Have a few questions regarding DAC's - AVS Forum
Forum Jump: 
Reply
 
Thread Tools
post #1 of 140 Old 04-02-2012, 10:56 AM - Thread Starter
Member
 
AdamITR's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 151
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Question #1:

I have an older Luxman R-117 (160w) receiver in very nice working condition. Sounds nice with my B&W 685 speakers & powered sub. I have been using my Mac Mini headphone jack that splits into RCA cables - Analog.

Would I be correct in assuming that adding an external USB DAC from the Mac Mini would drastically improve the sound quality?

Question #2:

I also have a new Onkyo 8050 (80w) that has an optical input and the Mac Mini headphone jack also can serve as an optical output (just learned this). I have purchased the mini adapter and optical cable and the B&W 685 speakers sound nice on this receiver also. With this method, it say's "Digital/PCM" on the display.

I would like to narrow it down to just one receiver, so I don't know what to do ... continue to use the optical aspect of the Onkyo ... or purchase an external USB DAC for the Luxman?

Thanks for any advice ... hope the above makes sense
AdamITR is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #2 of 140 Old 04-02-2012, 11:21 AM
AVS Special Member
 
A9X-308's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Australia; now run by adults.
Posts: 5,322
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 106 Post(s)
Liked: 83
Just use the Onkyo, especially if the system is multi use 2ch/HT. Or get a DAC if you are 2ch only and desperately need the extra 3dB power difference.
A9X-308 is offline  
post #3 of 140 Old 04-02-2012, 12:26 PM
AVS Special Member
 
mcnarus's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 6,126
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 94 Post(s)
Liked: 309
Quote:


Would I be correct in assuming that adding an external USB DAC from the Mac Mini would drastically improve the sound quality?

No. At most, you'll notice a modestly lower noise floor with an external DAC. And depending on what you're listening to and how loud it is, you might not even notice that.

So think modest improvement, not drastic.

Quote:


I would like to narrow it down to just one receiver, so I don't know what to do ... continue to use the optical aspect of the Onkyo ... or purchase an external USB DAC for the Luxman?

In terms of sound quality, it's a horse apiece. The Onkyo would be more convenient, but if you don't need its extra features and you have a sentimental attachment to the Luxman, the latter would be the way to go.

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

mcnarus is offline  
post #4 of 140 Old 04-03-2012, 10:45 AM
Advanced Member
 
Ysay's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 500
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 11
Got an improvement when I added the Emotiva XDA-1 (USB) to my music system. I will not say it was drastic though. I was using MacMini (optical) connected to Pioneer VSX-92TXH to drive a 3.1 speaker system before I added the DAC. Noticeable improvement when I select Pure Direct mode on the Pioneer.
Ysay is offline  
post #5 of 140 Old 04-03-2012, 12:01 PM
Senior Member
 
-Axle-'s Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Canada, Ont
Posts: 360
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Would it be a correct statement to say that a good DAC would alter the original sound less?

I'm trying to wrap my head around the whole need for a DAC and I understand the Digital-to-Analog function, but I find it difficult to substantiate the benefit as the DAC product itself seems highly popular in 2ch audio, but not in multi-channel audio (which adds to my confusion).

Anyways, I'll keep this short and clarify that I'm not trying to highjack the thread, but answering this question would shed light on the OP's question as well, by giving them the ability to discern what improvement they'll hear. mcnarus already stated a lower noise floor, but I'm not sure if that's the sole improvement.
-Axle- is offline  
post #6 of 140 Old 04-03-2012, 02:03 PM
AVS Special Member
 
MarkHotchkiss's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Long Beach, California
Posts: 1,476
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ysay View Post

Got an improvement when I added the Emotiva XDA-1 (USB) to my music system. I will not say it was drastic though. I was using MacMini (optical) connected to Pioneer VSX-92TXH to drive a 3.1 speaker system before I added the DAC. Noticeable improvement when I select Pure Direct mode on the Pioneer.

Hi Ysay,

This would tell me that the DAC in the Pioneer is not that great. And unless you use pure-direct mode, the output from the Emotiva is being re-digitized, and you are listening to the Pioneer's DAC again. I'm not surprised at the Emotiva being better than the Pioneer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by -Axle- View Post

. . . as the DAC product itself seems highly popular in 2ch audio, but not in multi-channel audio (which adds to my confusion).

Hi Axle,

I think the reason is that S/PDIF (both optical and coax) only supports lossless-formats for stereo (PCM), and supports multi-channel in lossy-formats (DD5.1, DTS). Why would you spend for a DAC in order to hear lossy audio?

