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post #1 of 181 Old 12-16-2012, 02:00 PM - Thread Starter
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As a relative newbie to this arena, I am interested in learning about whether or not it would make sense for me to purchase a standalone DAC.
First, here is my setup:

Receiver: Denon 2808CI
Speakers: Mains: Tannoy Saturn S8's, Centre: S8C, Surrounds: S8LR's, Sub: REL T1

The majority of my audio listening is via streaming FLAC files (backed up from my CD catalogue) from my DNS-323 NAS unit to a media streamer (either Patriot Box Office or PIVOS AIOS). The signal is sent via HDMI (raw) to an hdmi hub and from there via hdmi to my receiver for decoding and playback.
I have been largely satisfied with my system, however, I do note quite a harshness, for example when listening to Florence and the Machine at mid to higher volumes.
When I was at my local high-end audio shop, it was suggested that using a DAC would help make the "leap" in quality of playback. The DacMagic 100 and DacMagic Plus from Cambridge audio were suggested as entry points. I've also been doing a bit of looking online at units by Schiit and DAC HD from Halide. All this learning about reclocking, jitter, sampling rates is proving to be a little overwhelming.

I'm sure dozens of people have posted queries such as this on this board, but I would appreciate some feedback, even if it is to link me with prior discussions.

My end goal at this point is to find a solution costing less than $500.
Cheers and thanks for your feedback.
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post #2 of 181 Old 12-16-2012, 02:21 PM
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I recently posted a rundown of listening tests comparing DACs and components containing DACs at another forum. Here's a link.

The bottom line is that no one has ever demonstrated that modern DACs are audibly indistinguishable. Whatever the problem with your system, it's not the DAC in your AVR, which is fine.

If the problem is limited to a subset of your disks, then the problem is with those disks, not with the system.

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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post #3 of 181 Old 12-17-2012, 12:47 AM
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From the link above:"My understanding is that they did not identify the actual players being tested, except for the cheapest one, which was a sub-$100 carousel model. Again, no differences were found."

Nice logic.

Have you performed any testing yourself? If so, which models, etc...?

Mike
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post #4 of 181 Old 12-17-2012, 07:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buzzz321 View Post

As a relative newbie to this arena, I am interested in learning about whether or not it would make sense for me to purchase a standalone DAC.
First, here is my setup:

Receiver: Denon 2808CI
Speakers: Mains: Tannoy Saturn S8's, Centre: S8C, Surrounds: S8LR's, Sub: REL T1

I have been largely satisfied with my system, however, I do note quite a harshness, for example when listening to Florence and the Machine at mid to higher volumes.

Most likely source of harshness would be system tuning - dominated by how the speakers and the room interface with your ears.

When I was at my local high-end audio shop, it was suggested that using a DAC would help make the "leap" in quality of playback.
[/quote]

If you approach them right, they will probably tell you the same thing about:

(1) Expensive Speaker cables
(2) Expensive interconnects
(3) biwring
(4) passive biamping
(5) A new AVR
(6) A whole new system.

;-)

Quote:
The DacMagic 100 and DacMagic Plus from Cambridge audio were suggested as entry points. I've also been doing a bit of looking online at units by Schiit and DAC HD from Halide. All this learning about reclocking, jitter, sampling rates is proving to be a little overwhelming.

Thinking deeply about reclocking, jitter, sampling rates in the long run is probably spinning your wheels.


My secret sources (the user's manual! ;-)) tell me that your AVR has Audyssey Multieq XT. Have you ever given it a test drive?
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post #5 of 181 Old 12-17-2012, 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Face2 View Post

From the link above:"My understanding is that they did not identify the actual players being tested, except for the cheapest one, which was a sub-$100 carousel model. Again, no differences were found."

Nice logic.

Have you performed any testing yourself? If so, which models, etc...?

I have, and get about the same results.

If you look at the specs and actual measured test results for most digital players running more than about $50 (and an amazing number costing less!) and compare them to what scientists tell us about what makes audible differences, they should all pretty much sound the same.

