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post #361 of 5049
Quote:
Originally Posted by Simca View Post

The 0404 isn't powerful enough to power higher end headphones that require more power. This is a well known fact.

Maybe. I'm not aware of any valid published studies or tests affirming your "fact," just a few interspersed personal anecdotes.

Regardless, when the headphones powered by the DAC1 and the 0404 USB were driven to the same output levels, they sounded the same.

What low-sensitivity high-impedance headphone are you looking to drive, anyway? The question isn't valid if your response is "can't drive it" and you don't mention what "it" is.
Edited by friend'scatdied - 12/20/11 at 7:07pm
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post #362 of 5049
Quote:
Originally Posted by friend'scatdied View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Simca View Post

The 0404 isn't powerful enough to power higher end headphones that require more power. This is a well known fact.

Maybe. I'm not aware of any valid published studies or tests affirming your "fact," just a few interspersed personal anecdotes.

Regardless, when the headphones powered by the DAC1 and the 0404 USB were driven to the same output levels, they sounded the same.

That's fine and dandy if the headphones didn't need a lot of power, but if the headphones are 600 ohms and need a powerful amp, the DAC1 is a better amp than the 0404.

If you're basing audio enjoyment off of tests and studies rather than listening to what sounds best, you're doing it wrong.

That's why tube amps are preferred by many people despite audio fidelity degradation.

You should listen to music in whatever way sounds best to you.

If that means using the EQ or a tube amp or any other method that strides away from audio fidelity and that tests tell us is wrong, then I'm all for it.

Rather than rely on "tests and studies" you should rely on your ear to tell you whether your headphones are being driven properly.
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post #363 of 5049
Quote:
Originally Posted by Simca View Post

That's fine and dandy if the headphones didn't need a lot of power, but if the headphones are 600 ohms and need a powerful amp, the DAC1 is a better amp than the 0404.
If you're basing audio enjoyment off of tests and studies rather than listening to what sounds best, you're doing it wrong.
That's why tube amps are preferred by many people despite audio fidelity degradation.
You should listen to music in whatever way sounds best to you.
If that means using the EQ or a tube amp or any other method that strides away from audio fidelity and that tests tell us is wrong, then I'm all for it.
Rather than rely on "tests and studies" you should rely on your ear to tell you whether your headphones are being driven properly.

Once again, if the headphone load is driven to the same output level the 0404 USB and DAC1 sound the same. Even if it's a 600 Ohm headphone, if you can squeeze the same output level from both amps you'll hear the same stuff.

I also don't agree. Ears are unreliable and audio memory is notoriously gossamer and faulty.

I'll also argue that those that are playing it by ear are doing it wrong. They're the kind of people spending thousands on audio cables (and USB cables) and hundreds on the isolation scams. They're dumb and still not happy. They hear differences that don't exist.

I'm very content with my system but I realize I could have gotten away with it for much less money. People who play it by science and do their homework probably end up spending much less money and probably still end up happy.
Edited by friend'scatdied - 12/20/11 at 7:35pm
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post #364 of 5049
iF a test tells you apple ear buds are the best, I assume that's what you would buy? I'd rather buy an inferior product that sounded awesome to me, rather than something that sounded bland, but superior on paper.

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post #365 of 5049
Quote:
Originally Posted by Simca View Post

iF a test tells you apple ear buds are the best, I assume that's what you would buy? I'd rather buy an inferior product that sounded awesome to me, rather than something that sounded bland, but superior on paper.
Sent from my Sensation using Tapatalk

That's a strawman argument.

But actually, headphones (or speakers) are the only components of the chain that will make the difference. They are the only components that are rationally open to preference.

For one thing, no headphone or speaker measures the same. There are peaks and troughs in the frequency response that are audible to our ears and "voice" the transducer. Moreover, interactions of the sound wave in the room (in the case of headphones, the driver relative to your ears) that can influence perception.

