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A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby Jack Ruston » Mon Aug 19, 2019 4:29 am

That's not true.

Some things do sound better above a certain point. It's not just a question of simply spending more, but it's not price independent. The question becomes - does it make a difference? And that depends on the rest of the setup and environment, the nature of your role, working method, and how much the negative factors affect you personally. We are really dealing with what isn't there at that point. But I 100% agree that nobody should now have to feel that their equipment is the limiting factor, by online gear snobs of whatever ilk.
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby Arpangel » Mon Aug 19, 2019 7:25 am

I was invited to go to a Burl evening at Metropolis Studios in London, that was interesting, we were all invited to mix a track through their SSL console and a Burl, which I did. Opinions in the room we're divided, and it was all a bit confusing, but the end result was that I didn't buy one...
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Aug 19, 2019 10:17 am

hobbyist wrote:...good enough depends on your objective as constrained by your budget.

D'oh! right back at you! :roll:

That's precisely my point! 'Good enough' is subjective, not objective. But there are objective ways of assessing converters to find which are more accurate and which are more flawed.

Someone with a low budget may decide a Behringer ADA8200 is 'good enough' but it's not hard to demonstrate it's limitations in comparison with, say, a Lavry or Lynx Hilo... No golden ears required...

What I object to is golden eared deep pocket snobs telling almost everybody else that their gear is crap and to go buy more expensive stuff.

Once again... you're pushing on an open door here... If you want to be angry about this kind of stuff go to Gearslutz and join the other ranters. We have a far more measured, realistic and pragmatic approach here. I'd have thought you'd have had enough acclimatisation time to figure that out by now...

Once you get to the bottom of the mid range there is really really nothing that will sound better. You may get more reliability, more functions, prettier cabinets, and other nice or other audibly meaningless things.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and I respect yours... but I don't agree with it, and nor will a lot of people who have the experience and knowledge to know better.

I have to ask, what do you think qualifies you to make a statement like that exactly?

How much real experience have you actually had using high-end equipment in professional studio spaces?

While it's certainly true that a lot of quite modestly priced equipment performs brilliantly and sounds fantastic today -- and is very unlikely to be the weak link in any semi-pro project studio -- there are still audible benefits to be found in much of the equipment where no corners are cut and sound quality is the unfettered design priority. And again, it doesn't need 'golden ears' to hear, just normal hearing...

H
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby CS70 » Mon Aug 19, 2019 10:45 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:While it's certainly true that a lot of quite modestly priced equipment performs brilliantly and sounds fantastic today -- and is very unlikely to be the weak link in any semi-pro project studio -- there are still audible benefits to be found in much of the equipment where no corners are cut and sound quality is the unfettered design priority. And again, it doesn't need 'golden ears' to hear, just normal hearing...

H

That's quite interesting Hugh - where do you think is the point where differences are not audible (or, better said, we start talking about subjective preferences as opposite to improvements)?

Without budget limits, which audio chain (or chains, perhaps sounding a little different) would be the absolute best at the moment (assuming same performance, mics, preamps etc, all of high quality- just looking at component, design and audible properties of the signal downstream from them) - and would it be possible to better them at some point so that the difference is perceivable? When do we hit the biological limits?

Say I have already a Ferrofish A32, or a Pure2 or a Hilo or a Prism.. where do I go - no cost considerations - to do better? (it's just a theoretical question :-))

You guys at SOS have your hands in much more kit than any average studio owner (pro, semi-pro or bedroom level :)) so guess nobody's better qualified.
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby Elephone » Mon Aug 19, 2019 12:31 pm

Thanks. I think what got me thinking about my set up is that I use an Edirol FA-66 (via firewire) and have been since 2006. I seem to remember an SOS review (from 2000 or 2001) saying something about some aspect of it sounding 'digital', but, come to think of it, I think it was the pre-amps not anything to do with the A-D or D-A converters.

I suppose one day, who knows, AI technology will be able to 're-imagine' any recording regardless of original quality, and re-render it to sound pristine. By then, we might have electronic ears that can hear music containing frequencies above 22kHz!
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby hobbyist » Mon Aug 19, 2019 4:48 pm

Jack Ruston wrote:That's not true.

Some things do sound better above a certain point. It's not just a question of simply spending more, but it's not price independent. The question becomes - does it make a difference? And that depends on the rest of the setup and environment, the nature of your role, working method, and how much the negative factors affect you personally. We are really dealing with what isn't there at that point. But I 100% agree that nobody should now have to feel that their equipment is the limiting factor, by online gear snobs of whatever ilk.

Sound better to who? Sound better to how many more % of people?

With so many people happy with mp3 you have to be a virtual golden eared type to think that better gear makes a sonic difference.
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby johnny h » Mon Aug 19, 2019 11:16 pm

hobbyist wrote:
Jack Ruston wrote:That's not true.

Some things do sound better above a certain point. It's not just a question of simply spending more, but it's not price independent. The question becomes - does it make a difference? And that depends on the rest of the setup and environment, the nature of your role, working method, and how much the negative factors affect you personally. We are really dealing with what isn't there at that point. But I 100% agree that nobody should now have to feel that their equipment is the limiting factor, by online gear snobs of whatever ilk.

