Is an external DAC necessary? - Page 4 - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #91 of 112 Old 10-07-2015, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by SteveH View Post
I cannot say anything that will change your mind. But you are in the severe minority. Might I suggest in the <1% club. Now if I intentionally pick a wimpy tube amp to drive the old style of 8 ohm average Verity Audio speakers (3 to 12 ohm impedance over its audible FR) then yes, you can ruin the sound. I hear a difference with electronics and in order to extract every bit of the potential, electronics matter. But with decent enough (and not so expensive gear), you can only influence a speaker by a letter grade. So 90% of the SQ (so long as you don't pick JUNK) is the speakers in the room.

Yes. I can find outliers to prove your point. But if you allow me to pick a great sounding outlier (cheap piece of electronics that sounds darn good for the $$), I will re-prove the speakers makes a heck of a lot more improvement.

I will say that when Lars Kristensen worked for Nordost and gave their demos, he said the cables were the most important component. Now that was funny.
Probably better if said "one of the important components in a setup" as somethings got to tie them all together , so why short change the critical links
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post #92 of 112 Old 10-07-2015, 12:50 PM
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Most people think the "truth" about speakers and rooms is they are "the weak link in the the chain" because their frequency response is not flat. It is absolutely true that their frequency response is not flat, but that is of almost no importance, in and of itself.
The reason they are the weak link is because of distortion and room acoustics. Speakers represent somewhere between most and all of the audible distortion in a competent audio system. Every speaker sounds different in every room and even sounds different depending on its placement in the room. Those problems don't exist with external DACs which I thought was the subject of the thread.

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post #93 of 112 Old 10-07-2015, 12:56 PM
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With electronics and cables especially (!) the frequency response is quite flat. Without a great deal of training, AB/X testing is largely only sensitive to changes in frequency response, hence the many null results of these tests. Yet people continue to prefer certain violins, certain guitars, certain amplifiers, and certain cables. The differences in the amplifiers and cables (!) is not due to frequency response, so there must be some other factor at work.
That other factor is simply audible differences. Violins sound different from one another. So do guitars, badly designed amplifiers and cables with little equalizer boxes attached to them. But we are discussing DACs, aren't we?

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I gave links to blind tests where some participants were able to inarguably identify headphone amplifiers in blind tests. They have trained themselves to hear something other than frequency response. What is that "something other"? How important is it to our long-term musical enjoyment than simple frequency response?
The "something other" is usually input and output impedance mismatches. As you know, headphone input impedances vary wildly. Probably not important to long term musical enjoyment. People tend to become accustomed to sonic signatures and tend to prefer those with which they have become accustomed.
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post #94 of 112 Old 10-07-2015, 01:03 PM
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Why! I suspect those eddy currents and electron flow and magnetism have more influence than we know!
I'd be happy to prove that is not true. Bring your cables and we'll do a bias controlled comparison.
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post #95 of 112 Old 10-07-2015, 01:12 PM
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That other factor is simply audible differences. Violins sound different from one another. So do guitars, badly designed amplifiers and cables with little equalizer boxes attached to them. But we are discussing DACs, aren't we?



