State-of-the-Art Digital

acousticsguru

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Feb 17, 2014
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IMHO we can not use analogies with cameras - they are a recording device, not a playing device. But you are correct - the quality of the lens is a main aspect in their performance. But then we have different opinions - what is the best "lens" - one that delivers the perfect optical transmission or one lens that manipulates the transmission to get the best picture according to people who see the photos? Also, contrary to what people can imagine, getting an high-resolution picture is an extremely complex process - far from simply collecting the photo-electrons in a well! Nowadays we can not compare SOTA lenses independently of the camera.

BTW, the Nikon-versus-Canon-lens-debate is sometimes even more spirited than our DAC debates in WBF!
I can well believe it. Of course I don't know a thing about cameras (much to my dad's chagrin), I just know he brings that up every time someone talks about the number of pixels of a digital camera. One of those examples of advertising trying to make us believe the higher the number, the better the quality. He considers it a half-truth, as the resolution appears to be irrelevant beyond a certain point.

Greetings from Switzerland, David.
 
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morricab

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What I really have on my mind in this "measurements versus listening" discussion is a) that neither of us appears to like DACs whose designers don't listen to, and b) that now that "thanks to" the pandemic, I have time to listen every night into the wee hours (4-5 a.m. almost every night this week alone), I'm loving it using a DAC brand you keep knocking, all the while you're touting DACs (by one brand in particular) that make me feel as if I were being pierced by ice rain. You'll notice I spend NO time on forums bashing those products, make of it, what you will…

Greetings from Switzerland, David.
Don‘t be coy, everyone here knows what DAC I use. Regardless of what it’s flaws might be I can assure you that you are the only one who has ever heard it to describe it as being pierced by ice rain. I never bashed the Vivaldi as I have insufficient expertise with hearing it and I said so. I primarily reacted to suggestions that because it was technically “perfect” that didn’t mean it was sonically so. My experience with Delius and Elgar are sufficient to say they are nothing special But not horrible either.
 

acousticsguru

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Feb 17, 2014
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Don‘t be coy, everyone here knows what DAC I use. Regardless of what it’s flaws might be I can assure you that you are the only one who has ever heard it to describe it as being pierced by ice rain. I never bashed the Vivaldi as I have insufficient expertise with hearing it and I said so. I primarily reacted to suggestions that because it was technically “perfect” that didn’t mean it was sonically so. My experience with Delius and Elgar are sufficient to say they are nothing special But not horrible either.
If listening isn't proof, measurements might be in order when a DAC exhibits more or less glaring digititis. While I agree that the seemingly perfect measurements of a DAC like the Weiss provide little or no explanation of what it sounds like, I'd be curious to see measurements of DACs that cause irritation and listening fatigue. In my conversations with Mark Levinson, he confirmed my impression, citing studies that people who suffer from migraine are overly sensitive to distortions (they usually more sensitive to flickering light, smells etc., e.g. staring into a stroboscope will trigger migraines etc.), and was hopeful we'd eventually be able to come up with more relevant measurements, pointing out that more people suffer from migraines (about 25% of the population, needless to say, to varying degrees) than there are audiophiles. We could easily find more people who hear the same as I do (I could name a couple who'd qualify as blind test candidates).

By the way, the metaphor "pierced by ice rain" by (referring to early) digital audio playback is, if memory serves, by Neil Young. Maybe he suffers from migraines?

Admittedly, it's a problem everyone talks about "digitits" as if we knew what's causing it, worse yet, as if there were universal agreement we're all referring to the same thing (my guess is, we probably are, but without proof, it's no more than a guess). An example I mentioned in passing was Yves-Bernard André's (of YBA, not sure if you know him?) CD player whose digital filter could be disabled toggling a switch. Musically, it clearly sounded superior with the digital filter turned off, but it was unbearable to listen to. I do not claim to be able to hear the 44.1kHz sampling frequency it would then play back at full volume (the reason I don't think he ever marketed the player), but as Monsieur Bernard pointed out, there are all kinds of distortions in this scenario, including ones the CD player causes downstream, such as in the amplifier, tweeters etc. It was a memorable experience to me because it was easier to put into words how "filterless" sounded better, than it was to explain why it made the more sensitive listeners cringe. As Monsieur Bernard later explained to me, I wasn't the only one to have this reaction, rather more surprisingly, it didn't bother a goodly percentage of people, hence the experiment (= if no one would be bothered, why use a digital filter at all was the premise of the experiment).

