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CHORD M-Scaler Review (Upsampler)

Rate this product:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 318 90.3%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 8 2.3%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther

    Votes: 7 2.0%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 19 5.4%

  • Total voters
    352
OP
amirm

amirm

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The crux of the complaint seems to be that the audible (according to Watts) benefits of the M Scaler are chiefly related to its improvement of transient timing accuracy, and Amir didn't measure that specifically.
Measure what exactly? Where is manufacturer's measurement for this? And where do you get this claim anyway? There is only a single mention of that word in M-scaler product page which doesn't say that at all:

1658687346910.png


Him claiming this in the interview is non-sequitur. Where is any objective evidence of this? Where is the audibility studies he is talking about?

Is everyone producing music hearing the wrong transients, leaving it for us to hear for the first time? Really?

Folks, the definition of an ideal upsampler is one that gives you more samples but without distortion. That is it. It does nothing for "transients." Now, if you created an illegal signal with infinite bandwidth such as an impulse, yes you can show that running at higher sample rate produces more of that signal. But for one that is already severely band limited in 44.1 kHz? You simply cannot do that or you are not a resampler but an effect box.

I provided audio samples of its 2X resampling. Why don't he and others run a proper blind test and report back on what you hear.

So no, just because he throws big words around doesn't mean they are real benefits.
 
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amirm

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BTW, for folks still confused about upsampling, I have done a tutorial using images so that it is easier to see. Here it is: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/.../understanding-upsampling-interpolation.1447/

This is an original image from that article:

index.php


This is what happens when I reduce it in size, i.e. in audio sample it at 44.1 kHz, and then "upsample" it back to same size:

index.php


Notice how it is softer and no way the same as the original even though it has the same dimensions. What is lost is lost forever. The only job of the resampler is to give you more samples but not more information. This is basic signal processing 101. Yes, you can have a filter that sharpens the upsampled file (adds distortion) and I show that in the article but that is not function of resampling.

We resample when we need to. Say you have a 4K TV and are playing 1080p. We need to created 2X more samples in each dimension. If we just replicated the samples, it would look very pixelated. So we resample/interpolate. No way this is the same resolution now as native 4K material. Or has any more detail, including "transients" (white to black). We just have more samples. That is it.
 
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amirm

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I have no argument against the measurements of the Mscaler, my only objection is the hate that this devise is getting by people who never listened to it and to say that it does noting.
Huh? Such listening tests when only your ears are involved, would show no difference. I provided the output files for you to listen if you don't believe me. Just run an ABX test a dozen times and report back. Why it doesn't make a difference is backed by measurements here as well as fundamentals of what this type of device can do. For it to make a difference, it would have to change the frequency response which an interpolating filter can do. But we don't have this here. As I showed in the response, it is flat so any claim of difference because of that is invalid too.

So no, people don't need to listen to a device to conclude with extreme confidence what it does and doesn't do. That is the nature of the type of testing I do. Sure, if a subjectivist said this and that difference he heard, you need to confirm that as who knows if he really heard that. But here, we have a ton of evidence that is not subject to that kind of whim.
 

Ornette

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Measure what exactly? Where is manufacturer's measurement for this? And where do you get this claim anyway?
Indeed, we're asking the same questions. :) While you are being questioned for not measuring whatever might demonstrate the audible benefits of the M Scaler, I suggested that the burden of proof is really on Chord. They're the ones claiming that M Scaler makes a clearly audible difference. I recall recently reading a statement by Watts to the effect that you'd have to have a tin ear not to be able to hear it. That being the case, I'd expect to see some sort of measurements (frequency or time domain) to back that up.
 

Jomungur

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I didn't question taking the measurement. I agree wholeheartedly with that part. My question was, on a forum that seems to pride itself on objectivity, why is that measurement considered negative when it actually doesn't influence the objective performance of any decent downstream DAC?

As you said, you can't have it both ways. Is this about objective measurements and conclusions based on the objective meaning of those conclusions or just subjective judgements? If it's the latter, that's fine, but let's call it what it is.
I haven't spent a whole lot of time here, but I wouldn't say this forum prides itself on objectivity per se. Rather, it seems to pride itself on valuing standardized, objective measurements over unquantifiable subjective impressions in the context of discussing or comparing audio equipment. There's a range here; some members would never buy a product that measures poorly on the measures Amir uses, others just take it as one factor to consider.

