Can be sound of Chromecast Audio improved with external DAC - Page 2 - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #31 of 276 Old 06-03-2019, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
It is possible using an outboard DAC will make the sound inferior and here's why.

The unit itself has a very capable DAC built in and it can directly convert every single digital format it is designed to encounter and convert it to analog, music. Done.

If using the Toslink digital out the incoming signal can again be anything under the sun which it is designed for however the Chromecast device will then have to CONVERT it to a digital signal which Toslink can then carry such as S/PDIF PCM. The signal now travels to the outboard DAC and gets converted to analog.

Here's an example . Using an incoming Hi-Res signal such as 24-bit/96 kHz you then have to downgrade the signal, because Toslink can't carry it, to say SD [standard resolution] 16-bit/44 or 48 kHz PCM. So rather than taking the best signal possible and converting it to analog directly with a AKM AK4430 DAC, instead there is a [potential] loss of quality because of:

A. - the conversion process from one digital format to another
B. - the forced use of a lower resolution format to transfer the signal via optical.
C. - an outboard DAC with inferior performance to an AKM AK4430 DAC, true of many even very expensive outboard DACs because they are long in the tooth [more than a few years old]
D. The digital out is compromised and not a bit perfect replication of the digital signal even if it requires no conversion for optical transmission purposes because it passes through a [non-defeatable, as I understand it] digital volume control. If this is used at any setting other than full level output there is a guaranteed loss of dynamic range resolution. More here.

Note: I'm not claiming any of these reasons, A, B, C, or D are necessarily audible under most scenarios however one should be aware they exist. I find optical digital transmission quite useful in some scenarios where there is a concern regarding RFI, EMI, or ground loops.
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post #32 of 276 Old 06-03-2019, 12:42 PM
 
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I had the Chromecast Audio and I like the sound better running it through an external DAC than through a 3.5mm cable split into RCA. The sound is a different character through the DAC than without. Primarily, separation, staging and dynamics get a boost via the DAC.

Ive since abandoned the CCA because getting a connection to my phone or PC was unreliable. I could be locked out for an entire evening not knowing why I couldnt connect. This became progressively worse until I gave up on it.

I gave it to a friend and he is still using it. He comes into the same situation himself intermittently.

I currently use a streamer inside my Sony UBP-700 disc player. Am looking for an even better streamer.
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post #33 of 276 Old 06-03-2019, 12:55 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by bing! View Post
I had the Chromecast Audio and I like the sound better running it through an external DAC than through a 3.5mm cable split into RCA.

Ive since abandoned the CCA because getting a connection to my phone or PC was unreliable. I could be locked out for an entire evening not knowing why I couldnt connect. This became progressively worse until I gave up on it.

I gave it to a friend and he is still using it. He comes into the same situation himself intermittently.

I currently use a streamer inside my Sony UBP-700 disc player. Am looking for an even better streamer.
Just curious what did you like more when running optical output on CCA?

Strange connection issue. Never had a problem like that... anyway I choose already NAD DAC 2 wireless for my PC as the DAC of my choice and CCA will be used only for Spotify now. I just need now to solder nice cable to use with CCA.

I will check also after I am back from vacation if I can hear any difference when I get another new DAC as I found out that internal DAC in CCA is more capable then one I had. It sounded better and I sold already the old DAC therefore cannot compare now.
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post #34 of 276 Old 06-03-2019, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by bing! View Post
I had the Chromecast Audio and I like the sound better running it through an external DAC than through a 3.5mm cable split into RCA. The sound is a different character through the DAC than without. Primarily, separation, staging and dynamics get a boost via the DAC.
The AKM AK4430 DAC the Chromecast Audio uses has a typical separation [interchannel isolation] of 104 dB, and a minimum of 90 dB. Out of curiosity what was the separation spec of your superior DAC?

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post #35 of 276 Old 06-03-2019, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by bing! View Post
Ive since abandoned the CCA because getting a connection to my phone or PC was unreliable. I could be locked out for an entire evening not knowing why I couldnt connect. This became progressively worse until I gave up on it.
I have four CCA's and one of them gives me the problem you describe, usually a power cycle will wake it back up, but not always. The other three are pretty reliable, save for occasional disconnects from the phone and periodic odd errors, but never anything that cant be fixed in a few seconds.
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post #36 of 276 Old 06-03-2019, 02:33 PM
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One thing I've noticed about the CCA is that if you use the internal DAC, you need to give it a legit 5V, 1.0A or better power supply.

