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HOW DOES A PERFECT DAC ANALOG SIGNAL LOOK DIFFERENT THAN A CHEAP DAC

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1 hour ago, Dr Tone said:

 

Sorry I didn't make my self clear or I worded it badly.  I've never heard the Pono but I know the Ayre Codex is very similar to the Pono in sound signature and nothing I know of absolutely blows away the Ayre Codex.

 

Subjectively there are better no doubt, but not even my 3 times the price current DAC absolutely blows away the Codex.  The Mirus Pro is better in most ways but you are at a point of very diminishing returns.

As an aside, Dr. I am glad you are enjoying the Mirus Pro, I am about to take delivery of one for use in Sonore's demo system at RMAF.  I suspect we will have excellent SQ there, despite the weird room dimensions!


ROON: DSD 256-Signature Rendu optical--Buffalo PRO (ESS 9038) or DSC-2--Ncore 400 Stereo-Focus Audio FS888-JL E-112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, Cardas Clear AC, XLR, & speaker cables-Synergistic Blue & Hi Fi Tuning Supreme Cu Fuses, Dark Matter system clarifiers.    Design/Build Consultant with Sonore

 

                                                                                                  SONORE computer audio

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5 hours ago, Charles Hansen said:

 

But don't forget that the reason that the high-end market exists at all is because (mostly US-based) companies wiped the floor with Japanese companies in terms of sound quality. Back in the '70s the big Japanese brands were Sony, Pioneer, Kenwood, Sansui, Yamaha, and the like. Marantz was transitioning from being US built to Japanese built. Denon had a very small presence. Then came along Audio Research and the original Mark Levinson equipment designed by John Curl and everything else was toast - even US companies like Dynaco, McIntosh, and the like.

 

The major Japanese companies have never been able to build amazing sounding audio equipment. The only exception has been when they have hired foreigners to help run their programs - specifically TAD, first with Bart Locanthi (ex-JBL) and much later with Andrew Jones (ex-KEF). One thing that the Japanese do make that is world-class are moving-coil phono cartidges. Most come from hand craftsmen working in the "Samurai" mentality, but even the Denon DL-103 is pretty darned good for the money. They also made some excellent sounding direct-drive turntables - so much better at mechanical things than electronics. There are also some very small "Samurai" craftsmen making horn loudspeakers and tube-type electronics that are excellent, but they are very small, even by high-end standards.

 

I wondering why you think that is (that "Japanese companies have never been able to build amazing sounding audio equipment".)  Do they not have access to the same resources?  Different market constraints? Something else?

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19 hours ago, beerandmusic said:

 

 

Anyways, this is my prediction....a dual ES9038 for mono mono operation will be the new benchmark with a pricetag under $1K...i may be wrong, but that is what I am waiting on....would be nice if a USA company can do it for even $1500.

 

You already have your wish in the Pro Ject Box S2. Dual ESS 9038 chips, good clocking, USB isolation, and custom filter with the factory on board options. 

  The surprising spec is the price. The list in Europe is 350 Euros. The US price is around 400.00 USD. Hits the shelves this month in the US. 

  If specs correlate to sound quality this is the beast.

  This is my second attempt at posting this. I blame the phone.


 

2012 Mac Mini, i5 - 2.5 GHz, 16 GB RAM. SSD,  PM/PV software, Focusrite Clarett 4Pre 4 channel interface. Daysequerra M4.0X Broadcast monitor., My_Ref Evolution rev a , Klipsch La Scala II, Blue Sky Sub 12

Clarett used as ADC for vinyl rips.

Corning Optical Thunderbolt cable used to connect computer to 4Pre. Dac fed by iFi iPower and Noise Trapper isolation transformer. 

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7 minutes ago, mansr said:

They don't have access to Charles' prejudice and ability to make sweeping generalisations.

 

Amen!

