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... :-)