DAC question

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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Mon Feb 17, 2014 3:11 pm

Theresa N wrote:There is no difference in the sound of speaker cables as long as the gauge is appropriate for the length. For almost all lengths this is 14 gauge. If very long 12 or even 10 gauge can be used. Their is a myth that cables make a big difference but its been proven untrue by blind testing.


I participated in a blind listening test for speaker cables a couple years ago. The results were covered by Stereophile (which I don't bother reading). Forty enthusiasts submitted their opinions, myself included. We listened to four cable options, ranging from hardware store stuff to $8,000/pr. The "conclusion" was that cables make a big difference, but I thought otherwise when reading the actual data: the cable with the highest preference has 30% of the votes, and the cable with the lowest preference had 20% of the votes. In my eyes, that means no clear preference was established. Another way of putting this is that cables don't make a significant difference.
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Mon Feb 17, 2014 3:15 pm

Wirko wrote:Milo Burke - if you can get an informed opinion about these DACs, and others in this price range, I'm highly interested. And yes, it's a blessing. However, if one's too irritated by the sound of a $3000 DAC, and can't afford a $6000 DAC, then, well ... one of the remaining options are live jazz and classical performances with no electronics involved.


Specifically which DACs or what price range? There's no harm in me asking. :)
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Mon Feb 17, 2014 3:28 pm

Milo Burke wrote:I participated in a blind listening test for speaker cables a couple years ago. The results were covered by Stereophile (which I don't bother reading). Forty enthusiasts submitted their opinions, myself included. We listened to four cable options, ranging from hardware store stuff to $8,000/pr. The "conclusion" was that cables make a big difference, but I thought otherwise when reading the actual data: the cable with the highest preference has 30% of the votes, and the cable with the lowest preference had 20% of the votes. In my eyes, that means no clear preference was established. Another way of putting this is that cables don't make a significant difference.

Sounds like they had a conclusion before they started testing...I would say those results confirm that cables make some difference (at least to "audiophiles"), but unless your speakers cost several times that of the cables, you may as well stick to the affordable stuff. Of course, I am reading into things a little bit because I have no idea what kind of speakers the test used...
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Mon Feb 17, 2014 3:54 pm

I'd like to get a DAC/Headphone amp for the laptop I use in the summer (it's in the bedroom where I have air conditioning). Not too expensive just good enough to match the quality of the Asus Essence STX I have in my tower. It would be used with my Senn HD600s. Any ideas?
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Mon Feb 17, 2014 4:11 pm

superjawes wrote:Sounds like they had a conclusion before they started testing...I would say those results confirm that cables make some difference (at least to "audiophiles"), but unless your speakers cost several times that of the cables, you may as well stick to the affordable stuff. Of course, I am reading into things a little bit because I have no idea what kind of speakers the test used...


The speakers were Magnepan 3.6, which I find to be quite good value for the money ($5-6k/pr). I've heard several models by Magnepan, and I've toured their factory. It's not much gimmick, but a lot of labor-intensive delicate work. I don't think you could build your own pair of magneplanar speakers for any cheaper.

I think a lot of things make some difference. For example, I hooked up digital and analog outs from his Blu-ray player to his receiver: selecting a different input on the receiver essentially acted as selecting a different DAC. His ears are far from golden, but he heard a discernible difference with each switch after previously having the opinion that DACs and electronics are all completely sonically invisible. But which sounded better? He had no clue. Different, yes, a little. But better? Who could say? (And different only in back-to-back switching.)

I don't know that a difference of 20% preference to 30% preference proves anything. Consider that there were forty participants, not four thousand. But it's still an interesting study. And I completely agree with you they had a conclusion, "they" being the ones that interpreted the results, not the ones that listened blind.

I'm an enthusiast, and I came to that test with the perception that cables did in fact make a difference, and the difference should be audibly apparent to any enthusiast. But comparison after comparison, I had a very difficult time pin-pointing any differences, and the ones I did "hear" could have been psychological, knowing that a switch of some kind was made. I left the test with my opinion changed: the difference, if any, must be minimal.
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Mon Feb 17, 2014 4:18 pm

Theresa N wrote:I'd like to get a DAC/Headphone amp for the laptop I use in the summer (it's in the bedroom where I have air conditioning). Not too expensive just good enough to match the quality of the Asus Essence STX I have in my tower. It would be used with my Senn HD600s. Any ideas?


Theresa,

I don't have experience with many models. But fortunately, you're not the first person to ask this question. I suspect reading other threads should point you in the right direction:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/667872/best-30 ... production
http://www.head-fi.org/t/648456/best-da ... amp-at-150
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Mon Feb 17, 2014 4:33 pm

From an academic standpoint, the difference between cables is going to minimal unless you're in a special case. It's the difference between "good" and "optimal" in engineering terms. Kudos to whoever figured out how to sell it...