In a former post I recommended conferring an honorary PhD in Advertising and Promotion to anybody who is still making a business out of selling "Better sounding DACs" for more than $100. ;-)
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post #6 of 181 Old 12-21-2012, 10:31 AM
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I don't use a dac.
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post #7 of 181 Old 12-25-2012, 04:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buzzz321 View Post

As a relative newbie to this arena, I am interested in learning about whether or not it would make sense for me to purchase a standalone DAC.
First, here is my setup:
Receiver: Denon 2808CI
Speakers: Mains: Tannoy Saturn S8's, Centre: S8C, Surrounds: S8LR's, Sub: REL T1
The majority of my audio listening is via streaming FLAC files (backed up from my CD catalogue) from my DNS-323 NAS unit to a media streamer (either Patriot Box Office or PIVOS AIOS). The signal is sent via HDMI (raw) to an hdmi hub and from there via hdmi to my receiver for decoding and playback.
I have been largely satisfied with my system, however, I do note quite a harshness, for example when listening to Florence and the Machine at mid to higher volumes.
When I was at my local high-end audio shop, it was suggested that using a DAC would help make the "leap" in quality of playback. The DacMagic 100 and DacMagic Plus from Cambridge audio were suggested as entry points. I've also been doing a bit of looking online at units by Schiit and DAC HD from Halide. All this learning about reclocking, jitter, sampling rates is proving to be a little overwhelming.
I'm sure dozens of people have posted queries such as this on this board, but I would appreciate some feedback, even if it is to link me with prior discussions.
My end goal at this point is to find a solution costing less than $500.
Cheers and thanks for your feedback.



You may want to look at the new Parasound Zdac, it will work well for playing FLAC files and the unit is below your max price point. What is your UI (user interface)? How do you control the playing of your music files?

http://www.audioadvisor.com/prodinfo.asp?number=PAZDAC&variation=SIL
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post #8 of 181 Old 12-26-2012, 05:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by K Shep View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by buzzz321 View Post

As a relative newbie to this arena, I am interested in learning about whether or not it would make sense for me to purchase a standalone DAC.
First, here is my setup:
Receiver: Denon 2808CI
Speakers: Mains: Tannoy Saturn S8's, Centre: S8C, Surrounds: S8LR's, Sub: REL T1
The majority of my audio listening is via streaming FLAC files (backed up from my CD catalogue) from my DNS-323 NAS unit to a media streamer (either Patriot Box Office or PIVOS AIOS). The signal is sent via HDMI (raw) to an hdmi hub and from there via hdmi to my receiver for decoding and playback.
I have been largely satisfied with my system, however, I do note quite a harshness, for example when listening to Florence and the Machine at mid to higher volumes.
When I was at my local high-end audio shop, it was suggested that using a DAC would help make the "leap" in quality of playback. The DacMagic 100 and DacMagic Plus from Cambridge audio were suggested as entry points. I've also been doing a bit of looking online at units by Schiit and DAC HD from Halide. All this learning about reclocking, jitter, sampling rates is proving to be a little overwhelming.
I'm sure dozens of people have posted queries such as this on this board, but I would appreciate some feedback, even if it is to link me with prior discussions.
My end goal at this point is to find a solution costing less than $500.
Cheers and thanks for your feedback.



You may want to look at the new Parasound Zdac, it will work well for playing FLAC files and the unit is below your max price point. What is your UI (user interface)? How do you control the playing of your music files?

http://www.audioadvisor.com/prodinfo.asp?number=PAZDAC&variation=SIL

$500 and for what?
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post #9 of 181 Old 12-26-2012, 07:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by buzzz321 View Post

As a relative newbie to this arena, I am interested in learning about whether or not it would make sense for me to purchase a standalone DAC...I would appreciate some feedback
...My end goal at this point is to find a solution costing less than $500.
Cheers and thanks for your feedback.

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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

$500 and for what?


The OP asked for feedback on a standalone DAC costing less than $500. I have provided that information on a DAC that I have experience with and soon I will own. You may now explain to the OP that your opinion is a standalone DAC "doesn't make sense" based on his current equipment. At that point you will be providing your feedback.
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post #10 of 181 Old 12-30-2012, 08:37 PM
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I know the DACs don't make a difference idea is popular around here, but anyone who says this hasn't really compared them in a decent system. I think you would see an improvement with a new DAC, but the receiver's analog section may still be limiting the quality of playback. And to take advantage of the dac you would have to listen in direct bypass which means your sub wouldn't work either.

