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Am I deaf? And what is the next step up?

fpitas

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Curvature

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Regardless of what constitutes maximum fidelity to the source, I would never tell anyone to listen to anything other than what they prefer. Regardless of the basis for that preference, real or imagined. Life is too short to get disquieted by someone else's psychoacoustics.
Psychoacoustics is shared. So it can be examined. This includes "preference", which is only individual at the edges, the more you look into it.
At the moment I use two DACs, one is the Chromecast Audio Analog Output (3.5mm) and the other is the Topping E30. Okay, so far so good. I balanced both with the multimeter and listened blindly against each other. Ok, there were differences, but I didn't do the test to hear the differences, I did it to find out which one I preferred. And every time, I preferred the Chromecast Audio. It's not that I don't know that the CCA has worse measurements, but I find that the sound is much nicer than the E30, even though I know that the E30 has better measurements. Am I deaf or do I just have different preferences? But let's consider that as a fact, what does that mean in terms of improvement? What would be a DAC I could try if I wanted to improve?
You have to make sure the output is level matched otherwise no fair comparison can be made.

Sound level affects our internal perception, which is called "loudness" in the literature. Loudness affects not only how powerful or weak a sound feels, but also many qualitative things (how "full", "detailed",etc.). Most differences between electronic components disappear when the levels are matched precisely. If you are unable to do that, adandon listening tests. They will be a waste of time unless you can control the circumstances and understand enough of the background to make judgments.

Assume that most solid state electronics have no specific sound. Tubes do because of the kinds of errors they introduce, but even then they have a fairly narrow operational range where they are effectively neutral.
 

AnalogSteph

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You have to make sure the output is level matched otherwise no fair comparison can be made.
To be fair, that is one important thing that the OP did do.

Which is good, but doesn't mean that nothing else can go wrong. As I said earlier, we'd need a detailed breakdown of the entire signal chain from audio player to transducers in both cases for a better basis of speculation on the matter. The devil's in the details, and Murphy never sleeps...

(For example, we are comparing a device with 3.5 mm out to 2x RCA. I've had all kinds of bad luck with adapters, especially the 1-piece variety, to the point where I'll prefer a ready-made cable any day of the week.)

People are generally decent at spotting a difference (when they are not fooling themselves), but attributing it correctly is quite another matter entirely.
 
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radix

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OK, I think I've got it. I'm not getting anywhere here. No numbers, no protocols, no evidence, so, nothing. I also think the test, for whatever reason, was incorrect. Not helpful but eventually I'll look again for the error or just stick with the CCA. Anyway, thanks for your time and sorry for the wasted bytes.

I really wonder how many of you own DACs that are more expensive than a couple of bucks when there is no audible difference anyway (other than features and connections)!? It really seems that almost nothing of what is measured here has any effect on the audible result!

Im a bit late to the discussion, but heck, its the internet.

What were the sources for the two DACs? I assume the CCA was chromecast. what about the E30?

One of the previous responders mentioned there are various settings in chromecast. It may very well be there's some EQ or something going on in the app that is not in the feed to the E30.

If it were me doing the test, I'd try to figure out a way to eliminate the source difference. One way to do that would be to use a chromecast receiver (e.g. Volumio on a pi or PC) that then feeds the USB on the E30. Yep, that does then introduce a bunch of other variables.... But, if the E30 starts sounding like the CCA, I think it would be a strong indicator that there's some EQ in the CC that you prefer.
 

kemmler3D

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What stands out to me is the second harmonic (2k).

Is it possible that I like this better?
It's barely possible. -90dB distortion is extremely hard to hear, if it's possible at all. -110dB distortion is basically impossible to hear. If you're really hearing something that noticeably and strongly affects your listening preference, it's more likely something nonlinear that's affecting the frequency response somehow.
 

kemmler3D

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So I'm curious. The Chromecast Audio Google Home app has a setting, Full Dynamic Range, which is off by default to not overwhelm less than full range speakers. You have to switch it on manually.

Have you changed the setting to FDR, or is it still default?
This seems like a good thing to check here!
 

Grumpish

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Don't get hung up on the far left "measurements are everything" mantra- what feels good to you is what matters.
 

FrantzM

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Well it's called Audio Science Review so I think you're incorrect there. What people here want is proof. I do want to hear what these properties are though.
+1

And
We're waiting ...

Peace.
 

SuicideSquid

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Don't get hung up on the far left "measurements are everything" mantra- what feels good to you is what matters.
what-wat.gif
 

b7676

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OP would probably appreciate the d10>e30.
Old D90, D70s, E70V, D70 pro octo are the midrange Topping to look into. D50s if you love rca. An L70 or used A90D for volume control.
If you want to be an asr rebel, a used chord mojo should satisfy.
 
OP
M

May Kasahara

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Hi, so my mind is made up, I'm staying with CCA and no longer spending my free time listening to numbers and taking tests, I'm just going to sit down and listen to music.

I know I started this and asked you guys for advice, but in the course of the discussion I realized that what I'm hearing can't be and it's just a matter of finding the error in the test now.

Nevertheless, because so many have asked, here are the chains:

1: Android-Phone flac-local (44.1/16 source) -> BubbleUPnP -> Chromecast (EQ off, FDR for analog on (to get 2 volts)) -> 3.5 analog out -> RCA AMP in.
2: Android-Phone flac-local (44.1/16 source) -> BubbleUPnP -> Raspberry Pi 4 (RoPieeeXL (DLNA)) -> USB out -> E30 in -> RCA analog out -> RCA AMP in
 

fpitas

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Don't get hung up on the far left "measurements are everything" mantra- what feels good to you is what matters.
Uh huh. We're such a bunch of radicals here.
 