Greetings from Switzerland, David.
 
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acousticsguru

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Feb 17, 2014
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Don‘t be coy, everyone here knows what DAC I use. Regardless of what it’s flaws might be I can assure you that you are the only one who has ever heard it to describe it as being pierced by ice rain. I never bashed the Vivaldi as I have insufficient expertise with hearing it and I said so. I primarily reacted to suggestions that because it was technically “perfect” that didn’t mean it was sonically so. My experience with Delius and Elgar are sufficient to say they are nothing special But not horrible either.
Should mention that the engineers I've talked to about digitits have more than once pointed out to me that when it comes to distortions caused by digital playback, not all amplifiers react the same. Some tube amplifiers (especially older models) may act as passive filters, whereas wide-band amplification (such as Spectral and a handful other brands) may not only amplify e.g. DSD out-of-band noise full throttle, but react with undue harshness in the audio band etc.

Greetings from Switzerland, David.
 

Al M.

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Should mention that the engineers I've talked to about digitits have more than once pointed out to me that when it comes to distortions caused by digital playback, not all amplifiers react the same. Some tube amplifiers (especially older models) may act as passive filters, whereas wide-band amplification (such as Spectral and a handful other brands) may not only amplify e.g. DSD out-of-band noise full throttle, but react with undue harshness in the audio band etc.

Greetings from Switzerland, David.

Everything is objectively system dependent, both in component interactions and overall tonal, dynamic etc. outcome -- and taking into account the acoustics of the room the system is played in. If you then overlay subjective opinions on top, it gets really confusing and often indecipherable.

That is why it is always best to rely on your own ears, upon auditioning a component in your system and room, instead of relying on reviews, opinions on audio forums or even opinions of friends you trust. Opinions of others can steer you in a direction of what to audition and what to pay attention to once you audition for yourself, but that's it. Nothing more.
 
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LL21

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"...The nature of the distortion is far more important than the quantity of distortion...I suspect that this will be doubly true with digital. This is, to a large extent, why I think there are many people who think a properly implemented Philips TD1541 triple crown 16 bit ladder chip is still SOTA..."
Interesting to read in the latest HiFi Critic (Martin Colloms' ad-free high-end audio journal) that Peter Qvortup of AudioNote bought 2000 Analog Devices1865 DAC chips but still calls the original TDA1541 the best sounding of them all. Also interesting to read how highly Martin Colloms rates the AN DAC Fifth Element which is based on the AD 1865 chip.
 

Lagonda

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Interesting to read in the latest HiFi Critic (Martin Colloms' ad-free high-end audio journal) that Peter Qvortup of AudioNote bought 2000 Analog Devices1865 DAC chips but still calls the original TDA1541 the best sounding of them all. Also interesting to read how highly Martin Colloms rates the AN DAC Fifth Element which is based on the AD 1865 chip.
Yes the clock stopped many years ago in the AudioNote universe, and adding silver seems to be their universal upgrade ;)
 
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LL21

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Yes the clock stopped many years ago in the AudioNote universe, and adding silver seems to be their universal upgrade ;)
Yes, I know...the same thing many keep saying about LPs, tubes, even tape and old horns! In truth, I do think that advancements in many areas of audio are amazing...at the same time, when I listen to really, really well setup systems which do not use the latest, greatest, I have to admit I remain convinced that great sound is comprised of a number of factors, of which the latest of anything is only a part (and sometimes not even that great of a part).
 

Al M.

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Yes, system setup is everything. Just made another significant step forward this week with an investment of less than a 100 bucks. Will report later next week.

Everything, every detail matters.

There's no point frantically changing gear if you don't optimize what you have at a given time.
 

howiebrou

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Jun 29, 2012
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Interesting to read in the latest HiFi Critic (Martin Colloms' ad-free high-end audio journal) that Peter Qvortup of AudioNote bought 2000 Analog Devices1865 DAC chips but still calls the original TDA1541 the best sounding of them all. Also interesting to read how highly Martin Colloms rates the AN DAC Fifth Element which is based on the AD 1865 chip.
Would be nice to get hold of one and compare it with the latest stuff. Some still say for redbook it is up there with the best. New ain't always better.
 

morricab

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Yes, I know...the same thing many keep saying about LPs, tubes, even tape and old horns! In truth, I do think that advancements in many areas of audio are amazing...at the same time, when I listen to really, really well setup systems which do not use the latest, greatest, I have to admit I remain convinced that great sound is comprised of a number of factors, of which the latest of anything is only a part (and sometimes not even that great of a part).
Aries Cerat uses the same 18 bit chip...just a whole lot more of them in parallel (my Kassandra has 16 AD1865s)...and transformer coupled tube output stage ;).
 

