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Finally seen the light

ParticularFix

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Long-time subjectivist here with every device I use. I always thought there is nothing better than good ol' ears to determine whether something sounds good or not. I have spent so much money in my short career as an audiophile just going off subjective reviews on headfi. The experience with the products I got almost always turned out not to be like they were reviewed, but I convinced myself that it is just my ears and I'll get used to them.
Last week, after taking a serious look at reviews on ASR, I decided to pull the trigger on a starter item, something that won't break the bank but with good reviews. I decided to get the Topping NX4 DSD. It finally arrived today. I am literally almost in tears. This is exactly what I have been longing for in a device. The airiness and level of detail is just a whole new level. This is where it's at! I was convinced for a while that finding something that you like is not supposed to be an easy process, but actually , it is when it is done scientifically.
I am in the process of selling off everything else I own to start again as I type this. I have two headphones that I built myself and a Sennheiser HD58X which I all love. I am only keeping those. Even my Centrance BlueDAC which was my favorite DAC/Amp until now doesn't come close to this.
I would like to give special thanks to @amirm for all his work. As I said I have been a skeptic, but I'm a believer now. Thank you so much for sacrificing your time and enduring bullies to bring us to the light. This is how it is supposed to be.
 

_theLaughingman

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Welcome to the objectivist minded side of the hobby. I have a Topping NX4 DSD as well and that was exactly how i felt when i first plugged in my IEMS to it. It was an astounding revelation in clarity and details that i had no idea i was missing.
 
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ParticularFix

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OMG did I mention the instrument separation? I constantly blamed my headphones for sounding congested. Turns out it was the DAC/Amp. I built open-back headphones based on a 50mm driver made by Tympany. I tuned it using my HD58X as a reference and I got it to a point where it resolved more detail and sounded more dynamic than the HD58x, however, I was constantly frustrated by the instrument separation. The NX4 thing just makes the headphones shine.
 

MarcT

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Long-time subjectivist here with every device I use. I always thought there is nothing better than good ol' ears to determine whether something sounds good or not. I have spent so much money in my short career as an audiophile just going off subjective reviews on headfi. The experience with the products I got almost always turned out not to be like they were reviewed, but I convinced myself that it is just my ears and I'll get used to them.
Last week, after taking a serious look at reviews on ASR, I decided to pull the trigger on a starter item, something that won't break the bank but with good reviews. I decided to get the Topping NX4 DSD. It finally arrived today. I am literally almost in tears. This is exactly what I have been longing for in a device. The airiness and level of detail is just a whole new level. This is where it's at! I was convinced for a while that finding something that you like is not supposed to be an easy process, but actually , it is when it is done scientifically.
I am in the process of selling off everything else I own to start again as I type this. I have two headphones that I built myself and a Sennheiser HD58X which I all love. I am only keeping those. Even my Centrance BlueDAC which was my favorite DAC/Amp until now doesn't come close to this.
I would like to give special thanks to @amirm for all his work. As I said I have been a skeptic, but I'm a believer now. Thank you so much for sacrificing your time and enduring bullies to bring us to the light. This is how it is supposed to be.
Wait a minute here. I'm happy for you, but now I'm confused. Haven't we been told here that the audible differences in decently performing DACs should be inaudible or only slightly so? I guess your prior DAC must be pretty bad, for this one to be so audibly superior.

Also, you started by talking about using your ears to determine whether something sounds good or not, and seemed to be saying that was not the case. But now you are excited about your new DAC because of how great it sounds to your ears! That might imply that you could use your ears.

This is a serious comment and question. I have an Anthem STR Preamplifier and am currently using its internal DAC, which Audioholics found to be decent. If something similar to this Topping NX4 DSD that would connect to my preamp is that much audibly better, I would pick one up and connect it by analog cable to the STR. Should I try one?
 
