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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I know there are LOTS of folks who don't buy into blind testing and that is perfectly OK. But I do!!

I am in the market for a new SSP (actually have been for quite some time) and given the new Auro/Atmos announcements decided to get serious about it. My current system consists of all Seaton speakers and subs (7.4 but not exactly), an Integra 80.2, Oppo 103D, music server, Apple TV, Direct TV. I have a purpose built room and it is very well acoustically treated.

By way of background, I have been an audio enthusiast/addict for more than 40 years (and in the business on and off a good part of that time) and spent a lot of money chasing audio "perfection". I used to read Stereophile and TAS cover to cover, sometimes multiple times each and have been subscribing to those magazines since the mid 70's.

In the past, many/most/all of my purchases of electronics (and wire) were driven by reviews and a good part of the time with in home auditions. But there was, for me, no real objectivity. If some important reviewer said something was good and my listening session seems enjoyable, I wrote the check.

That all changed about 15 years ago when I started blind testing electronics and wires/cables/power cords. No, I don't think everything sounds the same but I did discover that I am very subject to expectation bias. If something had a good review, weighed more than another product, was well designed, great looking, and had an overall positive reputation, I usually heard what I expected to hear.

My first blind test was a Mark Levinson amp (don't recall the model) and a very old and used Bryston amp. One cost $9000 and the other $700 used. In the sighted tests, I preferred the Mark Levinson amp. In the blind test, I preferred the very old Bryston (and ended up purchasing some new Bryston amps.) I have done the same with speaker wire, interconnects and power cords.

Fast forward to now and trying to quantify my search for a new SSP. My aural memory is not very long. So to wire up an SSP, do some listening, and then undo that one and re-wire the next would take way too long. I have done that and I was not 100% confident of my findings (too many "I think I heard X). Given that one of the SSP options I am considering is around $20,000, I do not want to purchase something based on anything less than the most stringent test I can perform. So I have built (from a combination of existing commercial products) an instant XLR switching device than can switch up to a 7.1 surround sound pre-pro.

Here is the almost completed switcher. By applying even pressure across the spring loaded horizontal bar, the little rectangles suspended from it push in on the button on each of the two channel XLR white switches that switches the input from a to b or back and does all simultaneously. This is located in a room behind my screen wall so when the person does the switching, I will have no clue what I am listing to. (As you can see, in the form vs function relationship, form left town :D)



Here it is connected to my existing Integra 80.2 running Audyssey and the (not yet "my") Datasat RS20i running Dirac. Once (or maybe if) Emotiva ever gets their SSP delivered with Dirac, I will test it as well. I would also love to test the new Denon/Marantz products. I have been a long time fan of Integra/Onkyo but since they dropped Audyssey in favor of some home grown DRC that does not correct the front channels, I wrote them off. I used to have interest in the Theta but they have taken so long to get Dirac up and running, I may long be in the grave before they ever get Auro or Atmos up and running.



I have strong belief that trying to compare two 7.1 SSP's even with this box may not be very easy. So here are the plans for testing.

First I will listen to my two main speakers (Seaton Catalyst12C's) without subs and without room correction. They only go down to about 50 or 60 hz and then fall off at about 12db per octave. So I won't be listening to any crossovers, or room correction or bass management. Any differences I hear should be just the internals and DAC's of the two pieces of gear.\

Then I will add the subs, with bass management but no room correction for 2 channel only

Then I will add the remainder of the speakers but no room correction

And then I will start all over but add room correction.

There will be, in addition to me, 2 other "trained" listeners and at least 3 untrained listeners. I will not be looking for their agreement to push my decision one way or the other but one of the other trained listeners may also be in the market for a new SSP as well.

I have no findings at the moment to post but as I do my listening (subject to the availability of the person to operate the switcher), I shall post my findings. Given the newness of the RS20i in my home (I did take the one day training course on it in California), getting these various combinations will take longer to get running than it would on my trusty Integra.

Stay tuned (or not)!

One more thing: To insure we get the levels matched as closely as possible, I will run frequency sweeps (from OmniMic) running through both system and insure the output is a identical as possible. Each SSP had volume increments of .5 db. If we can not get them to match EXACTLY, we will do some of the blind listening with one SSP louder than the other and then increase the softer one so that it is louder.

I should know tomorrow how close the gains can be matched and will post my findings.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I went ahead an ran an OmniMic frequency sweep on the left front channel through both systems and the good news is that I was able match output levels virtually identically.

Here are the results:



So if we hear any differences between the two, we can be sure it has nothing to do with frequency response nor uneven gain between the two products. I also stretched the OmniMic view to 1 db increments and it showed no deviations at all:
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Very much looking forward to your results. Nice work on the XLR panel by the way.
Thank you. I love the internet. I was looking for something that had more than 2 channels but for $600 and a couple of hours of gluing, hammering, drilling, etc, I got the exact functionality I was looking for. The $600 box can help me not make a multi thousand dollar mistake!!
 

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Nice work.
Subscribed.

I have my own theory on SSPs.
(for the most part, sans REQ, they are all virtually the same sound wise)
The one exception IMHO are those that can output more than the standard 1.5V or so on the preouts.
And I only say that AFTER REQ. (REQ can add almost 10dB of boost. That is a big strain to the entire audio chain)
This is the part I'm interested in since there are way too many posts of "I like the sound in direct better vs when is engaged".

Maybe these tests can prove or disprove my theory. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Nice work.
Subscribed.

