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

Postby Hrodulf » Tue Aug 20, 2019 12:55 pm

As an audiophile I've gone through my share of DA converters. Older delta-sigma, multibit, discrete R2R and so on...

Generally I'll say that very good conversion is more available than ever before. Even budget interfaces are about 70-80% "there", compared to TOTL stuff. I haven't done any serious sound editing, however I'm having a hard time imagining that getting the remaining 20% in conversion quality could change one's mixing/mastering decisions drastically.
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby CS70 » Tue Aug 20, 2019 1:20 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
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.


Yes, the thought had striken me. I was thinking a couple of guitars and a vocal, but perhaps it's too little still. And for these effects to be perceivable, a regular session should do, right?

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...

H

I see your point, but just to clarify: I am not thinking, or caring, about shoutdowns or discussions.. the world is full of people who don't know what they are talking about, for the very simple fact that any of us can know what we're talking about in a very limited number of fields, but we happily talk about anything (unless one is Gauss, of course. Gauss could anything :) )

So that's a lost cause, not worth of anyone's time: people will have opinions taken out of thin air more often than not, and that's the nature of things. It's not a big problem unless it's a Trump or such. Certainly it wouldn't move me to do anything.

I am thinking of the potential educational value: what if we had a set of files to mix which are known to be the product of a superior recording chain, and that people open to learning could actually use to practice? Together with identical performances recorded using run of the mill equipment, so that spotting the difference (if not in sound, in ease of use) is possible? What if we had actually a number of sessions like these? A bit in the spirit of Mike Senior's "libraries".

I do not think it would be entirely pointless. Ears cannot become experienced without anything to practice, no more that you can learn to play the guitar reading about playing the guitar - or you can learn what makes a good guitar (with respect to an ok one) without trying some. One must practice - repeatedly.

It is not common to have at one's disposal high end mics, high end preamps and a high end converter and a good room to use them... and the main challenge to learning audio stuff today is that while there's a gazillion books and videos (and this forum of course), there's almost no studios left to actually practice. And certain aspects of the art (such as the one we're discussing) cannot be conveyed in a video. Jack may be spending all his time in a high-end studio, you may have high end stuff around you all the time but most people trying out don't have such access.

Of course, the biggest bummer would be that you would still need a good playback chain to hear or "feel" any difference.. but people splurge more often, in my experience, in good monitors and (often after some encouragement) room treatment, achieving reasonable playback environments; so while still there would be a treshold, having such material available would at least halve it.
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby Tim Gillett » Tue Aug 20, 2019 1:37 pm

Tim Gillett wrote: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.

blinddrew wrote: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...

Only if the dynamics of the performances require it.
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby Jack Ruston » Tue Aug 20, 2019 3:52 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote: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!

H

Oh YOU

(That's a perfect description - that sense of effortless clarity changes the way you process things...It's not a noise floor issue - Most of the things I work on have little dynamic range)
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Re: A-D & D-A converters, budget vs high-end

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Aug 20, 2019 4:01 pm

:blush: :D
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