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ParticularFix

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Wait a minute here. I'm happy for you, but now I'm confused. Haven't we been told here that the audible differences in decently performing DACs should be inaudible or only slightly so? I guess your prior DAC must be pretty bad, for this one to be so audibly superior.
- The DACs I had before and still happen to have, received rave reviews from youtube and head-fi reviewers and when I purchased them based on those reviews, they turned out not to be anything special. I have both the Fiio BTR5 and Centrance BlueDAC for portable use and the O2 + SDAC from Massdrop for desktop use and a bunch of DAPs (Hiby R3 Pro/Saber, Shanling M3X, Fiio M3 Pro e.t.c). All these devices left much to be desired. They just didn't hit the spot for me. The one that came the closest surprisingly although the cheapest is the Fiio M3 Pro. I presume if reviewed here, none of them would be recommended by Amir, except maybe the BlueDAC.

Also, you started by talking about using your ears to determine whether something sounds good or not, and seemed to be saying that was not the case. But now you are excited about your new DAC because of how great it sounds to your ears! That might imply that you could use your ears.

I didn't specifically say I used my ears. What I meant there is that I relied on other people's ears and what they had to say about the device rather than looking at objective measurements. When those devices then came to my ears, they mostly turned out to be a big nothing burger. In contrast, the first time making a purchasing decision based mostly on objective measurements, it turned out to surpass expectations even on my ears. And yes ears play a huge part in making the final decision, but now I believe the objective aspect is what should place a device on your radar, not hype.
This is a serious comment and question. I have an Anthem STR Preamplifier and am currently using its internal DAC, which Audioholics found to be decent. If something similar to this Topping NX4 DSD that would connect to my preamp is that much audibly better, I would pick one up and connect it by analog cable to the STR. Should I try one?

I am not familiar with the other devices you mentioned, but I'd say go for it and get it on amazon. If you don't like it, you can return it.
 

digicidal

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Naturally your ears play a huge role in determining what you like to listen to... but they should take a back seat when it comes to what you listen on. Same goes for the other side of things... how you play/sing/etc. should be determined by your ears and right hemisphere - but they shouldn't really play a role in picking which microphone or ADC to use in recording that performance.

That being said... it's just a hobby ultimately - so if you've got the disposable income, I'm not opposed to the dopamine hit that comes from being a "gear-slut" either and just wanting something different from time to time even if it doesn't test well. The problem comes when you leverage that into a kind of intellectual fraud by making money on the backs of those who were just looking for a one-and-done solution.

Watch out for the insidious side of the objective view - despite knowing you can't hear that ~2db better performance from one device to another one - it can be tempting to convince yourself that there is a payoff in it anyway. Either that or you can lament the fact that the most variable parts of the signal chain are the most difficult to achieve objective "perfection" with (transducers & enclosures). Sadly they can also be some of the most expensive to acquire, and difficult to unload in the used market if you don't care for the results. :confused:
 

Spkrdctr

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Hmmmm reading the last post I am coming up with the term "DAC sluts". There are hundreds on this site. You know who you are! Don't try hiding your extra DACs laying around. We see them! :) DAC sluts is a shameful but appropriate description of many on here. Then there are the "speaker sluts", Speaker slutting can be fun and a huge waste of money. It does get you to support the audio industry though. So, I say "Sluts Unite"!! We are all sluts at heart..........

I feel so slutty and dirty. But, I just can't stop reading Amir's reviews. Wait, that would make Amir like a drug dealer. Preying on the weak minds on the internet. Nah, that can't be. I'm just keeping my eye on new products. Yes, that must be it. So, I'm really normal and don't have a weak mind.

The inside conversation in an audio junkies mind!
 

acbarn

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I’m glad you’ve “seen the light” so to speak; your wallet will thank you for it.

Keep in mind that confirmation bias is always at play, even when listening to devices that measure well. We primarily hear with our brains, not our ears, consequently a device that measures extremely well might sound better to you due to confirmation bias, but in a blind test it might sound identical to a less well-measuring device that is still beyond the audibility threshold. Our brains are vexing in this regard.

