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Considering upgrading the DAC on my Asgard 3.

threni

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#1
I just read the review here of the Schiit Asgard 3 with internal AKM4490 DAC:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/schiit-asgard-3-headphone-amp-dac.14393/

Whilst the amp itself was very highly praised, the opposite is true of the DAC. I've this amp/Dac, and I listen solely via Sennheiser HD660S (150ohm) headphones, to (mostly) flac files from CDs, delivered from a Raspberry Pi 4 via USB. I don't relate at all to any comments about limited output volume. On high gain I rarely need to move the volume pot beyond 11 oclock; only on some classical music recordings. Regarding the DAC measurements (sinad and the like) I'm unsure how these manifest themselves in terms of what I can actually hear, and how much better an alternative DAC would sound. For example, if the dynamic range of a CD is 96dB, and the measured dynamic range of this DAC is around 89.1dB, what does that mean? More range between the quietest and the loudest movements? How much more?

Supposing I was going to upgrade the DAC, it seems that the Topping D10S measures well and I can get for £90 (the same I paid for the AKM4490 module, in fact! Or the E30 for £115. Would either be a noticeable upgrade? Similar question - any difference in sound quality between those two? Back in the day people used to talk about compatibility between hifi separates; will any external DAC with RCA output work with the Asgard 3?

Shame this review wasn't around when I bought the Asgard!
 
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tw99

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#2
ASR likes to obsess over SINAD figures, without always taking into account the bigger picture.

I think it's unlikely that you'd hear an improvement under controlled conditions, even if technically the Asgard isn't exactly leading-edge. But you can probably get the better-measuring DAC and then imagine you have heard lifted veils, inky blacks etc, anyway...
 
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threni

threni

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Thread Starter #3
ASR likes to obsess over SINAD figures, without always taking into account the bigger picture.

I think it's unlikely that you'd hear an improvement under controlled conditions, even if technically the Asgard isn't exactly leading-edge. But you can probably get the better-measuring DAC and then imagine you have heard lifted veils, inky blacks etc, anyway...
Has anyone done such an experiment: take the very best performing DAC on the big SINAD chart used in reviews and the worst. Do a blind a/b test; see if it's possible to detect a difference. If so, do a "binary chop" of the other DACS to determine the point where it's no longer possible to detect a difference. Whilst performing this test, it might be worth asking the subjects which of each pair they prefer the sound of. Not the usual point of an a/b test but it might be interesting to see if people actually value higher scoring DACs. Perhaps the same test could be performed with other criteria (bit depth, dynamic range etc). Doing this would be good for two reasons: for science, but also so I could avoid spending money on objectively better and more expensive kit which was no better for me personally. I think this site is great and no doubt has helped people to save a lot of money they'd otherwise have wasted on more expensive kit that doesn't sound better, but if I blindly follow the SINAD ratings and upgrade unheard from the AK4490 to the Topping E30 purely because of the measurements it seems I'm doing the same thing!
 
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tw99

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#4
It's an interesting idea for a test.

Personally I wouldn't upgrade/change a DAC just because of a Sinad figure. That just seems like a different spin on the typical pointless audiophile upgrade cycle.

I would only change because of features, but would try to pick the best technical performing device with the features I want.
 

M00ndancer

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#5
I would only change because of features, but would try to pick the best technical performing device with the features I want.
This is what it's all about. If you want "better", "different" sound change the things that matter. Speakers, headphones, EQ-settings or room corrections.

Example: When I use with my phone a Motorola G8 Pro, the biggest flaw is the volume level. So I got the Apple DAC USB-C and some software to be able to control the output properly. Does it sound any different, no, but now I can use my MDR-1a on the phone on 50% volume level instead of not getting enough @ 100%
 
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threni

threni

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Thread Starter #6
This is what it's all about. If you want "better", "different" sound change the things that matter. Speakers, headphones, EQ-settings or room corrections.
Well, my point is, maybe the Topping DAC would be an audible upgrade over the Schiit; that would be a "feature" worth paying for. But because I'm unable to perform an a/b test on my current system with both DACs, because I don't have both of them, all I have to go on is the measurements. Hence the question in my first post: are the differences between the two DACs audible, and how do those differences manifest themselves. I'm happy with the headphones (HD660S) and the amp (Asgard 3) both in terms of measurements and how they sound. I'm playing flac files on a pi. There's literally nothing else to change.
 

M00ndancer

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#7
Well, my point is, maybe the Topping DAC would be an audible upgrade over the Schiit;
Measurably, yes. Audible, no, not in my opinion. Every DAC with Sinad >89-90 will sound perfectly fine.
My advice is to keep your gear and invest in something else like another headphone.
 
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#8
Has anyone done such an experiment: take the very best performing DAC on the big SINAD chart used in reviews and the worst. Do a blind a/b test; see if it's possible to detect a difference. If so, do a "binary chop" of the other DACS to determine the point where it's no longer possible to detect a difference. Whilst performing this test, it might be worth asking the subjects which of each pair they prefer the sound of. Not the usual point of an a/b test but it might be interesting to see if people actually value higher scoring DACs. Perhaps the same test could be performed with other criteria (bit depth, dynamic range etc). Doing this would be good for two reasons: for science, but also so I could avoid spending money on objectively better and more expensive kit which was no better for me personally. I think this site is great and no doubt has helped people to save a lot of money they'd otherwise have wasted on more expensive kit that doesn't sound better, but if I blindly follow the SINAD ratings and upgrade unheard from the AK4490 to the Topping E30 purely because of the measurements it seems I'm doing the same thing!
Agreed. If you could get a big enough sample to be statistically significant this would be great. I’m betting there are the golden ears out there we like to think we have. I can blind test on familiar content for hires sources (if I take care with levels), I can hear some tonal differences on the Asgard over the FIIO K5 pro. But if I test with switching just DACs I am damned if I can tell. Plenty of hype around this one. And these guys are obsessive over SINAD. I am not sold.
 
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#9
I just read the review here of the Schiit Asgard 3 with internal AKM4490 DAC:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/schiit-asgard-3-headphone-amp-dac.14393/

Whilst the amp itself was very highly praised, the opposite is true of the DAC. I've this amp/Dac, and I listen solely via Sennheiser HD660S (150ohm) headphones, to (mostly) flac files from CDs, delivered from a Raspberry Pi 4 via USB. I don't relate at all to comments about limited output volume. On high gain I rarely need to move the volume pot beyond 11 oclock; only on some classical music recordings. Regarding the DAC measurements (sinad and the like) I'm unsure how these manifest themselves in terms of what I can actually hear, and how much better an alternative DAC would sound. For example, if the dynamic range of a CD is 96dB, and the measured dynamic range of this DAC is around 89.1dB, what does that mean? More range between the quietest and the loudest movements? How much more?

Supposing I was going to upgrade the DAC, it seems that the Topping D10S measures well and I can get for £90 (the same I paid for the AKM4490 module, in fact! Or the E30 for £115. Would either be a noticeable upgrade? Similar question - any difference in sound quality between those two? Back in the day people used to talk about compatibility between hifi separates; will any external DAC with RCA output work with the Asgard 3?

Shame this review wasn't around when I bought the Asgard!
 
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#10
Relax. It’s a superb amp with a good DAC. Are you sure you (or any of us) can really discern DACs above this spec level? I’ve swapped the Fiio K5 and Topping with the 4990 in the Asgard. Sound the same to me. Btw. The Asgard is a bargain with high impedance cans like the HD600 and the HD800. I think I have hit my price / quality / listening discernment ceiling.
 
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