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Thoughts on importance of DAC vs Software


Mr.C
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I've been listening to PV/PM and Amarra (demoes) from my Bryston dac and my Apogee One. I seem to hear more difference between Softwares than DACs through my speakers (B&W 705) while it is the opposite with my headphones (Stax). I almost have no preference for which DAC with the speakers which is weird given their price differences and uses. Anyone else experimented?

 

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Hi,

 

I think that perceptible difference between DACs depend on a couple of things.

 

First, the transparency of the overall system and room will allow differences to be heard or masked, which is probably why you hear more differences using headphones.

 

Second, many DACs that use similar technologies can sound similar. For example, I can't hear much differences between my Lynx card and and a Benchmark DAC. However, I can hear a lot of differences in my system between an NOS DAC and a Benchmark, or a tube DAC and a Benchmark, or a Prism Sound DAC and other DACs.

 

Regarding discerning differences in software, I can hear differences but they are not as dramatic as differences between hardware of differing technologies. Still, some software output drivers in particular can change the flavor of the system (ASIO vs Kernel Streaming or ALSA on Linux vs ASIO on XP). I don't have a lot of experience with Macs, but I recently compared Pure Vinyl on an iMac with strait iTunes, and thought the Pure Vinyl sounded better.

 

Alan

 

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Anyone else experimented?

 

You bet ! But I guess my story is known ...

 

Let me first say that different DACs show a very profound "direct" difference in sound. This may be explainable because of the technichal thing which is the base for different sound. For example, a bunch of OpAmps in the I/V stage just *will* sound different from a discrete I/V stage (which by itself come in a 100 forms, all sounding (very) different).

This will show through headphones ... or at least I wouldn't know why not.

 

Software is a completely different matter, and as far as I can tell (which includes my rather extensive experience on this of course), this can only be about jitter impeeded changes, the jitter "signatures" being the most important (like more jitter can show a more pleasing signature than low jitter).

 

The characteristics of jitter signatures is that they do a LOT to your room. This is hard to explain (because must be from the ground off), but when you have heard me talking about "standing wave" stuff and how at least XXHighEnd can make that go away, then it needs no further explanation. We could also say it is sufficient to know (or hear) it just is so, and this is typical for whatever it is coming from software (and which we'll call jitter changes to be safe, not knowing about anything else once all is bit perfect).

Notice that standing waves not only exist for low(er) frequencies, but just the same for the higher frequencies, there expressing as "buzzing around you", where it should not be so.

Btw, this does not sound much different from bad impedance matching, to my experience.

 

When these latter (micro micro) influences clearly react to your room (or the other way around), it is also clear that you won't perceive that by headphones. There is nothing of such kind playing a role there (interacting with).

 

Let me add one more thing of which I am 100% sure it exists, but could only hear coming from changes in software and *not* from changes on the DAC (you may know I am developing one) : created harmonics in mid-air by means of mid-air interaction.

This too I have been talking about more often, and it is about the ability of sound waves to interact with eachother, creating new - or possibly natural harmonics by that alone. At least it never bothered me, so it could be a natural happening (and if you think technically, two waves of different frequencies will resonate onto eachother).

 

The latter too, will not happen in headphones. I think.

 

Peter

 

PS: For Mani, may he read this : this is (y)our "heavily processed" subject !

 

 

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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PS: For Mani, may he read this : this is (y)our "heavily processed" subject !

 

Hey Peter, I'm not sure what you mean. Wouldn't be the first time though, right? ;-)

 

FWIW...

 

I tend to do most of my listening via headphones nowadays. I'm seriously dissillusioned with my main 'speaker system' right now - I don't know whether the room, the amps or the speakers are to blame... probably a combination of all three! But there is simply no comparison to my 'headphone system', which just sounds majestic to my ears.

 

BUT... I definitely hear large differences in software... through my headphones. Perhaps this is because I use AKG K-1000s, which are technically 'ear speakers'. If I pause a track (at the typical volume I use them), I can hear the natural decay of the room (which is itself very lively)! The K-1000s purposely allow -30dB or -40dB of interaural crosstalk. Could this be enough to set up 'standing waves' between your ears, causing the differences in software that Peter describes? I don't know...

 

... But I do know that the differences in software are clearly audible... through 'ear speakers' at least.

 

Mani.

 

Main: Okto dac8PRO -> 6x Neurochrome 286 mono amps -> Tune Audio Anima speakers + 2x Rotel RB-1590 stereo amps -> 4x subs
Office: MOTU UltraLite-mk5 -> 6x Neurochrome 286 mono amps -> Impulse H2 speakers
Vinyl: Thöress Phono Enhancer -> RME ADI-2 Pro

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Thanks Mani. I hope my post made sense to others anyway (and it is just theory from my side, because I never use headphones, earphones, earplugs, etc.).

 

The "heavily processed" was about the subject of acoustic guitars sounding heavily processed to you (to me too btw). I dedicate a large percentage of this to the process I described (interaction in mid-air).

 

Regards,

Peter

 

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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