Originally Posted by cel4145
Wanting to "squeeze the best measured performance" sounds like someone enjoying the challenge of engineering, not an admission that above a certain point, DACs are not sonically transparent.
You are stating who is buried in Grant's tomb
. Of course there is a certain point of quality after which it doesn't matter. The challenge is to get agreement on what that point is. I can assure you that having read NWAVGUY's articles and interacting with him on WBF Forum, his minimum threshold is higher than advocated by some here. To wit, he is not just happy with a listening test determining that level. He aims to achieve an objective level that is defensible. And by that I mean it is not an embarrassing design. In this day and age, the DAC silicon (chip) is very good. But what happens to it once it is inserted in a device that you use is usually far degraded. There is no excuse for that. Nwavguy shares that same point of view by the way.
In some sense then what we do here, as we advocate anything goes as long as it spits out audio and the poster can't produce a double blind test proving something else is better, is enabling more and more bad designs to be out there. We become the people who give excuses to companies and engineers to not do their job.
Here is a great example from Audio Engineering Society presentation. All spikes other than the main tall one are distortions.
The top guy could have reproduced the same results as the lower one. But either due to cost pressures, lack of engineering expertise or simply not caring, didn't. For the general public, they are making the right choice. But for people who spend time in these crowded forums trying to learn to do better, they deserve more than that. By the way, the designer and founder of the second company above is a member of AVS. When he comes here instead of folks trying to learn how he manages to produce such superlative performance, he gets beat up. It is a shame really as I have learned from him in my interactions with him. Fair notice: he is also a friend.
In your quote, note where he says it was not "conclusive" and that it "seems" better than the other DACs. That's an old post, long time before the more recent one I referenced, in which he says, "I’ve done the above blind testing using my own HD650 headphones and Benchmark DAC1 Pre. The O2 sounded so similar to the $1600 Benchmark I, and another listener, could not detect any difference. Simple logic tells us if what Lieven wrote about the O2/HD650 is true, it would also likely hold true for the Benchmark DAC1 Pre/HD650 or indeed any sufficiently transparent headphone amp. Considering the DAC1 is a Stereophile Class A (their highest rating) headphone component and rave reviewed by numerous other high-end audiophile reviewers, there seems to be a serious disconnect somewhere. At least one of the reviewers must be wrong and the Headfonia authors are far outnumbered."
Sorry, what do you mean it is an old post? It from 2011 and just over a year old. That aside, no matter how you read his writing, it is in favor of listening tests separating the good from the bad. That is not the view I see from vocal advocates who seemingly say any commercial device is good enough.
As to O2 being transparent to Benchmark, that device is Nwavguy's own design. He aimed to match and beat the performance of the Benchmark DAC. So I am not surprised that at the end, he arrived at transparency to his ears. The Benchmark sets a pretty high measured bar of performance. I have no problem with people being comfortable with that being the point at which transparency is set (putting aside jitter which do not show up correctly in this class of DAC). This listening test does not change his comparison to other DACs that I quoted.
By the way, if I had showed up here and said I and another guy heard a difference between two DACs, folks on the other side woudl blow a gasket and would not believe me
. They would demand a ton of documentation, witnesses, and would not at all accept that assertion without "statistical proof." Yet as tables are turned and the evidence is lack of difference, that same type of testing gets quoted and sanctioned. Do we or do we not accept ad-hoc results such as what you quoted?
Anyway, don't intend to beat up this dead horse. Just thought I point out as i did earlier that Nwavguy does not make a good witness for your arguments. He is a caring engineering and audio enthusiast. He does not make excuses for poor designs. He does not go by casual web run measurements. And importantly, he is a designer and understands what causes degradation in audio designs. These do not make for good characteristics of an expert witness in order to claim that better designs don't have merit. He says they do both on objective and subjective fronts.