Jump to content

Why do some audiophiles spend thousands of dollars on a DAC? Are they searching for a "sound signature" they like, or just greater "accuracy"?


Recommended Posts

Audio is an illusion - trying to trick the brain into this is real.  Everyone's brain is different and what sends some into raptures, others go blah.   There is a simple remedy for the situation.   Have some friends over and ask them to bring their DAC's and have a listen.   Make a day of it, and you will find out what suits you in your system, and if spending lots of money is worth it to you.   I was once the DAC guy here buying all sorts of DAC's when released and it is interesting hearing differences.   I have toned it down now, but a sponsor here, Gieseler Audio, has released a new DAC at $1200.   I bought one, but due to the pandemic have not heard it yet, although a GTG soon is on the cards.   But others are raving about it and are comparing it to much more expensive DAC's.   Price is not necessarily an indicator of quality.

 

Thanks

Bill 

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 375
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

A consumer DAC is much more than just a chip.   If you take the PoV that anything in a hifi system degrades the sound ... people search for components that deliver the minimum degradation in

Yeah, honestly @MLXXX the whole premise of allowing YouTube viewers to judge sound quality of different DACs from a recorded video, played back on their device is massively flawed.  Others have alread

There's a 'Dorothy Dixer' if ever I heard one!     Andy  

3 hours ago, Satanica said:

Think about this, two DAC's which both cost $ XXXXX.XX but they sound different.

How could this have happened?

 

See the Carver challenge:

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

 

He believes he can get any two amps to sound the same.   So Stereophile took him up on it.   He succeeded, but what he had to do is not just look at distortion etc, but use a nulling technique where things we could measure, but usually do not, are made the same for both amps.

 

He got his Carver Amp to sound exactly the same as a more expensive amp.   People then naturally ask - why don't you make your amp sound that way and undercut the price of the more expensive one.   His answer is he builds amps to sound how he likes them.   He can make his amp sound the same as any amp - but likes his amp.   Strange - but true.  There is also the quality control issues of exactly duplicating a one off tweaked design in a mass production line.

 

Thanks

Bill

Edited by bhobba
Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Again

 

People might find the following interesting:

 

 

He explains clearly how many things people think make no difference do.   Even listening tests with other engineers about differences in distortion levels, where both were below the level textbooks will tell you is inaudible.   The engineers were not surprised they heard a difference, they probably had enough experience to know textbooks are not always 100% reliable (just conjecture on my part), but the degree of difference shocked them.   He even explains why power cables make a difference - virtually everyone scoffs at that one - until they hear a genuine high end one and go - what the fook (the reason is noise floor modulation).   Note that while they sound different - if it sounds better comes down to personal preference.

 

Another interesting thing I have personally found is people mostly say the order of components effect on sound quality is speakers first, amp second, DAC third.  I have done this a number of times and the results have invariably been the same.   You take two DAC's - one everyone agrees is better than the other.   You take two amps - again one everyone agrees is better than the other.   What I found was everyone preferred the better DAC with the weaker amp than the weaker DAC with the better amp.   One GTG I remember clearly was when the NAD M51 was released.   That was back in my DAC guy days so of course I got one.  We compared in to the Killer DAC some may know, but I do not like to mention much because it causes controversy.   Everyone preferred the Killer DAC.   I had a cheap gainclone amp and at this GTG we had tons of people, including me, with highly upgraded Leak amps.   Everyone preferred the Leak amps to the gainclone.   We compared the Killer plus gainclone to the best of the upgraded Leaks and Nad.   Everyone preferred the Killer and gainclone.    So when putting together a system start with the speaker first, then DAC, then amp.  

 

Thanks

Bill

Edited by bhobba
  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd have to agree with your order there Bill, though with the caveat that in many cases the speaker choice determines the appropriate amp to drive them.

 

There isn't a single part of my main system the same as it was at the beginning of the year. It was all kicked off by my desire to try open baffle.

Edited by MattyW
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites


6 hours ago, bhobba said:

People then naturally ask - why don't you make your amp sound that way and undercut the price of the more expensive one.   His answer is he builds amps to sound how he likes them.   He can make his amp sound the same as any amp - but likes his amp.   Strange - but true. 

 

A common commercial strategy in this business is to strive for exclusiveness. In this example, only a Carver amp will give you the Carver made sound. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, bhobba said:

So when putting together a system start with the speaker first, then DAC, then amp.

 

My somewhat general counter advise to that is go with an active setup.

Edited by Satanica
Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, bhobba said:

People might find the following interesting:

 

The presenter certainly knows the technical side of DAC design, which is reassuring.  But if, as he claims, DAC spurious products over 300dB down can make an audible difference, what in heaven's name have the recording studios been using as ADCs?  Would any of their ADCs be as good as the presenter's DACs?

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, MLXXX said:

 

The presenter certainly knows the technical side of DAC design, which is reassuring.  But if, as he claims, DAC spurious products over 300dB down can make an audible difference, what in heaven's name have the recording studios been using as ADCs?  Would any of their ADCs be as good as the presenter's DACs?

 

Interesting question.    The presenter Rob Watts is working on his own ADC called the Davina for that very reason:

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/chord-electronics-dave.766517/page-120#post-12376871

'Me too on the ADC (project code word Davina), its a project that I have been working on for a long time (actually the first prototype was in 2001). There are a number of key things happening that conventional ADC's don't do well - noise floor modulation, aliasing, and noise shaper resolution. The noise floor modulation issue was solved way back in 2001. Aliasing is a major problem - normal ADC decimation filters are half band, so offer worst case only -6dB rejection. But I have used -140 dB decimation filters, and can still hear the effects of aliasing. Fortunately its not difficult to design a filter that has no aliasing, its just FPGA resources. On the noise shaper side, getting Dave standard (350dB) is not a problem, I have already designed that noise shaper. We will be doing test recordings later this year, so I will publish test samples too on Head-Fi. I too am very excited about the sound quality possibilities of the ADC.'

