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At what point do we call this out?

GaryH

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What I fear is that we’ve escaped from audiophile snobbery, but that might be replaced by measurement snobbery. People lauding their ‘better’ kit over others, or people feeling they need to upgrade, even though what they already have is effectively perfect.
Exactly. And it's this kind of attitude which fuels needless, wasteful hyperconsumerism that's one of the driving forces behind catastrophic climate change. Everyone should be consuming less, and not buying (or recommending) devices that provide zero audible benefit over what you already have is one way to help towards this goal.
 
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JSmith

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A DAC is part of a chain to get recorded audio into your ears but it isn't the last link. Because the output of the DAC is being processed and amplified by other devices in the chain, it pays for the output to be as transparent as possible.
Yep, Headroom really is a thing, especially oversampling within the DAC and other DSP in the chain... even Max new that. :cool:

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JSmith
 

Spkrdctr

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I agree with your observations @Yorkshire Mouth and my conclusion is it’s human nature to a point.

A good example is the Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC. We like Bruno around here, he’s popular and well respected. So when this was reviewed, while some did point out the very high cost, there was not that strong an emotional reaction about the cost. Now, if that had been a Rob Watts DAC, the emotional response to the cost would have been far greater, as he is less popular here.

I’m not blaming anyone, it’s just how humans behave. If we align with someone’s views and values, we’re much more willing to let our principles flex a little.
Chester, may I be so bold as to tweak your comment to my satisfaction?

I’m not blaming anyone, it’s just how humans behave. If we align with someone’s views and values, we’re much more willing to let our principles flex a little.

I'd say that if we align with someone's views and values, we are much more wiling to let our principles fall by the wayside and flex them beyond the breaking point, it is just human nature. Also, since many on ASR are chasing the DAC rabbit down the hole of probably wasting money, they all pretty much agree that these inaudible amounts of the various tests Amir provides are valuable. The agreement is I think the following.

1. DACs are pretty much done as far as every day listening go. It now seems to be features that people are looking at to differentiate a product.
2. Some people who hang out here are what I call DAC crazy, BUT remember I don't; really care for headphones so my judgement is heavily biased as to the entire DAC/Headphone market. In other words, I'm a speaker man through and through.

Bottom line though and we all agree across the entire audio spectrum of products (not snake oil though) that people enjoy spending money on the latest supposedly greatest gear. It will always be this way. So all this to say that you have to just leave the DAC race/rabbit chasing to the people who want to be all into DACs. Just like they leave us to be into our speakers. Different strokes for different folks.

In conclusion, If ASR and Amir just steer people away from pure unadulterated snake oil. It will have done a huge service to the audio community. Wiping up and getting rid of snake oil is a hard full time job as manufacturers and the audio press keep inventing new oil and spraying it all over the audio community. So, I will ALWAYS give Amir and ASR a free pass on everything else as no one has EVER (along with Audioholics) gone after snake oil like Amir has. Plus he gives educational videos that are downright awesome too. Oh, and it is all offered FREE!!
 
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JJB70

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I don't object to people spending their money how they like, just as I am free to consider expensive DACs a waste of money and pretty much pointless so others are free to find value in them. Most of the things that bring real joy in life are based on an emotional, rather than a rational connection. I really don't think audio gear matters and think audio electronics were commoditised years ago. If it's just about the sound quality then a bog standard smartphone loaded up with MP3 or FLAC files and hooked up to my ER4SR really does meet my audio needs with no reason to spend any more. Then again it would be a dull life if we didn't indulge ourselves and I suspect all of us have passions others would deride. And even most objective types admit things like feature set, build quality, after sales support and UI matter.
However I do think we need to be consistent. We see a lot of derisory comments towards the subjective audiophile part of the hobby. Now I tend to agree with some (but not all) of the criticism directed at subjective audio gear evaluation, but chasing SINAD and imagining stuff sounds better when measured differences are way beyond audibility. That is just as subjective as golden eared stuff that gets laughed at. That does strike me as hypocrisy.
 

tmtomh

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@Yorkshire Mouth - great thread topic, exactly the kind of logical questioning we here at ASR should welcome and think about.

My $.02 is that while "measurement snobbery" as noted above is a real issue that could crop up and perhaps does occasionally crop up here, there are three factors that distinguish the testing and review comments @amirm and others make from the claims made by companies and products that we criticize and mock here.

Factor #1 is that Amir's reviews of DACs - and as far as I know the statements made by the DAC makers themselves - are not claiming that a DAC with 124dB SINAD sounds better than a DAC with 116dB SINAD. The problem with AudioQuest cables, and more expensive USB "decrappifier"/isolator products, isn't that they measure slightly better than cheaper models but the cheaper gear is already good enough. The problem is that these products do not do what they claim to do: measurements show that AudioQuest cables do not provide superior sound or whatever other woo-woo is claimed for them, and no USB regen/isolator does anything at all to improve the sound quality when connected to any properly-designed DAC. It's not that the $40 regen is a waste of money because the $20 regen is just as good. It's that all of the regen-type products, from the $20 one up to the $500 one, don't do anything and are unnecessary and therefore a waste of money.