If using an external DAC with TOSLink out, you don't need to give it the same power. A 0.5A supply will be enough.

Most of my connection issues were fixed when I hooked my CCA to a legit power supply. Some of them required me to disconnect my phone/tablet from wireless, then reconnect again and the CCA would show up without issue. That's more a phone/tablet/app issue than it was CCA device.
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One thing I've noticed about the CCA is that if you use the internal DAC, you need to give it a legit 5V, 1.0A or better power supply.

If using an external DAC with TOSLink out, you don't need to give it the same power. A 0.5A supply will be enough.

Most of my connection issues were fixed when I hooked my CCA to a legit power supply. Some of them required me to disconnect my phone/tablet from wireless, then reconnect again and the CCA would show up without issue. That's more a phone/tablet/app issue than it was CCA device.
Interesting, I was using the stock power supply. I suspected it was because I was using a network repeater.

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Just curious what did you like more when running optical output on CCA?

Strange connection issue. Never had a problem like that... anyway I choose already NAD DAC 2 wireless for my PC as the DAC of my choice and CCA will be used only for Spotify now. I just need now to solder nice cable to use with CCA.

I will check also after I am back from vacation if I can hear any difference when I get another new DAC as I found out that internal DAC in CCA is more capable then one I had. It sounded better and I sold already the old DAC therefore cannot compare now.
I experimented with 2 external DACs and the CCA analog out. My CD/ streamer player has no analog out, it is just a transport, so I required a DAC in my system anyway.

They all sounded different. None of them were objectionable.

The direct output of the CCA was clear and detailed.

Through the SMSL Sanskrit DAC via coax cable, the punch and the slam improved and so did the depth of the sound stage.

Through the SMSL SU-8 via XLR outputs, the sound stage deepened further into the front wall, it became wider as well, and the location of individual instruments was a lot more discernible. The highs also got a nice sparkle and quite bit more airy.

I found the SMSL SU-8 a worthy investment. There are a few others I really wanted at the 900-1200 level, but I am unable to justify such purchases without a good audition. The SU-8 is a great stepping stone on the digital upgrade path for me.

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post #39 of 276 Old 06-03-2019, 04:41 PM
 
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The AKM AK4430 DAC the Chromecast Audio uses has a typical separation [interchannel isolation] of 104 dB, and a minimum of 90 dB. Out of curiosity what was the separation spec of your superior DAC?
Here are the specs and an independent test. I have a Ver 2.0 unit.

http://www.smsl-audio.com/productshow.asp?id=153

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/f...nced-dac.5433/

To the OP, here is the CCA review from ASR with tests running it through DACs as well. They do say that according to their tests, the CCA will put out a superb digital signal that is only limited by the internal or an external DAC. I thought as much as I assume its bringing in the data from the streaming service unchanged. My own listening tests concur. I have no test equipment to measure, just my own tastes and opinion.

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/f...l-output.4544/

Excerpted below:

"Conclusions
There are a few here:

1. The CAST audio functionality of Google Chrome is horrid. There is no excuse for it to be butchering even simple 16-bit signals as it did. While audibly it is not as dire as it looks, I still would avoid it if you can.

2. Roon's implementation of Chromecast streaming is superb. It is bit accurate up to 24 bits and 48 kHz that I tested. Congratulations to Roon for job well done. I assume they received support from Google to implement it as the protocol otherwise is not open to the public.

3. The Chromecast output has more jitter than an audiophile/instrument grade Toslink output. This is evident when used with low quality DACs like Schiit Modi 2 Uber.

4. Using a well-designed Dac like the Topping D50, there is no difference at all between Toslink from Chromecast or higher fidelity sources. All the jitter is filtered out resulting in the performance of the DAC itself being the limit."
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post #40 of 276 Old 06-05-2019, 09:42 PM - Thread Starter
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Just short update in regards of DAC for my PC (Solus OS Linux and Win10Pro - 2 separate PC's)...
NAD DAC 2 Wireless plays all my files and it sounds excellent.

It is very good match for Rotel/PSB combo. Did not have a chance to compare sound quality with CCA for now and first in 1 week or so I will check if I can hear any difference between those.