A multi-channel DAC would need to use HDMI as its digital input, as only HDMI has the bandwidth for lossless multi-channel.

And then, where would you feed the audio? To three separate stereo power-amps? (That's what I do). That means that EQ and other room-compensations would need to be done in the "multi-channel DAC", whereas you have basically invented the AVR again.
MarkHotchkiss is offline  
post #7 of 140 Old 04-03-2012, 02:04 PM
AVS Addicted Member
 
arnyk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Grosse Pointe Woods, MI
Posts: 14,381
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 748 Post(s)
Liked: 1162
Quote:
Originally Posted by -Axle- View Post

Would it be a correct statement to say that a good DAC would alter the original sound less?

Right.

At this point, a DAC that does not alter the sound is the baseline. There are measured differences in the technical performance of DACs, but their audible significance is small enough to be effectively vanishing.

Quote:


I'm trying to wrap my head around the whole need for a DAC and I understand the Digital-to-Analog function, but I find it difficult to substantiate the benefit as the DAC product itself seems highly popular in 2ch audio, but not in multi-channel audio (which adds to my confusion).

In home audio, the need for an external DAC has been marginal, almost from the onset of digital audio (The CD). Creating the perceived need for an *improved* DAC was a function of high end audio during the early-mid 1980s.

Originally all DACs in home audio were subfunctions of larger components, usually CD players. The first generation CD players had slightly flawed DACs, but succeeding generations had DACs that did not cause audible changes to the sound on the CDs that they played.

Audio's high end created a new class of component called the separate DAC, which was alleged to upgrade the sound quality of CD players. Originally many of these components were flawed and actually sounded worse than the DACs in CD players, because of interfacing problems.

The sale of separate multichannel DACs has nearly always been reserved for very high end components, such as those by Lexicon. In the very early days of multichannel midfi surround converters were made by Sony and Technics, but sales were slow and they were not replaced in the respective product lines over the years.

Today, virtually all surround DACs are sold as subcomponents of AVRs. Of course high end products by people like Lexicon are still being sold in small quantities.

Quote:


Anyways, I'll keep this short and clarify that I'm not trying to highjack the thread, but answering this question would shed light on the OP's question as well, by giving them the ability to discern what improvement they'll hear.

I know of no reliable listening tests that have shown that the multichannel processors in AVRs have audible discrepancies and alter the sound as compared to the most ideal components possible.

Quote:


mcnarus already stated a lower noise floor, but I'm not sure if that's the sole improvement.

Actual audible improvements appear to be like hen's teeth. Of course we have a few people who assert otherwise but invariably, their opinions are based on casual listening evaluations.
arnyk is offline  
post #8 of 140 Old 04-03-2012, 05:14 PM
AVS Special Member
 
mcnarus's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 6,126
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 94 Post(s)
Liked: 309
Quote:


Would it be a correct statement to say that a good DAC would alter the original sound less?

Less than what? Even a mediocre DAC these days is so good that it has no audible effect. In controlled comparisons, people cannot tell DACs apart (a few design flaws aside).

Quote:


I'm trying to wrap my head around the whole need for a DAC and I understand the Digital-to-Analog function, but I find it difficult to substantiate the benefit as the DAC product itself seems highly popular in 2ch audio, but not in multi-channel audio (which adds to my confusion).

Every multichannel receiver has a DAC built in, so most consumers have no use for a freestanding DAC. Two-channel receivers and amps generally don't have a DAC (with a growing number of exceptions recently), so there was at least a plausible reason for the existence of freestanding two-channel DACs.

But, as I said above, the DAC in that freestanding unit isn't audibly better than the one in a CD player or AVR, or in your computer, for that matter. Freestanding DACs are really a vanity product for the everything-matters-my-ears-are-better-than-any measurements crowd.

Quote:


mcnarus already stated a lower noise floor, but I'm not sure if that's the sole improvement.

The lower noise floor, if it exists, has nothing to do with the DAC itself. The "problem" is that you've got an analog signal inside the electrically rather noisy confines of a computer. Whether that's audibly significant is debatable, but it's not an unreasonable concern in theory, at least. Moving the D-A conversion out of the computer avoids this problem, to whatever extent it is one.

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

mcnarus is offline  
post #9 of 140 Old 04-04-2012, 05:16 AM
AVS Special Member
 
walbert's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 1,811
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 11
I think just make a choice between the Luxman and the Onkyo. Both sound like they're working properly.

As far as what's "better sounding" - everything you've mentioned thus far is going to be in that "transparent" or "don't bother worrying about" range quite safely. Even the analog output from the Mac Mini (assuming it doesn't bleed noise, and that you aren't afraid of the RFI bogeyman).

