Does good technology guarantees musicality?

Nowadays many audiophiles think that if you DIY a state-of-the-art DAC with the implementation of the right technology and with the use of the best parts money can buy, then you will automatically get a good (and musical) sounding DAC. I personally think that this way you can get a (technically) good sounding DAC, but it is still questionable if it would sound musical too. I mean technically perfect is not synonimous with musicality. Many people are able to build a technically flawless DAC, but only a few are able to build a musical sounding DAC. Do you agree with this?

[/quote] Does good technology guarantees musicality? [/quote]

Not in the audiophile sense - but it will get you accurate reproduction with no distortion.
No. It either faithfully reproduces the original analog signal or it doesn't. "Musical" is a highly subjective term that is impossible to quantify.

Shadorne, I agree. But do you only want to have accuracy without distortion? Even techno music from Kraftwerk (which seems devoid from any human emotion has some musicality).

Cd was thought has a "perfect technology" on a road to perfect sound. And for all practical reason's it did sound quite logical. With no ticks clicks and pops, with a laser reading all info with nothing physically touching to distort. Well unfortunate for us it did not pan out, until independent and small companies picked up the baton and with their tweaking with the use of large corporate R&D muscle machinery, we are still wanting and waiting.
Musical is in the ears of the listener, and as another person has already stated, "musical" is impossible to quantify. What one listener considers musical, another will consider a-musical.

The audio hobby cannot be wrapped in nice conforming packages.

And so it goes...
The actual results depend more on component/cable matching, careful setup and the room acoustics of the particular room where the system is installed. Other than that, I do try to look for equipment that provides excellent technical performance per dollar spent.

In case you're wondering, yes, it is possible to put together a system where all the components technical performance and measurements are superb (and exceedingly expensive)... yet the system sounds completely awful, unbalanced, and amusical. And many audiophiles are apparently adept at doing exactly that. In point of fact, the more resolving the system's capability is, the easier it is to screw it up and the harder it is to get it to sound both detailed and musical. That's what makes this hobby so challenging and interesting.

To put it another way, buying the best, top-rated equipment will not, in itself, guarantee good sound. You not only need the best components, you need the experience and skill to get them to work to their best advantage. But the good news is that some of the best performing gear is not necessarily the highest priced gear. A lot of audiophiles actually believe they get what they pay for... Some do, and a lot don't. It's a rule that is bent and broken all the time.

I see so many audiophiles that are very trepidacious and paranoid about making any purchase without exploring tons of data and research and then reaching out for 2nd and 3rd-party opinions in these forums and elsewhere. Then, after they buy the product, they are paranoid that they could have bought a better performing product for the same price.

My feeling is that if you're that paranoid you should simply buy a Bose Wave Radio and leave it at that. Of course you'll want to shop around for the best price, but I digress.

Merry Christmas to all my fellow audio lunatics. Here's wishing you a more precise and expansive soundstage and a very unpredictable yet dynamic New Year!
Chris, While I sort of agree with your conclusions.........

What exactly does 'technically perfect' meant to you? Are you referring only to the DAC's translating the digital signal in the pits to some form of an analogue signal, or are you including the analogue out put stage.

If you are including the analogue output stage of the DAC, can you tell me where you will find a description of its 'technical perfection'. Perhaps the most important part of a DAC IS the analogue output. Perhaps that is what differentiates, or at least contributes the most to, what you refere to as 'musical' (what ever that is).

Then of course you have system synergy issues and your ability to make this happen (synergy) for you in carefully
matching components, including the DAC, and room set-up.
Ideally, we probably all strive for good technology and musicality with our own systems and particular tastes. Totally subjective. Every once in a while, we get lucky and they coincide.

This just happened to me with a recently-rebuilt 3910 Denon where 32-bit AKM DACs, a digital input and Class A tube output stage are yielding the most detailed, involving, transparent and musical presentation I have ever heard out of my system.
Newbee, that's an interesting point. Some manufacturers are trying to get the best out of their D/A converters by optimizing the digital circuitry, but they pay less attention to the... D/A converter's analog part. I think it has to do with costs. A good discrete analog section add a significant amount to the total costs of a unit. So these manufacturers use OPamps because they are cheaper. But I think these OPamps are still inferior to well executed discrete analog amplifiers. Why are many so called reference "oldskool" DAC's (Wadia 9, Goldmund 10C, Accuphase DC-91, Krell Ref 64) still sound so good after nearly 20 years? Well I think mainly because of the high quality design of their (discrete) analog sections.

This just happened to me with a recently-rebuilt 3910 Denon where 32-bit AKM DACs, a digital input and Class A tube output stage are yielding the most detailed, involving, transparent and musical presentation I have ever heard out of my system.
Fplanner2000 (System | Threads | Answers)
It sounds to me like you may have come to the same conclusion as I did. Specifically, that the APL Denon 3910 with digital input sounds better with an outboard transport than it does with the Denon's own transport.

