External DAC with Connect


Userlevel 2
Badge
I am looking to add a DAC to my SONOS - Nak RE1 - KEF Q70 system, and am considering the Schiit Bifrost. My source is a wide range of ALAC, MP3 and AAC material. Any advice, is it worth it? Am I likely to hear the "wider, more detailed, deeper, etc." sound the reviewers write about.

This topic has been closed for further comments. You can use the search bar to find a similar topic, or create a new one by clicking Create Topic at the top of the page.

275 replies

That's an absurd statement.. How about Bob Stuart of Meridian I suspect he has a bit more than a scintilla of engineering knowledge.. I'm sure I can find at least a few Hundred more that actually both, Measure and Listen..

You seem to protest a lot about folks insulting you, maybe it's because you are also insulting to others?


Erik, I have explained this hundreds of times, yet you still persist in describing me as not being a fan of "listening". So I am going to ask this nicely. Could you please stop posting that I am against actually listening? You could not be more wrong, and to continue posting this as fact makes me think you are either a bot, or merely parroting the talking points for the audiophile industry.

Here is my stance on actually listening:

In order to actually "listen" to see if there is a difference between two audio components, be they amps, cables, wires, or cocobolo wood feet, one must "listen" during a carefully controlled ABX test. This is the only surefire way to actually "listen" if you wish to know the truth as to whether a difference is actually heard, or it is due to some other effect. Once again I state: I am 100% in favor of listening if one wants to determine there is a difference between two components!! If one is going to state that there is a difference, in order to be taken seriously, one must "listen" without any input besides the actual sound!!!!

You will now forever be called out when accusing me of not wanting to listen. Period.
Badge +8
Can it be a blind a-b test also?
Were one doesn't know which is which?
Does that count?
Can it be a blind a-b test also?
Were one doesn't know which is which?
Does that count?


No, it must be double blind. There are reams of scientific evidence that prove a single blind test is influenced by queues from the party who knows which is which. Which is why science insists on double blind studies.

But you already know this, because it has been discussed before. :rolleyes:
Can it be a blind a-b test also?
Were one doesn't know which is which?
Does that count?

Although ABX is more than that, I would say yes to your questions, provided both tester and tested don't know which is which - i.e. double blind.
Equally important and more difficult to do is level matching to within 0.1 dB of sound levels from each alternative being tested.
Far from it. Pick any two modern amps of different makes at any price point and different power outputs and these will fulfil the terms of statement 1 - provided that they measure alike in having a flat frequency response and close to modern levels of distortion, as most modern amps now do.
To amplify on the above - examples of amps that may be compared and will meet the assertion in statement 1 are current budget models from Marantz, Rotel, Nad and the like, Quad 99/909 pre power, a Krell 400 wpc, all the way to the USD 100k priced Audio Note Ongaku. With cheaper Luxmans thrown in as well.
And modern in this context means any known brand make amp, made in the last 25 years.
PS: How could I leave out Connect Amp?! That included as well.
Badge +8
No, it must be double blind. There are reams of scientific evidence that prove a single blind test is influenced by queues from the party who knows which is which. Which is why science insists on double blind studies.

But you already know this, because it has been discussed before. :rolleyes:


So when you bought your current gear did you ABX it?

If so how did you manage it?
Badge +8
To amplify on the above - examples of amps that may be compared and will meet the assertion in statement 1 are current budget models from Marantz, Rotel, Nad and the like, Quad 99/909 pre power, a Krell 400 wpc, all the way to the USD 100k priced Audio Note Ongaku. With cheaper Luxmans thrown in as well.
And modern in this context means any known brand make amp, made in the last 25 years.
PS: How could I leave out Connect Amp?! That included as well.


Hey Kumar if you can get an Ongaku and a Rotel in the same room I'm down for that comparison.. A-B.. ABX.. XYZ baby..
So when you bought your current gear did you ABX it?

If so how did you manage it?


No, I didn't, except for speakers, and that was a single blind so not really relevant. I also don't make any claims that my system, or any component therein, sounds any better than any other. I am confident that what I buy sounds good to me, and I do not need ABX testing to do that. In no way do I try to convince others of this, and aside from stating I have an Onkyo receiver that doesn't cause a delay from a Connect, I have never mentioned what equipment I own/owned, aside from Sonos. It simply isn't an issue for me, for I don't fancy bragging about gear, I find it rather gauche.