On the topic of "different" vs. "better," I think that will always be subjective. What it's really going to come down to is what sounds "right" to the listener (and that's more of a long-term exercise). At most, an intensive study can find a general consensus for engineers to target.

Theresa N wrote:I'd like to get a DAC/Headphone amp for the laptop I use in the summer (it's in the bedroom where I have air conditioning). Not too expensive just good enough to match the quality of the Asus Essence STX I have in my tower. It would be used with my Senn HD600s. Any ideas?

Definitely ask an audiophile forum. I imagine that a Magni/Modi combo will do well, but people with more experience can probably find a better pairing between the headphones and amp (and between you and your budget :wink: ).
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Mon Feb 17, 2014 4:35 pm

The JDS seems like a great solution. The Schiit combo seems like a good deal too. I will probably go with the JDS as the one box will fit into the limited space better. Thanks for the help!
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Mon Feb 17, 2014 4:44 pm

I highly recommend audio gd DACs. You should ignore the bad English on the site. However, kingwa who is the brains behind the show is very forthright and gives good advice too. I have a lower end model that I run as a DAC and preamp and my next upgrade will certainly be a audio gd too.

I got rid of my emotiva preamp after I got audio gd.

I also disagree with some of the suggestions. If you run monoblocks, you probably have a decently setup system and room, and you would benefit from a good quality DAC with a good power supply implementation.
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Mon Feb 17, 2014 5:36 pm

just brew it! wrote:This is somewhat outdated, dating back to when most transistorized amps used BJTs (before MOSFETs became widely used).

Transistor amps can indeed have excellent linearity because you can apply huge amounts of negative feedback around a high-gain loop. But they also tend to have "crossover distortion" (a glitch in the linearity where the waveform crosses zero which becomes problematic for small signals), and BJTs also tend to clip "hard" when overdriven, resulting in lots of nasty odd-order harmonics which not only sound bad, they can damage your tweeters!

MOSFETs have electrical characteristics which are closer to that of vacuum tubes (like tubes but unlike BJTs, they amplify voltage rather than current). What matters for audio applications is that tubes and MOSFETs tend to clip "soft" yielding more even-order harmonics. These sound more pleasing to the ear, and (when intentionally taken to extremes as in a guitar amp) give that warm, fat "overdriven" electric guitar tone.

I'm struggling to understand these statements -- IMO there is, at the very least, a lot of missing context. Early BJT amplifiers did have issues with high amounts of crossover distortion, particularly because early P-channel devices were more difficult to make and tended to have poorer quality control compared to N-channel devices, but modern designs and devices have driven this down below the threshold of audibility. Meanwhile, what usually destroys tweeters is the clipping phenomenon itself -- as the sinusoid wave becomes clipped its power delivery function transitions from sine behavior to linear (square wave) behavior.

The soft-clipping feature of a tube amp has as much to do with the circuit design as the characteristics of the tube device; the circuit is set up with little feedback and low gain, thus the tube runs out of "oomph" before the power supply does, whereas the high gain of a typical transistor design allows it to be driven right into the limit of the power supply voltage. Correspondingly there is nothing in a MOSFET that will inherently cause soft-clipping, the circuit has to be designed to exploit such behavior. Meanwhile, most MOSFET-based amplifiers today are Class D, which is a world removed from classic amplifier designs of all stripes and can output some truly nasty distortion characteristics if the output filter is not carefully designed.
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Mon Feb 17, 2014 6:34 pm

asliarun wrote:I highly recommend audio gd DACs. You should ignore the bad English on the site. However, kingwa who is the brains behind the show is very forthright and gives good advice too. I have a lower end model that I run as a DAC and preamp and my next upgrade will certainly be a audio gd too.


I mentioned I was going to stay out of the DAC discussion for lack of experience. But I own the Audio GD Fun. :)

I really like that it is flexible. It functions as a DAC, preamp, and headphone amp. Or any combination of the three. It makes a really nifty desktop computer headphone unit, but then I end up using it as my monitor control and signal selector for my audio engineering equipment. And then I end up borrowing it for my listening room. :) It is a very fine unit for two channel headphone listening. I have a dedicated headphone amplifier that can come after it, but I don't see the point in plugging it in.

However, I'm not completely convinced the Audio GD Fun is a superbly sounding unit. The primary complaint I have in my listening room is that the sound seems to come out of the left speaker or right speaker or center, not a wide selection of in-between. I'm suffering from poor imaging.

My friend Don, who was building amps with me, said that getting a new amp would fix that right up. My friend Oliver said that was nonsense, and that I need a new DAC. Well, the amp is finished and hasn't solved it. So maybe it is the DAC to blame. But I don't have another to test with. Maybe I should invite someone over with a different DAC to see if the Fun is indeed my weak link.

