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Can a DAC improve soundstage, depth, separation?

12Many

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I am also not sure if he is implying audibly better sound. The ca 87dB SINAD are a bit borderline especially if one might hook up a power amp to amplify the not so clean signal by another let’s say 26dB or so.

Yes, that is the review I read. Your statement that I quoted is helpful in understanding Amir's reviews. I am finally at the stage (after kids and space demands) that I can rebuild my audio system and as part of deciding what to buy, I am researching and balancing cost, technical performance, hearing limitations, and my room layout. Seems more confusing now then it was way back when.

On the one hand there are threads like this that indicate human hearing is limited, which I agree with, and that I would not be able to hear the difference between DACs. On the other hand, Amir's tests reveal differences between DACs, and those like the Node get poor reviews because those DACs are a bit borderline as you say, so maybe there is some audible drawback. It is confusing when deciding what to buy after after being told (in no uncertain terms : ) ), that I can't hear the difference and also reading the test results for the Node (and other DACs) that show the differences and being told this a 'bit border line'. When you say a bit border line does that mean that it could be audible in certain systems? I think that is where my confusion lies. If I can't hear it, I won't worry about it, but if it is borderline and maybe I can be heard, I will avoid it when purchasing.

Perhaps the safe option is for me to buy a device with good test results, just in case, without going crazy on price/performance. I downloaded and listened to the sound files with and without jitter and it was not detectable by me at lower levels so I am not worried about a bit of jitter in the digital stream. See link at Jitter Examples

Thanks everyone.
 

Holmz

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I don't understand why converting them back to digital would be helpful to the analyses.

Because one can then companies two devices, with say perhaps a null test?


… Isn't it pretty well established that depending on the implementation of the DAC and associated circuitry, the resulting analog signal will look or be different after conversion, which is to say that different DAC systems will have slightly different outputs, albeit similar?

Established?
The earth was also established as flat, but we could observe whether that established opinion is fact or not.


… It seems like it would follow that those differences can lead to minor differences in sound quality - not that my ears can hear it or my dated system can resolve it.

True - It would follow in a logic course.
But we need to show the premise is true.


Yes, that is the review I read. Your statement that I quoted is helpful in understanding Amir's reviews. I am finally at the stage (after kids and space demands) that I can rebuild my audio system and as part of deciding what to buy, I am researching and balancing cost, technical performance, hearing limitations, and my room layout. Seems more confusing now then it was way back when.

On the one hand there are threads like this that indicate human hearing is limited, which I agree with, and that I would not be able to hear the difference between DACs. On the other hand, Amir's tests reveal differences between DACs, and those like the Node get poor reviews because those DACs are a bit borderline as you say, so maybe there is some audible drawback. It is confusing when deciding what to buy after after being told (in no uncertain terms : ) ), that I can't hear the difference and also reading the test results for the Node (and other DACs) that show the differences and being told this a 'bit border line'. When you say a bit border line does that mean that it could be audible in certain systems? I think that is where my confusion lies. If I can't hear it, I won't worry about it, but if it is borderline and maybe I can be heard, I will avoid it when purchasing.

People go on and on about how the 120dB unit sound great and about the 80dB SINAD unit sounds better.
I dunno, they all sound about the same, as do CD players.

I like looking at the expensive ones, as they look nicer. So I know that they sound nicer ;)
Even though they don’t
 
OP
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I think it's worthwhile to experiment for yourself. Just buy somewhere with good/ great return policies. I know you can buy Topping products on Amazon. If you're in the USA, Schiit makes some R2R DACs and charges a 5% restock fee + shipping for returns. So at most you'd be out $70 to try out the Bifrost2 for youself.
Just did a blind ABX test with the internal Hegel h390 DAC vs Mytek Manhattan ii DAC (retail $10k NZD). See my post for results!
 

HarmonicTHD

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Yes, that is the review I read. Your statement that I quoted is helpful in understanding Amir's reviews. I am finally at the stage (after kids and space demands) that I can rebuild my audio system and as part of deciding what to buy, I am researching and balancing cost, technical performance, hearing limitations, and my room layout. Seems more confusing now then it was way back when.

