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Upgrade Power supply vs cable vs DAC


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There has been a lot of discussion recently about the differences that changes to our system can make and there has been lots of heated debate. Maybe everyone has fixed views and it’s a waste of time to do this thread. However in the spirit of furthering the debate here are some thoughts. And it means that other threads don’t get side tracked 😂😂😂😂😂
 

Base system Auralic Aries Mini, Benchmark DAC1, Quad 909 and Harbeth P3ESR. 

Three upgrades: Digital coax cable between Aries and Benchmark, SBooster power supply to Aries, Benchmark DAC2 HGC.

Different people will respond differently to so called upgrades, even regarding a new DAC. I would like to comment about ‘better’ and ‘more enjoyable y/n?’. I didn’t do extensive controlled testing because a) life is too short b) differences should be obvious and c) I am not a scientist  

The SBooster didn’t alter the musicality in that musicians didn’t appear to be playing better aka musical expression. And that is my normal criteria for any change. But it removed digital noise that I never knew that was there and so I could play more loudly without fatigue. So I it was better but only more enjoyable at higher volumes. At lower volumes I didn’t notice a big difference in enjoyment. Overall though it was worth it but at the limit of being financially ’a good deal’. Cost £330

Digital coax change. I changed from an Audioquest Forest cable to the cheapest Wave coax cable. I also have a Luxman DAC with usb input so I was able to daisy chain everything together and swap the order of Audioquest and Wave cables. The Wave cable was significantly better that the Audioquest because it impacted the flow of music in the same way as the change from the Marantz PM7000N to the Quad 909 ie baselines were more bouncy aka more musical expression. In my view better and also more enjoyable. Cost £495. Value is good based on the effect that it has had even at this price as it provided more enjoyment than the SBooster.

Benchmark DAC2. I have owned my DAC1 for over ten years and I know the sound intimately. The DAC2 is the same but with much better detail, a touch more warmth, but the same character. It also has more facilities. And if you are into mixing music in a studio or like hifi type effects on playback the soundstage is a lot bigger. Is it better? Yes (including being measurably so). Is it more enjoyable? Well that depends on what you are into. For me the additional enjoyment that I get is variable.  As I said the character is the same and so it comes down to additional detail which of itself isn’t affecting the musical performance for me. On some productions this is sometimes distracting ie rock/pop where a lot of ‘clever’ engineering effects have been used. Also a small number of albums have revealed themselves to sound a bit nasty where they were not before. As it’s only a few cases it’s the album not the DAC. The majority sound better. On simply recorded music ie classical or something acoustic the extra detail is amazing. I sit 1m away from the Harbeths and so with the enlarged soundstage I have to sit further away from my desk. If I am working on something this is not ideal. If listening from across a room this would be fine. So only sometimes more enjoyable from a musical perspective. Sometimes interesting from a musical engineering perspective. Cost secondhand £1100. Value for money for me is medium but I also gain facilities that are important to me. 

My value for money conclusion when putting musical enjoyment as no1 priority the Wave cable has given more than the DAC or SBooster upgrade. Second is the DAC2 and third SBooster.

Just so that we are clear. @Fourlegs isn’t a mate. He didn’t ask me to write this or know that I was going to write this. I have no agenda and always tell it as I find it on here. I don’t expect everyone to reach the same conclusions and fully expect that many would love the difference the Benchmark DAC2 would make to their systems. Undoubtedly I will have some haters and people will accuse me of being stupid and deaf and etc etc. But I thought that it was worth giving a comparison and personal view between these three changes.

Anyway @Fourlegs I will see you in the pub next weekend as usual when I return from your holiday home in the Algarve and shall also return your new Porsche that you lent me along with your wife. (Joke)
 

Edited by DomT
Updated Benchmark summary to reflect further findings after a lot more listening
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There has been a lot of discussion recently about the differences that changes to our system can make and there has been lots of heated debate. Maybe everyone has fixed views and it’s a waste of time

Tchsk, tschk, tschk... (sound of axe grinding)

Reflections within a cable will always occcur. The issue is when they can interract and result in reinforcement or cancellation. This is a perfectly well-known phenomenon in high-frequency work and is

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These kinds of posts really make me want to get together at a bake off some time. To hear the obvious effects that cables can have myself.

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Hi DomT,

I too bought the Wave coax digital cable and found it gave a very nice uptick in quality.

The SBooster was also good, however I think like most things digital HiFi context is king. I tried a variety of PSUs with my Chord Qutest. The one that was most effective was the SBooster, but I have not found the SBooster to be a universal panecea, there is a synergy with the Chord. This is further enhanced by the Ultra II.

