Saturday 20 April 2024

As We Hear It: Audiophile cable truths, claims, and reviewer age. Multichannel "madness"?

Hey everyone, this week let's have a look at a recent E-mail I received and think about the "classic" audiophile topic of contention over the decades - cables!

It has been awhile since I've talked about cables (I've published a number of cable measurements over the years, links collected here). It's not much fun talking about cables these days because after awhile I think most of us have tried enough cables and honestly just realized the truth that it really doesn't matter what the salespeople claim. There are better things to do like just sitting back and enjoying the music than obsessing over what essentially are minutiae with less potential effects* than hi-res audio recordings (which itself is usually questionable).

[* Unless of course the cable intentionally acts as a filter like some of the MIT cables - as per their patent.]

Here's an E-mail I received from reader JW Haus in March in response to a magazine article in Stereophile:

Saturday 13 April 2024

Detailed THD(+N) vs. Output Level Measurements of ESS ES9039Q2M. Balanced output quality from Hidizs AP80 PRO-X DAP. And Tekton's self-inflicted PR disaster.

Hey everyone, I wanted to post a follow-up of sorts to a couple of previous articles. First, the article "Hi-Res THD(+N) vs. Output Level Measurements (ESS "HyperStream" vs. AKM vs. TI/Burr-Brown). And a bonus R-2R!" was published back in the summer of 2022 showing an interesting sinusoidal pattern in the harmonic distortions with ESS DACs.

Since then, with the release of their newest ES9039 DACs which employ their latest "HyperStream IV" modulator, I thought it'd be cool to have another look...

Another follow-up is a look at the 2.5mm balanced output from the Hidizs AP80 PRO-X Music Player which was measured last year. At that time I didn't do the balanced output measurements so let's capture a few metrics and compare this with the single-ended 3.5mm output.

We can then end off with some audiophile social commentary from this week's drama.

Saturday 6 April 2024

2024 "High-End" DAC Blind Listening Survey!

*Surprise!* It's time for another listening survey.

I like doing these once awhile because it's an opportunity for audiophiles to actually listen for differences between devices, resolutions, or even things like filter settings for themselves as opposed to hanging on to the testimonies of others whether in text or expressed in videos. We can argue all day long about whether THD+N of -120dB is better than -85dB, or if a US$20,000 DAC sounds better than a US$500 one; what matters ultimately is in the listening.

[I agree with Taylor Christensen in his excellent article on "subjectivisms" that what we need more of these days is audibility data to address the category of "scientific subjectivism"; not just opinions or measurements.]

This time, I'll be using recordings of the AMPT Test Track from 3 different DACs for you to listen to. These were created based on my standard procedure of recording and processing described in the link. The only difference is that I'll be using the 24-bit version of the AMPT for this survey to maximize higher resolution dynamic range potential from the DACs.

As a blind survey, I will not tell you which DACs these are to minimize bias. What I can say for now is that these are not devices from Chinese brands although anything can be "Made in China" these days (ie. these are not Topping, SMSL, Sabaj, Shanling, Matrix, Gustard, etc.). Some of these devices can be considered "aspirational" DACs or streamers in that the MSRP of the device could be out of reach to many, even priced "ridiculously" high.

Perhaps this fact might encourage you to listen for yourself: the difference between the least expensive and most expensive device is >100 times!