• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

I really want to know and learn....

Joined
Apr 10, 2018
Messages
38
Likes
17
#1
The sub headline of this Audio Newbie forum states: "No question is too trivial. So don't be shy ". Ok, so here goes:
I love reading Amir's testing results on various products.
What I am trying to learn is what can a newbie conclude from these results?
What I mean is this: let's say that a product like a Topping Dac that sells for a few hundred dollars measures almost perfectly.
Does that mean that this Topping dac will sound as good as can ever be achieved (assuming this almost perfection)?
Am I to take from this that another dac that sells for $40,000 and measures identically to the Topping will sound identical to the Topping?
 

RayDunzl

Major Contributor
Central Scrutinizer
Joined
Mar 9, 2016
Messages
5,900
Likes
1,853
Location
Riverview, FL
#2
Am I to take from this that another dac that sells for $40,000 and measures identically to the Topping will sound identical to the Topping?
Unlikely it will measure identically, so that leaves some wiggle-room for "sounds better/worse".

The "site approved" listening test would be, first, to see if you could even reliably tell one from the other, level-matched, etc.

Then can you progress to better/worse.

I'd expect two "identically" measuring devices to sound the same. Consider the case of hearing two of the same device. I have a pair of monoblock amplifiers. I've never considered they might sound different, yet, I doubt they would even measure "identically", given the precision with which signals can be measure now. Whenever I've thought they sounded different, there was some other reason in my sometimes overcomplicated signal chain.

Actually, that happened last night. Right was good, left weaker, by about 3dB. Unknown reason, except after re-powering the little Topping D10 I have on my desk, that (or something else I don't remember/didn't specifically notice) fixed the defect. I didn't touch the amps.
 
Last edited:

Sal1950

Major Contributor
The Chicago Crusher
Joined
Mar 1, 2016
Messages
4,616
Likes
1,791
Location
Central Fl
#3
Does that mean that this Topping dac will sound as good as can ever be achieved (assuming this almost perfection)?
Define good? If you define good as transparent to the source, then yes, under controlled listening tests this DAC will present the sound of the source as good as can be accomplished with todays SOTA.
But, there can be circumstances were any component can interact with the load you present it to which will alter the measurable and audible results. Also other units not a s transparent may provide a more pleasing sound.
Also if your know what your listening to, and believe that extra money will buy you improved sound, then that's what you'll hear. Never mind what the reality is.
JMHO
 

Guermantes

Active Member
Joined
Feb 19, 2018
Messages
258
Likes
185
Location
Brisbane, Australia
#5
Am I to take from this that another dac that sells for $40,000 and measures identically to the Topping will sound identical to the Topping?
Luxury hi-fi, like other luxury items, is a lifestyle choice. We would hope the engineering is competent but really it's more about social capital than sound quality. And as Sal has said, if all other factors are equal, then the better looking and more expensive unit will probably "sound" better under sighted listening conditions.

Digital recording and replay technology has reached a stage where "transparent sound" can be achieved with pocket money. Demonstrating this is the great service that Amir's testing has done. In light of this, the smart listener will spend that $40,000 where it's needed: better speakers, room treatment, putting the child of a poor family through college, etc.

Edit: "Demonstrating . . ."
 
Last edited:

yue

Active Member
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
205
Likes
177
#6
What I mean is this: let's say that a product like a Topping Dac that sells for a few hundred dollars measures almost perfectly.
Does that mean that this Topping dac will sound as good as can ever be achieved (assuming this almost perfection)?
Am I to take from this that another dac that sells for $40,000 and measures identically to the Topping will sound identical to the Topping?

Your question is quite easy. see threshold graphs in https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...-thresholds-of-amp-and-dac-measurements.5734/ .

For any two devices, if their measurements are better than the green line (preferably the organge line), you as a human being cannot hear the difference between the two.

Probably the more expensive one has better brand/look/service/user interface/etc. But being audibly transparent, they sound exactly the same for humans. Even people with the most superb ears in the best listening environment possible (with no background noise, etc) wont be able to tell them apart in an abx test.
 

Cosmik

Major Contributor
Joined
Apr 24, 2016
Messages
2,467
Likes
1,161
Location
UK
#7
I would say that by far the most significant factor is psychological. For most people, there has to be an element of 'expensive=best', or 'physically solid engineering=good sound'. And you can get hung up in loads of other sub-categories like 'discrete circuits sound more open than ICs', or 'surface mount components suck the life out of music'.

