• Hello and Welcome to HiFiVision.com - an online community for the home entertainment and tech enthusiasts!

    If you would like to ask a question, participate in a discussion and view attachments please Register yourself.

Expensive DAC waste of money?

Marantz offers at HiFiMART.com

koushik

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
1,770
Points
83
Location
from Kolkata, now in Melbourne.
Finally some honest review of how pointless is buying an expensive DAC
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBlADcpbxbg

Please don't get too excited about all these reviews and as bonfi said, don't get misguided.
People say all these about DACs, speakers, Interconnects, speakers cable and all other components. Only way to know is to have a decent system and experience yourself.



... or else, ignorance is bliss!

Good luck.
 

vijwilso

Active Member
Joined
Jan 18, 2009
Messages
477
Points
43
Location
Bangalore
There was a similar review floating around sometime back ( i think from anandtech.com) comparding a range of DACs from $1 motherboard dac to >$1000 using the HeadPhones , the audiophiles could not detect the difference/improvement .

My personal experience is completely opposite and i compare the DACs with the speakers (I dont have headphones) . While comparing the Merdian DAC with Metrum DAC i felt > 75 % improvement ( literally )
The improvement were
- The music leap out of the box as opposed to constrained and struggling within the box
- The lower Octave rhythm was very dynamic and punchy
- When the music gets complex , the music become noise in the less expensive DAC and always wanted to lower the volume , In Metrum I could appreciate the complex portions .
- The instruments sounded more realistic and spacing become very wide ,
- the sounds stage is holographic and three dimensional and the decay is much better - like the an after essence after a note is played
- The sense of being there was missing with the Meridian as compared to metrum - the event atmosphere is created much better
 

raghupb

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2015
Messages
2,748
Points
113
Location
Bengaluru
Reviews are mostly subjective however hard the reviewer tries not to be. The true test is to listen, experience and decide. Below is what I said in another thread (needs/means/opportunities method)

Before adding/replacing elements in the chain always ask yourself these questions
Do I need this feature/element?
Do I have the means to get this feature/element (mainly budget)?
Do I have the opportunity to implement/enjoy this feature/element?

If the answer is yes/yes/yes, don't hold yourself back just because some reviews say it is a waste of money.

BTW, this thread should be in AV lounge or in DAC section, not under Amplifiers.

Cheers,
Raghu
 
Last edited:

Fantastic

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 1, 2010
Messages
866
Points
93
Location
Third Rock
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBlADcpbxbg[/url]

I don't understand how anyone can understand the difference ( if there is ) between these two DAC's on this Youtube video. First of all you cannot compare any audio on a Youtube clip. And this one has no sound too ! So that part is 'correct' !:)

DAC's do sound different though the digital part might appear to be the same. The analog section makes a huge difference . It isn't just circuitry but also implementation and parts selection.

To really hear the differences you also need a very good amp and good speakers.
I have several headphones being driven by classA headphone amps. However it's the speaker that is more revealing than the headphone though they are subject to room acoustics unlike the headphones.

Bottom line is that there really is a difference between DAC's. Price doesn't always tell you which is better ! Always try to listen to the DAC you want in your system. Sometimes very hard to do and so you depend on what some else tells you and it may not be what 'you' think of it ...eventually !

Start by defining your budget for the DAC, then look around. There will always be a good enough DAC for that price.
 

music4mhell

New Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2015
Messages
482
Points
0
Location
B'lore & Bhubaneswar
DAC do make a big big big difference, period.

Have a listen to Dacs from Chord, Benchmark Audio, Bel Canto

and then listen to Audiolab, Arcam

and then listen to Cambridge audio

and then to FIIO, Dragonfly.

Every step you will listen 50% ddifference.
 

keith_correa

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 17, 2009
Messages
3,114
Points
113
Location
Mumbai
You guys really need to watch the whole video and hear what he is saying before jumping in feet first and shooting off. For one, he's NOT saying that there are no differences between DAC's. In fact he admits to having heard differences at another point in time. Really, just watch that video. Then come back and post. It will make more sense to everyone.
 
Last edited:

raghupb

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2015
Messages
2,748
Points
113
Location
Bengaluru
I did watch the video. The reviewer claims not to have heard any difference between the 2 DACs under test. This may be true or not true.

Now coming to pricing and landed cost of equipment. I have worked in silicon and systems industry for 18 years. One of the things that we are always under tremendous pressure from marketing is BoM (Bill of Materials) cost of the product. This is the one important factor that decides profitability at targeted volume.