I wouldn't even say that most members actually dismiss subjective judgments; they might say they do but I've never heard anyone say here don't buy something if you like how it sounds. What is dismissed are intersubjective exchanges, where a community shares subjective impressions as a way to meaningfully talk about audio. They don't ban it, they just don't see it as having much value other than entertainment and normal bantering. A lot of other forums value intersubjective exchange and are built on that premise.
 
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amirm

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I understand what you are getting at. By using the words 'no benefit', Amir is implying (intentionally or not) that the "upscaling" provided by the M Scaler could have benefited the 1kHz test tone when it's impossible to do so. So those words insinuate the M Scaler should have been doing something to the 1kHz test tone that it could never have done, which would be an unfair thing to say.
When I test an interconnect cable with 1 kHz tone, should the same objection stand? That I should not run such tests because the cable specifically doesn't say it does something to a 1 kHz tone???

The DAC is operating at a completely different sample rate as I explained. All audio samples have been modified. Folks say their music is improved with any content they throw at the M-scaler. Ergo, it reasons that one would expect such improvements to be reflected in 1 kHz tone. My proof point that 1 kHz tone did not change is toward that argument.

Now, if folks had tested M-scaler only with 20 to 22 kHz spectrum and made claims there, sure you could ask why I ran a 1 kHz test. But this not the scenario. I run a lot of tests to dismiss myths about what these products do. For my own sake, I wouldn't need to run them but for completeness, we must.
 

the_brunx

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LOL That wasn't meant to be a real interview by Passion for sound, don't be deceived. that was just a device to give Rob a platform to freely rebuttal the ASR review and confuse and salvage some consumers who are still on the fence about what's going on. anyone who has time to waste should go through he's other previous YouTube videos and what he comments under them even regarding measurements and people who do them as incompetent and ignorant etc, you will know exactly where this guy stands, even in the interview itself did you not see the choice of pullover he chose to wear, if that was not direct at the review, then I might just be crazy.
 

Jomungur

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When I test an interconnect cable with 1 kHz tone, should the same objection stand? That I should not run such tests because the cable specifically doesn't say it does something to a 1 kHz tone???

The DAC is operating at a completely different sample rate as I explained. All audio samples have been modified. Folks say their music is improved with any content they throw at the M-scaler. Ergo, it reasons that one would expect such improvements to be reflected in 1 kHz tone. My proof point that 1 kHz tone did not change is toward that argument.

Now, if folks had tested M-scaler only with 20 to 22 kHz spectrum and made claims there, sure you could ask why I ran a 1 kHz test. But this not the scenario. I run a lot of tests to dismiss myths about what these products do. For my own sake, I wouldn't need to run them but for completeness, we must.
Yes, I realize that. And myth busting is valuable. I was just trying to clarify his point.

Ultimately, the problem is what has been said many times in this thread: the M Scaler is impossible to really test in terms of measurements because it's impossible to quantify what is it is supposed to do. Even the transients point doesn't seem to hold up in measurements.

I think this had to have been one of the hardest devices for you to test? Normally you have at least have some ideal reference point to compare against. I don't think people fully appreciate this point. The review even gives the opportunity to disprove it through blind testing, which is all you can do with purely subjective judgments.

Since the M Scaler does not change the signal in any significant way, fans of the M Scaler should come up with the ideal measurement protocols themselves if they are skeptical. But I don't think they can. They claim to hear something that can't be measured. The review exposes the argument for what it is.
 

dc655321

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Ultimately, the problem is what has been said many times in this thread: the M Scaler is impossible to really test in terms of measurements because it's impossible to quantify what is it is supposed to do.

Resampling is a relatively straightforward signal processing operation. How closely this device follows the behavior an ideal resampler is certainly testable.

“Thou shall do no harm” was and is eminently discoverable with electrical signals and good instrumentation.
 

PulloverJunkie

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Here’s the thing. You say you hate his reviews, yet you clearly watch them. Everyone else has had meaningful discussion and all you do is try to push people down.
 

the_brunx

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Here’s the thing. You say you hate his reviews, yet you clearly watch them. Everyone else has had meaningful discussion and all you do is try to push people down.
so if you realize that I clearly watched them based on what I said, shouldn’t you be more concerned that it’s true? When people are getting swindled thousands some have to save for months to get these products you never create a new account to come against this but because I said the truth about the phony ways of someone who is an accomplice of such snake oil and perhaps you think I hurt his feelings you go all the way to defend them.
 

