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atsung168

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Hi,

I purchased the Topping E30 based on the good reviews, so far really enjoy this DAC, but I have a question and hope you can help.

I have two input sources: CD and streaming, and three setups to listen to music:

(1) CD: Teac CD-P1260 (only RCA output, no optical or coaxial, 1-bit Dual D/A Converter) => Amp
(2) CD: iMac with USB SuperDrive (iTunes) => USB to Topping E30 => Amp
(3) Streaming: iMac (Spotify and Tidal) => USB to Topping E30 => Amp

I compared three setups, (1) has the most clarity and details, (3) has the least details and flat soundstage. But I use (3) more and more because of the convenience and it's hard to find some CD albums (and expensive too).

So my question is: should I get a dedicated network streamer or a better DAC to improve the sound quality from streaming music?

Thank you in advance.

Alex
 

RayDunzl

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The first question will be:

"How did you match levels between the CD playback and the other sources?"
 
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atsung168

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The first question will be:

"How did you match levels between the CD playback and the other sources?"

Sorry, I don't really understand the question :)

I didn't do strict A/B testing with all setups, I just made sure the volume were the same (to my ears), same RCA cables (CD player => amp, E30 => amp). CD player has 2V level output, E30 has the same output level (I assume), E30 set as -0 DB (use iMac to control volume).

Thanks.
 

RayDunzl

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Where is the volume control for the CD Player path?

Are you using speakers or headphones (just curious)?

---

You may expect the CD player and DAC to have the same output voltage, but there are variations - think "around" 2 volts.

Very small differences in level can be perceived as a quality difference (according to the common expert wisdom around here).

Also, since you (probably) know which source is playing, it isn't an unbiased comparison.

---

You're looking to spend money on a difference that may or may not exist. Take a step back and look again.

---

Or, you may be making a good test, and have an exceptional ear, and be hearing differences between the (assumedly) compressed sources on iTunes and Spotify and Tidal via DAC vs the CD via the TEAC analog output.

---

I don't have anything beyond that,

Others might. Wait for more replies.
 
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atsung168

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The volume control is on the amplifier, which connects to a pair of bookshelf speakers.

No, my non-scientific testing were not unbiased comparison, the only same configuration were the same volume, same RCA cables and same input source selection on the amp - I guess these probably don't mean much ;)

I have been listening to music over 10 hours everyday since working from home from March, so I think I can tell the subtle difference between these three setups.

If simply change the music player app can improve the sound quality from setup (2) and (3), that would be great. So fat I have tried VOX, Swinsian, Audirvana, BitPerfect (with iTunes) using Flac and AIFF files (ripped from CDs), they all sound similar to me (just difference interface).

Thanks for your input.
 

JoachimStrobel

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Hi,

I purchased the Topping E30 based on the good reviews, so far really enjoy this DAC, but I have a question and hope you can help.

I have two input sources: CD and streaming, and three setups to listen to music:

(1) CD: Teac CD-P1260 (only RCA output, no optical or coaxial, 1-bit Dual D/A Converter) => Amp
(2) CD: iMac with USB SuperDrive (iTunes) => USB to Topping E30 => Amp
(3) Streaming: iMac (Spotify and Tidal) => USB to Topping E30 => Amp

I compared three setups, (1) has the most clarity and details, (3) has the least details and flat soundstage. But I use (3) more and more because of the convenience and it's hard to find some CD albums (and expensive too).

So my question is: should I get a dedicated network streamer or a better DAC to improve the sound quality from streaming music?

Thank you in advance.

Alex
Are you using CD quality with Spotify and Tidal?
I know people that prefer 5€ Red Wine over 50€ as the cheaper one is smoother. Be aware that the CD stream might not be the benchmark here. It is hard to believe that the IMac USB has such a strong influence. I do not know know the Mac well enough to judge if and what could impair the stream. You could assemble a Raspi4 as streamer for under 100€ and try it out.
 

samsa

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Are you using CD quality with Spotify and Tidal?

AFAIK, Spotify doesn't offer a CD-quality tier. 320kbps only.

It is hard to believe that the IMac USB has such a strong influence.

The SuperDrive is not particularly quiet. I would be curious to know if the OP found the same disappointing SQ for files played from the iMac's HD as he did for CDs played on the SuperDrive.
 
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atsung168

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Spotify probably not, Tidal have some albums in master quality. I also ripped CDs to AIFF (uncompressed and lossless) for comparison.

I'd pick $5 red wine over $50 not because it's smoother, simply because it's cheaper :D

I believe iMac USB has strong influence and there are so many apps running on iMac will cause influence too. That's why I wonder if a dedicated network streamer will improve the sound quality, or a better DAC can help?

I will check out RPi4, thank you.
 