Higher cost does not necessarily mean higher performance. It may simply mean increased reliability and wider operating ranges. When choosing silicon and passives, as a HW engineer, I always used to look for these specs aside from the actual values:
1. tolerance (1%, 5%, 10%) - depending on the part less or more is better
eg. for passives we needed 1-5% tolerance depending on which stage of the circuit they were used; for PS we sometimes needed parts that would accept a wider range of input voltage swings
2. MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) in hours; longer the better. Parts vendors do publish these numbers
3. Operating temperature (commercial, industrial, defense, space) - yes there is a difference in cost and sometimes exponentially so depending on where and how it is used

So before we become skeptical about expensive items in an audio setup, we need to know what each of these companies are using as parts.
2 companies may be using the exact same DAC silicon chipset and circuit design. But the parts may be from different lots (commercial/industrial), the passives may be of different tolerances, metal body instead of plastic/metal combine, thicker micron gold plating on PCB, better grounding, different PS, etc. Aurally they may sound the same, but I can bet that the one with higher reliability components will last longer and take a bit of abuse.

So reviews are good/bad/ugly depending on what you are looking for.

Cheers,
Raghu
 

firearm12

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 24, 2014
Messages
924
Points
93
Location
noida
I haven't been through the video (just replying the title) but this is true until you buy, own and live with it for some time :).

I am responding just to warn potential enthusiasts not get misguided :).

So true, one may not be hear much difference in A/B comparision, but once you live with a dac for about 3-4 weeks, you definitely hear all the differences, what you pay is what you get in general, rest are all personal preferences
 

shanmune

Active Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2012
Messages
608
Points
43
Location
Bangalore

Higher cost does not necessarily mean higher performance. It may simply mean increased reliability and wider operating ranges.

....
So reviews are good/bad/ugly depending on what you are looking for.

Cheers,
Raghu

Well described by you Raghu. What you said is a bitter truth, I believe.

Is it possible to say or find if DAC-A is better than DAC-B ? From the subjective perspective, the answer is YES. What if one has to choose the DAC having true high fidelity ? I think a simple subjective listening test won't help us. The only other way to know if a component (vs another component) is of true high fidelity is taking objective tests and measurements. The very basic stuff - Does the component has a near flat frequency response in the audible spectrum ? The other thing is the controlled listening test to compare two components.

I would also like to hear from some one who has really put his effort to select a true hi-fidelity audio component purely based on the objective tests and not through the regular subjective listening method.
 

venkatcr

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 1, 2008
Messages
7,288
Points
113
Location
Chennai
I would also like to hear from some one who has really put his effort to select a true hi-fidelity audio component purely based on the objective tests and not through the regular subjective listening method.

Magazines like Stereophile have already done tests on every product you can think of.

Coming to the broader picture, what we have to keep in mind is this.

1. It has been mentioned by many reviewers that the difference between one decent DAC and another is more subjective than objective. The measured differences are usually very small, usually never more than 5-10% over certain frequencies. This boils down to what the designer likes. If he likes the mid-frequencies, he will spend extra time tuning them properly. And, if you like mid frequencies, you will end up liking that DAC more. Essentially, you will hear what you want to hear and be happy. That will make you declare that DAC as the best in the world.

2. A DAC by itself is useless. Pre, Amp, speakers, and the complete jamboree of products down the line make a huge difference. Take a 500$ DAC, attach it to $1000 worth of electronics. Take the same DAC, and attach it to 2500$ worth of electronics. Anyone can hear the difference. But, the difference is not in the DAC.

3. The question now is, what will happen if you attach 50,000$ of electronics to the same DAC? This if where the 10% rule sets it. The difference between 2500$ and 50,000$ worth electronics, will never, in measured terms, be more that 10%. So you have to decide is the price difference is worth it.

4. You have to remember that every DAC is dealing with a finite set of data. Every DAC has a single purpose, to smoothen the digital curve and bring it as close to the 'original' analog curve as possible. Again, remember, the original analog curve is gone. So what every DAC does is approximation. And, this is where the designer of the DAC plays a rule. Being a human being, he can never be neutral across frequencies. He will add some bias to areas he likes.

Beyond a certain level, DACs become a brand and carry more brand value than real value in terms of musicality.

Start enjoying the music you have with the equipment you. Stop chasing a pipe dream of 'better' electronics.

