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Phillip Kerman
2004-11-22, 21:59
> Couple of other questions concerning the analogue outputs (I am
> considering using the squeezebox directly into a power amplifier or I
> may use the digital out to external DAC and preamp):
>
> 1. What is the analogue quality like, What is the DAC make and model?

The analog output is definitely noticeably poor compared to pumping the
digital through a good DAC. I have a Rotel RSX1056 and it's nearly night
and day (the difference between SB's analog and its digital). I also
listened on a moderate Denon receiver with the same conclusion.

I don't know the DAC make/model but you can figure it's not a huge part of
the budget for the SB.

Thanks,
Phillip

Robin Bowes
2004-11-23, 02:19
Phillip Kerman wrote:
>>Couple of other questions concerning the analogue outputs (I am
>>considering using the squeezebox directly into a power amplifier or I
>>may use the digital out to external DAC and preamp):
>>
>>1. What is the analogue quality like, What is the DAC make and model?
>
>
> The analog output is definitely noticeably poor compared to pumping the
> digital through a good DAC. I have a Rotel RSX1056 and it's nearly night
> and day (the difference between SB's analog and its digital). I also
> listened on a moderate Denon receiver with the same conclusion.
>
> I don't know the DAC make/model but you can figure it's not a huge part of
> the budget for the SB.

Interesting.

I've done some initial tests [1] (more to follow eh, Simon??) and my
conclusion was that yes, an external DAC does improve the sound but it's
not what I would call "night and day" by a long chalk. I found the
internal Squeezebox DAC remarkably good.

I would say you need to spend quite a bit on the other outboard gear
(amp/speakers) to get to a stage where you would really notice much
improvement with an external DAC. I can't find an indicative price for
the Rotel RSX1056 but it certainly isn't budget hi-fi!

R.
--
http://robinbowes.com

Robin Bowes
2004-11-23, 03:02
Robin Bowes wrote:
> I've done some initial tests [1] (more to follow eh, Simon??)

[1] I've auditioned the Squeezebox with a Perpetual Technologies P3-A
both with and without the P1-A correction engine, and also with an Arcam
delta Black Box 5.

Perhaps this is a good time to mention that I find the (analogue) output
level of the Squeezebox significantly lower than all of the DACs making
AB testing rather difficult.

Is there anything that can be done in firmware that can up the output
level at all?

R.
--
http://robinbowes.com

Mike Kozlowski
2004-11-23, 09:01
On Mon, 22 Nov 2004, Phillip Kerman wrote:

>> Couple of other questions concerning the analogue outputs (I am
>> considering using the squeezebox directly into a power amplifier or I
>> may use the digital out to external DAC and preamp):
>>
>> 1. What is the analogue quality like, What is the DAC make and model?
>
> The analog output is definitely noticeably poor compared to pumping the
> digital through a good DAC. I have a Rotel RSX1056 and it's nearly night
> and day (the difference between SB's analog and its digital). I also
> listened on a moderate Denon receiver with the same conclusion.

This is not at all my experience. I hooked the SB up to a Benchmark DAC-1
and when A/B-ing the SB->preamp and SB->DAC->preamp connections, couldn't
tell a bit of difference.

It's possible that the differences you were hearing were due to DSP
processing on the receiver.

--
Mike Kozlowski
http://www.klio.org/mlk/

windguy2@accesscomm.ca
2004-11-23, 11:49
That's positive news, what kind of preamp, amp, speakers, etc do you
have. I have Quad amp and Vandersteen speakers and am thinking of
using the Squeezebox as a preamp with my passive preamp/switchbox.

Mike.

On Nov 23, 2004, at 10:01 AM, Mike Kozlowski wrote:

> On Mon, 22 Nov 2004, Phillip Kerman wrote:
>
>>> Couple of other questions concerning the analogue outputs (I am
>>> considering using the squeezebox directly into a power amplifier or I
>>> may use the digital out to external DAC and preamp):
>>>
>>> 1. What is the analogue quality like, What is the DAC make and model?
>>
>> The analog output is definitely noticeably poor compared to pumping
>> the
>> digital through a good DAC. I have a Rotel RSX1056 and it's nearly
>> night
>> and day (the difference between SB's analog and its digital). I also
>> listened on a moderate Denon receiver with the same conclusion.
>
> This is not at all my experience. I hooked the SB up to a Benchmark
> DAC-1 and when A/B-ing the SB->preamp and SB->DAC->preamp connections,
> couldn't tell a bit of difference.
>
> It's possible that the differences you were hearing were due to DSP
> processing on the receiver.
>
> --
> Mike Kozlowski
> http://www.klio.org/mlk/
>
>

Mark Bennett
2004-11-23, 13:49
I'm sorry, but I really have to disagree on this.