If you’d like a primer on bias in audio, check out this link:

 
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MarcT

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Hmmmm reading the last post I am coming up with the term "DAC sluts". There are hundreds on this site. You know who you are! Don't try hiding your extra DACs laying around. We see them! :) DAC sluts is a shameful but appropriate description of many on here. Then there are the "speaker sluts", Speaker slutting can be fun and a huge waste of money. It does get you to support the audio industry though. So, I say "Sluts Unite"!! We are all sluts at heart..........

I feel so slutty and dirty. But, I just can't stop reading Amir's reviews. Wait, that would make Amir like a drug dealer. Preying on the weak minds on the internet. Nah, that can't be. I'm just keeping my eye on new products. Yes, that must be it. So, I'm really normal and don't have a weak mind.

The inside conversation in an audio junkies mind!
Yeah, we need a powerful Jedi Master here to do the Jedi mind trick on us -- "you don't want to buy that beautiful but overpriced set of speakers"!
 

pozz

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Wait a minute here. I'm happy for you, but now I'm confused. Haven't we been told here that the audible differences in decently performing DACs should be inaudible or only slightly so? I guess your prior DAC must be pretty bad, for this one to be so audibly superior.

Also, you started by talking about using your ears to determine whether something sounds good or not, and seemed to be saying that was not the case. But now you are excited about your new DAC because of how great it sounds to your ears! That might imply that you could use your ears.

This is a serious comment and question. I have an Anthem STR Preamplifier and am currently using its internal DAC, which Audioholics found to be decent. If something similar to this Topping NX4 DSD that would connect to my preamp is that much audibly better, I would pick one up and connect it by analog cable to the STR. Should I try one?
Remember that outside of the cleanliness of the signal there is also it's ability to drive the load. I.e., you have consider output capability and level, too, particularly for headphones/IEMs.

A signal chain with multiple pieces of gear is a complex thing involving more numbers than most care to think about. Picking electronics is about optimizing their objective features in that sense. Really no point in buying just to try if you don't have have a sense of your gear's requirements.
 

MarcT

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Remember that outside of the cleanliness of the signal there is also it's ability to drive the load. I.e., you have consider output capability and level, too, particularly for headphones/IEMs.

A signal chain with multiple pieces of gear is a complex thing involving more numbers than most care to think about. Picking electronics is about optimizing their objective features in that sense. Really no point in buying just to try if you don't have have a sense of your gear's requirements.
No doubt, but when one is not as proficient in understanding those variables and thereby being able to figure out in advance what to buy, what choice would one have, other than to buy a DAC and try it out? In my case, I would simply buy a DAC and connect it to my Anthem STR preamp and see if there was any perceivable difference in the sound quality.

Remember, the OP started this thread out stating how he was "almost in tears" at how much improvement a Topping NX4 DSD made in his sound quality. If a separate DAC made that much improvement/difference in his system, I would be interested in perhaps trying a separate DAC and connecting it to my preamp, just for grins and see what happens.
 

Snarfie

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Reading in to ASR i was triggerd by Room correction solutions. Those solutions made my sound at least 60% better. So if your new DAC make you cry you will be in for a shock (depending on your room modes) using one of the better Room correction solutions like REW, Dirac, mathaudio Room EQ (for free with foobar). Have fun at ASR.;)
 

Sgt. Ear Ache

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Reading in to ASR i was triggerd by Room correction solutions. Those solutions made my sound at least 60% better. So if your new DAC make you cry you will be in for a shock (depending on your room modes) using one of the better Room correction solutions like REW, Dirac, mathaudio Room EQ (for free with foobar). Have fun at ASR.;)

Yep, speakers/headphones and room correction/EQ are where the real SQ revelations occur.
 

pozz

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No doubt, but when one is not as proficient in understanding those variables and thereby being able to figure out in advance what to buy, what choice would one have, other than to buy a DAC and try it out? In my case, I would simply buy a DAC and connect it to my Anthem STR preamp and see if there was any perceivable difference in the sound quality.

