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HD800/K550 comparison from Benchmark DAC2 to onboard
xnor
post Feb 25 2014, 18:56
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So Tom's Hardware posted this article where they use a Sennheiser HD800 and AKG K550 to compare:
- Benchmark DAC2
- O2+ODAC
- Asus Xonar Essence STX
- Realtek ALC889

Although their test setup wasn't perfect, like the small problems with level-matching, they had a really hard time identifying audible differences.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/high-e...audio,3733.html


QUOTE
Although we don't typically review audio gear, we believe that we have a few advantages over some hi-fi reviewers. First, we have no financial interest in the products we review. Second, we're PC enthusiasts, not self-proclaimed audiophiles.


QUOTE
One thing we know we're good at is designing objective tests, learning from them, and drawing fact-basing conclusions based on the analysis. The integrity of our methodologies is everything, and we can't help but believe that approach is rare in audio equipment testing.


QUOTE
I sank $2000 of my own money into the DAC2 HGC last December, so I subjectively wanted it to sound better than everything else. Tests have shown that it doesn't. I was surprised, but, having been personally involved in the evaluation and believing in the integrity of what we set up, I rationally accept the findings.




This post has been edited by xnor: Feb 25 2014, 18:57
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pdq
post Feb 25 2014, 19:42
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Already mentioned...
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xnor
post Feb 25 2014, 20:17
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Oh I'm sorry, didn't see that thread.
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skamp
post Feb 25 2014, 20:21
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Hardware from Benchmark Media Systems buys you technical excellence, the kind of stuff you measure with with a dScope. NwAvGuy used a DAC1 USB as a reference for tuning his O2/ODAC. With such hardware, you know it can't sound any better than that, even though it's obvious that its performance goes well beyond audibility. If you have the money, why not?


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Banned
post Feb 25 2014, 22:03
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QUOTE (skamp @ Feb 25 2014, 21:21) *
Hardware from Benchmark Media Systems buys you technical excellence, the kind of stuff you measure with with a dScope.
Perharps Prism Sound should consider selling dScope to audiophools as a DAC. It's big, it's more expensive than everything else, which will probably give it good reviews. If nothing else, it would give visiting non-crazy people a measuring tool for arguing with them. wink.gif

This post has been edited by Banned: Feb 25 2014, 22:04
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4season
post Feb 26 2014, 01:00
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I bought a Benchmark DAC2 HCG last summer and like it lots, but mostly I wanted it for it's features and sheer obsessive technical excellence, not because I was expecting the heavens to open up to me. And because I wanted to test NWAVGUY's claim that ODAC + O2 were sonically transparent! Aside from so-so channel tracking on my O2's volume control up until the 9 o'clock position, I think they do sound pretty much the same to my ears. DAC 2's volume control tracking seems pretty much perfect to my ears, but what do you expect for the price. It's also a proper FCC Class B-rated device, for what that's worth.

Tossing a raw $2 IC into the comparison seemed just a bit silly to me dry.gif
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xnor
post Feb 26 2014, 03:19
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QUOTE (4season @ Feb 26 2014, 01:00) *
Tossing a raw $2 IC into the comparison seemed just a bit silly to me dry.gif


Why? Even the most expensive ICs used in the Benchmark DAC are not over ~$50.
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Arnold B. Kruege...
post Feb 26 2014, 13:58
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QUOTE (4season @ Feb 25 2014, 19:00) *
I bought a Benchmark DAC2 HCG last summer and like it lots, but mostly I wanted it for it's features and sheer obsessive technical excellence, not because I was expecting the heavens to open up to me. And because I wanted to test NWAVGUY's claim that ODAC + O2 were sonically transparent! Aside from so-so channel tracking on my O2's volume control up until the 9 o'clock position, I think they do sound pretty much the same to my ears. DAC 2's volume control tracking seems pretty much perfect to my ears, but what do you expect for the price. It's also a proper FCC Class B-rated device, for what that's worth.


IMO the O2 is grossly overbuilt and overpriced.


QUOTE
Tossing a raw $2 IC into the comparison seemed just a bit silly to me dry.gif


Why?
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Mach-X
post Feb 26 2014, 19:08
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Because nobody wants to find out that said $2 IC sounds the same as their $1000 desktop dac, they would rather put their fingers in their ears and exclaim "NANANANANANANANANA". As skamp said earlier, however, if said equipment is precision built, looks like a Michealangelo work of art, and you have the money, why not? I have no issue with beautiful hardware. Just don't tell me how its PRaT bests my clip+ or else my fingers will be in my ears.
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boombaard
post Feb 26 2014, 20:07
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QUOTE (4season @ Feb 26 2014, 02:00) *
Tossing a raw $2 IC into the comparison seemed just a bit silly to me dry.gif

That sounds like an indirect way of saying "I don't like their finding"...
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4season
post Feb 26 2014, 23:35
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QUOTE (4season @ Feb 25 2014, 19:00) *
Tossing a raw $2 IC into the comparison seemed just a bit silly to me dry.gif


QUOTE (Arnold B. Krueger @ Feb 26 2014, 05:58) *
Why?


