Tim F

Cheap versus expensive dacs

Recommended Posts

So I'm reading up on the "if it measures well it must be the best" type stuff online.

The thing that I'm wondering is....(this is a question!)

The digital signal is translated to analogue, so even if the digital transformation is perfect the analogue output stage would have to be high quality too. If not, you'd lose the benefits of great conversion to a poor analogue signal.

Thoughts?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It depends on the resolution of your speakers. 
 

I had a classic vintage system that sounded great but wasn’t particularly analytical. I came to the view that all DACs were similar because through that system, they did. After a significant ‘speaker upgrade, I took a different view. 

  • Like 2
  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
 

It depends on the resolution of your speakers. 
 

I had a classic vintage system that sounded great but wasn’t particularly analytical. I came to the view that all DACs were similar because through that system, they did. After a significant ‘speaker upgrade, I took a different view. 

On the money there Hector.  My experience is that DACs do make a difference.  However the correlation between price and performance is not a straight line - far from it.  I have recently upgraded to a cheaper DAC.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not only do the better (more expensive) DACs sound better but they do sound different. Been there with CA CXN, Oppo Sonica, Chord Qutest and Mytek Brooklyn Bridge.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
 

So I'm reading up on the "if it measures well it must be the best" type stuff online.

The thing that I'm wondering is....(this is a question!)

The digital signal is translated to analogue, so even if the digital transformation is perfect the analogue output stage would have to be high quality too. If not, you'd lose the benefits of great conversion to a poor analogue signal.

Thoughts?

When something 'measures well' it is the analogue output that is measured, so I don't really follow what distinction you're trying to make there.

The genuine debate over equipment that has good measured performance is how what can easily be measured correlates with what people enjoy. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Super Dealer

A host of measurements here,

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/master-index-of-audio-hardware-reviews.8184/#post-202519

If you really want a valid comparison between DACs, you will need to level match ( if necessary) and compare unsighted.

Keith

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I was auditioning DACs, I tried a Rega DAC R and an Audio Note DAC 0.1x, which cost around twice the price of the Rega.

Each DAC had very much its own distinct sound, but I preferred the more emotive and communicative Audio Note DAC over the Rega. I found the Rega to be harsh sounding in comparison.

After this, I then had to choose the right coaxial digital interconnect, and found that not all of these sound the same either. Again, I tried two and purchased the one that cost twice as much as the other. The more expensive interconnect had a better and fuller mid-range and communicated far more emotion.

YMMV. :)

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Moderator

A lot of the measurements show nothing about how the equipment will sound but it looks good when boasting to others. Ooohhh look the 19th harmonic distortion is only 0.00001% and yours is 0.00002%. Of course things like output voltage, size and weight matter for interface issues but the rest?

You could always use the DAC to do what it was designed to do, play music. No lab coats, no charts, no graphs; just listen in a relaxed way with your favourite music and if it sounds good it could be because it er....sounds good. If you want to listen with blindfolds, as long as you are consenting adults, in the privacy of your home, why not?

Oh have fun and enjoy the music.

Edited by George 47
  • Like 3
  • Upvote 5

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having just gone through a 'decide on a final DAC' phase and thankfully my ears didn't throw a benny during this time, of course they sound different. It's up to the listener to decide if the difference is worth the extra money or not - and a downgrade is always on the cards. What I would suggest is that any comparisons are done in conjunction with headphones, I found it really easy to hear differences (especially the finer details) this way. Through my speakers differences in general presentation were pretty easy to conclude without straining to detect micro-differences, so combining the two findings made a decision a lot easier to come to. My ears are nowhere near perfect, they're getting on a bit and they've heard a lot of concerts so YMMV on that. 

Really enjoying music now and having foot-tappin' fun.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't use headphones, i guess my speakers/system/ears are good enough to hear the differences.

Measurements are for fools....:D

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Measurements are for the weak!

Some of those well measuring DACS sound utterly atrocious - been there done that, soon after that I realised to 1, to rate personal users experiences over media based publications and 2 , always trust your ears because they are essentially what talks to your brain.

I believe similar to Ken Ishiwata 's theory when designing (now formally of Marantz) - measurements are there to get you to a 'point', the rest of the 'tuning' must be done by ear. We can't measure everything we can hear, or indeed feel. This is why scientists can have a real problem with the concept of 'love' and the 'soul'. Neither can be measured. So essentially that would mean, it's rubbish.  'Sorry wife, I can't measure this invisible belief based thing I feel for you, so it dosent exist'

I feel his opinion is easily transposed into putting a hifi system together also. Sure you can read all the measurements, then you can work up from there. Everyones idea of 'sound quality' is entirely different, so essentially its all personal opinion and desire. Some of the best 'measuring' systems sound bad. But some of the worst sound 'good'. To me. To you, they may not. 

Edited by The Chronicals
  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I bought a dac with very noise/mush/hash free sound. It even had switchable frequency response curves you could apply. Smoothed off the higher frequencies.

Very pleasant (£2000).then after a year or so phut it failed. The maker/designer had closed down the far eastern firm which made it. I now have a very pretty confidence inspiring metal door stop.

In the process of choosing and buying it I found a slight difference in sound but gave up fussing about it and just enjoyed the music. Some people are different and must have......

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
 

I bought a dac with very noise/mush/hash free sound. It even had switchable frequency response curves you could apply. Smoothed off the higher frequencies.

Very pleasant (£2000).then after a year or so phut it failed. The maker/designer had closed down the far eastern firm which made it. I now have a very pretty confidence inspiring metal door stop.

In the process of choosing and buying it I found a slight difference in sound but gave up fussing about it and just enjoyed the music. Some people are different and must have......

Any reason you won't name the DAC? Seems like it would be useful info. as a warning to others.

I've got 3 DACs, the oldest of which must be pushing 20 years old now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Super Wammer

I dunno - I bought a Dacmagic 2 for a bargain price - slotted it into the system - My HB Burnit pro has two wolfson 24bit dacs in it but it sounded better through the Dacmagic - My Meridian 506 and 206 at the time were piped into it as well to compare (after all the 506 20 bit was a universally praised cd player) and blow me down they sounded better through the dac magic (though i did love the bass from the 206 which seemed to be much tighter).    Came to the conclusion trying other dacs and visiting mates that dacs do sound different - as to which is right only your ears can decide. 

I still prefer the sound of my old Pioneer 802 but my daughter will not give it back ... I do have a 505 precision in the conservatory and keep meaning to slot it back into the main system.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.