Science argues that DACs and amplifiers sound the same and that transducers sound different. Two different implementations of the same transducer will even measure differently. Since the differences are not only measurable but also audible, the intuition of a scientific ranking of headphone superiority (that you suggest) is not really valid.

The reason that the other components in the chain (DAC, amp) sound pretty much the same is because of that highly-accessible threshold of quality where they measure the same as far as we can hear, and to a lesser extent the fact that the sound is still a signal and hasn't been output as a soundwave yet.

This makes decision-making simple and intuitive. Buy the DAC/amps that achieve the minimum quality threshold (many options here, given how cheap and accessible the threshold is nowadays) and meet volume level requirements, and buy the headphones/speakers you like. The rest of any changes to the sound you might want to make can be achieved through equalization (by means of hardware or software). The notion of equalization or flavoring by means of different DACs/amps is fallacious from the perspective of fidelity and utterly ridiculous.
Edited by friend'scatdied - 12/21/11 at 8:26am
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post #366 of 5049
Quote:
Originally Posted by friend'scatdied View Post

Once again, if the headphone load is driven to the same output level the 0404 USB and DAC1 sound the same. Even if it's a 600 Ohm headphone, if you can squeeze the same output level from both amps you'll hear the same stuff.
I also don't agree. Ears are unreliable and audio memory is notoriously gossamer and faulty.
I'll also argue that those that are playing it by ear are doing it wrong. They're the kind of people spending thousands on audio cables (and USB cables) and hundreds on the isolation scams. They're dumb and still not happy. They hear differences that don't exist.
I'm very content with my system but I realize I could have gotten away with it for much less money. People who play it by science and do their homework probably end up spending much less money and probably still end up happy.

First of all, that is not true. Take the same, say, Grado PS1000 (normal impedance is 32ohms, cost is $1000+) headphones, and hook them up to both a digital amplifier and a tube amplifier, both connected to the same source (say, a DVD-Audio Disc of Bach or Beethoven or Metallica). There is going to be a very noticeable difference between the two amps, despite the fact that they will put out the SAME power and the SAME volume; the tube amp will have a "warmer" sound, while the digital amp will simply reproduce the original source's sound as identically as possible (although both will, due to the nature of overcoming such high-impedance headphones) result in a more even range (lows/mids/highs will all sound like they should). This is simply one way that ONE PAIR OF HEADPHONES can be altered by TWO DIFFERENT (BUT EQUAL) AMPLIFIERS.
I also will agree that ears are unreliable, and I think reviewing headphones and presenting it as anything other than an "opinion piece" or what-not is a crock, and I only read such reviews to get a VERY general idea of what the headphones ARE and ARE NOT capable of, as well as their specs. Some sites take it further and will actually, using audio measurement equipment, give actual numbers and pretty-looking charts/graphs that tell you where the currently-reviewed 'phones rank against other, similar products. Even then, audio measurement equipment DOES NOT mimic the human ear, or how our brains interpret sound, so I still take all that information with about a whole dash of salt...plus a lime and a tequila shot wink.gif
The human ear "hears" the same way the human eye "sees": both organs "take in" RAW information that is essentially meaningless, and then our BRAINS put that sensory information into something comprehensible. So to say that "playing it by ear" is wrong, I can't disagree more... I have NEVER bought any headphones, speakers, subwoofers, amplifiers, receivers, equalizers, etc., without listening to them in a REAL LIFE scenario, which is why I LOVE my local high-end audio store... They are more than happy to let me come in and chill for five-six hours listening to their newest speakers while watching 2-4 films and/or listening to multiple albums in order to get a "feel" for the sound. (For the record, I always use the THX-Certified DVD's of: Terminator 2, Star Wars Episode V, The Fifth Element: Ultimate Edition (Superbit), The Sound of Music, Aliens, etc. The Music I always use are the following albums: Rush: 2012, Nine Inch Nails: The Downward Spiral, OK GO: Oh No, Metallica: ...and Justice for All, Sufjan Stevens: Illinois, and always Sigur Ros: Agaetis Byrjun and Takk...). I like to get a good range, and I think my current line-up allows for that.
Quote:
Originally Posted by friend'scatdied View Post

