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post #1 of 39 Old 09-20-2013, 08:53 PM - Thread Starter
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Research, research, research...and then to AVS Forum to discern the fact from the fiction.

Is jitter even a problem? I feel like I'm reading about those ridiculous $500 demagnetizing guns for CDs. Is it even possible for the human ear to notice jitter on today's equipment? Or is it of comparison to the inaudible differences in all of today's "good" DACs?
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post #2 of 39 Old 09-20-2013, 10:40 PM
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A topic sure to breed massive dissent. I wrote some articles over on the WBF site. IMO it is unlikely current products from the midrange up suffer from audible jitter. YMMV - Don

"After silence, that which best expresses the inexpressible, is music" - Aldous Huxley
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post #3 of 39 Old 09-21-2013, 01:11 AM
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We tried to find audible jitter once many years ago and failed. We were able to measure it but not hear it. Those who hear it haven't encountered the joys of bias controlled listening.
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post #4 of 39 Old 09-21-2013, 03:20 AM
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ok - this may be "fun" like threads on amps, cables, etc, I'll watch from the sidelines.

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post #5 of 39 Old 09-21-2013, 03:27 AM
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Originally Posted by MamaKrayma View Post

Research, research, research...and then to AVS Forum to discern the fact from the fiction.

Is jitter even a problem?

Audible jitter is very common and impossible to reduce by just about any practical means...
...in LP playback and analog tape.

One of the ironies of life is all those analog fans who look down on digital because of jitter.

Audible jitter is relatively rare in digital recording and playback, even with inexpensive gear.
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I feel like I'm reading about those ridiculous $500 demagnetizing guns for CDs.

Umm, Stereophile? ;-)
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Is it even possible for the human ear to notice jitter on today's equipment? Or is it of comparison to the inaudible differences in all of today's "good" DACs?

When you are looking at those Jitter tests in various magazines such as this one:



Draw a line across the chart at -100 dB, and that is the line for total unconditional absence of audibility of jitter. Anything below that line will never be heard, Move the line up to -80, and you are still probably pretty safe and worse than all but the worst modern digital. Move it up to -50, and you are talking analog media.
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post #6 of 39 Old 09-21-2013, 03:32 AM
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Originally Posted by FMW View Post

We tried to find audible jitter once many years ago and failed. We were able to measure it but not hear it. Those who hear it haven't encountered the joys of bias controlled listening.

I have a number of techniques for adding jitter to music, one that works in real time, and several that work offline with an audio editor.

Using them is the only way that I've heard jitter in digital equipment. The pervasive jitter in analog media drove me to digital.

Jitter in extreme amounts gives music a sort of sour flavor. In huge amounts it is called vibrato.

Most of the people who write for ragazines and web sites and have tried to describe jitter are actually pretty laughable if you know what jitter sounds like. They appear to hear their imaginations.
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post #7 of 39 Old 09-21-2013, 09:56 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Audible jitter is very common and impossible to reduce by just about any practical means...
...in LP playback and analog tape.

One of the ironies of life is all those analog fans who look down on digital because of jitter.
I love a good cup of common sense in the morning.
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ok - this may be "fun" like threads on amps, cables, etc, I'll watch from the sidelines.
What are you talking about??? I got twice the fidelity when I upgraded to those cables with NASA rocket technology. How do I know what 2x distortion fidelity is? Because my presuppositions never lie!!!
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post #8 of 39 Old 09-21-2013, 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by MamaKrayma View Post

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....
Hopefully it last until the next cup. wink.gifbiggrin.gif
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post #9 of 39 Old 09-22-2013, 07:13 AM
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Jitter in extreme amounts gives music a sort of sour flavor. In huge amounts it is called vibrato.

It takes some serious golden ears to hear vibrato in nanosecond frequencies. wink.gif
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post #10 of 39 Old 09-23-2013, 12:19 PM
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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Draw a line across the chart at -100 dB, and that is the line for total unconditional absence of audibility of jitter. Anything below that line will never be heard, Move the line up to -80, and you are still probably pretty safe and worse than all but the worst modern digital. Move it up to -50, and you are talking analog media.

Perfectly stated Arny.

Of all the things to worry about that might be "damaging" audio quality, jitter is near the bottom of the list, with only "wires" below it at the end. biggrin.gif

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post #11 of 39 Old 09-23-2013, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by FMW View Post

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Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

Jitter in extreme amounts gives music a sort of sour flavor. In huge amounts it is called vibrato.

