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SMSL SU-9 vs Musical Fidelity MX-DAC vs RME ADI-2 DAC FS and Other DACS in general.

M00ndancer

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@M00ndancer and @Joachim Herbert what are the dacs you are using?
Swissonic HAD-1 | ChromeCast Audio | Denon 1611 | Apple DAC USB-C
All of them good enough.
 
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trl

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Where would it put MX-DAC with TI SRC439 chip in comparison to SMSL SU-9, SMSL SANSKRIT 10Th MKII and SMSL SANSKRIT 10Th MKII.
It's actually a Burr-Brown PCM1795 DAC chip, which is great, of course, but it will not hit a SINAD of 110dB, unless it's in dual mono with 2 DAC chips.

I would anytime stick to the new SU-9 unit due to the fact that is based on newer designs and benefits of complete set of measurements done here on ASR. Also, any possible RMA issues might end with swapping the unit for a new one, while the MX-DAC is an EOL unit, so not sure the seller will be able to swap it for you.
 

Bogart99

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Interesting to read here that lots of you think all DACs sound the same, interesting. I can only speak from my listening and I do believe they impart something somehow, to my mind they must do as they are part of the signal chain. All I can say is that I noticed a difference when taking the digital signal out of my Marantz cd player, albeit an old one, and putting it through my MF MX-DAC as opposed to using the Marantz inbuilt DAC.
 

Vapor9

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Interesting to read here that lots of you think all DACs sound the same, interesting. I can only speak from my listening and I do believe they impart something somehow, to my mind they must do as they are part of the signal chain. All I can say is that I noticed a difference when taking the digital signal out of my Marantz cd player, albeit an old one, and putting it through my MF MX-DAC as opposed to using the Marantz inbuilt DAC.

There is absolutely a difference in the way DACS sound. But, try to explain that to many audiosciencereview readers who see a few graphs and think there is no way way a human can discern the difference. Disconnecting my previous DAC and immediately listening to a new one just can't possibly reveal a difference according to the usual suspects in this forum. Indeed, I must be fooling myself into thinking there is a difference since I haven't performed the mandated scientific blind listening test.

I'm not knocking this forum, in fact, I very much enjoy studying the differences in the tests and reading the various opinions. What I'm constantly amazed about is the fact that the many who claim the differences in DACs, amps, etc. can't be heard are bothering to read these tests at all. Seems to me they could just get a moderate-priced system it would be just as satisfying to them as a hi-end $100K rig. No need to waste time reading about or spending money on products that just differ in features or styling.

BTW, I just replaced my pro-ject s2 DAC with a SMSL SU-9 and the difference is immediately apparent. Granted, the difference is not huge and it may not be discernible on other systems, but it is certainly is on mine. Apparently, different circuit design and components do make a difference. Who knew?!
 

Shazb0t

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There is absolutely a difference in the way DACS sound. But, try to explain that to many audiosciencereview readers who see a few graphs and think there is no way way a human can discern the difference. Disconnecting my previous DAC and immediately listening to a new one just can't possibly reveal a difference according to the usual suspects in this forum. Indeed, I must be fooling myself into thinking there is a difference since I haven't performed the mandated scientific blind listening test.

I'm not knocking this forum, in fact, I very much enjoy studying the differences in the tests and reading the various opinions. What I'm constantly amazed about is the fact that the many who claim the differences in DACs, amps, etc. can't be heard are bothering to read these tests at all. Seems to me they could just get a moderate-priced system it would be just as satisfying to them as a hi-end $100K rig. No need to waste time reading about or spending money on products that just differ in features or styling.

BTW, I just replaced my pro-ject s2 DAC with a SMSL SU-9 and the difference is immediately apparent. Granted, the difference is not huge and it may not be discernible on other systems, but it is certainly is on mine. Apparently, different circuit design and components do make a difference. Who knew?!
Here's what I don't understand about people whom share your worldview. Why do you take the time out of your life to make posts that go against what you've undoubtedly learned about audibility thresholds and human biases when you could instead perform your own controlled listening test? Why "fight" against science that has already been proven with anecdotal subjective evidence when you could just as easily seriously test your own belief system? Are you afraid to challenge yourself?