That's a strawman argument.
But actually, headphones (or speakers) are the only components of the chain that will make the difference. They are the only components that are rationally open to preference.
For one thing, no headphone or speaker measures the same. There are peaks and troughs in the frequency response that are audible to our ears and "voice" the transducer. Moreover, interactions of the sound wave in the room (in the case of headphones, the driver relative to your ears) that can influence perception.
Science argues that DACs and amplifiers sound the same and that transducers sound different. Two different implementations of the same transducer will even measure differently. Since the differences are not only measurable but also audible, the intuition of a scientific ranking of headphone superiority (that you suggest) is not really valid.
The reason that the other components in the chain (DAC, amp) sound pretty much the same is because of that highly-accessible threshold of quality where they measure the same as far as we can hear, and to a lesser extent the fact that the sound is still a signal and hasn't been output as a soundwave yet.
This makes decision-making simple and intuitive. Buy the DAC/amps that achieve the minimum quality threshold (many options here, given how cheap and accessible the threshold is nowadays) and meet volume level requirements, and buy the headphones/speakers you like. The rest of any changes to the sound you might want to make can be achieved through equalization (by means of hardware or software). The notion of equalization or flavoring by means of different DACs/amps is fallacious from the perspective of fidelity and utterly ridiculous.

I'm sorry, but you're absolutely wrong... There is FAR MORE to the final output's sound quality than simply the headphones or the speakers... As I mentioned before, I have been upgrading my home theater system (receiver, amplifier, speakers, television, etc). I'm mixing and matching speakers, but there is one set (7.2) that I do have that is all from the same brand/model/lineup: Polk RTI-series Speakers (RTI9 FR/FL Towers, RTI A5 Surround-L/R and Side R/L, CSi A6 Center, and one PSW505 12" Powered Sub and one PSW405 10" Powered Sub), which I have had hooked up to both my old receiver (Onkyo TX-NR809 7.2ch THX-certified), as well as to my new receiver (Denon AVR4810CI 9/11.3ch "THX-Ultra Certified").
THERE WAS NO COMPARISON! The new receiver, replacing the Onkyo which IS NOT OLD to begin with, completely changed the quality of sound THROUGH THE SAME SPEAKERS! Hooked up to the Definitive Technology Mythos2 Speakers, it's about 100x better than I would have ever even imagined...
Oh, and I use McIntosh Amplifiers, too... They make things sound better, at the same volume (db output)....
   
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post #367 of 5049
Quote:
Originally Posted by nleksan View Post

First of all, that is not true. Take the same, say, Grado PS1000 (normal impedance is 32ohms, cost is $1000+) headphones, and hook them up to both a digital amplifier and a tube amplifier, both connected to the same source (say, a DVD-Audio Disc of Bach or Beethoven or Metallica). There is going to be a very noticeable difference between the two amps, despite the fact that they will put out the SAME power and the SAME volume; the tube amp will have a "warmer" sound, while the digital amp will simply reproduce the original source's sound as identically as possible (although both will, due to the nature of overcoming such high-impedance headphones) result in a more even range (lows/mids/highs will all sound like they should). This is simply one way that ONE PAIR OF HEADPHONES can be altered by TWO DIFFERENT (BUT EQUAL) AMPLIFIERS.
I'm sorry, but you're absolutely wrong... There is FAR MORE to the final output's sound quality than simply the headphones or the speakers... As I mentioned before, I have been upgrading my home theater system (receiver, amplifier, speakers, television, etc). I'm mixing and matching speakers, but there is one set (7.2) that I do have that is all from the same brand/model/lineup: Polk RTI-series Speakers (RTI9 FR/FL Towers, RTI A5 Surround-L/R and Side R/L, CSi A6 Center, and one PSW505 12" Powered Sub and one PSW405 10" Powered Sub), which I have had hooked up to both my old receiver (Onkyo TX-NR809 7.2ch THX-certified), as well as to my new receiver (Denon AVR4810CI 9/11.3ch "THX-Ultra Certified").