I have compared the headphone socket on the SB against the
headphone o/p of a DAC-1 using Sennheiser HD590 headphones
(using lossless compression etc.) and the difference is
obvious.

I've also compared the analogue outs with the outputs of the
DAC-1 on a "high" end Naim/Kef Reference system and again
the difference is very noticeable.

Listening to a good external DAC makes a difference, and if
you're going to the effort of using lossless compression and
streaming uncompressed then the internal DAC may not meet
your expectations.

In particular the bass extension is lacking, along with worse
stereo imaging and clarity at higher frequencies.

Don't get me wrong - in my view the SB DAC isn't bad. In fact
it's pretty good for the price, is at least as good as the DAC
you'd find in the better audio sources in this price range,
and is probably similar to the performance of a basic
receiver.

In a high-end system, and I got the impression from the
original questions that we were talking about a high end
system, it just doesn't cut it.

On Tue, 2004-11-23 at 16:01, Mike Kozlowski wrote:
> On Mon, 22 Nov 2004, Phillip Kerman wrote:
>
> >> Couple of other questions concerning the analogue outputs (I am
> >> considering using the squeezebox directly into a power amplifier or I
> >> may use the digital out to external DAC and preamp):
> >>
> >> 1. What is the analogue quality like, What is the DAC make and model?
> >
> > The analog output is definitely noticeably poor compared to pumping the
> > digital through a good DAC. I have a Rotel RSX1056 and it's nearly night
> > and day (the difference between SB's analog and its digital). I also
> > listened on a moderate Denon receiver with the same conclusion.
>
> This is not at all my experience. I hooked the SB up to a Benchmark DAC-1
> and when A/B-ing the SB->preamp and SB->DAC->preamp connections, couldn't
> tell a bit of difference.
>
> It's possible that the differences you were hearing were due to DSP
> processing on the receiver.

Robin Bowes
2004-11-23, 14:26
Mark Bennett wrote:
> I'm sorry, but I really have to disagree on this.

To nip potential audiophile arguments in the bud I would just like to
point out that we seem to be in raging agreement here.

The bottom line seems to be that some folk will notice a difference when
using some external DACs. It really depends on your ear and what you are
used to listening to.

If you're into audio/hi-fi and have a "high-end" (whatever that might
mean) system then you will almost certainly hear an improvement if you
use a better quality, external DAC, especially with lossless formats.

However, the quality of the stock Squeezebox output is as good as (if
not better than) most digital sources in the same price bracket, i.e.
$200-300.

R.

--
http://robinbowes.com

Mark Bennett
2004-11-23, 15:05
Agreed.

I was really reacting to Mike Kozlowski's email stating his
experience that there was no discernable difference. In
reality your mileage may vary depending on your ears, listening
habits and the rest of the system.


On Tue, 2004-11-23 at 21:26, Robin Bowes wrote:
> Mark Bennett wrote:
> > I'm sorry, but I really have to disagree on this.
>
> To nip potential audiophile arguments in the bud I would just like to
> point out that we seem to be in raging agreement here.
>
> The bottom line seems to be that some folk will notice a difference when
> using some external DACs. It really depends on your ear and what you are
> used to listening to.
>
> If you're into audio/hi-fi and have a "high-end" (whatever that might
> mean) system then you will almost certainly hear an improvement if you
> use a better quality, external DAC, especially with lossless formats.
>
> However, the quality of the stock Squeezebox output is as good as (if
> not better than) most digital sources in the same price bracket, i.e.
> $200-300.
>
> R.

Robin Bowes
2004-11-23, 16:01
Mark Bennett wrote:
> Agreed.
>
> I was really reacting to Mike Kozlowski's email stating his
> experience that there was no discernable difference. In
> reality your mileage may vary depending on your ears, listening
> habits and the rest of the system.

