magic you hear with a good vinyl setup or a good SET amp  (I have owned both) .   I have nothing else to base this on apart from theory and instinct and would love to be able to experiment and try it for myself in my own Digital playback system which although at times can sound magical with a good recording it can also  sound somewhat "dry" at times and not engaging.

 

Has anyone tried the experiment for themselves ? The H2 from Nelson Pass looks interesting but looks pretty basic and I fear would add just as much unwanted noise as well as 2nd Harmonic.   Has anyone tried it ?  Do you know where I could get my hands on one to experiment with ?

 

Of course this is just as much a function of your own playback system and the distortion in the system nonetheless I am really keen to hear the effects for myself.

 

I personally think that having the ultimate in non-existent THD  in your amps/DAC/turntable etc does not necessarily relate to the enjoyment of the music.   Some of the most engaging and enjoyable music I have ever heard came from my Michelle TT / Origin Live Silver Tonearm / Clearaudio Stradivari MC   combo even though I know that the distortion/dynamic range/ channel separation are terrible compared to my DAC .

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