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DAC types and their sonic signature

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#1
Hi guys.

I'm new to this site and am a bit bewildered by not only the sheer choice of DAC's available on the market but their use and type as far as chipset is concerned.

I know nothing of how a DAC is meant to sound and it was only recently that I realised that I was actually listening to one in the form of my amplifier.
To explain my inexperience, using my OPPO UDP 203 via Coax to my Arcam SR250... I thought I was listening to the OPPO.
Don't laugh, it's true, that's what I thought!
It was only when I hooked up some RCA cables from the OPPO to the analogue RCA's of the Arcam that I noticed a rather significant change in sound quality and sound signature.
I was instantly hooked on this and wanted to know why the change and HOW did the change occur.

Thats where this DAC journey began and I feel its an unending journey as I'm 6 months in and still know nothing! :facepalm:

Can anyone explain why DACs sound so different?

I'm aware of ESS, Burr Brown, Cirus Logic and AKM but know nothing of their individual characteristics.

My Arcam has a Cirus Logic CS42528 and my OPPO has a "velvet sound" 32bit AKM.
But what of the ESS and burr brown?
How are their DAC's different in sound signature?

I have just ordered an RME ADI-2 DAC which is AKM "velvet sound" but is it right for me?
My speakers are Spendor A7. Which DAC would suit these speakers or am I looking at this in the wrong way?
I don't use headphones and my music taste is varied but I like accuracy and tight bass.

Can you just buy any DAC and be done with it?

I've been told by a couple of members in here that the RME is a quality DAC and I don't doubt it but how do you know what DAC is right when you're as inexperience as me!
I bought the RME on the strength of the measurements taken by @amirm and the many positive comments on it.
It hasn't arrived yet, it hasn't even shipped yet so probably on order.

How do you guys decipher the information and use it to benefit you and your music.

Can you just rely on measurements alone?

Mike.
 

Willem

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#2
Yep, with DACs measurements tell it all. There is one proviso, and that is that many are excellent and do not sound any different from eacht other. I doubt the RME will sound different from the Oppo, once you have controlled the conditions like very careful level matching (impossible without an accurate multi meter to measure voltage) and blind near instantaneous comparison. Similarly, I doubt that under these conditiosn you can actually hear any difference between using the DAC in the Oppo and using the DAC in the amplifier.
 

Veri

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#3
Good DACs are good DACs, whether it is burr brown, ess sabre, akm, ti, cirrus logic, ... The whole 'velvet sound' thing is imo just a marketing differentiator which is pretty smart too, if there's so many brands you need to try and appeal to the customer.

If anything, going through 'velvet sound' ADC> 'velvet sound' DAC there seems to be a roll-off/modulating going on (the monoprice THX desktop DAC uses both adc and dac chips from AKM when using line-in which is what I'm basing this on). Otherwise, there is zero showing of something special about velvet sound AKM DACs here in the testing reports.
 

VintageFlanker

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#4
I doubt the RME will sound different from the Oppo, once you have controlled the conditions like very careful level matching (impossible without an accurate multi meter to measure voltage) and blind near instantaneous comparison.
Thanks to @amirm ,this is not impossible anymore. With ASR measurements we know how several units provide the same amount of voltage or how to adjust them to get regular 2V or 4V.
 

Calexico

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#5
To me i hear differences between dacs and i'm pretty exigent about the rendering. When i don't like sound of a dac (event if it measures good) i cannot enjoy music.
Scientists here think it's in my mind.
If you enjoy the dac you bought don't think too much.
If you something doesn't please you in the sound maybe go to a shop and try different dacs.
Me i got a tube buffer that made the measurements far less good jut i enjoy the music far better.
 

VintageFlanker

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#6
Here you go again...

Scientists here think it's in my mind.
Yep, it still is, as you never brought any proves or revelant facts with any of your claims.
i'm pretty exigent about the rendering.
Would be great if you were as exigent for proper testing other than "the difference is night and day".

... The problem with the ignore button is that ruins all the meaning of any thread where you posted. I'm sorry if this sounds personal... :cool:
 

Calexico

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#7
I asked for ultrasonic noise tests that could explain differences but tests are bandlimited to hearing range and hide ultrasonic garbage.
Ultra sonic garbage can make components to perform less good and has impact on sound quality.
 

Calexico

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#8
Here you go again...


Yep, it still is, as you never brought any proves or revelant facts with any of your claims.

Would be great if you were as exigent for proper testing other than "the difference is night and day".

... The problem with the ignore button is that ruins all the meaning of any thread where you posted. I'm sorry if this sounds personal... :cool:
I'm kind my answers are tolerate here.
Thank you for this.
It's good to see that everyone is free to advice something.
Then the reader has different answers and can choose what he want.
 

solderdude

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#10
How do you guys decipher the information and use it to benefit you and your music.
By knowing what a whole set of measurements show.
Takes a lot of experience and knowing what quantities matter and which don't as well as having experience with psychoacoustics.

