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View Full Version : How well do the DACs hold up nowadays?



simbo
2015-01-05, 10:03
I've been away from the SB scene for a while (except for using them to, well, listening to music) but my wife bought me a Little Dot I+ headphone amp for Christmas and I think I'm getting the bug again.

So my question is, after all these years, how good are the SB DACs compared to what is on the market these days? The Transporter DAC was considered the best around at the time, if I remember correctly. Even the SB3 DAC was well rated.

How do these compare to some of the cheap small DACs like the FiiO? Do you get better DACs in your mobile phone nowadays than the venerable Transporter?

Cheers all, and happy new year :-)

Fizbin
2015-01-07, 23:52
I think given the fact that a 'modern' external DAC can be plugged into the SB's, it's kind of a moot point whether the internal DAC's have held up.

Gazjam
2015-01-08, 01:01
Fair question though?

Would doubt any mobile phone Dac betters the Transporter!
Did a comparison between the Dac in my TP and my Oppo 103d disc player last night.
Playing same CD from analogue outs of Oppo (using its internal Dac) and comparing with Oppo as transport into Dac of Transporter.

Cd sounded better playing through TP's Dac, conclusion Transporter Dac is better than internal Oppo one.
The Oppo is a high end bluray player/ Universal disc player.

cliveb
2015-01-08, 03:48
Did a comparison between the Dac in my TP and my Oppo 103d disc player last night.
Playing same CD from analogue outs of Oppo (using its internal Dac) and comparing with Oppo as transport into Dac of Transporter.

Cd sounded better playing through TP's Dac, conclusion Transporter Dac is better than internal Oppo one.
The Oppo is a high end bluray player/ Universal disc player.
Was the comparison level-matched? If not, then whichever DAC happens to output a slightly louder signal is likely to sound better (even if the difference in level is small enough that you don't consciously notice a difference in loudness).

Was the comparison sighted? If it was, then subconscious expectation bias will overwhelm any slight audible difference there may be. And it's no good saying "I had no preconceived opinions" - everyone has them, even when they don't know they do.

Gazjam
2015-01-08, 04:33
Was the comparison level-matched? If not, then whichever DAC happens to output a slightly louder signal is likely to sound better (even if the difference in level is small enough that you don't consciously notice a difference in loudness).

Was the comparison sighted? If it was, then subconscious expectation bias will overwhelm any slight audible difference there may be. And it's no good saying "I had no preconceived opinions" - everyone has them, even when they don't know they do.

Know what your saying Clive, but been in the game long enough to know about abx testing, level matching, expectation bias all that good stuff.
Its valid enough, and it was level matched, .but I know my ears and it wasn't a lab experiment ;)

I trust my first impressions, then I sanity check it by going back to how it was before.
World's for me, improvement was obvious and repeatable.

If anything the Transporter being older might have thought the Oppo would have been better.

Too easy to over think these things IMO, enjoying music is a subjective experience really.

poing
2015-01-08, 05:33
If anything the Transporter being older might have thought the Oppo would have been better.
There's no better than transparent.

Gazjam
2015-01-08, 08:02
you misunderstand me, meant that if I had any expectations it would have leant towards the more modern Oppo, :D

Anyway, just a comparison, for fun, to see how I liked the TP dac, and I do.
so all good.

cliveb
2015-01-08, 10:04
...
Its valid enough, and it was level matched, .but I know my ears and it wasn't a lab experiment ;)
Pleased to hear it was level-matched.

But nobody "knows their ears". It has been demonstrated time and time again that what you hear is influenced by *all* stimuli, so a sighted comparison has no validity.


If anything the Transporter being older might have thought the Oppo would have been better.
That's another standard response that doesn't stack up. Just because you consciously think you may have expected the Oppo to be better doesn't alter the fact that you have no idea what your subconscious is thinking. The mind is a complex device that plays all sorts of tricks. Anyone who claims they are immune to these effects is declaring themselves to be a freak.


Too easy to over think these things IMO, enjoying music is a subjective experience really.
Amen to that. Enjoying the music is what really counts. And if a sighted audition causes you to prefer one DAC over another, then that is the one you should use - even if the two DACs actually deliver identical soundfields. There's nothing wrong with preferring a piece of audio equipment because it looks sexy.

Gazjam
2015-01-08, 10:30
Sorry you disagree with my findings Clive, but if your saying that I cant be sure of what I heard...
how can you possibly be?

