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Differences in DAC's - is it that noticeable?

post #1 of 203
Thread Starter 
I am looking at new receivers. When looking at the Yamaha Aventage line, I see that the xx30 line this year changed the DAC from Burr-Brown (24-bit) to ESS Sabre (32-bit). I realize ESS gets good reviews, and is newer than Burr-Brown.

Forgetting all of the official testing with engineering type results found in A/V magazines etc., in my living room, if I had last years model RX-A3020 with the Burr-Brown DAC and this years updated model RX-A3030 with the ESS Sabre DAC, since all other specs are almost exact, would I honestly be able to tell the difference in sound?
post #2 of 203
There are specification differences between various DACs but those differences are below the level of audibility.
post #3 of 203
Thread Starter 
I figured that. Sometimes I think newer is better. And I wonder how much of a difference 24-bit vs 32-bit makes. I have narrowed my a/v receiver choice down to two - both Yamaha's. RX-A2030 and RX-A3020. Last years model 3020 has the old Burr-Brown but more power. Since I have ADS1290 4-ohm speakers, power is important, thus I'm leaning towards the 3020.
post #4 of 203
Quote:
Originally Posted by MetalManCPA View Post

I figured that. Sometimes I think newer is better. And I wonder how much of a difference 24-bit vs 32-bit makes. I have narrowed my a/v receiver choice down to two - both Yamaha's. RX-A2030 and RX-A3020. Last years model 3020 has the old Burr-Brown but more power. Since I have ADS1290 4-ohm speakers, power is important, thus I'm leaning towards the 3020.

Bit density above 16 bits is meaningless for playback. Higher bit densities exist in the pro audio world to provide overhead for mixing and mastering. The home audio industry has created a demand for higher bit depths just as it has for DACs and expensive cables. It isn't something to worry about. Neither is the power. A 3db change in power overhead requires a doubling of the amplifier power. 3 db isn't much. Barely audible.

Choose the receiver that has the features you want and will use. Don't spend any time at all worrying about sound quality. Sound quality is all in the speakers and room acoustics.
post #5 of 203
Quote:
Originally Posted by MetalManCPA View Post

I am looking at new receivers. When looking at the Yamaha Aventage line, I see that the xx30 line this year changed the DAC from Burr-Brown (24-bit) to ESS Sabre (32-bit). I realize ESS gets good reviews, and is newer than Burr-Brown.

Forgetting all of the official testing with engineering type results found in A/V magazines etc., in my living room, if I had last years model RX-A3020 with the Burr-Brown DAC and this years updated model RX-A3030 with the ESS Sabre DAC, since all other specs are almost exact, would I honestly be able to tell the difference in sound?

Without chip model numbers, which DAC measures better is not clear. BB has some DACs with better resolution than some ESS DACs and vice versa.

Birr Brown is really Texas Instruments and they aren't going to lose business for the fun of it. This is a high volume highly competitive business.

However, the whole discussion is moot because most of the better DACs are sonic overkill.

24 bits is enough resolution to do a fair job of reproducing a thermonuclear explosion. They call DACs "24 bits" when it all means how many bits of data the product generates, not how much of that data is really random numbers. Ditto for 32 bits.

The DAC pitch mostly nets out to "Buy my product because it has better sounding alphabet soup". ;-)
post #6 of 203
Quote:
Originally Posted by MetalManCPA View Post

I figured that. Sometimes I think newer is better. And I wonder how much of a difference 24-bit vs 32-bit makes. I have narrowed my a/v receiver choice down to two - both Yamaha's. RX-A2030 and RX-A3020. Last years model 3020 has the old Burr-Brown but more power. Since I have ADS1290 4-ohm speakers, power is important, thus I'm leaning towards the 3020.

