Saturday 28 May 2022

MUSINGS: The hunt for -150dB THD with the Victor's 1kHz Oscillator; A look at Paul K.'s Multitone Loopback Analyzer; And the pinnacle of audio streamer pricing? The Wadax Atlantis Reference Server. (And REW IMD vs. Level Step!)

I like a good challenge ;-). A few weeks ago, in my post on the E1DA Cosmos APU, in the comments, MG discussed achieving THD -155dB on the Victor's Oscillator! In my original post, I showed a picture of -141dB. Subsequently, I then fiddled around with the set-up and achieved around -148dB.

Well, on one of my lazy afternoons, I thought I might as well give this another try. The aim - at least THD of -150dB. So I packed up some parts I needed and moved it into the quietest room (electrically and acoustically) in my house. Bits and pieces laid out on my ottoman where I place drinks on late night listening sessions. ;-)

Clearly this would have to be run off battery power to remove any mains hum. I went with my trusty RME ADI-2 Pro FS ADC, powered by a 12V/8300mAh TalentCell lithium battery pack for convenience in case I needed to fool around with input voltage settings. The E1DA Cosmos APU was powered with a 5V battery pack.

Saturday 21 May 2022

A Look at ADC Noise Limits and Distortion - Or "How much difference does the Cosmos APU make?" And a look at 2-channel Room EQ Wizard measurements!

I received a few questions as a follow-up to last week's post about the E1DA Cosmos APU basically around the question: "When do I need a pre-amp/notch filter like that if I have a high resolution ADC?"

That's a great question! Let's spend some time looking into this...

Now, the first thing to be mindful of is that our DACs and ADCs are not perfectly linear devices, nor have limitless low-noise performance of course. This is why we measure the limits of DACs to gauge the extent of "accuracy". And ADCs likewise have limits as well to their intrinsic noise level and potential for distortion. As we approach the limit of the ADC's performance, it will start introducing its own characteristics into the captured signal which could look like noise anomalies as well as harmonics - like DACs, there is an ADC THD+N.

In this post, let's run some practical "experiments" of sorts using the Cosmos ADC and RME ADI-2 Pro FS to examine these ADC limits when measuring DAC dynamic range and THD+N/SINAD with and without the aid of the Cosmos APU.

Saturday 14 May 2022

EARLY LOOK: E1DA Cosmos APU - high performance, low-noise pre-amp and 1/10kHz notch filter. [Quick peek - S.M.S.L. DO100 DAC.]

Readers on the blog will likely remember that last year, Ivan Khlyupin (aka IVX on a number of forums) of E1DA sent me a pre-production Cosmos ADC for testing and use. As discussed then, this affordable ADC unit turned out to be a remarkably capable device using the ESS Sabre ES9822Pro chip at a very reasonable price. With recent price upheavals, currently on Amazon for a Grade B device with SNR 127+/-1dB(A) in mono mode, it's selling for just less than US$250.

There were already discussions last year that the "Cosmos" line of devices would include the one we'll be talking about today - the Cosmos Analog Processing Unit (APU). As the name implies, this is an analogue device that serves the purpose of (pre)amplification with very low noise, also providing a 1kHz notch for accurate measurements of THD+N/SINAD as we typically see in DAC reviews.

With the APU near production release (possibly next month or so), Ivan again kindly sent me a unit for use here on the blog. Using the combination of Cosmos APU + good ADC (doesn't have to be Cosmos ADC), the user should be able to peer down into the noise limits and measure characteristics like dynamic range, and THD+N/SINAD with great accuracy even beyond the limits of modern state-of-the-art DACs.

Saturday 7 May 2022

DEMO: Software de-clipping of dynamically compressed recordings (Red Hot Chili Peppers' Unlimited Love). On "Why you can't trust audio measurements". And "Those Obscure Objects of Desire" - Utility and Luxury.

Let's get right to the heart of the issue with the diagram above!

There have been discussions among audio sites like Audiophile Style and Darko Audio that this latest album from RHCP - Unlimited Love (2022, average DR7) - is their most "audiophile-friendly". 

Flea, the band's bassist, tweeted on April 1st (hope not meant to be April Fools' joke!):

“For you audiophiles out there, the new RHCP record is mastered directly from the tape we recorded it on, no computers, no lame compression or limiters”

In the image above, I extracted the last minute from track 1 ("Black Summer"), a portion of the music which is quite loud for a peek at the waveform. One look at the original data clearly shows that the music has gone through a compression step at some point in order to create that "flat top" DR5 in the image above. Flea is wrong.

Whether this happened in the recording, mixing, or mastering steps, who knows. The clear use of dynamic compression is present in both the 24/96 version and on the CD. Clearly, music like this does not benefit from the "hi-res" 24/96 version so I would recommend saving your money if you're tempted to purchase a download. As usual, be critical when buying hi-res.