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atsung168

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The SuperDrive is not particularly quiet. I would be curious to know if the OP found the same disappointing SQ for files played from the iMac's HD as he did for CDs played on the SuperDrive.

Yes, the SuperDrive makes noise when it's spinning, but I ignored this noise while doing my non-scientific tests.

Here is what I found:

(A) SuperDrive with CD => iMac via iTunes
(B) Rip CD to AIFF (uncompressed and lossless) => iMac via iTunes (HDD)

(A) is better than (B) in clarify.

Thanks.
 

firedog

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If your comparison isn't level matched, you are going to get skewed results. "By ear" isn't really good enough. A 0.5 db difference is probably enough to make you subjectively prefer the louder source, even if you aren't consciously aware that the source is louder. It might even take less of a difference than that.
 
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atsung168

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If your comparison isn't level matched, you are going to get skewed results. "By ear" isn't really good enough. A 0.5 db difference is probably enough to make you subjectively prefer the louder source, even if you aren't consciously aware that the source is louder. It might even take less of a difference than that.

Yes, CD player and iMac with E30 are not level matched, so the tiny difference may make me subjectively prefer the louder source.

Now I am more confused :rolleyes:
 

samsa

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Yes, the SuperDrive makes noise when it's spinning, but I ignored this noise while doing my non-scientific tests.

Here is what I found:

(A) SuperDrive with CD => iMac via iTunes
(B) Rip CD to AIFF (uncompressed and lossless) => iMac via iTunes (HDD)

(A) is better than (B) in clarify.

Thanks.

Clearly, you need to do some proper level-matched (and preferably blind) testing.

Because that is evident rubbish.
 

BDWoody

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Yes, CD player and iMac with E30 are not level matched, so the tiny difference may make me subjectively prefer the louder source.

Now I am more confused :rolleyes:

When you are listening for tiny tiny differences, getting the levels matched exactly combined with not peeking will tend to make the differences a lot less apparent...often to the point of being indistinguishable. I'm not saying your impressions aren't accurate, I'm suggesting you won't really know unless you tighten things up a bit.

I've heard differences that I knew were meaningful, only to have them disappear with simple controls...you may find the same. Save $$$, get better speakers (not knowing what you have), get into some room correction, and focus on things with moving parts for clear improvement. Most solid state stuff isn't where the low hanging fruit lay.
 
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atsung168

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Thanks for everyone's input.

I think I need to redo my tests using a scientific way - to make sure level match and minimize subjective bias (to avoid apples and oranges comparison) - then report back.

Thanks again, cheers!
 

JoachimStrobel

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Spotify probably not, Tidal have some albums in master quality. I also ripped CDs to AIFF (uncompressed and lossless) for comparison.

I'd pick $5 red wine over $50 not because it's smoother, simply because it's cheaper :D

I believe iMac USB has strong influence and there are so many apps running on iMac will cause influence too. That's why I wonder if a dedicated network streamer will improve the sound quality, or a better DAC can help?

I will check out RPi4, thank you.
I really did not want to be offensive with my wine theme. Sometimes I just feel that objectively better does not translate into better sound.
 

firedog

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Yes, CD player and iMac with E30 are not level matched, so the tiny difference may make me subjectively prefer the louder source.

Now I am more confused :rolleyes:
Not trying to confuse you.
Yes, CD player and iMac with E30 are not level matched, so the tiny difference may make me subjectively prefer the louder source.

Now I am more confused :rolleyes:

Not trying to confuse you. Audiophiles tend to do non-volume matched sighted testing, and then say some tiny or non-existent difference is a huge difference.

Your differences may not actually exist. But the truth is, it's difficult or impossible for most of us to do proper testing at home. Sometimes you just have to go with what you hear-but that should make you wary of spending big bucks on some item that it's hard to rationally explain why it makes an improvement.
In your case a cheap test might be to by something like a RPi as a streamer and see if you hear any improvement with that. It's a pretty low cost alternative, and if there is something not right in your setup, it might eliminate it. If it makes no difference, you can repurpose it for some other computing task in the home.

I'd also agree that the most cost effective way to improve sound is to limit the negative influence of the room - either with acoustic panels, digital room correction, or both. Room correction done right really can make it sound like you got a whole new amd improved system. And you can measure the change - it isn't imaginary. If you are wary, get either a knowledgeable friend or a pro (there are some online sources of help who are good) to help you.
 
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atsung168

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In your case a cheap test might be to by something like a RPi as a streamer and see if you hear any improvement with that. It's a pretty low cost alternative, and if there is something not right in your setup, it might eliminate it. If it makes no difference, you can repurpose it for some other computing task in the home.

Thanks for your help, I will look into the possible solution of using RPi as a streamer to see it can make some improvement in my system. Cheers.
 
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