I said previously I know where you were coming from...you may have missed that.
With respect, I've heard all the circular arguments from both sides over the years and if wether what I say seems like a standard response to you or not, frankly I dont care.
:cool:

jimzak
2015-01-08, 11:45
Know what your saying Clive, but been in the game long enough to know about abx testing, level matching, expectation bias all that good stuff.
Its valid enough, and it was level matched, .but I know my ears and it wasn't a lab experiment ;)

I trust my first impressions, then I sanity check it by going back to how it was before.
World's for me, improvement was obvious and repeatable.

If anything the Transporter being older might have thought the Oppo would have been better.

Too easy to over think these things IMO, enjoying music is a subjective experience really.
From this sample of one I can accept that the Squeezebox DAC sounded no worse in one person's opinion.

markiii
2015-01-08, 11:50
don't suppose you have a Beresford DAC to compare it to do you? be intrigued to see what you think

Gazjam
2015-01-08, 11:53
Shame the OP isnt getting the kind of discussion and help he was looking for.
Ive gave my experience, maybe others might pitch in too.

Gazjam
2015-01-08, 11:55
don't suppose you have a Beresford DAC to compare it to do you? be intrigued to see what you think

Had a few Beresford Dacs in my time, various versions of Stans 6 series, a 7520 and a couple of Caimans.
modded one of them using better capcaitors, op amps etc.
good circuit design, responds well to tinkering.

the Bushmaster is a nice bit of kit.
his Dacs are very good for their price.

audio53
2015-01-08, 13:07
Shame the OP isnt getting the kind of discussion and help he was looking for.
Ive gave my experience, maybe others might pitch in too.

Given the direction this thread has turned to, the OP may get more responses in the Audiophile section.

MichaelJ
2015-01-08, 13:49
I was using my SB Touch with a Schiit Über Bifrost. I added a Sys passive pre-amp and was able to a/b the Touch analog to the Bifrost. I've since sold the Bifrost.
Given that I'm 69 and my hearing rolls off @ 13.5 kHz more sensitive ears may be able to discern subtle differences at higher frequencies, but I'm delighted to simplify my system.

Gazjam
2015-01-09, 01:22
Hooked up my Transporter to my external Dac for the first time last night.
Had a hifi buddy over to have a listen, an interesting night.

Short version,
The Transporter was improved by hooking it up to my M2Tech Young Dac...substantially improved.

We listen to the TP over its analogue outs using its internal Dac and we both really liked it, but thought it was MAYBE a little flat dynamically, but very very listenable.
Hooked it up to the Young and the sound filled out, better timbre scale dynamics...just.better.

Couple of proviso's though:

* The Dac has its own linear power supply and has been heavily modded, so essentially its a 2K Dac.
* Only digital cable I had to hand was a Spdif coax, which I understand might not be as good as a BNC hookup, so may sound even better, who knows.

So my findings and conclusion on the Transporter Dac is that it's very, very good and betters a high end universal disc player, but it CAN be improved.
Though you'd have to hook it up to a pretty special sounding Dac to.do

cliveb
2015-01-09, 02:20
Sorry you disagree with my findings Clive, but if your saying that I cant be sure of what I heard...
how can you possibly be?
I would not presume to question what you heard. You heard a difference and that is not in dispute.

All I am saying is that if you did your comparison sighted, then you cannot conclude that the difference you heard was necessarily due to any difference in the soundfields generated by the two DACs.

Gazjam
2015-01-09, 04:38
I would not presume to question what you heard. You heard a difference and that is not in dispute.

All I am saying is that if you did your comparison sighted, then you cannot conclude that the difference you heard was necessarily due to any difference in the soundfields generated by the two DACs.

Sorry my friend, we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. :)

Your comments DID get me thinking again about the objectivist/subjectivist argument and asked a mate to come over last night to hear my new Transporter.
We use each other to "sanity check" our systems sometimes and have been listening to each others systems for years.
We have no problem saying that the "emperors new clothes" does in fact sound rubbish to each other, and have done in the past. A lot!

We did the same test I did previously, as well as comparing two dacs to the Transporters internal dac and we both came to the same conclusions.

I would posit that sometimes the difference between kit can be obvious enough to over-ride the psychological factors which you mention whilst i absolutely agree they can be a factor.
Particularly so if your talking subtle differences.

But only some of the time ... :)

cliveb
2015-01-09, 10:23
I would posit that sometimes the difference between kit can be obvious enough to over-ride the psychological factors which you mention whilst i absolutely agree they can be a factor.
Particularly so if your talking subtle differences.
Of course sometimes differences are so clear cut that they are obvious.

But modern DACs are sufficiently similar that you really can't ignore the likelihood that non-auditory cues will be the dominant factor in a sighted test.

You really, REALLY cannot ignore the fact that everyone is vulnerable to non-auditory cues causing genuine changes in their perception of what they hear. No amount of protestation that "I know my ears", or "it was so obvious it can't be imaginary" cuts it.