Remember, the OP started this thread out stating how he was "almost in tears" at how much improvement a Topping NX4 DSD made in his sound quality. If a separate DAC made that much improvement/difference in his system, I would be interested in perhaps trying a separate DAC and connecting it to my preamp, just for grins and see what happens.
You know how we all talk about level matching and controlled listening and so forth? This makes casual listening comparisons largely pointless.

There's even reason to doubt the OP's reaction, but it could be that his previous device had higher noise and was unable to deliver the kind of current necessary for his headphones, which are definitely audible. We don't have enough data to do more than guess.

For your electronics, this can be worked out if you have a sense of input levels, output levels and gain in between. If you don't know these numbers, don't buy. Really.

All that said—speakers and headphones, make the biggest difference, followed by amps, which have to be able to support them. The role of amps, as you know, is to apply gain to their input signal, and that input signal is the output of a preamp or DAC or whatever. As long as the DAC is set up to provide the right level, and not too much or too little, there's little to ponder or try.
 

Snarfie

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How do you quantify the sound improvement? :) Does REW provide such stats?

I'm using Mathaudio Room EQ with excellent results. Have a look at my room acoustics in the attachment.

The Grey line is the measured frequency response. The white line is my preferred target curve better it is not a curve it's plain flat neutral. From 300 till 10Khz there are big anomalies that make my sound quite bright an the bass thin. So using the white line it creates a level playing field for basically almost any frequency that makes the sound more stable an balanced. If you have room modes like my room with sometimes close to 14 db difference the difference compared to the white flat line is hugh at least > 60%. Forget in my situation to make the sound better with other gear you don't make a change compard to room correction. Atleast 60% is just my peronal experience it is in the ear of te beholder.
 

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krabapple

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Long-time subjectivist here with every device I use. I always thought there is nothing better than good ol' ears to determine whether something sounds good or not. I have spent so much money in my short career as an audiophile just going off subjective reviews on headfi. The experience with the products I got almost always turned out not to be like they were reviewed, but I convinced myself that it is just my ears and I'll get used to them.
Last week, after taking a serious look at reviews on ASR, I decided to pull the trigger on a starter item, something that won't break the bank but with good reviews. I decided to get the Topping NX4 DSD. It finally arrived today. I am literally almost in tears. This is exactly what I have been longing for in a device. The airiness and level of detail is just a whole new level. This is where it's at! I was convinced for a while that finding something that you like is not supposed to be an easy process, but actually , it is when it is done scientifically.

The airiness etc was probably there in your previous devices too. It's likely you've simply replaced one set of sighted biased-observations with another. You really don't know, without properly performed comparison*. So I don't get why so many here are giving you high fives.




I am in the process of selling off everything else I own to start again as I type this. I have two headphones that I built myself and a Sennheiser HD58X which I all love. I am only keeping those. Even my Centrance BlueDAC which was my favorite DAC/Amp until now doesn't come close to this.
I would like to give special thanks to @amirm for all his work. As I said I have been a skeptic, but I'm a believer now. Thank you so much for sacrificing your time and enduring bullies to bring us to the light. This is how it is supposed to be.

I think you still have some way to go.




*or a comprehensive set of device measurements predicting audible difference under level-matched conditions
 

Spkrdctr

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Remember that outside of the cleanliness of the signal there is also it's ability to drive the load. I.e., you have consider output capability and level, too, particularly for headphones/IEMs.

A signal chain with multiple pieces of gear is a complex thing involving more numbers than most care to think about. Picking electronics is about optimizing their objective features in that sense. Really no point in buying just to try if you don't have have a sense of your gear's requirements.
So its all about the SYNERGY of the system just like Paul at PS Audio says. I think you have strayed into the subjective camp and have pulled up a seat at the camp fire. Remember all the stories they tell are not true!
 
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