In terms of what I'd do - if the analog out on the Mac is fine (and it probably is, I couldn't tell from your post if you'd been using this) and you can still return the Onkyo, I'd probably just do that (and keep the Luxman). Save your money.


To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 0 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
walbert is offline  
post #10 of 140 Old 04-04-2012, 06:44 AM
AVS Addicted Member
 
cel4145's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Posts: 11,757
Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 245 Post(s)
Liked: 778
In the PC audio world, some motherboard audio analog out is pretty crappy, and you would notice an improvement; whether or not it would be drastic is relative to your expectations. However, the Mac Mini analog out put could be very good (I'm not familiar with Apple audio quality). Since you like the sound you are getting right now, I would expect it might not be a big difference to use a DAC.

However, you can easily test whether or not you would like a DAC to use with the Mini and the Luxman without having to buy one first.

Use the DAC in the Onkyo. It has tape/tv output RCA jacks. Connect those to your Luxman into one of the comparable inputs. Then the Onkyo's DAC will be processing the optical from the Mini to analog and passing it to the Luxman, just like an external DAC would do.

Your questions are answered:
To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 0 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.

HT: Energy RC-50, RC-LCR, Veritas VS Surrounds | Dual CHT SS 18.1s | Denon AVR-888 | modified Dayton SA1000 | Antimode 8033C
Desktop: CBM-170 SE | SVS SB-1000 | Audio-GD NFB-11 | HK 3390
Headphone & Portable HE-400 | K612 Pro | HP150 | DX50 | E12
cel4145 is offline  
post #11 of 140 Old 04-04-2012, 12:08 PM
Senior Member
 
-Axle-'s Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Canada, Ont
Posts: 360
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Firstly, thank you all (MarkHotchkiss, arnyk, and mcnarus) for the detailed and informative replies. I learn something new every day.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkHotchkiss View Post

I think the reason is that S/PDIF (both optical and coax) only supports lossless-formats for stereo (PCM), and supports multi-channel in lossy-formats (DD5.1, DTS). Why would you spend for a DAC in order to hear lossy audio?

Don't people listen to MP3s, even CD's are limited in their output to 44.1 / 48khz through digital? Although, I have heard that a DAC becomes more important with higher encodes (96khz / 24-bit and the sort)

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkHotchkiss View Post

A multi-channel DAC would need to use HDMI as its digital input, as only HDMI has the bandwidth for lossless multi-channel.

That makes a lot of sense, it would probably create a lot of complexities with syncing and HDMI revisions that would make DAC's obsolete as fast as an AVR. Wait, isn't that a gold mine business opportunity?

Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Right.

At this point, a DAC that does not alter the sound is the baseline. There are measured differences in the technical performance of DACs, but their audible significance is small enough to be effectively vanishing.

This is what I assumed was the case when I first heard about DAC's (ie. if they don't sell them as a regular commodity anymore, have they not evolved to a point where they're all quite capable and pretty much the same, like your average calculator). But then I started reading and have come across several users that promote their use. I'd even see it promoted on AVRs, like "such and such AVR has Burr Brown DACs, its better than ....".

Lastly, I went to buy a used centre channel a few weeks ago and the gentleman selling it invited me to listen to his new sound system, which was composed of a Logitech Squeezebox streaming system, tube amplifier, and (can't remember the brand name) DAC. I mentioned that I also had several squeezebox duets setup at home and asked why the need for the external DAC when the Squeezebox has analog outs. He then demonstrated the sound with and without the DAC and I could hear an audible difference. Thankfully, my wife was there too, who isn't an audio buff and hoped she would say she didn't hear any difference. However, she felt the same way too (I like getting her opinion as she's not into electronics like I am, which helps dispel a lot of hype for me....... oh and I guess because I value my wife's opinion on everything too ) so that didn't help.

I couldn't really explain the findings and I also didn't get to listen to music I was familiar with, so its one of those situations where you're very curious but don't want to spend a lot of money (he mentioned the DAC he was using was approx $500 used) to find out the truth, at least from your own perspective.

So when I got home I searched online and found a few of them, but all around that price range. I also saw that Emotiva sells one for $250 and know that they're a reputable name when it comes to amplifiers.... but I'm still left guessing as to whether its benefits are practical or not. Part of you feels like "Well, if a reputable company sells them, they must have some value" but another is telling me to be skeptical.

Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Today, virtually all surround DACs are sold as subcomponents of AVRs. Of course high end products by people like Lexicon are still being sold in small quantities.