DSJR

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Hi, so my mind is made up, I'm staying with CCA and no longer spending my free time listening to numbers and taking tests, I'm just going to sit down and listen to music.

I know I started this and asked you guys for advice, but in the course of the discussion I realized that what I'm hearing can't be and it's just a matter of finding the error in the test now.

Nevertheless, because so many have asked, here are the chains:

1: Android-Phone flac-local (44.1/16 source) -> BubbleUPnP -> Chromecast (EQ off, FDR for analog on (to get 2 volts)) -> 3.5 analog out -> RCA AMP in.
2: Android-Phone flac-local (44.1/16 source) -> BubbleUPnP -> Raspberry Pi 4 (RoPieeeXL (DLNA)) -> USB out -> E30 in -> RCA analog out -> RCA AMP in
Thanks for supplying system details.

Now, PLEASE don't go, but humour us a little more if you will. Can you try to feed the digital output of the CCA into the E30? Of course it won't be a straight instant A-B comparison so maybe not accepted here, but you'll get the 'feel' of the E30 using the stream to the BubbleUPnP -> CCA as a source (if that makes sense).

Got to say I don't use my CCA for listening to the 'sound from the gear' at all, but like you, it's fine for general music and speech. Going seriously 'up market' from that is really cosmetic I reckon, but then I don't have a Topping and really no need to aspire to one (an SMSL SU-1 is more my thing as it'll be set for one input, placed 'round the back' and forgotten about frankly). If you aspire to something that looks a little neater, I'd consider one of the simpler but well performing Schiit models, as it seems Jason (bless him) DOES listen to music through them as well as sorting the basic engineering competences of the designs he does and the brand looks to be supported in Europe and not hugely more expensive than in the US in real terms.
 

Sgt. Ear Ache

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How are you doing the blind part of the test? Is someone else helping you do the switching so you don't know what's being listened to?


I'm not sure what some folks want of a dac. All I want it to do is convert a digital signal to an analog one. It's exactly an "engineering device." It isn't an interpretive sound extrapolator. If the signal that comes out of it is exactly the same as the signal that goes into it except now it's an analog signal then it's done it's job to perfection. Why the heck would anyone want a dac that does something else (but who knows what) to the signal? If I found a dac that for some reason I could readily identify in a blind test, I'd wonder wth is wrong with it.

It's also worth noting that blind tests in people's private living rooms aren't really conclusive of anything right? I think ftmp when we here at ASR say "did you do a blind test?" we aren't suggesting that someone at home doing a blind test in which they say they were able to identify one dac from another will be accepted as proof that measureably-tranparent dacs can still sound different from one another. It's suggested more as a starting off point than anything else. Basically, if your comparison hasn't eliminated the possibilty of classic audiophile cognitive bias there really isn't anything at all to discuss. But, just like if someone claimed they can flap their arms and fly and then when asked for evidence they said "there, I just spent the last 5 minutes flying around my living room," doing a test by yourself at home doesn't really proove anything in a general sense. There have been more public, verifiable tests done over the years that suggest we humans (audiophiles included) are far less capable of recognizing differences between audio devices than we think we are - even when those differences should be quite substantial. It's become a pretty common rejoinder around here that "these ASR clowns always say do a blind test and then when you do it they still don't believe you" but that isn't really the trump card it's generally played as...
 
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Holdt

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Hi, so my mind is made up, I'm staying with CCA and no longer spending my free time listening to numbers and taking tests, I'm just going to sit down and listen to music.

I know I started this and asked you guys for advice, but in the course of the discussion I realized that what I'm hearing can't be and it's just a matter of finding the error in the test now.

Nevertheless, because so many have asked, here are the chains:

1: Android-Phone flac-local (44.1/16 source) -> BubbleUPnP -> Chromecast (EQ off, FDR for analog on (to get 2 volts)) -> 3.5 analog out -> RCA AMP in.
2: Android-Phone flac-local (44.1/16 source) -> BubbleUPnP -> Raspberry Pi 4 (RoPieeeXL (DLNA)) -> USB out -> E30 in -> RCA analog out -> RCA AMP in
Which amplifier do you use?
 

AnalogSteph

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1: Android-Phone flac-local (44.1/16 source) -> BubbleUPnP -> Chromecast (EQ off, FDR for analog on (to get 2 volts)) -> 3.5 analog out -> RCA AMP in.
2: Android-Phone flac-local (44.1/16 source) -> BubbleUPnP -> Raspberry Pi 4 (RoPieeeXL (DLNA)) -> USB out -> E30 in -> RCA analog out -> RCA AMP in
'k, lessee...

You can choose ReplayGain settings per renderer in BubbleUPnP. Make sure they are consistent. Your test tones files for level calibrations may not have been RG tagged, but your regular music collection may be (or at least I would very much advise doing so, it's one of those features I would not want to live without; Foobar2000 for Android has a RG scanner if needed).
media_renderers.png


The Pi 4 I assume has a substantially chunkier power supply that may be good for more mains leakage than the CCA's, plus there's more from the E30 supply on top of that. One thing to keep in mind. I am not familiar with potential eccentricities on the Pi side.

On a general note, the CCA is by no means record-breaking but basically good enough for a line-level source.
There's enough dynamic range (you only need >>110 dB(A) in a preamp replacement application), frequency response is pretty much flat, and distortion is benign.

The DAC used according to the iFixit teardown is an AK4430, specs being DR 104 dB(A) and THD+N -91 dB, with a 2 Vrms output buffer (which is no mean feat given its +3.3 V analog supply, I assume it's got a charge pump to generate a negative rail internally). The device pretty much seems to achieve all of that. (The part is no longer available and neither is a replacement, another victim of the AKM factory fire I guess.)
 
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