Having said that, if you want to know if the dac will make a difference, you can always go down to your dealer and ask them for a demo unit, or order from a store like audioadvisor.com that has a no questions asked return policy and give it a try in your own system. If there is no difference, send it back. I'm betting there will be a difference, whether the difference is worth the cost will be up to you and may be effected by the quality of the rest of the system.

My first dac was a PS Audio Digital Link III. I've since upgraded to a Perfectwave and also own a Oppo BDP-95. I've compared these with the DACs in an Anthem D2V, McIntosh MX119, and multiple receivers over the years and there is a difference between all of them.

B&W 803d, HTM2D, Paradigm ADP3v2 | JL Audio Fathom F113 | Aura Bass Shakers
McIntosh MX119, MC402 | Parasound 2205a | Velodyne SMS-1
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post #11 of 181 Old 12-30-2012, 10:42 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mvppsu View Post

I know the DACs don't make a difference idea is popular around here,
It's not an idea. Those are observations.
Quote:
but anyone who says this hasn't really compared them in a decent system.
How would you figure out a decent system, price, appearance, salesman's words or something else?
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I think you would see an improvement with a new DAC,
You think? In other words, you are not sure.
Quote:
but the receiver's analog section may still be limiting the quality of playback. And to take advantage of the dac you would have to listen in direct bypass which means your sub wouldn't work either.
That sucks. What happens to those who like deep bass? frown.gif
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I've compared these with the DACs in an Anthem D2V, McIntosh MX119, and multiple receivers over the years and there is a difference between all of them.
How did you hook them up when comparing?
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post #12 of 181 Old 12-31-2012, 06:49 AM
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Originally Posted by mvppsu View Post

I know the DACs don't make a difference idea is popular around here, but anyone who says this hasn't really compared them in a decent system.

How do you know that?

Do you have security cameras on every decent audio system in the world, and watch to see that nobody who says things about DACs that you disagree with has ever listened to any of those systems?

That is a ludicrous idea!

You can't know what you claim to know!
Quote:
I think you would see an improvement with a new DAC, but the receiver's analog section may still be limiting the quality of playback.

Who would be stupid enough make global claims after only doing this kind of experiment with just a receiver? Most of the DAC listening tests I've done were done with high quality separates. In some cases the DAC was connected to the input of the power amp with no active components in-between!
Quote:
And to take advantage of the dac you would have to listen in direct bypass which means your sub wouldn't work either.

Unless the subwoofer had its own active crossover, which was done in some cases. In other cases full-range speakers were used -serious full-range speakers not just little babies with 6 inch woofers.
Quote:
Having said that, if you want to know if the dac will make a difference, you can always go down to your dealer and ask them for a demo unit, or order from a store like audioadvisor.com that has a no questions asked return policy and give it a try in your own system. If there is no difference, send it back.

Its as if dealers are the only resources that exist? How about borrowing a DAC or just ponying up and buying a DAC outright to keep? Been there, done that.

How about doing DBTs related to DACs using a high end system belonging to a DAC true believer? Been there, done that too.

Quote:
I'm betting there will be a difference, whether the difference is worth the cost will be up to you and may be effected by the quality of the rest of the system.

If you are betting then you are kind of admitting that you don't have any relevant experience of your own. I do.

Quote:
My first dac was a PS Audio Digital Link III. I've since upgraded to a Perfectwave and also own a Oppo BDP-95. I've compared these with the DACs in an Anthem D2V, McIntosh MX119, and multiple receivers over the years and there is a difference
between all of them.

Two words: sighted evaluations.
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post #13 of 181 Old 01-07-2013, 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Two words: sighted evaluations.

I am sorry, but that is a rather ignorant thing to say without understanding the context of evaluation. Do you know how he auditioned those DACs? I have recently auditioned three DACs within my own system using a double blind test. Each was very different from one another sonically and while I knew the input was being changed, I was unaware as to what it was being changed to. This was a consistent enough evaluation for me to make a decision as to which I preferred. To simply invalidate someone's opinion because you may feel yours is the correct opinion is a very poor argument indeed.

