W A R N I N G !

W A R N I N G !

This page is full of non-facts and bullsh!t, (just like the internet and especially forums and other blogs), please do not believe entirely without exercising your intellect. Any resemblance to real things in reality is purely coincidental. You are free to interpret/misinterpret the content however you like, most likely for entertainment, but in no case is the text written on this blog the absolute truth. The blog owner and Blogger are not responsible for any misunderstanding of ASCII characters as facts. *cough* As I was saying, you are free to interpret however you like. *cough*

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My DAC is so bad, I can hear any defect in the transport!

Read the original story (and title) here:


BTW this guy is good. I like this site.

This brings up an old but interesting and still relevant finding, that a good system does not make your 128kbps MP3 sound any worse than a cheap system, only better.

Before throwing incorrect theories, lets do an ABX comparison. Wait, make that AB. Because the difference would be made so obvious you'd be deaf to miss the X.

Test 1: $10 multimedia pc speaker vs Creative Inspire 2600 vs Creative i-Trigue 2200 vs JBL CS100 vs Paradigm Atom v.1, playback of 128kbps MP3. Wait, that's more like a ABCDE test. Definitions.

This is like shooting fish in a barrel. Yes, you know I'm not making a test here; I'm making a statement.

Before we even care crap about compression artifects, we'd be caring about the frequency response charts of these speakers. Lets recall how a 128kbps MP3 sounds like. Muffled vocals, distorted highs and lows, lack of space.

With the good system, you get muffled vocals, distorted highs and lows, lack of space.
With the lousy system, you get muffled vocals, distorted highs and lows, lack of space, no bass and/or midbass, and shrilling highs for omake.

Test 2: VIA Vinyl Audio (a.k.a. yet another on-board audio solution), Audigy, NeoMini, Zhaolu D2.5A (various incarnations)

It was during this test which was carried out long ago that I realized the topic being discussed today, that a good DAC actually makes the highly-compressed music sound better, gives it new life. I was still using the CS100 + SRS D4 combo that had served me for more than a year at that point of time, and that ensures any difference is due to a change in DAC. (And the SRS D4 sub with two inputs makes it very easy for direct AB and ABX comparisons)

Granted, the flaws are also more obvious, but that's because the details have all come out. The better quality music benefit more (and makes the 128kbps MP3 easier to tell apart), but the 128kbps definitely benefited. There was more fullness to the music, to say the least.

If I'd use numbers as analogy, the 128kbps MP3 scores 60 with the Audigy, and 62 with the Zhaolu. The 320kbps scores 70 with the Audigy, and 75 with the Zhaolu. The 320kbps improves more than the 128kbps, and the difference between them is now greater, but the 128kbps still improved.
This holds true for the op-amp and cable upgrades that I did, from OPA2604 + $7 cable to OPA-Earth + 1694A.

And this is from a person who cannot tell the difference between a bit-perfect and resampled/kmixed source, and can only detect faint differences between 320kbps MP3 and lossless and barely passing the ABX test (but still a pass at least).

(So now we know, if a person claims he can hear the difference between WASAPI and ASIO, yet do not believe in better digital source hardware, he is likely trying to bluff himeself and/or on the forum so he looks pro, and is most likely going to shy away from ABX testing. Though that's not the main point of today's post.)

The main point is, it's not possible for poor-quality music to sound any worse on a good system than on a bad one. Actually there are already good examples out there. Vintage and car radio systems. Radio is crap source. Yet it sounds so good on those systems.

Strange that I didn't realize this when dealing with the more obvious part: the speakers. Though I definitely did hear an improvement.

So what's with this misunderstanding?

Lets check the part that is correct - a good system makes the flaws more obvious and makes the difference between good and bad source bigger.

Flaws more obvious: translates into -> bad sound

Is that correct? Not always.

So don't be too embarrassed to use your UM2 with an iPod nano. Or Aego M with on-board sound. Heck, Aego M isn't the best out there. If it needs lossless to sound good, what does the $100,000 FM Acoustics system need? Alien UFO audio? And you sure didn't buy an expensive system expecting it to sound worse, right?

Which leads us back to the post title. Your system sounds bad because it sucks. Simple. Or your brain is telling your ear it sucks. Same outcome.

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