On the one hand there are threads like this that indicate human hearing is limited, which I agree with, and that I would not be able to hear the difference between DACs. On the other hand, Amir's tests reveal differences between DACs, and those like the Node get poor reviews because those DACs are a bit borderline as you say, so maybe there is some audible drawback. It is confusing when deciding what to buy after after being told (in no uncertain terms : ) ), that I can't hear the difference and also reading the test results for the Node (and other DACs) that show the differences and being told this a 'bit border line'. When you say a bit border line does that mean that it could be audible in certain systems? I think that is where my confusion lies. If I can't hear it, I won't worry about it, but if it is borderline and maybe I can be heard, I will avoid it when purchasing.

Perhaps the safe option is for me to buy a device with good test results, just in case, without going crazy on price/performance. I downloaded and listened to the sound files with and without jitter and it was not detectable by me at lower levels so I am not worried about a bit of jitter in the digital stream. See link at Jitter Examples

Thanks everyone.
I understand.

I would pick a DAC from the “blue” or “green” category which has the features you like and fits your budget. These will be transparent for sure. Just for peace of mind and not worrying about “borderline”. As electronics (DAC, AMP, cables) only contribute roughly 1% of the overall sound, I also would rather spent 80 to 90% of the budget on speakers and add some RoomEQ. But that’s just me.
 
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dominikz

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Can we hear the difference between two $1000 DAC from reputable companies - unlikely - at least I can't. The differences may become more apparent when comparing a poorly design cheap piece of gear from ebay or amazon to the $1000 DAC. I even found a 4$ DAC. Cheap DAC Of course, without knowing anything about this design, I can't comment on its output quality. I may buy this to play around with for fun.
May I refer you to this ABX test I prepared - perhaps you will find it interesting!
No 1000$ or 4$ DACs involved, though! :)
 

Adi777

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Take the test.;) ...
Yesterday I tried to do this test on headphones. NAD VISO HP70 plus laptop - connection via bluetooth. Unfortunately, the internet was poor for me, and I turned off the test. How to do it correctly? Better on headphones or speakers? I must admit that I heard distortions only in the first comparison ...
I have Edifier S3000 Pro, so I must choose 6 inch driver, but what about Stimulus?
 

HarmonicTHD

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Yesterday I tried to do this test on headphones. NAD VISO HP70 plus laptop - connection via bluetooth. Unfortunately, the internet was poor for me, and I turned off the test. How to do it correctly? Better on headphones or speakers? I must admit that I heard distortions only in the first comparison ...
I have Edifier S3000 Pro, so I must choose 6 inch driver, but what about Stimulus?
Either way. The result will be valid for whatever transducer you used. But start with headphones. If you can’t hear a difference with headphones, it is unlikely you will with speakers (within reasonable limits of course).
 

HarmonicTHD

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I will use the Hifiman Deva Pro - they have a built-in R2R DAC. The volume can be any?
As loud as you would normally listen. (Just make sure you don’t turn it up too loud, otherwise you might be hearing the distortion from your headphones).
 

Adi777

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As loud as you would normally listen. (Just make sure you don’t turn it up too loud, otherwise you might be hearing the distortion from your headphones).
Okay. What is a good result? Is there a minimum to define it?
 

HarmonicTHD

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Okay. What is a good result? Is there a minimum to define it?
No there is no minimum. The result simply depends on your hearing abilities. Just take the test. (and post the results of you like).
 

fieldcar

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I must admit that I heard distortions only in the first comparison ...
Don't feel bad at all. There are a lot of factors for not hearing distortion. Bluetooth is usually pretty good, but it could be a point of degradation if you have interference and a low bitrate. Some phones just suck at Bluetooth. I have an earstudio ES100 that I swear has a garbage implementation of SBC, but it could be my oneplus 7 pro causing it, but I'm not sure. I hear distortion in solo piano tracks where the piano sounds fuzzy and tonally colored with a square-wave. This goes away if I use any other codec.

The ambient noise in your environment plays a huge roll in picking up the nuance of harmonic distortion. The only time I'm able to get to -39dB is when I'm wearing IEM's with a good seal, like my ER4XR's or moondrop Kato's. I can't hear the distortion nearly as easily on my speakers and open back headphones.
 

HarmonicTHD

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Difficult. Isn’t it and congratulations for your courage and open mindednesses to try and experience it and let alone posting your results.