It was very easy to connect NAD dac to PC, just plug and play with minor adjustment in the settings where I have to change only the output to Digital S/PDIF NAD or something like that. Connected USB and checked that both sender and receiver are on the same channel and connected the receiver to audio and I was ready to play. I checked first for compatibility and if I can play all files I have on my PC incl. DSD and plays them all!

My first impression is that is amazingly good when playing something vocal or classical. It will take some time to judge the sonic qualities as will be going for longer time overseas. After I am back I will reorder SMSL SU8, while I cancelled the order (delivery date was when I will be away).

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NAD Wireless USB DAC 2; Chromecast Audio (4x); Antique Sound Lab MG OTL 32 DT Headphone/Pre amplifier; Sony MDR7506 Pro; Grado SR80e; Beyerdynamics DT931;
Wharfedale Diamond D220; Wharfedale Diamond D10 Sub; PSB G Design GB-1; Totem Mite; Tannoy Sub; Canton Sub; Canton Plus S; Canton Movie 70; Kenwood KD-2055; Pro-ject Debut III USB
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post #41 of 276 Old 06-06-2019, 01:09 PM
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I experimented with 2 external DACs and the CCA analog out. My CD/ streamer player has no analog out, it is just a transport, so I required a DAC in my system anyway.

They all sounded different. None of them were objectionable.

The direct output of the CCA was clear and detailed.

Through the SMSL Sanskrit DAC via coax cable, the punch and the slam improved and so did the depth of the sound stage.

Through the SMSL SU-8 via XLR outputs, the sound stage deepened further into the front wall, it became wider as well, and the location of individual instruments was a lot more discernible. The highs also got a nice sparkle and quite bit more airy.

I found the SMSL SU-8 a worthy investment. There are a few others I really wanted at the 900-1200 level, but I am unable to justify such purchases without a good audition. The SU-8 is a great stepping stone on the digital upgrade path for me.

Yep. I've noticed that different DAC's sound different with the CCA as well. I don't hate the stock CCA DAC, but it can definitely be improved upon.

Then again, a lot of folks in here think a $300 amp will sound the same as all $3000 amps, so take everything with a grain of salt.
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post #42 of 276 Old 06-06-2019, 01:41 PM
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"Using world-class headphones, a $2 Realtek integrated audio codec could not be reliably distinguished from the $2000 Benchmark DAC2 HGC in a four-device round-up. Again, all four devices sounded great. The same might not apply to full-sized speakers; we can't say, since we didn't test them. But as far as some of the best headphones in the world go, we stand by these test results."

https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews...o,3733-19.html
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post #44 of 276 Old 06-06-2019, 03:50 PM - Thread Starter
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I love the twilight zone... watching currently the new episodes of it, though remember the old ones as well.

For those interested I just quickly did A/B comparison between NAD and CCA and NAD sounds better when listening on speakers, though on headphones almost no difference there. On speakers sound-stage is wider and bass is better (PSB GB1 with Tannoy sub) and on headphones (Sony MDR-7506 Professional Studio Monitors) just very small difference is noticeable... NAD has more natural sound on trumpet's and violin's, I can say more organic almost you can hear timbre of the violin where CCA is just missing that. Other than that almost no difference on headphones. I have to check sound on my other headphones, Beyerdynamic's and Grado's and more extensive listening required with different genres of music. I just tested with Jazz and Classical now.

Differences can be heard between DAC's for sure. I must admit that CCA is really good what is made for and that's it. Will also do a testing in a month or so when I am back and get SMSL SU8 home.

Attached a screenshot from testing... VLC runs CCA and Audacious runs NAD. Same PC, wireless connection to NAD as well as CCA both connected to Rotel RC-1070.
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post #45 of 276 Old 06-06-2019, 04:49 PM
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Did you buy the SACD or CD or did it come with some McIntosh gear?
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
"Using world-class headphones, a $2 Realtek integrated audio codec could not be reliably distinguished from the $2000 Benchmark DAC2 HGC in a four-device round-up. Again, all four devices sounded great. The same might not apply to full-sized speakers; we can't say, since we didn't test them. But as far as some of the best headphones in the world go, we stand by these test results."

https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews...o,3733-19.html
I just adore identifying irony and contradictions

It is ironic that M. Zilch would post an unscientific test that doesnt even have a measurement, much less A/B testing to prove a point. Tee hee.