It takes some serious golden ears to hear vibrato in nanosecond frequencies. wink.gif

Actually all it takes is a little imagination in the form of expectation, which just about any sighted evaluation can conjur up quite reliably.
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post #12 of 39 Old 09-23-2013, 03:27 PM
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Back in the late 90s I did some testing of how jitter affected the audio DAC performance for an SOC (system on chip) piece of silicon, ie, one of the early chips that had video and audio processing and video and audio DACs all built into the same chip. They're very common now but 15 years ago it was a big deal.

Anyway, we found that if we made the jitter really bad (by removing the crystal oscillator and using a VCO instead of a VCXO), it could increase the noise floor enough to possibly be audible. That was a pretty dramatic worst-case scenario. With a crystal, jitter was so good that it barely affected the DAC performance at all.

That was 15 years ago. DACs built into multi-function chips are commonplace now, and advancements have been made in how those chips (and DACs in general) are able to handle jitter without degrading effects.

Long story short, jitter is likely not an audible issue and hasn't been for several years, unless you happen to find a particular DAC chip that's unusually susceptible to it (likely something >15 years old), AND a design of the clocking circuitry for that chip that is really poor.

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post #13 of 39 Old 09-24-2013, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by beaveav View Post

jitter is likely not an audible issue and hasn't been for several years
As far as I'm concerned, jitter has never been an audible problem. This report from 1984 (!) shows that in a blind test, a self-proclaimed golden ear was unable to hear when analog audio was passed through a digital "bottleneck" of A/D/A conversion:

More on ABX Testing

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post #14 of 39 Old 09-24-2013, 03:58 PM
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^Well, with the particular DAC I was using in my tests - again, one of the very first prototypes of silicon that was going to be included in an SoC - I was able to take its SNR from the 90dB range all the way down to the 70dB range (or maybe even less? if I remember correctly) by using a VCO instead of a VCXO, ie, by increasing jitter exponentially.

Removing the crystal was not industry practice, of course. No designs that I knew of at the time had tried such a thing. We were trying to see just how much cost we could cut from the design before the DAC performance really suffered (the crystal in the VCXO was expensive, at least relative to the other components in the circuit).

So what I was doing was really a worst-case-ever scenario: A DAC design whose performance was susceptible to jitter, and then a design of the circuitry around it making the jitter horrible. The combination led to really poor performance.

Needless to say, we never went into production with that design.

But it did show that if you you picked the worst-case DAC and then really did a poor design around it, it was possible to make jitter an issue.

Whether any other companies every went into production with something so bad, well, I doubt it. But then again, you never know what 'audiophile' companies will do! wink.gif

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post #15 of 39 Old 09-25-2013, 09:56 AM
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But it did show that if you you picked the worst-case DAC and then really did a poor design around it, it was possible to make jitter an issue.

Well, okay, sure. biggrin.gif

Not to editorialize too much, but the worst designs I see for audio devices is boutique stuff sold to the high-end market. You'll never see lame designs from a major manufacturer. But I've seen very expensive tube amps with 5 percent distortion, preamps on the verge of self-oscillation at ultrasonic frequencies, and DACs with no anti-aliasing filters on purpose, etc.

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post #16 of 39 Old 09-25-2013, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post

Well, okay, sure. biggrin.gif

Not to editorialize too much, but the worst designs I see for audio devices is boutique stuff sold to the high-end market. You'll never see lame designs from a major manufacturer. But I've seen very expensive tube amps with 5 percent distortion, preamps on the verge of self-oscillation at ultrasonic frequencies, and DACs with no anti-aliasing filters on purpose, etc.

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post #17 of 39 Old 09-25-2013, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post

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Originally Posted by beaveav View Post

But it did show that if you you picked the worst-case DAC and then really did a poor design around it, it was possible to make jitter an issue.

Well, okay, sure. biggrin.gif

Not to editorialize too much, but the worst designs I see for audio devices is boutique stuff sold to the high-end market. You'll never see lame designs from a major manufacturer. But I've seen very expensive tube amps with 5 percent distortion, preamps on the verge of self-oscillation at ultrasonic frequencies, and DACs with no anti-aliasing filters on purpose, etc.

Ethan, you talk like those are all bugs, but they are really features! ;-)

The tube amps have 5% distortion in order to for sure have "tube sound".
The preamps on the verging on ultrasonic oscillation have a rising high end to make old men feel young
The DACs with no anti-aliasing filters have approximately the same purpose as the oscillating preamps.

IMO, the lesson is that once you give up on searching for actual sonic accuracy, the next stop is Bedlam.
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post #18 of 39 Old 09-25-2013, 11:29 AM
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Technically the filter after the DAC is an image filter. The antialias filter goes before the ADC. Idea's pretty much the same.

