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rega dac, cdq, young dac bake off

Discussion in 'audio' started by bottleneck, Feb 3, 2011.

  1. ItemAudio

    ItemAudio Trade: Item Audio

    If you're sorted for Audiolab, I won't bring the 8200. In response to the request, I'll bring the Zodiac Plus, and maybe Gold, instead. I'll also pack cable.

    From experience, it may be useful to agree the MO before the day - planning saves time.

    For instance, do we audition all digital front ends with a sensitive DAC* first, then use the best transport as a level playing field on which to judge the DACs?

    Or would you prefer to compare indivisible transport + DAC combinations? Ie: Squeezebox + Young vs NVA box vs laptop + Wyred 4 Sound DAC?

    The danger of the 'paired' approach is that we might strike on a great combination, but not know whether to credit the DAC or transport - or whether that combo could be improved with a different partner . . .

    Personally, I favour the first approach, which tends to arrive at a more helpful 'best sound of the day' verdict. What do you think?

    * I've found the Benchmark DAC1 to be a great tool for this purpose: most know what it sounds like, which sets a handy performance baseline; it's very transparent, super sensitive to input changes, and still considered the 'converter to beat below £1K' in certain circles.


    I agree that having the listening format in place upfront will make things much easier - as it's Chris' bash then it's up to him how we run things

    In my day-job ( least when I have a contact) I make heavy use of statistical analysis, and if the thinking was to try and score/rank the DAC's, or use some form of scale to define the "sound" then I'm happy to do the number crunching in Minitab and make some pretty pictures, and even help on the format/design of experiment

    Of course..that might well be overkill and add too much formality, but if Chris was leaning in that direction I'm happy to help
  3. reverendo

    reverendo pfm Member

    a very interesting and sound way to go about the whole process. great thinking
    BTW, the Zodiac Gold is already out? :eek: now I'm even more than interested in your collective and indiviual findings... if any of those who are participating have twitter this event DEFINITELY would be worth twitting
    best regards

    PS: with the Gold in the game you could even compare using them straight into the amp? ;) OTOH you guys are already going to have enough to do throughout the day.
  4. ItemAudio

    ItemAudio Trade: Item Audio

    The meat of the meet should probably be to compare the Sabre-based offerings from M2Tech, Wyred 4 Sound and Audiolab, vs the Rega and Emotiva for title of best (favourite?) sub £1K DAC.

    The Calyx and Zodiac DACs - particular the Gold, with the external PSU - are in a different league: they want to remain unlistened to until the end of the day, otherwise they'll spoil us!

    Auditioning the transports first, with a single DAC, is a good MO, in my opinion - but ultimately it's the host's call . . .

    How we rank them is a different kettle of fish: I've tried to standardise on a number of factors, each marked out of 10, 15 or 20, to give a Parker's wine-style rating, but it's tough to legislate in a group, and there's often a distinction between 'favourite' and 'best' - especially when our listening impressions are going to be framed by a specific system, and acoustic.

    Bottleneck: can I ask a really important question at this point: what does your room sound like?
  5. bcwang

    bcwang Active Member

    All the equipment will be well broken in before the event I hope.


    it's the legislating as a group which is difficult here - if one person only is "scoring" then a numerical system can work well (although a defined number system like scoring out of 10 is fraught with dangers, because for the first couple of comparisons you have no frame of reference for the differences, and so can easily over/under score these first 2/3 and then invalidate the scale for later trials - best to use an open-ended value, a bit like Martin Collums does).

    That said, we are dealing here with subjective/qualitative data, and in this kind of situation I would recommend a simple ranking system, alongside maybe a check-box system to highlight the sound presentation

    Easiest way to do the ranking is with post-it notes, each with the specific source/dac combo written on (or the combo number, for blind testing), which can be moved around and re-ordered as new combo's are played, and each listener ends up with their own ranking, a bit like the lap board on Top Gear, which can then be compared statistically with each other to see if there are any concensus views

    I think having each person comment on the sound using a pre-defined chart, with basic terminology like "detailed", "bright", "bassy", "soft" etc is also useful, because a) it can be compared to the post-its and analysed to see if there was a correlation between the "sound" and the ranking, and also help others who cannot attend to get a feel for the sound and maybe help them with a choice

    It sound a bit of a faff, but it s actually quite easy, and much better than a free-for-all - If Chris wants to give an indication of how he wants this to work I'm happy to set things up and do the analysis, but am equally happy if he has another preference - it's his gig :)
  7. figlet108

    figlet108 Member

    Hi Bottleneck,

    really appreciate you making such a great effort arranging this - looking like a excellent line up of kit to compare and I'm sure lots of people will benefit from it.

    Looking forward to meeting everyone on the day and having a chance to hear all the kit.

    On the topic of "NVA (yes, yes, I know RD is banned)" I'd really appreciate it if everyone knew that I'm now collaborating with NVA to produce a line of HiFi PCs, so NVA isn't just RD anymore, and also I am very much not RD.

