I. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) ADC Loopback
|Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen), THD, noise level in loopback.|
II. Topping D30 DAC
Now, on to the Topping D30 measurements. As you can see from the reviews discussing the DAC's features (such as this one), this device is rather flexible with USB input as well as both coaxial and TosLink SPDIF. Outputs are single-ended RCA.
III. Listening tests
Thank you Greg for that excellent write-up which also included the loopback results from the Scarlett 2i2 DAC/ADC. The objective results of the Topping D30 certainly look good and I really like how you took the time to perform the listening tests! The fact that you were unclear about which input cable connected to which DAC is a nice twist on being "blinded" :-). Might be a good way to reduce bias if one can't get a friend or family member to help randomize for listening tests so long as levels were matched before hand.
Also, that qualitative comment about 0.5dB difference is an important one to keep in mind. Often we are told that a 1dB difference is the threshold of audibility for amplitude change. I agree with Greg that it's lower than that. Even if we cannot fully verbalize the experience, small differences like 0.5dB can be perceived as "different" and typically, a slightly louder sound of +0.5dB will be "preferred" as the better-sounder version in comparisons.
Obviously we must not disparage the importance of our ears and mind as the facilities from which we perceive the complex emotional tapestry of music. This is a fact to be celebrated. But as an actual "instrument", I agree with Greg that human hearing is understood to be far from a "precision measuring device".
I hope readers who might have strong beliefs in audible differences of high-fidelity DACs but have never tried a level-matched, preferably blinded, comparisons like this consider Greg's article as encouragement to experiment for yourself. Seems to me like the Topping D30 doesn't "sound like ass". :-)
Thanks again, Greg!
In other news this week... I see Darko is tripling down on the idea that "USB cables make a difference". As you probably know, I discussed this topic last week. Good to see that he's now arguing with some objective data like the 8kHz noise (which we've known about for years) that is not a problem with any decent DAC I've ever come across. Realize though that the argument was never about people hearing an 8kHz tone from their DACs (even that graph he posted showed a -105dB tone!). It was the idea that typically expensive digital cables (like these he reviewed a couple years ago) lowered audible noise, improved frequency effects ("filtering", better bass and treble), and improved jitter. Sure, USB data errors happen (in reference to Gordon Rankin's screenshot) - just get better cables that don't have to be expensive. Juergen Reis' quote in the article about PHY noise and jitter does not suggest that cables are the culprit nor that cables could "fix" a problematic, jittery DAC as far as I can tell.
The funny thing is that Darko is framing this subjective awareness of USB cable differences as some kind of transitioning "period pain". Perhaps insinuating that something like a "paradigm shift" is happening in digital audio thinking!? (Not working so well for MQA.) Supposedly, like the Earth is "spherical" vs. "flat", he reckons that his subjective opinion on USB cables (Industry-supported with interviews and such) leans toward the "spherical" side of the argument and will eventually be proven right? Well, I'll take my chances betting that audiophiles will turn to being "more objective" and discard the vast majority of cable beliefs, the "need" for expensive cables and associated groundless rationalizations fueled mostly by the advertising budgets of the last few decades. That kind of fantastical thinking is IMO regressive, a return to superstitions.
To me it's a bit disappointing that Simaudio would talk about stuff like USB cables (1:40) as I've always viewed them as quite reasonable fellow Canadians aiming to produce rational audio products. Looks like Costa Koulisakis, the "Director of Training" is more on the sales and marketing side than holding a technical portfolio in the company, thus not introduced as an "expert" in the article. As usual, we see more hand-waving around "listening tests" with zero details provided. Much of this is clearly nonsense and not applicable to the majority of audiophile systems.
The recognition that the Earth is spherical (or more accurately "oblate spheroid") belongs in the domain of natural sciences discovered and verified to be true by various objective means. Remember, USB cables (and digital audio in general) are products of human engineering with properties endowed by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF). Let's not be so grandiose as to suggest that the belief in fancy USB cables is in any way approaching a fundamental understanding of the natural world! Here's a thought, maybe Darko should interview some engineers in USB-IF companies to hear their thoughts on the "sound" of USB cables or even whether "bits are bits"... After all, they are the Creators of the various versions of the digital interface standard since 1996!
Eventually, knowledge like "the Earth is spherical" becomes self-evident for modern humanity; surely there's no need to call in an "expert" every time someone comes around and screams "The world is flat!", right? Isn't this where we are with USB cables (and many other esoteric audiophile beliefs)? Experts need only be called if there is evidence to challenge the default belief, to determine the validity of such findings. Where is the evidence that one "needs" to or "should" spend more than a generous US$50 on USB cables to make any sonic difference?
The world is not black & white. Audiophiles are not either "experts" or "sheep". Just because one might not be an "expert" does not mean one is uneducated, cannot do a bit of research, or unable to activate one's critical thinking abilities. Those are I believe also the hallmarks of good, honest journalists. I suggest that Mr. Darko do a bit more research and soul-searching looking outside the audiophile bubble instead of following along just with Industry "experts" eager to give interviews. (I realize that I'm making an assumption here that he sees himself as a journalist. Perhaps in reality his role is as a "salesman" in which case he's probably doing a fine job for the companies.)
As usual, enjoy the music! Recently I've been digging into the works of Jerry Garcia's later years and his collaborations with David Grisman... There's the well known Garcia/Grisman (1991, available as SACD and 24/96, DR14), also 1993's Not For Kids Only, the jazzy Miles Davis cover So What, The Pizza Tapes with guitarist Tony Rice, and the posthumous Shady Grove that came out the year after Garcia's death. Generally, excellent acoustic recordings with good sound to feed the hi-fi. ;-)
And remember to do the blind test. Remember that I'm simply looking for honest results. Responses are collected completely anonymously, and a negative result is just as useful and as important as one who hears clear differences.