 

But he designs DAC's for Chord and that takes a back seat to that work.

 

I have spoken to a couple of recording engineers who turned up at GTG's I have been to.   Except for one they were not what you would call audiophiles ie carefully listening for nuances.   As long as they can clearly hear the detail of what they are mastering they are fine.   One reviewed a pair of Lehehan ML1 speakers and found them blah.   He, at the time, recently upgraded to Wilsons:

https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/the-alexias-are-here.9778/

 

Rawl99 knows both the Wilsons and ML1's well.   His comment was in the setup the recording engineer used (SS amps - he believes Wilson's need valve gear) they would likely be 'etched' giving clear detail, but dry and unengaging.  The ML1's are different beasts again.   Yet a recording engineer I met many years ago swore by how accurate the ML1's were - they had revolutionised his mastering.

 

It is all very strange.

 

Thanks

Bill

 

Edited by bhobba
Link to post
Share on other sites


5 hours ago, MLXXX said:

 

The presenter certainly knows the technical side of DAC design, which is reassuring.  But if, as he claims, DAC spurious products over 300dB down can make an audible difference, what in heaven's name have the recording studios been using as ADCs?  Would any of their ADCs be as good as the presenter's DACs?

lol, that's not what the DAC's outputting, that's the noise floor of the noise shaper inside of the DAC chip, I don't know how he measures it but we have to believing him... I agree with him in terms of DA conversion inside of the chip, it all makes perfect sense because to date there's no perfect DA conversion so eliminating all possible distortion caused be modulation, shaping etc. so low in db just guarantees less of the distortion would be amplify and audible in the later stage but in all cases as he clearly shows at the end of his presentation his Dave is only (in relative terms) as good as -150db, haven't seen any other independent measurements so can't comment if it's lab measurements or real figures and how he ran that AP test (in terms of setting)

 

definitely impressive pcs of engineering I wouldn't be angry to own if I got one for free 😂 

Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, bhobba said:

The ML1's are different beasts again.   Yet a recording engineer I met many years ago swore by how accurate the ML1's were - they had revolutionised his mastering.

 

It is all very strange.

 

It sure is strange when you consider that even the most accurate speakers pale in comparison to how accurate ADC's and DAC's can be and are typically made.
And there's always the elephant in the room.

 

Surely the only real big advancement in audio gear technology in the last decade or two are speakers that are designed from the ground up to reduce room issues such as Kii THREE, Dutch & Dutch 8c, Buchardt A500 & A700. Oh and room correction technology such as Dirac Live.

Edited by Satanica
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 04/11/2020 at 12:14 AM, MLXXX said:

I'm not a disciple of "synergy". In the early days of valve power amplifiers there did tend to be a noticeable interaction between the audio output transformer and the speaker load. Some speakers could even trigger parasitic oscillations.   But these days I'd simply use a solid state power amplifier and expect it to deliver a flat frequency response at very low harmonic distortion, and low source impedance, into any conventional speaker system it was connected to, and of course remain stable!

 

If I somehow found myself in a position of needing to choose a DAC,  I would not (for argument's sake) be inclined to look for a "bright" DAC to compensate for a "dull" speaker system. I'd simply look for a DAC with a flat frequency response and  low distortion output, i.e. a standard DAC. (If the speakers in the room sounded dull then I might consider some sort of room correction processing.)

 

With this thread I hoped to get insight into why certain audiophiles feel it is worthwhile spending thousands of dollars on an external DAC. Specifically are they looking for the very best technical performance (e.g. extremely low jitter, extremely low levels of spurious output) or are they looking for some "spice" that will deliver a distinctive sound.  Your reference to "synergy" suggests to me that you might not be looking so much for  a neutral performance by a DAC, as a performance that will prove to be be pleasing in combination with the rest of your setup, including the acoustics of the listening room.

 

If that is the goal then perhaps a sound processor would be the logical way to go. As I said in my opening post:

 

 

Assisi, do you already use some form of adjustable advanced digital sound processing to deliver a special sound to suit the particular music being played?

 

 

I'm struggling to understand the point of your post as it seems like you have asked people's opinions and reasoning but have already decided your thoughts on it and want to argue that point?

 

All I know on the matter is I have three DACs. Starting from a 20 year old sound card. To recent ones by Clay and an Oppo 205 in the mix. 

 

Haven't swept Clay's, but his specs are solid, and so is he. 

 

All three DACs have solid responses and noise floors. 

 

Music quality is vastly different. Ranked from worst to best, Yamaha AVR (added for good measure) < 20yo USB sound card (Noise floor is quantization error) < Oppo 205 << Clay's stuff (Konverter).

 

Goes from harsh to detailed/fluid/natural.

 

Any amount of DSP EQ can't change much as they are all flat. And chances are this adds in other artifacts. 

 

All I learnt in audio system design, was that at some point you need back to back comparison of real signals. Listen to it, but also take the signal out vs signal in and compare. Tests etc with tones only go so far. Oversample the crap out of the output signal. 

 

I've also heard the 205 mods can make a big improvement by replacing the analogue output stage after the chip. The chip is apparently quite good. 

 

By the same argument DSP could fix an amplifier with a flat response. But there is no way an amplifier with flat sine wave response and low distortion can be fixed if it hasn't got the ability to dump current fast when needed in big transients. Or if it then also loses detail. Eg any Yamaha AVR I've heard and their amps under $2k (not that I've heard anything of theirs better) basically soft clip, they lose all the slam and attack and can't follow the music compared to a good amp and miss the peaks. 