I wouldn't expect the power difference to amount to much either, but I'm not driving 4 ohm loads. Between those two, the 3020 seems the clear choice, considering the prices between the two generations should be about the same. The reduced MAP for the 3020 appears to be 1500, where MAP for the 2030 is still 1700.00, being their current gen. How that relates to in person/real world pricing, open-box, or refurbished, I don't know. But the 3020 features Yamaha's most comprehensive version of YPAO, as well as HQV video processing and a few other features I believe. Either YPAO or HQV, I would think, has the potential to have a bigger impact on performance than going from one good quality DAC to another.
post #7 of 203
Thread Starter 
So I guess for the same price, last years higher end 3020 would be better for me than this years 2030. All else being the same and ignoring the DAC change, the features are the same (except no MHL in the 3020) with a tad more power.
post #8 of 203
Try your best to ignore the concept of sound quality in an AV receiver. Choose the features you want and will use.
post #9 of 203
Quote:
Originally Posted by MetalManCPA View Post

So I guess for the same price, last years higher end 3020 would be better for me than this years 2030. All else being the same and ignoring the DAC change, the features are the same (except no MHL in the 3020) with a tad more power.

I just downloaded the PDF manuals for both the 3020 and the 3030/2030. Just looking at the video sections of each, the 3030/2030 series, dropping HQV, was much shorter. It seems Yamaha didn't try to replace any of the noise reduction features of HQV with their own solutions, just the scaling itself, which all indications are that it's not all that refined either. it sounds like the put the money into other aspects of the design, like the DACs and MHL. Anyone watching a lot of over-compressed video, like cable, satellite, digital delivery, dvd needing an AVR that can handle those sources better than their display, stb, or dvd player can, would likely find greater value in the 3020.
post #10 of 203
Quote:
Originally Posted by FMW View Post

Try your best to ignore the concept of sound quality in an AV receiver. Choose the features you want and will use.

Based on that advice, I wouldn't consider Yamaha at all. There are clearly better options from other manufacturers in terms of feature set, and in some cases they're much more affordable. I'm currently favoring Yamaha for exactly that: sound quality (though sound character might be a more apt terminology) and seeming better reliability and build.
post #11 of 203
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by FMW View Post

Try your best to ignore the concept of sound quality in an AV receiver. Choose the features you want and will use.

I'm coming more to the conclusion that sound quality only matters across manufacturers. I would assume a Yamaha, Denon, NAD, Cambridge Audio, etc. would have their own unique sound signatures. I don't have the time nor patience to audition them all. And in truth, if I didn't take them home into my listening environment, testing them somewhere else in a room with different acoustics would be almost meaningless.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chad Varnadore View Post

Based on that advice, I wouldn't consider Yamaha at all. There are clearly better options from other manufacturers in terms of feature set, and in some cases they're much more affordable. I'm currently favoring Yamaha for exactly that: sound quality (though sound character might be a more apt terminology) and seeming better reliability and build.

I could sit here for months deciding with all of the different variants of A/V Receivers at similar price points. I've been happy with my Yamaha RX-V2090/DDP-2 combo for somewhere close to 20 years. It's probably why I'm partial to Yamaha. Had problems with Kenwood driving my 1290's, am under maybe a false impression Denon is movies first, not a Sony fan for audio, and then jumping up to the higher end units gets out of my price range. $1,500 is pushing the limit for me.
post #12 of 203
Quote:
Originally Posted by MetalManCPA View Post

I'm coming more to the conclusion that sound quality only matters across manufacturers. I would assume a Yamaha, Denon, NAD, Cambridge Audio, etc. would have their own unique sound signatures. I don't have the time nor patience to audition them all. And in truth, if I didn't take them home into my listening environment, testing them somewhere else in a room with different acoustics would be almost meaningless.
I could sit here for months deciding with all of the different variants of A/V Receivers at similar price points. I've been happy with my Yamaha RX-V2090/DDP-2 combo for somewhere close to 20 years. It's probably why I'm partial to Yamaha. Had problems with Kenwood driving my 1290's, am under maybe a false impression Denon is movies first, not a Sony fan for audio, and then jumping up to the higher end units gets out of my price range. $1,500 is pushing the limit for me.