Factor #2, which is referenced in the "headroom is good" comments above, is that for certain measurements there is some fuzziness about what is actually audible in various use cases and situations. Headphone vs speaker listening, nearfield vs midfield vs farfield, average listening levels, individual hearing acuity, gain-staging of your component chain, uncertainty about exactly how much quieter upstream components need to be than the amp is - all of these factors combine in difficult to predict ways, which means that the safe bet, especially for a reviewer like Amir who cannot predict what individual setups and use cases readers will use a given piece of equipment in, is to have some built-in headroom in one's standard of excellence, in order to be able to unequivocally recommend something or unequivocally state that it will be audibly transparent no matter what situation you throw at it.

Finally, factor #3 is non-audio but still important equipment features. A front vs rear mounted power switch; whether or not the unit gets warm/hot when operating (and if you plan to have it in the open air or inside a close cabinet); the legibility of the front-panel readout; the presence or absence of a remote control and various kinds of digital inputs; balanced or unbalanced; a volume control with large or small increments and silent or clicky operation; and so on. Some of these features do not correlate very much with price, but some do. They are not important for everyone, but they are important enough for enough people that we can consider them reasonable features for a reviewer to consider.
 

DanielT

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Hmmm, I wonder if that's not a practical aspect of what Amir is testing? I would really appreciate if Amir tests big speakers. Easy for me to say but it is Amir who will then carry and drag them. Same thing with heavy power amplifiers. Vintage can be fragile. Difficult to transport. So testing Vintage is probably not the easiest either. DACs, on the other hand, are lightweight and handy.

As for DACs, I am more interested in practical aspects such as general functionality, what there is for inputs and outputs, if it is a DAC with pre amp how is the remote control,warranty, construction quality, service and support and so on. I have a Topping E30 and am very happy. I see absolutely no reason to upgrade, especially if I do not hear any difference. Completely wasted money I think. However, I do not mind those who do. You can do exactly what you want. That's the beauty of Hifi.:)
 
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pozz

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Some great comments.

I’m not sure what harm it would do anyone to note what I’ve suggested. If you want to spend more for larger numbers, that would remain your choice.

What I fear is that we’ve escaped from audiophile snobbery, but that might be replaced by measurement snobbery. People lauding their ‘better’ kit over others, or people feeling they need to upgrade, even though what they already have is effectively perfect.
Audiophile snobbery vs. measurement snobbery. Aren't these two forms of the the same thing? Ignorance?

My point being, that when you start talking about "audibility" you have to bring in context, think about level, gain, the rest of the chain. Otherwise it's sort of meaningless. It doesn't make sense to put an audibility stamp on products if we don't know how they'll be used, but it does make sense to encourage people to understand audio. I don't think that's too much to ask. Most get into audio with an "upgrade" mentality anyway, or at least wanting to know what's achievable and what they can get for their dollar. At that point there's nothing to do but self educate. The best we can do for impatient or anxious consumers is to slow them down, not add further simplifications.

So there's nothing to call out IMO, but we should make some effort towards creating some kind of tools which will help people navigate this field.
 

Sputnik

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There is more to the purchasing decision than pure sound quality.

The D90 has Bluetooth, full size XLR, and a built in PSU. Probably build quality/feel is better, and the display is more functional. Whether these features are worth the extra money is obviously up to some significant debate.
To add to this, the D90 is fully balanced, the E50 is not.

And the D90 came out before the E50. When it came out, it outperformed the smaller models.

The E50 is good enough for most, the D90 is an enthousiast product, and it takes a big ol dump on dacs that cost 5 times the price.

I just wish that Topping/Gustard/SMSL would make some full size stereo components instead of yet more desktop models. A Pa5 with twice the power? Yes please. An E50 with 3 x optical and 3 x coax? Yesss please.
 

Harmonie

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To add to this, the D90 is fully balanced, the E50 is not.

And the D90 came out before the E50. When it came out, it outperformed the smaller models.

The E50 is good enough for most, the D90 is an enthousiast product, and it takes a big ol dump on dacs that cost 5 times the price.

I just wish that Topping/Gustard/SMSL would make some full size stereo components instead of yet more desktop models. A Pa5 with twice the power? Yes please. An E50 with 3 x optical and 3 x coax? Yesss please.
Topping announced quite some time ago a whole line of power amps including mono versions to come out
at the end of this year tic, tac, tic, tac ....

 

alitomr1979

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This is all very interesting. I have a question in another thread: is FR and SINAD all there is to audio?

A very specific thing I am asking has not been answered. You can read it in this thread:

 
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