I personally wouldn't waste my time arguing against existing evidence on a subject if I didn't have testable data to back up my claims. I know it would be a bad idea, likely to end with me making an ass of myself. Why do you?
 
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BDWoody

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Disconnecting my previous DAC and immediately listening to a new one just can't possibly reveal a difference according to the usual suspects in this forum. Indeed, I must be fooling myself into thinking there is a difference since I haven't performed the mandated scientific blind listening test.

Yes, that's by far the most likely answer.

Not sure why people believe they have super-human hearing or the ability to suspend natural bias, just because.

We are a predictable lot...
 

Vapor9

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Here's what I don't understand about people whom share your worldview. Why do you take the time out of your life to make posts that go against what you've undoubtedly learned about audibility thresholds and human biases when you could instead perform your own controlled listening test? Why "fight" against science that has already been proven with anecdotal subjective evidence when you could just as easily seriously test your own belief system? Are you afraid to challenge yourself?

I personally wouldn't waste my time arguing against existing evidence on a subject if I didn't have testable data to back up my claims. I know it would be a bad idea, likely to end with me making an ass of myself. Why do you?

Wow, such hostility. I'm beginning to think that those not capable of hearing the differences are sorta angry about it. If I can hear a difference and you can't then I must be biased or crazy, right?

I challenge my myself each time I upgrade a component. In this DAC instance, I have gone back to my pro-ject and then to the Su-9 just to reaffirm my impressions a couple of times. No, I didn't do a quick A-B compare, just a simple reconnect and adjust volume. Granted, I can't tell the difference with all tracks, but most are noticeable. Those recordings with better quality (and sometimes quantity) of bass and certain vocal parts are easier to notice with the Su-9. I'm not as certain of the differences in the high treble areas. Cymbals and extreme highs seem to be as bright through both, but the uppers of pianos and acoustic guitars seem recessed a bit. However, I can't be certain if that is due to the extended bass and midrange masking these areas more.

I know, this is all nonsense to you by now since I don't have a scientific, peer-validated experiment going on. All I can really say is that I'd be happy to send this unit back and save a couple of hundred bucks if I didn't think there was a real difference. But, there is and it comes down to differences in the electrical design and components.
 

BDWoody

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I'm beginning to think that those not capable of hearing the differences are sorta angry about it. If I can hear a difference and you can't then I must be biased or crazy, right?

No, just human. Most don't want to even consider they may be fooling themselves, so reject the importance of using controls with subjective experiences.

Lots of claims out there. We try to weed through it, but...weeds.
 

Shazb0t

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Wow, such hostility. I'm beginning to think that those not capable of hearing the differences are sorta angry about it. If I can hear a difference and you can't then I must be biased or crazy, right?

I challenge my myself each time I upgrade a component. In this DAC instance, I have gone back to my pro-ject and then to the Su-9 just to reaffirm my impressions a couple of times. No, I didn't do a quick A-B compare, just a simple reconnect and adjust volume. Granted, I can't tell the difference with all tracks, but most are noticeable. Those recordings with better quality (and sometimes quantity) of bass and certain vocal parts are easier to notice with the Su-9. I'm not as certain of the differences in the high treble areas. Cymbals and extreme highs seem to be as bright through both, but the uppers of pianos and acoustic guitars seem recessed a bit. However, I can't be certain if that is due to the extended bass and midrange masking these areas more.

I know, this is all nonsense to you by now since I don't have a scientific, peer-validated experiment going on. All I can really say is that I'd be happy to send this unit back and save a couple of hundred bucks if I didn't think there was a real difference. But, there is and it comes down to differences in the electrical design and components.
Honestly, I'd settle for just a lightly controlled experiment where you have someone else change the DACs out of view and level match. The quick A/B is obviously better, but then you need some equipment which will level match and allow quick switching. Why spend money to validate your beliefs you're going to preach to us, am I right?