Sound better to who? Sound better to how many more % of people?

With so many people happy with mp3 you have to be a virtual golden eared type to think that better gear makes a sonic difference.
Its a common fantasy that the best and most expensive gear is "just as good" as budget stuff. Its not a new story. Indeed, from Aesop's fables in the 7th century we are taught of a fox who tries to climb a great vine to reach the grapes at the top.

After his many failed attempts to reach them, the fox declares he never wanted them in the first place because they were sour. Sour grapes.
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby forumuser840717 » Mon Aug 19, 2019 11:32 pm

hobbyist wrote:With so many people happy with mp3 you have to be a virtual golden eared type to think that better gear makes a sonic difference.

No. You just have to be able to learn to listen critically, understand and analyse what you're hearing. With a little effort and perhaps some training most people can do it regardless of the colour of their ears. Whether or not it's important to you is another matter.
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby hobbyist » Tue Aug 20, 2019 2:35 am

forumuser840717 wrote:
hobbyist wrote:With so many people happy with mp3 you have to be a virtual golden eared type to think that better gear makes a sonic difference.

No. You just have to be able to learn to listen critically, understand and analyse what you're hearing. With a little effort and perhaps some training most people can do it regardless of the colour of their ears. Whether or not it's important to you is another matter.

I am happy with how I listen.
And millions and millions other folks are happy with mp3s quality.
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby Bob Bickerton » Tue Aug 20, 2019 3:16 am

hobbyist wrote:
forumuser840717 wrote:
hobbyist wrote:With so many people happy with mp3 you have to be a virtual golden eared type to think that better gear makes a sonic difference.

No. You just have to be able to learn to listen critically, understand and analyse what you're hearing. With a little effort and perhaps some training most people can do it regardless of the colour of their ears. Whether or not it's important to you is another matter.

I am happy with how I listen.
And millions and millions other folks are happy with mp3s quality.

That's entirely your choice, but around here many people aspire to produce recordings of a higher quality for those people who can and do hear a difference.

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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby Tim Gillett » Tue Aug 20, 2019 7:02 am

Claims and counter claims here. It would be good to be given an actual example where say the lower noise floor of a top converter really makes a difference, and another where it doesn't.
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby blinddrew » Tue Aug 20, 2019 8:43 am

I think that's already been done Tim, by both Jack and Hugh. If you've got ALL the rest of your signal chain at a very high quality, then you'll be able to hear the difference. If you're in a compromised room, with budget monitoring, recording from budget mics via a cheaper interface - well, then you've got other things to concentrate on first.

The 'lots of people are happy with MP3s' argument doesn't really stack up either. That's an end-user consumption format, we're talking about doing a completely different job so we use different tools.
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby CS70 » Tue Aug 20, 2019 8:52 am

Well it’s not a bad idea, it could be done to set up two recording chains with the same performer using recording with two instanced of the same mic and pre, but one going into a regular AD and one into a higher end converter.

Then of course there’s only the playback chain, needs a great monitoring system and great DA. But the two files could be there to allow people with good monitoring to hear by themselves. Or just upload them at the local hiifi shop :)

SOS did something similar with multiple mics recording the same vocalist and of course the famous preamp battle.

It would be educational as most people have not heard a raw track recorded with higher and converter, so have no idea what to expect (we hear final mixes all the time of course but mostly on either compromised formats or compromised playback systems)

I have a lucid AD/DA in the studio (used to be pretty good, but it’s a few years old now) but no two identical mics and pres, alas, otherwise I’d be happy to set it up..
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Aug 20, 2019 10:06 am

I think Jack's earlier comments about working with high-quality equipment is apposite. While high-end converters have easily measurable technical improvements -- greater dynamic range, lower noise floor, lower distortion (of all forms), more accurate Nyquist filtering, stable performance when clocked externally, and so on -- we don't generally perceive these benefits in that kind of 'technical' way.

Instead what we perceive -- those of us who actually do audition and use equipment at this level -- is usually a sense of effortlessness and naturalness in the sound presentation, and a greater clarity with which you can hear into and around mixes.

As Jack said, it's often "...a feeling that something irritating and uncomfortable had gone." That might sound 'wishy-washy', but it's actually a very good description of my own experiences too. You just don't have to work so hard at trying to ascertain what's going on. You don't feel the need to turn the monitoring level up to hear the detail. You don't get tired as easily, and the working is just more pleasurable and comfortable.

The obvious result of being able to hear into the mix better is the ability to mix better -- because it's far more obvious what needs to be done to improve the mix, and what effect your processing is having. And you can work faster and more accurately because there's less confusion or doubt about what you're doing. You don't agonise over whether the eq or fader should be up or down 0.5dB because it's far more obvious!

But at the end of the day, not everyone can afford or justify owning high-end equipment, and not everyone will benefit from using it -- just as not everyone can drive a sports car like Lewis Hamilton, or appreciate the finer differences between a Ferrari and a Porsche... say.