 

And while I'm mostly ignorant about electrical engineering, much of what I understand about DAC quality is the quality of the analogue amplification after the chip plays a big part. This seems to be backed up with the mods available for various Oppo. And that there aren't actually that many chips around, but lots of different DACs. 

Edited by DrSK
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites


On 10/11/2020 at 5:08 PM, Satanica said:

If audio reproduction is so largely subjective then how can anything ever be engineered I wonder.

I'll try this in reverse.

 

Think about this, two DAC's which both cost $ XXXXX.XX but they sound different.

How could this have happened?

 

Well let's look at the specs, they appear virtually the same.

And now let's look at the measurements, they appear virtually the same.

 

I know many will simply say they don't care and this isn't the hobby to care but how can one be so disinterested in the cause?

Did the designer of each DAC "tune" then differently?

Well this isn't a musical instrument and remember they spec and measure virtually the same.

Does the design and implementation of DAC's (and other audio electronics) produce random mutations like biological entities?

 

 

My opinion is the wrong specs are used, and dictated by marketing. 

 

But started off from basic tests that could be done with analogue instruments and tone tests using a sine wave generator. 

 

A simple test I'd love to have time to do is compare different sound DACs at how well they can reproduce the original music waveform into a preamp. 

Edited by DrSK
Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, DrSK said:

By the same argument DSP could fix an amplifier with a flat response. But there is no way an amplifier with flat sine wave response and low distortion can be fixed if it hasn't got the ability to dump current fast when needed in big transients.

As regards "current dumping",  a transient on a standard CD cannot exceed 22kHz, because that's around the highest frequency the format can handle because of the filtering needed to avoid spurious responses. (The raw studio signal perhaps at a 96kHz sample rate must be "bandlimited" for the CD master.) If the amplifier power bandwidth extends to at least 22kHz then it should be fine with the fastest transient encoded on a standard CD.

 

If we are talking about high-res formats as the sound source, then the question arises of the transient response of tweeters. However at an earlier stage in the chain of events one needs to consider the transient response of the studio microphones! Unlike ultrasonic microphones used for scientific research purposes, studio microphones do not have much of a response above 30kHz (in fact the response curves published may not even go as high as that).

Amplifier slew rate and power bandwidth were often reported on in the late decades of the 20th century. Of course these days we often don't see measurements disclosed in reviews. (Instead we may see some subjective comments about "ability to handle transients", e.g. they are "blurred" or "pristine".)  However modern semiconductor-based power amplifiers tend to have an upper limit to their power bandwidth that goes well beyond 20kHz, and well beyond the capabilities of studio microphones and of audiophile speaker systems.  So current dumping capability at high frequencies tends to be less of an issue in 2020.

 

5 hours ago, DrSK said:

I'm struggling to understand the point of your post as it seems like you have asked people's opinions and reasoning but have already decided your thoughts on it and want to argue that point?

Not really. Here are the key words in my post, where I restated what I was asking about:

"Specifically are they looking for the very best technical performance (e.g. extremely low jitter, extremely low levels of spurious output) or are they looking for some "spice" that will deliver a distinctive sound. "

 

I was (and am still) wondering whether audiophiles seeking out the very pricey DACs are tending to look for:

1. A neutral analogue output signal that is as "faithful" and "accurate" as possible, with respect to the digital data fed to the DAC,  or

2. An enhanced analogue output signal (e.g. using a dynamically variable frequency response, or with processing to create a widened sound stage).

 

 

If an audiophile is looking for 2 above, then a sound processor would seem to be a logical alternative approach, especially as sound processors can offer a very wide range of alternative settings to suit the listener's mood, or to suit the particular recording being played.

 

[I haven't mentioned this previously in this thread but I understand MQA in part aims to undo inaccuracy in the ADC process of the recording studio, but let's not get into too much complication by trying to discuss that!]

 

5 hours ago, DrSK said:

Music quality is vastly different. Ranked from worst to best, Yamaha AVR (added for good measure) < 20yo USB sound card (Noise floor is quantization error) < Oppo 205 << Clay's stuff (Konverter).

 

Goes from harsh to detailed/fluid/natural.

 

Any amount of DSP EQ can't change much as they are all flat.

Good that they're flat. I sometimes wonder whether certain exotic DACs are actually flat in their frequency response.

Edited by MLXXX
Link to post
Share on other sites
57 minutes ago, MLXXX said:

I was (and am still) wondering whether audiophiles seeking out the very pricey DACs are tending to look for:

 

1. A neutral analogue output signal that is as "faithful" and "accurate" as possible, with respect to the digital data fed to the DAC,  or

2. An enhanced analogue output signal (e.g. using a dynamically variable frequency response, or with processing to create a widened sound stage).

Or... 3. The best musical performance I can experience.

Don't shoot the messenger! 😬

 

57 minutes ago, MLXXX said:

If an audiophile is looking for 2 above, then a sound processor would seem to be a logical alternative approach, especially as sound processors can offer a very wide range of alternative settings to suit the listener's mood, or to suit the particular recording being played.

We've already been over this, a true audiophile by definition does not use "tone controls" no matter how fancy.

Don't shoot the messenger again! 😮

Edited by Satanica
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, MLXXX said:

As regards "current dumping",  a transient on a standard CD cannot exceed 22kHz, because that's around the highest frequency the format can handle because of the filtering needed to avoid spurious responses. (The raw studio signal perhaps at a 96kHz sample rate must be "bandlimited" for the CD master.) If the amplifier power bandwidth extends to at least 22kHz then it should be fine with the fastest transient encoded on a standard CD.

