Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?

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Freo-1

Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #20 on: 26 Oct 2018, 02:44 pm »
I get the exact opposite on my system. Even a USB cable swap can be really significant.

Tell us about your system and room.

I recently noted just how much difference the room can make and posted about it recently. See this post: https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=159399.0


I'm in agreement with Danny here.  I recently moved, and with the new primary listening room, the sound is MUCH different than it was at my old place.  I was finally able to break out a large set of German tower speakers, and they sound incredible in the new space. 


I hear significant deltas with DAC's.  Anyone who has listened to a Benchmark DAC-2 or DAC-3 will know what I'm referring to.  I'm using a MciIntosh D150 as a DAC, and it sounds excellent.  I do hear differences between it, an Oppo BDP 105 acting as a DAC, and the DAC in the Devialet 400's, all of which I have on hand.  The Devialet is the most revealing, while the Mac is immensely musical.  The Oppo holds it own, but it's not as good as the other two (IMHO).


   

dB Cooper

Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #21 on: 26 Oct 2018, 03:03 pm »
I don't get it. I have tried, heaven knows I have tried! I have cycled through a number of dac's, cd players etc and just cant hear any worthwhile difference to chat about. When I thought I hear something amazing or special, I busted out my DBL meter only to find out it was slightly louder than the last, even 1db made a significant difference! I just don't understand it.

On the flip side, swapping from an Ortofon red to a decent cartridge, Dyna 20x2l - the difference is NIGHT and DAY.

 :popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn:

Digital all sounds the same, prove me wrong.

 :popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn:

Nobody can 'prove' you right or wrong, but I do have some thoughts.

I heard Klaus from Odyssey say at a show, "90% of the sound signature of any system comes from the speakers." I agree but would modify that statement somewhat for people running vinyl, and say "90% of the sounds signature of the system comes from the transducers", of which your phono cartridge is obviously also one. The difference between different speakers and different phono cartridges dwarfs the differences between, say, DACs, amps, preamps, tuners etc.. That's not to say there aren't differences, but it's a question of magnitude. I heard differences between my Modi 2 DAC and the Multibit, but they were in some ways subtle. And, as always there's expectation bias involved. If you just spent $5000 on a DAC, maybe those subtle differences suddenly become Night and day, I've heard differences between power cords described  that way. Suuuure.... Again, it's a question of magnitude. While an imperfect, electronics generally come a lot closer to their intended goal than transducers do.

mlundy57

Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #22 on: 26 Oct 2018, 03:51 pm »
In the past I couldn't hear much in the way of differences. Now I can, up to a point. I have come to the conclusion that I can hear differences between different items up to the point that that item is no longer the weakest link in my system.

Speaker setup and room interactions are also links in the system. If those are off, it seems to homogenize the sound.

Mike


Elizabeth

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Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #23 on: 26 Oct 2018, 04:13 pm »
I was previously in the same boat. I had an old DAC that I paid $250 for used, and tried others, no better. But after eight years I upgraded speakers to Magnepan 20.7  Added a pile of better powercords, and Furutech AC duplex, and bought a Marantz SA-10 SACD player I really use as a DAC from the same five disc changer I used to use. The Marantz does sound better.

My take on the digital all sounding the same or similar is it IS all the same. There is only one standard way to decode the signal off a CD. It may have slight variations on the chips et. but it is still all the same in a fundamental way.
DSD is a little different. And I would say the way DSD is decoding CDs in the Marantz IS actually better. Marantz just introduced a new 'trickle down effect' player... $3000 LESS in price with the same spinner and decoding engine. So there is hope.. a few years maybe even cheaper versions.

wushuliu

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Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #24 on: 26 Oct 2018, 08:22 pm »
I don't understand why we can't accept that not everyone will be able to pick up on differences between components, and that it's okay. Listening is a complex process, and then add that to cognition... It's no different from how we see. Sure we may agree in a room that a color is red, but it's going to be a different red for every person, and there are people who won't see it at all or may even see *more*.

So many factors. Some of us are more likely to judge based on timing/percussive/dynamics, others harmonics/distortion, others spatial/dimensional placement. On and on.

In a perfect world there'd be a jillion dollars we could spend on all the research to figure this stuff out, but we barely know how the brain works as is. Instead of the usual tribal stance of 'if I can't hear it, it doesn't exist' or 'you just haven't tried out tweak/product X,Y,Z', maybe we should take a moment to acknowledge hey we don't all hear the same way and it's okay. And to help with that maybe focus on what people like Sean Olive have done and focus on *training the ear and education*.

Granted, that sounds like a lot more work than arguing on the internet.

gefski

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Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #25 on: 26 Oct 2018, 08:46 pm »
Headphones or loudspeakers can change the "personality" of a system in exciting and fun ways, but can never repair or correct damage done by upstream components to the delicate music signal. And they can't "fill in" musical detail that the dac is not providing.