AdamG247

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Keep it professional, respectful and not personal please. Leave the anger and negativity at the door. Discuss this Product and the Test results and take the off topic side arguments to PM. If you’re a new member, coming out the gate on post #1 slinging personal insults, you’re tenure here will be short and forgetful. ;)
 

PulloverJunkie

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Keep it professional, respectful and not personal please. Leave the anger and negativity at the door. Discuss this Product and the Test results and take the off topic side arguments to PM. If you’re a new member, coming out the gate on post #1 slinging personal insults, you’re tenure here will be short and forgetful. ;)
That is fine if my tenure is brief. All I am saying is @the_brunx is less than professional. I am also saying that people truly enjoy these products despite measurements. Why does everything have to be proved by blind tests? What is wrong with joy-filled subjectivity? At the end of the day, we are talking about a hobby; it is supposed to be fun, right? I can’t wait to try the M-Scaler. If I try it and dislike it, I will return it just like all of the soulless-sounding-negative-feedback-measurement-seeking Topping products I have tried.
 

AdamG247

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That is fine if my tenure is brief. All I am saying is @the_brunx is less than professional. I am also saying that people truly enjoy these products despite measurements. Why does everything have to be proved by blind tests? What is wrong with joy-filled subjectivity? At the end of the day, we are talking about a hobby; it is supposed to be fun, right? I can’t wait to try the M-Scaler. If I try it and dislike it, I will return it just like all of the soulless-sounding-negative-feedback-measurement-seeking Topping products I have tried.
And you are entitled to your opinion. No one will tell you otherwise. If you think you hear a difference then you do. I encourage you to follow your ears and heart and be happy with the gear you like/love. We are mostly focused on using science and engineering to test and publish these results for our readers to use or not use in their purchasing decisions. Much like Consumer Reports does for Automobiles and such. Enjoy your music.
 

Purité Audio

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That is fine if my tenure is brief. All I am saying is @the_brunx is less than professional. I am also saying that people truly enjoy these products despite measurements. Why does everything have to be proved by blind tests? What is wrong with joy-filled subjectivity? At the end of the day, we are talking about a hobby; it is supposed to be fun, right? I can’t wait to try the M-Scaler. If I try it and dislike it, I will return it just like all of the soulless-sounding-negative-feedback-measurement-seeking Topping products I have tried.
I wouldn’t expect the Dave to sound any different from the soulless sounding negative feedback etc etc.
Keith
 

PassionforSound

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Hi there. Welcome to the forum. I have seen your video.

I think the concept of a digital processor is not understood. The M-scaler has no intelligence. It does the same thing on every input signal. As such, that 1 kHz set of digital samples were modified due to interpolation, dither applied (again), and output over a S/PDIF link which itself can cause timing variations (jitter). So it is very important to run the standardized 1 kHz test. And good thing too because I saw that it substantially degraded the performance of Topping D70s -- something the company does not warn about.

On your #1, DACs internally already upsample to very high frequencies. And provide noise shaping if they want. By your argument I should stop running 1 kHz test for all DACs then. Let's remember that by forcing the DAC to run at higher sample rate, the M-scaler is causing the DAC to operate differently. So it is important to measure its analog performance for that tone as well.

Also, when people make claims of improvements for M-scaler, they don't at all limit it to transients. They may do so after reading Rob Watt's argument but they are not in absence of that.

That aside, Rob provided no evidence that said transient response is a) improved and b) it is audibly beneficial. The word transient is thrown around in audio as standard marketing buzzword. As in that context, it has no meaning.

Let's remember that a true transient has infinite bandwidth and energy! No way then that it can be contained when sampled with 44.1 kHz which is 99% of what people listen to. Harmonics of any signal over 11 kHz and change is chopped off and gone forever from the format. And even if it weren't, we would not hear it anyway as it is outside of audible range.

It is trivial to improve transient response by increasing bandwidth. But per above, you are reproducing things that you don't hear. And your speakers likely won't reproduce (or distort if they did).

All this said, I did run upsampler specific test in my filter measurements:

index.php


There, we again discovered deficiencies in the M-scaler in the way it outputs over its single link. Its attenuation is worse than the naked DAC, something that Rob accepted in your interview but was absence in all prior talk about this device.

