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 Posted:   Jul 9, 2013 - 1:21 PM   
 By:   Perky_Norm   (Member)

The best thing you can have is a well mastered source. If the mix is too loud from dynamic compression, then no matter how sophisticated your equipment is, the music will be hard to enjoy.

Currently I'm listening to an album by Jeremy Pelt called Identity, through a pair of Beyerdynamic T90 headphones, connected to a Teac UD-H01 DAC which is connected to a computer holding my music collection in flac and alac. And I'm feeling pretty good!


The Teac UD-H01 is a seriously fantastic piece of gear. It beat an Audiolab M-DAC I had which was considerably more expensive. I really can't fault it in any way (apart from driver issues with Win7, but I tend to mostly use a Meridian CD transport or my Mac mini via USB). I used to write for the Hi-Fi rags, and quite honestly the Teac really is up there in performance (though not build & ott looks) with the so-called high end stuff.

Enjoy smile

John

 
 Posted:   Jul 9, 2013 - 1:23 PM   
 By:   John Schuermann   (Member)

True, but the thing is: If you own a truly fine set of speakers (floor standing or compact, depending on the size of the room), and if you've optimized the room acoustics as has been suggested above, THEN you'll get a soundstage right in front of you, like the one you'd have at a live concert, with the music actually floating in the room, independent of the equipment. That's when you reach total hifi bliss.

Totally agree smile

I would say the floor-standing vs. compact speaker thing is not really room size related, it's just a matter of how much bass response you want out of your main speaker system. The nice thing about going compact is that you don't have to deal with floor bounce plus you can place your separate subwoofer where it gives you the flattest response, apart from your main speakers.

 
 Posted:   Jul 9, 2013 - 1:31 PM   
 By:   John Schuermann   (Member)

I too own KEF speakers (Reference 203), like most British hifi gear, they'll agree with a lot of people. There may be snappier or boomier hifi, but the details are there and so is the soundstage.

KEF and B&W are two excellent brands I forgot to mention earlier. FWIW, I'm running Mackie HR824s in my mixing studio and Paradigm Studio 60s in my theater. Am very happy with both.

Double blind tests have shown there is no audible difference between competently engineered speaker cables / interconnects, CD players, or amplifiers, so saving money on those items means more $$$ to spend on speakers and room treatments. Some of the brands mentioned here are a bit pricey, so allocating the budget in that manner should help get you a better pair of speakers.

 
 Posted:   Jul 9, 2013 - 1:32 PM   
 By:   John Schuermann   (Member)

The best thing you can have is a well mastered source. If the mix is too loud from dynamic compression, then no matter how sophisticated your equipment is, the music will be hard to enjoy.

Currently I'm listening to an album by Jeremy Pelt called Identity, through a pair of Beyerdynamic T90 headphones, connected to a Teac UD-H01 DAC which is connected to a computer holding my music collection in flac and alac. And I'm feeling pretty good!


Totally agreed about having a well mastered source.

 
 Posted:   Jul 9, 2013 - 1:41 PM   
 By:   John Schuermann   (Member)

The best thing you can have is a well mastered source. If the mix is too loud from dynamic compression, then no matter how sophisticated your equipment is, the music will be hard to enjoy.

Currently I'm listening to an album by Jeremy Pelt called Identity, through a pair of Beyerdynamic T90 headphones, connected to a Teac UD-H01 DAC which is connected to a computer holding my music collection in flac and alac. And I'm feeling pretty good!


The Teac UD-H01 is a seriously fantastic piece of gear. It beat an Audiolab M-DAC I had which was considerably more expensive. I really can't fault it in any way (apart from driver issues with Win7, but I tend to mostly use a Meridian CD transport or my Mac mini via USB). I used to write for the Hi-Fi rags, and quite honestly the Teac really is up there in performance (though not build & ott looks) with the so-called high end stuff.

Enjoy smile

John


Pretty much all DACs are using the same Sigma chips these days (even the budget ones) so I would imagine just about any DAC would sound pretty much like another. Most of the double blind tests I have been involved with (or have read about) confirm that there are no audible differences between any of the name brand DACs currently available. Ethan Winer did an interesting test where he double backed into a cheap SoundBlaster card (recording the same piece of music over and over again through it, using the input / output loop in the analog domain) and compared the output to single pass recordings utilizing several esoteric DACs, and no one could identify which resulting file was which in a blind comparison.

