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Posts posted by JoshM

  1. 9 hours ago, wgscott said:

    This would have been a much better review if paragraphs 2 and 3 and the first sentence of paragraph 4 were omitted.  As it stands, they detract and distract from the review.


    That's a fair point. I considered not even addressing the so-called "subjectivist" versus "objectivist" divide at all, but considering that this is my first DAC review, I thought it was worth saying something about it, rather than just ignoring it. The fact that this is the DAC for the ASR crowd seemed to increase the necessity of addressing it, too, at least in my mind. But now that that's out of the way, my future DAC reviews won't bother with that preamble.

  2. 44 minutes ago, Ralf11 said:

    Unfortunately, "no one has ever heard a difference” is just as valid a comment as "DACs do sound different" since there has been no valid testing done.


    I know you are certain of your listening results (just as I know that you re an excellent listener, and excellent at verbalizing the differences you perceive).   But at least single blind testing is critical to establish the proposition.


    Until BAS or someone does this, consumers are left to do their own testing (which they'd have to do anyway for a specific make/model).


    OTOH, you might also give listening impressions on whether the differences you perceive among DACs are generally greater or less than among various different masterings...


    I am using terms like heard & perceived; listening comparison vs. listening tests carefully in the above...


    Well, as I said, my experience certainly has been that even when people (such as Marv, in the SBAF links) go to great lengths to conduct proper blind tests, they’re dismissed as “invalid.” 


    IMO, it would be wonderful to not hear differences. I’d love to believe that a sub-$100 DAC or headphone amp is the absolute best there is. If anything, my inherent cheapness and class warrior politics biases me to always give inexpensive products every benefit of the doubt in listening. (Indeed, way back when I got into the hobby, I was convinced that many differences I now hear didn’t exist. Then I experienced better gear, improved my listening skills...)


    As I said in the review, I think people who don’t believe there are (and/or can’t hear) differences between DACs should simply buy one of the good cheap DACs out there and be happy, without also calling everyone who disagrees morons and harassing them. Whatever time they’re saving by not having to look further for DACs, they’re wasting by yelling at people online who disagree.  


    In terms of masterings versus DACs, by and large masterings make much bigger differences. The difference between a poorly transfered, poorly EQ’d, or squashed mastering and one that does all three well is drastic. That said, there are certain masterings that are so close in quality where a change in DAC might be more audible (two really good flat transfers of a great master tape, etc.). But in the average mix of masterings I look at for my column, the difference between the best and worse mastering is much bigger than the difference between the Modi 3 and Solaris, in terms of immediate, unsubtle audibility. (OTOH, picking a better mastering improves one album, where picking a better DAC improves your whole collection.)

  3. 2 hours ago, Bill_G said:

    Ahh, no! The flaws present in the DAC are well within the audible range of human hearing. Now they may not sound particularly harsh due to masking, but they'll definitely influence what one hears. Everyone over at ASR isn't an experienced audio scientist or engineer. 

    What's up with the quotes around certain words? If you're trying to make some sort of point with them, I fail to see what it is, and it comes across as a bit juvenile quite frankly. If you're trying to inform us that you're a "subjectivist", I already figured that one out for myself. The lack of understanding in regards engineering of a DAC was readily apparent from the very beginning of the review. However, you're not alone in that, as the vast majority of"audiophile" reviewers are technologically illiterate as well.  


    Note I said “all reasonable use case” (meaning: listening to music in a normal setting). While everyone at ASR isn’t an engineer, many claim to be, and even more claim that they understand engineering in a way that mere foolish “audiophiles” do not. Moreover, even Amir has said that the flaws in DACs that measure as “poorly” (or worse) than the Airist produce “audible effects [that] are subtle to non-existent.”


    I put terms that aren’t my own (and that I’d prefer we didn’t use) in quotes. I don’t believe in the oppositional dichotomy of “subjectivist” and “objectivist.” I’d prefer a synthesis between the two. I value measurements immensely. But I also don’t think six or seven graphs can tell us all we need to know about how a piece of equipment will sound. 