All in all, I found his answers in your interview very disappointing. He starts by saying he has not read my review. Really? He came for an interview on the topic with no knowledge of what I tested? Maybe if he had read the review he would have realized the questions you raised were not valid. Second, he didn't bring any objective measurements, or blind controlled tests to back his claims. So it was just a lot of talk with no reliable evidence.

As a reviewer, you need to be on guard to not be manipulated by a manufacturer with fancy buzzwords and unsupported claims. You started to ask hard questions but then accepted everything he said. That is not right. When he says he has conducted hundreds of even thousands of listening tests, you need to ask him if these were documented in any form so that we could see how valid they are (and try to replicate). At end of one of his talks at an audio show where he repeated his "structured/controlled" listening tests many times, I asked him if his tests were blind. He said no and that blind tests are stressful! Well, they are stressful if there is no difference to be found!

If his answers were too technical, you could have sent me a link to the video in advance of publishing to get my response. But you didn't and published his one-sided response. Before you say my review was also one sided, I provided tons of evidence including listening test samples. He didn't do any of this.

I am happy to see you here so that we can properly answer back. But wish you would put your consumer hat on and defend their interest first and foremost.
Thanks for the reply, Amir. There is lots to cover here which is why I was hoping to break this down into just one question at a time.

Based on the replies I've seen so far, let me phrase it this way:

I understand and completely agree with running products through tests and you get zero argent from me about any measurements you or anyone else wishes to put products through. Where my concerns arose and the reason I reached out to to Rob was that it appears to me that the M-Scaler is being judged negatively for measurents that are objectively meaningless, specifically:
- the 1kHz tone which you stated did not benefit from upsampling
- the jitter measurement which you stated would be fixed by any decent DAC

Again, I'm not debating the measurements. My concern is there is a lot of discussion here about people being misled by audio companies while I feel that the subjective judgements of measurements that are objectively irrelevant to the real world performance of the device in question (whatever it is) is equally misleading.

Let's pretend for a moment that the M-Scaler does do what it's said to. If someone new to the hobby we're looking around for reviews and saw your comments on the 1kHz tone test (with Hugo 2) and on the jitter test, they'd likely be instantly turned away because they wouldn't necessarily understand that neither measurement matters.

So, I guess my question here is this. Are you looking to provide objective data and unbiased interpretation of that data or are you using the data to illustrate your own opinions of the products? (I am not judging either approach and not suggesting any manipulation of the data)

Finally, I want to clarify here that I reached out to Rob Watts to ask him to answer my questions about the measurements, not to read and critique your review. I also respect the fact that he makes a point of not discussing other people's reviews (regardless of their objective or subjective content). Doing so would create a very combative and potentially disrespectful tone in our hobby. So, Rob not reading the review was in no way disrespect based on what he said to me and he was also quite familiar with much of the content of your review already because it had been posted and discussed at length on Head-Fi.

(I have no need or desire to defend Rob, but will definitely call out unfounded criticism when I see it, no matter the recipient.)
 

PassionforSound

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Huh? Such listening tests when only your ears are involved, would show no difference. I provided the output files for you to listen if you don't believe me. Just run an ABX test a dozen times and report back. Why it doesn't make a difference is backed by measurements here as well as fundamentals of what this type of device can do. For it to make a difference, it would have to change the frequency response which an interpolating filter can do. But we don't have this here. As I showed in the response, it is flat so any claim of difference because of that is invalid too.

So no, people don't need to listen to a device to conclude with extreme confidence what it does and doesn't do. That is the nature of the type of testing I do. Sure, if a subjectivist said this and that difference he heard, you need to confirm that as who knows if he really heard that. But here, we have a ton of evidence that is not subject to that kind of whim.

The performance of the M-Scaler at 2x IS basically identical, maybe slightly better, maybe slightly worse than the standard output. Why not test and record at 16x?
 

PassionforSound

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LOL That wasn't meant to be a real interview by Passion for sound, don't be deceived. that was just a device to give Rob a platform to freely rebuttal the ASR review and confuse and salvage some consumers who are still on the fence about what's going on. anyone who has time to waste should go through he's other previous YouTube videos and what he comments under them even regarding measurements and people who do them as incompetent and ignorant etc, you will know exactly where this guy stands, even in the interview itself did you not see the choice of pullover he chose to wear, if that was not direct at the review, then I might just be crazy.
Where I stand is the encouragement of people to explore and enjoy their interests in the audio hobby.
Please stop assuming you understand my motivations or have any real sense of my competency or knowledge.
 
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