Now, if I were to come here and state the following:

I augmented my Sonos with a PS Audio PerfectWave Dac with the new Bridge.. I can now stream my Hi Rez files, and control everything with my Ipod Touch.. And Hi Rez just blows redbook away..



I buy lots of music off HD Tracks.. I use XLD to convert to 16/44 for my household Sonos system, I play back Hi Res in my main system with a PS Audio PWD MKII.. I can directly compare them.. The Hi Res sounds better.. hugely , jaw dropping better of course not, but better yes..



Then I most certainly would need to do an ABX test to lend any credence to my claims. If anything, I would certainly have to explain the reason why my assessment of Hi Res went from "blows redbook away" to "sounds better.. hugely , jaw dropping better of course not, but better yes" when switching to a unit that actually can play Hi Res? Could it be that intermodulation distortion? 😃
Userlevel 3
Badge
But don't you realize that when you state one digital cable sounds better than another, it is the equivalent of standing at the dock and saying to the sailors "Don't sail too far, you will fall off the edge!" Nobody with a scintilla of knowledge about engineering will take you seriously, and they don't have to "listen" (or sail too far) to know that you are speaking nonsense. And on top of that, when confronted with these facts, instead of admitting that your opinion makes no scientific sense, and that you may be experiencing a placebo effect or bias, you insult the objectivists ability to hear or the ability of their system to resolve differences.


OK, I'll bite on that...

You seem to be simultaneously:

(1) asserting a hypothesis that there are no circumstances in which a digital cable can affect the perceived sound quality of an audio system

(2) putting this on the same footing as the hypothesis (now known fact, of course) that the earth is not flat, and

(3) ridiculing anyone that disbelieves your hypothesis.

In order to prove that the earth is not flat, experiments were carried out or measurements were made to show that such a hypothesis was not consistent with observed facts. That's the established scientific method. However, before this, the prevailing scientific theory was that the earth was flat and those who believed otherwise were no doubt ridiculed. Scientific knowledge advances by continually seeking to disprove the current set of beliefs. (I know I'm stating the obvious here.)

I don't believe that it is possible to carry out a similar experiment to prove your hypothesis that there are no circumstances in which digital cables "make a difference" (to put it in shorthand). In order to do so you would have to show that for all combinations of cable, equipment and listener, there was no perceivable difference in sound. In principle this is impossible - it is after all trying to prove a negative. By contrast if anyone ever carried out an experiment with a single combination of cable, equipment and listener that demonstrated a repeatable difference under properly controlled conditions (e.g. DBT) your hypothesis would be falsified at a stroke. I'm not making any comment about how likely that is, I'm just pointing out that it's in principle possible to falsify your hypothesis but never to conclusively prove it.

As it happens, I do have a "scintilla of knowledge about engineering" and I can think of some reasons why digital cables may affect the sound quality of an audio system. Firstly there may be transmission errors in high-speed digital signals, and if there is no error detection and correction mechanism this could result in incorrect data being fed to a DAC. This can't be ruled out in principle over an S/PDIF connection, for one example. Secondly, a cable could inject noise via power or ground signals from a noisy device (e.g. computer) to a sensitive device such as a DAC. It's not unreasonable to suppose that this noise could be enough to cause LSB-level changes in the DAC output - for example, on a 16-bit DAC with a 2V range the LSB corresponds to 30 uV.

So just off the top of my head there are at least two not-totally-unreasonable methods by which digital cables could result in different output from an audio device, depending on the design of the equipment, the data the cable carries, the protocols used, etc. etc. Such differences could surely be measured in the lab with the right equipment, so it wouldn't depend on the human perception of sound.

Unless you believe that objectively measurable differences such as these could not possibly be audible by any human, I think this throws doubt on your hypothesis to the point that believing it becomes an article of faith rather than application of logic and science. Which is fine, provided you qualify it by saying it's your belief rather than making it out to be an absolute, unassailable truth that anyone would be crazy not to subscribe to.

