Listening experiences of my audio equipment
Updated Introduction November 25th:
Below was the first part of my listening experiences. In the mean time many things has changed, so I will rewrite it and update it for the current situation. Trying to describe the whole evolution will not make this more clear I think. On some other pages, I do describe the influence of tweaking with tubes and capacitors for example. So there is some fine tuning. The hardest part I always find is the relativeness of sound comparison. To often it looks like the "old" situation, or the "other" equipment is TOTALLY WIPED OUT !! Well believe me , this is normally not the case. The best test I have is: ask my self the question? do I want to go back? if the answer is no, I know that I moved on a little step to the next phase of having beautiful sound reproduction........
Old initial Introduction:
And Doede, how does the DAC finally sounds and what is the outcome of all this combining and comparing???
Surely this must be the most interesting part...... Of course the DAC is a total unit, with lots of elements working together, resulting in one sound, but never the less I will try to categorize the different experiences based on changing every time just ONE thing. By the set up of the PCB with the 4 pole switches, enabling quick selection of any of the 4 combinations, easy A-B comparison was possible. The other reference was the Marantz CD10 at the normal standard analog output. By coincidence, the signal level from the DAC + transformer was the same as the analog output from the CD player, so easy comparison with the old reference was quickly and easily done. Another very interesting comparison was done against the LINN LP12 with Jubilee. I recently bumped into a very special limited edition of a life recording session, sponsored by some German Audiophile magazines and B&W. The album (includes a 180 gram LP and CD) is called "Friends of Carlotta - live in studio". The special thing here is that the tube (!) microphones were directly coupled to a 28bit 96kHz sampling A/D converter and digitally mixed at 32 bits. After mixing with B&W nautilus 801 monitors, a 180 grams LP master was cut directly and a CD master was produced on 44.1kHz and 16 bit (what else...) So I had a TOP CD and TOP LP, directly recorded from the same source. The quality from this recording is absolutely superb. The music is acoustic instruments, vocals and some electronic instruments, interpreting classic pop songs like "how deep is your love" , "in the air tonight" and "Walking' in Memphis" Nice relaxing music with life atmosphere and good position of vocals and instruments, open soundstage and lots of imaging depth. I used these 2 recordings as the master comparison reference. Indeed, I played lots of other music, but this was the one for al A-B comparisons.
Old General comparison:
Regardless which combinations (they are actually all very good an close to each other) are chosen, compared to the standard CD Player output, the DDDAC plays, pin point, open, very detailed, dynamic and controlled. It is just unfair. The CD10 has no chance..... the blur from the CD10 is wiped out complete. The CD10 is limited in stage width and depth. With the DDDAC there seems to be no limit, every time I was surprised by the extreme naturalism of the DAC. It sounded analog..... never sharp, no sssssss, lots of air round the instruments, which are pin point in focus. The comparison with LINN LP12 was different stuff.... Here we have to do with one of the best, reference analog sound reproducers.... a tough job. At the bottom, I will give my final ranking and as you will see, it is hard to make a choice here. The LINN/Jubilee is extremely dynamic, and very very low level detailed, but as expected, bass is less controlled than the DAC; rounder, warmer. In terms of sound stage, spatial sound, midrange voices, they score equal. The CD10 stays far behind the LINN. (this was the reason to start this project any way, remember?) Conclusion: I will now BOTH use CD and LP. and that is exactly what I was targeting for!!!!
Update November 25th:
In the meantime the new PHONO Stage is playing and this stage is getting every thing out of the LINN combination. The sound is very very natural now and the stage shows more air and space than the DAC, Still the CD10 has no chance. I compared last weekend the DDDAC with the tribute DAC, very similar, but with a simple digital filter, the SM5813. The SM5842, with its far more precise calculation algorithms and much more bits, is playing in another class. Both very nice, but in A-B you can tell in 2 seconds what is going on: clearer voices, softer highs, and more air around the instruments, more natural
Digital Receivers / Up
The only thing we can actually compare here is the difference between asynchrone sampling and the PLL recovery of the clock. The difference is mainly in the sound stage reproduction. bass, mid and high's stay the same, all fine and smooth, BUT with the up sampler the volume of the sound stage increases, echo's are clearer to locate and are more separated from the source. More focus, more detail. Clearly the winner here. But no losers here, the 8412 still does a great job! But as Dick stated: People will pay an extra 1.000$ for this difference in a high end CD Player...... I think this tells more about the crazy prices of high end, but this is what the "alternative" is any way. Go to the high end dealer and spend a few month salaries....
Up Sampler clock oscillators
XO Clock versus "Simplething":
The upsampler needs a separate clock oscillator. I still had a low jitter XO Clock (2ppm) and just built this one in, like, "well at least the clock is superb".... Though, I kept on asking myself, if with the asynchrone sampling and very local control of clocking, this was absolutely necessary. So I arranged a 12Mhz simple (50ppm) clock oscillator (the square metal blocks (dip14 size) with 4 pins) and soldered a simple A-B solutions, I could switch between 44.1kHz XO Clock and 46.9kHz "simpleclock" I admit, I tried hard to find the XO "better"... didn't I pay almost 300DM for this thing some time ago AND DOES THE !"MHz cost like 5DM???? Unfortunately I couldn't. The other oscillator did an as fine job as the XO. If some one else can hear a difference, it must be so small, that I do not want to spend 300DM for it !!! I realize this might sound embarrassing for the XO Clock freaks, but they should not forget, that they probably are using the clock in the CD player itself where the effect is clearly proven! But after the transmission line to the DAC, resampling seems to be the egg of Columbus!!! The same applies for the differences in cables and between optical and coax !! With resampling no difference is noticeable..... So no need to spend 500$ on this special coax cable....