And I guess my point is that if he can't hear any difference then he;ll
save a lot of money on audio products! :)

R.
--
http://robinbowes.com

Mike Kozlowski
2004-11-23, 16:08
On Tue, 23 Nov 2004, Mark Bennett wrote:

> I have compared the headphone socket on the SB against the
> headphone o/p of a DAC-1 using Sennheiser HD590 headphones
> (using lossless compression etc.) and the difference is
> obvious.

Headphone output, yes. The headphone output on the Squeezebox is
apparently junk (or, at least, not up to driving HD-580s); it sounds
noticeably bad.

> I've also compared the analogue outs with the outputs of the
> DAC-1 on a "high" end Naim/Kef Reference system and again
> the difference is very noticeable.

This, however, I again have to say, I just didn't get at all. I'm running
WMA Lossless streamed as PCM; the downstream equipment is a Parasound
P/LD-2000 two-channel preamp and HCA-1500 amp into Paradigm Studio 100
speakers. I also tried listening to HD-580 headphones directly out of the
DAC-1 and the P/LD-2000's headphone jacks. In both cases, once I adjusted
the DAC's volume downward, the output was indistinguishable. I could
almost convince myself that there was a slight difference, but only almost
-- certainly, there was nothing I'd describe as "night and day".

--
Mike Kozlowski
http://www.klio.org/mlk/

Mike Kozlowski
2004-11-23, 16:17
On Tue, 23 Nov 2004, Robin Bowes wrote:

> Mark Bennett wrote:
>> Agreed.
>>
>> I was really reacting to Mike Kozlowski's email stating his
>> experience that there was no discernable difference. In
>> reality your mileage may vary depending on your ears, listening
>> habits and the rest of the system.
>
> And I guess my point is that if he can't hear any difference then he;ll save
> a lot of money on audio products! :)

But I can hear other differences, see. Upgrading my speakers from
Paradigm Mini-Monitors to Studio 100s was a huge, genuinely "night and
day" difference. The difference between a PlayStation as a CD player and
pretty much any real mass-market player is subtler, but still pretty
obvious. The difference between the Squeezebox's analog outs and the
digital out through a DAC-1 was essentially non-existent.

I'm not saying that nobody could ever tell a difference, necessarily; but
a) I simply can't believe the "night and day" descriptions some use, and
b) if someone with a Squeezebox wants to improve their sound, they'd
probably be better served dropping an extra grand on speakers than
worrying about the DAC.

--
Mike Kozlowski
http://www.klio.org/mlk/

Robin Bowes
2004-11-23, 16:40
Mike Kozlowski wrote:
> On Tue, 23 Nov 2004, Robin Bowes wrote:
>
>> Mark Bennett wrote:
>>
>>> Agreed.
>>>
>>> I was really reacting to Mike Kozlowski's email stating his
>>> experience that there was no discernable difference. In
>>> reality your mileage may vary depending on your ears, listening
>>> habits and the rest of the system.
>>
>>
>> And I guess my point is that if he can't hear any difference then
>> he;ll save a lot of money on audio products! :)
>
>
> But I can hear other differences, see. Upgrading my speakers from
> Paradigm Mini-Monitors to Studio 100s was a huge, genuinely "night and
> day" difference. The difference between a PlayStation as a CD player
> and pretty much any real mass-market player is subtler, but still pretty
> obvious. The difference between the Squeezebox's analog outs and the
> digital out through a DAC-1 was essentially non-existent.
>
> I'm not saying that nobody could ever tell a difference, necessarily;
> but a) I simply can't believe the "night and day" descriptions some use,
> and b) if someone with a Squeezebox wants to improve their sound, they'd
> probably be better served dropping an extra grand on speakers than
> worrying about the DAC.

Mike,

I don't know you, or your setup, or how tuned in your ear is to audio,
but I really wouldn't worry about it. One person's "night and day" is
another's "can't hear any difference". The thing is, once you "hear" a
flaw in your system then you can't stop hearing it and you end up being
driven to improving your system to get rid of it. It's a treadmill, and
if you're not careful it's difficult to get off!

The important thing in any audio setup is whether or not you are happy
with it. Some folk are never happy; others can't hear the difference
between cheap all-in-one and high-end separates; most fall somewhere
in-between. Just go with what your own ears tell you.

I'll say again, I believe the Squeezebox is on a par with most digital
sources in the same price bracket, i.e. $200-$300. Sure, an external DAC
can give better sound but, like you say, the rest of the system has got
to be right first.