"After silence, that which best expresses the inexpressible, is music" - Aldous Huxley
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post #19 of 39 Old 09-25-2013, 12:47 PM
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Ethan, you talk like those are all bugs, but they are really features! ;-)

The DACs with no anti-aliasing filters have approximately the same purpose as the oscillating preamps.

LOL! I just love those hack sites where they instruct you to bypass the DAC filtering and run directly into some obscure tube stage or worse yet, right out to the cable. They often claim it sounds "brighter". Yeah, I'll bet it does and the amp service shop as well as the speaker repair shops love it too!

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post #20 of 39 Old 09-26-2013, 06:08 AM
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Ethan, you talk like those are all bugs, but they are really features! ;-)

The DACs with no anti-aliasing filters have approximately the same purpose as the oscillating preamps.

LOL! I just love those hack sites where they instruct you to bypass the DAC filtering and run directly into some obscure tube stage or worse yet, right out to the cable. They often claim it sounds "brighter". Yeah, I'll bet it does and the amp service shop as well as the speaker repair shops love it too!

I think a lot of this comes from the common audiophile obsession with things that sound different. There is an obvious false presumption that if it sounds different, it sounds better. Nothing could be further from the truth.
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post #21 of 39 Old 09-26-2013, 07:48 AM
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I think a lot of this comes from the common audiophile obsession with things that sound different. There is an obvious false presumption that if it sounds different

There once were audiophiles whose goal was " fidelity", to reproduce the source signal as unaltered as possible.
The change came when suddenly the concept of "what sounds good" became paramount in this new audiophile world, where the word "neutral" describing a speaker became a swearword, were a speaker became "involving".
I don't want the speaker to involve me - that what the frigging music is for. My speakers just have to reproduce the signal as close to the input as possible, as has the rest of the chain.

The worst culprit in this afaik was `stereophile`, where taste and not fidelity became the guiding light, throwing all standards to compare objectively out of the window, where "t sounds good" became the mantra of comparison, not matter that this sound good was achieved with equipment that altered the signal significantly to be audible. Just look at some vaunted tube amps with distortions in the % range.

If it sounds good - how do I now what the original signal as extracted from the source really sounds like as intendet by the artist?
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Following this logic, a painting could never be as "good" as a photograph as a photograph is more "accurate" to the source. Music is art and appreciation is for the listener.

When scientists start using terms like "better", they are straying from their self-proclaimed objectivity. Better sound is subjective. No one can tell me that one system sounds better to me than another. Arguments that one has less measured distortion, greater dynamic range, etc., yes, but not "better".

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post #23 of 39 Old 09-26-2013, 08:34 AM
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I don't want the speaker to involve me - that what the frigging music is for.
+1.

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post #24 of 39 Old 09-26-2013, 08:34 AM
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There once were audiophiles whose goal was " fidelity", to reproduce the source signal as unaltered as possible.
The change came when suddenly the concept of "what sounds good" became paramount in this new audiophile world, where the word "neutral" describing a speaker became a swearword, were a speaker became "involving".
I don't want the speaker to involve me - that what the frigging music is for. My speakers just have to reproduce the signal as close to the input as possible, as has the rest of the chain.

The worst culprit in this afaik was `stereophile`, where taste and not fidelity became the guiding light, throwing all standards to compare objectively out of the window, where "t sounds good" became the mantra of comparison, not matter that this sound good was achieved with equipment that altered the signal significantly to be audible. Just look at some vaunted tube amps with distortions in the % range.

If it sounds good - how do I now what the original signal as extracted from the source really sounds like as intendet by the artist?

I think what is being overlooked here is that hearing the sound as the artist intended would mean hearing it in the room they did (the acoustic characteristics), the speakers they did, and using the electronic components they did. So its a myth that merely reproducing faithfully (meaning as neutral and uncolored as possible) will render the most accurate rendition. Different room acoustics alone makes this task impossible.

So my point is, given speaker and room non-linearity, a given note could be 10 or 20db different than the input FR. That is to say very good room/speaker frequency responses in a treated room might be +/-5db at 1/24th oct smoothing 20-20k by the time you get to the listening position. An average untreated room maybe +/-10db (ive seen plots much worse than this actually). This goes for the room the mastering/mixing engineer used also.

Now, I completely agree with you that altering the signal path via extra means such as processors and other gadgets is almost always detrimental. I would also agree that aiming for neutrality is a worthy goal, just as long as we realize in the end that such wont give us some objective mirror of the source.

My problem with declaring a speaker neutral is rooms are not. So whether a Stereophile reviewer says "neutral or "sounds good" is pretty meaningless without full FR, ETC and Waterfalls profiling the room that speaker is heard in, which of course is never provided. And even then, the results wouldn't be conclusive in a absolute sense.