 

 

'Should'. And yet so many modern amps with claimed flat responses can't. Eg would fall a long way from reproducing a step input or delta impulse.  Eg massive differences in a flat AVR and an early flat Metaxas Soliloquy power amp. Both flat up to the 22kHz range.

 

Metaxas is through to 500kHz(?) and Class A to at least 35W based on my manual and can punch 100A. Also have Electrocompaniet AW180 monoblocks, which come second to the Metaxas on this punch on a double bass string pluck and lower end of a piono being thumped. The ECs match on the rest of the range. 

 

 

Quote

 

If we are talking about high-res formats as the sound source, then the question arises of the transient response of tweeters. However at an earlier stage in the chain of events one needs to consider the transient response of the studio microphones! Unlike ultrasonic microphones used for scientific research purposes, studio microphones do not have much of a response above 30kHz (in fact the response curves published may not even go as high as that).

Amplifier slew rate and power bandwidth were often reported on in the latter decades of the 20th century. Of course these days we often don't see measurements disclosed in reviews. (Instead we may see some subjective comments about "ability to handle transients", e.g. they are "blurred" or "pristine".)  However modern semiconductor-based power amplifiers tend to have an upper limit to their power bandwidth that goes well beyond 20kHz, and well beyond the capabilities of studio microphones and of audiophile speaker systems.  So current dumping capability at high frequencies tends to be less of an issue in 2020.

 

And yet so many can't. And it's in the reproduction of percussion where it is most obvious. Not the high frequency transients in terms of tonal sound, but don't seem to have the ability to dump enough current to respond to hits. Based on waveforms, I'd assume this is high frequency, and high amplitude, eg delta function. 

 

Quote

 

Not really. Here are the key words in my post, where I restated what I was asking about:

"Specifically are they looking for the very best technical performance (e.g. extremely low jitter, extremely low levels of spurious output) or are they looking for some "spice" that will deliver a distinctive sound. "

 

I was (and am still) wondering whether audiophiles seeking out the very pricey DACs are tending to look for:

1. A neutral analogue output signal that is as "faithful" and "accurate" as possible, with respect to the digital data fed to the DAC,  or

2. An enhanced analogue output signal (e.g. using a dynamically variable frequency response, or with processing to create a widened sound stage).

 

 

If an audiophile is looking for 2 above, then a sound processor would seem to be a logical alternative approach, especially as sound processors can offer a very wide range of alternative settings to suit the listener's mood, or to suit the particular recording being played.

 

[I haven't mentioned this previously in this thread but I understand MQA in part aims to undo inaccuracy in the ADC process of the recording studio, but let's not get into too much complication by trying to discuss that!]

 

Good that they're flat. I sometimes wonder whether certain exotic DACs are actually flat in their frequency response.

Sorry, I'd thought there was suggestion that DSP could solve the deficiencies etc in the DAC analogue output stage. 

 

Think I'll try recording a drummer mate with my lab instrumentation at 16bit and 24bit 48kHz for fun.

 

The punch the gear records was insane on some truck recordings and construction noise. Tried recording the recording in my speakers direct field which was surprisingly good give or take some low frequency room effects. Could reproduce the real stats of the live recording to 0.1dB. Yet to try with the EC. 

 

Overall I favour accuracy, strong imaging, not fatiguing. 

Edited by DrSK
Link to post
Share on other sites


4 hours ago, Satanica said:

Or... 3. The best musical performance I can experience.

Don't shoot the messenger! 😬

 

I hope my querying you about this Satanica is not a form of "shooting the messenger".

 

A conductor may ask a section in an orchestra to play a passage with more expression, and the performance of that passage may then become more "musical" as opposed to sounding bland or mechanical.  With loudspeakers the response is nowhere near flat, and by no means free of distortion: the sound produced is inevitably a compromise. So one might subjectively choose a compromise that seems to suit the music one listens to.  For example, if one's main genre is heavy rock, then a prominent bass response might help. Or a compromise that helps create a distinct sound stage rather than muddying the stereo effect. 

 

As for DACs, given that they can provide ruler flat frequency response, and extremely low distortion, what is meant by one DAC being more "musical" than another is not immediately apparent.  So Satanica, perhaps you are talking here about "enhanced" sound, rather than "neutral" sound?

 

I'm querying this because it goes to the core of the thread topic.   Once we start chasing subjective impressions left by a DAC we may be going beyond mere fidelity and into the realm of enhancement.

 

Putting the matter another way, if monitoring a live performance  in a studio using a direct analogue feed from a mixer were less satisfying than monitoring the digital output of the mixer* fed into a DAC, one would need to query what the DAC was doing. Was it simply converting digital to analogue, or was it performing an "enhancement" function?

 

______________

 

* Assuming the mixer is providing a completely dry feed, e.g. no equalisation, no dynamic compression, no reverb.  Another factor to consider would be the performance of the mixer's ADC.

Link to post
Share on other sites
14 minutes ago, MLXXX said:

more "musical"

 

That's subtly different to "best musical performance".   This seems to regard the reproduction by the DAC and amplifiers as a 'performance' in itself.  I only point his out because the imprecision of terminology , often leads to misunderstandings, and long discussions, with no meeting of the minds in sight.    Not that an easy solution presents itself.

Link to post
Share on other sites
21 hours ago, MLXXX said:

As for DACs, given that they can provide ruler flat frequency response, and extremely low distortion, what is meant by one DAC being more "musical" than another is not immediately apparent.  So Satanica, perhaps you are talking here about "enhanced" sound, rather than "neutral" sound?