My point is simply this: much as you insist on logic and science, it seems that you're not applying its principles as rigorously as the standards you set for others.

Each of us has our own belief system about what can or cannot "make a difference" in an audio system. Some people are biased towards the objective/doubting end, while others are at the subjective/accepting end. Speaking for myself, it's something that can change with time and experience (in either direction). My view is that while we might disagree we should at least be able to have a sensible discussion without ridicule and disrespect.
IanW, I have previously in this thread stated the following:

Yes, science gets stuff wrong. How do they prove it wrong? By carefully constructed experiments based on a new hypothesis that prove what was thought before to be incorrect. Carefully constructed experiments like a double blind study, none of which have ever proven the nonsense that digital cables, if operating correctly, make any difference in sound. If you conduct such an experiment and you actually prove there is a difference, then science will be proven wrong. Until then, you are simply reporting your bias . Good luck with that experiment..


I apologize for not stating the bolded more clearly. I don't consider a system plagued with transmission errors, or insufficiently shielded, to be "operating correctly". Furthermore, given these circumstances, the sound would suffer noticeable dropouts, not the "brighter, more spatial, wooly, warm, orange peel sound, apple juice fluidity" nonsense that audiophiles describe. It is these silly descriptions that I am speaking to, not easily detected sound deterioration due to actual errors or interference.

A bad cable is a bad cable, but the SPDIF standard was written to a generic video cable, you do not need a $1000 cable to cross the threshold of reliable performance, and once you achieve that, there is no way to improve on it.

As to this part of your post:

By contrast if anyone ever carried out an experiment with a single combination of cable, equipment and listener that demonstrated a repeatable difference under properly controlled conditions (e.g. DBT) your hypothesis would be falsified at a stroke. I'm not making any comment about how likely that is, I'm just pointing out that it's in principle possible to falsify your hypothesis but never to conclusively prove it.


That means to ball is forever in the audiophiles court. Which begs the question: Why the heck haven't they actually used series of DBTs to prove their expensive "digital" cables sound better?

I think we all know the answer to that.
Badge +8
In the first quote I had just gotten a PS Audio PWD with the Bridge.. It was so much better sounding than the Sonos alone.. the PSA Bridge also sounded better, and in my excitement I might have been more exuberant and credited the impressive increase in SQ to the Hi-Res files when it may have been as much or more the contribution of the Bridge.

In the second quote.. after having more time, I think a year or so, maybe you can clarify the timeline since you've done so much research. I came to get a better handle on what I was hearing. I also don't have a problem with being wrong my ego's good with it..

What I find fascinating though is how much you seem to care about what I think.. I mean it must have taken quite a while to dig through all the old forum posts to find just the right ones to wave in my face.. and a lack of grace .. I think that's really more your area of expertise.
In the first quote I had just gotten a PS Audio PWD with the Bridge.. It was so much better sounding than the Sonos alone.. the PSA Bridge also sounded better, and in my excitement I might have been more exuberant and credited the impressive increase in SQ to the Hi-Res files when it may have been as much or more the contribution of the Bridge.

In the second quote.. after having more time, I think a year or so, maybe you can clarify the timeline since you've done so much research. I came to get a better handle on what I was hearing. I also don't have a problem with being wrong my ego's good with it..

What I find fascinating though is how much you seem to care about what I think.. I mean it must have taken quite a while to dig through all the old forum posts to find just the right ones to wave in my face.. and a lack of grace .. I think that's really more your area of expertise.


Actually, I merely copied it from the last time I asked it. You refused to answer that time, and changed the subject to an attack on me. Thanks for taking the time to add an actual explanation in the middle of your normal pattern of posting.
Badge +8
You're Welcome
AS mentioned earlier, improving speakers is far and away the best way to improve sound quality.

Actually what improves the sound quality even more is good quality recordings ...
Userlevel 3
Badge
Clearly there could be a problem with a dodgy cable or connector introducing errors into data transmission, and errors can be audible in the form of clicks, dropouts or other artifacts, similar to playing a damaged CD.

However that is a case of something not working properly and replacing a component to fix it.

So a manufacturer or reviewer can't make a general claim that this cable will improve sound quality. It may if the system is faulty to start with but if it isn't, how do you improve on zero errors?