So why do you think AVR companies bother advertising the DAC used? I mean, I don't see calculators advertising whether their CPU is made by one company or the other, we all assume they'll be fast and accurate enough. It seems to add more confusion to the entire affair. Maybe that's the goal, red herring.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Every multichannel receiver has a DAC built in, so most consumers have no use for a freestanding DAC. Two-channel receivers and amps generally don't have a DAC (with a growing number of exceptions recently), so there was at least a plausible reason for the existence of freestanding two-channel DACs.

That would also help explain why they're more popular in 2ch applications rather than multi-channel.
-Axle- is offline  
post #12 of 140 Old 04-04-2012, 12:47 PM
AVS Special Member
 
mcnarus's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 6,126
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 94 Post(s)
Liked: 309
Quote:


Lastly, I went to buy a used centre channel a few weeks ago and the gentleman selling it invited me to listen to his new sound system, which was composed of a Logitech Squeezebox streaming system, tube amplifier, and (can't remember the brand name) DAC. I mentioned that I also had several squeezebox duets setup at home and asked why the need for the external DAC when the Squeezebox has analog outs. He then demonstrated the sound with and without the DAC and I could hear an audible difference. Thankfully, my wife was there too, who isn't an audio buff and hoped she would say she didn't hear any difference. However, she felt the same way too (I like getting her opinion as she's not into electronics like I am, which helps dispel a lot of hype for me....... oh and I guess because I value my wife's opinion on everything too ) so that didn't help.

The first thing you need to understand in interpreting this episode is that human hearing is highly suggestible. We aren't precision machines that give you the same readout every time.

So what's the first thing that happened here? The guy told you the DAC was going to sound better. He also told your wife. She's human, too, I presume. You've both been primed to expect it to sound better, and even if you're skeptical you can't just get your brain to erase that information. That alone could explain why it sounded better to you.

(True story: I once heard the green pen effect demonstrated in an audio store. I swear to god it sounded better after the CD was treated.)

Second, the guy made no effort to match the levels between the Squeezebox and the DAC. If you don't do that, you're comparing apples to oranges. And even if the volume seemed the same, it almost certainly wasn't close enough to eliminate that as a factor.

The people who claim that fancy, expensive DACs make a difference have never conducted a fair, objective comparison that avoids these problems. The people who have done such comparisons tell a very different story.

Quote:


So why do you think AVR companies bother advertising the DAC used?

Because it sounds impressive, and the less you know about audio the more impressive it sounds.

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

mcnarus is offline  
post #13 of 140 Old 04-04-2012, 01:01 PM
AVS Addicted Member
 
Ratman's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Collingswood, N.J.
Posts: 14,489
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 184 Post(s)
Liked: 289
Carnac the Magnificent should be chiming in soon.
Ratman is online now  
post #14 of 140 Old 04-04-2012, 01:26 PM
AVS Addicted Member
 
arnyk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Grosse Pointe Woods, MI
Posts: 14,381
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 748 Post(s)
Liked: 1162
Quote:
Originally Posted by -Axle- View Post

F".

Lastly, I went to buy a used centre channel a few weeks ago and the gentleman selling it invited me to listen to his new sound system, which was composed of a Logitech Squeezebox streaming system, tube amplifier, and (can't remember the brand name) DAC. I mentioned that I also had several squeezebox duets setup at home and asked why the need for the external DAC when the Squeezebox has analog outs. He then demonstrated the sound with and without the DAC and I could hear an audible difference. Thankfully, my wife was there too, who isn't an audio buff and hoped she would say she didn't hear any difference. However, she felt the same way too (I like getting her opinion as she's not into electronics like I am, which helps dispel a lot of hype for me....... oh and I guess because I value my wife's opinion on everything too ) so that didn't help.

I know how to make any two DACs sound different. The first way is based on the idea that many DACs have slightly different output voltages. The second way this can happen is with DACs that have output level controls. Are they adjusted alike?

When any two DACs are comprared the output voltages need to be first matched within 0.1 dB, more or less. Otherwise I can guarantee that they will sound different, based simply on the output level variation. Small differences in voltage level don't sound louder or softer, they just have some slight difference to their sound.

The third way is when DACs have similar rated output voltages but have different source impedances. When presented with real world amplifiers and preamps their differing output source impedance will cause differences in actual in-use output voltage even if the two units are specified the same and actually meet their specs.

The fourth way that DACs can sound different when they actually sound the same in a fair comparison is to not compare them directly, but have some delay for switching over, etc. It becomes to tell how they actually compare to each other.

Note that I have not yet mentioned any situations, and they can be very real, where you have some personal bias, perhaps one that you are not aware of.

