Spot the bottleneck! (Or) do I have cloth ears. Or: Either my $300 headroom micro dac rocks, or the rega dac suck!!!

admin_exported

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Just for the heck of it, I tried to do some A/B testing earlier today.

Squeezebox Touch -> Rega Dac -> Rega Mira3 -> Rega Rs5 speakers.

Decided to swap out the rega dac for a headroom dac I have. It's a $300 dac, vs. the $1000 rega dac.

I had it hooked up so that the squeezebox touch was going simultaneously into the rega dac and the headroom dac, with the rega dac hooked into lineA and Headroom dac into LineB of the Mira.

Switching between the two dacs was just a button on the remote.

Forget about blind a/b. I couldn't even tell if I had switched between the dacs (line A instead of LineB).

So either:

a) I can't hear worth a damn.

b) the $299 headroom Micro dac is very good (or as good as the mira3).

c) There's a bottleneck in the system somewhere that's not allowing the rega dac to perform as well as it can.

I really believe it's c).

What's the bottleneck?
 
A

Anonymous

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d.) There's little difference between Dacs.

e.) You need better speakers.
 

chebby

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Jun 2, 2008
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Try a couple of different sources (other than SB) like direct USB - or optical - connection to your computer, and the optical digital audio connection to your BD player (or PS3 if you have one) and see if both DACs perform equally.

Try a range of material with greater or lesser degrees of digital 'compression'.

Try both DACs (with or without SB) feeding the Audio Engine A2s.

Try the freebie interconnect that came with the Rega DAC instead of the Crimson Plus. (I found Crimson a bit heavy going in the bass when I used it with a seperate DAC - and with a Denon tuner - and ended up preferring either a really old Chord Chrysalis cable I bought second-hand, or something with no name from the drawer.)

If, after all at, you still can't tell any difference, then either (a) sell the Rega DAC and enjoy the windfall or (b) keep the Rega DAC and enjoy the build quality and higher residual value. The Mira 3 should be enough to reveal any differences if there are any.

I haven't tried a Rega DAC. I stood next to one in a fellow WHF member's kitchen but I was busy buying his Rega speakers :) He is very happy with it in his £5K+ Naim and PMC system though.
 

chebby

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Grottyash said:
d.) There's little difference between Dacs.

e.) You need better speakers.
(d) Probably true. (But there is a bit more in the box than just a DAC chip, so you'd expect some of it to make a difference.)

(e) RS5s are excellent speakers, especially in the context of an all Rega system.
 

edplaysdrums42

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May 2, 2009
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For what its worth, i auditioned a Rega Dac and compared it to my Dacmagic and i couldn't tell hardly any difference, and in what i could hear i preferred the Dacmagic, i really wanted to like the Rega and was expecting it to be much better but it just wasn't for me. I now have an Audiolab 8200CD on home trial and so far i'm very impressed! Unless i can get hold of a Benchmark dac for a home trial to compare then I'll be ordering the Audiolab, its a lovely looking and sounding bit of kit.

Cheers Ed
 

Overdose

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Feb 8, 2008
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Grottyash said:
d.) There's little difference between Dacs.

e.) You need better speakers.
Ditto!

I've just been doing some experimenting myself and looking around on other forums brings me to the same conclusion. The performance of digital technology is largely down to design and more money usually only means a better built and prettier looking box, so long as the design is solid from a electronics point of view most DACs will sound very similar, this is not the case with speakers though and there is much more variation in sound between types.

The DAC that seems to consistently get good reports is the Benchmark DAC, try a demo if you can and if you still hear no marked 'difference' then go for the speaker upgrade. You could ditch the Rega and other DAC to fund the move and just use the squeezebox on its own.
 

AL13N

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I notice you have quite a collection of headphones in your signature. I'd recommend trying the comparison again using these in order to eliminate room acoustics from the equation, and also include the onboard DAC of the Squeezebox in the test.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
tried it through my headphone amp and various headphones. Still the difference is really subtle. Nothing I can put a finger on.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Here's the funny thing: I used to believe (and pretent) that I heard a difference between optical and coax digital cables, and also between various coax cables.