Can you just rely on measurements alone?
Some say yes (those understanding the metrics) and some say no (those who don't fully grasp or are anti-engineers because of their ears)
 

Willem

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#11
The contribution of these measurements is that they show you how close to perfection a unit is. If it is better than human hearing acuity, fine, you do not need to spend more. Since electronics by and large are very good now, such measurements are useful to distinguish the mediocre or good from the perfect.
With speakers it is a different story. Measurements will reveal their imperfections (they invariably have many), and that may help to distinguish the chaff from the wheat, but it is up to you and your own listening to decide which remaining compromise you dislike least.
 
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Calexico

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#12
I find inacceptable that asr say that testing how much ultrasonic garbage remains is pointless.

Modern dac all are composed of a delta sigma modulator.
And for delta sigma it's very important to filter the noise (ultrasonic) genrerated by the delta sigma modulator.
If you hide this on measurements you don't show one very important thing of the dac.
And also it's obvious that this amount of garbage is not the same with different samplerates as the digital filter cut of freq is function of fs/2.
Showing this could explain differences heared.
Instead of this asr say all dacs sound the same.
That's where i do not agree. As not test show ultrasonics garbage we cannot be sure that the difference is not from this.
Aop react differently to ultrasonic so does capacitors etc...

Some people just want to enjoy their music and when they are not satisfied by dacs choosen only with measurements they ve no choice other than to trust their ears.
Actual tests show things that are in most of cases unhearable so it's legitimate to wonder why we need those tests.
I think that some new test could change the done.
And could explain why some hear differences. To me it's more probable because lot of people actually hear differences.
We cannot say everything is in the brain. Sound engeneer job exists and they re able to tune the sound in a enjoyable way. So they must do it objectively not fooled by their brain and that's what they do.
And when we appreciate the sound of the engeener we re not fooled too.
That's scientists that try to fool us by not showing us the ultrasonic noise
 

Xulonn

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#14
I'm kind my answers are tolerate here.
Thank you for this.
It's good to see that everyone is free to advice something.
Then the reader has different answers and can choose what he want.
Exactly - If you choose to believe the psychoacoustic "tricks" your mind plays on you and base your purchasing decisions on being fooled by those "tricks", fine - but you really should stop claiming there are actually sonic differences without "proving" those claims - to yourself and ASR visitors via ABX testing. Over and over and over again, those here with technical and science backgrounds, and who believe in logic, science and controlled double blind testing have tried to educate you, but your resistance to accepting reality is extraordinarily high.

While you have shown your disdain for science and the scientific method ad nauseum, many of us are intellectually curious about the realities of the physical world of sound and music reproduction, and find it challenging to try to overcome the psychoacoustic illusios that our minds play on us.

I find the bench testing of DACs by Amir very interesting and quite informative, and indeed, selected my DAC with volume control and available remote (Topping DX7s) because of it's excellent measured performance, and bargain price of $360 via MassDrop. It has a little weight and heft - which I like - and performs flawlessly. Sonically, I don't notice any difference between it and my backup DAC - an SMSL Sanskrit 6th. (And I don't use its headphone amp.)

My lifelong fascination with audio technology and science, especially since digital recordings cam to dominate the market, has focused primarily on amplifiers, speakers, rooms and their interaction. I hope to be able to afford a DSP box later this year to try to tame some of those interactions. However, more than 60 years after putting together my first component HiFi system as a high school student, my knowledge of amp/speaker interaction and speaker/room interaction is still limited. I have owned a number of satisfying component audio systems over the years, and enjoyed all of them - just as a guitarist can enjoy different instruments with different sonic signatures and/or physical characteristic and appearances. One of my most amazing and musically satisfying subjective experiences was the sound quality at fairly high levels produced by a 3.5wpc 2A3 tube amplifier driving a pair of Klipsch Forte II 100dB sensitive loudspeakers in a large living room with an 18" high peaked ceiling. But it probably would have measured terribly.

My frequent buying and selling of audio gear over the years was no doubt influenced by the applied psychology of capitalism's marketing and advertising efforts. That powerful influence can exacerbate budget-unfriendly compulsive consumerism. However, I was nearly always turned off by most pop-culture and mass-market offerings. Fortunately, I have never felt compelled to go over to the dark side - the idiocy of compulsive subjective high-end audiophilia and its weird tweaks and bogus claims.

So yes, you can state your preferences here for various recording mediums, hardware and sonic signatures here. But when you make patently false and unverfied claims based on subjective sighted listening, and ignore documented and repeatedly verified psychoacoustic science findings related to audio systems, expect to be challenged.
 

Calexico

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#15
Exactly - If you choose to believe the psychoacoustic "tricks" your mind plays on you and base your purchasing decisions on being fooled by those "tricks", fine - but you really should stop claiming there are actually sonic differences without "proving" those claims - to yourself and ASR visitors via ABX testing. Over and over and over again, those here with technical and science backgrounds, and who believe in logic, science and controlled double blind testing have tried to educate you, but your resistance to accepting reality is extraordinarily high.

While you have shown your disdain for science and the scientific method ad nauseum, many of us are intellectually curious about the realities of the physical world of sound and music reproduction, and find it challenging to try to overcome the psychoacoustic illusios that our minds play on us.