That's funny, as I just read today, someone say the same thing about the Yamaha, being good for movies, but not so much for music. I think it was in the 1020/2020/3020 thread. To clarify, I read it today, but the post might have been made months ago.

I've always heard it said about Denon's too. I've owned the 5700, 5800, 5805, and currently a 3808, which I tap into an external Outlaw 5-channel amp with the later. I imagine I don't have the ear for music that some do. Most of the music I listen to in the HT is concert BDs and dvds. But, I've never felt any of my previous Denon's lacking in "musicality", despite AT speakers that are known as "movies first" speakers too, in a room treated specifically for multi-channel reproduction of movie soundtracks.

Curiously, I first heard and bought the ATs at a boutigue shop that specialized primarily in stereo music reproduction and the ATs were the line they chose to carry for their sole HT setup. I listened to the ATs (with music, as they didn't even have a TV for HT demos) and then went straight to their listening room dedicated to music, with speakers that, I was told, were 20k a pair (versus about 5-6k for a complete 6-channel set of ATs). The difference wasn't substantial for my hearing, but then I could barely afford 5k, much less 20k for only two speakers. It was still funny how the shop owner used the 20k speakers to sell me on the quality of the 5-6k ones.

I became disenchanted with the sound of Sony AVRs back in the late 90s as well. A recent Sony 660 soundbar, purchased for my parents, makes me think their sound hasn't changed much - not that such is any kind of conclusive.
post #13 of 203
To be clear, without any room calibration enabled all the AVR's will sound exactly the same in a level matched bias controlled test. Identical. Since they have different room calibration routines it is possible that there might be subtle audible differences between them when engaged but I wouldn't put any qualitative value on those differences. They would just be differences. Choosing an AVR for sound quality doesn't make sense. Choose the model that has the features you want and will use. If one brand appeals to you more than another, then get that brand.
post #14 of 203
Quote:
Originally Posted by FMW View Post

To be clear, without any room calibration enabled all the AVR's will sound exactly the same in a level matched bias controlled test. Identical. Since they have different room calibration routines it is possible that there might be subtle audible differences between them when engaged but I wouldn't put any qualitative value on those differences. They would just be differences. Choosing an AVR for sound quality doesn't make sense. Choose the model that has the features you want and will use. If one brand appeals to you more than another, then get that brand.

"Identical" is an overstatement, as a number of the major players in question are well known for their color or somewhat unigue character in their audio products, whether subtle or not. Marantz has always been identified as being sonically warm, where I've often heard of Yamaha's as being bright (thouth the newer models apparently have a natural setting for those who don't like that about them), and I've had a number of my Denon's in the past, be called cold or neutral by reviewers. That's just the more respected brands. If you start comparing Denon, Yamaha, Marantz, Onkyo, to the likes of similarly priced Sonys the difference might be more profound. But, I would agree that around the same price-point I would expect comparable results from most top makes and models. Or at least I would have until a recent in-store demo of a Yamaha 2030 and a Marantz 7007.

The Yamaha and Marantz I A/B'd to the tune of Transformers 3 were almost strikingly different. And, since then, I've read several reports from people who've owned both brands making similar observations to what I heard. The difference was actually about as profound as turning Audyssey on and off with my current Denon, yet neither model's EQ was engaged for the demo, and according to two Magnolia salespersons, one of whom did or least helped with the installation (granted that's hardly a reliable qualifier), there shouldn't have been anything biasing the comparison in favor of the Yamaha to the degree I heard. The Yamaha, even without EQ had much greater clarity and articulation, while maintaining a somewhat forward balance to the soundstage. The Marantz was more balanced, but almost muddy.

I have no illusion that the comparison was completely fair, though I do believe the salespersons were being honest. And I imagine either unit would be a satisfying performer once properly set up, assuming there's no room or speaker bias that favors one or the other. But the base, non-EQ'd, character of the Yamaha intrigued me. And since then, I've had several owners affirm what I heard to be a characteristic rather unique to Yamaha.
post #15 of 203
Thread Starter 
Well, after all of my deliberation, I ordered an open box RX-A3020 for $1,349.99 from Crutchfield. Supposedly it has little or no use as probably a return for size (the salesman said he sees this with the larger and more expensive units). Same 3-year warranty as new, and 60-days to audition and return for either a new one or something else if I'm not happy.