My own "road to Damascus moment" happened when I was comparing two radically different DACs. It was obvious that one of them was more detailed than the other. Then I did a blind comparison and scored precisely 50%.

I'm not saying that you will definitely find there is no difference between your TP, Oppo and M2Tech DACs in a blind trial. But until you actually do that blind trial, you can't know for sure.

Gazjam
2015-01-09, 23:58
Of course sometimes differences are so clear cut that they are obvious.

But modern DACs are sufficiently similar that you really can't ignore the likelihood that non-auditory cues will be the dominant factor in a sighted test.

You really, REALLY cannot ignore the fact that everyone is vulnerable to non-auditory cues causing genuine changes in their perception of what they hear. No amount of protestation that "I know my ears", or "it was so obvious it can't be imaginary" cuts it.

My own "road to Damascus moment" happened when I was comparing two radically different DACs. It was obvious that one of them was more detailed than the other. Then I did a blind comparison and scored precisely 50%.

I'm not saying that you will definitely find there is no difference between your TP, Oppo and M2Tech DACs in a blind trial. But until you actually do that blind trial, you can't know for sure.

Cuts it with whom exactly?
I'm not ignoring anything Clive, whilst disagreeing with it in my case, I've acknowledged your point twice now.

Life's too short, have a cookie. :)

We're interfering with the original posters question, let's lets others Pitch in eh?

poing
2015-01-10, 00:37
I'm not ignoring anything Clive, whilst disagreeing with it in my case, I've acknowledged your point twice now.

You've acknowledged what Clive wrote, yes. But I don't think you've put forth any kind of argument that challenges Clive's point. (His point essentially being that, in addition to the physics/technology of your player, other factors affect what sounds your brain perceives. If you don't control for these other factors, all conclusions you draw are spurious.)

Gazjam
2015-01-10, 01:23
You've acknowledged what Clive wrote, yes. But I don't think you've put forth any kind of argument that challenges Clive's point. (His point essentially being that, in addition to the physics/technology of your player, other factors affect what sounds your brain perceives. If you don't control for these other factors, all conclusions you draw are spurious.)
Why do I have to put forth an argument or challenge anyone's point?
I've related my own personal experience for the benefit of the OP, and that's enough.

I'm off to take a dump, have fun.

poing
2015-01-10, 02:47
Why do I have to put forth an argument or challenge anyone's point?

I didn't state you have to.



I've related my own personal experience for the benefit of the OP, and that's enough.

Yeah, and it has been implied that the OP might want to discount your experiences considering they are based on sighted tests.

simbo
2015-01-13, 09:19
Shame the OP isnt getting the kind of discussion and help he was looking for.
Ive gave my experience, maybe others might pitch in too.
Sorry guys, I've been away (bad timing for posting something so contentious by the looks of things!). Perhaps this was better suited to the Audiophile section, but I don't necessarily see this as an audiophile concern; 10 years ago maybe, but now people are buying DAC attachments for their PCs and mobile phones, new services are providing lossless streaming... normal consumers are now after sound quality, not just convenience, from their digital music.

Chip makers are bringing out new DAC chips all the time, which implies there's been development, but does that mean new DACs are intrinsically better than older ones, in the same way that a new CPU is presumed better than a 10 y/o one?

Does anybody have any experience in purchasing one of these newer small-form DAC devices because they were trying to make their SB better, and if so what were their experiences? Has anyone given up on their SB in favour of their mobile phone?

EDIT: Just wanted to say I appreciate the input so far, even if some of it is heated :-)

Gandhi
2015-01-13, 11:17
I've been away from the SB scene for a while (except for using them to, well, listening to music) but my wife bought me a Little Dot I+ headphone amp for Christmas and I think I'm getting the bug again.

So my question is, after all these years, how good are the SB DACs compared to what is on the market these days? The Transporter DAC was considered the best around at the time, if I remember correctly. Even the SB3 DAC was well rated.

How do these compare to some of the cheap small DACs like the FiiO? Do you get better DACs in your mobile phone nowadays than the venerable Transporter?

Cheers all, and happy new year :-)

If you've been away a long time, perhaps you have yet to discover Archimago's enlightening measurements of many different audio devices?

http://archimago.blogspot.ca

simbo
2015-01-14, 12:06
If you've been away a long time, perhaps you have yet to discover Archimago's enlightening measurements of many different audio devices?

http://archimago.blogspot.ca
Interesting... thanks. The jist seems to be, for 16-bit streams all DACs are much of a muchness, but for 24-bit streams, the SBs still hold their own.