It is true if you consider the framed context; you are taking my statement out of context. The reason the tube amp sounds different is because it is introducing audible distortion. The signal is completely explained in terms of (1) noise, (2) distortion (harmonic and intermodulation), (3) frequency response and (4) time-based errors.

And no, my "opinions" are backed by extensive scientific evidence. There is no valid published study that demonstrates the differences between amplifiers or DACs (whereas there is much evidence to be found that speakers and transducers sound different). That is an outlandish claim by the audiophile community that has yet to be backed up by anything substantive and scientifically sound.

Once again, the differences you hear are due to one of the pieces of equipment being (1) insufficient to deal with the loudspeaker load (negative feedback, not enough current capability, not enough voltage capability) or (2) exhibiting an unfaithful design with audible distortion/noise/frequency response biases/time-based errors or (3) being faulty/broken.

Moreover, modern-day equalization features like Audyssey also render comparisons invalid since the signal is being deliberately altered.
Edited by friend'scatdied - 12/21/11 at 11:01am
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post #368 of 5049
Quote:
Originally Posted by friend'scatdied View Post

It is true if you consider the framed context; you are taking my statement out of context. The reason the tube amp sounds different is because it is introducing audible distortion. The signal is completely explained in terms of (1) noise, (2) distortion (harmonic and intermodulation), (3) frequency response and (4) time-based errors.
And no, my "opinions" are backed by extensive scientific evidence. There is no valid published study that demonstrates the differences between amplifiers or DACs (whereas there is much evidence to be found that speakers and transducers sound different). That is an outlandish claim by the audiophile community that has yet to be backed up by anything substantive and scientifically sound.
Once again, the differences you hear are due to one of the pieces of equipment being (1) insufficient to deal with the loudspeaker load (negative feedback, not enough current capability, not enough voltage capability) or (2) exhibiting an unfaithful design with audible distortion/noise/frequency response biases/time-based errors or (3) being faulty/broken.
Moreover, modern-day equalization features like Audyssey also render comparisons invalid since the signal is being deliberately altered.

For what it's worth, I compared the speakers without any digital enhancements, i.e. Audyssey, to get a sense of the difference between the two Receivers. The McIntosh amplifier was NOT changed in any way, and I use the exact same speaker wire, speaker placement, line-out voltage, etc. The system can run at a maximum of ~2200W, but I don't push near that much (especially not now, with the sound damper panels down from the walls; oh yeah, home theater has baffle-type sound insulation panels placed where needed, as well as a false-wall located 2ft out from the concrete foundation along with an extra 14" of space between the first floor and basement ceiling, as the original owners had a full-on HT with a 120" projector and screen as well as built-in speakers/mounts; I use the false-wall(s) to make wiring invisible very easily, as well as to put "invisible" sound insulation around the area and between floors - I have enough between the basement and first floor that the sound insulation has an R-value of R-35).
I kept everything as similar as possible with the exception of the Receiver. Yes, the new receiver puts out slightly more power per channel, but it also supports 4 more main channels and one extra subwoofer (11.3 vs 7.2) so it's not THAT much different, and it's going from the receiver the McIntosh amp anyway before it hits the speakers, so it shouldn't make a difference.
Also, while I know that it may not mean as much as it used to, the new receiver (the Denon) is "THX-Ultra" certified, which means it meets criteria above-and-beyond the already-very-strict "THX" certification. When paired with lossless audio, as well as the high quality speakers, I can literally hear the guitar player's pick against the strings, or the vocalist tapping his feet to keep rhythm. It adds an entire "new dimension" to the sound that wasn't there before, and it is NOT due to any digital "enhancements" (I tend to keep all that stuff off anyway, same with the "TruMotion"-type stuff on my 55" LG LED-LCD TV, because it is distracting... The only one I use is the "Clear Voice" or "True Voice", as it does send more of the "human voice frequencies" to the main speakers, while the Front High and Front Wide speakers take care of all/most of the ambient noise).
Going from a 7.1/7.2 surround-sound setup to a 9.2 is a significant leap in quality, but going from 7.2 to 11.3 is unbelievable. The combination of (rather than one-or-the-other) Front "Wide" L/R and Front "High" L/R in addition to a high-quality center speaker and using high-quality towers all-around (rather than big, 7-dome towers for front l/r and bookshelf speakers for surround) makes a HUGE DIFFERENCE.