And if an audiophile claims a cable improved sound quality, does that mean they have been listening to a faulty system? I'm not sure many would admit to that...

Audiophile claims for improvements in sound quality seem to get expressed as "the soundstage was better" or "the vocals are more alive" rather than "I was getting lots of clicks and now I don't":D
Userlevel 3
Badge
IanW, I have previously in this thread stated the following:

Carefully constructed experiments like a double blind study, none of which have ever proven the nonsense that digital cables, if operating correctly, make any difference in sound. If you conduct such an experiment and you actually prove there is a difference, then science will be proven wrong. Until then, you are simply reporting your bias . Good luck with that experiment..


It's not science itself that states the part you've put in bold. It's your belief, or bias as you put it. My belief may be different; it's the job of science to arbitrate between them. I'd argue that, at the time of writing, it hasn't done so (unless you're aware of a DBT that settles it one way or the other, bearing in mind that you can't prove the negative).

I apologize for not stating the bolded more clearly. I don't consider a system plagued with transmission errors, or insufficiently shielded, to be "operating correctly". Furthermore, given these circumstances, the sound would suffer noticeable dropouts, not the "brighter, more spatial, wooly, warm, orange peel sound, apple juice fluidity" nonsense that audiophiles describe. It is these silly descriptions that I am speaking to, not easily detected sound deterioration due to actual errors or interference.

I didn't say anything about plagues of transmission errors or inadequate shielding. Occasional, infrequent transmission errors would not necessarily cause drop-outs; the DAC might be designed to interpolate or perform some other error "reduction" (I recall this is discussed in the AES/EBU standard but I might be mistaken). Noise could be transmitted through the conductors of the cable and injected into the DAC's ground plane or power rail.

This is all about engineering and design, not really "science" as such. It is possible that some combinations of cable and equipment may not work together in a mathematically ideal way, simply because they were designed with different assumptions, constraints, or interpretations of the relevant standards.

A bad cable is a bad cable, but the SPDIF standard was written to a generic video cable, you do not need a $1000 cable to cross the threshold of reliable performance, and once you achieve that, there is no way to improve on it.

Likewise, I didn't mention $1000 cables, and neither did you in your original assertion, so I'm not sure how that's relevant.

As to this part of your post:

By contrast if anyone ever carried out an experiment with a single combination of cable, equipment and listener that demonstrated a repeatable difference under properly controlled conditions (e.g. DBT) your hypothesis would be falsified at a stroke. I'm not making any comment about how likely that is, I'm just pointing out that it's in principle possible to falsify your hypothesis but never to conclusively prove it.


That means to ball is forever in the audiophiles court. Which begs the question: Why the heck haven't they actually used series of DBTs to prove their expensive "digital" cables sound better?

I think we all know the answer to that.


You're arguing on the basis the hypothesis is already proven fact, whereas I've postulated some plausible, engineering-based reasons why it might not be, so if anything I think the burden of proof is with you. But truly I have no axe to grind about this.
So far no one has mentioned another very important phenomenon that affects all audiophiles as well as some others (so far it has affected me thrice in almost 40 years) and that is the very clear increase in enjoyment when one buys new equipment, not because it necessarily sounds better (although it goes without saying that we think that) but because it is new we listen with different ears. This also applies to such silly "improvements" as cables.

When did the snake oil creep in or was it always there? Record players sure have a lot to answer for in this respect.
So far no one has mentioned another very important phenomenon that affects all audiophiles as well as some others (so far it has affected me thrice in almost 40 years) and that is the very clear increase in enjoyment when one buys new equipment, not because it necessarily sounds better (although it goes without saying that we think that) but because it is new we listen with different ears. This also applies to such silly "improvements" as cables.

I think that has been discussed and that is largely the point.

An audiologist one told me that memory and mood can account for significant differences in perceived hearing, often resulting in perceptions which could dwarf any real world differences.

Brand and cost certainly has an impact on how we feel, else manufacturers wouldn't spend millions on this every year. In most cases, audio vendors spend far more on marketing than they do on R&D. And confirmation bias is also significant: it's rare that someone spends a lot of money on something that is supposed to be an improvement without some kind of prior belief.

