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gordec

How much difference does it make?

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On 6/22/2019 at 6:32 AM, PeterSt said:

Room maybe 10% (in the end irrelevant if it is not too bad to begin with - avoid swimming pools and the like).

Power amp 5-10% as long as it measures well (rare to begin with).

Pre-amp, 100% detrimental. So ditch it. Same counts for any aftermath volume controls.

DAC ~25%.

PC / hardware source 30% or more.

Software 25%, but in combination with PC / hardware source and even DAC. This should not count to get to 100%.

Digital cables 15%.

Analogue cables 10%.

Speakers left out. *)

 

Very interesting breakdown. Could you say more about your take on preamps? Are you referring only to active ones, or also passive? If both, how do you recommend controlling volume? (Digitally, I’m assuming?)

 

Having gone through a bunch of power amps, all of which measured well, I think there is plenty of different in terms of resolution, soundstage depth, etc., but I like that you’ve give DACs their due here. All too often, it seem like they’re reduced to near-zero, based on the idea that all decently measuring DACs sound the same, which defintiely isn’t my experience. 

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The attached link may be of interest.

 I would suggest however, in order to make the article easier to read, to highlight the whole of the article as if you are saving it.

 As per the conclusion at the end, In my case, my Class A Preamp is however way higher in quality than a typical preamp in the areas of S/N, frequency response, channel separation and distortion.

Neither do many DACs perform too well with 30dB or more of Digital attenuation which can  happen with many power amplifiers at a typical domestic listening level .

 

 

https://www.soundstageultra.com/index.php/features-menu/general-interest-interviews-menu/311-what-s-wrong-with-digital-volume-controls


"If you can't hear the difference between an original CD and a copy of your CD,

you might as well give up your career as a tester. The difference between a reconstituted FLAC and full size WAV is much less than that, but it does exist. - Cookie Marenco"

 

PROFILE UPDATED 18-06-2019

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Maybe there's enough talk about preamps already. So maybe a next time. 😊

 

24 minutes ago, JoshM said:

 

Having gone through a bunch of power amps, all of which measured well

 

I'd say that that "problem" must be solved first. And that problem is ... are you sure ?

I don't measure power amps very regularly, but of those I did measure, only one was up to my own ideas about it (say same for noise floor as I showed from my own although that was the complete chain in one go). All of the others I saw passing by (Internet) don't show good at all. One thing: with NCore's as the example, don't forget to look beyond 20KHz as well. Thus, showing a noise line nicely way down (and flat) up to 20KHz is one thing, but not showing it beyond there - because it will creep up sky high - is something I don't like at all. And my tweeters told me they don't like that either. So no need to show the Hypex (based) stuff without showing a fair band beyond 20KHz.

 

I suppose (I never tried) it will be relatively easy to find measurements which fulfil the "art" of a decent straight (very) low level noise line (search Stereophile or something) but now look whether those are the power amps you went through. We could compare a few and decide what actually means "measure well". And just saying: I don't rule here 😆 but while DIYAudio was mentioned a couple of times the past few days as the example of where the good minds hang out (I am actually saying that myself), I never really see good measurements passing by in there (of any "device") while everybody raves about what's presented.

 

Possibly we can say in advance that such comparisons or show cases are relatively useless, because when "we" like, we claim that we won't be able to span more than 70dB of dynamic range anyway, and thus why would noise be any good or for the better when it is 71dB down. Only 69dB would be a kind of detrimental. And thus is -71dB a testimony of good measurement ?

Thus the point is that we seem to decide for ourselves what exactly "good" is. That the one tells that being on the moon is OK while the other prefers to be in an other universe, makes it a bit difficult.

 

In my view, over-spec'ing is a key element to good sound. I do it with everything where I deem myself capable (or I am idiot enough to set myself some kind of stupid target).

 

And oh, once you're there with the better measuring amp (say you finally found it), you will come to the conclusion that all was in vain because of the analog volume control you applied in aftermath. Now it is back to square one (an unsolvable one in the realm of noise and linearity).