One of the interesting thing about doing listening tests is that there are often far more ways that two identical things can sound different, then sound the same. Doing a listening test where things that are the same sound the same is actually a bit of an art because of all of the possible distractions, both technical and personal.
arnyk is offline  
post #15 of 140 Old 04-05-2012, 07:48 AM
Senior Member
 
-Axle-'s Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Canada, Ont
Posts: 360
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

The first thing you need to understand in interpreting this episode is that human hearing is highly suggestible. We aren't precision machines that give you the same readout every time.

So what's the first thing that happened here? The guy told you the DAC was going to sound better. He also told your wife. She's human, too, I presume. You've both been primed to expect it to sound better, and even if you're skeptical you can't just get your brain to erase that information. That alone could explain why it sounded better to you.

(True story: I once heard the green pen effect demonstrated in an audio store. I swear to god it sounded better after the CD was treated.)

It actually happened in reverse, he showed me with the DAC on first, then took it off after I made a comment to the effect of "I've heard of DACs but am not sure how important they are". I went into it with a very skeptical mind to tell you the truth. While I don't have a way of proving without a doubt that I'm "unfoolable" (lol, not a word, I know), I was certainly not going into it with a hope of hearing a difference. If anything, I was hoping I wouldn't hear a difference, so as to not need yet ANOTHER thing to buy. But I completely understand what you mean and remaining objective when it comes to aural matters is extremely difficult if not impossible in uncontrolled environments.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Second, the guy made no effort to match the levels between the Squeezebox and the DAC. If you don't do that, you're comparing apples to oranges. And even if the volume seemed the same, it almost certainly wasn't close enough to eliminate that as a factor.

This is something I learned about only recently, I wasn't aware that different DAC's output at different levels, which could very well account for what I heard. However, I can't dismiss what I heard entirely as I don't consider myself a rookie either.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Because it sounds impressive, and the less you know about audio the more impressive it sounds.

LOL, this is true, it applies to everything doesn't it? I mean, if someone came up to you and told you that the tomato in your sandwich was picked from the highest alp regions of southern New Hampton and later gently massaged with trillium leaves until ripe to cut into by renowned chef Pastor Frankfurter, you'd think there was something special about it too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

I know how to make any two DACs sound different.

Very informative, thank you for taking the time to explain each one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

One of the interesting thing about doing listening tests is that there are often far more ways that two identical things can sound different, then sound the same. Doing a listening test where things that are the same sound the same is actually a bit of an art because of all of the possible distractions, both technical and personal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

The people who claim that fancy, expensive DACs make a difference have never conducted a fair, objective comparison that avoids these problems. The people who have done such comparisons tell a very different story.

On that note, have you both tested the difference with and without a DAC yourselves? Don't get me wrong, I'm not doubting what you guys are saying, I'm just curious to know if you're stating it based on articles you've read, or personal experience.

I myself have only the one instance as an experience (the one I mentioned), but everything else I understand about them is based on things I've read.
-Axle- is offline  
post #16 of 140 Old 04-05-2012, 08:39 AM
AVS Addicted Member
 
arnyk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Grosse Pointe Woods, MI
Posts: 14,381
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 748 Post(s)
Liked: 1162
Quote:
Originally Posted by -Axle- View Post

It actually happened in reverse, he showed me with the DAC on first, then took it off after I made a comment to the effect of "I've heard of DACs but am not sure how important they are". I went into it with a very skeptical mind to tell you the truth. While I don't have a way of proving without a doubt that I'm "unfoolable" (lol, not a word, I know), I was certainly not going into it with a hope of hearing a difference.

If anything, I was hoping I wouldn't hear a difference, so as to not need yet ANOTHER thing to buy.

How many times have I heard these explanations? Often with the exact words! Zillions. Does it stand up to real world scrutiny? Nope.


Quote:


But I completely understand what you mean and remaining objective when it comes to aural matters is extremely difficult if not impossible in uncontrolled environments.

Hold that thought! ;-)

Quote:


This is something I learned about only recently, I wasn't aware that different DAC's output at different levels, which could very well account for what I heard. However, I can't dismiss what I heard entirely as I don't consider myself a rookie either.

You don't need to be a rookie to hear a small level shift and think its something else. All you need to be is smart enough to know that level differences are different than say, THD or SID.

Quote:


LOL, this is true, it applies to everything doesn't it? I mean, if someone came up to you and told you that the tomato in your sandwich was picked from the highest alp regions of southern New Hampton and later gently massaged with trillium leaves until ripe to cut into by renowned chef Pastor Frankfurter, you'd think there was something special about it too.

If someone told me that, my BS detector would be blasting so hard that I wouldn't be able to hear the rest of that story! ;-)

Quote:


On that note, have you both tested the difference with and without a DAC yourselves?