I'm using mine with a relatively inexpensive Music Hall CD25.2 modded as a transport by Parts Connexion. To my ears, the sound is fuller, richer and more meaty with the Music Hall transport than with the Denon alone.
Chris, Yep! IMHO, most anything sounds better than op amps in the DAC/CDP's I've heard.
BTW, I also prefer tubes. Nothing is perfect and they give me a lot of flexibility that SS doesn't. More fun...........
consider the word "musical". it refers to the attributes of music, namely, pitch, timbre and harmonics.

a recording does accurately represent the timbre and harmonics of instruments., just as any reproduction is not a on-to-one representation of that which is being reproduced.

given an imperfect recording and components which are themselves imperfect, what can one expect ?

the answer is obviously imperfection . some forms of imperfection are acceptable to some people, while other versions of imperfection are acceptable to other people.

thus, the best one can attain is an imperfect representation of music which is acceptable and pleasing to a listener.

perhaps, one could ask another question:

"does good technology guarantee satisfaction with the sound produced by that technology ?"

there is no definitive answer to this question. it is unique to each owner of a stereo system.

accept the premise that whatever one owns will be inaccurate and strive to configure a stereo system that enables one to enjoy the music. the listening is more important than the technology.

in my own case i establish subjective criteria, independent of technology.
i made an error in my previous post, which may not have been corrected.

i meant to say: "a recording does not accurately represent the timbre of instruments......"

sorry for the error, if it wasn't corrected.
Tvad- I went in the other direction, already having an Esoteric UX-1 with arguably one of the best transports made, and then having my Denon upgraded again very recently by APL to be used as a 32-bit DAC. Same result - got tired of dealing with the unreliability(laser) and very average sound. The digital input on the Denon now opens all sorts of possibilities......
Hmmm...I think we are saying the same thing. I have the APL with 32 bit DACs and just recently received it back from APL with a new laser assembly. The Music Hall CD25.2 still sounds best into the APL DAC (which I believe sounds excellent).
But do you only want to have accuracy without distortion?

All I am saying is that technically perfect gear is not satisfactory to most audiophiles as they want "musicality" (some kind of pleasing added coloration to the sound - that audiophiles agree is "musical" but which a measurement would identify as added distortion in the form of harmonics, phase shift or added emphasis and/or resonance - things that are generally incompatible with accuracy but sound great)
Good question/theory Chris.....after living down the block from the Twilight Zone for decades,its been decided without upgraded/modded ears,its irrelevent dare I say hardly necessary to go beyond stock equipment including DAC's to go beyond stock enjoyment.Though some would say its the chase not just the catch that continually promise you with those technical rainbows,YMMV,Bob
Implementation is everything in front-end gear, particularly DAC's. A good implementation can use a 10-year old D/A chip, but sound better than a new design with a newer D/A chip with better specs, and this is fairly typical. Case in point is the great specs on the AKM DAC chips, but they are not very musical IMO.

I do not recommend purchasing based on the latest chips inside. The designers skill, experience and innovation is more important IMO.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Steve, are you a proponent of OPamps in the analog section of a DAC?

When you take the best AKM DAC chips and put them in the hands of a skilled, experienced and innovative designer who knows how to properly implement them, it becomes something very special. That is the case with my modded Denon, and why I am smiling.
To Audioengr's point about AKM DACs...I have owned a silver disc player into
which were installed Crystal DACs and AKM DACs during various
"upgrades", I am perhaps the only one who will admit preferring the
Crystal DACs (others have mentioned their preference for Crystal DACs privately
but will not discuss it publicly). I preferred them over every iteration of AKM
DACs that were installed...including the latest 32 bit version.

IMO, AKM DACs sound more transparent and accurate than Crystal DACs, but
like Audioengr said, they lack the musicality of Crystal DACs.
Very interesting conclusion Tvad. I'm also a proponent of a state-of-the-art analog section. The analog section could be the most determining factor as far as sound quality concerned. One can have a 1995 digital technology with very good analog section --> will give very good sound (Wadia, Goldmund, Accuphase), otherwise one can have 2008 digital technology with compromised analog section --> will give compromised sound. Do you agree with this?

I agree, yes.
i have a dac designed by john tucker of exemplar audio. there are no op amps, it uses two e180cc tubes. i have also tried 12at7 and 12au7, with mixed results. it uses a 16-bit phillips chip. i have replaced several pairs of caps and am reasonably satisfied with its performance.

i think taste or preference, trumps technology. some of my favorite components were in production in the 80's and 70's.
i think taste or preference, trumps technology.

Because music is art - this will always be an issue - the most perfect technology may NOT be what people prefer to hear - people who pay 10K for an item probably do NOT want it to sound just like a $200 item - only a bit cleaner and with better S/N and better dynamics. They want some distinctive coloration for all that extra money. Hugh Padgham prefers Analog. He loves digital for ease of use (pro tools) but still prefers to record to analog multitrack tape. You can listen to an interview if you are interested. This engineer is responsible for the sound of Police/Sting and several famous albums. As everyone knows analog tape is much more forgiving when overdriven and can be used as a compressor that will not sound harsh - this saves time and money in a studio that will not need to re-record a badly placed mike or if the drummer gets over energeticon a particular take. Real insturments have such amazing dynamic range.....
I would go further by saying that digital sound reproduction has not been evolving since 1992. In that particular year four companies introduced their reference digital units: Wadia with the 7/9, Krell with the MD-10 transport and Reference 64 DAC, Goldmund with the Mimesis 10P and Accuphase with the DP-90/DC-91. After these efforts: no news actually. What was their secret? Meticulous enginering and implementation of technology and superior design of the analog section. You might not agree with this statement, but you have to concur that those were the days.

1992 is a "bit" dated in digital. By 1990, Jitter was just surfacing as an accepted major concern which many manufacturers had not yet fully addressed.
Reproduced music....can it be bet...can digital reproduce...big beautiful tonaly involving sound..well if it can't my system is a one of. A single component won't do it...can't. It takes a lot of work and a great deal of listening to get a educated ear and some luck.
Shadorne: you are right, but even without the current knowledge about jitter those manufacturers managed to produce very musical sounding machines, that are still very good compared to today's best efforts. You should admit that :)