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Serious question-How do you deal with people thinking a DAC has a SOUND SIGNATURE?

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#1
I know there are people out there that think cables affect sound, which is much worse, but there really is no response to something like that, but just to smile and nod. But what about people who talk about DACS as if they were headphone drivers or speakers, and talk about the SOUNDSTAGE, IMAGING, and MIDRANGE of a DAC? I actually don't know what to say to people to not be rude. If you try explaining that a DAC isn't something that actually changes the sound, they accuse you of having "a hard-on for measurements", as if it were the measurements themselves that tell you that DACs don't have a sound. What they don't get though, is that even if we had no equipment to measure distortion or other aspects of sound, still would not have a sound to them. So you try explaining by telling them that when you listen to different DACs using the same headphone and amp, that you cannot tell the difference. "You can't tell the difference between DACS????" "There must be something wrong with your system. You don't have revealing enough upstream and downstream equipment. Either that you haven't "learned" to tell the difference between them." Then you explain that in double-blind studies people are not able to tell the difference between Dacs any better than someone picking random answers. And their response is that the differences are "subtle", and them and other audiophiles who have spent time practicing and learning how to listen properly can hear a difference. "That doesn't sound like a very good way of testing that. Just taking a random group of people who know nothing about audio equipment and asking them to try to find the difference between DACs? Those people haven't yet learned to know the difference!" Then you ask them how they know that they actually hear the difference and it isn't just placebo. ETC.

The problem is that this isn't even an uncommon view. I would say that people who understand there isn't a difference between decently engineered dac (except perhaps small amounts of distortion in the lower end ones that may or may not be audible). Most audiophiles think there is at least a subtle difference between DACS and don't realize that saying the DACS sound different is like saying the portion of a DVD player that takes the 0s and 1s that are read off the disk and converts them into video can make the same DVD "look different" on the same exact TV. It's incredible, but if you want to be friends with audiophiles or even post on an audiophile board, you either have to pretend you agree or somehow remain silent when people talk about this stuff. Like "ohh have you heard the utopias in the chord hugo?? it really makes the mids stand out, but its a warmer dac". The main problem is actually that there is a confusion. They think that we mean that what makes a DAC "objectively good" is a TRANSPARENT DAC, and that we first define a good dac as a transparent DAC and then say that the measurements prove that the DAC is transparent, and therefore it is the better DAC. They think there are other dacs that are not transparent, but rather, color the sound in a good way, and therefore "measure worse" but sound better. This is nothing but a huge confusion. If that were how dacs worked, then I would actually agree with them. What matters most is how something sounds. However that is literally not what DACS do. DACs by nature do not have a sound signature. Saying a DAC has a sound signature is like saying a cable has a sound signature (well I guess if it is a really ****** dac it can have a sound signature of "fuzzy" or whatever dac distortion is, but you get the picture). Problem is, I don't think there will ever be an easy way to educate audiophiles about this, and so the only remedy will be like who the hell knows?
 

garbulky

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#2
How do I deal? I find I tend to agree with myself! :D:D Go listen to an Oppo 105, and a Emotiva DC-1 and come back and tell me they don't sound different. I also agree that the measurements show that there probably shouldn't be a difference.
 
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#3
DACs actually DO sound different, so ...

Seriously, there are a couple of reasons they do. The DAC chips, themselves, act differently - for example, I've never been fond of ESS Sabre chips, but like Burr-Brown / TI. In addition, the output stage can make the resulting (i.e., analog) output sound COMPLETELY different, even if the initial digital conversion is identical.

So I believe your premise (as I read it at least, which is: "all DACs sound the same") is incorrect.
 