Now everyone. Compare this to the -80, -90 or -120dB THD modern amps and dacs are able to deliver. Do you really think they sound differently?
 

kthulhutu

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Let me preface by saying I'm a physics teacher and lifelong audiophile in my years of listening I have found speaker placement, toe-in, and rake are the single most important factors in nailing a 3-dimensional sound stage. When listening to a great recording I love the feeling of being INSIDE the room where it was recorded (or inside the headphones of the person who mixed it). Having said that, I am a constant tinkerer and find myself wondering just HOW can I improve the 3-dimensionality of my soundstage in my listening room.

So my question: is it possible for a DAC upgrade (from the internal DAC in my Hegel h390 to, say, a Topping d90se) to improve the DEPTH and WIDTH of my soundstage and the SEPARATION of instruments in three-dimensional sound space? I read all these subjective reviews (Goldensound and New Record Day's review of the Holo Audio May R2R DAC have nearly taken my money a hundred times) and they make me feel like I'm missing something if I don't upgrade my DAC. Is it all subjective crap? I can't get my hands on any DACs to do a blind test to I have to go with you guys here at Audio Science Review. HELP!
If you want 3-dimensional sound accept no substitute for BACCH DSP. The creator of it is a plasma physicist so I'm sure you'll get along well.
 

DonDish

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Let me preface by saying I'm a physics teacher and lifelong audiophile in my years of listening I have found speaker placement, toe-in, and rake are the single most important factors in nailing a 3-dimensional sound stage. When listening to a great recording I love the feeling of being INSIDE the room where it was recorded (or inside the headphones of the person who mixed it). Having said that, I am a constant tinkerer and find myself wondering just HOW can I improve the 3-dimensionality of my soundstage in my listening room.

So my question: is it possible for a DAC upgrade (from the internal DAC in my Hegel h390 to, say, a Topping d90se) to improve the DEPTH and WIDTH of my soundstage and the SEPARATION of instruments in three-dimensional sound space? I read all these subjective reviews (Goldensound and New Record Day's review of the Holo Audio May R2R DAC have nearly taken my money a hundred times) and they make me feel like I'm missing something if I don't upgrade my DAC. Is it all subjective crap? I can't get my hands on any DACs to do a blind test to I have to go with you guys here at Audio Science Review. HELP!

Can a DAC improve soundstage, depth, separation? Probably not, but it can certainely destroy those parameters.

 

kongwee

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Control of your amplifier and speaker are more important to propagate the sound of direct and "reverberated" data from DAC. Also you can do it with usual triangle sweet-spot off wall placement to get "behind" and "extended" left/right beyond your stereo speaker. For me it is more relaxing to listen than placing far end to the wall. Of course, you need to be comfort with speaker placing near to you visually physically. These are the things you could do without spending any dollar.
 
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OP
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Control of your amplifier and speaking are more important to propagate the sound of direct and "reverberated" data from DAC. Also you can do it with usual triangle sweet-spot off wall placement to get "behind" and "extended" left/right beyond your stereo speaker. For me it is more relaxing to listen and placing far end to the wall. Of course, you need to be comfort with speaker placing near to you visually physically. These are the things you could do without spending any dollar.
This is exactly what I have found. I abx tested a $10k DAC, no difference in soundstage could be detected. But putting my speakers on sliders and exactingly placing them in my room has made a massive difference. I’ve found for my Monitor Audio gold’s which have excellent off-axis frequency response, that sitting closer than the tip of an equilateral triangle is waaaay more immersive and both wides and deepens the soundstage. Very cool.
 

skraz

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Your personal audibility threshold for the particular test combination (stimulus and DUT) is -27 dB!

very glad i did the test, first ever blind test for me and it made me realise a lot, mainly that my ears are normal and that normal means i cant hear distortion that well and that modern DACS are well well well under that threshold
 

Holmz

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Your personal audibility threshold for the particular test combination (stimulus and DUT) is -27 dB!

very glad i did the test, first ever blind test for me and it made me realise a lot, mainly that my ears are normal and that normal means i cant hear distortion that well and that modern DACS are well well well under that threshold

It is possible that the ancient ones may have been under the threshold as well.
 
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