Look, I'm not trying to be hostile with you. It's just frustrating when I see someone so sure of themselves without actually performing any of the work needed to validate their opinions. Especially when that person insists on "teaching" the rest of us and insinuating that we're the arrogant idiots. Which is exactly what you did by the way. So don't feign outrage when you bait people with the intention of them responding to you in kind. It's not a good look. If this interaction spurs you to consider performing a controlled test then it was worth it. If not, then we're just going to be talking past one another and we can stop here.
 

xaviescacs

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Hi folks. It's a pleasure to be here.

I also have the MX-DAC. Got it some years ago for 500 €, a good deal I thought. I know there are now better DACs for the price, like a balanced topping, but at that time it was the best, with balanced outputs, I could get.

I haven't compared it with other good DACs, but just like

All I can say is that I noticed a difference when taking the digital signal out of my Marantz cd player, albeit an old one, and putting it through my MF MX-DAC as opposed to using the Marantz inbuilt DAC.

I have an old Pioneer dvd player and I can tell that the MX-DAC sounds better. Is that a product of my imagination? Maybe, but at least I got the balanced outputs :D

I assume I wouldn't be able to differentiate this DAC from another good dac, which leads me to the question, reinforced by that extended opinion that almost nobody has the ears to differentiate two decent DACs, of what is the point of comparing and looking at specs and all that stuff.

I'm not knocking this forum, in fact, I very much enjoy studying the differences in the tests and reading the various opinions. What I'm constantly amazed about is the fact that the many who claim the differences in DACs, amps, etc. can't be heard are bothering to read these tests at all. Seems to me they could just get a moderate-priced system it would be just as satisfying to them as a hi-end $100K rig. No need to waste time reading about or spending money on products that just differ in features or styling.

It's quite contradictory to say to people that is useless to compare DACs with regular ears and at the same time keep looking at nuances in THD below 130, ins't it? Who cares for that differences? Aren't all marketing just like any other aspect of the product? Who can differentiate a noise floor -120 from a -130? So why even caring about it? And therefore, if someone buys a state of the art DAC for a home system, he's is just being fooled for that measurements marketing, right? Aren't all that technology advances completely useless, as they can't be heard, and only designed to deceive those that focus only on measurements?

Of course I'm exaggerating to make my argument, please don't take that too serious.

I think that measurments and experience are different things and we should respect both, because experience is as real as measurements, the only difference being that the former is not objectifiable. In the end we don't hear 12kHz tones, we listen to music and there what matters is the subjective experience, at least to the home audiophile. It's equally pointless to try to convince someone with nice words that some DAC is better than to try to convince that his DAC (or his ears!) is a crap based on a THD measurment.

From the scientific point of view, theories and models are always approximations to help us to understand what's going on, but they shouldn't be used as an immutable objects that can be thrown at people's heads when they say they have observed something different, essentially because they are imperfect by definition. A good, humble and constructive scientific approach would be to ask this person about that experience and try to explain it and eventually recognizing the inability of science to explain it, instead of denying its existence. Using measurements to deny people's experiences doesn't do any good to science. A good scientist is always open to new discoveries. :) Of course, the opposite argument is so obvious that doesn't need to be stated.

To sum up, I can safely say that my MX-DAC is as good for my ears as the best DAC in the world, right? Although I keep wondering if my system would sound better with a 120 db S/Nr instead of the 110 db I have right now. I may never find out. :D
 
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Mariusz Gorka

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Hi folks. It's a pleasure to be here.

I also have the MX-DAC. Got it some years ago for 500 €, a good deal I thought. I know there are now better DACs for the price, like a balanced topping, but at that time it was the best, with balanced outputs, I could get.

I haven't compared it with other good DACs, but just like



I have an old Pioneer dvd player and I can tell that the MX-DAC sounds better. Is that a product of my imagination? Maybe, but at least I got the balanced outputs :D

I assume I wouldn't be able to differentiate this DAC from another good dac, which leads me to the question, reinforced by that extended opinion that almost nobody has the ears to differentiate two decent DACs, of what is the point of comparing and looking at specs and all that stuff.



It's quite contradictory to say to people that is useless to compare DACs with regular ears and at the same time keep looking at nuances in THD below 130, ins't it? Who cares for that differences? Aren't all marketing just like any other aspect of the product? Who can differentiate a noise floor -120 from a -130? So why even caring about it? And therefore, if someone buys a state of the art DAC for a home system, he's is just being fooled for that measurements marketing, right? Aren't all that technology advances completely useless, as they can't be heard, and only designed to deceive those that focus only on measurements?