LL21

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Would be nice to get hold of one and compare it with the latest stuff. Some still say for redbook it is up there with the best. New ain't always better.
I have generally found Martin Colloms to call it like he sees it...and he has ranked the Audio Note DAC 5th Element FAR ahead of every/nearly every digital he has reviewed.
 

LL21

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Aries Cerat uses the same 18 bit chip...just a whole lot more of them in parallel (my Kassandra has 16 AD1865s)...and transformer coupled tube output stage ;).
Interesting...have often been particularly intrigued to hear the Aries Cerat digital someday.
 

howiebrou

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I have generally found Martin Colloms to call it like he sees it...and he has ranked the Audio Note DAC 5th Element FAR ahead of every/nearly every digital he has reviewed.
Got a link? or a scanned pdf?:)
 

microstrip

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Yes, system setup is everything. Just made another significant step forward this week with an investment of less than a 100 bucks. Will report later next week.

Everything, every detail matters.

There's no point frantically changing gear if you don't optimize what you have at a given time.

Well, what do exactly you call system set up?

Surely poor set up of a tonearm can produce a miserable sound and placing our speakers in the depth of the corners can kill any system!
 

acousticsguru

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Feb 17, 2014
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Aries Cerat uses the same 18 bit chip...just a whole lot more of them in parallel (my Kassandra has 16 AD1865s)...and transformer coupled tube output stage ;).
Had a AD1865 based DAC, too, loved it and spent many hours fine-tuning loudspeaker crossovers with it.

Greetings from Switzerland, David.
 

LL21

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Got a link? or a scanned pdf?:)
HiFi Critic June 2012 Review of Audio Note DAC 5th Element. Found it. Enjoy!


Conclusion from Martin Colloms:
"When this review was first proposed, my first reaction was hysterical laughter. UK houses cost a similar amount on average. How would a CD player like this sound in a complete system made up using comparably priced components? And what would such a system cost? A million pounds? I have tried to answer these questions by extrapolation and with an extensive set of listening sessions with a variety of audio components and listeners. But my basic task is to observe and report, and my finding is that this CD ‘transport’/DAC is outright marvellous, newly defining the inherent quality of Red Book digital audio, which can be so much better than we had imagined was possible. It poses the question: “Why has it taken a specialist valve audio manufacturer to achieve this after 30 years of highly informed digital engineering by the audio industry as a whole?” While there is some hi-res audio material now, it is also clear that CD has been potentially ‘hi-res’ all along, but we never truly experienced it. Instead we’ve suffered the distortions and masking of digital filters, op-amps, and accompanying digital noise, for all these years. While very few examples will be made and sold at such extravagant prices, we owe a debt to the Audio Note UK team for showing just what is possible. Here is a CD player which really can give high end analogue a run for its money."
 

howiebrou

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Jun 29, 2012
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HiFi Critic June 2012 Review of Audio Note DAC 5th Element. Found it. Enjoy!


Conclusion from Martin Colloms:
"When this review was first proposed, my first reaction was hysterical laughter. UK houses cost a similar amount on average. How would a CD player like this sound in a complete system made up using comparably priced components? And what would such a system cost? A million pounds? I have tried to answer these questions by extrapolation and with an extensive set of listening sessions with a variety of audio components and listeners. But my basic task is to observe and report, and my finding is that this CD ‘transport’/DAC is outright marvellous, newly defining the inherent quality of Red Book digital audio, which can be so much better than we had imagined was possible. It poses the question: “Why has it taken a specialist valve audio manufacturer to achieve this after 30 years of highly informed digital engineering by the audio industry as a whole?” While there is some hi-res audio material now, it is also clear that CD has been potentially ‘hi-res’ all along, but we never truly experienced it. Instead we’ve suffered the distortions and masking of digital filters, op-amps, and accompanying digital noise, for all these years. While very few examples will be made and sold at such extravagant prices, we owe a debt to the Audio Note UK team for showing just what is possible. Here is a CD player which really can give high end analogue a run for its money."
Now I really want to borrow one....
 

morricab

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Apr 25, 2014
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Had a AD1865 based DAC, too, loved it and spent many hours fine-tuning loudspeaker crossovers with it.

Greetings from Switzerland, David.
Name of said DAC?
 

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