So that was the story about the preamp. Haha.


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37 minutes ago, sandyk said:

The attached link may be of interest.

 

Yes, nice article. That is, good for some inside on what to actually consider. But it omits two major elements which may make you judge quite different than what the gist of the article is (although it nicely lets you decide for yourself).

 

Later ...

 

PS: At least I should have left in the one but last sentence in my previous post like this:

you will come to the conclusion that all was in vain because of the analog volume control you applied in aftermath, although a digital volume may even be more complicated to execute well.

But it didn't end well in that post, so I took that out again.


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46 minutes ago, PeterSt said:

 

Yes, nice article. That is, good for some inside on what to actually consider. But it omits two major elements which may make you judge quite different than what the gist of the article is (although it nicely lets you decide for yourself).

 

Later ...

 

PS: At least I should have left in the one but last sentence in my previous post like this:

you will come to the conclusion that all was in vain because of the analog volume control you applied in aftermath, although a digital volume may even be more complicated to execute well.

But it didn't end well in that post, so I took that out again.

 

 Peter

 I have no doubt that the way you implement the analogue output and your Digital attenuation is well above average, but to compare your DAC with the majority of affordable offerings is perhaps a wee bit unfair ? ¬¬

 BTW, I use a DACT2 attenuator in my Preamp and HA  , which is not only very low noise , but has a bandwidth to 50MHz.

Alex

58 minutes ago, AudioDoctor said:

I have to ask...  Do you guys actually enjoy listening to music?

 

 I have plenty of time on my hands to do both. :D


"If you can't hear the difference between an original CD and a copy of your CD,

you might as well give up your career as a tester. The difference between a reconstituted FLAC and full size WAV is much less than that, but it does exist. - Cookie Marenco"

 

PROFILE UPDATED 18-06-2019

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25 minutes ago, sandyk said:

but to compare your DAC with the majority of affordable offerings is perhaps a wee bit unfair ? ¬¬

 

WHY in heaven's sake, do you AGAIN start about our DAC ?

No answer needed, but you really should stop this. I can imagine that you always think I am talking about our DAC, but if I tell you I really never do unless I say so ... does that help ?

So please ... ⛑️

 


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Maybe a little different subject, especially for you, Alex.

 

Why on earth shouldn't we all talk about the very best solution for audio, which in the end is not even related to $ really - only about best choices ? (in a following post)

 

Why would we need to comply to - and it is just an example - people who also like to stuff their whole HTPC, FM radios and what not, in their audio playing PC ? I mean, I understand that people (including me btw) may have the desire, but it is about audio(philia) or is it ?

 

So if you would be so kind to allow me - I talk about "best SQ" and such. And not about best digital radio supersh*t.

This does not mean that it is not allowed for people to use that, but debunking a good (preamp and such) discussion because they coincidentally like FM radios and more, No. That is no argument.

 

On again an other hand, might it be so that now *I* am out of line because of my ideas about good sound and such and that we really should take a step back because all is lost to begin with ...


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24 minutes ago, PeterSt said:

which in the end is not even related to $ really - only about best choices ? (in a following post)

 

First off, I'd have to say that maybe 50% of people would agree about omitting a preamp. Following my math, this means that 50% does not agree. This is for various reasons, among which SQ itself. So 50% chooses a preamp for the better SQ it depicts and 50% omits it for the same reason - better SQ.

Funny. Funny, but also the truth and everybody is right.

 

Might one be able to choose

- a (very) low noise power amp;

- a DAC with sufficient output drive capability (but also sufficiently low output-noise);

- an other solution for their HTPC needs;

- a well executed digital volume (see next post)

 

then hardly with extra $ one would be quite ultimately better in the Sound Quality realm.

Of course, when one doesn't possess these goodies currently, it will cost $ to buy it. Otoh, don't I see another 50% of people buy new gear all the time ? (with great stories towards their partners meanwhile)

 

Part of the choices is also about "and what is actually important". I mean, we could talk Class A and less distortion and the like, but again show me the measurement of that amp on the noise line alone.