I have my own theory on SSPs.
(for the most part, sans REQ, they are all virtually the same sound wise)
The one exception IMHO are those that can output more than the standard 1.5V or so on the preouts.
And I only say that AFTER REQ. (REQ can add almost 10dB of boost. That is a big strain to the entire audio chain)
This is the part I'm interested in since there are way too many posts of "I like the sound in direct better vs when is engaged".

Maybe these tests can prove or disprove my theory. :)
These comparions may nor may not apply to anyone else. I am over 60, have less than perfect hearing (and have for a long time) and don't claim to have "golden ears". And that is the point. I ONLY care what I can hear. Since the first test will not enclude DRC or bass management (nor steering nor ...) if there are any differences, they will need to be attributed to just the hardware. In days long gone, I would have "heard" the differences. How can a $20,000 product not sound way better than a $2000 one (either the Integra or, if I can get one, the XMC)? To note: the "trained listenrs" from the HT company are probably half my age and have been exposed to many different electronic systems. They MAY be able to hear differences but the "blind" part will certainly insure they actually hear them and not "think" they heard them.

Just to say one more time, I do believe there are differences in audio electronics and some I know I can hear. The entire purpose of this exercise is to determine if we can hear differences in a full 7.1 system when they are fined tuned to the max with DRC running.

Should we not be able to hear any differences, I know we will be told that we are deaf and/or we ran the test wrong and/or that we set up the RS20 wrong and/or we are morons and/or my system isn't "resolving enough" and/or ............. I do plan to do similar test on another system which also inludes an Integra but also the 4 piece dCS stack, Magico speakers, Spectral electronics, etc. Needless to say, this won't all happen in the next few days.

I noted previosly that i won't have stress doing these listening sessions because I don't care which one wins. That is not completely true. I do NOT want the RS20 to sound better becasue $20,000 is a LOT of money to pay for a box that is samller than a car. I DO want the RS20i to sound better because I do want to upgrade to something new, it will support Auro and Atmos and can handle more channels than any of the lower cost SSP's.
 

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Thank you. I love the internet. I was looking for something that had more than 2 channels but for $600 and a couple of hours of gluing, hammering, drilling, etc, I got the exact functionality I was looking for. The $600 box can help me not make a multi thousand dollar mistake!!
You should have invited some of your neighbors - hint :)
Nice job, look forward to reading what you hear, or not.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
You should have invited some of your neighbors - hint :)
How close are you to Greensboro, Ga or Eatonton, GA or Madison, GA which are near Lake Oconee on I20.

You are more than welcome to participate once we get everything up and running. The more the merrier!!!

Completely off (my) topic: when I want to use my iPhone for searching on AVSForum, the format has somehow changed and most of the text is unreadable and the format totally sucks. I can find no place to change it back. Any help would be appreciated.
 

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That makes two of us - I find the new website unusable for nearly everything when trying to do so with my iPhone. Old version was a piece of cake to navigate and post when using a mobile device.
 

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If there is a difference, your measurements pre and post should pick it up.
 

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Well, that's your problem---------iPhone :)
 
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How close are you to Greensboro, Ga or Eatonton, GA or Madison, GA which are near Lake Oconee on I20.

You are more than welcome to participate once we get everything up and running. The more the merrier!!!

Completely off (my) topic: when I want to use my iPhone for searching on AVSForum, the format has somehow changed and most of the text is unreadable and the format totally sucks. I can find no place to change it back. Any help would be appreciated.
I very much look forward to the results and to see how things change with the room correction systems.

For the mobile viewing issue, I agree I don't care as much for the newer version. Fortunately you can switch back if you tap the lines or "menu" item at top left (or right?). This pulls up a menu, and at the bottom there is an option of "exit enhanced viewing mode" or something to that effect. It should stay there at least until you close that safari window.
 

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How close are you to Greensboro, Ga or Eatonton, GA or Madison, GA which are near Lake Oconee on I20.

You are more than welcome to participate once we get everything up and running. The more the merrier!!!

Completely off (my) topic: when I want to use my iPhone for searching on AVSForum, the format has somehow changed and most of the text is unreadable and the format totally sucks. I can find no place to change it back. Any help would be appreciated.
If you pull like up the left menu at the bottom of the menu there's an option that reads: exit enhanced mobile view.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
This comparison is going to be a lot more difficult than I thought. A LOT !!!

As an example, where the Integra has only one place to set crossovers, the RS20 has three. (1) When running Dirac, you have a choice of no crossovers, high pass and or low pass AND each of those options offers various slopes (up to 48db/octave if I recall); (2) when you perform input/output routing, you have the option of low pass and high pass filters and (3) when setting up bass management, you also set up crossovers (both frequency and slope).

Before I do any comparisons that include room correction, I am trying to insure that each SSP can put it's best foot forward. After having owned and diddled with the Integra for many years, I have it down very pat. The FR of every channel has truly been optimized. Having only been using the RS20 for a short while coupled with so many options and variables, I am still a way off. One small part of the issue is that Dirac does a better job with the bass than Audyssey. I know that from using Dirac on my server but now that I am trying to compare two units, it does complicate things. One thing I noticed with Dirac on the bass on my server is that it does a much better job on the lost frequencies (below about 25hz). The same hold true on the RS20i. The following is a comparison of just the subs running through both systems with their respective room correction option enabled.



For SubMersive owners, the room correction was done with the button in but plotted with OmniMic with the button out!

I will continue and post as I make more progress.
 
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