Of note, my observations led me to the surprising conclusion that I preferred a $300 DAC over a $2000 one.

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post #14 of 181 Old 01-07-2013, 09:13 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Balthazar2k4 View Post

I have recently auditioned three DACs within my own system using a double blind test. Each was very different from one another sonically and while I knew the input was being changed,
What did you use for matching levels?
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post #15 of 181 Old 01-07-2013, 09:37 AM
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What did you use for matching levels?

All DACs were adjusted through their internal volume controls using pink noise and an SPL meter. One DAC had an analog volume control and the rest were digital. I was playing 16/44 music so the digital truncation was non-existent at such minor level adjustments. Each DAC was within 3db of each other at reference.

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post #16 of 181 Old 01-07-2013, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Balthazar2k4 View Post

All DACs were adjusted through their internal volume controls using pink noise and an SPL meter. One DAC had an analog volume control and the rest were digital. I was playing 16/44 music so the digital truncation was non-existent at such minor level adjustments. Each DAC was within 3db of each other at reference.

3db is far too much variation to be of value in a listening test. Something around .2 db is where you need to match levels.
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post #17 of 181 Old 01-07-2013, 09:50 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Balthazar2k4 View Post

Each DAC was within 3db of each other at reference.
That explains why you heard the difference.

As suggested already, it has to be matched more precisely. SPL meter won't do the job. Try voltmeter at speaker terminal.
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post #18 of 181 Old 01-07-2013, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by bfreedma View Post

3db is far too much variation to be of value in a listening test. Something around .2 db is where you need to match levels.

Sorry, I didn't mean I listened to them 3db off, I meant I only needed to adjust them within 3db of their internal reference to reach a reference volume match among all three. The overall variation was <0.5db (best I can do with my meter). I wanted to note that so that everyone would understand the minimal bit truncation that would have occurred via digital volume controls.

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post #19 of 181 Old 01-07-2013, 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by diomania View Post

SPL meter won't do the job.

I disagree completely.

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post #20 of 181 Old 01-07-2013, 09:58 AM
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One last comment. My wife, who has but a passing interest in my hobby, could easily tell the difference. She picked the most expensive model in the test. Proves that everyone will have their own perception of the "ideal" sound and my wife has expensive taste.

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Originally Posted by Balthazar2k4 View Post

Sorry, I didn't mean I listened to them 3db off, I meant I only needed to adjust them within 3db of their internal reference to reach a reference volume match among all three. The overall variation was <0.5db (best I can do with my meter).
So you held the meter and pointed towards the speakers to get the reading?
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post #22 of 181 Old 01-07-2013, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by diomania View Post

So you held the meter and pointed towards the speakers to get the reading?

Actually the meter was mounted to a camera tripod at roughly ear level and placed 3 feet directly in front of the right speaker. The procedure was repeated for the left speaker, but due to the sensitivity of the meter no difference was found.

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post #23 of 181 Old 01-07-2013, 11:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Balthazar2k4 View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Two words: sighted evaluations.

I am sorry, but that is a rather ignorant thing to say without understanding the context of evaluation.

What is there to understand beyond that fact?
Quote:
Do you know how he auditioned those DACs?

What is there that needs to be understand beyond that fact?
Quote:
I have recently auditioned three DACs within my own system using a double blind test.

Details of your test?

First you fault my lack of knowledge and then you compound the same situation by concealing all relevant details about your own test.

Let me be clear - I have no powers of telekenesis or mind reading. Never did, and I suspect I never will!
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Originally Posted by Balthazar2k4 View Post

Actually the meter was mounted to a camera tripod at roughly ear level and placed 3 feet directly in front of the right speaker. The procedure was repeated for the left speaker, but due to the sensitivity of the meter no difference was found.
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Originally Posted by Balthazar2k4 View Post

I meant I only needed to adjust them within 3db of their internal reference to reach a reference volume match among all three. The overall variation was <0.5db (best I can do with my meter).
If your SPL meter read 0.4db above reference SPL for one DAC and 0.4db below reference SPL for another DAC, then the level discrepancy between them would have been 0.8db. That's a larger discrepancy than the required precision. How did you ensure that such discrepancy wasn't present?
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post #25 of 181 Old 01-07-2013, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by diomania View Post

If your SPL meter read 0.4db above reference SPL for one DAC and 0.4db below reference SPL for another DAC, then the level discrepancy between them would have been 0.8db. That's a larger discrepancy than the required precision. How did you ensure that such discrepancy wasn't present?

