If the last 30 years of DAC design has been focusing on "transparency" "inner detail" "lifting veils" and/or "resolution", it's quite possible that the 80's chip is better.
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Audio Note also uses this approach. I have heard a couple of their DAC's, an entry level one, and an upper middle end one and they sounded excellent, very natural. There is definitely something to this. I think what a lot of people may not understand is that back in the early days of digital playback there was much more than the DAC chip sets themselves and the lack of over sampling that were the main culprits for making those early players sound horrible. With the improvements in other areas of digital design some modern designers have discovered that there are more important factors for determining sound quality in digital [playback then DAC chips and over/up sampling.
Remember that the big electronics companies took their designers off CD in the early 90s. They no longer design chips specifically for CD, but adopt chips designed for other purposes. Many of them fall into the "measures good, sounds blah" category. There are many who agree with this designer, I do myself to a large degree. HIFICRITIC had discussed this is some detail. They have found a decline in general CD performance since the early 90s. The best of the newer designs are fantastic, but cost a fortune; and several of them use older chips. I have a high quality DAC from the early 90s and a more modern one and neither upsample. If tube lovers can maintain that old ones sound better than current ones why would it be surprising that older chips , many of which were relatively expensive to make, sound better in quality audio applications than mass produced ones designed for MP3 players?
Yes, they are serious, but others in the opposing camps are equally serious. Each believes what they believe as to what constitutes a better DAC (or amp, or speaker, or pick your item.)
The catch is your personal preference should not be subject to a popularity vote or some one else's preference. You'll need to listen for yourself to decide. Alternatively, you can turn your choice over to whichever party's argument makes the most sense to you. Just keep in mind there will be plenty of others who think otherwise.
And then I came across an article regarding a DAC GURU from Eastern Europe that on his point of view a 1980´s TDA1541A D/A chip and using no Up-sampling is far more musical approach than any up-to-date Burr Brown, Crysta or Wolfson DAC with 24 Bit 96 or 192 Khz technology.
And since I also consider myself from Eastern Europe, I am wondering if the above mentioned Guru has heard some 195kHz/32bit that is further upsampled to 6.24MHz, and how this sounds compared to NonOS?
What is so hard to believe? Physics hasn't changed, only our application of it.
IME, NOS DACs have a very organic presentation that is rather nice on simple music, but breaks up or washes out on complex passages. I prefer the native sample rates in a more modern (revealing) chip.
FWIW, the chip its self is but small portion of the sound of a D>A conversion. Transport clocking, output filters and output stage are just as important, if not more so.
I am not sure about any of this but I have run the path of afordable CD players from early Magnavox units to CA 840, Rega Apollo, Sony SACD 777ES. The one thing that sticks in my mind is that while these later units (from an objective point of view) are better I swear I enjoyed the cheap Maganvox players more. They just seemed more musical. Keith
I will have to agree with 4est's post above...
IME, NOS DACs have a very organic presentation that is rather nice on simple music, but breaks up or washes out on complex passages. I prefer the native sample rates in a more modern (revealing) chip.because my experience it similar.
Although in most cases you can obtain nice sound with the "Addition by subtraction" effect, I've always been a fan of analog-like sound combined with tight linearity, resulting in uncolored presentation.
The new DAC-S is $5000.
I have just a few rambling thoughts - The DAC I'm currently using in my main system utilizes PCM1704 Burr Browns. Not exactly brand spanking new technology, yet it's one of the finest digital front ends I've heard - both natural and resolving. This leads me to add one thing that hasn't seemed to be mentioned yet, and would defer to those that know better to correct me or amend this; The question puts an emphasis on the DAC chip chosen. I think its not just the DAC chip that is used (certainly this has major significance), but also the rest of the parts and how they all go together, that makes a great DAC. Just because you have all the right ingredients in the kitchen doesn't make for a great meal. Also, you can ferret out all the detail that's in those zeroes and ones, until you can hear a mouse fart in the corner of the recording studio, but if it doesn't render sound that very closely resemble the sounds that originated them, game over. I know a mouse fart when I hear one.
FWIW I've heard the TDA1541A sound quite good in an MHDT Paradisea+ which I owned for my office system for many years. Not exactly a statement DAC, but very compelling and engaging and natural sounding NOS DAC - huge bang for the buck, though I'd say lacking some in resolution compared to more modern designs. For what I listen to, in that implementation that chip sounds great though. The same company's Havana DAC uses a different chip and does gain more extension at both ends and perhaps rendering more detail, but I found the midrange magic of the Paradisea+ to suck me in more overall. I think that'd be a very personal call, but I'd call the older chip, in this case, more musical in that specific comparison. I tend to listen to more simple, stark music with much smaller, acoustic arrangements so this kind of chip works very well for most of that. When music gets more dense and layered, I'd have to agree that it seems to be surpassed by more resolving designs. My current DAC is audibly more resolving than either of the MHDT DAC's but that did not stop me from enjoying them very much (and I'm sure I still would).
what is one's criteria of sound?