I'm just a tad excited.....just a tad.
post #16 of 203
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chad Varnadore View Post

"Identical" is an overstatement, as a number of the major players in question are well known for their color or somewhat unigue character in their audio products, whether subtle or not. Marantz has always been identified as being sonically warm, where I've often heard of Yamaha's as being bright (thouth the newer models apparently have a natural setting for those who don't like that about them), and I've had a number of my Denon's in the past, be called cold or neutral by reviewers. .

Not an overstatement at all. Perhaps you can show me the results of some bias controlled test that had people correctly identifying AVR's with their calibration defeated? I don't think you can because they sound identical. They would be incompetently designed if they didn't. Audiophile reports of subjective sighted comparisons are meaningless whether you find them on the intenet or elsewhere.
post #17 of 203
Quote:
Originally Posted by FMW View Post

To be clear, without any room calibration enabled all the AVR's will sound exactly the same in a level matched bias controlled test. Identical. Since they have different room calibration routines it is possible that there might be subtle audible differences between them when engaged but I wouldn't put any qualitative value on those differences. They would just be differences. Choosing an AVR for sound quality doesn't make sense. Choose the model that has the features you want and will use. If one brand appeals to you more than another, then get that brand.

Please stop giving your "advice" rolleyes.gif

I have two stereo integrated amplifiers and they sound totally different. With one, it's too bright and harsh with B&W speakers, so I have to change to another make. With another, it's too warm a sound so need to change to brighter sounding speakers.

I friend of mine got rid of Pioneer Elite because it just had horrid sound, changed to a Arcam AVR.
post #18 of 203
if they sound different one or both isn't accurate. In early digital days, brit amps had a clear high frequency roloff that was quite audible. Unfortunately most of the differences people like me thought they heard between linear amps operating in their linear ranges disappear when we don't know which amp we're listening to, leading us to the unmistakable conclusion that we are human beings subject to human foibles. No real shame in that. I quite like being human . . . . OF course the superhumans among us will be offended
post #19 of 203
Does anyone have any links to a properly set up & executed DBT using different makes of comparably priced AVR's?

Thanks
post #20 of 203
Quote:
Originally Posted by fatbottom View Post

Please stop giving your "advice" rolleyes.gif

I have two stereo integrated amplifiers and they sound totally different. With one, it's too bright and harsh with B&W speakers, so I have to change to another make. With another, it's too warm a sound so need to change to brighter sounding speakers.

I friend of mine got rid of Pioneer Elite because it just had horrid sound, changed to a Arcam AVR.

Stop confusing people by claiming that what is your natural bias is actually something inherent in the amplifiers.
post #21 of 203
Quote:
Originally Posted by FMW View Post

...Since they have different room calibration routines it is possible that there might be subtle audible differences between them when engaged but I wouldn't put any qualitative value on those differences. They would just be differences.....
These statements ignore results from the Harman blind study re: preferred characteristics of RC products, for which performance, and preference, does vary.

Please don't generalize your own experience/opinion when there's evidence to support a different reality for users, in general.
post #22 of 203
Thread Starter 
I've been out of the a/v research game for decades. I've followed the market, gone to stores to play, but never in buying mode. Only days ago did I flare up my research to arrive at my decision. I felt I dug deep enough and found out adequate information to make a fairly informed decision, fitting my final choice slightly under the cap of my budget..

So that being said, I find the deeper and more subtle details of researching quite interesting.

Room calibration I understand, but I've never performed the technique in person. I knew my choice had YPAO, so in my mind whether Audyssey or Arc is better, since that feature was low on my list, just having that feature was good enough regardless of which one. It was irrelevant to me in my final decision making process. At the end of the day, with my partial hearing issues, I'll just sit in my sweet spot with the clicker after YPOA makes its pass and tweak things to my liking.