R.
--
http://robinbowes.com

Mike Kozlowski
2004-11-23, 17:32
On Tue, 23 Nov 2004, Robin Bowes wrote:

> Mike Kozlowski wrote:

>> But I can hear other differences, see. Upgrading my speakers from Paradigm
>> Mini-Monitors to Studio 100s was a huge, genuinely "night and day"
>> difference. The difference between a PlayStation as a CD player and pretty
>> much any real mass-market player is subtler, but still pretty obvious. The
>> difference between the Squeezebox's analog outs and the digital out through
>> a DAC-1 was essentially non-existent.
>>
>> I'm not saying that nobody could ever tell a difference, necessarily; but
>> a) I simply can't believe the "night and day" descriptions some use, and b)
>> if someone with a Squeezebox wants to improve their sound, they'd probably
>> be better served dropping an extra grand on speakers than worrying about
>> the DAC.
>
> I don't know you, or your setup, or how tuned in your ear is to audio, but I
> really wouldn't worry about it. One person's "night and day" is another's
> "can't hear any difference".

I'm not worried about it. I'm telling people who are wondering whether an
external DAC will be an improvement that, in my experience, as someone
who's listening to good equipment and cares rather more than I ought
about sound quality, the answer is a decided "No." Short of buying some
funky tube DAC, it probably won't hurt, but it doesn't seem to help,
either.

Which is, really, a pity, because now I have to go to the hassle of
returning this DAC (and accept that I'm not going to get any magic bullets
that make things sound "night and day" better just by swapping out
electronics).

--
Mike Kozlowski
http://www.klio.org/mlk/

Robin Bowes
2004-11-24, 00:52
Mike Kozlowski wrote:
>
> I'm not worried about it. I'm telling people who are wondering whether
> an external DAC will be an improvement that, in my experience, as
> someone who's listening to good equipment and cares rather more than I
> ought about sound quality, the answer is a decided "No." Short of
> buying some funky tube DAC, it probably won't hurt, but it doesn't seem
> to help, either.

Mike,

Your experiences areas valid as anyone elses, but by the same token,
everyone elses' experiences are just as valid as yours. Most folk who
have responded to this thread (and other similar threads) seem to
experience a noticeable improvement when using an external DAC.

Yet again, I'll summarise by saying that I believe the Squeezebox is on
a par with most digital sources in the same price bracket, i.e.
$200-$300. Sure, an external DAC can give better sound but, like you
say, the rest of the system has got to be right first.

> Which is, really, a pity, because now I have to go to the hassle of
> returning this DAC (and accept that I'm not going to get any magic
> bullets that make things sound "night and day" better just by swapping
> out electronics).

Look on the bright side and think how much you're saving! :)

R.
--
http://robinbowes.com

Mark Bennett
2004-11-24, 01:11
Just to show how pointless this debate is getting, I actually
thought it was the other way round.

In fact to me, the headphone output does a remarkable job
of driving the headphones, compared to the difference heard
on the Naim/Kef system.

Still, everyone will have different experiences with this, so
it clearly varies.

On Tue, 2004-11-23 at 23:08, Mike Kozlowski wrote:
> On Tue, 23 Nov 2004, Mark Bennett wrote:
>
> > I have compared the headphone socket on the SB against the
> > headphone o/p of a DAC-1 using Sennheiser HD590 headphones
> > (using lossless compression etc.) and the difference is
> > obvious.
>
> Headphone output, yes. The headphone output on the Squeezebox is
> apparently junk (or, at least, not up to driving HD-580s); it sounds
> noticeably bad.
>
> > I've also compared the analogue outs with the outputs of the
> > DAC-1 on a "high" end Naim/Kef Reference system and again
> > the difference is very noticeable.
>
> This, however, I again have to say, I just didn't get at all. I'm running
> WMA Lossless streamed as PCM; the downstream equipment is a Parasound
> P/LD-2000 two-channel preamp and HCA-1500 amp into Paradigm Studio 100
> speakers. I also tried listening to HD-580 headphones directly out of the
> DAC-1 and the P/LD-2000's headphone jacks. In both cases, once I adjusted
> the DAC's volume downward, the output was indistinguishable. I could
> almost convince myself that there was a slight difference, but only almost
> -- certainly, there was nothing I'd describe as "night and day".