After this test, all that cable testing is just bogus. If I can't even hear the difference between the dacs, what chance of hearing a difference between various cables?

One thing that's possible though, is that my amps are resolving enough to tell the difference between the dacs. So the dacs might be different enough, but in MY system, there really isn't any difference.
 

chebby

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MoData said:
After this test, all that cable testing is just bogus. If I can't even hear the difference between the dacs, what chance of hearing a difference between various cables?
Bearing that in mind, did you try my suggestion of using the freebie RCA phono cable that came with the Rega DAC ? (Does it come with one?)

Try it instead of the Crimson Plus. It might help.

(I have heard Rega's free-in-the-box interconnect sounding much better than Chord Cobra with a Rega Apollo.)
 

Craig M.

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Mar 20, 2008
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a lot of dacs do sound the same, some do sound different - the dacmagic has three different filter settings and each one changes the sound. if neither of your dacs are distorting the signal to produce a 'house sound', they should, more or less, sound the same.

i'd try just using the cheaper one for a while and see if you find yourself missing the rega.
 
A

Anonymous

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My feeling is that to hear the differences between DACs you need highly revealing, and expensive, amplification and speakers. In mine I couldn't, so stuck with inexpensive.

Don't worry about the cable thing. Again, only the most revealing system is going to let you hear any differences, should there be any.
 
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Anonymous

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i thought my vdac sounded better than my airport express, but after much testing, i came to the conclusion there was no difference, so the vdac was sold..

i think differences in dacs, if any, are extremely subtle..
 

smuggs

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Feb 19, 2009
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i have read from many people that have found that the dac-magic and other £200-£500 dacs arevery good with lossless files but playing spotify,last fm or mp3 through the rega dac really shines and is almost worth the extra outlay. so i would try different formats in mp3,mp4,you tube last fm etc and see if the rega offers any benefits there. If no gain then i would sell get as much as you can and spend the money on more media -vinyl,cds,downloads,music dvds ect which im sure will give you more fun than having a box that is not in your case needed
 
A

Anonymous

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chebby said:
MoData said:
After this test, all that cable testing is just bogus. If I can't even hear the difference between the dacs, what chance of hearing a difference between various cables?
Bearing that in mind, did you try my suggestion of using the freebie RCA phono cable that came with the Rega DAC ? (Does it come with one?)

Try it instead of the Crimson Plus. It might help.

(I have heard Rega's free-in-the-box interconnect sounding much better than Chord Cobra with a Rega Apollo.)
I don't think it came with one. :-(
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
I reckon it's mostly b)

The cost of manufacturing a REALLY REALLY good DAC chip is so low these days that I can't understand how companies get away with charging so much for them.

In the chain from source to ears, the factors that introduce the most distortion are, in order from highest to lowest:

The room > the speakers > any lossy audio compression > the amp > line-level unbalanced audio cables > DACs > speaker cables

You'd have to have really good speakers to start hearing differences between DACs
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
id sell it and buy a monster sub :D (if there is no difference).
 

Esra

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Feb 20, 2011
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IMO there is no need to spend a whole lot of money for a dac only.Converting digital into analogue is not Nasa Science.Even a 40 CYP dac does the job well no need to say the SB-Touch dac is sufficient.
Things change if you have other goodies built in in your dac as usb-(async.)support,many coax and optical in/outs for different sources and not to forget different filters which do have effect on the sound even with low budget speakers can be seperated.As there is nothing like as the right or wrong sound its a question of personal taste which filter you prefer and if you want filters at all.
E.x. I had never bought an Audiolab CDP just for the Dac and therefor hailed CDP-sound only.The need for a new matching CDP for my amp in combination with all written above was worth the money well known this could also be done for half the money.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Maybe, I'm just imaging this, but with the rega dac, it just feels very relaxed over extended periods of time.

I'll try running it through the other amps to ascertain what I feel.
 

manicm

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May 1, 2008
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Over at another site forum someone who had a Sonos had put forward an interesting theory - that ultimately the source will be the limiting factor i.e. his Sonos - he had upgraded his external DACs with corresponding improvements - up to a point whereafter the sound getting better anymore.
 

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