My living room is nothing acoustically special. Setting up the RX-V2090 eons ago was fairly simple. SO it will be interesting to me how things sound after YPAO does its thing.
post #23 of 203
Quote:
Originally Posted by FMW View Post

Not an overstatement at all. Perhaps you can show me the results of some bias controlled test that had people correctly identifying AVR's with their calibration defeated? I don't think you can because they sound identical. They would be incompetently designed if they didn't. Audiophile reports of subjective sighted comparisons are meaningless whether you find them on the intenet or elsewhere.

Can you show me the results of some "bias controlled test" where people couldn't tell a difference? I'd really love to read that, if you can. Seriously, I'm not just throwing that back at you. If your position is based on any published testing, relating to real world components, not just academic theory, I would sincerely like to see it. It might save me some money.

The fact is, I can buy two Onkyo 818's (new) with all the features I want for less than one Yamaha 3020 (also new), and have a backup while one is out for service, should I experience HDMI board failure due to overheating, like some others. If the Onkyo will sound just as good, considering I've already got enough amps to fill our room, considering it's got Audyssey, which I think I'd prefer to YPAO, and considering it features the same HQV video processing, I'd be a fool to pay so much more for a Yamaha.

I get your argument. To an extent I even agree with it. If you were saying that gold-plated recepticles are inaudible, or that decoding in the AVR is no better than decoding in the player and outputing PCM via HDMI, that bits are bits as it were, I'd be right there with you, even though there are some obvious exceptions to those rules too, like decoding in the player being required for certain features, or getting around real-world compatibility issues. But, I also think of it as something of an oversimplification, from a black and white world that... I'm sorry, but I don't live in; I'm not even sure I'd want to.

I'm disinclined to go along with the notion that subjective evaluation is meaningless - though, yes it does often seem you need some degree of experience, or even expertise, to interpret the usefullness and/or accuracy of many "professional" reviews; and anything written in a forum or on amazon should be taken with a grain of salt, including what I just said, as you don't know me, where I'm coming from, or where I'm going. I'm disinclined to think that two manufacturers having essentially the same basic specs on paper, but using very different parts and even different approaches in their design will necessarily produce products with the exact same end results; or, for that matter, that any manufacturer's goal is to make products that're indistinguishable from their competitors. If they all sound the same - which, just to be clear, is not my experience at all, but I'm willing to concede that at least some portion of what I've heard outside of my own system may have been influenced by aspects of setup more than design that I was not aware of - considering at any given price point most manufacturers products are fairly consistent in feature set, usually offering a lot more features than I want or need, and these days, most have the ability to ad many features via firmware updates should they think such important to remain competitive, it would seem that whichever manufacturer comes in with the lowest bid (corner cutting involved or not) should be the clear, undisputed winner. Brand loyalty will only get you so many sells. A competitive field isn't going to survive in such a world, and there seems to be ample competition in the audio arena.

So, maybe I'm reading you wrong. Maybe I should be putting more weight on your assertion that not sounding the same, imposes some manner of "incompetence" in design. On that note, whether manufacturers are just finding new ways to sonically taint their products to the extent that they prove appealing to a broad market or they are more genuinely engineering advancements in building a better horse, there seems to be too much out there in support of variety to discount it all as hearsay. I've been away from these boards for a few years, but yours is the first I've heard it posed that there are absolutely no differences in sound character between manufacturers. Maybe my knowledge is more limited than your own, but from what I know of it, and from my own experiences over the years, that doesn't even seem possible, outside of an idealistic frame of reference that more often than not doesn't coincide with application.
Edited by Chad Varnadore - 2/10/14 at 5:55pm
post #24 of 203
I don't know if anyone has done any bias controlled tests on AVR's. I did almost 2 years worth of bias controlled testing on all kinds of audio gear with a group of 10 audiophiles some years ago. We were unable to identify any hifi solid state amplifier from any other. The test included everything from an inexpensive Onkyo stereo receiver to a small Pioneer integrated amp to a 200 watt per channel Krell and a number of others. None of them had a sonic signature. My comments are based on that experience.