    I’d also be fascinated to know what in my first paragraphs demonstrated to you that I’m “technologically illiterate.” I’m guessing it’s that I indicated that I don’t agree that all “properly designed” DACs sound alike. In that case, I’ve already given you my polite suggestion of what to do: stop reading, go buy a Modi 3, and stop worrying about DACs forever. 

  4. 3 hours ago, Ralf11 said:

    it is post #53 in this thread:



    Yes, I did think the 1st para. here set up a strawman...


    Thank you for the link. Great stuff!


    My first paragraph set up a strawman? I wish that were the case. That’s why I provided the link to ASR, where I lurk. But I have plenty more examples. Indeed, just today the “all properly designed DACs sound the same; no one has ever heard a difference” mantra popped up again. IMO, that crowd ignores that expectancy bias runs both ways. If you believe all DACs sound the same, of course your own blind tests will prove you correct. Indeed, there’s no way to be proven wrong in that circumstance due to the structure of the test. It’s only meaningful when people who think they can hear differences take blind tests. But in my experience (as my links show) even correct results in those tests are dismissed. So it’s become a no-win scenario if you hear differences. Given that, I honestly think it’s fine for “objectivists” to simply go their own way and buy a cheap “perfect” DAC. 

  5. 2 hours ago, Ralf11 said:



    were those 2 things done for this RME review?


    BTW, Rajiv laid out a nice list of why different DACs might sound different - if you search under his username, or for "sticky" and mine you'll find it


    My vote goes for analog stages in the DAC...


    I'll look for that list (or, if you're able, please post a link here!).


    As I mention in a footnote, I matched the DACs' levels to within .2 dB, but I didn't do any blind testing. In that past, I've done blind testing of DACs before and heard differences beyond chance. (I've also done things like get my hearing professional tested, completed hearing training courses, etc. that most people who claim to care about "audio science" don't bother with.) But, as the reaction over at ASR to SBAF's extensive blind testing shows, it doesn't matter if the testing is blind, people who don't believe "properly designed" DACs can sound different will still reject the results. It's ultimately not worth the trouble, IMO. That's why I suggested (very seriously and non-snarkily) at the top of the review that people who don't think "properly designed" DACs can sound different stop reading and instead by a Modi 3 or similarly cheap "perfect" measuring DAC.

  6. Glad you wrote this, @The Computer Audiophile! I was about to post about this in the dedicated Qobuz thread.


    Happily, given his promotion of Amazon's (inferior, IMO) lossless streaming, Neil said this about Qobuz's decision to drop MP3s: “Qobuz sounds great! Qobuz was one of the earliest Hi-Res streamers. Their new offer is another big step towards making Hi-Res streaming available at the same cost as MP3 streaming today.”

  7. 8 hours ago, Bill_G said:

    "If someone claims that he or she can hear differences between “properly designed” DACs, two questions inevitably, and quickly, follow: Was the listening level matched? Was the listening blind? If the answers to both questions are “yes,”..."

    Of course they would have heard a difference in the devices. The reason? 
    Massdrop Airist R2R DAC is spraying harmonic distortion all over the place. As a matter of fact, you could have hardly picked a poorer example to make your point! 


    There actually are multiple blind DAC tests in that thread that don’t include the Airist (which I’ll be reviewing here soon). Plus, as many “objectivist” over at ASR have noted, even the “poor” measuring Airist’s flaws are below the threshold of audibility for nearly all reasonable use cases. 


    As I said in the beginning of my review, if one doesn’t think it’s possible for DACs above a certain theshold to sound different, I’d suggest buying the Modi 3 and not reading my reviews. 

  8. 3 hours ago, feelingears said:

    Nice quick review, thank you. Since DACs aren’t just their chip choice, I wonder why you chose not to throw in another well-known DAC in the $1000 price range as another point of common comparison?


    Also, I’m curious about how you find tweaking the sound via EQ to help—I know the answer seems to be “yes!” and I wonder if this is practical for song to song adjustments, or if it’s really more for “album listening?”


    Thanks again.