The trouble is there are those who deny (either directly or via omission) that these things could be a factor even though, in most cases, it's probably the single most significant factor in what you perceive.

When did the snake oil creep in or was it always there? Record players sure have a lot to answer for in this respect.


Snake oil has, of course, always been there, but in the past the lines were blurred. Back then, building a highly linear amp, or creating a recording and playback system with low noise and wide dynamic range was difficult and costly, and the market was born for people who were prepared to spend more money to get better quality. And then, as now, the purchasers of such systems weren't necessarily that expert in how it all worked. Often the purchasers were more interested in owning things which were "rare and beautiful" simply for status symbol value. That's a ripe breeding ground for snake oil products, especially as equipment improved, pricing came down, and the market for "hifi" expanded massively.

Things have changed: these days building an amp that is, for practical purposes, "transparent" can be done by putting together a handful of off-the-shelf components. Recording and playback systems now give us a dynamic range far greater than any commercial recording requires, and a frequency response that is beyond human hearing, but the snake oil guys insist that we can improve on perfection.

There are still challenges, such as speakers, room acoustics, and the quality of recording mixing and mastering, but these are expensive, difficult and, often impractical for end-users to address. As such, they are a hard sell so the snake oil salesmen stick to what has traditionally worked: equipment and cables, bigger specification numbers, pseudo-scientific explanations, and flowery prose.

Cheers,

Keith
It's not science itself that states the part you've put in bold. It's your belief, or bias as you put it. My belief may be different; it's the job of science to arbitrate between them. I'd argue that, at the time of writing, it hasn't done so (unless you're aware of a DBT that settles it one way or the other, bearing in mind that you can't prove the negative).



I didn't say anything about plagues of transmission errors or inadequate shielding. Occasional, infrequent transmission errors would not necessarily cause drop-outs; the DAC might be designed to interpolate or perform some other error "reduction" (I recall this is discussed in the AES/EBU standard but I might be mistaken). Noise could be transmitted through the conductors of the cable and injected into the DAC's ground plane or power rail.

This is all about engineering and design, not really "science" as such. It is possible that some combinations of cable and equipment may not work together in a mathematically ideal way, simply because they were designed with different assumptions, constraints, or interpretations of the relevant standards.



Likewise, I didn't mention $1000 cables, and neither did you in your original assertion, so I'm not sure how that's relevant.



You're arguing on the basis the hypothesis is already proven fact, whereas I've postulated some plausible, engineering-based reasons why it might not be, so if anything I think the burden of proof is with you. But truly I have no axe to grind about this.


Why would the burden of proof be on me? I'm claiming that unless the one who claims to hear a difference can prove it via a DBT, then that difference is based on faith. Prove you hear a difference and then we can talk about why it exists.

And Blackcat cables were one of the boutique brands mentioned in another thread by the very person who made the claim about cables sounding different. Check out their prices and you will see that $1000 cables were mentioned.
Consider the two statements:
1. Two amplifiers that have the same measured flat frequency/distortion response of the kind that most modern amplifiers exhibit, that are working within designed limits - i.e, without clipping/distorting - cannot be distinguished from each other in a level matched DBT when operating with tone controls or the like not engaged.
2. All amplifiers sound the same.
People, of whom I am one, that support the first statement are often said to be saying the second, which they are not. The second statement is not a short version of the first, and isn't believed to be a true statement by them.
I am curious to know if there is anybody on this forum that disagrees with statement 1.


It is interesting - and to me revealing - that the only responses to the above display inadequate reading comprehension or deflect follow on explanations with a stab at humour.

Things have changed: these days building an amp that is, for practical purposes, "transparent" can be done by putting together a handful of off-the-shelf components.

This isn't recent and the amplifier problem was solved by engineers and manufacturers about 25 years ago. Recent real progress has been to drive down the cost of the solution to very low levels.

Pricing them for what the target market will bear is a different matter, the realm of business management/marketing and not science.

The DAC problem was similarly solved within a few years of their appearance on the audio scene. In some ways, it is a simpler problem - none of the complex and dynamic speaker load interactions to be dealt with.

The cable subject does not merit discussion. Along with green magic markers.

