W A R N I N G !

W A R N I N G !

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Friday, October 31, 2008


No, not my PES status, but my audio setup. I'd luv a PES downgrade though. I deserve that, plus full compensation, after what the a**y did to me.

I'm seriously reconsidering the concept of d.i.y. Because my skill just isn't there and if I fail it makes more sense to have just bought a ready-made product in the first place. My Belden 89207 just gave way (again) after I decided to plug them out to connect my PSP to the amp to play DJ Max Portable Clazziquai Edition.

And the killer part, I tried to solder it to make the connector more secure, but in the process melted the plastic insulator between signal and ground on the connector, rendering the connector useless.

Plus, after the fiddling, the other cable of the L/R pair seems to have bad connection, as I was hearing some roll-off and distortion at the highs.

With no extra RCA cable pair available, not only was I forced to use a cheap cable, I was forced to use the 3.5mm out from my Audigy instead of the RCA of the Zhaolu.

And the difference? Not so obvious in terms of sound signature, as the OPA-Earth op-amp in the Zhaolu DAC's I/V stage is rather neutral. But the highs have the distortion that I missed, vocals sound muffled yet thin at the same time, bass is muddy. Space is... what space? Dynamics are just lost.

This temporary change just proved one thing, that there really is an upgrade from Audigy to an external DAC. And a $150 difference in the money I spent between them, or 7.5 times. Note that these figures are not based on RRP.

Now the question is, is this worth it?

It really depends on the rest of your system, like cables. If your amp/speakers are worth less than $200 combined, you wouldn't hear much of a difference, because your speakers will be more muffled than that to start with. Even between $200 to $400 it still depends, depending on what speakers you bought. My safe bet for obvious audible difference on an average ear would be $400-500 onwards.

But after that point, it is definitely worth it. Else spending $1.2k on speakers and extra $$$ on a good amp will still give you the same muffled sound.

Plus, this is a sure way to objectively improve the sound without changing the sound signature too much.

I know my system is probably unbalanced; too low budget for the speakers. But without extra money to spend, I'll leave it as it is.

I also tried out the Zhaolu's preamp when playing with the PSP. For the Zhaolu's own DAC, with the preamp, it sounds lifeless, flat (not the frequency response), full of distortion, bass heavy but bad bass. But with the PSP, compared to without, it sounds more dynamic and has better strike.

So there can be two conclusions:

1) The preamp sucks
2) The DAC is a much better, cleaner source than my PSP

But I remember with the Mini3 I didn't get that much performance out of my PSP, and I know that by design such a built-in DAC will still beat Mini3, so another conclusion can be drawn:

A good portable source, like the Cowan D2, is still no fight against a non-portable standalone.

And for good reason. It costs as much, is n times as big, and runs on AC power.

So when you're at home in your room free of noise, it pays to spend on a good home system, just to hear that extra quality out of your music once in a while.

And another sad thing, more highs roll-off for me. Twice within two weeks. Guess I'm really losing my hearing, I think I cannot hear anything above 17.8khz now.

And I also fried the Sony sub's fuse while playing with the power switch. Who would've thought that shorting the switch will cause such a great spark. Unless the power switch didn't use a relay, which would be stupid and dangerous, but explains why the power switch has bad contact now.

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