 

I'm querying this because it goes to the core of the thread topic.   Once we start chasing subjective impressions left by a DAC we may be going beyond mere fidelity and into the realm of enhancement.

 

Putting the matter another way, if monitoring a live performance  in a studio using a direct analogue feed from a mixer were less satisfying than monitoring the digital output of the mixer* fed into a DAC, one would need to query what the DAC was doing. Was it simply converting digital to analogue, or was it performing an "enhancement" function?

 

No I'm not talking about "enhanced" sound because that implies it was a deliberate and more importantly a measurable change in frequency response.

Thus your recommendation of a sound processor.

 

A more "musical" sound may or may not imply that it was the deliberate intention of the vendor but more importantly it does not result is a measurable change in frequency response, noise reduction, distortion reduction etc.

Edited by Satanica
Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, Satanica said:

 

A more "musical" sound may or may not imply that it was the deliberate intention of the vendor but more importantly it does not result in a measurable change in frequency response, noise reduction, distortion reduction etc.

 

 

Whilst, I agree with you, S ... I'm not sure MLXXX can comprehend that two components can measure the same (at least, as far as the measurements we know how to do, anyway) - yet one can sound more 'musical' (= 'pleasing', to me  :) ).

 

Andy

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
6 minutes ago, andyr said:

Whilst, I agree with you, S ... I'm not sure MLXXX can comprehend that two components can measure the same (at least, as far as the measurements we know how to do, anyway) - yet one can sound more 'musical' (= 'pleasing', to me  :) ).

 

To be fair Andy, I'm not sure I can either. 😏

Link to post
Share on other sites
9 minutes ago, andyr said:
18 minutes ago, Satanica said:

 

A more "musical" sound may or may not imply that it was the deliberate intention of the vendor but more importantly it does not result in a measurable change in frequency response, noise reduction, distortion reduction etc.

 

 

Whilst, I agree with you, S ... I'm not sure MLXXX can comprehend that two components can measure the same (at least, as far as the measurements we know how to do, anyway) - yet one can sound more 'musical' (= 'pleasing', to me  :) ).

 

 

The trouble is that my mind just screams out wanting to know wtf the difference is, that it won't show up in the usual measurements.    So there's something else different? Great, then I want to know how to measure it - that sort of puzzle just niggles away at me, like the name of a song that you just can't recall. :)   

 

I won't be happy until we find out.   It's like that saying, if there's no pictures, then it didn't happen.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, aussievintage said:

 

 

The trouble is that my mind just screams out wanting to know wtf the difference is, that it won't show up in the usual measurements.    So there's something else different? Great, then I want to know how to measure it - that sort of puzzle just niggles away at me, like the name of a song that you just can't recall. :)   

 

I won't be happy until we find out.   It's like that saying, if there's no pictures, then it didn't happen.

I firmly believe the standard spec sheets are measuring the wrong thing.

 

But they are what market demands, based on years of historical measurements back when tonal frequency sweeps and tonal distortion measurements were all that could be measured. I don't think measurements for audio have moved on at all and are deficient, given the real differences in equipment with similar spec sheets. 

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Satanica said:

 

To be fair Andy, I'm not sure I can either. 😏

 

 

I'm happy to choose components by how they sound - ie. the kick I get from listening to them ... and don't really gaf what they measure like.  :)

 

1 hour ago, aussievintage said:

 

The trouble is that my mind just screams out wanting to know wtf the difference is, that it won't show up in the usual measurements.    So there's something else different? Great, then I want to know how to measure it - that sort of puzzle just niggles away at me, like the name of a song that you just can't recall. :)   

 

 

I think the key there, av, is "the usual measurements "!  IOW, the ones we know how to do.  :|

 

OK ... let me put a scenario to you (involving 2 amps) and perhaps you would tell me what you would measure, in order to show why amp #2 did what it did.  :)  (The 5 people at this listening session all heard the same thing.)

 

The scenario is as follows:

  • you are listening to amp #1 and then amp #2.
  • these are driving the same pair of spkrs and have the same preamp & CDP in front of them.  And you are listening to the same CD - involving a female singer - with both amps.
  • IOW - the only change is ... amp #1 is taken out and replaced with amp #2.
  • with amp #1, the singer is in the same plane as the speakers.  So yes, there is depth behind the spkrs - but no sound stage in front of them.
  • with amp #2 - the singer jumps forward of the spkrs about a metre.  And there is also depth.

Both amps were ss:

  • amp #1 was a well-known US brand with several hundred watts on tap
  • amp #2 was a single-ended amp with 25w.

 

Andy

 

  • Love 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
10 minutes ago, DrSK said:

I firmly believe the standard spec sheets are measuring the wrong thing.

 

But they are what market demands, based on years of historical measurements back when tonal frequency sweeps and tonal distortion measurements were all that could be measured. I don't think measurements for audio have moved on at all and are deficient, given the real differences in equipment with similar spec sheets. 

 

Hear hear!  :thumb:

 

(We can sit together on the "excommunicated" bench!  xD)

 

Andy

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, andyr said:

I think the key there, av, is "the usual measurements "!  IOW, the ones we know how to do.  :|

 

 

Bugger I lost a fairly long post about this just a minute ago.

 

To summarise, I think terminology like "musical" is an aggregational term for a whole bunch of small differences that we can already measure.  Separately, each small difference is not seen as pertinent.    We just haven't put the clues together to recognise what we need to bring into conjunction to make it happen.   