Is it just me, or does anyone else agree that headphones don't give a sound stage that is anything like a speaker system. It is laughable to even explore sound stage depth, instrument placement, width, etc etc, when using headphones, center imaging is located right in between your ears. It doesnt go anywhere. It wont give anything close to the audio holography of 2 channel, much less a multi-channel system lol

We evolved to hear sound outside and the ability to locate a sound brings distinct survival advantages. When we hear music, we can paint a picture of where the music is coming from. With speakers in the room, we can imagine where singers and musicians are arranged. This of course is a product of the stereo effect. The two (or more) speakers are sending soundwave to each ear.

In headphones we don't get the same phenomenon. We get signals from both ears. However in a room, there is some bleeding from the left speaker to the right ear and from the right speaker to left ear. With headphones this is more isolated - the right only hears the right and the left only hears the left. For many people this creates an artificial sounding “soundstage”. The arrangement of the musicians, singers, and sounds are pushed to the sides. Amongst other weird headphone effects.

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post #47 of 276 Old 06-06-2019, 06:14 PM
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In headphones we don't get the same phenomenon. We get signals from both ears. However in a room, there is some bleeding from the left speaker to the right ear and from the right speaker to left ear. With headphones this is more isolated - the right only hears the right and the left only hears the left. For many people this creates an artificial sounding “soundstage”. The arrangement of the musicians, singers, and sounds are pushed to the sides. Amongst other weird headphone effects.
The A/B/C/D listening test article, 19 pages long and starting here, made under blind conditions, made it abundantly clear they were speaking in regards to headphone evaluations only, not through speakers, and I specifically quoted that part:
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"Using world-class headphones, a $2 Realtek integrated audio codec could not be reliably distinguished from the $2000 Benchmark DAC2 HGC in a four-device round-up. Again, all four devices sounded great. The same might not apply to full-sized speakers; we can't say, since we didn't test them. But as far as some of the best headphones in the world go, we stand by these test results."
Have you any links to level matched, blind tests of modern day DACs through speakers? I'd love to read about it.
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
The A/B/C/D listening test article, made under blind conditions, made it abundantly clear they were speaking in regards to headphone evaluations only, not through speakers, and I specifically quoted that part:


Have you any links to level matched, blind tests of modern day DACs through speakers? I'd love to read about it.
Nice dodge. Moving on. Have a wonderful day.
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As I suspected, he has no links.
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post #50 of 276 Old 06-06-2019, 09:42 PM
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Originally Posted by m. zillch View Post
...

Have you any links to level matched, blind tests of modern day DACs through speakers? I'd love to read about it.
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Nice dodge. Moving on. Have a wonderful day.
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As I suspected, he has no links.
Nobody had to look too far. I provided links in post 2 to level matched, blind testing of some widely contrasting (cost and perceived quality) DAC's through speakers (Benchmark vs Pioneer DVD player) as well as through three sets of headphones (Benchmark vs Behringer EQ). Ironically, the account of the Benchmark vs Behringer testing points out that it was done through headphones in order to counter previous criticisms of testing DAC's through speakers. Now we have the opposite. Exactly why I provided both.

However I suspect that my post was -- like it was by the majority of participants in this thread -- completely ignored and the links weren't followed. This behaviour is a classic illustration of confirmation bias, namely:
Quote:
Confirmation bias occurs from the direct influence of desire on beliefs. When people would like a certain idea or concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They are motivated by wishful thinking. This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views or prejudices one would like to be true.

Once we have formed a view, we embrace information that confirms that view while ignoring, or rejecting, information that casts doubt on it. Confirmation bias suggests that we don’t perceive circumstances objectively. We pick out those bits of data that make us feel good because they confirm our prejudices. Thus, we may become prisoners of our assumptions.
[My bold.]
I'm guilty of it too. I completely ignore subjective assertions about the "sound" of contemporary electronics (and bits of wire that connect them) and reject the numerous "articles of faith" that have proliferated in this audio pursuit. How very un-audiophile and boring of me.
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post #51 of 276 Old 06-06-2019, 09:49 PM - Thread Starter
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Did you buy the SACD or CD or did it come with some McIntosh gear?
A friend was buying the CD or SACD, don't remember and made me a FLAC files from it... he did not knew how to make DSD nor I do but I think when time comes I will figure that out.

I do have some rare CD's I purchased back in the 90"s but they are still overseas at my house. Maybe if I bring my PC with me this year I will rip them and bring them with me over here.
I believe I have some test CD's also there.

