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Why do high quality DACs clearly sound better then? And they sound better with better files. Maybe it really is all in my head but I mean listening to a £20000 hifi the other day (vinyl) really just shocked me.

I was listening to Marvin Gaye on my friends system and I could hear that there were several different backing singers all moving and at different distances from the microphone.

Are there any double blind trials anywhere of Vinyl/CD/24-192khz with super high end hifi systems? Mostly I see people suggesting that these tests are performed from the phono output of a mac with a pair of average ear buds...




>Why do high quality DACs clearly sound better then? And they sound better with better files. Maybe it really is all on my head but I mean listening to a £20000 hifi the other day...

You were listening to £20,000 worth of amps and speakers, and you were most likely in an acoustically treated room.

Also, novelty is almost always euphonic when it isn't overtly bad. This fact is often neglected. You hear something you didn't hear before and your brain immediately tells you that it sounds better, even if it doesn't actually represent higher fidelity. Actually making an objective judgement requires a careersworth of experience, or a test lab and the skills to use it.

For example: you were listening to vinyl, which is covered in delicious noise and warm harmonic distortion, and is mastered differently. Highly euphonic, very novel if youve only ever heard the CD version before, but definitely not higher fidelity.

BTW higher end DACs do sound better, but the rest of your signal chain needs to be really good for you to notice it. It's often to do with better phase accuracy between the left and right channels, which affects the soundstage, or stereo image. If your speakers/amp have loose timing however, you'll never be able to tell.


> higher end DACs do sound better

This hasn't passed the blind tests either. A good, 100 dollar dac (a schiit or an odac) will sound just as good as a 1000 dollar dac.


Higher end DACs. My fireface 400 has many DACs in it and it cost £549 new when it came out, in 2007. It sounds obviously better than the ~£80 USB soundcards and various built-in DACs in laptops. I've done A/B testing. (I didn't buy it for the converters btw, I bought it for the features and the build quality, which are unmatched.)

Forget about spending £1000s though. I'm sure that ODAC thing sounds better than the RME, I saw that test where it was identical to the various industry standard units.


Designing the circuitry around the DAC to provide ultra low noise reference voltages, to fully isolate ground loops, and provide a fully linear response (AC coupled, but linear in the relevant range) is not trivial even for 12-bits. It's not the hardest thing in the world, but lots of people do it wrong. Trivial sounding things like using a cheaper capacitor in the low pass filter or not finely regulating your power supply voltage can put audible noise onto things.

Worse of course if the sound card is integrated into a computer due to the opportunity to pick up much greater ambient RF noise from other components, although that is less of a problem now than it used to be back when I could hear my hard drive kicking up on my speakers...

In any event, I'd absolutely believe that the quality between a $100 DAC assembly and a $200 system is enough to be noticeable. More than that and I'm very skeptical. So I guess I don't really disagree with your statement, but I think that in current dollars $100 isn't necessarily enough to pay for solid underlying engineering and good components.


Vinyl actually has far less fidelity. You also physically change the recording every time you play it back. Even on the same equipment, no two plays of a vinyl LP sound exactly the same, unlike digital.

This fact alone should cause you to question your subjective experience. You have no idea what part of that system was contributing to what you found pleasant. Someone who knew what they were doing could probably build a $2000 system that would blow you away just the same.

And if you were playing vinyl, there wasn't even a DAC present in the signal chain :)


>Vinyl actually has far less fidelity.

Vinyl mastering is sometimes better than CD mastering though, due to the loudness war.

I would love to sell my turntable and vinyl collection and rely purely on digital formats. Takes up less space, technically superior format, etc.

But one thing keeps me buying vinyl:

AWFUL mastering on CDs. A significant portion of LPs are released with more normal mastering on the vinyl, while the CD will be brickwalled all to hell.

I listen to metal, and rock as a broader genre is particularly bad about it. One of my favorite albums of last year, Fallujah's The Flesh Prevails, had a dynamic range of 2 to 3 on almost every track on the CD. The vinyl master? 9 to 10. Still not great, but leaps and bounds better. The CD actually clips if you convert the songs into MP3.

Until they go back to not murdering CD mastering, I'll continue buying vinyl :(

(I know your comment isn't directly about vinyl being bad or anything - I just have a compulsion to bitch about the loudness war any chance I can)


How do the versions on streaming services compare, are they usually copies of the CD masterings ?


Usually the CD master.

The optimistic people have said that iTunes and YouTube not allowing the high volume compression will kill the loudness war [1][2], but, it is still happening [3].

[1] http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2013/10/28/itunesloudness/ [2] http://productionadvice.co.uk/youtube-loudness/ [3] http://dr.loudness-war.info/album/list/year/desc


> You also physically change the recording every time you play it back

Not on a laser stylus turntable.

http://diffuser.fm/laser-turntable/


These are not recommended for high-fidelity playback. They're good for archiving records you don't want to damage by playing, but the laser picks up every tiny speck of dust that a needle would plow inaudibly through.


Here's a classic "OMG I can hear him moving around" recording that works with the cheapest of headphones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUDTlvagjJA Most of the audio experience quality comes out of the production phase, and artists can put as much or little effort into that as possible and consider several mediums of listening (headphones, TV, surround, concert, vinyl) and make tradeoffs for the medium's particular experience.

I don't know about double blind trials but people do tests on their own. It's further complicated though because the hardware you use could be optimized for certain types of music, e.g. have a read through http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/07/some-of-the-worlds-mo...


That is awesome. At first, I actually thought people around me were making the noise and speaking. I thought the audio sample had not yet started.


Wine tastes better when it's poured out of fancy bottles, too.

The article mentions just such a study performed with high end equipment.


Better masters are the key difference. See for example [1]; everyone agreed that the DVD-A and SACDs sounded better when truncated to 16 bits then a printed CD.

1: http://drewdaniels.com/audible.pdf





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