Cheers
 
Last edited:

regeHA

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 22, 2015
Messages
1,101
Points
113
Location
India/Singapore/US
I watched the entire video, and the guy is only saying 3 things.

1. He does not hear a difference between the DACs.
2. If a DAC is only doing conversion from digital to analog then all DACs must (not should, but must) sound the same.
3. If a DAC sounds different then definitely some sort of processing is being added to the mix.

Of course, 3 is not a wrong thing, but it is however a departure from an audiophile's goal of zero processing in the equipment. I understand that is what audiophiles want, music without any processing and live as if in the studio.

If DACs sound differently, then it can only mean one thing, one of them is introducing something additional to the mix or one of the DACs is not really doing the job right. That is the only 3 points the guy is making, and if one takes a step back and looks at it, he does make sense indeed.

You cannot have 2 DACs sounding different, and then both of them doing the digital to analog conversion process 100% perfect or even right. One of them has to be missing the mark or introducing something extra into the mix.

Cut the guy some slack...

PS: In this example, since all the DACs sound the same (at least to the reviewer), then all of the companies involved must be doing things right.
 

doors666

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 15, 2008
Messages
1,833
Points
113
Location
bangalore
I am sure very soon that dude will publish an article saying all the speakers sound the same :eek:hyeah::eek:hyeah:
 

square_wave

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2006
Messages
3,248
Points
113
Location
Bangalore
The cost / benefit assessment of a dac completely depends on your setup and audio priorities.

You cannot see a pin head if you have an elephant blocking your view. The elephant can be in the attitude as well as in the setup. It also depends upon the value of the pin-head to you. In audio, the magic usually starts with the pin-heads.
 

saikatbiswas82

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2012
Messages
1,305
Points
113
Location
Kolkata
The cost / benefit assessment of a dac completely depends on your setup and audio priorities.

You cannot see a pin head if you have an elephant blocking your view. The elephant can be in the attitude as well as in the setup. It also depends upon the value of the pin-head to you. In audio, the magic usually starts with the pin-heads.

Very well said :clapping:
 

koushik

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
1,770
Points
83
Location
from Kolkata, now in Melbourne.
If DACs sound differently, then it can only mean one thing, one of them is introducing something additional to the mix or one of the DACs is not really doing the job right. That is the only 3 points the guy is making, and if one takes a step back and looks at it, he does make sense indeed.

You cannot have 2 DACs sounding different, and then both of them doing the digital to analog conversion process 100% perfect or even right. One of them has to be missing the mark or introducing something extra into the mix.

And which component is supposed to change the signal in the chain?

All pre, power, IC and speaker must (not should) sound same because -
1. Pre only attenuate signal amplitude, must not add or remove anything.
2. Power should only amplify the amplitude of the signal, must not add or remove anything.
3. Interconnects should only transfer the signal, must not add or remove anything.
4. Speaker should only transfer electrical signal to the exact signal that has been fed to the microphone in studio .... not to say, must not add or remove anything.


So, all the speaker, amp, pre and of course, by all virtue, a DAC must sound exactly same!
From JBL Control 1 to B&W 802 D3
From Topping t20 to Symphonic Line
et al

But the thing is not like that, BTW.
 

koushik

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 17, 2011
Messages
1,770
Points
83
Location
from Kolkata, now in Melbourne.
You cannot see a pin head if you have an elephant blocking your view. The elephant can be in the attitude as well as in the setup. It also depends upon the value of the pin-head to you. In audio, the magic usually starts with the pin-heads.

Take a bow for the last sentence. :cheers:

He who saw the pin-head knows it worth dying for.
 

saikatbiswas82

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2012
Messages
1,305
Points
113
Location
Kolkata
And which component is supposed to change the signal in the chain?

All pre, power, IC and speaker must (not should) sound same because -
1. Pre only attenuate signal amplitude, must not add or remove anything.
2. Power should only amplify the amplitude of the signal, must not add or remove anything.
3. Interconnects should only transfer the signal, must not add or remove anything.
4. Speaker should only transfer electrical signal to the exact signal that has been fed to the microphone in studio .... not to say, must not add or remove anything.


So, all the speaker, amp, pre and of course, by all virtue, a DAC must sound exactly same!
From JBL Control 1 to B&W 802 D3
From Topping t20 to Symphonic Line
et al

But the thing is not like that, BTW.
This is getting interesting [emoji4]
 
Top