Interesting stuff here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYTlN6wjcvQ

 
 Posted:   Jul 9, 2013 - 4:11 PM   
 By:   Perky_Norm   (Member)

I would imagine just about any DAC would sound pretty much like another. Most of the double blind tests I have been involved with (or have read about) confirm that there are no audible differences between any of the name brand DACs currently available. Ethan Winer did an interesting test where he double backed into a cheap SoundBlaster card (recording the same piece of music over and over again through it, using the input / output loop in the analog domain) and compared the output to single pass recordings utilizing several esoteric DACs, and no one could identify which resulting file was which in a blind test.

Sorry I cannot agree with this rather sweeping statement. In a perfect world, with every DAC chip being implemented to textbook perfection, all reproducing/reconstructing the digital inputs flawlessly, I'd agree. Obviously the majority would indeed sound the same. But many of the cheaper DACs do not have well engineered power supplies, pcb grounding techniques, or analogue output stages. This is where spending a bit more helps, and longer term auditioning too of course. Double blind tests aren't the be all and end all either (plenty of research out there against DB tests too). If they were then nobody would ever need to listen to something before buying we'd all be buying on spec. because everything sounds the same wink Audio is obviously about listening at the end of the day, and the specs and design are a great starting point. But I need to hear the gear in the context of my own system. Sometimes two DACs do not sound immediately dissimilar. But require longer term listening for their 'characters' to be revealed. The M-DAC I mentioned cost £599. The Teac I got for £150. Both were listened to at length. The M-DAC left me cold. Disinterested in the music in a sense. Annoying as it was/is a nice design with some very handy functions. Very talented & respected designer too. With the Teac I found myself (and still do) listening into the early hours often. Not sure which measurements, or double-blind tests, would immediately highlight this, since both are good enough to be technically transparent when measured. But one left me cold, the other didn't, and the one that left me cold was actually the better looking and built of the two, and the more expensive. So there wasn't the usual expectation bias going on here which is often the case with pricey gear that looks nice, and can sway a listener on those grounds.

I will leave it here. These discussions occur with boring regularity on hi-fi forums, and they're usually utterly circular and quickly become heated in nature. The age old objectionists vs. subjectivists conflicts. I tend to take a little of what makes sense to me from each camp. But I do not believe we're at that wonderful point (yet) where any budget, cost-cut bit of kit would automatically sound the same as a higher priced design that wasn't subject to penny pinching, especially when you take into account marketing & dealer cuts too. The hi-fi manufacturers would also hate for their budget items to exactly match their higher priced items in technical & subjective performance, as most would then obviously purchase the cheaper items, losing them money.

Each to his/her own however wink

J

 
 Posted:   Jul 9, 2013 - 4:55 PM   
 By:   John Schuermann   (Member)

I would imagine just about any DAC would sound pretty much like another. Most of the double blind tests I have been involved with (or have read about) confirm that there are no audible differences between any of the name brand DACs currently available. Ethan Winer did an interesting test where he double backed into a cheap SoundBlaster card (recording the same piece of music over and over again through it, using the input / output loop in the analog domain) and compared the output to single pass recordings utilizing several esoteric DACs, and no one could identify which resulting file was which in a blind test.

Sorry I cannot agree with this rather sweeping statement. In a perfect world, with every DAC chip being implemented to textbook perfection, all reproducing/reconstructing the digital inputs flawlessly, I'd agree. Obviously the majority would indeed sound the same. But many of the cheaper DACs do not have well engineered power supplies, pcb grounding techniques, or analogue output stages. This is where spending a bit more helps, and longer term auditioning too of course. Double blind tests aren't the be all and end all either (plenty of research out there against DB tests too). If they were then nobody would ever need to listen to something before buying we'd all be buying on spec. because everything sounds the same wink Audio is obviously about listening at the end of the day, and the specs and design are a great starting point. But I need to hear the gear in the context of my own system. Sometimes two DACs do not sound immediately dissimilar. But require longer term listening for their 'characters' to be revealed. The M-DAC I mentioned cost £599. The Teac I got for £150. Both were listened to at length. The M-DAC left me cold. Disinterested in the music in a sense. Annoying as it was/is a nice design with some very handy functions. Very talented & respected designer too. With the Teac I found myself (and still do) listening into the early hours often. Not sure which measurements, or double-blind tests, would immediately highlight this, since both are good enough to be technically transparent when measured. But one left me cold, the other didn't, and the one that left me cold was actually the better looking and built of the two, and the more expensive. So there wasn't the usual expectation bias going on here which is often the case with pricey gear that looks nice, and can sway a listener on those grounds.