I've compared:

(1) Different CD players with different DACs

(2) ADC/DAC pairs switched in and out of a high quality signal path.

(3) Up to 20 repetitions of various ADC/DAC pairs switched in and out of a high quality signal path.

I always hear differences until the listening test is:

(a) Level matched
(b) time synched
(c) near-instantaneous switching
(d) adequate bias controls (e.g. DBT)
arnyk is offline  
post #17 of 140 Old 04-05-2012, 08:51 AM
AVS Special Member
 
mcnarus's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 6,126
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 94 Post(s)
Liked: 309
Quote:


It actually happened in reverse, he showed me with the DAC on first, then took it off after I made a comment to the effect of "I've heard of DACs but am not sure how important they are". I went into it with a very skeptical mind to tell you the truth. While I don't have a way of proving without a doubt that I'm "unfoolable" (lol, not a word, I know), I was certainly not going into it with a hope of hearing a difference. If anything, I was hoping I wouldn't hear a difference, so as to not need yet ANOTHER thing to buy.

It doesn't matter what you hope, or what you think consciously. This is all subconscious; you can't control it. (For that matter, are you sure you hoped you wouldn't have to buy something else?)

Again, the suggestion was there, even if you're the one who first broached the topic. And all it takes is a suggestion.

Quote:


However, I can't dismiss what I heard entirely as I don't consider myself a rookie either.

Just because you played a lot of Little League doesn't mean you can hit a major league fastball.

Quote:


LOL, this is true, it applies to everything doesn't it? I mean, if someone came up to you and told you that the tomato in your sandwich was picked from the highest alp regions of southern New Hampton and later gently massaged with trillium leaves until ripe to cut into by renowned chef Pastor Frankfurter, you'd think there was something special about it too.

Sure, and if eating it gives you pleasure, what does it matter if that pleasure comes from the flavor or just the story? If I told you it really tasted exactly the same as a grocery store tomato, you'd probably shrug and say, "Yeah, maybe, but it sure tastes good." High-end believers seem to have trouble with the shrugging thing. They've spent hundreds or thousands of dollars, and they do not want to entertain the possibility that the "improvement" is all a mirage.

Quote:


On that note, have you both tested the difference with and without a DAC yourselves? Don't get me wrong, I'm not doubting what you guys are saying, I'm just curious to know if you're stating it based on articles you've read, or personal experience.

Arny sure has. He's essentially one of the inventors of ABX tests, or at least of the first practical device for conducting them. I came to audio somewhat later, at which point the basic work had been done. I didn't see a need to create my own data when so much data was out there, and it all pointed in one direction.

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

mcnarus is offline  
post #18 of 140 Old 04-06-2012, 08:17 AM
Advanced Member
 
Majestyk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Posts: 985
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Last summer I had eight CD/DVD players at my place and I listened to all of them, two at a time...As in A/B switching the two input switches on my amp. Each CD player would play the same two identical CD's. Most of these players were middle to low end. The only real high end (well high end to most) was a Sony 5400ES. No outboard DAC was used in my tests.

With the exception of two players, I could easily tell the difference between them all. After awhile one could blind fold me and I could tell which was which. The worst sounding was a Sony PS1 (yes that PS1). The best sounding was the Sony 5400 and a JVC 311 from the 80's...These are the two that oddly I could NOT tell a difference, and I listened to those two units for a couple days...If I had higher end equipment I might have noticed something but it wouldn't have been much.

The others ranged from being brighter or 'electronic' sounding to not having as much sound-stage. But they all (except those two) had a different sound. Some other bad sounding ones were an LG DVD/CD player and a Pioneer DVD/CD player. I didn't much care for my Oppo BDP-83 either...Very cold/bright sounding.

I also had two other vintage JVC CD players that I tested as well. One was a changer from the early 90's...This one used JVC's own DAC, as opposed to the 311. And the other was the (then) top of the line XL-Z1010. Both these paled in comparison to the 311. Yes the 311 sounds better than the 1010.

Anyway my point is that if the different DAC's aren't manipulating the sound, then what specifically is? The 1010's build quality was impressive but it couldn't make it sound all that great.
Majestyk is offline  
post #19 of 140 Old 04-06-2012, 08:26 AM
AVS Special Member
 
mcnarus's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 6,126
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 94 Post(s)
Liked: 309
Quote:


Anyway my point is that if the different DAC's aren't manipulating the sound, then what specifically is?

Your brain.