For example a GainClone will do very well, costs a virtual zero when put together in DIY fashion, but may take a grand to let it behave as could and not as the datasheet shows (and skip the Pass designs with it). Low noise, straight noise line and a THD+N IIRC of 0.0040% or so (at full gain) on Redbook source material (I don't think I measured them with 24 bits input signal, with again the remark that I always measure a complete chain and not via a signal generator).

Maybe it is that people think that if the amp does not weigh 40Kg / 75lbs it can't be much.

 

A choice for a DAC with driving capabilities ... it costs zero extra to produce. But it requires design strategy or thoughtfulness to do it. Also the thought of the small list above.

 

HTPC can go via computers all the way. This subject is a bit larger, but I watch movies through the main system for audio and don't have a preamp.

 

Digital volume ...

 

 

 


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3 hours ago, sandyk said:

The attached link may be of interest.

 

3 hours ago, sandyk said:

 

So indeed. A good article IMO. One major "fault": the presented perception you'd imposed to have of the digital attenuation.

There is no-single-best-way a digital volume can be applied in a DAC of the (implied) subject in that article. Only when the DAC of concern (mind you, it is about 16 bit CD players in there) has a voltage referenced volume directly controlling the D/A's output, *or* when it would contain an FPGA arranging for attenuation, the article could have a case for the pro's of digital.

 

So point is, the imposed digital volume may not even be in there in the first place (think CD player). It could be a ladder voltage divider controlled electronically by a remote or otherwise digital looking means (like nice numbers on a display) - which thus is just an analogue volume again, OR it would be a volume control chip of which everybody at Maxim's think it is useful for high end audio.

Today we have the more sophisticated (8ch) ships for it (something with C8 - Cypress ? I forgot) but in all events they are accurate (= matched per channel !!) to 0.5dB at best.

Now try to make a balanced situation of that. The THD will be screaming.

 

Eye opener ?

 

Yes. Maybe the eye opener is that a digital volume can normally only exist in software (this includes an FPGA or DSP chip if you want). Thus, something which is still ahead of everything, in the pure still digital stream/domain. Think of: no matter what, if I need to divide two channels by 256, that will be accurate to the unmeasurable dB (maybe a very small rounding error at the bit depth). This is different compared with the 0.5dB I talked about, which will not even be linear per step (like 256 to 1024 steps to attenuate 60dB, depending on the chip).

 

Next up is the analogue volume as being detrimental just because of its means of attenuation. And mind you, this was already my commercial story before I even was thinking about making DACs. This is just how a digital volume can be (should be ?) done, compared to how an analogue works (has to work);

 

Remember my mentioned 48dB range of attenuation which would work for 16bits source material in a 24 bit environment ? this was about shifting. Maybe the article talked about such means after all, but all my eye fell on was chopping off (the bottom). Of course not ... Nothing is lost at the bottom as long as you *have* that bottom and as long as it does not disappear in the noise.

This is not special PeterSt DAC technology - this is just (PeterSt) software.

Granted, that PeterSt next makes a DAC which takes this feature into account ... can he help it if others do not ? The software was first and it was all spelled out (again, as a commercial story back at the time).

Not to forget, if the power amp next adds the noise, then all is a little bit in vain again. Or, if we use a preamp or analogue volume control which is nicely capable of attenuating higher frequencies -or bands of it- differently (read the article and focus on impedance - I am sure it was mentioned in there), then what to do with shifting down bits in an already mangled-with area.

 

See ? this is how the better SQ emerges. And if people grasp what I am saying in my Dutch, then they see that it only costs less to achieve it. But make the proper choices.

Earlier on (or in the other thread perhaps) I talked about the manufacturers of audio needing to do this and how quite impossible this is (about inter-connecting things the right way). But if you focus on these matters, you can do it yourself.

If you deem it needed, of course.

 

Peter

 

 


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1 hour ago, PeterSt said:

No answer needed, but you really should stop this.

