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dac can one hear measured differenced

FrancoP

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I am what I would call a traditional audiophile in that I have not embraced streaming. I like owning my recordings and having a physical music library. I recently purchased a CD transport to replace my older tube out put CD player. I year or so ago I had purchased the Monoprice Liquid Spark dac by Alex Cavelli as an experiment. My main CD player was in need of repair and I had an old adcom with digital out on hand so I tried the Monoprice. Today I am running my transport through the Monoprice in my main system and I have been wondering if I can do better than the Monoprice. I have been reading reviews and opinions but the more I read the more confused I become. I turn here for reviews on the measurements of products I am considering and the opinions of others with more knowledge and experience that I. So finally the question. Does it make sense to purchase something like the well regarded Gustard X16 to replace the Monoprice? Will there be a discernable difference? Does the difference in the measurements of 2 dacs mean they sound different??
 

pozz

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Stick with what you have. It is quite good.
Does the difference in the measurements of 2 dacs mean they sound different??
Usually not, but there are heavy caveats depending what kind of measurements you have in mind.
 

antennaguru

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There is a review of the Topping E30 DAC on this site showing measurements that place it near the "top" (left edge) of the SINAD stack sort. There is also a review of the MHDT Labs Pagoda DAC on this site showing measurements that place it at the absolute "bottom" (right edge) of the SINAD stack sort - so low that it was called the "worst" DAC ever measured. Interestingly there was a poll associated with the review that does not really confirm this.

I happen to own an even older and probably "worse" measuring version of the MHDT Labs DAC called the Steeplechase, that also has the same output tube. It is around 10 years old. I just bought the Topping E30 DAC to compare to the old DAC, and I used a dedicated linear power supply as the topping needs an external 5 VDC power source.

My wife and I did a rather uncontrolled and casual listening comparison between the two DACs by simply playing 4 songs we know to have a lot of recorded detail from my music server to the old DAC's optical input. We listened to these 4 songs very carefully, concentrating on what we heard. Then I removed the old DAC and replaced it with the new DAC, and played the same 4 songs again - listening again very carefully. The volume control knob on the line stage was not touched, the same optical cable was used to deliver the digital signal to both DACs, and the same RCA interconnects were used to deliver the analog signal from both DACs to the line stage. Essentially nothing was changed except the DACs were swapped! The volume level sounded the same to us both. It took us several minutes of listening before we both commented that there was a very, very slight difference between the two DACs - with the new DAC presenting the musically slightly clearer with slightly more detail. However, we both felt the audible difference between the two DACs was very, very slight.

We left the new DAC in place as we both though it sounded ever so slightly better. I personally prefered the form factor of the old DAC as it has an internal power supply and MUCH nicer feeling switches. It is also more substantial in size/weight and not pulled around by the cables like the new DAC. I haven't made up my mind yet but I may go back to using the old DAC because it looks nicer, feels nicer, stays in place better, and the audible difference is so small. The best thing about the new DAC is that it was very inexpensive...
 

jsrtheta

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I am what I would call a traditional audiophile in that I have not embraced streaming. I like owning my recordings and having a physical music library. I recently purchased a CD transport to replace my older tube out put CD player. I year or so ago I had purchased the Monoprice Liquid Spark dac by Alex Cavelli as an experiment. My main CD player was in need of repair and I had an old adcom with digital out on hand so I tried the Monoprice. Today I am running my transport through the Monoprice in my main system and I have been wondering if I can do better than the Monoprice. I have been reading reviews and opinions but the more I read the more confused I become. I turn here for reviews on the measurements of products I am considering and the opinions of others with more knowledge and experience that I. So finally the question. Does it make sense to purchase something like the well regarded Gustard X16 to replace the Monoprice? Will there be a discernable difference? Does the difference in the measurements of 2 dacs mean they sound different??
It is highly unlikely that you will discern a difference between the Liquid Spark and any other solid state DAC. There are measured difference between DACs, but these differences do not seem to make any difference in the sound you hear.