I will leave it here. These discussions occur with boring regularity on hi-fi forums, and they're usually utterly circular and quickly become heated in nature. The age old objectionists vs. subjectivists conflicts. I tend to take a little of what makes sense to me from each camp. But I do not believe we're at that wonderful point (yet) where any budget, cost-cut bit of kit would automatically sound the same as a higher priced design that wasn't subject to penny pinching, especially when you take into account marketing & dealer cuts too. The hi-fi manufacturers would also hate for their budget items to exactly match their higher priced items in technical & subjective performance, as most would then obviously purchase the cheaper items, losing them money.

Each to his/her own however wink

J


You "used to be" Bond77, correct? Guessing from your avatar smile

Yes, I disagree with you, and we have had friendly disagreements before.

I would be very interested about "plenty of research out there against DB tests." I have never seen any, but am open to having missed them (seriously, I'm not being a smart ass).

I stand by my statement, and know of no scientifically controlled tests that contradict it. I have spent MUCH time with various manufacturers as a member of CEDIA and the CEA and a consultant for the home theater industry, and can tell you from experience that they are well aware that the playing field is incredibly even when it comes to sound quality of electronic components. Believe me, the manufacturers know that pretty much any well engineered receiver / CD player, etc, will sound like any other. But they also want to remain in business, which results in "feature creep" and unsubstantiated marketing claims.

What would be fun would be to do an extended blind test of the two DACs you mention, where you could do extensive and lengthy comparisons while never knowing which unit you are listening to, and then - after a "decided on by you" period of time - you would have to guess which unit was which during each listening session. If you then were able to come up with a statistically significant number of correct choices, I would happily concede that you are right and I am wrong.

So, I stand by my advice here to anyone who cares - save the $$$ on the electronics, and put it into speakers and acoustic treatments as those items have been proven to make an audible impact on the quality of sound.

 
 Posted:   Jul 10, 2013 - 1:50 AM   
 By:   OnlyGoodMusic   (Member)

Double blind tests have shown there is no audible difference between competently engineered speaker cables / interconnects, CD players, or amplifiers, so saving money on those items means more $$$ to spend on speakers and room treatments.

Exactly. I once tested 16 different CD players after another, beginning with an inexpensive but nice Arcam for around $600, pitted against players of up to $3,500. I own an amplifier that allows the different inputs to be levelled in volume independently, which of course is great for true comparisons (because of differences in output resistance, some CD players are louder than others - and the tiny human brain always thinks that louder is better), and after the 15th such comparison, I gave up. There were no audible differences. Of course the $3,500 player had a much nicer built than the plasticky Arcam, but I invested the $2,900 difference in the speakers instead.

The ratio of spending should be something like: 70% speakers, 15% amp, 15% CD player. Or something like that. Plus the money you need to soundproof your room.

One might also consider so-called "active speakers", which means speakers with a built-in amp. They're also called studio monitors, because that's where they're most commonly used. They reduce the hifi "chain" to Speakers + CD/DVD/BR Player, but can be a bit tricky in everyday use, grounding is a frequent issue with those.

For amps I tried transistor amps as well as transistor/valve tube hybrids and pure valve amps. The latter only work with very responsive speakers like e.g. Klipsch Reference. I ended up with an overpriced Musical Fidelity transistor amp, which I love.

Expensive Speaker/interconnects, "hifi" fuses (!!!), racks - that's all voodoo. The craziest two such gadgets I came across were stones that you put on top of your speakers so they'll sound better, or little Y-bridges to disconnect the speaker cables from the floor! wink

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 10, 2013 - 6:34 AM   
 By:   Marlene   (Member)

If I may chime in... from my experience differences between DACs, CD players or any other digital source are exaggerated. Yes, there are differences but they are small. 20 years ago I too would have said that differences are huge, today however it is different.

If one would want to purchase a source with the hope of gaining neutrality and balance (-> not changing the music into something it isn´t) then many cheap devices suffice. I´ve written a review about our BluRay player, an inexpensive thing not built with perfect analogue sound in mind. But guess what? It renders music without adding euphonic colour or something that isn´t there. It´s not 100% perfect but it´s close.

http://marlene-d.blogspot.de/2012/11/review-pioneer-bdp-140.html

Today sources don´t need to be heavy or well built, they only need to be engineered well. And this Pioneer apparently is.

