It has been possible for a long time* to insert an ADC > DAC into an analogue loop and it make no difference to the sound. There are documented blind listening tests where this has been done.
You miss the point entirely. Just because it is technically possible to prove this in a double-blind test does not mean that every DAC above a certain level sounds the same, especially when it is connected to an abnormally high-resolution amp and speakers.
Look, I am wiling to concede that there are many things I value in hifi that if you isolated them and put me in a double-blind test, I probably would fail. But beware of the myth of the fairness of the double-blind test. There are differences that such a test does not reveal - for example, there may be minor distortion that is hidden by the greater distortion present in many power amps. But hooking it up to an amp with a lower noise floor may reveal differences. Or perhaps both A and B sound identical to every listener in the test, but keep both systems for a week and you might discover that one is quite fatiguing to listen to after an hour or so, but the other you can listen to all night. In both of these examples, the amp used for the test, and the duration of the test, respectively, have a far greater influence on the outcome of the test that what you think we're testing for does.
Speaker builders have a similar argument about capacitor quality in crossovers. Some people think you can't hear the difference, some people know that you can. If someone asked me what I thought, I would say that it depends on the quality of your source and amplification.
But more to the point: all of these quality elements might be inaudible if you isolate them for an A v B test. The speaker cables, the DAC's output stage, the brand of tubes, the capacitors in the speakers, impendence correction in the amp, power supply isolation, etc. - I'd be hard pressed to tell the difference on an A/B test with any of them alone.
But I am not hard-pressed at all to tell you that the key to great sound is paying attention to ALL of it. Maybe one of these elements doesn't make a huge difference, but attention to all of them, collectively, is the difference between high-end and average. You can pay almost any price for a 100-watt amp - the difference in price and quality is all in the details.
I think the restaurant analogy is valid - cooking is a similar fusion of science and human sensation. Could Michelin reviewers tell the difference between two identical main courses, in which one used a few tablespoons of fine wine as a sauce ingredient, and another used plonk? If there were no other differences I am thinking probably not. Or maybe the 'golden tongue' Michelin reviewers would say they could taste it, and some would scoff and them and that whole snobby culture. Well, maybe they taste it, or maybe they don't, but I do know that a restaurant that uses fine quality ingredients across the board, and pays attention to every detail, cooks one level of food, and other restaurants, who maybe start with the same cut of meat but are not as obsessive about the details (because they just know it's a waste, in a double-blind who could tell?) - they cook at another, less star-annointed level. Because at that point, the end result, EVERYONE can tell the difference.
It is certainly a valid debate as to how much of a difference each element makes relative to the others. I happen to think that the source is very important, and in an all-digital system such as mine, the DAC is the source and whatever it is outputting is going straight into my amplifier. But that is open to debate - would I benefit more from upgrading the amp or upgrading the DAC? But anyone who tells you that a certain element doesn't matter at all - careful of them. If there is an analog signal running though it, it matters. If you lavish the finest attention on your entire signal path, your system will sound better, just as when you cook with the finest ingredients, the dish will taste better. It is really quite obvious.
Frankly...I read your two posts and I can do only one think...
Very good and clear...thanks for your contribution!
You miss the point entirely. Just because it is technically possible to prove this in a double-blind test does not mean that every DAC above a certain level sounds the same,
I did not miss the point at all. You said "You can't reasonably claim that any DAC has 'already reached transparency'. This is an entirely reasonable claim. I did not claim that every dac above a certain level sounds the same, I just refuted your opinion regarding transparency.
The rest reads like typical audiophile musings. I'm not interested in it.
Synology NAS + ATV2 > ADM9RS
Why not quote the part of my quote that you misquoted, instead of the part you actually quoted? I never had an opinion to refute about transparency - you brought the term into the debate. You asserted that, as DACs had already reached something you call 'transparency,' that they couldn't get any better. I think that's wrong and was trying to back that up. Not sure what 'opinion regarding transparency' you are 'refuting.'
Craig, you say you are not interested in typical audiophile musings. I am confused. You have posted to this forum 2,585 times since 2008 - if you are not interested in audiophile musings, what exactly are you doing here?
Or I guess that was a dig at my musings...'typical' being the accusation. I thought I put more into those two posts than a 'typical' poster...I guess when you are asserting something that - in effect - is that you are right, and the rest of us are stupid, crazy, or on the payroll or mind-control network of the hifi companies, then 'typical' means that I'm just like the rest of them.
And I am, Craig. We are all in on it. You should be very afraid.
Living Room: Mac Mini, Oppo BDP95EU disc player, Benchmark DAC1, Balanced Audio Technology VK-50 SE preamp, McIntosh MC150 power amp, DIY 22 litre standmounts based on Scan-Speak 18W/8542, DIY subwoofer based on 15" Dayton Reference HF and a Hypex DS4.0 amp.