The "something other" is usually input and output impedance mismatches. As you know, headphone input impedances vary wildly. Probably not important to long term musical enjoyment. People tend to become accustomed to sonic signatures and tend to prefer those with which they have become accustomed.
Does this include dac's? I believe even they have a sonic signature and not something to glanced over!
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post #96 of 112 Old 10-07-2015, 01:16 PM
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I'd be happy to prove that is not true. Bring your cables and we'll do a bias controlled comparison.
I'd prefer you went about trying to figure out why it is true! I've tried convince myself its not already and have largely failed
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post #97 of 112 Old 10-07-2015, 01:32 PM
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Does this include dac's? I believe even they have a sonic signature and not something to glanced over!
There may be some poorly designed ones with a sonic signature. I've never encountered one. Every one I've tested has been completely transparent.
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post #98 of 112 Old 10-07-2015, 01:33 PM
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I'd prefer you went about trying to figure out why it is true! I've tried convince myself its not already and have largely failed
Obviously impossible since it isn't true. It would be fun to get an understanding of the sound of eddy currents. Do you have any measurements?
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post #99 of 112 Old 10-07-2015, 01:59 PM
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Obviously impossible since it isn't true. It would be fun to get an understanding of the sound of eddy currents. Do you have any measurements?
Of course not! and I'm sure no one on AVS does for that matter its something I'm hoping that one day will be looked into instead of the "we understand everything approach" When only the surface has been scratched .
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post #100 of 112 Old 10-07-2015, 02:11 PM
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There may be some poorly designed ones with a sonic signature. I've never encountered one. Every one I've tested has been completely transparent.
Implementation does play a part as well, after years of Burr Browns in various forms the sonic signature to me became obvious and wasn't till I heard a Wolfson dac did it become so, later down the road came the stellar ESS sabre dac which I loved due to the fact it seemed to combine the best of the full sound of the Burr brown with the resolution of the Wolfson but my new favorite is the AKM 4490 and have to say that the Marantz implementation and selection of parts have yielded a very emotional playback (much more than previous )experience with greater resolution. So yeah if designed correctly they are all transparent but what it gets down to how they interpret that into musicality.
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post #101 of 112 Old 10-07-2015, 02:13 PM
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Of course not! and I'm sure no one on AVS does for that matter its something I'm hoping that one day will be looked into instead of the "we understand everything approach" When only the surface has been scratched .
Who understands everything? I'm just a person who has done many bias controlled comparisons with audio cables, The one set I found with a sonic signature had the conductors wound into a coil. There are some with little black boxes that apparently equalize the sound. Those are incompetent designs. Why would you want a sonic signature in a cable? What is the point? The vast, vast majority of cables are completely transparent. You don't need to have a sonic signature. Making a cable without one is cheaper and better.

What I am suggesting is that the cables you have are most likely transparent like most of the others. The sonic signature is likely generated from bias rather than eddy currents. It isn't hard to find out. Just eliminate the bias. Happy to help you through it.
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post #102 of 112 Old 10-07-2015, 02:15 PM
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Implementation does play a part as well, after years of Burr Browns in various forms the sonic signature to me became obvious and wasn't till I heard a Wolfson dac did it become so, later down the road came the stellar ESS sabre dac which I loved due to the fact it seemed to combine the best of the full sound of the Burr brown with the resolution of the Wolfson but my new favorite is the AKM 4490 and have to say that the Marantz implementation and selection of parts have yielded a very emotional playback (much more than previous )experience with greater resolution. So yeah if designed correctly they are all transparent but what it gets down to how they interpret that into musicality.
LOL... your funny
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post #103 of 112 Old 10-07-2015, 02:23 PM
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Implementation does play a part as well, after years of Burr Browns in various forms the sonic signature to me became obvious and wasn't till I heard a Wolfson dac did it become so, later down the road came the stellar ESS sabre dac which I loved due to the fact it seemed to combine the best of the full sound of the Burr brown with the resolution of the Wolfson but my new favorite is the AKM 4490 and have to say that the Marantz implementation and selection of parts have yielded a very emotional playback (much more than previous )experience with greater resolution. So yeah if designed correctly they are all transparent but what it gets down to how they interpret that into musicality.
If they are transparent then they "interpret" the data the same. If they end up with different waveforms than what the ADC encoded, then they aren't transparent. I have a Sabre DAC in one of my AV receivers. I can assure you it doesn't "sound" any different from any of the other DACs I have laying around in a bias controlled test. I'm not suggesting you don't hear what you hear. I'm merely trying to explain why you hear what you hear. Every audible difference between two DACs I have ever encountered has disappeared in a bias controlled test. So the conclusion is don't worry about DACs. Worry about something that matters.
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post #104 of 112 Old 10-07-2015, 02:43 PM
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Who understands everything? I'm just a person who has done many bias controlled comparisons with audio cables, The one set I found with a sonic signature had the conductors wound into a coil. There are some with little black boxes that apparently equalize the sound. Those are incompetent designs. Why would you want a sonic signature in a cable? What is the point? The vast, vast majority of cables are completely transparent. You don't need to have a sonic signature. Making a cable without one is cheaper and better.