The objective tests can be a mental crutch, or they can be a source of constant doubt ("The $50 DAC measures almost as good as the $10,000 brand. What exactly does that 'almost' represent? Maybe I've got to just bite the bullet...")

And cables...! You may get into the mindset where you want to believe the arch-pragmatists who tell you that all cables sound the same. But then the doubts set in and you begin to think that they are arch-pragmatists and therefore probably a bit philistinic in their tastes; maybe they're just not capable of hearing the finer aspects... And also, many of these arch-pragmatists seem to use cables that are more expensive than they could be, almost as though they don't really have the courage of the convictions they are promoting to everyone else... You need to get into the mindset where you *know* that cables are making no practical difference whatsoever, but you are confident that they are solidly engineered. e.g. something like Belkin springs to mind as a reasonable brand.

You need to get to the place mentally where the only thing worth worrying about is the speakers:
  • solid, powerful, class AB amplifier - maybe even an AV amp for ultimate value for money and peace of mind vis-a-vis safety, remote control, robustness, shutdown in case of short circuits etc. As we have seen with headphone amps that emit smoke, damage headphones etc., amplifiers designed by 'industry mavericks' are fragile, unstable and dangerous. AV amps are also where you're going to get a beautiful brushed aluminium enclosure for a couple of hundred dollars. Unfortunately I don't know enough about HDMI and the fact that the amp might have a built-in DAC. I'll bet it's fine, but I'm sure I saw things regarding jitter and HDMI...
  • Any DAC that measures reasonably well and is unlikely to blow the speakers up if the power goes off or a USB cable comes out, etc. Many cheap USB-powered DACs are going to have that problem and no one but me seems interested in it - from practical experience. There is no need to fear S/PDIF or optical equivalent as the interface and it may just be the most professional, stable way of doing this. (Asynchronous USB or ethernet may be the theoretical best interface, but not worth it if it leads to a fragile system that breaks when the OS updates, etc. - assuming your system is PC-based).
By far the most important thing is to get into the mindset of knowing that the audio signal isn't super-fragile in the sense that a tiny amount of theoretical jitter (S/PDIF might lead to some jitter that's unmeasurable but theoretically there) isn't even on the radar as regards changing the sound. Ditto differences between cables. Ditto any reasonable amplifier's specs. Ditto any reasonable DAC. Ditto any reasonable volume control.

Save all your energies and money for the speakers.

If I wasn't into active crossovers etc. my ultimate affordable system would comprise Quad amplifiers and a pair of KEF105/2 equivalents if only they still existed. As regards the DAC I would even be happy to drive it from the headphone output of an iPad.
 

Cosmik

Major Contributor
Joined
Apr 24, 2016
Messages
2,467
Likes
1,161
Location
UK
#8
As an aside, now that I come to think about the situation regarding passive speakers, what an appalling selection of options the modern would-be hi-fi enthusiast is presented with:
  • 'mini monitors'
  • pencil slim floorstanders of various types
  • BBC-style monkey coffins, with 'BBC' premium price
  • 'Frankenstein speakers': dipoles, horns, open baffle, panel speakers, multiple subwoofers etc.
Bass reflex is de rigueur.

The BBC-type monkey coffins are probably the best option, but there's something a bit annoying about the whole 'BBC' cult.

Most options are contrary to the design principles outlined here and here.
 

Sal1950

Major Contributor
The Chicago Crusher
Joined
Mar 1, 2016
Messages
4,616
Likes
1,791
Location
Central Fl
#9
Any DAC that measures reasonably well and is unlikely to blow the speakers up if the power goes off or a USB cable comes out, etc. Many cheap USB-powered DACs are going to have that problem and no one but me seems interested in it - from practical experience.
A most excellent and complete post Cosmik, I agree 100%.
Even I wasn't aware of the USB powered DAC problem you mentioned, maybe you discussed it before but I must have missed it.
I never had the occasion to use one but sounds like a issue our members should be more conscious of, Thanks!
 

Sal1950

Major Contributor
The Chicago Crusher
Joined
Mar 1, 2016
Messages
4,616
Likes
1,791
Location
Central Fl
#10
The BBC-type monkey coffins are probably the best option, but there's something a bit annoying about the whole 'BBC' cult.
Well your regular ole stand mount speakers should be probably the best value. But outside of world class cabinetry woodwork, I'll never understand how one tweeter, one 6" woofer and a few crossover components can justify a price in 5 digits? A grand or two apiece should just about cover it.
 