Office: A bunch of computers, Cambridge DACMagic, Naim Nait 5, DIY 11L standmounts based on Scan-Speak 15W/8530K00
On hand, testing, or selling: Pathos Logos, ProAc Response D18, B&W PV1D subwoofer, Tripath 2020-based 'Class T' amp, Single-driver speakers based on Fostex FE103EN, PMC DB1i, Boston A25
Recently sold: KEF Q300 speakers, AudioEngine D1 DAC, Mini TL speakers based on Seas W15LY001
Why have I posted so often? Probably because at the start I believed all sorts of nonsense, I also heard all sorts of things. And I would post recommendations based on what I believed at the time. Things change. Now I try to post information that will apply to everyone because it is provably factual, rather than a subjective opinion that is only relevant to me and my hearing and subconcious bias. This is also why I'm not interested in 'typical audiophile musings', they are, by and large, relevant only to the person posting them. As well as being, suprisingly often, factually incorrect.
I have nothing to fear from subjective opinions, they are too often wrong.
Whilst your posts are very eloquently written, they contain a lot of the typical audiophoolery misunderstandings and as far as the wine in food analogy goes, it is a very poor one, as there have been many documented instances where so called wine experts have been fooled into belieiving cheap plonk is expensive wine.
The better analogy regarding food and hifi, is one of taste and everyones taste is different, that's it! Merely subjectivity.
Human hearing is not as mystical as you seem to believe and the reasons for not being able to repair hearing damage is one of current physical limitations and not through lack of understanding. The ear and all components in the hearing system are mainly very small and fragile, in effect, irrepairable.
Human hearing is rather limited in ability and measuring equipment is far more sensitive than our hearing could ever be. What is audible is measurable, but not all that is measurable is audible. Technology has advanced far beyond our human capabilities in this regard and will continue to do so, we however won't advance beyond the rate of evolution, so don't expect to be able to hear outside of the 20Hz to 20KHz range anytime soon.
There really is no understandable or as yet undiscovered science at play here.
Mac mini > AVI ADM9Ts
So of course I am intrigued. Is it really possible, with my somewhat-high-end-but hardly-exotic system, that I would replace the DAC1 with the DAC2 and immediately notice a $1000 difference?
What is clear to me is that this product is very much targeted towards audiophiles.
The DAC2 seems to be different. The professional market is already well-served by the super-accurate DAC1 and mostly will see no reason to pay double for the new one.
After listening to the DAC1 for ten years, the only real criticism is that it's just a bit clinical. The turntable junkies are always stunned by how much better 'digital' can sound when they hear it, but it still doesn't flow with enough warmth to make them give up the game, especially with CDs - DVDs and high res are another story (note to turntable junkies: the scientific term for that warmth is called 'distortion' - but it's ok, I like it too). The tubes in my Pathos, speaking of distortion, smooth this out rather nicely actually...which brings me back to...
How much better can it really be? I suspect they just tinkered with it to sound warmer and more analogue, then slapped a bigger price on it for us fools to pay. But you never know. There are few products that have shaken up this market in the last 15 years like the 'accidental' success of the DAC1. Maybe they can do it again.
The DAC2 will not sound 1000 bucks better, it does however have increased accuracy and a bucket load of extra functionality that will be useful in a studio. The extra tech involved alongside the extra functions are what is being paid for. I very much doubt that Benchmark have audibly coloured the sound of the DAC that is primarily a piece of studio equipment. The 'high-end' home audio market is miniscule compared to pro audio, so Benchmark would not be playing wise to upset their core and largest customer base.
You also need to consider that all the R&D needed to create the next 'Benchmark' will need to be paid for somehow.
Just to clarify: comparing the base DAC1 at $1K to the DAC2 at $2K is not a fair comparison. The DAC2 has all the features of the DAC1HDR (which used to sell for $1.9K). So the real increase between the DAC2 and its predecessor is just $100! Keep in mind that the price increases from DAC1 to DAC1USB to DAC1PRE to DAC1HDR were a result of additional features on each model (rather than sound quality improvements).
M-Audio USB Transit->Benchmark DAC1->Beyerdynamic DT880 (600 ohm) / AKG K701
The Texan guitar player Eric Johnson believes the brand of batteries inside his effects pedals makes a difference to his guitar tone. Is he a fool for believing so? Can batteries really sound different? Who knows? More to the point - who cares? if he believes it matters, then that's good enough IMO.
Thanks for the compliment! I do think it's a valid analogy since, if a wine expert can be fooled in an A/B test of wine, some would say that means there is no difference in the wine. There is a difference in wine though, so it's a limitation of the A/B test more than anything (and perhaps an indication that the differences in wine are more subtle than the differences in price). That seems to be very similar to what we're discussing.
Yes, humans hear in the 20hz-20khz range and there are instruments that go far beyond that. But that really doesn't prove anything - bandwidth is one, very coarse attribute of sound. But we are talking about resolution here, not bandwidth. To a RTA, a 15khz tone and the sound of a cymbol will produce a similar blip. To the human ear, they will sound quite different. It's like saying that because instruments have been developed that can detect trace particles in the air, maybe 1 part in 100 million, that machines now have a far better sense of smell than a dog. In fact, a dog's sense of smell is unbelievably complex, analagous to the human sense of sight, and can resolve scents masked by other smells that no machine can accurately pick up (like that weed in your suitcase) - at least, not yet.