    I agree that DACs aren't all about chip choice, though I do tend to think chips influence, if not wholly determine, a DAC's general sound. I didn't pick another well-known $1k DAC simply because I didn't have one on hand. (I love DACs, but there are limits to my collection! Haha.) But I tend to think that comparing a DAC (or amp, pair headphones, etc.) to ones that are positioned similarly but at price points above and below can be instructive. Often, it's the case that price doesn't map onto sound. It happened to roughly be the case in this review, but I hope readers can compare each DAC's combination of price/sound/features in evaluating whether the RME (or one of the others) is right for them. As I hope is clear, I don't think any is a "bad" choice (and I hope to have a full review of the Solaris up at some point).


    In terms of the EQ, I don't know that I'd want to adjust it song-to-song by manipulating the parametric EQ. (It's easy to get the hang of, but the navigation and adjustment would take a little time between songs.) However, the RME allows for 20 EQ presets, so you could easily cycle through your pre-created EQ options -- one for songs with too little sub-bass, ones for too little mid-bass, etc. -- to find one right for that particular song's flaws.

  9. On 8/8/2019 at 10:58 AM, Ishmael Slapowitz said:

    somebody mentioned Brian Lucey a few pages back, and I see we have a plea to agree MQA distorts the sound..


    Well a quick google search turned up this reply to Jim Austin's part 2 article:



    Music is Distortion, not Perfection. 

    Submitted by Brian Lucey on August 8, 2019 - 2:27am 

    I'm late to the party it seems. Working daily in the studio will do that. 

    MQA is a rude, cynical business losing millions, it's a harmonic scheme for money, it's sold as lossless which is a lie (although Austin is giving cover for that early claim of a lossless patent by saying "who cares?"). MQA is sold as Mastering Engineer Authenticated, meaning approved ... which is the lie to end all lies. Also sold as "correction" which is tough to believe someone would say with a straight face. 


    They are bulk processing back catalogs to create a market, so MQA has zero integrity, yes Bob I mean you personally. MQA processing of approved masters is altering, meaning damaging/changing/stepping on client/producer/label/manager/artist approved work to make money for these guys. No one needs it, except Stuart and the team of greedy people on board. As a mastering engineer it's offensive without words. These men at MQA lost their Meridian business to DVD. Sorry gents, that is rough, and I feel for you ... yet do not go putting your greedy, manipulative, authoritarian fingers into the Recorded History of Music with this offensive bull sharkey. 


    Certainly there are subjective cases of "preference" for the 'Sound of MQA', because like mp3, or Mastered for iTunes or a DA or speaker ... everything has a sound. People are people, the ego likes to have a vote. MQA processing to my ear, listening to my work pre and post MQA, has some harmonic distortion and maybe even a volume boost as a result just big enough to help win an A/B. Louder is better ! 


    I understand audiophiles can be suckered. The mastering engineers who like this artifact might as well wave a banner saying "I can't craft untouchable masters on my own, I'm inept, so I need this artifact, randomly, all over my shoddy work!" The rest of us are 100% against this travesty for profit. 


    And please, don't talk about the vetting. Of course one division of a major label (accounting) will overrule another (content producers), that's just corporate greed. 


    In principle, "correction" of music is a fallacy. There is no perfection in music or music playback. Rooms, temperature, humidity, we the listener, are all in flux. Mastering finds a repeatable result knowing it's in flux. 


    Also ... what is the personal insecurity of those of us who seek perfection with music? Music is organized distortion, from room compression to the massive additive distortion happening today with everything produced except maybe classical. We add distortion to recordings, like we alter the EQ of mono tracks in a mix ... we love distortion ... for the emotional impact. And by the mastering stage, we coalesce this cocktail of artifacts with supreme precision. Everything interacts. And it's signed off on by all parties. MQA steps on all of this. 


    Dear folks at MQA, 16 bits is not a small file. People who care will download the larger files, not stream. And faster streaming gives MQA a death date just like DVDs, did you not learn anything? If you want to make serious money and change the world, build a better mp3. We all would love that and you would make billions. 