 

The Japanese made some really awesome audio equipment in the late 70's and early 80's. That's when they catered to the higher end audio enthusiast.

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1 hour ago, barrows said:

As an aside, Dr. I am glad you are enjoying the Mirus Pro, I am about to take delivery of one for use in Sonore's demo system at RMAF.  I suspect we will have excellent SQ there, despite the weird room dimensions!

 

I do love mine.  It doesn't get much mention anymore on these forums after Blizzard went bonkers posting about it's SD card playback system.


Roon Rock->Auralic Aria G2->Schiit Yggdrasil A2->McIntosh C47->McIntosh MC301 Monos->Wilson Audio Sabrinas

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don't the new Oppo's use the ES9038 ??

 

I can speak with some authority to the mouse brain comparison - to the extent one might be able to compare a computer (or a highly parallel GPU, or an AI network) to a biological organism, there indeed will be no comparison near a mouse's brain.

 

 


"The overwhelming majority [of audiophiles] have very little knowledge, if any, about the most basic principles and operating characteristics of audio equipment. They often base their purchasing decisions on hearsay, and the preaching of media sages. Unfortunately, because of commercial considerations, much information is rooted in increasing revenue, not in assisting the audiophile. It seems as if the only requirements for becoming an "authority" in the world of audio is a keyboard."

-- Bruce Rozenblit of Transcendent Sound

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6 minutes ago, Ralf11 said:

don't the new Oppo's use the ES9038 ??

 

I can speak with some authority to the mouse brain comparison - to the extent one might be able to compare a computer (or a highly parallel GPU, or an AI network) to a biological organism, there indeed will be no comparison near a mouse's brain.

 

 

yes, the sonica uses it, but not mono mono, and the reviews aren't so great.

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2 minutes ago, Ralf11 said:

I can speak with some authority to the mouse brain comparison - to the extent one might be able to compare a computer (or a highly parallel GPU, or an AI network) to a biological organism, there indeed will be no comparison near a mouse's brain.

Nevertheless, all the mice in the world couldn't do the things a lowly smartphone does with ease. It is a meaningless comparison.

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1 hour ago, Speed Racer said:

 

Amen!

 

The Japanese made some really awesome audio equipment in the late 70's and early 80's. That's when they catered to the higher end audio enthusiast.

I am in the process of trading for another japanese amp currently...will talk about it more once i get it....circa 80s

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1 hour ago, Panelhead said:

You already have your wish in the Pro Ject Box S2. Dual ESS 9038 chips, good clocking, USB isolation, and custom filter with the factory on board options. 

  The surprising spec is the price. The list in Europe is 350 Euros. The US price is around 400.00 USD. Hits the shelves this month in the US. 

  If specs correlate to sound quality this is the beast.

  This is my second attempt at posting this. I blame the phone.

I almost passed this post up...glad i saw it...for that price, i will try it no matter what!

from pics, I see it has an external input for 5v too...maybe that will help with the 5v usb noise that everyone talks about?

 

THANKS!!

 

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10 minutes ago, mansr said:

Nevertheless, all the mice in the world couldn't do the things a lowly smartphone does with ease. It is a meaningless comparison.

 

Not if you are building robots


"The overwhelming majority [of audiophiles] have very little knowledge, if any, about the most basic principles and operating characteristics of audio equipment. They often base their purchasing decisions on hearsay, and the preaching of media sages. Unfortunately, because of commercial considerations, much information is rooted in increasing revenue, not in assisting the audiophile. It seems as if the only requirements for becoming an "authority" in the world of audio is a keyboard."

-- Bruce Rozenblit of Transcendent Sound

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^^^  Pro-ject is also a well respected turntable manufacturer (sell more turntables than anyone else).  I wonder how they got into DAC market!  But if they can establish a decent dac, they certainly have the manufacturing facilities to mass produce and bring DACs to the price level where they should be.....