This is the internet though. I am sure there are still places on the net where the view that the Apollo missions landing on the moon was a hoax is actively debated.
So far no one has mentioned another very important phenomenon that affects all audiophiles as well as some others (so far it has affected me thrice in almost 40 years) and that is the very clear increase in enjoyment when one buys new equipment, not because it necessarily sounds better (although it goes without saying that we think that) but because it is new we listen with different ears.
Good point, though I would argue that it isn't the ears that are the culprit, but the easy to manipulate brain.
As just an example, take the case of someone that has bought a Marantz PM 6005 amp, after reading the audio press reviews of how it delivers noticeably better sound than even its immediate predecessor, the 6004. Having got the new kit home, and installed it, with a brain preconditioned to believe it sounds better, how can it not sound to be so? The financial and emotional investments demand that kind of return.
I am not sure that Marantz makes such claims for it - as far as I know, the only thing they say is that it has the addition of a built in DAC to take digital inputs. But Marantz counts on the media, perhaps persuaded by ad spend, and word of mouth on the net and other places, to do the job of selling better sound quality from it.

You're arguing on the basis the hypothesis is already proven fact, whereas I've postulated some plausible, engineering-based reasons why it might not be, so if anything I think the burden of proof is with you.

What is the truth, the philosopher would ask?
Every scientific fact is nothing but a hypothesis that is yet to be proved wrong, to be then substituted by a better one. The all swans are white hypothesis/fact is easy to be proved wrong by finding just the one black swan - but where is that in this case of amplifiers/DBTs?
Surely if you are going to make such postulations, they remain just speculations until you find the black swan? While the white swan hypothesis has been constructed by many people that have done these tests over the years and are satisfied to its quality. Anyone that doesn't agree has the burden of finding the black swan to destroy it.
Over at Harbeth UK, Alan Shaw for some time now has offered a free pair of his flagship speakers to anyone that can turn up one in controlled conditions, with any two amp of the claimants choice that are in working condition and meet a frequency response/distortion criteria that almost all modern ones do. No downsides, no entry fee, except for travel costs. And yet he has seen no takers, not even from people living in the UK where travel costs/time may not be the investment it would be for people elsewhere. Where are the black swans hiding?
Userlevel 3
Badge
What is the truth, the philosopher would ask?
Every scientific fact is nothing but a hypothesis that is yet to be proved wrong, to be then substituted by a better one. The all swans are white hypothesis/fact is easy to be proved wrong by finding just the one black swan - but where is that in this case of amplifiers/DBTs?
Surely if you are going to make such postulations, they remain just speculations until you find the black swan? While the white swan hypothesis has been constructed by many people that have done these tests over the years and are satisfied to its quality. Anyone that doesn't agree has the burden of finding the black swan to destroy it.
Over at Harbeth UK, Alan Shaw for some time now has offered a free pair of his flagship speakers to anyone that can turn up one in controlled conditions, with any two amp of the claimants choice that are in working condition and meet a frequency response/distortion criteria that almost all modern ones do. No downsides, no entry fee, except for travel costs. And yet he has seen no takers, not even from people living in the UK where travel costs/time may not be the investment it would be for people elsewhere. Where are the black swans hiding?


You've conveniently elided my following comment to the effect that I don't really care who has the burden of proof. It's not important to the thrust of my argument, which is that both sides of the debate are actually discussing beliefs (about the real-world behaviour of engineering and technology) rather than scientific fact.
You've conveniently elided my following comment to the effect that I don't really care who has the burden of proof. It's not important to the thrust of my argument, which is that both sides of the debate are actually discussing beliefs (about the real-world behaviour of engineering and technology) rather than scientific fact.
I am sorry I misunderstood you to mean that the side arguing for conclusion validity based on controlled level matched DBTs has to prove the negative as well. I must have misread:D.
Leaving aside the question of whether this approach is based on a belief/fact/hypothesis, what exactly is the statement of the other side of the debate, never mind what it is called?
Userlevel 2
Badge
Well, Tell Alan Shaw to come to America with that offer, myself and millions of others would be glad to relieve him of some free Harbeths.

God knows, science never got anything wrong either. Logic would dictate that even if all amps where created equal, there would still be perceived differences because audio is certainly subjective and hearing itself is different from person to person.