 

Sometimes, accidentally, these things just happen in a system, and it causes the listener to say it sounds more "musical" .  It doesn't help that it is probably different for each listener (but not always).  When people say the specs are similar, that also actually means there are small differences.     What are they?  Hmmm, don't know.  Some usual suspects may be part of it - harmonic content , amount and type, for one example.  That nearly flat frequency response, may still be bumpy enough to subtly change the flavour maybe?   I'd go for, measure every damn thing you can while doing subjective, but controlled testing, and look for a statistical correlation between any and all.

 

Edited by aussievintage
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 02/11/2020 at 8:24 AM, aussievintage said:

 

Already doing it on my raspberry Pi.   Mainly using filters and a "tube warmth" effect.  I'd welcome suggestions for other effects to try :) 

 

 

 

Which program, please? 😄👏🙏

 

....this should save me from a pretty expensive experiment 👍

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, tripitaka said:

 

Which program, please? 😄👏🙏

 

....this should save me from a pretty expensive experiment 👍

 

This little project, while predominantly a phono preamp, also has these features added.  It uses a "Puredata"  with LADSPA plugins (for things like the tube warmth)

 

eg.

 

image.png.12ab3e3e1754eb10d9d4071d5749ab3f.png

 

 

Edited by aussievintage
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
16 minutes ago, andyr said:

 

I'm happy to choose components by how they sound - ie. the kick I get from listening to them ... and don't really gaf what they measure like.  :)

 

 

I think the key there, av, is "the usual measurements "!  IOW, the ones we know how to do.  :|

 

OK ... let me put a scenario to you (involving 2 amps) and perhaps you would tell me what you would measure, in order to show why amp #2 did what it did.  :)  (The 5 people at this listening session all heard the same thing.)

 

The scenario is as follows:

  • you are listening to amp #1 and then amp #2.
  • these are driving the same pair of spkrs and have the same preamp & CDP in front of them.  And you are listening to the same CD - involving a female singer - with both amps.
  • IOW - the only change is ... amp #1 is taken out and replaced with amp #2.
  • with amp #1, the singer is in the same plane as the speakers.  So yes, there is depth behind the spkrs - but no sound stage in front of them.
  • with amp #2 - the singer jumps forward of the spkrs about a metre.  And there is also depth.

Both amps were ss:

  • amp #1 was a well-known US brand with several hundred watts on tap
  • amp #2 was a single-ended amp with 25w.

 

Andy

 


I think the known measurements for audio gear are absolutely vital for the initial engineering and design.  However listening will often pick up qualities that can not always be fully explained by the measurements.  Both listening and measurement are essential to good audio equipment design IMO.

 

The conundrum of what is being missed in our measurements is akin to the “hidden variable theory” in quantum mechanics.

https://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=video&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwij8qXMkf_sAhXI4zgGHfgKDas4ChC3AjAAegQIAhAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3De0GhlCzLmN4&usg=AOvVaw29VAfufCzMZWS2O9sjmLp6

 

The answers won’t be found in believing it’s all magic, and likewise, the answers won’t be found by ignoring clear observational evidence.  

 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Well I am about to genuinely start looking for an external dac to stream through and perhaps play hi-res downloaded files through. I've been reading this thread since it started and have been thinking about what I think I'm after. I guess I'm after a few things:

 

1. I want the device to be able to do certain things - Decode MQA, play resolution high enough to ensure it won't be outdated too soon. 

2. Hopefully improve sound quality over what I have at present.

3. Have a sound that I love and excites/impresses me when I hear it. 

 

What I am not too concerned about:

1. What price it is (within reason of course). 

2. What other people think (bragging rights).

3. Accuracy - this is a strange one. I like my music to be accurate but not at the cost of not liking the sound. I used to think accuracy was the be-all and end-all, I don't think as much in that way now. I prefer to just like what I hear, hard to explain. I guess I'm just trying to enjoy the music more however it comes and worry less about how 'my system' sounds. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, andyr said:
  •  
  • with amp #1, the singer is in the same plane as the speakers.  So yes, there is depth behind the spkrs - but no sound stage in front of them.
  • with amp #2 - the singer jumps forward of the spkrs about a metre.  And there is also depth.

 

 

Just was thinking about this while watching Netflix in front of my relatively good soundbar.     Positioning outside of the plane  or line of the sound sources has got to be brought about by relative phasing fooling the ear.  The soundbar does this exceptionally well.  This perceived improvement in the two amp comparison may be just a form of distortion that is different between the 2 amplifiers.   I can't discount that the lack of depth may be the true nature of the recording, and the improved staging is just an effect.

Link to post
Share on other sites
46 minutes ago, blakey72 said:

I used to think accuracy was the be-all and end-all

 

 

So did I until I had a software control that dialed in artificial harmonics, and there was no doubt I preferred the sound with the added distortion.  Dare I say it - it was much more "musical"

Link to post
Share on other sites
11 minutes ago, aussievintage said:

 

I can't discount that the lack of depth may be the true nature of the recording, and the improved staging is just an effect.

 

 

Aah but that's just you, av!

 

I can't discount that the forwardness was the mic capturing the recording exactly - ie. that was the true nature of the recording - and the lack of forwardness in amp #1 is simply due to a lack in its design.  xD

 

13 minutes ago, aussievintage said:

 

So did I until I had a software control that dialed in artificial harmonics, and there was no doubt I preferred the sound with the added distortion.  Dare I say it - it was much more "musical"

 

 

"Musical" - you mean with added H2!  xD

 

(That's why tubes are so loved.)

 

Andy

Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, andyr said:

Aah but that's just you, av!

Absolutely true.

 

Just now, andyr said:

I can't discount that the forwardness was the mic capturing the recording exactly - ie. that was the true nature of the recording - and the lack of forwardness in amp #1 is simply due to a lack in its design.  xD

 

 

What was the recording?  The typical studio recording done with separate mics and separate tracks then mixed together is all artificial anyway.    Now if it was a live recording done the good old way with 2 or 3 microphones in front of the performance...