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

mcnarus is offline  
post #20 of 140 Old 04-06-2012, 08:29 AM
 
diomania's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,389
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Majestyk View Post

Last summer I had eight CD/DVD players at my place and I listened to all of them, two at a time...As in A/B switching the two input switches on my amp. Each CD player would play the same two identical CD's. Most of these players were middle to low end. The only real high end (well high end to most) was a Sony 5400ES. No outboard DAC was used in my tests.

With the exception of two players, I could easily tell the difference between them all. After awhile one could blind fold me and I could tell which was which. The worst sounding was a Sony PS1 (yes that PS1). The best sounding was the Sony 5400 and a JVC 311 from the 80's...These are the two that oddly I could NOT tell a difference, and I listened to those two units for a couple days...If I had higher end equipment I might have noticed something but it wouldn't have been much.

The others ranged from being brighter or 'electronic' sounding to not having as much sound-stage. But they all (except those two) had a different sound. Some other bad sounding ones were an LG DVD/CD player and a Pioneer DVD/CD player. I didn't much care for my Oppo BDP-83 either...Very cold/bright sounding.

I also had two other vintage JVC CD players that I tested as well. One was a changer from the early 90's...This one used JVC's own DAC, as opposed to the 311. And the other was the (then) top of the line XL-Z1010. Both these paled in comparison to the 311. Yes the 311 sounds better than the 1010.

Anyway my point is that if the different DAC's aren't manipulating the sound, then what specifically is? The 1010's build quality was impressive but it couldn't make it sound all that great.

Interesting how you post that after this: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...3#post21202243
Do you not read the replies?
diomania is offline  
post #21 of 140 Old 04-06-2012, 10:17 AM
AVS Addicted Member
 
arnyk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Grosse Pointe Woods, MI
Posts: 14,381
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 748 Post(s)
Liked: 1162
Quote:
Originally Posted by Majestyk View Post


Anyway my point is that if the different DAC's aren't manipulating the sound, then what specifically is? The 1010's build quality was impressive but it couldn't make it sound all that great.

How well did you level match the CD players>

How well did you synchronize their outputs?

How did you keep your other knowlege about them from affecting your opinions?
arnyk is offline  
post #22 of 140 Old 04-06-2012, 10:29 AM
Advanced Member
 
Majestyk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Posts: 985
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 10
Of course I match the levels with my sound meter. HELLO. I also sweep the volume level up and down for each CD player, so I get a range. But my brain does not perceive louder as better. If that were the case, I would be listening to brick-walled CD's.

I also do not believe in break in and I think expensive power cables are a bunch of BS...Gotta love how people think their $500 1 foot power cables are superior when they have 200+ feet of low tech power cabling behind their walls.

But if you guys really think all CD players sound the same then you have some seriously bad hearing. My guess is you can't tell the difference between vinyl and CD's either.

Quote:


Your brain.

Not true, otherwise the Sony 5400 would not have sounded the same as the JVC 311 and the 1010 (in which I paid a lot for) wouldn't have had a gritty sound to it, in the high end. The brain would usually perceive the big heavy/expensive players as better. The PS1, by the way, is the worst sounding CD player I have ever heard. It sounded like I had wax in my ears. The unit was lightly used and in top condition. I tried both the AV multi port and the rca jacks. I really wanted this player to live up to the hype. I thought it would be cool to have a cheap top loader.

I'd like nothing more than to pit a $20 CD player with a $20,000 one and the $20 win. High end does not manipulate my perception of sound, unlike many others.

Concerning my Oppo BDP-83...I would love to have this as my primary player but I don't like the sound. It's great for Blu-ray but not CD's. I hate having a separate CD player in my rack...Which is my 30+ year old JVC 311. If my brain was manipulating the sound, you would think that the Oppo, especially at the time when it was my latest and greatest gadget, would win out. I tried very hard to like it but to this day it still sounds as mediocre as when I first bought it.

I sold the 5400ES, by the way. I could not justify keeping it when I could hear no difference with the JVC. SACD is nice but I only have a couple of them.
Majestyk is offline  
post #23 of 140 Old 04-06-2012, 10:44 AM
AVS Special Member
 
mcnarus's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 6,126
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 94 Post(s)
Liked: 309
Besides, your wife can hear it from the kitchen.

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

mcnarus is offline  
post #24 of 140 Old 04-06-2012, 11:20 AM
 
diomania's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 1,389
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Majestyk View Post

Of course I match the levels with my sound meter. HELLO.

One of those Radio Shack SPL meter types? You know those aren't precise enough for this kind of level matching, right?
diomania is offline  
post #25 of 140 Old 04-06-2012, 06:27 PM
AVS Special Member
 
walbert's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 1,811
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Liked: 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Besides, your wife can hear it from the kitchen.