Since a dac is dealing with voltages that represent numbers and an analog amplification stage, both can be easily corrupted. "Bits is bits" doesn't work in real music systems, and the 73 cent dac in my phone does huge damage to the music signal compared to say, a $500 or $2000 dac designed for high fidelity systems.

For me, the "sameness" in the sound of dacs fades once I move away from the standard frequency response comparisons (brighter, etc), and listen to the music. True timbre, texture, and touch, graceful and natural dynamic flow, real instruments in space, the perception of hall sound even in "silence", are obvious.

Early B.

Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #26 on: 26 Oct 2018, 09:41 pm »
For me, the "sameness" in the sound of dacs fades once I move away from the standard frequency response comparisons (brighter, etc), and listen to the music. True timbre, texture, and touch, graceful and natural dynamic flow, real instruments in space, the perception of hall sound even in "silence", are obvious.

I believe the point some people are making is that musical ques are "obvious" only from your perspective. What does a piano sound like? Well, answering that question begins with, "It depends..." 

I believe the most truthful thing we can admit as audiophiles is that our systems will never sound like real instruments, nor should it be a goal.

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #27 on: 26 Oct 2018, 09:59 pm »
Here is a list of DAC's that I have heard and had in my system or my friends and they have sounded remarkably different-

Luxman DA-06, Bryston, Chord Hugo, Exasound, Marantz NA-11s1, Cary Audio TS-200, Exogal Comet, a couple of AVA DAC's, T+A DSD8, Auralic Vega, W4S DSDse, Emotiva Big Ego, IFI, AQ Dragon Fly. 

All these DAC's sound very different.  My system is also very sensitive to USB cables which sound remarkably different.

Elizabeth

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Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #28 on: 26 Oct 2018, 10:00 pm »

I believe the most truthful thing we can admit as audiophiles is that our systems will never sound like real instruments, nor should it be a goal.

Wow. IMO my stereo can sound like a real instrument. And I expect it to.  :thumb:

mlundy57

Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #29 on: 26 Oct 2018, 10:23 pm »
I believe the point some people are making is that musical ques are "obvious" only from your perspective. What does a piano sound like? Well, answering that question begins with, "It depends..." 

I believe the most truthful thing we can admit as audiophiles is that our systems will never sound like real instruments, nor should it be a goal.

I actually agree with this. I want my system to sound very good and to be able to enjoy the music, to be able to close my eyes and be real enough that I can suspend my critical judge and pretend I’m at the symphony but does it feally sound like Joshua Bell is on stage in front of me with the Tulsa Symphony playing a $4 Million violin?

No, and I wouldn’t want it to. If it did, it would take all the wonder out of the one or two times a year I get to hear something special in person.

Mike

mix4fix

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Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #30 on: 26 Oct 2018, 10:26 pm »
Nobody can 'prove' you right or wrong, but I do have some thoughts.

I heard Klaus from Odyssey say at a show, "90% of the sound signature of any system comes from the speakers." I agree but would modify that statement somewhat for people running vinyl, and say "90% of the sounds signature of the system comes from the transducers", of which your phono cartridge is obviously also one. The difference between different speakers and different phono cartridges dwarfs the differences between, say, DACs, amps, preamps, tuners etc.. That's not to say there aren't differences, but it's a question of magnitude. I heard differences between my Modi 2 DAC and the Multibit, but they were in some ways subtle. And, as always there's expectation bias involved. If you just spent $5000 on a DAC, maybe those subtle differences suddenly become Night and day, I've heard differences between power cords described  that way. Suuuure.... Again, it's a question of magnitude. While an imperfect, electronics generally come a lot closer to their intended goal than transducers do.

I also think people don't just enjoy the music. You mean to tell us that you can't enjoy music on a Klaus system vs. a V.A.C. system vs a D.I.Y. system vs. any other system?

We all have our tastes, and will buy what we like. But, still.

gefski

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Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #31 on: 26 Oct 2018, 10:35 pm »
I believe the point some people are making is that musical ques are "obvious" only from your perspective. What does a piano sound like? Well, answering that question begins with, "It depends..." 

I believe the most truthful thing we can admit as audiophiles is that our systems will never sound like real instruments, nor should it be a goal.

Agreed! We can't really be fooled into thinking we're listening to live music.

But when I move from "foot tapping" to "foot stomping", I know I'm making progress, doing less mental work to sustain my illusion!    :P


gary

Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #32 on: 27 Oct 2018, 03:16 am »
Just throwing it out there, but what have you done to insure your digital source is up to the task? I messed around with computers for years and was never satisfied with the quality of sound, but now that I've upgraded to a Metrum Ambre it's an entirely different story.
gary

ed

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Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #33 on: 27 Oct 2018, 06:53 am »
Elizabeth, you sound like a voice of reason. While no one should take my opinion as anything other than opinion, I submit that the major and maybe the only difference in the sound of different DACs' (with comparable sample rates and RedBook CD) is the analog output circuitry. In my simplistic way of thinking the analog output is what you are actually hearing. Bits are bits...how they are converted to analog is absolutely done in different ways and I have a feeling that "analog is not analog" in the way "bits are bits".