Peter

 You appear to be giving most affordable DACs far more credit for their performance than they deserve, when you mercilessly dismiss a high quality Preamp as possibly being competitive with the digital attenuation and analogue drive capabilities found in  many  commercial DAC offerings. I am by far from the only member to report that a high quality Analogue preamp can make many commercial DACs sound better than when using digital attenuation of perhaps as much as 30dB or more at typical domestic listening levels.

I base this around listening sessions using high quality preamps vs. well regarded DACs such as the Bricasti M1 using digital attenuation., and other well respected DACs built to a highly competitive price.

 

BTW, I find very little to disagree with in the last 2 paragraphs in  your post before your most recent post.

 

I will have a closer look at your most recent post later on, as it is a much wider subject deserving of a much closer examination

 We seem to be going backwards in many areas in the pursuit of convenience and variety of content.

Alex

 

 


"If you can't hear the difference between an original CD and a copy of your CD,

you might as well give up your career as a tester. The difference between a reconstituted FLAC and full size WAV is much less than that, but it does exist. - Cookie Marenco"

 

PROFILE UPDATED 18-06-2019

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21 minutes ago, sandyk said:

 You appear to be giving most affordable DACs far more credit for their performance than they deserve, when you mercilessly dismiss a high quality Preamp

 

Alex, the bit of the sad point is that everybody throws high quality pre-amps at me, but I don't even dare to listen to them.

With apologies to the owner (if he just doesn't announce himself then no harm can be done and that the manufacturer makes this of it - I can't help that) ... this is an USD 8K costing pre-amp. Maybe it was a bit more.

 

Same type of measurements as always.

 

Placette01-0dB.thumb.png.4f748558831b4b9afc467b0b8750c0da.png

-0dB (its own resistor ladder volume wide open).

 

Placette01-6dB.thumb.png.0beff255597a5ccb9db1aa860051bb33.png

Attenuated with 6dB. Start to get the idea ?

 

Placette01-48dB.thumb.png.bf9138f5c3df31f0ef5556b650b6be74.png

 Attenuated with -48dB.

In between the situations, everything changes all directions (I think this has 60 steps).

And then to think that this is in the end again about inter-connection and proper grounding (I am pretty sure of that). But I couldn't get it better than this.

 

Now I also have such pictures of a 20K costing pre-amp. I was asked to build a DAC in there. It looked even way worse than what you see above. In the end I refused. 40Kg was returned by UPS.

Do please note that it was the manufacturer (who I highly regard) himself asking this.

 

These are extremes. But I also have the screenshots of hard two years work of some engineer who started his own company and via-via wanted to let judge his new creation by me. Three of us worked a full day to get things right the best we could (after I had measured similarly and pointed out he'd better go back to his former employer) and when we thought we were done, my wife came home and she right away asked what the h*ll we thought we had created (while we, including myself were fairly satisfied)).

 

And indeed, the owner of the pre-amp of the screenshots above, is quite satisfied with the sound. And he knows the results. No anti-placebo there.

 

So you could be right.


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53 minutes ago, PeterSt said:

And indeed, the owner of the pre-amp of the screenshots above, is quite satisfied with the sound. And he knows the results. No anti-placebo there.

 

So you could be right.

Peter

 It's not so cut and dried. Like many other members I do not believe that measurements can tell the whole story .

An amplifier can have <.0006% distortion from 20Hz to >20KHz , be >115dB S/N unweighted with decent channel separation too, and Bandwidth of >150KHz, but power the front end with a very low noise PSU, build it as dual mono, and power it from an external metal rack case using ,individual transformers for both channels,  perhaps with the main voltage regulation there too, and it can sound way better again.

 What are we missing in the measurements area that aren't revealing the reasons why ?

Quote

Maybe the eye opener is that a digital volume can normally only exist in software (this includes an FPGA or DSP chip if you want)

I think that you already pretty well know my feelings about typical S/W implementation (even the Digital PSU area) and how it can degrade performance.¬¬

 

Alex

 

P.S.