What I am suggesting is that the cables you have are most likely transparent like most of the others. The sonic signature is likely generated from bias rather than eddy currents. It isn't hard to find out. Just eliminate the bias. Happy to help you through it.
That would be fun! I've tried the one's with the little boxes as well and didn't care for them. All I wanted was great top to bottom resolution of my music with no favoritism of any part of the spectrum and while some shifted this balance more than others in my setup finding the right one and in the right configuration has been the icing on the cake when good gear is already in place. I don't like the term for cables as used as something to tune the sound , I use the stock cable as a point of reference and go from there, believe it or not the stock powercable from a Parasound Halo amp is great in application for a preamp but was bettered by large awg cables for the amp and many have been tried of similar awg but the PS Audio AC12 ticked my boxes. This stuff takes time but worth the effort in the end but will admit to it not mattering in another persons setup but just may.

Good conversation but its time to get back to dac's
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post #105 of 112 Old 10-07-2015, 02:54 PM
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LOL... your funny
I like to think so! but my wife sometimes thinks other wise and likes's to call me Richard (think short name)

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If they are transparent then they "interpret" the data the same. If they end up with different waveforms than what the ADC encoded, then they aren't transparent. I have a Sabre DAC in one of my AV receivers. I can assure you it doesn't "sound" any different from any of the other DACs I have laying around in a bias controlled test. I'm not suggesting you don't hear what you hear. I'm merely trying to explain why you hear what you hear. Every audible difference between two DACs I have ever encountered has disappeared in a bias controlled test. So the conclusion is don't worry about DACs. Worry about something that matters.
All else that matter's has been covered, that's why focusing on the details is so much fun
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post #106 of 112 Old 10-07-2015, 03:02 PM
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I like to think so! but my wife sometimes thinks other wise and likes's to call me Richard (think short name)



All else that matter's has been covered, that's why focusing on the details is so much fun
Nothing wrong with having fun.
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post #107 of 112 Old 10-08-2015, 12:20 AM
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Nothing wrong with having fun.
Indeed! and thanks for the great info
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post #108 of 112 Old 10-08-2015, 08:03 AM
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This is one of the most frustrating threads I've read on Avsforum. Einstein and quantum mechanics... really?

Step back from all the hyperbole and consider that if a difference can be heard, it can be heard without knowing what equipment is being used. True or not true?

If true, then when I ask you to listen to 5 DACs (or cables or amps) and tell me which one you like best sighted or blind, we should see the same results, correct? And what does it mean if we don't get the same results between sighted and blind testing over repeated tests? This isn't rocket science. It's a very simple application of scientific method.

Some of you would claim that the tests are flawed and can't determine any difference. If so I would submit that the sighted listening is just as flawed and therefore just as invalid. The argument from the "I can hear a difference" crowd seems to be that they can hear a difference when not blind but can't hear the difference blind. That's simply not possible.

So you can have it that you can't ever tell a difference blind or not, or that the differences are biased based on knowledge of the equipment. No other possibility exists in the case where blind and sighted evaluations yield different results.
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post #109 of 112 Old 12-02-2015, 11:07 PM
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This is one of the most frustrating threads I've read on Avsforum. Einstein and quantum mechanics... really?

Step back from all the hyperbole and consider that if a difference can be heard, it can be heard without knowing what equipment is being used. True or not true?

If true, then when I ask you to listen to 5 DACs (or cables or amps) and tell me which one you like best sighted or blind, we should see the same results, correct? And what does it mean if we don't get the same results between sighted and blind testing over repeated tests? This isn't rocket science. It's a very simple application of scientific method.

Some of you would claim that the tests are flawed and can't determine any difference. If so I would submit that the sighted listening is just as flawed and therefore just as invalid. The argument from the "I can hear a difference" crowd seems to be that they can hear a difference when not blind but can't hear the difference blind. That's simply not possible.

So you can have it that you can't ever tell a difference blind or not, or that the differences are biased based on knowledge of the equipment. No other possibility exists in the case where blind and sighted evaluations yield different results.

I'd throw down real money on anyone being able to not tell the difference between radically different speakers over radically different converters. It's really not even close. Converters do sound different, but only substantially so when you start to spend goofy money on them (prizm, Lavry, Appogee, UA etc).