I also noticed a difference in my car, a heavily-modified '00 BMW 328Ci. When I initially upgraded the sound system, it was from the stock 3-Series Harmon Kardon system (14 speakers + 2 subwoofers) to the Bavarian SoundWerks (BSW) Stage 1 kit, which replaces all of the factory speakers with their upgraded units, designed specifically to work with the factory headunit and amplifier; silk-dome tweeters and Kevlar-domed mids and woofers replaced the factory "paper-like" units. Being driven off of the same equipment, sound quality/fidelity was significantly enhanced. It was absolutely worth the money.
When I upgraded to their low-profile dual 10" subwoofers and ultralight enclosure, same thing: enhanced bass response that was sharper without the "boom-iness" typically associated with aftermarket car audio subs. Again, driven off of the factory HK amplifier.
When I upgraded my headunit, I decided to go with the Pioneer AVIC line, a double-din 7" touchscreen headunit (4x22rms), and while I had to do some custom wiring and relocate the Climate Controls to a lower area on the console, there was again a noticeable increase in sound fidelity (better input = better output).
Following that, I decided that I wanted the best possible sound (it's like an addiction... same with the countless other modifications I have made, from performance to appearance, etc). Knowing that I would be upgrading the speakers (and installing the BSW kit in my daily driver 325i), so I went ahead and installed a few Focal amplifiers (2 4x85W, 1 2x150W, 1 2x400W), as I got them at an unbelievable price, and they are known for being very good quality (also very lightweight; important in a car that is regularly autocrossed and tracked). After rewiring and installing the amplifier, along with the other necessary equipment, I was literally blown away by the sound... The amplifiers made as much of an improvement as did going from the Harmon Kardon speakers to the BSW speakers/subs.
Currently, I have a mix of a Pioneer AVIC head unit, JL/Focal amplifiers, and JL/Focal speakers/subwoofers (along with equalizer, crossovers, etc, etc). There is simply no comparison anymore, and the car sounds better than ANY stock sound system, from a Civic to a Maybach.

The same has held true with headphones... My Grado's sound SO MUCH better with a headphone amp, when using the same exact equipment/settings, than they do without. The headphone amps have even made my cheaper headphones (say, the Sony MDR-V900HD Studio Monitor's sitting next to my computer that I got on sale for $85; granted, they around ~$200-250 regularly... even my Sony MDR-V150HD's work for this comparison) sound like expensive cans.
They no longer sound "muffled" or overly-"bassed" or overly-"high", but rather they sound JUST RIGHT. This is with an HT Omega Claro Halo XT Sound Card.


Audio and audio gear is very much a person opinion when it comes to "quality of sound", as some (annoying as *****) kids like when their Civic has a stock system except for a $50 Head Unit, a 2x500W amplifier, and 2 12" or 15" subwoofers in the trunk that are so loud and obnoxious the trunk itself rattles so hard you'd think it was trying to escape. At the same time, people are willing to drop six-figures on the top-of-the-line Martin Logan or whatever boutique-brand speakers (six figures for TWO towers, that is) because it sounds better to them (or it's a status symbol).

