monya

Have DACs really improved?

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I wonder because having sold my Nagra CD player which is 10 years old, finding an up to date improvement is becoming a challenge.

Tried the Chord Blu/Dave combo which has wonderful reviews and seems bang up to date tech wise but whilst very detailed had no soul - I just couldn’t get into it. Same with DCS Rossini - boring. So have things really moved on much other than connectivity?

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It depends what you mean by 'improved'! 

Technically, they have improved, in that jitter is now miniscule, DAC chips are now routinely 24 bits or more, so distortion is lower, and as you say, connectivity is now much wider.

I question, however, whether any of this results in audibly better sound. Considering that by the late 1990s, ADCs and DAC were transparent, easily passing a straight-wire bypass test, and even 10 years earlier most ADCs and DACs were too, so I don't see there have been any audible improvements that apply to home HiFi since the late 1980s.

S.

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Super Wammer

Have you tried any of the Oppo products? I have their Sonica dac and find it very good indeed, it also has wonderful connectivity, and plays pcm files up to 768khz 32bit and DSD 512.The USB DAC input supports PCM up to 768 kHz 32-bit and up to DSD512.

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DACs are in an upward spiral, higher sampling frequencies and bit rates.  Does it really mean better sound reproduction?  To my ears there is definitely a difference in high sampling frequency DSD and PCM.  DSD is single bit sampling and PCM is multi bit sampling.  Used to be done for PCM using a shift register and getting the bits synchronised is technically difficult.  Maybe they are still  in use, although I have been retired for a long time now and things have moved on.  With anything in engineering, it's quite often how you implement things.  As we all know are hobby isn't straightforward, subjectivity rules OK.  

If you look at Devaliet they take an analogue signal pass it into an ADC, process it and then feed the signal into a DAC.  To my mind why bother having a turntable?  If you email them with your speaker details they will match the Amp to the speakers, without any reference to the room it's furnishings and your other HiFi components.  Maybe they would be better fitting their Amps with a graphic equaliser?

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Whilst the range of inputs has improved to include USB/wireless connections the number of inputs hasn't universally improved. I have an old Tag Dac 20 which has a total of 7 inputs (three optical, two RCA, one BNC and one XLR digital inputs). I use 4 of these at present and would find the reduced number on most alternatives a backwards step.

I'm going to follow this thread for thoughts on improvements on sound quality though as I'd certainly been thinking that a DAC upgrade was probably a route I should be going down...

Edited by MartinC

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15 minutes ago, Ron Hilditch said:

DACs are in an upward spiral, higher sampling frequencies and bit rates.  Does it really mean better sound reproduction?  To my ears there is definitely a difference in high sampling frequency DSD and PCM.  DSD is single bit sampling and PCM is multi bit sampling.  Used to be done for PCM using a shift register and getting the bits synchronised is technically difficult.  Maybe they are still  in use, although I have been retired for a long time now and things have moved on.  With anything in engineering, it's quite often how you implement things.  As we all know are hobby isn't straightforward, subjectivity rules OK.  

If you look at Devaliet they take an analogue signal pass it into an ADC, process it and then feed the signal into a DAC.  To my mind why bother having a turntable?  If you email them with your speaker details they will match the Amp to the speakers, without any reference to the room it's furnishings and your other HiFi components.  Maybe they would be better fitting their Amps with a graphic equaliser?

Welcome to the 'Wam. 

I would like to point out that not all of us approach HiFi subjectively. Some of us (like me!) only look at the numbers, and I choose my kit for the job it'll have to do according to the specs. 

I don't see anything whatsoever wrong with the Devialet approach. I take all my analogue sources through an ADC process into my DSP-based equaliser then on to the DSP-based crossover before going back to analogue for the power amps.  ADC/DAC processes have been transparent for a very long time, so don't see the problem, and there are lots of advantages to doing the processing digitally, in DSP.   Creating the RIAA equalisation in DSP is fine, as DSPs now have sufficient bit depth that the 40dB range of the RIAA EQ curve still leaves more than enough bits to keep noise and distortion well below what LP playback needs.

The room isn't what Devialet are compensating for, it's the loudspeaker's own response.  Devialet's loudspeaker-matching facility is effectively an equaliser that compensates pseudo-anechoically for the loudspeaker's frequency response. It's what I did for my loudspeakers, but I had to do it the tedious way by measuring the response and setting up graphic and parametric equalisers to compensate. I see it as an entirely positive feature. 

Anyway, having got that off my chest, again welcome to the 'Wam.

S.

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If we're talking standard DAC apart from already mentioned improvements in jitter not much has changed. However if we consider the FPGA DACs the improvement is potentially staggering. Implementation still matters most especially on the analogue side.

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i can not measure it, and don't really want to, being one of those subjectivist sort of people, i.e. if I hear it and like it that's near enough. I will probably be told I am wrong, but some digital conversion systems seem to me to go for detail is all, which to my ears often means a tad hard, or brittle sounding, and no soul. Try a Rega DAC-r at a dealers and go from there.

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2 minutes ago, insider9 said:

If we're talking standard DAC apart from already mentioned improvements in jitter not much has changed. However if we consider the FPGA DACs the improvement is potentially staggering. Implementation still matters most especially on the analogue side.

Certainly the limitation is now on the analogue side. After the DAC chip itself, anything else just degrades the signal.

However, does it matter? Does it really matter when distortion is down to below 0.001% Does it matter when Signal to Noise is below -100dB. Distortions are now at least one tenth of what they were, noise some 10dB or more lower, but when they were so low to begin with,  has there been any audible improvement?

S.

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Try a listen to a CD player or Dac with  NOS . ( No Oversampling).  They tend to sound very natural and not over analytical.  

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2 minutes ago, Colinjg said:

Try a listen to a CD player or Dac with  NOS . ( No Oversampling).  They tend to sound very natural and not over analytical.  

Until you look at the output spectrum and see all the aliasing and RF hash that's being thrown out.

They are the SETs of the digital world as far as I'm concerned.

Horrible things.

S

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2 minutes ago, SergeAuckland said:

Until you look at the output spectrum and see all the aliasing and RF hash that's being thrown out.

They are the SETs of the digital world as far as I'm concerned.

Horrible things.

S

They certainly divide opinion. I'm suggesting he listens to one. The ones I have heard sound wonderful.  I have not looked at the output spectrum of mine and it is not likely I will. :)

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2 minutes ago, Colinjg said:

They certainly divide opinion. I'm suggesting he listens to one. The ones I have heard sound wonderful.  I have not looked at the output spectrum of mine and it is not likely I will. :)

Maybe that's where we differ. I don't care how wonderful something sounds if it's technically flawed. 

S.

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Moderator

Personally, I hear no improvement from redbook with modern DACs and that is all I have. I have a high end vintage DAC now which replaced a high end modern DAC.

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Just now, oldius said:

Personally, I hear no improvement from redbook with modern DACs and that is all I have. I have a high end vintage DAC now which replaced a high end modern DAC.

I think that's right.  All the improvements in modern DACs have been in terms of extra bit depth and higher sample rates, and offering such facilities as DSD. This has resulted in measureable improvement to Red-Book conversion, but I don't see any evidence of audible improvement as that was good enough already.

S..

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