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#4
How do I deal? I find I tend to agree with myself! :D:D Go listen to an Oppo 105, and a Emotiva DC-1 and come back and tell me they don't sound different. I also agree that the measurements show that there probably shouldn't be a difference.
I have tried listening to dacs that are much different than that, and I can't hear anything different. I'm guessing if you think there is a difference, it is probably because the volumes aren't matched. I have a ****** android phone that sometimes I try to test against my rme adi-2, and the only difference is that I have to turn my thx 789 all the way up to gain 3 + pot at least to 1pm. You can't really switch back and forth between them and match the volume easily because of this, but I am almost positive that there is no difference. If there is, then the difference is so small that it doesn't matter.

If you believe the measurements show there shouldn't be a difference, but then your experience tells you otherwise, then why do you believe in the measurements in the first place? Or rather, are you sure you really believe in the measurements even though you also believe you can hear differences? How do you reconcile these beliefs?
 
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#5
DACs actually DO sound different, so ...

Seriously, there are a couple of reasons they do. The DAC chips, themselves, act differently - for example, I've never been fond of ESS Sabre chips, but like Burr-Brown / TI. In addition, the output stage can make the resulting (i.e., analog) output sound COMPLETELY different, even if the initial digital conversion is identical.

So I believe your premise (as I read it at least, which is: "all DACs sound the same") is incorrect.
Can you explain then why people can't distinguish between them in double blind tests? Are you positive that you would be able to? Like say you had a gun to your head, or had to bet a large sum of money that in a volume matched double blind test you had to guess correct above a certain OR, do you really think you could do it?
 

solderdude

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#6
All DACs sound different when listening tests are done sighted and not level matched.
There is nothing strange about that as the human brain is involved as 'test equipment'.
99% or more of DAC owners test sighted and not accurately level matched and consider sighted tests valid or have a warped idea of what 'blind testing is.
It's these reports and the ones BS audio magazines (paper or web) post, that enhances the notion of DACs, cables, players, decent amps sounding different making it believable and 'factual'.
Perhaps a handful of folks really puts effort in doing a valid (blind) test with statistical relevance. Those that do become 'enlightened' but will be scorned by those that don't. They will be told blind tests are flawed because (insert many reasons) or you are deaf.

It becomes more difficult (if not impossible) to discern between well designed DACs (proper filtering, freq. response and distortion level) when DAC's are level matched and one doesn't know which DAC is playing.

There may be cases it may well be that some DACs sound audibly different (to certain young and trained folks) if they measure substantially different.
With that I mean considered become audible thresholds are crossed in one or more areas.

How I deal with 'sighted' listeners ?
I encourage them (shortly) to do a proper blind test and when interested will give some pointers to test a bit more rigid (but not court style proof delivering).
Sometimes I tell them I can't tell the difference or give an explanation (depends on the person across you).
NEVER tell them they can't or don't hear a difference because the heard so is true, You can't fool their ears after all.
The vast majority thinks I am nuts, an ignorant EE, hardcore objective idiot, deaf or have no idea how music should sound and continues to ignore the message.
They CLEARLY and UNMISTAKABLY heard it and thus it is real.... how could it not be.
Then I go on ignore on the web and when meeting face to face will 'nod' kindly and listen to their babbles (like they do to mine) and friendly part ways.

The only way to get another camp to 'think' a bit more is show them in a test. Have done that in the past (with cables) and the fun part is that they admit 'grudgingly' that they can't hear a difference but the vast majority thinks it was only in a 'rigged' test and don't change their minds one little bit.

These folks exist.. let them live their lives and you yours.
You can't easily convert someone's religion, best to just let them go on thinking their hearing is 'superior' and there are things 'we' cannot measure (yet) or don't know how to measure.
 
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JJB70

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#8
Personally I think the audiophile culture around DACs is spookily similar to that around cables. Unless a DAC has been very, very badly designed or deliberately engineered to have a coloured sound it will be audibly transparent. The DAC is a commodity, on-board DACs of devices are perfectly adequate.
 

garbulky

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#10
I have tried listening to dacs that are much different than that, and I can't hear anything different. I'm guessing if you think there is a difference, it is probably because the volumes aren't matched. I have a ****** android phone that sometimes I try to test against my rme adi-2, and the only difference is that I have to turn my thx 789 all the way up to gain 3 + pot at least to 1pm. You can't really switch back and forth between them and match the volume easily because of this, but I am almost positive that there is no difference. If there is, then the difference is so small that it doesn't matter.