I didn't. The simple fact of the matter is that the differences heard were not attributable to volume. The fact that vocals went from sounding as if they were coming from a left and right speaker to sounding like a focused singer in between them is all I need. The difference was far from subtle.

Everyone has a right to believe what they want and naysayers who spend their time finding reasons to fault others about their hobby should consider a different hobby themselves. If you aren't enjoying it, then don't do it.

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post #26 of 181 Old 01-07-2013, 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

What is there to understand beyond that fact?
What is there that needs to be understand beyond that fact?
Details of your test?
First you fault my lack of knowledge and then you compound the same situation by concealing all relevant details about your own test.
Let me be clear - I have no powers of telekenesis or mind reading. Never did, and I suspect I never will!

You sir are a very obtuse individual. This circular discussion is going nowhere. I have explained my testing through my posts that followed my initial and have nothing further to say on the matter. Good day.

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post #27 of 181 Old 01-07-2013, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Balthazar2k4 View Post

I didn't. The simple fact of the matter is that the differences heard were not attributable to volume. The fact that vocals went from sounding as if they were coming from a left and right speaker to sounding like a focused singer in between them is all I need. The difference was far from subtle.
Everyone has a right to believe what they want and naysayers who spend their time finding reasons to fault others about their hobby should consider a different hobby themselves. If you aren't enjoying it, then don't do it.

The volume difference you describe has repeatedly been proven to influence perception of SQ. Unless you aren't human, you're as susceptible to that as the rest of us - that's why the focus on level matching.

You certainly have the right to your own opinions
You certainly don't have the right to your own facts.

Why should anyone looking for accuracy around audio reproduction and its components need to go find a new hobby?
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post #28 of 181 Old 01-07-2013, 01:16 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Balthazar2k4 View Post

I didn't. The simple fact of the matter is that the differences heard were not attributable to volume.
You didn't do anything to see if the difference you heard was due to volume mismatch (lack of precision) or not but you state it as "fact of the matter"? Don't you think you should have confirmed it before calling it fact? Or you could have just not called it that way. rolleyes.gif
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naysayers who spend their time finding reasons to fault others about their hobby should consider a different hobby themselves. If you aren't enjoying it, then don't do it.
What is this "it" you are referring to? Is it listening to music or debating on internet forum?
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post #29 of 181 Old 01-07-2013, 02:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Balthazar2k4 View Post

...snip gratuitous insults...

This is an obvious gross flaw in your evaluations;

"All DACs were adjusted through their internal volume controls using pink noise and an SPL meter."

I can do that and hear differences all day long due to the fact that nobody can reliably match levels within 0.1 dB with acoustic measurements.

Trying to play along with the silly games I tried to play hunt-and-find with the fragments of a few details of how the tests were done.

I see nothing that gives me any confidence that any bias controls were used at all.

Here are some articles about proper procedures for doing a good reliable listening test:

http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=16295

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABX_test

http://www.audiocheck.net/blindtests_index.php
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post #30 of 181 Old 01-08-2013, 05:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Balthazar2k4 View Post

I didn't. The simple fact of the matter is that the differences heard were not attributable to volume. The fact that vocals went from sounding as if they were coming from a left and right speaker to sounding like a focused singer in between them is all I need. The difference was far from subtle.
Everyone has a right to believe what they want and naysayers who spend their time finding reasons to fault others about their hobby should consider a different hobby themselves. If you aren't enjoying it, then don't do it.

I agree, the difference between many DACs goes far beyond what can be attributed to volume. As Balthazar2k4 observed, the biggest differences can usually be heard in the quality of the stereo imaging. Beyond that there are differences in tonality and resolution. My system using the PS Audio Perfectwave DAC has a rock solid stereo image no matter what volume I play at. The same cannot be said when I switch to the other DACs in the system. Anyone sitting in the room would hear the difference regardless of volume. It is very obvious.

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