Maybe i will see if pro-ject has stock available (grin).  I hope they come out with more expensive units with better engineering than a $400 dac though....would be nice to see them implement some quality components and good engineering...they certainly could be a giant killer if they do it right.

 

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35 minutes ago, Ralf11 said:

Not if you are building robots

Mice don't make phone calls, and phones are terrible as cat food. Besides, neither has anything to do with human hearing acuity.

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It sounds like you are not a PI on DoDs or ONRs robotics programs -- to put it lightly.

 

Mice have xlnt hearing BTW.


"The overwhelming majority [of audiophiles] have very little knowledge, if any, about the most basic principles and operating characteristics of audio equipment. They often base their purchasing decisions on hearsay, and the preaching of media sages. Unfortunately, because of commercial considerations, much information is rooted in increasing revenue, not in assisting the audiophile. It seems as if the only requirements for becoming an "authority" in the world of audio is a keyboard."

-- Bruce Rozenblit of Transcendent Sound

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Three Blind mice, three blind mice, see how they run, see how they run...


ROON: DSD 256-Signature Rendu optical--Buffalo PRO (ESS 9038) or DSC-2--Ncore 400 Stereo-Focus Audio FS888-JL E-112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, Cardas Clear AC, XLR, & speaker cables-Synergistic Blue & Hi Fi Tuning Supreme Cu Fuses, Dark Matter system clarifiers.    Design/Build Consultant with Sonore

 

                                                                                                  SONORE computer audio

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45 minutes ago, Charles Hansen said:

 

Hi Mansr,

 

The thing that I see over and over and over in this thread is an irrational belief in the importance of the DAC chip itself. Just about everything affect the sound of an audio product, but when it comes to DACs, I would rank (in order or sonic importance the general categories as follows:

 

1) The analog circuitry - 99.9% of all DACs are designed by digital engineers who don't know enough about analog. They just follow the app note. The specs on the op-amps are fabulous and digital engineers are inherently seduced by the beauty of the math story. There are minor differences in the sound quality between various op-amps, but it's kind of like the difference between a Duncan-Heinz cake mix and a Betty Crocker cake mix. 99.8% of the op-amps are used a current-to-voltage converters with the inverting input operating as a virtual ground. This is probably the worst way to use an op-amp as the input signal will cause the internal circuitry to go into slewing-limited distortion. http://www.edn.com/electronics-blogs/anablog/4311648/Op-amp-myths-ndash-by-Barrie-Gilbert

 

With discrete circuitry, the only limit is your imagination. You are free to adjust the topology of the circuit, the brands of the parts, the active devices, the bias current in each stage - anything you can think of. Think of this as going to a world-class patisserie in Paris and seeing all the different things that can be made.

 

2) The power supplies - 99.9% of all DACs use "3-pin" power supply regulators, which are pretty much op-amps connected to a series pass transistor. Everything in #1 applies here.

 

3) The master clock - jitter is a single number assigned to measure the phase noise of an oscillator over a fixed bandwidth. It is far more i important to know the spectral distribution of the timing variations and how they correlate to audible problems. 99.9% of all DACs use a strip-cut AT crystal in a Pierce gate oscillator circuit. It's pretty good for the money but the results will depend heavily on the implementation, particularly in the PCB layout and the power supplies (#2).

 

It's hard to rank the rest of these so I will give them a tie score.

 

4) The digital filter - 99.9% of all DACs use the digital filter built into the DAC chip. About a dozen companies know how to make a custom digital filter based on either FPGAs or DSP chips.

 

4) PCB layout - grounding and shielding, impedance-controlled traces, return currents, and return current paths are all critical. For a complex digital PCB, 8 layers is the minimum for good results.

 

4) The DAC chip - almost everything these days is delta sigma with a built-in digital filter. Differences between different chips is one of the less important aspects of D/A converter designs. Both ESS and AKM have some special tricks to reduce out-of-band noise, which can be helpful, but not dramatic.