If you believe the measurements show there shouldn't be a difference, but then your experience tells you otherwise, then why do you believe in the measurements in the first place. Or rather, are you sure you really believe in the measurements even though you also believe you can hear differences? How do you reconcile these beliefs.
Measurements do not require belief. If they are accurately performed then they simply are what they are. The truth is you can't reconcile those two. First thing is that I know my ears aren't superhuman. I have trouble hearing say anything at -65 db. So if there are things affecting the sound it must be at levels higher than that. If I have to guess it's got to be at more obvious levels too, not at levels of a fly farting. I'm thinking in the -30 db or -40 db. Most modern dacs do very well in this region so I don't think there is a way to make sense of it.

I mean sure there is a way: you can reject anything that isn't level matched DBT as being an artifact of a fallible mind. That appears to be what most people here do. Nothing wrong with that, except it doesn't actually address that people are hearing differences and it does make a difference for them and that's sort of where I come from. As far as I'm concerned it sounds different where it matters - regular use.

On the other hand, I see things that make me skeptical too. Think cables, transports sounding better of which I haven't heard any difference between properly implemented methods. But for those people that do, it clearly is. And for them that's real. And unless something you do changes their real world experience, the measurements mean jack in changing their minds.
 

restorer-john

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#11
DACs actually DO sound different, so ...

Seriously, there are a couple of reasons they do. The DAC chips, themselves, act differently - for example, I've never been fond of ESS Sabre chips, but like Burr-Brown / TI. In addition, the output stage can make the resulting (i.e., analog) output sound COMPLETELY different, even if the initial digital conversion is identical.

So I believe your premise (as I read it at least, which is: "all DACs sound the same") is incorrect.
Faulty implementations or faulty chipsets may sound different to one another, but other than that, once level matched I'd bet London to a brick on, you or anyone else couldn't distinguish one from another.
 
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solderdude

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#12
I mean sure there is a way: you can reject anything that isn't level matched DBT as being an artifact of a fallible mind. That appears to be what most people here do. Nothing wrong with that, except it doesn't actually address that people are hearing differences and it does make a difference for them and so it goes with me.
I agree with most of your post but the fact that there is little to no correlation with (subjectively and not properly conducted) listening tests and measurements is because the tests aren't properly conducted.
Do the tests properly conducted and the differences in most of the cases can not be demonstrated. In the cases it can there are always substantial differences in technical performance and are repeatable and demonstrable.
 

BDWoody

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#13
I know there are people out there that think cables affect sound, which is much worse, but there really is no response to something like that, but just to smile and nod. But what about people who talk about DACS as if they were headphone drivers or speakers, and talk about the SOUNDSTAGE, IMAGING, and MIDRANGE of a DAC? I actually don't know what to say to people to not be rude. If you try explaining that a DAC isn't something that actually changes the sound, they accuse you of having "a hard-on for measurements", as if it were the measurements themselves that tell you that DACs don't have a sound. What they don't get though, is that even if we had no equipment to measure distortion or other aspects of sound, still would not have a sound to them. So you try explaining by telling them that when you listen to different DACs using the same headphone and amp, that you cannot tell the difference. "You can't tell the difference between DACS????" "There must be something wrong with your system. You don't have revealing enough upstream and downstream equipment. Either that you haven't "learned" to tell the difference between them." Then you explain that in double-blind studies people are not able to tell the difference between Dacs any better than someone picking random answers. And their response is that the differences are "subtle", and them and other audiophiles who have spent time practicing and learning how to listen properly can hear a difference. "That doesn't sound like a very good way of testing that. Just taking a random group of people who know nothing about audio equipment and asking them to try to find the difference between DACs? Those people haven't yet learned to know the difference!" Then you ask them how they know that they actually hear the difference and it isn't just placebo. ETC.