If cheap sources are so good, what could be a reason to buy much more expensive stuff? For one, most of the time they have much better built quality. Not the electronics, mind you... no, the housing. Handmade aluminum cases with gold plated buttons come at a price. Why do they sound different? Because they are engineered that way. They don´t aim at perfect neutrality, they aim at interpreting music for the listener. Which only means one thing: you aren´t listening to what is on the CD/SACD/BluRay/whatever but to what the engineers of this player think you might want to hear.

Some sources are engineered to sound very well with Rock'n Roll, some are engineered to sound very well with Jazz. Which of course leaves many other genres out of the question. It doesn´t matter however since few people venture beyond the genres they like.

Example: http://marlene-d.blogspot.de/2012/10/review-kenwood-dp-5090.html

Very good with Pop or Rock, bad with Jazz or classical.


Someone said to spend most of the money for loudspeakers. I´d say: spend most of your money for loudspeakers AND room acoustics. People rarely understand that any listening room actually is 'part' of any loudspeaker placed inside of it. A loudspeaker has to fit a listening room - and if it doesn´t the listening room has to change.

The advantages of perfect sources or well engineered amps will be eaten up by a badly configured room with loudspeakers that don´t fit. The speakers might be too big for the room, they might resonate wooden walls or floors, soundwaves might be reflected differently because of windows on the left side (-> glass reflects high frequencies) and a carpet on the right side (-> carpets swallow high frequencies).

Setting up a listening room is a pain in the ass. For that reason I use headphones. BTW, who said that they hurt your health? It´s like saying masturbating causes blindness. If both were true I´d be dead and blind by now. Anyway, headphones eliminate the need for listening rooms. They have of course huge disadvantages... sound playing only in your head, bodily sensations of soundwaves passing through your body are removed... but if one can accept this (I can) they are bliss.

So again, if you´re planning on using loudspeakers (it´s true, music is engineered for them and not for headphones) you need to make sure that the listening room is treated accordingly. If that is said and done, only then you can bother with sources. Regarding them, I personally wouldn´t spend too much money considering how cheap good sources have become during the last 20 years. Hell, even an iPhone bought today is better than 85% of CD players sold 20 years ago.

 
 Posted:   Jul 10, 2013 - 5:45 PM   
 By:   The Shape (Steve H)   (Member)

While on the subject of optimal listening, does anyone have any recommendations for some good sounding earbuds for ipad/ iphone listening. The ipod is just not powerful enough to get any real kick out of the Bose headphones I have, and the EQ settings on the ipod/iphone are really just a joke. I have some Klipsh in ear noise cancelling earphones but find them only suitable for aircraft or train travel etc. Most other earbuds ive tried either sound tinny or lack any bass response.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 10, 2013 - 7:48 PM   
 By:   Marlene   (Member)

While on the subject of optimal listening, does anyone have any recommendations for some good sounding earbuds for ipad/ iphone listening. The ipod is just not powerful enough to get any real kick out of the Bose headphones I have, and the EQ settings on the ipod/iphone are really just a joke. I have some Klipsh in ear noise cancelling earphones but find them only suitable for aircraft or train travel etc. Most other earbuds ive tried either sound tinny or lack any bass response.

Earbuds or IEM (In Ear Monitors) need to be able to seal your earcanal tight; if that doesn´t happen you´ll loose bass. In my experience earbuds or IEM are far too dependent on their position, you can partially avoid sealing problems by choosing from differently sized foam or silicone tips but it´s still like gambling.

You´d be better off by buying a circumaural headphone (encompasses your ears) or supra-aural cans (pads pressing against your ear).

Though... you already have a Bose headphone. Why don´t you solve the problem of low gain by attaching a seperate headphone amplifier?

Something like this: http://www.amazon.com/FiiO-E11-Portable-Headphone-Amplifier/dp/B0053KWDES/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1373510546&sr=8-2&keywords=fiio

or this: http://www.amazon.com/E07K-Andes-Portable-Headphone-Amplifier/dp/B00A9LHLQ6/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1373510546&sr=8-6&keywords=fiio

They take the signal from the headphone output (with certain adapters they even use the normally hidden line-out function, yielding slightly better sound) and amplify it. While they´re at it they remove any impedance mismatch problem all iPod/iPad/iPhone have.

I use those nifty devices all the time and while they are clunky I find that the audible benefit outweighs the inconvenience.

 
 Posted:   Jul 10, 2013 - 10:35 PM   
 By:   The Shape (Steve H)   (Member)

Thanks Marlene
I had thought about the idea of a mini amp before but never knew they actually existed.
I will definitely give this a try.
Very helpful. smile

 
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