I had to laugh at this. I know, I'm terrible.


To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 0 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.
walbert is offline  
post #26 of 140 Old 04-06-2012, 06:28 PM
AVS Addicted Member
 
cel4145's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Posts: 11,757
Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 245 Post(s)
Liked: 778
Quote:
Originally Posted by Majestyk View Post

But if you guys really think all CD players sound the same then you have some seriously bad hearing. My guess is you can't tell the difference between vinyl and CD's either.

If you are saying running analog out from the CD players gives different SQ, I'll agree. I'm guessing your JVC 311 probably doesn't have optical output (is that true?). While the DAC chip in each might not make an audible difference, I could see where the rest of the electronics in each unit might.

Your questions are answered:
To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 0 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.

HT: Energy RC-50, RC-LCR, Veritas VS Surrounds | Dual CHT SS 18.1s | Denon AVR-888 | modified Dayton SA1000 | Antimode 8033C
Desktop: CBM-170 SE | SVS SB-1000 | Audio-GD NFB-11 | HK 3390
Headphone & Portable HE-400 | K612 Pro | HP150 | DX50 | E12
cel4145 is offline  
post #27 of 140 Old 04-06-2012, 07:30 PM
AVS Special Member
 
mcnarus's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 6,126
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 94 Post(s)
Liked: 309
Quote:
While the DAC chip in each might not make an audible difference, I could see where the rest of the electronics in each unit might.

Hmm...I wonder if that word "see" is a double entendre.

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

mcnarus is offline  
post #28 of 140 Old 04-06-2012, 07:40 PM
AVS Addicted Member
 
cel4145's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Posts: 11,757
Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 245 Post(s)
Liked: 778
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

Hmm...I wonder if that word "see" is a double entendre.

I'm not that clever (lol).

Your questions are answered:
To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 0 or greater. You currently have 0 posts.

HT: Energy RC-50, RC-LCR, Veritas VS Surrounds | Dual CHT SS 18.1s | Denon AVR-888 | modified Dayton SA1000 | Antimode 8033C
Desktop: CBM-170 SE | SVS SB-1000 | Audio-GD NFB-11 | HK 3390
Headphone & Portable HE-400 | K612 Pro | HP150 | DX50 | E12
cel4145 is offline  
post #29 of 140 Old 04-07-2012, 04:19 AM
AVS Addicted Member
 
arnyk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Grosse Pointe Woods, MI
Posts: 14,381
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 748 Post(s)
Liked: 1162
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post

. While the DAC chip in each might not make an audible difference, I could see where the rest of the electronics in each unit might.

The rest of the electronics in a CD player isn't very much. There is usually an analog muting circuit, and a op amp buffer. While I've actually seen manufacturers and parts failures screw this up, it is far from the rocket science some would like you to believe.

The requirements on the op amp are very simple and easy. The signal voltages are modest but high enough so that absolutely the lowest noise is not necessary. It doesn't need to have much gain.

There are probably 1,000 or more different part numbers that could do the job, but for cost reasons probably less than 30 parts cover about 99% of all players currently in use. Probably 90% of all players use one of 5 different parts. The other circuit parameters are cook book.

The DAC vendors provide recommended circuits, and sometimes give the circuit board layout and land patterns.

Typically, the muting is done using a FET switch, often a discrete part costing pennies.

There are many reasons why you can easily buy a really good-sounding optical disc player for under $100. It's a very competitive business. Don't wait for Stereophile to publish a lab test on a good under-$100 player - it would be hard to tell the difference from bench tests, and running DBTs on CD players has always been as much fun as watching paint dry.
arnyk is offline  
post #30 of 140 Old 04-07-2012, 04:23 AM
AVS Addicted Member
 
arnyk's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Grosse Pointe Woods, MI
Posts: 14,381
Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 748 Post(s)
Liked: 1162
Quote:
Originally Posted by Majestyk View Post

Of course I match the levels with my sound meter.

Then you just told me that you don't know what you are doing. I'd never try to match levels with a SPL meter unless I wanted to blow the test. Seriously.

I've posted the right way to do this here before. I've been doing this since 1983.

The tool to use is a good voltmeter hooked across the speaker terminals. Play a CD with test tones at 20, 50, 1,000, 5,000, 15,000 and 20,000 Hz. Switch back and forth between the two players under test and look for a reading that changes less than 1%.

If your voltmeter does not have flat response, its not a big problem as long as your meter shows 100 or more counts. Just go for numerical matching.
arnyk is offline  
Reply 2 Channel Audio

User Tag List

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page


Forum Jump: 

Posting Rules  
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off