Once you throw tubes into a DAC (I realize you haven't), then that might make a difference.

I would definitely hold on to the Liquid Spark, if only because they don't make it anymore. It's a very good DAC.
 

DVDdoug

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My wife and I did a rather uncontrolled and casual listening comparison...

...we both commented that there was a very, very slight difference between the two DACs
Subtle differences are where a not-so-casual blind ABX test is VERY helpful. You do need two people for a blind test so it's nice that you have someone equally interested (or interested enough) to help, and you could each take a turn at the listening & switching.

The other thing you should have is a multimeter to match the levels (voltage) out of the DACs. (For the level calibration you can generate test tones with Audacity. Music varies too much moment-to-moment to get good readings.)

The most common audible difference would be background noise. If you're hearing hum or hiss from one of the DACs, and not the other, it's obvious which one is better, and there's no need for blind listening. But's it's still important to match the levels because it's the signal-to-noise ratio that's important. If you turn-up the volume on the quieter one to make it louder you are (usually) also turning-up the noise.

Distortion and frequency response are almost always better than human hearing.
 

antennaguru

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Subtle differences are where a not-so-casual blind ABX test is VERY helpful. You do need two people for a blind test so it's nice that you have someone equally interested (or interested enough) to help, and you could each take a turn at the listening & switching.

The other thing you should have is a multimeter to match the levels (voltage) out of the DACs. (For the level calibration you can generate test tones with Audacity. Music varies too much moment-to-moment to get good readings.)

The most common audible difference would be background noise. If you're hearing hum or hiss from one of the DACs, and not the other, it's obvious which one is better, and there's no need for blind listening. But's it's still important to match the levels because it's the signal-to-noise ratio that's important. If you turn-up the volume on the quieter one to make it louder you are (usually) also turning-up the noise.

Distortion and frequency response are almost always better than human hearing.
If we could barely hear a difference the way we listened to them both, then we simply don't care about the difference - as it matters not. Functionality, usability, and listening are far more important to us than what test equipment says. I use plenty of test equipment for what matters...
 
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FrancoP

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There is a review of the Topping E30 DAC on this site showing measurements that place it near the "top" (left edge) of the SINAD stack sort. There is also a review of the MHDT Labs Pagoda DAC on this site showing measurements that place it at the absolute "bottom" (right edge) of the SINAD stack sort - so low that it was called the "worst" DAC ever measured. Interestingly there was a poll associated with the review that does not really confirm this.

I happen to own an even older and probably "worse" measuring version of the MHDT Labs DAC called the Steeplechase, that also has the same output tube. It is around 10 years old. I just bought the Topping E30 DAC to compare to the old DAC, and I used a dedicated linear power supply as the topping needs an external 5 VDC power source.

My wife and I did a rather uncontrolled and casual listening comparison between the two DACs by simply playing 4 songs we know to have a lot of recorded detail from my music server to the old DAC's optical input. We listened to these 4 songs very carefully, concentrating on what we heard. Then I removed the old DAC and replaced it with the new DAC, and played the same 4 songs again - listening again very carefully. The volume control knob on the line stage was not touched, the same optical cable was used to deliver the digital signal to both DACs, and the same RCA interconnects were used to deliver the analog signal from both DACs to the line stage. Essentially nothing was changed except the DACs were swapped! The volume level sounded the same to us both. It took us several minutes of listening before we both commented that there was a very, very slight difference between the two DACs - with the new DAC presenting the musically slightly clearer with slightly more detail. However, we both felt the audible difference between the two DACs was very, very slight.

We left the new DAC in place as we both though it sounded ever so slightly better. I personally prefered the form factor of the old DAC as it has an internal power supply and MUCH nicer feeling switches. It is also more substantial in size/weight and not pulled around by the cables like the new DAC. I haven't made up my mind yet but I may go back to using the old DAC because it looks nicer, feels nicer, stays in place better, and the audible difference is so small. The best thing about the new DAC is that it was very inexpensive...
Thanks for a detailed response. I am less likely to go out and purchase a newer "better measured" dac.
 
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