 

 

2 minutes ago, andyr said:

"Musical" - you mean with added H2!  xD

 

(That's why tubes are so loved.)

 

 

Yep, that's why I don't use the software on my main system.  It's also behind  the magic often spoken about when listening to SET amps.  I know it gets up some people's noses, but a my little 2A3 stlye SET through those efficient Osborns,   just sings musically all day.

Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, andyr said:

 

I'm happy to choose components by how they sound - ie. the kick I get from listening to them ... and don't really gaf what they measure like.  :)

 

 

I think the key there, av, is "the usual measurements "!  IOW, the ones we know how to do.  :|

 

OK ... let me put a scenario to you (involving 2 amps) and perhaps you would tell me what you would measure, in order to show why amp #2 did what it did.  :)  (The 5 people at this listening session all heard the same thing.)

 

The scenario is as follows:

  • you are listening to amp #1 and then amp #2.
  • these are driving the same pair of spkrs and have the same preamp & CDP in front of them.  And you are listening to the same CD - involving a female singer - with both amps.
  • IOW - the only change is ... amp #1 is taken out and replaced with amp #2.
  • with amp #1, the singer is in the same plane as the speakers.  So yes, there is depth behind the spkrs - but no sound stage in front of them.
  • with amp #2 - the singer jumps forward of the spkrs about a metre.  And there is also depth.

Both amps were ss:

  • amp #1 was a well-known US brand with several hundred watts on tap
  • amp #2 was a single-ended amp with 25w.

 

Andy

 

 

I'd start by measuring the signal at the listener location using a head and torso simulator. Or at least a binaural dual channel microphone setup. Run mics with range around 30kHz so they can't affect anything. 

 

Repeat with both amps and overlay the signals and compare.

 

Then repeat but with mics in the speaker direct field.

 

I'd oversample the source if digital by at least 10 times as nyquist limits don't cut it for capturing waveform details. For analogue source I'd still run 10 times CD sample rate. 

 

Gut feeling is I'd expect to see differences in attack for the vocals and introduced transients.

 

Higher attack, decay and cleaner signals bring sound forward. Some DAC chips can alter this in the filtering to change how up front the sound is or introduce some transients to change the power of the sound. 

 

I also watched a live HD stream of a band at a Sydney venue which is an emerging thing with covid. It was interesting as I could see as some of the drum kit was very close mic'd (eg the brass) whereas the skins weren't. The difference in attack was very apparent and the close mic stuff popped out in front of my speakers whereas the skins were 2m behind my speakers. I spoke to the guys that did the mic setup and mixing, they couldn't hear this but were using some not very good headphones. All they could hear was stereo. My hifi got the stereo but also depth that was distracting as it didn't match the physical location of the instruments. 

 

I need to get some recordings of a drummer soon for work. It will be mono but will play with mic placement and see how distance to the drums changes how forward the sound is on playback. Might do the same just talking too. 

 

This is all stuff I'd love to measure and relates to my profession. Just need time, am currently lucky in that I have clients already booking me up until June next year. 

 

 

Edited by DrSK
Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Satanica said:

A more "musical" sound may or may not imply that it was the deliberate intention of the vendor but more importantly it does not result is a measurable change in frequency response, noise reduction, distortion reduction etc.

You have stated how you are using the word "musical", in the current context. 

 

It does strike me as a little odd that a DAC could sound different but be exactly the same as regards measured " frequency response, noise reduction, distortion reduction etc.".  I'd note that DACs can vary a little in their frequency response as they get towards their upper (Nyquist) limits, and that variation is more likely to have an audible effect if a DAC is fed a relatively low sample rate stream such as the 44.1kHz from a standard CD. 

 

6 hours ago, Satanica said:

No I'm not talking about "enhanced" sound because that implies it was a deliberate and more importantly a measurable change in frequency response.

Thus your recommendation of a sound processor.

Actually I was not thinking of a sound processor as just being used to change the frequency response, although that is the classic use for them. For example, a sound processor could change the stereo imaging, expand or compress the dynamic range, or add reverberation. 

Edited by MLXXX
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 07/11/2020 at 11:37 PM, kukynas said:

if you can compile the test file, tell me which soft you'd like to use for playback/recording I can run it through and send you the output files

Actually, kukynas, I think I've come up with a better test file now than the one I suggested to you earlier.  It starts with a short burst of 11025Hz sine wave at -6dB, and ends with a longer burst of 1000Hz sine wave, also at -6dB. In between is beautiful music!  I downloaded the music from the excellent HiRes download test bench webpage maintained by 2L the Nordic Sound.  It is the 9th item on the webpage: Magne Amdahl: Astrognosia - Aquarius, Norwegian Radio Orchestra, which runs for a minute and a half.  I selected the "original CD 16BIT/44kHz" version.

 

Using my own equipment, a Behringer FCA1616 audio interface,  as both a DAC and an ADC, I was nowhere near achieving bit-for-bit accuracy. Although the "round trip" (DAC to analogue cable to ADC) frequency response was well maintained at low frequencies, it tapered off significantly from about 10kHz.  This was using a sample rate of 44.1kHz, the same rate as the music file. 

 

Via Google Drive I can share with the forum the re-recordings I've made. The files are:

 

  1. The original as downloaded,  but with opening and closing tones added, and at 24 bits 44.1kHz rather than the original 16 bits 44.1kHz format.
  2. The above after a single "round trip" of being played back with a DAC and simultaneously re-recorded with an ADC.
  3. A later generation copy, involving X round trips from the original downloaded file.  Forum members are welcome to guess how many round trips were involved.  Does X equal 2, 3, even more?
  4. An even later generation copy, involving exactly twice as many round trips.  