 

4) Passive parts - the quality of these can make a large difference in overall performance, especially for analog. Not many digital engineers sit around listening to different brands of resistors to see what sounds best.

 

These are just a few of the things that make differences in the way that a DAC will sound.

 

Hope this helps,

Charles Hansen

 

This is a good summary. The digital portion of a modern DAC has the least impact on SQ, while the analog section and the power supply have a chance to impart a more significant sonic signature to the device, relatively speaking.

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1 hour ago, Charles Hansen said:

 

Hi Mansr,

 

The thing that I see over and over and over in this thread is an irrational belief in the importance of the DAC chip itself. Just about everything affect the sound of an audio product, but when it comes to DACs, I would rank (in order or sonic importance the general categories as follows:

 

1) The analog circuitry - 99.9% of all DACs are designed by digital engineers who don't know enough about analog. They just follow the app note. The specs on the op-amps are fabulous and digital engineers are inherently seduced by the beauty of the math story. There are minor differences in the sound quality between various op-amps, but it's kind of like the difference between a Duncan-Heinz cake mix and a Betty Crocker cake mix. 99.8% of the op-amps are used a current-to-voltage converters with the inverting input operating as a virtual ground. This is probably the worst way to use an op-amp as the input signal will cause the internal circuitry to go into slewing-limited distortion. http://www.edn.com/electronics-blogs/anablog/4311648/Op-amp-myths-ndash-by-Barrie-Gilbert

 

I have recently gained respect from Barrows, and he gives you the utmost respect, so i just want to thank you for coming on the boards and taking the time to share...it is noted and appreciated.

 

I am sure you are very busy with all your work, but I truly hope that you can review the LKS specs and design and provide your input.  Since you suggest the chip isn't that important and that the analog circuitry is the most important, maybe pay just attention to that part of it if you are busy.

I think the market for digital music is continuing to grow, but that most have no desire to spend $2K plus for a dac, and the market is saturated with so many choices that for the typical buyer it is just over-whelming and frustrating...especially when like you say there is not much you can hear differently spending less than $2k...that you use the $2k as "the next level" (as i like to call it).  I want, like probably many others the next level for $1K....my hope is that the LKS may be it, but i may be once again disheartened.  Who knows, maybe the pro-ject will be it.

 

My gut feeling though is that reviewers and website promoters will bad mouth anything under $2K as to keep the high end healthy...little do they realize that if they opened up the doors for highend at a low price point, their profits may be more than they anticipated.  The fact that things can't be measured and only heard makes it even more difficult as people need to make their "short lists" based on biased reviews.

 

Anyway, off my soapbox...still looking for the "next-level" DAC after probably close to 4 years of yawn.

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8 hours ago, plissken said:

 

The 'appeal to authority' argument.... While he denigrates pretty much the entire Japanese Audio EE's out there. 

 

Got it ;)

 

The Japanese majors can get it very, very close to what's needed when they decide to put the effort in. Thirty years ago I started in digital sound by getting the top of line Yamaha CDP - this was a battleship in construction, heavy as, and had digital volume output. Driving a decent power amplifier directly, this gave me the breakthrough in what sound reproduction could be like, if done well enough - in the decades inbetween every time I listened to someone else's ambitious rig they would always fall well short of what that gave me. Only in the last few years have the best efforts by others got a lot more of what's needed right.

 

So, someone in Japan had an instinct for what was needed, very early in the digital timeframe.


Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Ahhh, Mankind ... Porsche intellect, Trabant emotions ...

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8 minutes ago, fas42 said:

The Japanese majors can get it very, very close to what's needed when they decide to put the effort in.