So IMO, all we are really left with is whether you like it or not. Or in the case of reviews, whether it sounds good or not (in the subjective opinion of the reviewer).


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post #25 of 39 Old 09-26-2013, 09:09 AM
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I think what is being overlooked here is that hearing the sound as the artist intended would mean hearing it in the room they did (the acoustic characteristics), the speakers they did, and using the electronic components they did.
This is a common misconception. First of all, you are confusing "what the artist heard" and "what the artist intended you to hear." The artist (or more likely the engineers in the process) knows full well that you aren't going to hear this recording on his system. His intent is that you hear it as it is preserved on the recording. That's the reason that true audiophiles believe you need a system that distorts the sound as little as possible—so that you can hear what has been put on the recording as cleanly as possible. And, just to be clear, the "system" includes the room.

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post #26 of 39 Old 09-26-2013, 09:27 AM
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This is a common misconception. First of all, you are confusing "what the artist heard" and "what the artist intended you to hear." The artist (or more likely the engineers in the process) knows full well that you aren't going to hear this recording on his system. His intent is that you hear it as it is preserved on the recording. That's the reason that true audiophiles believe you need a system that distorts the sound as little as possible—so that you can hear what has been put on the recording as cleanly as possible. And, just to be clear, the "system" includes the room.

Well, that was my intended point actually. That is, that you wont hear it as they did in any case. And I agree, that artist knows that as well.


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post #27 of 39 Old 09-26-2013, 09:55 AM
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I think what is being overlooked here is that hearing the sound as the artist intended would mean hearing it in the room they did (the acoustic characteristics), the speakers they did, and using the electronic components they did. So its a myth that merely reproducing faithfully (meaning as neutral and uncolored as possible) will render the most accurate rendition. Different room acoustics alone makes this task impossible.

So my point is, given speaker and room non-linearity, a given note could be 10 or 20db different than the input FR. That is to say very good room/speaker frequency responses in a treated room might be +/-5db at 1/24th oct smoothing 20-20k by the time you get to the listening position. An average untreated room maybe +/-10db (ive seen plots much worse than this actually). This goes for the room the mastering/mixing engineer used also.

Now, I completely agree with you that altering the signal path via extra means such as processors and other gadgets is almost always detrimental. I would also agree that aiming for neutrality is a worthy goal, just as long as we realize in the end that such wont give us some objective mirror of the source.

My problem with declaring a speaker neutral is rooms are not. So whether a Stereophile reviewer says "neutral or "sounds good" is pretty meaningless without full FR, ETC and Waterfalls profiling the room that speaker is heard in, which of course is never provided. And even then, the results wouldn't be conclusive in a absolute sense.

So IMO, all we are really left with is whether you like it or not. Or in the case of reviews, whether it sounds good or not (in the subjective opinion of the reviewer).

+1

I don't care so much about what the artist intends for me to hear as much as I will like what I do hear. You can say my system isn't neutral. So what? It's all about getting the sound that we like IMO.

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Originally Posted by pstrisik View Post

I don't care so much about what the artist intends for me to hear as much as I will like what I do hear. You can say my system isn't neutral. So what? It's all about getting the sound that we like IMO.
That's called "preference" which is different from "reference". The latter relates to hi-fi. FYI, the former, your approach, is not what hi-fi is.
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post #29 of 39 Old 09-26-2013, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post

Well, okay, sure. biggrin.gif

Not to editorialize too much, but the worst designs I see for audio devices is boutique stuff sold to the high-end market. You'll never see lame designs from a major manufacturer. But I've seen very expensive tube amps with 5 percent distortion, preamps on the verge of self-oscillation at ultrasonic frequencies, and DACs with no anti-aliasing filters on purpose, etc.

--Ethan

Ethan, if you can, elaborate a bit more on your "boutique" vs major manufacturer comment. smile.gif The designs of the boutique brand you encountered was designed/engineered like that on purpose for intentional coloration I'm guessing?
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post #30 of 39 Old 09-26-2013, 12:28 PM
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The designs of the boutique brand you encountered was designed/engineered like that on purpose for intentional coloration I'm guessing?
Not necessarily intentional. I think it's more common that they simply don't know what they're doing.

No-noversampling DACs alter the frequency response, for example, but I don't think that's why people make them. People make them because they are under the mistaken impression that oversampling itself causes audible distortion. So they trade a non-audible distortion for an audible one. Dumb.

Similarly, if you listen to what tube amp makers say about their products, and compare that to what measurements tell us their products actually do, you'll see a real disconnect.

And let's not forget all the boutique products that, for all their claims, don't actually sound different at all.

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

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