Rob Watts on DAC design and other audio musings... - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 29 Old 04-13-2019, 06:36 AM - Thread Starter
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Rob Watts on DAC design and other audio musings...

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"brilliance is not knowing all the answers. it's about asking the right questions."
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post #2 of 29 Old 04-13-2019, 01:50 PM
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I watched to about 15minutes. There are things I really agree.

1) We heard people here said you cannot hear distortion as long as it's less than 0.1%, I kept saying my amps sounded different even though they are ultra low THD. He talked about you can hear the difference between noise floor of -200dB vs -175dB. I believe that. I always talked about the inter harmonic modulation, same as his noise floor modulation that change the sound even though it is -170dB down.

2) He talked about separation and transparency, apparently, it's NOT in our head!!!! He relates this to distortion. I have not tested a lot of amps, but I always find the lower THD, the better, the more transparency, the more separation I get. The one I am currently using is 0.001%@1KHz and 0.0025%@20KHz into 4ohm at 60W. I agree with him about the lower distortion and noise floor, the more transparency and separation you get AND it's very easy to hear the difference. This has been my experience all along.

3) Funny he talked about people have NO IDEA how the original sound sounded like because it gone through mixing, people adjusted the effect, the tone and all during and after the recording, end users have NO IDEA how it should sound, there's NOTHING called true to the sound.

Even though he is talking about DAC, the the idea also true to the rest of the system. You have a -200dB DAC, you need ultra low THD amp to go along with it. To have an ultra low THD at the speaker, you need good speaker cable to keep the THD low from the amp to speaker. They go hand in hand.



I'll keep watching.

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post #3 of 29 Old 04-13-2019, 02:22 PM - Thread Starter
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this guy is a little bit more on the ultra high-end, however I still think there is in what he says a few glimpses of insight that is applicable to stuff I like. I especially like his take in voicing tests after measurements. voicing, as in listening is essential for personal enjoyment. I have never kept anything just using the numbers. warning, MBL builds full systems for upwards of 250k. thats way too rich for me, but I do like to hear what these guys have to say.



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post #4 of 29 Old 04-14-2019, 01:45 AM
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Originally Posted by bing! View Post
I watch this to 27minutes, it's getting very technical into the internal design of the DAC, the difference between R2R and he called PWM. How the R2R has the max number of FET switching from slightly negative to slightly positive. That's true. But it's not very useful for what we are interested because we have no control how the IC was designed. I kind of called it for the day. Sounds like he actually design circuit, FPGA and write codes for Noise shaper etc. this is really not my interest.

But he talked about the small signal non linearity is of my interest. This mean the gain change some in very low level signal region and that hurts the perception of depth. This is very interesting. I understand what that means in terms of DAC. But I can use this to look at power amp also.

In power amps, most are of Class AB unless you are willing to burn a lot of power, put up with a lot of heat, then go Class A. Class AB amps ALWAYS have crossover distortion when one side of the push pull output transistors turn off and the other side turn on. That's when the driving is handed from one side to the other side. The transition is NEVER smooth, that's crossover distortion. We know crossover distortion is a major problem and different ideas are used to minimize or eliminate it.

The easiest is to go Class A, there is no crossover distortion as both side of the transistors never turn off and there is no hand over.

Class AB always has crossover distortion. The way to minimize the effect is to increase the bias. Increasing the bias increase the region where both sides stay on longer, increase bias increase the region where the amp behaves like Class A. As the video said, it's the low level signal distortion that is very important, so the higher the bias, the higher the output signal before the amp goes into class B. The larger the signal, the less important is the distortion.

Like if you use 1A bias current, that will give you the first 16W output in class A driving 8ohm speaker. So in most cases, it's a class A amp. So the higher the bias, the better.

That's the reason NOT all amps are the same as long as it's not clipped. It's the crossover distortion that affect the depth perception. To have high bias, you need more output transistors, bigger heatsink. That's the reason I always talked about literally first line judging at how good an amp by looking at how many output transistors and how big the heatsink.......how heavy the power amp is!!! There is NO WAY out of this one. Output power is totally irrelevant as long as it's not clipped, a 200W amp can sound lousy and a 50W amp with good design can sound a lot better. You don't judge the quality of an amp by the power.

I dont' know how true is the relation between small signal linearity and dept perception, it makes sense. More importantly, most high end amps use big heatsink, many pairs of output transistors and good power supply. There are very good reason for that.