 

Hello FAS,

 

This is mostly true. Before PCs became popular in the '80s all of "consumer electronics" was either TVs or stereos. The Japanese majors all had huge design teams and threw amazing resources at audio. It was kind of like the horsepower race between the US "muscle cars" in the '60s and '70s - when gas was still $0.29 a gallon. At one time you had Toshiba, Sanken, Sony, Yamaha, Matsushita (Panasonic), Hitachi, NEC, Sanyo, and more all trying to build the very best audio transistors they could. Many of those parts have never been surpassed, just as some of the old tubes from the '30s, '40s, and '50s have never been surpassed.

 

Then the equipment manufacturers had special lines that were often only sold in Japan. (Most people don't know, but the Japanese majors sold roughly 50% of their total production domestically - in a country of just 100 million people!) The best example of this is the Kenwood (Trio) L07 series (which was sold world wide and is therefore much more well known). Their FM tuner and direct drive turntable are still considered some of the best ever made anywhere in the world. The preamps and amps? Much less so.There were some Japanese attempts at making "super fidelity", but they almost always had clever circuits that were aimed at achieving phenomenal measured performance. I have schematics of Pioneer, Sony, and Yamaha equipment that is extremely advanced and creative, but never was known for sounding all that good, except possibly (for the time) the Yamaha B-2 V-FET power amplifier.

 

Yamaha and Pioneer/TAD made some amazing sounding speakers using beryllium diaphragms. The Yamahas were sold world-wide, while the Pioneer/TADs were pretty much Japan only. Finally when Sony introduced both DVD-Video and SACD, their initial premiere players were incredibly engineered using custom silicon chips and sold for below manufacturing costs to establish the quality of the brand. But the expensive ($5,000?) Sony SCD-1 SACD player is a perfect example of how Japanese engineers can miss the big picture. It had a super fancy transport (that took literally 30 or 40 seconds to read the table of contents of the disc), a custom chip digital filter they called the "VC-24" that did the 8x oversampling for CDs in a single pass, custom DAC chips co-developed with Burr-Brown, and all kinds of stuff. But then they converted the balanced output signal from the DAC chips to single-ended for some unknown reason. The rest of the circuitry was single-ended. It had XLR balanced outputs, but those used an extra op-amp in each channel to make an inverter to make the out-of-phase signal. The broad consensus was that the single-ended outputs sounded better than the balanced one - which when you look at the way it was done, only makes sense. In short - almost every Japanese design I've ever seen had inexplicable design choices that limited their performance capabilities.

 

I'm sure it is a cultural thing. Every culture is different and every culture has strengths and weaknesses. But that is why you find that (say) the Swiss are known for fine precision things like watches, sewing machines, and machine tools, the French are known for their fine wines and superb cuisine, the Italians are known for iconic sports cars with a lot of "personality", the Russians are known for great vodkas, crystal oscillators, and advanced microwave technology, the Japanese are known for perhaps the best seafood and beef (Kobe) in the world, and so forth.

 

Hope this helps,

Charles Hansen


Charles Hansen

Dumb Analog Hardware Engineer
Former Transducer Designer

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1 hour ago, Charles Hansen said:

 

Hi Mansr,

 

The thing that I see over and over and over in this thread is an irrational belief in the importance of the DAC chip itself. Just about everything affect the sound of an audio product, but when it comes to DACs, I would rank (in order or sonic importance the general categories as follows:

 

1) The analog circuitry - 99.9% of all DACs are designed by digital engineers who don't know enough about analog. They just follow the app note. The specs on the op-amps are fabulous and digital engineers are inherently seduced by the beauty of the math story. There are minor differences in the sound quality between various op-amps, but it's kind of like the difference between a Duncan-Heinz cake mix and a Betty Crocker cake mix. 99.8% of the op-amps are used a current-to-voltage converters with the inverting input operating as a virtual ground. This is probably the worst way to use an op-amp as the input signal will cause the internal circuitry to go into slewing-limited distortion. http://www.edn.com/electronics-blogs/anablog/4311648/Op-amp-myths-ndash-by-Barrie-Gilbert

 

With discrete circuitry, the only limit is your imagination. You are free to adjust the topology of the circuit, the brands of the parts, the active devices, the bias current in each stage - anything you can think of. Think of this as going to a world-class patisserie in Paris and seeing all the different things that can be made.