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post #110 of 112 Old 12-02-2015, 11:24 PM
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all these threads become the same one.

i'd say that
1. speakers definitely sound different. plunge most of your money there, and establish your personal preference.
2. amplifiers definitely sound different. not as much as speakers. but throw in tubes there and hey.
3. i have heard differences between DACs. mostly noise-floor- related. if a DAC is competently designed the rest of your chain is more important. that said, built-in $2 DACs are not that great. the one in my Lenovo X250 is decent in an emergency, but with Shure 1540s i prefer the external Arcam rPAC, thank you very much. don't trust cheap DACs. the "A" there has never been easy to deal with. every time anything is analog it pays to invest in signal path quality. albeit not always extravagantly.
4. stop listening to other people. get what makes you effing enjoy your music shrine. if you need validation, hey, look around here, about 75% of fellow audiophiles will deride your choice. so don't bother. :-)
5. by all means do a blind test. take up FMV on his generous offer and listen to the crickets. and in case you go for an ABX, experience how enjoyable that is.
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post #111 of 112 Old 12-06-2015, 07:11 AM
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I'd throw down real money on anyone being able to not tell the difference between radically different speakers over radically different converters. It's really not even close. Converters do sound different, but only substantially so when you start to spend goofy money on them (prizm, Lavry, Appogee, UA etc).
Very possible some DACs do sound different. If so, you'd be able to differentiate them via a blind test.

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all these threads become the same one.
<snip>
5. by all means do a blind test. take up FMV on his generous offer and listen to the crickets. and in case you go for an ABX, experience how enjoyable that is.
The point of all this (for me) is to help enlighten people a little to spend their money where it matters. I'm guilty of buying expensive cables as well, and I wish somebody like me had said "stop and think about it, and then listen to both cables when you can't see how nice they look." It would have some me some money and time.

ABX proponents will tell us that blind listening without ABX equipment isn't valid. Not correct. Blind listening is a perfectly valid way to determine that you can't tell the difference. ABX is helpful for determining that you can.

My favorite way to test is to use my wife. Have to be careful to not influence her, but if there's an audible difference, she hears it. DACs, cables, SS amps - she gave me the "it's all the same" response. Swapped out NHTs bookshelf speakers for my Aerials and within 10 seconds she said "put those other ones back." (No disrespect to NHT - these speakers are at very different price point from the Aerials.)

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post #112 of 112 Old 12-06-2015, 11:17 AM
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ABX proponents will tell us that blind listening without ABX equipment isn't valid. Not correct. Blind listening is a perfectly valid way to determine that you can't tell the difference. ABX is helpful for determining that you can.
i have never once disputed the merits of any means of unbiased testing.

i think we all know we -at best- quickly enter the area of diminishing results in audio if some basic good choices have ruled the initial choice of equipment.

but there's a reason why i seldom trust my impressions after hurriedly listening to something in a showroom. it's an unfamiliar environment and not enough time.

to me the real valid test is how it performs in my very own listening environment after extended listening. there are thing i can't quite put a finger on. as i was putting my current compact system together, i had to make some choices. the toughest one was between the NADM22 and the Benchmark AHB2 power amps. i actually would have preferred if the AHB2 would have established itself as the winner. design wise it would have looked quite good. :-) but after a period that unfortunately extended beyond the point i had to send the Benchmark back for free, i simply decided the M22 seemed to have an ounce of an extra edge, so i kept it and sold the Benchmark. there was absolutely no psychological bias at work, just a hard to articulate difference when doing extended listening. and i did blind tests (friend helped me). no professional setup though. in those the stats were totally inconclusive. about 56% accuracy in picking either, which to me puts it solidly in the luck category because the sample rate was about 10 switchovers.

at the end of the day what matters is that i am happy with my choices and i know this system is going to make me happy to listen to music for a looooong time. i kept my old core system totally unmodified for nearly 15 years. i think the same will be the case here. i don't feel i have to bother to look into new equipment unless there's a dramatic change in my setup needs.

and there are thing that i know don't make a real difference. cables - unless you make crappy choices, it doesn't matter, especially if you do short runs. but it looks better, and it gives you peace of mind. i'd never spent thousands on a cable, but otoh understand why people would. like St-Exupery wrote in the little prince: ".. It's the time you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important...People have forgotten this truth, but you mustn't forget it. ..” we make irrational choices every time we invest our time into a passion. and it's what makes us interesting as humans. a world guided exclusively by rational choices would be damn boring.

Last edited by pablolie; 12-06-2015 at 11:19 AM. Reason: typos
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