For what it's worth, and maybe it's not worth much or anything at all, but....
In 2005, I decided I wanted a pair of nice headphones... I did some research, talked to some people on a few Forums as well as a few friends, and went to a local high-end/"boutique" audio store with the intent of buying a pair of Senheiser headphones for around ~$80 (the exact model not decided). After listening to a number of Senheiser's, priced from $35-140, I saw the Grado's up on the wall. I asked what they were, as their "old school" look was very attractive and unique, and I'd never seen headphones with wood furniture! The guy simply smiled, and said "Those are Grado headphones... Why don't you give 'em a try?". So I did. The album that the owner had been using to demonstrate the prior headphones for me was a mix of everything from Beethoven to Nirvana, a wide range of music genres, and it was through a high end receiver (headphones plugged directly in). *By the way, the guy spent a good 2-3 hours helping me out; and this is why I support local businesses and didn't just order something off of Amazon.
I listened to the entire 16 tracks, and couldn't wipe the smile off of my face. They sounded SO MUCH BETTER than anything I'd tried, and I ended up walking out of there with a pair of Grado SR225's (the originals, with Wooden cups) for $199.95+tax, with not a single bit of regret that I'd more than doubled my budget; in fact, I was ecstatic!

I know that the price range is different between the two, but I will say that it does go to show that audio perception and appreciation is HIGHLY individual; but there is still a great about of difference between various audio products... One amp does not equal another! Stuff like Monster Cables are a joke, and made for suckers... But that is NOT the same for headphone amplifiers, which encompass an already educated and niche market.


Again, everyone, I am very sorry and I feel very bad that my first posts have started an argument here :/ I hope, everyone, that you won't hold it against me. I came here to continue learning and to hopefully give back, and that is what I intend to do.

Sincerely,
nleksan
   
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post #369 of 5049
Quote:
Originally Posted by nleksan View Post

For what it's worth, I compared the speakers without any digital enhancements, i.e. Audyssey, to get a sense of the difference between the two Receivers. [ . . . ] This is with an HT Omega Claro Halo XT Sound Card.
I know that the price range is different between the two, but I will say that it does go to show that audio perception and appreciation is HIGHLY individual; but there is still a great about of difference between various audio products... One amp does not equal another! Stuff like Monster Cables are a joke, and made for suckers... But that is NOT the same for headphone amplifiers, which encompass an already educated and niche market.
Again, everyone, I am very sorry and I feel very bad that my first posts have started an argument here :/ I hope, everyone, that you won't hold it against me. I came here to continue learning and to hopefully give back, and that is what I intend to do.
Sincerely,
nleksan

All of the tests you've described don't properly follow the scientific method and they do not constitute evidence. You are offering merely anecdote. Here's an article that explains why your "testing" isn't really valid testing: http://www.digido.com/level-practices-part-2-includes-the-k-system.html (You can't trust your ears to match levels)

Also your blurb about THX demonstrates that you are quite susceptible to marketing.

Once again, there's no scientific proof of demonstrable difference between items in the chain outside of the transducers in the modern day. There is a wealth of proof however demonstrating that modern DACs and amps sound the same.

Your preference of the Grados are rational since transducers do measure differently and these measurements are audible.

Also, don't feel bad: you're with the majority here that subscribe to the audiophile propaganda.
Edited by friend'scatdied - 12/21/11 at 2:52pm
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post #370 of 5049
Depends on the testing methodology as stated. For example, even though ABX tests are valid, the way it's conducted by most people makes their results invalid.

For example, any change of positioning of the head closer towards one speaker over another affects the HRTF and thus frequency response of what you are hearing. Same applies to the positioning of the headphone on the head or the insertion depth of the in-ear. All these are scitifically backed and easy to find for me. Not to mention dynamic range of the track. I'm not talking dynamic range of the medium it's on, but the track's dynamic range. Both entirely different things.

Output impedance in headphone outs are still a major problem in devices these days. This is due to a number of reasons, including 'pre-iPod / stuck in the 1980s' thinking that some electrical engineers still have at some major companies.

The difference in headphones is most obvious via frequency response graphs, but also other things such as impedance matching and HRTF factors.

Honestly don't underrate HRTF factors, particularly in headphones, where it affects the sound significantly, more so than speakers tbh.
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