I find the bench testing of DACs by Amir very interesting and quite informative, and indeed, selected my DAC with volume control and available remote (Topping DX7s) because of it's excellent measured performance, and bargain price of $360 via MassDrop. It has a little weight and heft - which I like - and performs flawlessly. Sonically, I don't notice any difference between it and my backup DAC - an SMSL Sanskrit 6th. (And I don't use its headphone amp.)

My lifelong fascination with audio technology and science, especially since digital recordings cam to dominate the market, has focused primarily on amplifiers, speakers, rooms and their interaction. I hope to be able to afford a DSP box later this year to try to tame some of those interactions. However, more than 60 years after putting together my first component HiFi system as a high school student, my knowledge of amp/speaker interaction and speaker/room interaction is still limited. I have owned a number of satisfying component audio systems over the years, and enjoyed all of them - just as a guitarist can enjoy different instruments with different sonic signatures and/or physical characteristic and appearances. One of my most amazing and musically satisfying subjective experiences was the sound quality at fairly high levels produced by a 3.5wpc 2A3 tube amplifier driving a pair of Klipsch Forte II 100dB sensitive loudspeakers in a large living room with an 18" high peaked ceiling. But it probably would have measured terribly.

My frequent buying and selling of audio gear over the years was no doubt influenced by the applied psychology of capitalism's marketing and advertising efforts. That powerful influence can exacerbate budget-unfriendly compulsive consumerism. However, I was nearly always turned off by most pop-culture and mass-market offerings. Fortunately, I have never felt compelled to go over to the dark side - the idiocy of compulsive subjective high-end audiophilia and its weird tweaks and bogus claims.

So yes, you can state your preferences here for various recording mediums, hardware and sonic signatures here. But when you make patently false and unverfied claims based on subjective sighted listening, and ignore documented and repeatedly verified psychoacoustic science findings related to audio systems, expect to be challenged.
See my post about ultrasonic noise that is not measured.
Ultrasonic noise although not in hearable range can be very bad for sound quality depending on the amp the speakers etc...
That could explain differences. But asr refuse to make thoses tests.
Because of this refuse to show the ultrasonic noise that can explain differences and because every scientist here say it's psychoacoustics i'm very doubtful of the legitimity and exhaustivity of measurements done here.

Also if you think every brain is fooled then cd should be mixed by robots.
We still use human with their fooled brain to mix cd with their ears. Guitarist choose their effects with their ears.
I like the jimi Hendrix sound of guitar.
No measurements could have helped Jimi hendrix to find its sound.
I'm very doubtful that every dac render the electric guitar sound of Jimi Hendrix the same.
Of course if you listen modern mastering asceptic sounding music you won't notice much differences between dacs.
 
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SIY

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#16
See my post about ultrasonic noise that is not measured.
Ultrasonic noise although not in hearable range can be very bad for sound quality depending on the amp the speakers etc...
That could explain differences. But asr refuse to make thoses tests.
Because of this refuse to show the ultrasonic noise that can explain differences and because every scientist here say it's psychoacoustics i'm very doubtful of the legitimity and exhaustivity of measurements done here.
If you think every brain is fooled then cd should be mixed by robots.
Human mix cd with their ears. Guitarist choose their effects with their ears.
I like the jimi Hendrix sound of guitar.
No measurements could have helped Jimi hendrix to find its sound.
Get that refund yet?

Before trying to "explain differences," the existence of those differences needs to be demonstrated. You're claiming them, so you demonstrate them. Not that I'm holding my breath that you'll actually bother to do an actual experiment, but perhaps you'll surprise me and everyone else by putting up something pertinent.
 

Calexico

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#17
Get that refund yet?

Before trying to "explain differences," the existence of those differences needs to be demonstrated. You're claiming them, so you demonstrate them. Not that I'm holding my breath that you'll actually bother to do an actual experiment, but perhaps you'll surprise me and everyone else by putting up something pertinent.
Every datasheet of every dac explain how the filter work and how to design the low pass filter.
There is no need to demonstrate that ultrasonic noise must be filtered as every datasheet say there must be low pass filter.
No test of asr validate the design of the low pass filter (digital+analog) because tests are bandwidth limited.
Also no test show if it's optimised for 44.1khz for 96khz for 192khz or for dsd.(digital filter cut off at fs/2 so the analog filter calculation is not the same for optimizing on different samplerates)
It's asr that is lying to say that all good measuring dac sound the same without testing the ultrasonic noise.
Ultrasonic noise make differences that can become audible. So asr shouldn't say they sound all the same without validating with ultrasonic noise measurement.
 
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SIY

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#18
It's asr that is lying to say that all good measuring dac sound the same without testing the ultrasonic noise.
Ultrasonic noise make differences that can become audible. So asr shouldn't say they sound the same without validating with ultrasonic noise measurement.
My expectations have been met. :D
 

Xulonn

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#19
No measurements could have helped Jimi hendrix to find its sound.
Non sequitur: An inference or a conclusion that does not follow from the premises; a statement containing an illogical conclusion.
 

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