There are three key measurements for amplifiers. They are noise, distortion and variation from a flat frequency response. Every single modern AVR has numbers well below the level of audibility in all three categories.

That means that logic calls for any audible differences between them to result from hearing bias rather than from anything inherent in the units themselves.

That's why I said what I said. You can accept or not as you see fit.
post #25 of 203
post #26 of 203
Thread Starter 
So I'm confused then. Under your tests you heard no audible differences amongst not only brands but price ranges. In the reviews I read regarding the RX-A3020, mention was made of solid build quality. So are price differences mostly due to feature sets and supposed build quality as opposed to the actual sound it produces? Of course lets not forget the price on brand recognition. Each manufacturer probably adjusts their prices to place themselves at a particular desired level.
post #27 of 203
Quote:
Originally Posted by FMW View Post

I don't know if anyone has done any bias controlled tests on AVR's. I did almost 2 years worth of bias controlled testing on all kinds of audio gear with a group of 10 audiophiles some years ago. We were unable to identify any hifi solid state amplifier from any other. The test included everything from an inexpensive Onkyo stereo receiver to a small Pioneer integrated amp to a 200 watt per channel Krell and a number of others. None of them had a sonic signature. My comments are based on that experience.

There are three key measurements for amplifiers. They are noise, distortion and variation from a flat frequency response. Every single modern AVR has numbers well below the level of audibility in all three categories.

That means that logic calls for any audible differences between them to result from hearing bias rather than from anything inherent in the units themselves.

That's why I said what I said. You can accept or not as you see fit.

Really...
Could you provide more details..
I could possibly agree if you are playing the system @ low volume levels and in a small listening room.. rolleyes.gif
However once the demands of higher volume levels and larger rooms are entered, pushing quality high-resolution full-range loudspeakers the sonic differences become very obvious and audible...
Without pushing the system your comparison is like there is no difference in the ride and handling of a Fiat 500 vs. Lambo idling only in a parking lot...

Just my $0.05... 👍😉
post #28 of 203
Quote:
Originally Posted by MetalManCPA View Post

So I'm confused then. Under your tests you heard no audible differences amongst not only brands but price ranges. In the reviews I read regarding the RX-A3020, mention was made of solid build quality. So are price differences mostly due to feature sets and supposed build quality as opposed to the actual sound it produces? Of course lets not forget the price on brand recognition. Each manufacturer probably adjusts their prices to place themselves at a particular desired level.

Like I said, you can accept it or not as you see fit. Read up on hearing bias and you will ujderstand where the review information comes from.
post #29 of 203
Quote:
Originally Posted by M Code View Post

Really...
Could you provide more details..
I could possibly agree if you are playing the system @ low volume levels and in a small listening room.. rolleyes.gif
However once the demands of higher volume levels and larger rooms are entered, pushing quality high-resolution full-range loudspeakers the sonic differences become very obvious and audible...
Without pushing the system your comparison is like there is no difference in the ride and handling of a Fiat 500 vs. Lambo idling only in a parking lot...

Just my $0.05... 👍😉

Yes, amplifiers that are clipping sound different from those that are not clipping. Obviously we have to keep amplifiers within their design parameters. Room size and volume level have nothing to do with it as long as levels are below clipping. I can't imagine what the ride of an automobile has to do with anything in audio. Post straw men much?
post #30 of 203
Quote:
Originally Posted by FMW View Post

Yes, amplifiers that are clipping sound different from those that are not clipping. Obviously we have to keep amplifiers within their design parameters. Room size and volume level have nothing to do with it as long as levels are below clipping. I can't imagine what the ride of an automobile has to do with anything in audio. Post straw men much?

This started with your claim that all AVR's sound the same. True, amps may sound the same under controlled conditions and not in real application.
This is not proof that all AVR's sound the same. The processing IMO is different in various brands and contributes to different sounds among brands.
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