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post #5 of 29 Old 04-14-2019, 07:04 PM
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I watched most of the Rob Watts video. He seems to be a tip top engineer of audio DAC designer. This is a technical lecture, he's a real deal. I understand up to R2R, I don't even know DSD and the other technologies. I designed with DACs, but not to this accuracy. Like He said, R2R has it's glitch problems in the transition between slightly -ve to slightly +ve. We used to have to buy a few different brands and test to find one that's the best. You can't even read the spec to determine. But I never deal with DAC beyond 16bits, I more worked on 100MHz and beyond speed instead of audio speed.


I definitely trust what he said a lot more, he's the designer. Anyone have experience of his Cord DACs, is it really sounding better?


I still have to watch Reis' stuffs.

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post #6 of 29 Old 04-15-2019, 01:59 PM
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Is this his famous standup routine where he claims he can hear down to -200 dB?
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post #7 of 29 Old 04-15-2019, 02:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Osirus23 View Post
Is this his famous standup routine where he claims he can hear down to -200 dB?
May be with one speaker.

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post #8 of 29 Old 04-15-2019, 04:51 PM
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I watched part of the 2nd Reis' video on CD drive, I cannot buy into the vibration issue. To the best of my knowledge, CD players are NOT real time, it does not have to maintain a very constant turning speed as long as it can read the data. It has memory to buffer the data and spit it out at the prescribed speed. The vibration has no influence to the sound quality.


Whether the music will break up upon external vibration depends on the size of the buffer memory. Like in the car CD players, it expect to have constant vibration, so it has big buffer memory. It reads the CD very fast, then go through error detection checking. If there is error, it will re-read the CD over and over until it gets the good data. Once it gets good data, then there is NO ERROR on the playback.



Even the best CD players in the car can fail if you run on really really rough road. It will have so much error that it cannot keep up with the error and the sound breaks up. But it's not real time.


This is the same as in all digital transmissions like in USB, HDMI and all other transmissions. It send data very fast, go through error check and request re-send if there is error. Nothing is real time, just buffer. Like when the reception is bad, too many errors, then the picture on the computer freezed and wait until it get enough good data and the image start moving again.


I think the DAC described by Rob Watts makes a lot more sense. You need a good DAC in the CD player.


This is not vinyl record players, that the vibration, the speed is everything to the sound reproduced.

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post #9 of 29 Old 04-16-2019, 07:54 PM
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These guys are idiots compared to the knowledge found on the AVS Forums.
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post #10 of 29 Old 04-16-2019, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
These guys are idiots compared to the knowledge found on the AVS Forums.
Of cause, they think they know it all. If they cannot hear it in their system, it's all in our heads.



I like Rob Watts, I wish I have a chance to listen first hand to his comparisons. I want to see whether I can hear modulation -300dB down. I do believe there is affect on the sound even at low level modulation at the noise floor level. I think human ears are more sensitive than any instrument can measure. I yet to find definitive correlation between measured results to the sound when come to high end amplifiers and preamps.

I actually did extensive audio opamps testing and comparisons. I bought most of the top ones on the market, they all ultra low THD ( it's a lot easier to get below 0.0007%THD for opamps and preamps). Each of them sounded different plugging into the identical circuit and listen in identical room and system. How can you explain this? Maybe Rob Watts touched on something that I never think of, the THD graph won't tell you.

As I said, I have everything needed to do all the technical measurements. So this is not something that is esoteric to me. I just cannot find definitive correlation between measurements and sound when the quality is above certain point. Of cause, if the measurements are really bad, you can hear it as it's not even up to par.

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post #11 of 29 Old 04-17-2019, 02:13 PM
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Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
These guys are idiots compared to the knowledge found on the AVS Forums.
lol

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post #12 of 29 Old 04-17-2019, 02:16 PM
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I feel like Chord Rob Watts and PS Audio Ted Smith should compare notes and work on a DAC together. I know I am dreaming here... They are both very fond of using FPGA rather then off the shelf chipsets.

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post #13 of 29 Old 04-17-2019, 04:27 PM
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Is Chord DAC and products really that good? I have no experience with them, I never heard of them before. Watts seems to be very knowledgeable for sure. I followed his talked all the way to R2R DAC and the limitations of R2R as I had first hand experienced the problems with R2R DACs. I have no idea about the other ones he talked about like the DSD and the others anymore.


More importantly to me, it's how good their power amps are. That's where my interest is.