I wondered what @Fourlegs did with the Porsche after I gave it back ;-)

M

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37 minutes ago, Ceko said:

These kinds of posts really make me want to get together at a bake off some time. To hear the obvious effects that cables can have myself.

I'm hoping to visit fourlegs fairly soonish (whenever permitted). I've already threatened him with my OEHLBACH NF 113 Digital Interconnect (Coaxial design with 75Ohms impedance. Award winning cable. 1x1m. Colour: blue), which I will no doubt forget to take with me.

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2 minutes ago, Blzebub said:

I'm hoping to visit fourlegs fairly soonish (whenever permitted). I've already threatened him with my OEHLBACH NF 113 Digital Interconnect (Coaxial design with 75Ohms impedance. Award winning cable. 1x1m. Colour: blue), which I will no doubt forget to take with me.

Sounds great although I was told on here that 1.5m was the minimum length to avoid digital 'problems'.

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23 minutes ago, DomT said:

Sounds great although I was told on here that 1.5m was the minimum length to avoid digital 'problems'.

I think that it was Empirical Audio's Steve Nugent who came up with that theory , but I haven't seen much reference to it other than in a couple of subjectivity-oriented audio mags. Considering the man's IT background I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt even if their website does make some unsubstantiated claims.

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Audioquest Forest is not very far up the range and low cost.  It is unfair to compare it with an expensive cable.  Audioquest Carbon is far superior and not a silly price.  I have found DH Labs Silver Sonic to be slightly better than AQ Carbon at a similar price.

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11 minutes ago, ziggy said:

Audioquest Forest is not very far up the range and low cost.  It is unfair to compare it with an expensive cable.  Audioquest Carbon is far superior and not a silly price.  I have found DH Labs Silver Sonic to be slightly better than AQ Carbon at a similar price.

Perfectly valid for people who don't believe there is a difference.  I had no idea if there would be a difference or not.  

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1 hour ago, Mr Underhill said:

Hi DomT,

I too bought the Wave coax digital cable and found it gave a very nice uptick in quality.

The SBooster was also good, however I think like most things digital HiFi context is king. I tried a variety of PSUs with my Chord Qutest. The one that was most effective was the SBooster, but I have not found the SBooster to be a universal panecea, there is a synergy with the Chord. This is further enhanced by the Ultra II.

I wondered what @Fourlegs did with the Porsche after I gave it back ;-)

M

Thats why I was very careful to day that other people may have other experiences.  There are a lot of variables which is why we need places like this and good dealers in the absence of an amazing app that can do some preliminary matching but nobody seems keen on that idea.

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45 minutes ago, DomT said:

Sounds great although I was told on here that 1.5m was the minimum length to avoid digital 'problems'.

<raises eyebrows>

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7 minutes ago, Blzebub said:

<raises eyebrows>

Yeah I know -crazy stuff.  Just repeating what I have read on here.  It could of course be why the Wave cable easily won.  Or it could be just that the Wave cable is better.  In any event really looking froward to your thoughts after a visit to Wave HQ as you appear to be saying that you are open minded to what cables might be able to do.  You seem to be in a group of one as everyone else seems to have declared their cards unless there are a lot of pro cable people too scared to declare this.

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21 minutes ago, DomT said:

Perfectly valid for people who don't believe there is a difference.  I had no idea if there would be a difference or not.  

There is a difference as you go up the Audioquest range, but above Carbon deminishing returns set in.  Cinamon and Carbon are good value.

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11 hours ago, DomT said:

Yeah I know -crazy stuff.  Just repeating what I have read on here.  It could of course be why the Wave cable easily won.  Or it could be just that the Wave cable is better.  In any event really looking froward to your thoughts after a visit to Wave HQ as you appear to be saying that you are open minded to what cables might be able to do.  You seem to be in a group of one as everyone else seems to have declared their cards unless there are a lot of pro cable people too scared to declare this.

I think I'm right in saying that cables are the most controversial topic in hi-fi. I'm not an expert in electronics, but I do have a science background. It's also well-known that human perception is not reliable, so I have a tendency to assume or believe that that all "competent" cables should sound identical. If they don't sound the same, I think most electronic engineers would be interested in the explanation.

I have a pet theory that isolating hi-fi gear from vibration might be beneficial partly via reducing the vibrations at the plug/socket interface, but I have no way of testing this.

This might be interesting to non-scientists. Science in 10 minutes:

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There is sound science behind the suggestion to make digital coax cable a specific length. I need to look it up or work it out, but it relates to the wavelength and internal signal reflections cancelling or reinforcing.

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