 

The files are labelled and it is not necessary to guess which is which. Here they are: The 4 test files     The only unknown forum members are being asked to guess is how many passes through the audio interface were involved for file 3 [being half as many as for file 4].   

 

This exercise may serve to give a broad idea of how much sound degradation to expect when doing multiple conversions between digital and analogue with ad hoc devices. I suspect some people may be surprised at how well the sound holds up. On the other hand, degradation is audible even with a single round trip. (By the way, the first file is inverted in phase relative the other three.)

 

I should mention that the line output DACs in the Behringer interface are not a focal point of its design. It is more important as a recording device.  I should also mention that the front panel TRS inputs, used as line inputs,  involve a pre-amplifier prior to the ADC.   In the photos below you can see where the analogue cables connected at the rear of the FCA1616 (to its outputs "5" and "6"), and to the front of the unit (to it's inputs "3" and "4"). 

 

The DAW software used was Tracktion Waveform Pro 11. The gain was set such that each re-recording lost about 0.2B in each channel, though there was a little bit of gain fluctuation during the re-recording session probably due to rising temperature. In later editing, the 1kHz tone at the end of the file was used as a reference to restore the recorded files to the original amplitude for the 1kHz tone. The audio file editor Audacity was able to perform this role to the nearest thousandth of a dB!  It is amazing what precision is available when manipulating audio files!  It was also necessary to re-align the files to the nearest sample at 44.1kHz, because of latency delay.

 

 

20201113_163423DAC_OUT.thumb.jpg.94f10e26d4f30b6f4db3913eea70792f.jpg

 

 

20201113_162346INPUTS-ASTROGNOSIA.thumb.jpg.9cffe31beffa27036803c119fcb6cdab.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, blakey72 said:

Well I am about to genuinely start looking for an external dac to stream through and perhaps play hi-res downloaded files through. I've been reading this thread since it started and have been thinking about what I think I'm after. I guess I'm after a few things:

 

1. I want the device to be able to do certain things - Decode MQA, play resolution high enough to ensure it won't be outdated too soon. 

2. Hopefully improve sound quality over what I have at present.

3. Have a sound that I love and excites/impresses me when I hear it. 

 

What I am not too concerned about:

1. What price it is (within reason of course). 

2. What other people think (bragging rights).

3. Accuracy - this is a strange one. I like my music to be accurate but not at the cost of not liking the sound. I used to think accuracy was the be-all and end-all, I don't think as much in that way now. I prefer to just like what I hear, hard to explain. I guess I'm just trying to enjoy the music more however it comes and worry less about how 'my system' sounds. 

 

Look to MSB DACs, though the price "within reason" may fail there by your standards. It's hard to know what reason is to you.

Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, andyr said:
  • with amp #1, the singer is in the same plane as the speakers.  So yes, there is depth behind the spkrs - but no sound stage in front of them.
  • with amp #2 - the singer jumps forward of the spkrs about a metre.  And there is also depth.

Both amps were ss:

  • amp #1 was a well-known US brand with several hundred watts on tap
  • amp #2 was a single-ended amp with 25w.

 

The above scenario relates to the thread topic in that it is an example of where a noticeable audible effect may be due to non-standard audio device behaviour.  Both amps can't be right!  Do we choose a more accurate "standard" amplifier or a less accurate "exotic" one?  If the exotic one, will it be pleasing all the time, or only in special circumstances?  Will it sometimes be less pleasing than the standard amplifier?

 

The above scenario also  relates to the question of using sound processors, as one of their possible functions is to create interesting spatial effects. Doing something with sound that is common to both channels (such as a single microphone used for a vocalist and panned equally to Left and Right) so as to give an artificial spatial effect has been an available feature for a very long time, even before DSP took off in consumer audio equipment. 

 

(I'd be inclined to check the performance of amp #2 first. It is hard to avoid phase shifts with a valve operating in Class A driving an audio output transformer.  On the other hand if amp #1 uses DSP, there may be an issue with the speaker distance setting, a setting that can introduce a timing delay.)

Edited by MLXXX
Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, MLXXX said:

 

The above scenario relates to the thread topic in that it is an example of where a noticeable audible effect may be due to non-standard audio device behaviour.  Both amps can't be right!  Do we choose a more accurate "standard" amplifier or a less accurate "exotic" one?  If the exotic one, will it be pleasing all the time, or only in special circumstances?  Will it sometimes be less pleasing than the standard amplifier?

 

The above scenario also  relates to the question of using sound processors as one of their possible functions is to create interesting spatial effects. Doing something with sound that is common to both channels (such as a single microphone used for a vocalist and panned equally to Left and Right) so as to give an artificial spatial effect has been an available feature for a very long time, even before DSP took off in consumer audio equipment. 

Hate this! Pay good money to get good imaging, then the vocals get split in frequency content to left and right to widen the image so there is no distinct image. 

 

Quote

(I'd be inclined to check the performance of amp #2 first. It is hard to avoid phase shifts with a valve operating in Class A driving an audio output transformer.  On the other hand if amp #1 uses DSP, there may be an issue with the speaker distance setting, a setting that can introduce a timing delay.)

Interested in how phase shift brings the sound forward?  Would have thought if anything it weakens the image as phase shift will be frequency dependent. Compared to actual sounds when created and propagated where there is a change in frequency content and decay of peaks with distance. Eg decay of plosives etc. Or in many instances, the sound gets less clean with distance as direct to reflected time delay and level ratios change 

Edited by DrSK
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.




×
×
  • Create New...