 

2) The power supplies - 99.9% of all DACs use "3-pin" power supply regulators, which are pretty much op-amps connected to a series pass transistor. Everything in #1 applies here.

 

3) The master clock - jitter is a single number assigned to measure the phase noise of an oscillator over a fixed bandwidth. It is far more i important to know the spectral distribution of the timing variations and how they correlate to audible problems. 99.9% of all DACs use a strip-cut AT crystal in a Pierce gate oscillator circuit. It's pretty good for the money but the results will depend heavily on the implementation, particularly in the PCB layout and the power supplies (#2).

 

It's hard to rank the rest of these so I will give them a tie score.

 

4) The digital filter - 99.9% of all DACs use the digital filter built into the DAC chip. About a dozen companies know how to make a custom digital filter based on either FPGAs or DSP chips.

 

4) PCB layout - grounding and shielding, impedance-controlled traces, return currents, and return current paths are all critical. For a complex digital PCB, 8 layers is the minimum for good results.

 

4) The DAC chip - almost everything these days is delta sigma with a built-in digital filter. Differences between different chips is one of the less important aspects of D/A converter designs. Both ESS and AKM have some special tricks to reduce out-of-band noise, which can be helpful, but not dramatic.

 

4) Passive parts - the quality of these can make a large difference in overall performance, especially for analog. Not many digital engineers sit around listening to different brands of resistors to see what sounds best.

 

These are just a few of the things that make differences in the way that a DAC will sound.

 

Hope this helps,

Charles Hansen

Charles,

 

Thanks for that. DANG, it's good to see you posting again!

 

Greg in Mississippi


2 systems including...

AC: Audio gear on DIY AC filters/PSAud P10/P300; misc gear on separate AC w/DIY AC filters

Analog: Well-Tempered Refs or U-Turn Orbit Plus->DIY or Lounge LCR MkII phono stages

Stand-alone Digital: Sony HAP Z1-ES, Oppo 870, Panasonic S47, SDTrans384/Soekris DAM DAC

Networked Digital: Zotac PI320-W2 LMS Server -> switch + WiFi router as access point -> FMCs -> R-Pi/Allo Kali/Soekris DAM DAC, R-Pi/Allo Kali/HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro, or R-Pi/Allo Kali/Mamboberry

Volume Control: SE Passive shunt, S&B TX102 TVC, K&K Balanced shunt, DIYHiFi AVC

Amps: dual mono'd Hypex NC400, EVS 500M B&0 IcePower, FirstOne

Speakers: Eminent Tech LFT-VIII, LFT-IV, or Gallo Ref 3A

Tuning: Various stands/vibration control, noise filters on digital power and Ethernet cables, audio cables MIT reg or Shotgun, ALL gear modified or DIY'd, MOST supplies linear or LPS-1s (DVD players & amps have SMPSs)

 

Everything Matters!

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12 minutes ago, Charles Hansen said:

The preamps and amps? Much less so.There were some Japanese attempts at making "super fidelity", but they almost always had clever circuits that were aimed at achieving phenomenal measured performance. I have schematics of Pioneer, Sony, and Yamaha equipment that is extremely advanced and creative, but never was known for sounding all that good, except possibly (for the time) the Yamaha B-2 V-FET power amplifier.

 

The B-2 sounds great today, too. The problem with it is the V-FETs. Almost impossible to find. Pioneer did some great work with their Series 20 line.The Pioneer M-22 and M-25 are examples of amplifiers from that line. The M-22 is particularly well regarded, even compared to modern amps, for it's wonderful sound.

 

Your comments make you sound elitist and a bit of a bigot. The Japanese are known for seafood and kobe beef??...jeez.

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