Of course I'm exaggerating to make my argument, please don't take that too serious.

I think that measurments and experience are different things and we should respect both, because experience is as real as measurements, the only difference being that the former is not objectifiable. In the end we don't hear 12kHz tones, we listen to music and there what matters is the subjective experience, at least to the home audiophile. It's equally pointless to try to convince someone with nice words that some DAC is better than to try to convince that his DAC (or his ears!) is a crap based on a THD measurment.

From the scientific point of view, theories and models are always approximations to help us to understand what's going on, but they shouldn't be used as an immutable objects that can be thrown at people's heads when they say they have observed something different, essentially because they are imperfect by definition. A good, humble and constructive scientific approach would be to ask this person about that experience and try to explain it and eventually recognizing the inability of science to explain it, instead of denying its existence. Using measurements to deny people's experiences doesn't do any good to science. A good scientist is always open to new discoveries. :) Of course, the opposite argument is so obvious that doesn't need to be stated.

To sum up, I can safely say that my MX-DAC is as good for my ears as the best DAC in the world, right? Although I keep wondering if my system would sound better with a 120 db S/Nr instead of the 110 db I have right now. I may never find out. :D
My friend. You hit the nail on the head. I could not have possibly explained this any better. BTW. Great DAC. Purchased one myself after auditioning it along many others. And I did it with my ears.
 

Chrise36

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If you dont have something like the Benchmark AHB2 or similar any DAC above 100 SINAD would be ok it is the system SINAD not the DAC that you will hear. Also ground loops and DAC interference with class D amps will bring SINAD down.
 

xaviescacs

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If you dont have something like the Benchmark AHB2 or similar any DAC above 100 SINAD would be ok it is the system SINAD not the DAC that you will hear. Also ground loops and DAC interference with class D amps will bring SINAD down.

That consideration is very sensible: most equipment SINAD is higher the DAC's. Which reinforces the standpoint that the DAC is the less critical part of the system. From my experience, if I use the computer to drive the headphones, the difference with a good amp is obvious. However, if I plug directly the Pioneer dvd instead of the MX-DAC, the differences are more subtle. I can, or I believe I can, in fact differentiate them on the spatial qualities. With the Pioneer I loose that sense of precise location of instruments when listening for instance to Boulez's Mahler's Fourth first movement. I haven't done any serious blind test though.

I only use the balanced connections, so I guess I'm free from ground loops, as amirm explained recently in the Balanced Audio video :)

With respect to SINAD, with the Pathos Aurium, at its maximum output level, which is quite high, I hear a little hiss, almost unnoticeable with minimum ambient noise. However, with the output level set at roughly the middle point, I can't hear any noise without signal. With the Lake People G100 is a bit more notorious. My high frequencies hearing capabilities are quite good though. I'm one of those always complaining about the electrical noise of mobile transformers and led bulbs. I think that is also why I prefer the Pathos over the Lake People, since it softens a little the high frequencies and I can listen to music for longer periods.
 

Chrise36

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That consideration is very sensible: most equipment SINAD is higher the DAC's. Which reinforces the standpoint that the DAC is the less critical part of the system. From my experience, if I use the computer to drive the headphones, the difference with a good amp is obvious. However, if I plug directly the Pioneer dvd instead of the MX-DAC, the differences are more subtle. I can, or I believe I can, in fact differentiate them on the spatial qualities. With the Pioneer I loose that sense of precise location of instruments when listening for instance to Boulez's Mahler's Fourth first movement. I haven't done any serious blind test though.