Another hypothesis is that my poor imaging is due to how Windows handles audio output. I've read a tremendous quantity of material on the subject, but it does still seem to be a bit of a mystery to effectively and conveniently bypass all the damage Windows does and any unnecessary sample rate conversion.

Asliarun, which DAC do you have by Audio GD? Have you noticed poor imaging? Have you been able to compare it with other DACs?
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Mon Feb 17, 2014 6:44 pm

Again, thanks for the great ideas.

I'm between ODAC and DacMagic 100 (I don't need the preamp or headphone out for this use). (I am also very happy with my Essence card's headphone out to Grados) The dacMagic sounds really good with flacs on my Krell pre, Denon monblocks and Thiel speakers (all old but good). So far I am limited to - and only need - USB audio 1.0, but may wish to upgrade to USB audio 2.0.

I agree supporting open source projects is a fine idea and support it. Alas, I think I will support my local audio/video store (where times are OK but tough) since they have been good and generous with me for years. I guess this is another kind of buying to support a project.

I'm happy with my non-USB connects - but wonder what you all think about USB cables over 10' in length? There is talk that this is about the max length w/o problems - anyone have experience in this area with audio out?
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Mon Feb 17, 2014 6:47 pm

Theresa - if you haven't - check out the ODAC. Sounds like it might fit your need
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Mon Feb 17, 2014 9:15 pm

Milo Burke wrote:
asliarun wrote:I highly recommend audio gd DACs. You should ignore the bad English on the site. However, kingwa who is the brains behind the show is very forthright and gives good advice too. I have a lower end model that I run as a DAC and preamp and my next upgrade will certainly be a audio gd too.


I mentioned I was going to stay out of the DAC discussion for lack of experience. But I own the Audio GD Fun. :)

I really like that it is flexible. It functions as a DAC, preamp, and headphone amp. Or any combination of the three. It makes a really nifty desktop computer headphone unit, but then I end up using it as my monitor control and signal selector for my audio engineering equipment. And then I end up borrowing it for my listening room. :) It is a very fine unit for two channel headphone listening. I have a dedicated headphone amplifier that can come after it, but I don't see the point in plugging it in.

However, I'm not completely convinced the Audio GD Fun is a superbly sounding unit. The primary complaint I have in my listening room is that the sound seems to come out of the left speaker or right speaker or center, not a wide selection of in-between. I'm suffering from poor imaging.

My friend Don, who was building amps with me, said that getting a new amp would fix that right up. My friend Oliver said that was nonsense, and that I need a new DAC. Well, the amp is finished and hasn't solved it. So maybe it is the DAC to blame. But I don't have another to test with. Maybe I should invite someone over with a different DAC to see if the Fun is indeed my weak link.

Another hypothesis is that my poor imaging is due to how Windows handles audio output. I've read a tremendous quantity of material on the subject, but it does still seem to be a bit of a mystery to effectively and conveniently bypass all the damage Windows does and any unnecessary sample rate conversion.

Asliarun, which DAC do you have by Audio GD? Have you noticed poor imaging? Have you been able to compare it with other DACs?


If the problem in your listening room is with speakers, I would seriously look at the room and speaker setup before worrying about the DAC. Acoustics play a HUGE role, as I am sure you know, but audio nerds (including me) are more likely to want to swap gear, partly because we like to :D and partly because fixing things with acoustics is a lot more trial and error.
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Mon Feb 17, 2014 9:18 pm

ordskiweicz wrote:Again, thanks for the great ideas.

I'm between ODAC and DacMagic 100 (I don't need the preamp or headphone out for this use). (I am also very happy with my Essence card's headphone out to Grados) The dacMagic sounds really good with flacs on my Krell pre, Denon monblocks and Thiel speakers (all old but good). So far I am limited to - and only need - USB audio 1.0, but may wish to upgrade to USB audio 2.0.

I agree supporting open source projects is a fine idea and support it. Alas, I think I will support my local audio/video store (where times are OK but tough) since they have been good and generous with me for years. I guess this is another kind of buying to support a project.

I'm happy with my non-USB connects - but wonder what you all think about USB cables over 10' in length? There is talk that this is about the max length w/o problems - anyone have experience in this area with audio out?


If the DAC you use has jitter reduction (most everything that isn't low-end does these days - it's part of the DAC chips usually) and/or has some fancy talk about reclocking the signal, USB cable length won't matter.* This isn't a '1s and 0s are 1s and 0s' argument, because they're not - timing (jitter) matters, but the spectre of jitter is overblown too...it's used as a scare and marketing tactic too much.