. A DIY Audio member nicknamed my 15W Class A amplifier " The Holo Amp"  as in Holographic.


"If you can't hear the difference between an original CD and a copy of your CD,

you might as well give up your career as a tester. The difference between a reconstituted FLAC and full size WAV is much less than that, but it does exist. - Cookie Marenco"

 

PROFILE UPDATED 18-06-2019

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measurements can never tell the whole story if you are making the wrong measurements or making a non-comprehensive suite of measurements 


"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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On 6/21/2019 at 9:09 AM, gordec said:

I have learned a lot of great information from the CA/AS community since joining. I went completely network based frontend and started to use better cable and power supplies. After playing with a lot of streamers and linear power supplies, I came to the conclusion that, to my ears, software, power supply, connection interface (network, USB, optical) and cables make up about 10% difference in overall sound quality. Headphone/speaker probably make up 30%-40%, amp 20%-30%, DAC 15%-30%. I have absolutely no problem spending a lot to get the most out of that 10%, but perhaps the best value is spend on the down stream components that could make a bigger difference in the overall sound quality. 

 

Do others feel that their frontend makes significantly more than 10% difference to their overall listening experience. If so, how much. I'm talking about sound quality alone, not the software/user interface. 

 

I hate to get back to the original topic, but...

 

if the frontend includes the mastering, and the delivery format then it can be very significant

 

if just electronics, then a very decent frontend can be had for a kilobuck or less


"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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8 minutes ago, SJK said:

the fridge ended up in the loving room.

 

is that really so bad?


The desire to impose rationality, to make people or society more rational, mutates, as a rule, into spectacular outbursts of irrationality. It either triggers romantic irrationalism as a reaction, or it induces in its most ardent promoters the incoherent idea that rationality is something that may be imposed by force or by the rule of the enlightened few over the benighted masses.

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25 minutes ago, SJK said:

I’m doing some scientific testing on the most suitable means of isolation from micro- vibration.

 

This is with the correct medium to “float” my DAC to ensure those bits and bytes don’t get contaminated by any vibration whatsoever.   

 

These are the results so far.

 

Hot Lava:  I really thought one of those space blankets from Army Surplus would do the trick to keep the DAC away from the molten rock, but jeeze louise, what a freakin’ mess that made.

 

Magnetic Levitation:  I very cleverly removed the electrical meter, bored a hole through the back of the housing into the house and installed a 200 amp bypass to a levitation coil I wound around a hardwood form in the living room. In all fairness, I would have to call this an unmitigated and abject failure.  The cats hated it.  The buzzing was so loud you couldn’t hear anything else and the fridge ended up in the loving room. 

 

Cirque de Soleil Solution:  Ropes!  What could be simpler?  Should have thought of that in the first place!  I crawled up into the attic, drilled holes through the drywall into the living room and dropped down four 1/2” wire ropes (stainless of course) clamped to the rafters.  I then suspended a platform from the wire ropes to support the all important DAC.  Did not make one bit of difference.  Wife is upset with the mess in the living room.  She just doesn’t understand.

 

Pool of Mercury:  You know, I think I just might be onto something here.  Get a big tote, fill it with liquid mercury and just float everything in that. Yeah, I know, it’s toxic, but i wasn’t planning on drinking the stuff.  I “took” all they had from the local high schools but that just isn’t very much. I hear they use the stuff in Alaska mining for gold.  Got a trip booked for this weekend to check it out.  

 

Stay tuned.....

 

 

how about parking a Tesla in the rooom?

 

its suspension can suspend the DAC, and will provide a clean low noise battery power source to run the DAC too


"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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Of course if the engineering was done adequately, rather than worrying about how to sex up the appearance of the gear, than none of the "nonsense stuff" would be necessary ...

 

Yes, they don't know how to measure the important stuff - all the giveaways to the brain that the sound being listened to is 'fake' - it's so much easier to bring in out some sexy measuring kit, pull out some numbers, and say "What a good boy am I!".

 


Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

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

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