I only use the balanced connections, so I guess I'm free from ground loops, as amirm explained recently in the Balanced Audio video :)

With respect to SINAD, with the Pathos Aurium, at its maximum output level, which is quite high, I hear a little hiss, almost unnoticeable with minimum ambient noise. However, with the output level set at roughly the middle point, I can't hear any noise without signal. With the Lake People G100 is a bit more notorious. My high frequencies hearing capabilities are quite good though. I'm one of those always complaining about the electrical noise of mobile transformers and led bulbs. I think that is also why I prefer the Pathos over the Lake People, since it softens a little the high frequencies and I can listen to music for longer periods.
I recently installed a 3000VA Automatic Voltage Regulator to protect my sound system from DC noise from the refrigerator and A/C unit. Immediately i heard the difference and the voltage is steady at 220V. I bought it for 90 euro. Give it a try if you can.
 

ALex_hha

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There is absolutely a difference in the way DACS sound. But, try to explain that to many audiosciencereview readers who see a few graphs and think there is no way way a human can discern the difference.
I don't get it. I thought that a good DAC must be "transparent" as much as possible. So if we take 2 good DACs on the same chip (AKM4499) we should not hear any significant and valuable difference. Am I wrong?
 

ALex_hha

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I recently installed a 3000VA Automatic Voltage Regulator to protect my sound system from DC noise from the refrigerator and A/C unit.
could you share exact model ?
 

Vapor9

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I don't get it. I thought that a good DAC must be "transparent" as much as possible. So if we take 2 good DACs on the same chip (AKM4499) we should not hear any significant and valuable difference. Am I wrong?

Yes, I would agree, two DACS with similar architecture and based on the same chip would probably not be discernible. However, my last three DACS were all based on different chips and different architecture. They were all slightly different to me.

Of course, being able to hear those difference is also based on the overall resolution of your system. I'm beginning to think a lot of people that can't hear differences may be listening to systems that distort the signal way before the differences in a DAC can be noticed.

To think of it in another way, imagine seeing an original painting and a competent forgery while looking at it through a dirty pane of glass. Even an expert of the artist's technique would probably not be able to see the differences to come to a reliable conclusion.
 
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Vapor9

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Yes, I would agree, two DACS with similar architecture and based on the same chip would probably not be discernible. However, my last three DACS were all based on different chips and different architecture. They were all slightly different sounding to me.

Of course, being able to hear those difference may also based on the overall resolution of your system. I'm beginning to think a lot of people that can't hear differences may be listening to systems that distort the signal way before the differences in a DAC can be noticed.
 

dtaylo1066

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This debate can go on forever without resolution depending on one's beliefs. Outside of specs, there are some other items to consider in buying a DAC: build quality, where built (if you want it made in your home country), filtering, warranty, company service, on line store vs. brick and mortar, communist made vs free world, etc.

While I believe I can hear the difference between some DACs, I am not going to say that it's related to the DAC chip. I would also think it difficult to hear the difference realted to SINAD in most decently designed products. Who will hear a difference of a 118 SINAD vs 120 db? At that point does the SINAD number have no relevance to one's hearing? I have no idea.

Also, could not a difference in a unit's sound be related to the design and slope of its filters? Or is the belief that all filters sound the same?

As to the human perception and bias factor, if you acribe 100% to the ASR performance metrics and philosophy, do you also believe in the science of a Covid 19 vaccine that has been rigoroulsy tested more than 40,000 times?
 

xaviescacs

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I recently installed a 3000VA Automatic Voltage Regulator to protect my sound system from DC noise from the refrigerator and A/C unit. Immediately i heard the difference and the voltage is steady at 220V. I bought it for 90 euro. Give it a try if you can.

Maybe I'm not getting it at all, but I always thought that I was hearing to the noise floor of the system. The amp has a lot of power at its maximum, so it's not a concern since I drive the headphones with a fraction of it. Hence I never thought it was something that could or needed to be fixed. I bought a better power supply for the DAC than the stock, basically because it was too noisy, electrical ambient noise, in this case.

However, I must say that I'm on the side of trusting manufacturer's handling of mains power input and therefore very skeptical about improvements in that domain. I also believe, maybe I'm wrong, that AC to DC transformers, or power supplies in general, are not that sensible to AC voltage.

I've noticed that the power switch of the electrical blinds generates a sharp sparkly noise in a 10 € usb powered desktop speakers, but on the main system it has no effect at all.

What I do have tested is that without any source the amp itself is absolutely quiet, I don't know if that's trivial.
 
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