I think that you make the same mistake with the 'machines' in our ears. Yes, they are small, hard to fix, and fairly well-understood. But 'sound' may enter your ears, but 'hearing' happens in your brain. As soon as that impulse enters your cochlear nerve, science understands very little about it.
You are making a reasonable point, that we can build instruments with greater range than human hearing (by a huge margin). But the fact remains that all the RTAs and measuring equipment in the world cannot easily explain the very large differences in sound that people easily perceive between similar-measuring audio equipment.
Speaker construction is where the limitations of the instruments becomes obvious. Any speaker designer will tell you that many times, a speaker measures perfectly well - you design a crossover from simulation, using drivers that have been extensively measured and tested (and that you've used before). You set up the speaker, you test it, it looks great - but then it doesn't sound right. No good loudspeaker has ever been built purely from simulation and instruments - at the end, there is nearly always extensive listening tests and tweaking to get it to sound right - and even then, it will sound very different from another speaker with almost identical measurements.
If the technology was really that far ahead of the ear, why would this be the case? If it's all well-understood science and instruments that are far better than your ear, then why can't computers design speakers? The fact is, none of the human senses are completely understood or successfully melded with technology, and all of the practices that manipulate the senses - e.g. cookery, massage therapy, perfume creation, 3D movie making, and music - are still at least as much art as science. As a rationist I understand your desire to use science to make all of this simple and comprehensible, and hopefully to cut though a lot of marketing-driven deception. But it only can go so far.
Anyway, not sure what it was about this debate that got me to write so much about it on two work days, but I've been thinking about this a lot. Thanks for the thought-provoking discussion and sorry for talking too much. I may end up arguing the other side of this in a few months...
No need to apologise SpursGator, your posts make for very refreshing reading. I can at least understand them, unlike many of the others in this thread!
Indeed there are differences, but then differences exist in audio too. The point is not about the existence of differences or the absence thereof, but the type of differences and wether or not they are audible. The flavour of a wine is affected by many factors, not least of which is the grape variety, but there is no good wine or bad wine (except in the situation of wine gone bad.) only wine that you like or don't like. It is purely subjective and has no other measure, so a wine buff can easily be fooled into believing a wine is expensive simply because it tastes nice. Audio is similar in some ways, but is also quite different, inasmuch that it is measurable and therefore, certain parameters are quantiable and verfiable (wine to some degree as well, but chemical analysis of the wine is not usually on the label.)
Yes, humans hear in the 20hz-20khz range and there are instruments that go far beyond that. But that really doesn't prove anything - bandwidth is one, very coarse attribute of sound. But we are talking about resolution here, not bandwidth. To a RTA, a 15khz tone and the sound of a cymbol will produce a similar blip. To the human ear, they will sound quite different.
The frequency of a note played by two different instruments may be the same, but the sound may differ. This is detectable and measurable in the form of soundwaves and quite simply explains why differences exist here. Once inside the brain however, things can get very complicated for sure and it is not possible or practical for manufacturers to try to work out what each individual has going on between their ears, so there is only one true way to acheive quality equipment and that is to use measurements in the design. Further listening tests may then be carried out to add whatever colouration is currently in vogue or to create a 'house' sound in some of the equipment.
And this brings us back to the DAC2. The DAC1 was considered transparent and any unwanted noise, coloration, distortion or any other artifacts usually present in DACs were inaudible. A better DAC cannot be more transparent than inaudible in this regard, but could only be measurably better, but to what end in a home audio situation?
Clear and transparent is clear and transparent, just like a window, to use another analogy.
It is a very fresh take on our little HiFi hobby and I really enjoyed reading what you wrote!
quote from a previous post:
If you lavish the finest attention on your entire signal path, your system will sound better, just as when you cook with the finest ingredients, the dish will taste better. It is really quite obvious.
Quite often people compare enjoying music with enjoying wine or food. it is OK of cause, but in hifi, food and wine are equivalent to music, not to gear.
it is the music that carries the emotional and subjective, enjoyment, part. the gear should be just accurate. there is no gear that sounds better or worse. there is gear that sounds accurate or less accurate. aftter a certain level of accuracy it is accurate enough and stops to matter. and then you just enjoy music. this 'gear X sounds better like wine Z tastes better' for me is a sign of confusion. Loosing the sight of where gear stops and music starts.
in gear, accuracy these days with sources and amps is a very trivial thing. unlike with speakers (where high performace is not so trivial and costs a lot) and room acoustics (where understanding of it and ability to manage it among the public is very low).
System here http://www.whathifi.com/forum/your-system/my-dream-system-oh-maybe-one-day
Audio.de April issue test the 2. The test score is actually similar to version 1.
Had expected a huge difference.
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