*This isn't meant to imply that cable length creates jitter, just that if the signal is delivered, the right DAC will take care of it.
Last edited by MadManOriginal on Tue Feb 18, 2014 6:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Tue Feb 18, 2014 5:30 am

Milo Burke wrote:
asliarun wrote:I highly recommend audio gd DACs. You should ignore the bad English on the site. However, kingwa who is the brains behind the show is very forthright and gives good advice too. I have a lower end model that I run as a DAC and preamp and my next upgrade will certainly be a audio gd too.


I mentioned I was going to stay out of the DAC discussion for lack of experience. But I own the Audio GD Fun. :)

I really like that it is flexible. It functions as a DAC, preamp, and headphone amp. Or any combination of the three. It makes a really nifty desktop computer headphone unit, but then I end up using it as my monitor control and signal selector for my audio engineering equipment. And then I end up borrowing it for my listening room. :) It is a very fine unit for two channel headphone listening. I have a dedicated headphone amplifier that can come after it, but I don't see the point in plugging it in.

However, I'm not completely convinced the Audio GD Fun is a superbly sounding unit. The primary complaint I have in my listening room is that the sound seems to come out of the left speaker or right speaker or center, not a wide selection of in-between. I'm suffering from poor imaging.

My friend Don, who was building amps with me, said that getting a new amp would fix that right up. My friend Oliver said that was nonsense, and that I need a new DAC. Well, the amp is finished and hasn't solved it. So maybe it is the DAC to blame. But I don't have another to test with. Maybe I should invite someone over with a different DAC to see if the Fun is indeed my weak link.

Another hypothesis is that my poor imaging is due to how Windows handles audio output. I've read a tremendous quantity of material on the subject, but it does still seem to be a bit of a mystery to effectively and conveniently bypass all the damage Windows does and any unnecessary sample rate conversion.

Asliarun, which DAC do you have by Audio GD? Have you noticed poor imaging? Have you been able to compare it with other DACs?


I have the audio gd NFB 15.32 which is their entry level model. I dont notice an issue with imaging as you mentioned. I also use it as a dac and preamp. I have only lived with the inbuilt DAC on the squeezebox which is not a bad DAC in itself. I found audio gd superior. I also found the preamp section superior to the emotiva usp1 preamp.

Do you see this issue when using your unit as a DAC as well as a DAC/preamp? Do you Aldo see this issue when using it as a headphone amp? You should be able to isolate the culprit this way by a process of elimination. Other things like speaker positioning and toe in also matter a great deal, and the tweeter especially should be at the same level as your ears. HF is very directional.

One more thing - audio gd sells a bunch of mods and upgrades - such as op amp upgrades, clock upgrade etc.
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Tue Feb 18, 2014 8:53 am

Poor imaging has almost got to be a phase shift issue of some sort. Crappy output filters could do that...
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Tue Feb 18, 2014 11:43 am

I would like to say that speakers are far more likely to cause imaging problems than anything else. I lived for years with poor imaging and it wasn't until I invested heavily in expensive speakers did I get good image. My amps with active crossovers (DIY speakers) are what some would call mid-fi, Emotiva's and not the most expensive. People spend all sorts of money on electronic components when their listening room and speakers make the biggest difference.
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Tue Feb 18, 2014 12:10 pm

MadManOriginal wrote:If the problem in your listening room is with speakers, I would seriously look at the room and speaker setup before worrying about the DAC. Acoustics play a HUGE role, as I am sure you know, but audio nerds (including me) are more likely to want to swap gear, partly because we like to :D and partly because fixing things with acoustics is a lot more trial and error.


I appreciate your sentiment, and I agree completely with your point of view. But I know it's not the speakers, and I put more energy into speaker placement and more research into acoustic treatment than anyone I've ever met. :o I get a little OCD about those things, haha.

Theresa N wrote:I would like to say that speakers are far more likely to cause imaging problems than anything else. I lived for years with poor imaging and it wasn't until I invested heavily in expensive speakers did I get good image. My amps with active crossovers (DIY speakers) are what some would call mid-fi, Emotiva's and not the most expensive. People spend all sorts of money on electronic components when their listening room and speakers make the biggest difference.


The speakers were a DIY project with a friend. They are 2-way bookshelf style with SB Acoustics drivers built into Dayton Audio curved speaker cabinets, and the crossover is unobtrusive and built with "fancy" parts. They sound as good as any $1,200/pr speakers I've heard, with a much more natural and flat frequency response than anything B&W makes for under $2,500, for example. We initially made four pairs, but the project turned out so well he started making more and selling them. They're not the world's best, but they're quite good.

And yes, I built the speaker stands with tweeter height in mind, and I have experimented quite a bit with toe-in.
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Re: DAC question

Postposted on Tue Feb 18, 2014 12:20 pm

just brew it! wrote:Poor imaging has almost got to be a phase shift issue of some sort. Crappy output filters could do that...


Which component contains the output filters? Would you please elaborate?
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