The problem is that this isn't even an uncommon view. I would say that people who understand there isn't a difference between decently engineered dac (except perhaps small amounts of distortion in the lower end ones that may or may not be audible). Most audiophiles think there is at least a subtle difference between DACS and don't realize that saying the DACS sound different is like saying the portion of a DVD player that takes the 0s and 1s that are read off the disk and converts them into video can make the same DVD "look different" on the same exact TV. It's incredible, but if you want to be friends with audiophiles or even post on an audiophile board, you either have to pretend you agree or somehow remain silent when people talk about this stuff. Like "ohh have you heard the utopias in the chord hugo?? it really makes the mids stand out, but its a warmer dac". The main problem is actually that there is a confusion. They think that we mean that what makes a DAC "objectively good" is a TRANSPARENT DAC, and that we first define a good dac as a transparent DAC and then say that the measurements prove that the DAC is transparent, and therefore it is the better DAC. They think there are other dacs that are not transparent, but rather, color the sound in a good way, and therefore "measure worse" but sound better. This is nothing but a huge confusion. If that were how dacs worked, then I would actually agree with them. What matters most is how something sounds. However that is literally not what DACS do. DACs by nature do not have a sound signature. Saying a DAC has a sound signature is like saying a cable has a sound signature (well I guess if it is a really ****** dac it can have a sound signature of "fuzzy" or whatever dac distortion is, but you get the picture). Problem is, I don't think there will ever be an easy way to educate audiophiles about this, and so the only remedy will be like who the hell knows?
Solderdude, as usual, nailed it.
As can be seen in some of the replies, people don't want to face the truth of what you say.
If someone shows an openness to the idea, by all means help by further explaining listening controls, but at the end of the day, most don't want anything counter to what they already believe.

Just be glad you don't have to worry about the same things! Maybe you could make a few bucks if you learned how to set up a test for your friends and placed bets?
 

Krunok

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#14
Solderdude, as usual, nailed it.
As can be seen in some of the replies, people don't want to face the truth of what you say.
If someone shows an openness to the idea, by all means help by further explaining listening controls, but at the end of the day, most don't want anything counter to what they already believe.

Just be glad you don't have to worry about the same things! Maybe you could make a few bucks if you learned how to set up a test for your friends and placed bets?
It actually works the other way too - you will find many folks that are not willing to accept that a DAC that measures better doesn't actually sound better. ;)
 

RayDunzl

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#15
"How do you deal with people thinking a DAC has a SOUND SIGNATURE?"

In person, I say "Uh-huh..."

If I read it here, I think "Uh-huh."
 

digicidal

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#16
You could run a competition like drag racing for pinks (for those not familiar that refers to the winner owning the loser's car after the race).

If you can pick the better measuring DAC in a blind test, you take mine... if not, I take yours. ;)

Edit: Naturally you'd want to eliminate the really bad outliers... but maybe set a minimum SNR of 115dB or so.
 

BDWoody

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#17
You could run a competition like drag racing for pinks (for those not familiar that refers to the winner owning the loser's car after the race).

If you can pick the better measuring DAC in a blind test, you take mine... if not, I take yours. ;)
Same with cables, isolators, etc...
Start with competent products, the rest mostly takes care of itself. You could make out like a bandit! Put everyone and their super special DAC's up against the apple dongle...see how golden those ears really are...
 

digicidal

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#18
Same with cables, isolators, etc...
Start with competent products, the rest mostly takes care of itself. You could make out like a bandit! Put everyone and their super special DAC's up against the apple dongle...see how golden those ears really are...
Even if you hit on someone really, really lucky (or superman)... as long as they weren't the first... you'll have a whole closet of gear to replace everything with for the next sucker. There should be a carnival booth for this! I'm tempted to set up a room for that at the next CES... wonder if I couldn't get a few dozen "floor samples" from the show that way?
 
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