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Are there audible differences between different DAC and ADCs?

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Re: Are there audible differences between different DAC and ADCs?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri May 15, 2020 11:01 am

resistorman wrote:If you take take the room acoustics completely out of it by using a direct input from a top quality source and listen on top quality headphones, is there an audible difference between converters these days?

Measurable differences? Yes... but mostly very small.

Audible differences? Yes, but mostly due to the analogue circuitry rather than the conversion itself. So it's much like comparing preamps or monitor controllers.... Very, very subtle and usually totally and utterly irrelevant in any practical sense.

Adjacent to that query, is there much of a penalty going through a series of conversions like D/A-A/D-D/A with modern equipment and sensible settings?

In the mid-90s a colleague and I recorded a selection of test material onto a professional Sony DAT recorder, and then connected the machine to a second of the same type via balanced analogue interconnects. We carefully matched recording levels and then bounced the audio from one machine to the other and back again 50 times.

Naturally, there _is_ some degradation, and in a direct comparison of take 50 with take 1 it is quite obvious... but most 'ordinary' (ie, not trained audio pros) people listening to take 50 in isolation probably wouldn't notice it at all. Skilled listeners can start to hear artefacts after 10 generations, but I've not found anyone who can reliably hear any differences after less than ten generations.

And that was with what is now 30 year-old converter technology. Things have improved further since then...

So the answer is no, there is no practical penalty at all. And many mastering houses do exactly that all day long... :-)
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Re: Are there audible differences between different DAC and ADCs?

Postby resistorman » Fri May 15, 2020 1:49 pm

Thanks! Very interesting. I developed the habit of worrying about multigenerational sound degradation back in the analog days and have carried it well into the digital age.
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Re: Are there audible differences between different DAC and ADCs?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri May 15, 2020 2:40 pm

If you connect digitally, there are no multi-generational losses, of course.

But even back in the analogue era, the damage was mostly done by the tape. Extensive chains of electronic equipment suffered very little quality loss if done well. Just ask any broadcaster! :-)

Most mastering houses combine long chains of both analogue and digital processing gear, with lots of format conversions in between. My mastering activities are very small scale, but if the source is analogue tape I routinely go through three or four conversion stages (including the final monitoring D-A), but it I have had six before now!
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Re: Are there audible differences between different DAC and ADCs?

Postby ef37a » Fri May 15, 2020 3:04 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:If you connect digitally, there are no multi-generational losses, of course.

But even back in the analogue era, the damage was mostly done by the tape. Extensive chains of electronic equipment suffered very little quality loss if done well. Just ask any broadcaster! :-)

Most mastering houses combine long chains of both analogue and digital processing gear, with lots of format conversions in between. My mastering activities are very small scale, but if the source is analogue tape I routinely go through three or four conversion stages (including the final monitoring D-A), but it I have had six before now!

Indeed! I am old enough to remember Acoustical's advert with multiple 303s with attenuation in between.

Since that time analogue amplification has been beyond reproach IF it is done properly!

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Re: Are there audible differences between different DAC and ADCs?

Postby cyrano.mac » Fri May 15, 2020 10:18 pm

Don't worry about audible differences between ADDA's.

Look at driver stability. Most manufacturers don't even roll their own. That means if you buy an interface that isn't popular, you won't get updates, sending your investment to the junk pile.
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