EDIT: I think I have back home also one of those https://www.stereophile.com/j_gordon...gsi/index.html Denon One Point Recordings Gold CD

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post #52 of 276 Old 06-06-2019, 10:25 PM - Thread Starter
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However I suspect that my post was -- like it was by the majority of participants in this thread -- completely ignored and the links weren't followed.
I did follow and read the links you provided and was intrigued by one that mention that 4 people wearing headphones did hear some difference there and was wondering if those people was wearing the Senheiser HD250 Linear headphones as those were best of the crop used there and they were exactly 4.

That is the reason also I have used first my Sony MDR-7506 headphones as they are very analytical and revealing (did not used other ones). I was able to hear some difference but not so much pronounced as with the speakers. I guess that headphones cannot give the soundstage that speakers can but this will change soon as well (https://www.tomsguide.com/us/creativ...ews-26441.html).

Anyway I did not used my headphone amp while I wanted to compare also sound with speakers as well using the same equipment.

First I was listening to one song on one device than on the other one and this was not good for me. Then I went to PC and set two different players to play same play list but with some 10-15 seconds apart to allow me to switch from source one to source two and listen to same passage immediately. With that type of listening/testing I was able to hear clearly differences. Sometimes just subtle but in some occasions very clearly.

I repeated this test also with speakers as well and one more time also with less passage time between sources, just few seconds.

This led me to final conclusion that NAD is better than CCA however for the money paid CCA is unbeatable currently.

I think there is also some improvement to be made with different type of cables then what I am currently using. I do also hear difference in cables used as well and I did that long time ago and if someone tells me that all cables sound same than I will ask him to buy/borrow some cables and check how they sound in their system and if they do not hear still nothing I guess there is time to visit otolaryngologist.

I tested Kimber PBJ and KC-1 (Silver) cables and for sure they sound very different.

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post #53 of 276 Old 06-06-2019, 10:49 PM
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However I suspect that my post was -- like it was by the majority of participants in this thread -- completely ignored and the links weren't followed.
I "liked" your post on my very first read of the thread.

I assumed the translated link lead to the famous Matrixhifi system test though and didn't see that it was indeed more specific to DACs.

These blind, level matched tests which find no difference are where the believers cart out their standard objections:

"They used the wrong ears, the wrong songs, and the wrong gear"

TIP: This is why when I challenge people, and I never lose, I always make them pick these things, not me. Go Science!

Last edited by m. zillch; 06-06-2019 at 11:22 PM.
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post #54 of 276 Old 06-07-2019, 12:42 AM - Thread Starter
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...
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post #55 of 276 Old 06-07-2019, 12:48 AM
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Thanks.
There's a pop sound at 19:28. For a minute I thought I was hearing an LP. LOL
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post #56 of 276 Old 06-07-2019, 12:52 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks.
There's a pop sound at 19:28. For a minute I thought I was hearing an LP. LOL
Not just there... more pop sounds throughout on youtube video... have to check my flac file but I am at work now and traveling afterwords... can check first on Monday.

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post #57 of 276 Old 06-07-2019, 12:58 AM
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I keep listening to it and every time there's a peak I instinctivly look at the blue power level meter to be sure I'm not clipping. DOH!

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post #58 of 276 Old 06-07-2019, 09:28 AM
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As I suspected, he has no links.

You mean a link like this?

http://www.stereomojo.com/Stereomojo...ACShootout.htm
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I stepped back from that back and forth because in my experience, the gentleman will dodge the topic entirely (my comment focused on the contradiction of citing a none scientific report to justify his opinion) while demanding high scientific standards as reference from his opposition to send them on a wild goose chase, then dismiss any results.

Providing the link was gracious of you. But watch out, Ive seen him do it consistently.

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post #60 of 276 Old 06-07-2019, 12:45 PM
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I stepped back from that back and forth because in my experience, the gentleman will dodge the topic entirely (my comment focused on the contradiction of citing a none scientific report to justify his opinion) while demanding high scientific standards as reference from his opposition to send them on a wild goose chase, then dismiss any results.

Providing the link was gracious of you. But watch out, Ive seen him do it consistently.


Well aware of some of the tactics that are used in here by some folks, trust me.


I found link that like a while back when I was researching DAC's so I thought I'd share. I definitely trust my ears vs. "opinions" of some folks on this forum.
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