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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Aug 20, 2019 10:08 am

CS70 wrote:Well it’s not a bad idea, it could be done to set up two recording chains with the same performer using recording with two instanced of the same mic and pre, but one going into a regular AD and one into a higher end converter.

Better still to use one mic and signal chain until the output of the preamp then split that to two converters.
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby CS70 » Tue Aug 20, 2019 11:31 am

Sam Spoons wrote:
CS70 wrote:Well it’s not a bad idea, it could be done to set up two recording chains with the same performer using recording with two instanced of the same mic and pre, but one going into a regular AD and one into a higher end converter.

Better still to use one mic and signal chain until the output of the preamp then split that to two converters.

Brilliant, Sam - you're perfectly right! I obviously need more coffee.

A few thoughts:

1) the "low end" converter would likely be the one built in into an interface (I have a U28M laying around doing nothing, even if the preamps in that one are actually pretty good... no idea about the converters.. maybe I should borrow an entry level interface).

That means going from the preamp output into the interface line input, which is often not a separate path, but passing thru the preamp.

I remember Dave and other electronic experts saying that it's practically irrelevant, but as we are talking very subtle differences here, and it's important to compare apples with apples, would it be an issue?

I'm not aware of any "low end" converter which exists separately (and if there was one, I wouldn't have it..).

2) My acoustic guitar recording space is reasonably well treated, so should do fine as recording space? If the differences in A/D performance are overshadowed by the room properties, it makes no sense to test.. however, it will be the very same performance. Can play some guitar or sing a little.

3) So the chain is: performer -> mic -> preamp -> splitter, one going to the Lucid, one going to a regular interface and PC. The Lucid hopefully could go directly to the interface digital input and same pc, or another interface and PC altogether.

The U28M has S/PDIF in but the Lucid, if I'm not mistaken, doesn't have a S/PDIF out (makes sense, it's 8 channels). Hard to find a consumer interface that uses AES/EBU.. the Lucid has ADAT so maybe I could take use my RME instead that has an ADAT input - but kinda messy to detach it from the home PC (it's a PCI card and breaker box).

4) Is the Lucid high end enough? (dont remember the exact type and I'm not at the studio, but googling a little should be a 88192)
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby Watchmaker » Tue Aug 20, 2019 11:56 am

If you are unable to discern a difference, how would you determine if that result is due to your ears, signal chain or convertor? If you can say "that convertor" would it be the AD or the DA? and how would you take the pre amp out before the AD? Does the UM28 have a point you can splice into?
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby CS70 » Tue Aug 20, 2019 12:02 pm

Watchmaker wrote:If you are unable to discern a difference, how would you determine if that result is due to your ears, signal chain or convertor? If you can say "that convertor" would it be the AD or the DA? and how would you take the pre amp out before the AD? Does the UM28 have a point you can splice into?

Well that's the point - the difference in the recorded signal would be printed on the two files. To perceive it, one should also have the right DA and monitoring chain and room of course, but that's the assumption.

The goal would be to provide an identical raw track recorded with two different converters.
If the DA is bad, well, you won't hear any difference (or as James and Hugh say, you wouldn't feel any difference at mixing). But if it's not, you would.

For the preamp out - not sure I get the question? The preamps goes into a splitter which in turn go to the high end converter and the regular interface.
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Aug 20, 2019 12:20 pm

CS70 wrote:Well that's the point - the difference in the recorded signal would be printed on the two files. To perceive it, one should also have the right DA and monitoring chain and room of course, but that's the assumption.

If only life were that simple... :-)

The other really important consideration which this approach doesn't take into account is the cumulative effect of working with multiple tracks recorded through budget versus high-end converters, rather than just a single source.

I'm not saying some form of comparison file can't be created... but arriving at a valid system to evaluate the admittedly subtle benefits involved in this kind of equipment comparison is very far from trivial.

Personally, though, I think it's an entirely pointless exercise.

The loudest shout-downs will always come from those who cant or won't perceive the benefits, regardless of the effort you go to in setting up comparisons, and to whom any real benefits are entirely irrelevant anyway.

Instead, I prefer to experience it first hand, and/or to listen to the views of those who have successful professional track records of working at the high-end, and who have the experience to express valid opinions on the equipment they choose and use. For example, the likes of Jack, Bob, Iestyn, Max and several others whose contributions we're very lucky to enjoy regularly on these forums...

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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby Watchmaker » Tue Aug 20, 2019 12:40 pm

CS70 wrote:
Watchmaker wrote:For the preamp out - not sure I get the question? The preamps goes into a splitter which in turn go to the high end converter and the regular interface.

Faulty assumption on my part that an interface was being used, as opposed to discrete components.

Thinking out loud, because this is way above my pay grade...doesn't technical/mechanical consideration for high end conversion come to an end point at some marginal level of increase? I mean, say I'm an experienced pro with stellar gear and a room that's they envy of the profession, another Bob Clearmountain for example...at some point I'm not mixing the technical aspects of a song, I'm creating the fairy dust of a repeatably exciting listening experience. Arguably the majority of that resides post AD so as long as you get "x" level of fidelity, it comes down to DA, doesn't it?
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