I was at live concert yesterday. Hiromi played solo piano. She is a virtuoso, no doubt about that, so it was an amazing experience.
our hobby is so subjective that some audiophiles will prefer a non over sampling dac with a tube in place of a current production dac with over sampling.
At the concert, no one asked me what kind of sound I prefer that is inline with my "subjective hobby" being an audiophile myself.
Maybe 20 years ago a Philips TDA 1541 chip set was something. I remember installing sockets in my CD player, so I could easily change chip sets because Philips was always coming out with another 1541 that was a little better than the previous, like the TDA 1541A-S2 Crown chip set. The truth is I had two Tandberg CD players, one was 14 bit the later model was 16 bit, other than that they were identical. I compared those players over and over again and there was vertually no difference in the sound.
The error in your judgement is the idea that "latest" = "greatest".
Unfortunately, this is an all too common mistake in todays mentality, which has been so overwhelmingly infected with the 'consumerism' is good idea / the buy, buy, buy compulsive behavior that is continuously shoved down the American throat by our oligarically controlled government and culture...
But, don't get me wrong. I'm not, at all, implying that there isn't some "great" new stuff out there. You just need to evaluate it for yourself rather than make assumptions.
Now, the original digital chips were simply too new & not finished when placed on the market, the data output was incomplete (14bits) or corrupted by mishandled computations. While, the newer digital audio chips, much like the digital video thing, makes alterations to the original data to "enhance" it, but there again the original data is not preserved -- so again, we are back to edginess, shrillness, lack of overtone or deterioration of overtone, and so on, yet the sound is smoother than the original chips. But, in the midst of all this are the few that do actually sound good, that seem to "try" to preserve the original data (they only "try", because, after all, we are talking about digital data conversion to analogue signal) - and remember, also, that the outputted signal is only as good as the quality of the current too, so now we need to discuss how the current is manipulated (tubes, caps, MOSFETs, and on and on). Certainly, each step of manipulation, alteration, rebuilding, and so forth that goes on opens opportunity (and multiplication of that opportunity) for corruption of the original signal.
So, on that note -- an Audio Note DAC (which uses no upsampling, oversampling, nor whateversampling) occupies my digital source shelf because it simply sounds MUCH more natural than anything else I have compared it too.
Bravo Grateful! I agree with you on all accounts (very nicely put), but it seems to me that you haven't auditioned all "whateversampling" solutions. Yes, it is extremely difficult to obtain good sound from upsampling designs, but once you hear it done the right way, there is no going back. It is simply because there is no "analog reconstruction" circuit available to cover for the NonOS stair-step at high frequencies resulting in smeared top-end image, IMHO!
sorry , but some people actually like the sound of the original sony play station also. and rolled off warm sounding cables, and warm and rolled off speakers, and warm and rolled off electronics. for those people, great, what you do in the privacy of your own home is your own business , but state of the art its not, nor is it what hi end is suppose to be about, and thats getting out of the way, and letting the recording come through with the least amount of editorializing as possible.
well I suppose your right. but I think there is a point to all this and that is to recreate as close as possible the sound of real music in your home. And if that is truly your goal, then there are absolutes in this hobby, and indeed some gear is actually better than others and not just different sounding.
And if that is truly your goal, then there are absolutes in this hobby, and indeed some gear is actually better than others and not just different sounding.
Because we are human and as individual as our faces and fingerprints, we each perceive and judge things in ways entirely unique to the individual; your "absolute" may in fact not fit into someone else's version of an "absolute". It's all good - whatever puts a smile on your face and gets your feet tapping and head bobbing. We are not machines, and even if you could quantify all the things that make up a realistic representation of live music in one's home environment there would be those who prefer something slightly (or not so slightly) different. The "hobby" for me is my enjoyment of music and how it moves me and inspires me. This requires no absolutes at all - I just find what works for me and enjoy it.
Thank you Alex. And, yes, I certainly have not heard all there is to hear. I would certainly welcome an audition of one of your masterpieces, I understand you have quite a following and reputation.
Thank you for the nice words William! Yes, it is very difficult to audition every available design out there, so I understand.
We have NWO-M and DAC-S. Which one you are interested auditioning?
I suggest an audition of the PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport and DAC. It offers multiple choices of sampling and filters. The setting that is most pleasing is 44.1,and auto filter setting. I have spent hours listening to this and there is no fatigue. I'm not a gear type guy, and the only reason I parted with my Theta Separates was that the new company owners wouldn't repair them. Auditioned players that I couldn't afford such as AR CD 8, The Ayre DAC server, Meridian, Marantz, and they all sounded pleasant, but not better. A friendly suggestion to try the PS Audio gear a try. I think you'll get off the upgrade path, and see how good your system really is.
To be as short as possible, I just came across many articles on the web regarding a trend amongst DAC designers to disregard all the Industry has learnt and done in 30 years and go back to the basics.
well, Kapa11, good morning! nice to see that you are finally awake!
I say, that you are a little to the game but...........better late than never! ;-)
Yes, as serious as a heart-attack. Audition one & hear for yourself.