Can't very well enjoy an isolated IC until it's actually incorporated into something, can we? What about a proper circuit board, for starters? I suppose someone could point-to-point wire a SOIC device, but I wouldn't want to.
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4season
post Feb 26 2014, 23:45
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QUOTE (boombaard @ Feb 26 2014, 12:07) *
QUOTE (4season @ Feb 26 2014, 02:00) *
Tossing a raw $2 IC into the comparison seemed just a bit silly to me dry.gif

That sounds like an indirect way of saying "I don't like their finding"...


Okay, you tell me how to get sound out of a Realtek ALC889 using nothing but that one IC. I'll wait.

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xnor
post Feb 27 2014, 00:06
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Of course an implementation requires more parts and this "$2" is obviously journalistic exaggeration, but does it really matter if they say $2, $10 or $20?
Doesn't reduce the $2000 price tag of the DAC2 HGC.


I see no problem with expensive hardware either, but audiophiles claim that every single extra $ spent results in an increase in sound quality which of course is nonsense. They don't like to hear this, but what they really hate is when you show them abysmal measurements of the really expensive "high-end" sh..tuff.
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Arnold B. Kruege...
post Feb 27 2014, 14:13
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QUOTE (4season @ Feb 26 2014, 17:45) *
QUOTE (boombaard @ Feb 26 2014, 12:07) *
QUOTE (4season @ Feb 26 2014, 02:00) *
Tossing a raw $2 IC into the comparison seemed just a bit silly to me dry.gif

That sounds like an indirect way of saying "I don't like their finding"...


Okay, you tell me how to get sound out of a Realtek ALC889 using nothing but that one IC. I'll wait.



http://www.alibaba.com/countrysearch/CN/ic-alc889.html

Looks like the $2 price would be on the high side... Lots!

However after looking at some implementations on real world system boards, the total audio interface ensemble looks to me like it is more than a couple bucks worth of parts:

http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardw...d-review-8.html



The above picture is of a slightly different chip, but the support parts complement is similar.
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xnor
post Feb 27 2014, 15:05
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Cheap mainboards with ALC889 start at about €40. The audio implementation on those boards cannot be over a few euros.

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cliveb
post Feb 27 2014, 17:16
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QUOTE (xnor @ Feb 27 2014, 14:05) *
Cheap mainboards with ALC889 start at about 40. The audio implementation on those boards cannot be over a few euros.

An important point here is that the way the ALC889 is incorporated onto the motherboard can affect the performance. Some motherboards do it well; others not so well.

Tom's Hardware says they used a Rampage III Formula motherboard (which happens not to be a $40 component - more like $400). So their results regarding the ALC889 are applicable only within the context of that mobo. (And it wouldn't surprise me if the particular PSU used for the mobo could also affect things, depending on how much ground plane and/or RFI garbage the PSU puts out and whether said garbage finds its way into the audio subsystem). So you could easily buy some other mobo with onboard ALC889 and get significantly worse results.
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xnor
post Feb 27 2014, 17:26
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Rampage III Formula is also a >2 year old mainboard, and quick search results showed that at least in a loopback test it's audio performance was nothing special at all.

Sure, you can get worse results, but today you can get better Realtek chips on better boards that cost less.
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4season
post Feb 28 2014, 01:59
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QUOTE (xnor @ Feb 26 2014, 16:06) *
I see no problem with expensive hardware either, but audiophiles claim that every single extra $ spent results in an increase in sound quality which of course is nonsense. They don't like to hear this, but what they really hate is when you show them abysmal measurements of the really expensive "high-end" sh..tuff.


Right, I never claimed I could hear a difference--save for that volume control tracking--between O2/ODAC and my Benchmark DAC 2, and never really expected otherwise. But something about Benchmark's obsessive pursuit of technical perfection appealed to me laugh.gif Gotta give them some credit: The circuit including PCB layout, grounding and power supply likely need to be top-notch in order to achieve such measured performance.

And no one needs to remind me that even a modest AVR can be a big sonic value, but I reserve the right to gripe about painted-on markings that rub off with use, or large and elaborate remotes in which most of the buttons look identical.
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xnor
post Feb 28 2014, 02:49
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I hear you. Of course their design is great (and I definitely give them credit for that) because they actually try to reach technical perfection, unlike some other "high-end" manufacturers that design (exclusively/mainly) by ear.

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