Joined
Feb 19, 2018
Messages
258
Likes
185
Location
Brisbane, Australia
#11
What I mean is this: let's say that a product like a Topping Dac that sells for a few hundred dollars measures almost perfectly. Does that mean that this Topping dac will sound as good as can ever be achieved (assuming this almost perfection)?
I have more than a sneaking suspicion that my Topping D30 is no sonic improvement over the first DAC I bought 20 years ago:
1547180854814.png

https://www.stereophile.com/content/musical-fidelity-x-24k-da-processor-measurements

But the Topping wins out on features and the USB port allows easy connection to a Raspberry Pi. The Musical Fidelity cost me $800 AUD and the Topping cost me $100 AUD.

As formats and inter-connections change, the need to integrate with newer technology will keep us on the upgrade path. But I'm sceptical about whether that translates into better sonics. Perhaps I'm done with digital, bring on quantum tech!
 

Blumlein 88

Major Contributor
Joined
Feb 23, 2016
Messages
4,647
Likes
3,063
#12
Unlikely it will measure identically, so that leaves some wiggle-room for "sounds better/worse".

The "site approved" listening test would be, first, to see if you could even reliably tell one from the other, level-matched, etc.

Then can you progress to better/worse.

I'd expect two "identically" measuring devices to sound the same. Consider the case of hearing two of the same device. I have a pair of monoblock amplifiers. I've never considered they might sound different, yet, I doubt they would even measure "identically", given the precision with which signals can be measure now. Whenever I've thought they sounded different, there was some other reason in my sometimes overcomplicated signal chain.

Actually, that happened last night. Right was good, left weaker, by about 3dB. Unknown reason, except after re-powering the little Topping D10 I have on my desk, that (or something else I don't remember/didn't specifically notice) fixed the defect. I didn't touch the amps.
Related to this is some null testing of interconnects. I can null out most interconnects much deeper than I can null out the two channels of even very good DACs. I do this by using one interconnect and then another recording the results. So that means that interconnects make much less difference than the difference between the right channel and left channel of a DAC. Amps are likely worse in regards to channel vs channel nulling. Yet no one complains about how one channel sounded wonderful and the other channel was horrid. But we are supposed to believe this of interconnects vs one another.
 
Joined
Apr 10, 2018
Messages
38
Likes
17
#13
Thanks to all for responding. I guess I was one of those audiophools that was swayed by audio store retailers and magazine ads that always made me feel that unless I had the newest piece of gear I certainly was missing better sound quality. I very much appreciate this forum!!
 

Sal1950

Major Contributor
The Chicago Crusher
Joined
Mar 1, 2016
Messages
4,616
Likes
1,791
Location
Central Fl
#14
Thanks to all for responding. I guess I was one of those audiophools that was swayed by audio store retailers and magazine ads that always made me feel that unless I had the newest piece of gear I certainly was missing better sound quality. I very much appreciate this forum!!
Don't feel bad, the majority of us here traveled that road at one time. Like a bad drug it seduces you into a life of ever more money spent to feed that need for a new HiFi rush. I spent at least 20 years suffering from the anxiety of not being afford the dope that the golden ears of the high end media assured me I must have. I spent money on gear that at best was worthless and at times actually reducing the fidelity to my system. Thank goodness for the few like Peter Aczel that slowly made me see the truth and put me on a path recovery from the addiction. ;)
 
Joined
Apr 10, 2018
Messages
38
Likes
17
#15
Don't feel bad, the majority of us here traveled that road at one time. Like a bad drug it seduces you into a life of ever more money spent to feed that need for a new HiFi rush. I spent at least 20 years suffering from the anxiety of not being afford the dope that the golden ears of the high end media assured me I must have. I spent money on gear that at best was worthless and at times actually reducing the fidelity to my system. Thank goodness for the few like Peter Aczel that slowly made me see the truth and put me on a path recovery from the addiction. ;)
Very well written - I could not have typed my thoughts any better. I guess I was very gullible over the last 40 years or so. An "audio expert" tells you that DAC A will "blow away" DAC B and you just accept it and you go and buy DAC B. It has taken years for the side effects of the "bad drug" to subside. Thank goodness for Amir and this wonderfully rational ASR forum. Also, I concur with you about Peter Aczel (may he RIP) - I should have heeded the advice he wrote about so many years ago. Another mentor has been the Roger Sanders from Sanders Sound Systems.
This makes for very interesting reading:
http://sanderssoundsystems.com/technical-white-papers/162-audio-equipment-testing-white-paper
 
Top Bottom