    Hopefully I can share some of my digital / PC experiance on the day and here on the forum.

  8. anubisgrau

    anubisgrau pfm Member

    M2Tech seems not to be a Sabre DAC - rather Burr Brown 1795 as reported on other forum.

    EDIT: bottleneck, pls clear up your private message inbox, it's full
  9. figlet108

    figlet108 Member


    yes I agree with your general methodology for assessing the qualities of the sound. One added technique that I use that Bottleneck may find useful is to try and separate out more 'objective' observations from subjective ones.

    What I mean is that often a group will agree that one sound has say the bass dominating over the mid, but they will disagree as to which is 'better' or more pleasing.
    In this case we could document the 'objective' characteristic with no value judgement, separately to the listeners preferences.

    After all, when you get a bunch of very good kit together there is often no good or bad, just different presentations that different people will prefer.

  10. Purité Audio

    Purité Audio Trade: Purite Audio

    Now five transports and ten dacs, far far too much, I would just use your PC as source, connect the Async dacs directly into the PC and use one USB/s/pdif converter for the others.
  11. bottleneck

    bottleneck pfm Member

    Hi All

    While I'll be doing my best to ensure level-matching between the DACS with a sound meter, what we have is a sighted test, and therefore scoring doesn't seem appropriate.

    Additionally, largely what I expect to see (based on other bake-offs) are preferences being expressed - not a better/worse scenario, just different strokes for different folks.

    I'm quite happy for people to say what they think of different combinations afterwards, and that's part of all this, but I'd hate to think there is one winner and ten losers.. hifi rarely works that way IME.

    For a format, I selfishly wish to know what sounds best with my squeezebox 3. .. so first up will be firing through with that. It's selfish, but hey ho :D... and there's a lot of folks out there with Squeezeboxes.

    Item Audio - if you can bring your ''squeezebox 3 improvers'' along, that would be interesting too.

    Then, I'd suggest we have a simply comparison of the SB3 with a PC server solution. How much does the SB3 lose out to a dedicated PC?

    We can run through the DACs again.

    Finally, one final run-through all the DACs I'd suggest - this time with a dedicated CD transport - Guildford's Heed transport should be there (reminds me I need to call them!!).

    Would this solution work for everyone?

    Lastly, I know there are more and more parameters we COULD change.. for example cable change, mains changes, even amplifier changes, but we will lose all coherence going to far down this path, so would like to keep the above the same.

    How does this sound to all?

  12. bottleneck

    bottleneck pfm Member


    going to send out some PMs now, with contact details.

    Let me know if you dont get one and are coming.
  13. Purité Audio

    Purité Audio Trade: Purite Audio

    Chris Hi, sounds good to me ,all the dacs will accept s/pdif from the Squeezebox, it would be nice if you had time to listen to the Async USB dacs using your PC as source , the W4S ,Antelope, and M2Tech ,are primarily designed for' computer audio'.
  14. Markus S

    Markus S 41 - 29

    Just to clarify:

    Discussion of Richard Dunn the person is disallowed under the banned members clause of the AUP.

    pfm is perfectly happy with discussion of NVA-branded equipment.

    Markus - moderating
  15. Markus S

    Markus S 41 - 29

  16. anubisgrau

    anubisgrau pfm Member

    i would also suggest to reduce to two transports. not much sense in testing CD-transports this time when most of the users switch to computer & squeezebox (me included).

    these two would be perfectly enough - PC/mac and SB. just don't mix the transports before you make a round of all the selected DACs.

    not sure if more than 5 DACs per session wouldn't make too much confusion in panelists' heads. at least i get lost after changing 3 devices for testing but there you go.

    2 cents from here;)
  17. figlet108

    figlet108 Member

    I agree we should reduce the number of transports too.
    My proposal to Bottleneck was to use the NVA TFS as the computer transport as you can connect directly to USB DACs and spdif DACs without any converters so there is consistency.

    And then obviously have the Squeezebox as a transport as that's Bottleneck's main interest.

  18. Purité Audio

    Purité Audio Trade: Purite Audio

    Jason hi, that sounds ok, is your box Linux based?
    Vb Keith.


    Hi Jason,

    That is exactly what I was getting at by having 2 "systems" - a personal ranking for preference (post-its) and a more general one based on sound aspects - bassy, detailed etc

    As you say, this goes some way to separating the subjective and objective, and will also allow us to statistically distinguish the listening preferences of those attending - i.e I might like detail and control and you might like bass and PRAT, which will affect our ranking. My software will allow us to highlight these and take account for them

    As an aside - really looking forward to meeting up with everyone, and I will definitely collar Jason, as I built my own "music-only" PC last year, so am really interested in his views


    oops - sorry - posted without seeing Chris' preference to not scoring - fine with me - please ignore my previous comment

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