As Elizabeth pointed out  " There is only one standard way to decode the signal off a CD. It may have slight variations on the chips et. but it is still all the same in a fundamental way.
DSD is a little different. And I would say the way DSD is decoding CDs in the Marantz IS actually better. Marantz just introduced a new 'trickle down effect' player... $3000 LESS in price with the same spinner and decoding engine. So there is hope.. a few years maybe even cheaper versions."

So, if you accept that Truth,  exactly what else could cause a major difference in sound between properly designed  DACs' other than the analog output circuit?  I'd guess if one took 10 different digital engines using RedBook specs and gave them all the exact same output circuit they would sound identical.

Just an opinion based on common sense.
Ed

RandyH

Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #34 on: 27 Oct 2018, 11:14 am »
Differences in sound...and more specifically improvements in sound between components is relative.  One person's "night and day difference" is another persons "I think sometimes I can hear a difference".

Stercom

Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #35 on: 27 Oct 2018, 11:21 am »
I don't understand why we can't accept that not everyone will be able to pick up on differences between components, and that it's okay. Listening is a complex process, and then add that to cognition... It's no different from how we see. Sure we may agree in a room that a color is red, but it's going to be a different red for every person, and there are people who won't see it at all or may even see *more*.

So many factors. Some of us are more likely to judge based on timing/percussive/dynamics, others harmonics/distortion, others spatial/dimensional placement. On and on.

In a perfect world there'd be a jillion dollars we could spend on all the research to figure this stuff out, but we barely know how the brain works as is. Instead of the usual tribal stance of 'if I can't hear it, it doesn't exist' or 'you just haven't tried out tweak/product X,Y,Z', maybe we should take a moment to acknowledge hey we don't all hear the same way and it's okay. And to help with that maybe focus on what people like Sean Olive have done and focus on *training the ear and education*.

Granted, that sounds like a lot more work than arguing on the internet.

Well said and exactly right. Having been in music for many years, I can tell you even professionally trained musicians have differences of opinion of how something sounds or "should" sound. I definitely hear differences in DACs which I find significant - especially with the upper midrange and treble. That doesn't mean you can't hear them, perhaps your experience may be telling you its not significant, its scientifically explained away so its not relevant, etc and therefore they all sound the same.

Early B.

Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #36 on: 27 Oct 2018, 11:48 am »
Well said and exactly right. Having been in music for many years, I can tell you even professionally trained musicians have differences of opinion of how something sounds or "should" sound.

I've always wondered why there aren't more musicians who are audiophiles. I would imagine that music sounds quite different than a high end stereo system when you're playing with a band, orchestra, or whatever.

Stercom

Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #37 on: 27 Oct 2018, 12:08 pm »
I've always wondered why there aren't more musicians who are audiophiles. I would imagine that music sounds quite different than a high end stereo system when you're playing with a band, orchestra, or whatever.
I've had many professional musicians hear my system. They are very willing to give opinions on sound quality. The overall opinions usually have something to do with the soundstage being constricted and how "real music" naturally "flows" which my sound system doesn't capture exactly. The main thing holding them back from owning "high end" systems is money! (true for everybody I guess) Unless they are successful composers or conductors they really are dependent on their next or current running gig. If you have an advanced degree and teach at the collegiate level then you can make a little more consistent money.  Being a musician in this day and age really is a labor of love.

mfsoa

Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #38 on: 27 Oct 2018, 01:22 pm »
Quote
All DACs below around $5k that I have heard in my system do sound basically the same.

Every dac I've heard in my system, all below $5K, have sounded significantly different from each other.

Danny Richie

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Re: Why cant I hear a worthwhile difference with DAC's?
« Reply #39 on: 27 Oct 2018, 01:48 pm »
Bits aren't just bits on the digital side either fellows.

Differences in USB cables can be pretty significant.

I also have or have had a lot of different playback software packages including iTunes, Amarra, Pure Music, Audirvana, and SB Play. And they all sound different.

How much is buffered into RAM has made a difference.

Switching from a standard to solid state hard drive made a difference.

Maxing out the RAM with gaming RAM made a difference.

Switching out and trying different external hard drives that the music is stored on made a difference.

Power supply upgrades to the MacMini made a difference. The type of power cable used with the MacMini made a lot of difference.

Mine has the power supply removed and it runs on an external battery. The brand and size of battery made a difference.   

Adding a Dave Elledge built buffer for the battery made a difference.

Shutting down various operating system that stay on in the background made a difference.

Going from a SPDIF output to an I2S direct output made a difference.

Still think bits are bits?