It's funny that he talked about his son happened to be there and said the sound was different without knowing what changed. Even the noise floor in both cases were way under -200dB, it was noticeable. The point is you DON'T need to sit there, looking like constipated, sitting there pushing, concentrating just to listen in those so called DBT or what not. If there is a difference, people just notice it. The more they are not trying to listen, the clearer their mind and they notice more. And you don't need to be experienced listener to judge. Sometimes, people that don't know nothing about sound can tell you the more unbiased truth.


But of cause, we have more experts here on the forum than Rob Watts.

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post #14 of 29 Old 04-17-2019, 09:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Osirus23 View Post
Is this his famous standup routine where he claims he can hear down to -200 dB?
Ha! Can't everyone?
https://www.audiocheck.net/audiotests_dynamiccheck.php

He doesn't believe in blind tests and even once told this guy this directly.

The whole thread there is an interesting read, and this is from his post, number 10, January 20, 2019, where it mentions this fact:

"No, because the part about hearing differences is not engineering. It is audio science. And there, he told me direct that he doesn't believe in blind tests. You can't be more counter to everything we know about proper evaluation of audio."

Gosh, I wonder why Mr. Watts has to know what unit is playing in order to evaluate how it sounds? [sarcasm]
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post #15 of 29 Old 04-17-2019, 11:07 PM
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Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
These guys are idiots compared to the knowledge found on the AVS Forums.
Quote:
Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
Ha! Can't everyone?
https://www.audiocheck.net/audiotests_dynamiccheck.php

He doesn't believe in blind tests and even once told this guy this directly.

The whole thread there is an interesting read, and this is from his post, number 10, January 20, 2019, where it mentions this fact:

"No, because the part about hearing differences is not engineering. It is audio science. And there, he told me direct that he doesn't believe in blind tests. You can't be more counter to everything we know about proper evaluation of audio."

Gosh, I wonder why Mr. Watts has to know what unit is playing in order to evaluate how it sounds? [sarcasm]
HA!

I have called it yet again.
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post #16 of 29 Old 04-17-2019, 11:37 PM
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Actually I was citing a guy on another forum [whom I don't particularly agree with on many points when he participated here, years back, but that's another story].
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post #17 of 29 Old 04-18-2019, 01:31 AM
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At least he doesn't listen with one speaker that destroy any sound stage, dept perception and transparency.

What he said is exactly my experience. I don't believe in DBT, that people sit there all with a constipated look, listening so hard comparing every sound.

At least he actually designed real electronics, successful and have real high end products to show, not depend on hear say and quote article and pretend to know what they are talking.

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post #18 of 29 Old 04-18-2019, 01:38 AM
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Originally Posted by emcdade View Post
HA!

I have called it yet again.

You mean those pretending to be an expert?

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post #19 of 29 Old 04-18-2019, 01:07 PM
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You mean those pretending to be an expert?
I'm not sure if he's used that exact term but IIRC he called himself as an "industry insider" and according to a Microsoft page at the time he worked there:

"Corporate Vice President, Consumer Media Technology Group

Amir Majidimehr is corporate vice president of the Consumer Media Technology Group within the Mobile and Embedded Devices Division at Microsoft. His team delivers Microsoft digital media technology to mobile operators and consumer electronics manufacturers, and owns Microsoft’s digital rights management and advanced media strategies, including HD DVD.

Prior to this role, Majidimehr was corporate vice president of the Windows Digital Media Division, and was responsible for delivering multiple versions of the Windows Media Player software that powers the audio and video experience for consumers in the Microsoft Windows operating system while providing an open platform for developers, content providers and service providers who build businesses around delivering digital media to PCs and other media devices. Under Majidimehr’s lead, the Windows Digital Media Division shipped industry-leading products, including Windows Media Player 11 with MTV’s new URGE music service, Windows Movie Maker, Microsoft Producer for Microsoft Office PowerPoint, Microsoft Plus! for Windows XP, Microsoft Plus! Digital Media Edition, and spearheaded the audio, photo and video features of Windows Vista.

Before joining Microsoft, Majidimehr held vice-president roles at VXtreme, a streaming startup acquired by Microsoft in 1997; Pinnacle Systems, and Abekas, makers of television effects/processing systems.

Before that, he led the development of high-performance workstations as senior director of engineering at the Sony Corporation."