The digital filters:
Before the 8542 from NPC arrived, I already had the DF1704 for a couple of weeks up and running. I used the combination of CS8420 and DF1704. And this sounded great! No discussion. So when the 8 times more expensive NPC chip arrived, I was a bit skeptic. Plugged the chip in and warmed up some time and there we go..... wow! in the first 10 seconds something became very clear!! It really makes a DIFFERENCE how the filter is set up, how many bits and registers are available for the number crunching and how the algorithms are written! The 5842 is in one word SMOOTH compared to the DF1704. Has the 1704 still some "digital signature", the NPC is free of sounding digital. I was really shocked! The difference is not like the CD10 to the DDDAC, but it is the final TWEAK !!! the atmosphere of the music reproduction just changes, it becomes relaxed and unbelievable smooth, yes, analog, yes, this combination I would prefer over the LINN LP12 (except for the extreme filigree highs from the LINN, they remain unreachable...)
Yes, I could compare this one as well. I compared to my old line amp. A SRPP with a G.E. ECC83 and some feedback to reduce output impedance and reduce the high gain. By the way: this sounded much better than a straight SRPP with ECC82. The MU with the DHT 30 was clearly superior to the minitubes. Open powerful soundstage details details details and very very natural. Later this part had to contest with the Line Stage from Dick... Clearly, Dicks very nice evolved line stage with Philips Triodes in MU-arrangement and power supply with PIO capacitors was from a higher level. Main differences acoustic soundstage and smoothness in high frequencies. Here the reference was set for further tweaking with the capacitors in the Tube stage (I used mainly what was on hand in my hobby room...) and the power supply.
Update November 25th:
This is totally obsolete. The Tube stage described on the other pages is removed already from the DAC. Now the DD-PRE2001 is playing. Again another class. But also the DAC has no problems to show off with the better equipment, so there was enough space left over.......
The combination of the 8420 and 5842 is the clear winner, even on some point on the LINN. Expensive like hell, but very good. This is the combination which I play normally. Sometimes, I get curious again and switch around between the chips. I am the first to admit, the other combi's are good as well, but do not have this final touch...... and my LINN/Jubilee helps me convince again. Further more, there is potential left over in the Tube Stage for getting the components selected for that last tweak and final sound.
Update November 25th:
Still very valid, but it is not as good as the Analog chain now, so I will start working on the DDDAC2002 now.... we will see !!
The end ranking:
Actually I hate to do this, but I want to give the reader some reference....... Please find the points of the Dutch Jury ------>
I value here the elements in sound chain with points (100 is not the worlds ever better best, I am not that arrogant, but it means the best I hear at home) I introduce now also some other "normal" equipment for comparison with the reference to give you an idea of how I rate this all. Plus I will add other references I heard, like the Line Stage from Dick
Update November 25th:
I try to redo this list now, but change the ranking process.
I now introduce 3 levels of difference compared to the reference equipment (R)
M: Major difference, this is the type of worlds apart, transistor amp of 500DM against serious stuff, A standard Pick-Up with standard MM against the LINN etc
C: means Class difference, this means that overall the sound reproduction is clearly better in almost or all aspects. This is what you hear comparing 2 amplifiers, one high end single end with top 300B and may be a good old posh pull EL34
T: means tweak difference. You can notice the difference when listening A-B, you do not want to go back, but may be would not be able to recognize the next day, what is actually playing. This is normally the case with changing a capacitor, or changing a small signal tube or so.
I will give + or - points to differentiate
|CD10 player with analog output||M--|
|Velleman KT4000, Push Pull EL34 amp, ultralinear, driver with ecc 81||M-|
|ECC83 (JAN GE) line amp. Simple power supply my old one||C-|
|ECC83 (JAN GE) PHONO amp SRPP with passive RIAA. Simple power supply. my old one||C|
|Simple 300B Chinese AMP with "normal" driver stage 6SN7, 5UG4 and Elco's. My early old amp before tweaking||C--|
|Simple 300B AVVT AMP with MU stage 76, GZ34 and Solen C's. My old amp before Golidav||C|
|DDDAC with CS8412||T----|
|DDDAC 2000 with DF1704||T---|
|DDDAC 2000 with CS8420 and SM5842 and PCM63||T--|
|LINN LP12 Jubilee (if only highs and high mid's are considered, plus 5 points)||R|
|DD PRE 2001, the no compromise line stage with ditto PHONO stage. Runs with 5691 and 30, AZ11 and all Oil C||R|
|Golidav, the Single Ended No Compromise SE amp with the KR300BXLS and 227 in MU Stage, AZ11 and all Oil C||R|
Happy Listening and Building !!!!
IMPORTANT: The information provided on this page is intended as guide for DIY activities and therefore free to copy and or publish. If any one wishes to use any of the information from my WEB site, please make sure to refer and footnote to my URL Link as source! Doede Douma