    Finally, and slightly off topic. 44.1 is not inferior to 88.1 or 96k or 192. Therefore getting 192 down to 48 by (insert BS term here) is not anyone's goal who understands music production. The "more samples is better" myth is built on the notion of music as perfectionism. Conversion QUALITY is four things: Analog path, clock, converter chip and filter. 44.1 can be great. 96k can be bad. It's about the hardware in total. Perfectionism and "fixing" after mastering ... could not be more naive (giving Stewart the benefit of the doubt) and thus dangerous. 


    Music intends four things: Intimacy, Connection, Community and Elevation. There is nothing perfect needed, possible or part of the listening transaction. In fact, we like the imperfections. The humanity. Please, stop the madness, it's rude and dumb and set to die in time anyway. 


    The ONLY FILE that matters is the native sample rate of the mastering session. It cannot be improved in any way by anything that changes it. The rest is lies for money. Like this article, many people making money here. Even from the controversy. Get a real job. Go make some art. Create something. Or at the least, don't be complicit.


    I was contacted by Mytek to represent MQA in LA, along with Bob Ludwig who they hoped to represent on the East Coast. They processes my work in the best way they can, and I have since heard some of my work catalog post processing. Yuk. If I wanted that distorting in there, I would have added it in the first place.




    Wow. Great stuff from Lucey!

  10. I have not heard the Denafrips Terminator in my own system, though some say it tops the Yggy A2.


    However I’ve compared then ADI2, Matrix Sabre Pro, and CS Solaris in my system to the A2. Full reviews will be coming here on AS, but all three have underscored how hard it is to top the Yggy A2 outright. The Matrix and Solaris, in particular, do some things better than the Yggy, and they’re probably the best DS DACs I’ve ever heard, but in terms of overall tonal accuracy and stage depth, the Yggy still wins. That said, I could easily be happy with any of the three as my only DAC. 


    (Of course, if you just want a better measuring DAC and/or follow ASR I’m thinking all “properly engineered” DACs sound the same, you can just get a Modi 3 or one of the Topping DACs and be done with it.)


    Trying out the Matrix or Solaris might be worthwhile, but you’re unlikely to find that any of the three clearly tops the others in every facet. 

  11. 9 minutes ago, mansr said:

    I suspect Amir's bizarre stance on MQA is due to some kind of misplaced sympathy rooted in his own failure to gain traction for WMA combined with an absurd notion that every venture somehow deserves to succeed, no matter how insane. Like Lee Scoggins, he keeps talking about "business" while completely ignoring the technical realities he (unlike Scoggins) otherwise purports to espouse. As jarring as the dissonance is, perhaps his system is not sufficiently resolving for him to perceive it.


    kenan thompson set your phasers to oh snap GIF by Saturday Night Live

  12. 2 hours ago, Archimago said:


    Interesting update @FredericV. Curious how large the conference/show is? 


    So is Hans Beekhuyzen a well-known figure among the Dutch audiophiles over the years and before his YouTube videos? He seems to be one of these guys who have lots of words and his main job is to spread uncertainty by generalizing about "cheap" vs. expensive parts, push certain products, and scare people about "jitter" and such. Funny how he's starting to equivocate about the generalization he has tended to hold about switching vs. linear power supplies in recent video on "What makes a good DAC?". I cringe every time I hear him say at the end of his videos that supporting him financially keeps him "independent and therefore trustworthy". I think those are very different things.


    2 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    +100, no matter who the person is. 

    Independent = Independent 

    Trustworthy = Trustworthy 


    There’s no other equation or logic to use that involves both of those and includes a causal relationship or correlation. 



    Exactly. We can debate whether advertising or donations is more likely to facilitate independence, but there's nothing inherent in donations that creates independence. If that were so, all politicians' views would be completely independent! In the case of donor-supported internet publications, donations can potentially incentivize playing to the prejudices of donors, just as advertising might potentially lead to favoring the products of advertisers. (IMHO, the former is the case with ASR's Schiit-bashing and general disdain for anything perceived as popular among "audiophiles.")

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