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post #20 of 29 Old 04-18-2019, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
I'm not sure if he's used that term but IIRC he called himself as an "industry insider" and according to a Microsoft page at the time he worked there:

"Corporate Vice President, Consumer Media Technology Group

Amir Majidimehr is corporate vice president of the Consumer Media Technology Group within the Mobile and Embedded Devices Division at Microsoft. His team delivers Microsoft digital media technology to mobile operators and consumer electronics manufacturers, and owns Microsoft’s digital rights management and advanced media strategies, including HD DVD.

Prior to this role, Majidimehr was corporate vice president of the Windows Digital Media Division, and was responsible for delivering multiple versions of the Windows Media Player software that powers the audio and video experience for consumers in the Microsoft Windows operating system while providing an open platform for developers, content providers and service providers who build businesses around delivering digital media to PCs and other media devices. Under Majidimehr’s lead, the Windows Digital Media Division shipped industry-leading products, including Windows Media Player 11 with MTV’s new URGE music service, Windows Movie Maker, Microsoft Producer for Microsoft Office PowerPoint, Microsoft Plus! for Windows XP, Microsoft Plus! Digital Media Edition, and spearheaded the audio, photo and video features of Windows Vista.

Before joining Microsoft, Majidimehr held vice-president roles at VXtreme, a streaming startup acquired by Microsoft in 1997; Pinnacle Systems, and Abekas, makers of television effects/processing systems.

Before that, he led the development of high-performance workstations as senior director of engineering at the Sony Corporation."

What??

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post #21 of 29 Old 04-18-2019, 02:52 PM
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I think he spells it "Watts".
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I think he spells it "Watts".

I said what are you talking about.

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post #23 of 29 Old 04-18-2019, 07:53 PM
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
...
Gosh, I wonder why Mr. Watts has to know what unit is playing in order to evaluate how it sounds? [sarcasm]
Because if he doesn't know it all might sound the same. Then he'll blow a fuse.
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post #24 of 29 Old 04-18-2019, 08:29 PM
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Because if he doesn't know it all might sound the same. Then he'll blow a fuse.
But haven't you seen the prices? Of course there must be a difference. I haven't heard them but I can even tell what it is from the specs:

- depth
- 3D ishness
- clarity
- dynamics
- transient micro details and "spark/snap"
- warmth
- natural glow
- imaging
- spatial detail
- sound stage localization placement and solidity


. . . . Oh wait, maybe that was the TV preset I was using.
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post #25 of 29 Old 04-18-2019, 09:36 PM
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But haven't you seen the prices? Of course there must be a difference. I haven't heard them but I can even tell what it is from the specs:

- depth
- 3D ishness
- clarity
- dynamics
- transient micro details and "spark/snap"
- warmth
- natural glow
- imaging
- spatial detail
- sound stage localization placement and solidity


. . . . Oh wait, maybe that was the TV preset I was using.
No wonder the wrong metrics were measured. Price was not included as #1 that trumps everything.
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post #26 of 29 Old 04-18-2019, 10:18 PM
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You listen with one speaker, you miss all that.

Own designed power amp, own designed preamp, JM LAB Spectral 913.1 speakers, Rythmik F12SE sub.
Not hooked up: Nakamichi Stasis PA-7 power amp, Velodyne VA1210 sub, Kef Reference Series center, Kef Bookshelf speaker, Monitor Audio bookshelf speaker, Infinity rear speakers. Acurus 3X200W amp.
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post #27 of 29 Old 04-18-2019, 10:30 PM
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Originally Posted by CharlesJ View Post
No wonder the wrong metrics were measured. Price was not included as #1 that trumps everything.
The technical metric for that has an acronym: MSRP. The other one which impresses foolish people is LBS.
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post #28 of 29 Old 04-18-2019, 10:34 PM
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
But haven't you seen the prices? Of course there must be a difference. I haven't heard them but I can even tell what it is from the specs:

- depth
- 3D ishness
- clarity
- dynamics
- transient micro details and "spark/snap"
- warmth
- natural glow
- imaging
- spatial detail
- sound stage localization placement and solidity


. . . . Oh wait, maybe that was the TV preset I was using.
You forgot PRAT.
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post #29 of 29 Old 04-18-2019, 10:43 PM
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^ The really offensive thing about their use of their term PRaT, "Pace, rhythm and timing", is it is a completely made up concept and has nothing to do with the real world and significant concepts of pace, and rhythm, and timing. When discussing the speed of an analog tape deck transport or the revolutions of an LP cutting lathe (as just two examples) these concepts actually apply. [In audio science we usually call them "speed accuracy" and "wow and flutter" though.]

Last edited by m. zillch; 04-18-2019 at 11:40 PM.
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