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A/D Conversion, can you hear the difference?

Anything about hardware musical instruments.

Moderator: Moderators (Main)

vieris
KVRian
 
1367 posts since 21 Oct, 2004, from New England Transplant to West LA

Postby vieris; Fri Feb 24, 2012 5:45 pm A/D Conversion, can you hear the difference?

In my downtime I decided to do a in-depth comparison between the A/D converters I have at hand. With the amount of "Night & Day" reviews you read about it's easy to question if converters are drastically different from box to box, It got me questioning at-least. The technical converter specs over the last 10years or more out perform most sound sources, processing, & environments. I have done my share surgically analyzing the THD+N, frequency response, Jitter, & so on, But that never answered the question if one can audibly hear the difference? Time for a real-world test I say.

I 1st decided on a few methods/guidelines to rule out any false impressions.

  • Analog generation source.
  • Same signal to all converters.


For the sources I recorded some late night noodling of Analog synth/drum, Rhodes, & Udu drum. I also took a random cross selection from my Vinyl collection (via a kab 1200/apt holman for the curious audio geeks). This gave me a wide range of content to listen/judge.

I split & recorded the signal into the analog line inputs of a Lynx, API, TC, & a MBox. All levels are roughly matched to within .1dB.

The files below are the 24bit/48khz recording from the four converters. Download the files, can you hear a Night/Day difference? Can you tell what is what?

A/D Conversion, can you hear the difference?

.
"Any experiment of interest in life will be carried out at your own expense." http://rhythminmind.net - http://signaltonoize.com - http://popsound.com
Shy
KVRAF
 
4990 posts since 26 Jun, 2004

Postby Shy; Sat Feb 25, 2012 3:49 am

Of course there's no night and day difference, especially with a test like that. I did a funny comparison once with a fairly "high end" converter and a digital effect processor (effect bypassed) from over 20 years ago, you think people could tell the difference?

Where there is a much bigger difference is when the signal playing has an average loudness of ~-40dB and below, it gets much worse at lower levels. That's where there could be a clearly noticeable difference between a plain and a high quality converter, so you don't record a classical music concert with a plain converter.
"Music is spiritual. The music business is not." - Claudio Monteverdi
lfm
KVRAF
 
2925 posts since 22 Jan, 2005, from Sweden

Postby lfm; Sat Feb 25, 2012 5:35 am

For me it was B as winner. Definition of instruments very nice.

A was thin and a bit harsch on highs, tiresome mids and low cut. I could not listen to music for long with that sound.

C was pretty good but boring, and definition of instruments poor.
But no harsch feel to mids and highs.

D was a bit muddy and cut on highs. But still pleasing sound kindof. No strain on ears.

Whatever is left of my ears/hearing after a childhood in much too loud environments(rehearsalrooms).

Here I used my old daws MindPrint DI-Port as DAC which is not the best though. It has some harschness to it in upper mids.

I used my own DAC in homestereo since beginning 90's and recently bought a standard DAC which I modified according to a guys extensive testing. It's kind of surprising how different it sounds upgrading just capacitors.

So it's the same with ADCs I guess but maybe harder to do something about it.

Does input stage vary in components much on ADCs?

Can you improve anything by yourself?
ericj23
KVRAF
 
2355 posts since 25 Aug, 2002, from here

Postby ericj23; Sat Feb 25, 2012 6:41 am

b defeintely saounds differnt to my ears, but it might just be that it is slightly louder

I would be pretty happy with all of them though - defintely not night and day
down boy
geroyannis
KVRAF
 
2098 posts since 1 Apr, 2004, from Athens, Greece

Postby geroyannis; Sat Feb 25, 2012 6:44 am

I can't hear a difference. I don't know if it's my headphones or my crappy ears (most probably) but they all sound the same to me. Even if there are differences I could find by listening more attentively, I really don't care, because I never pay THAT much attention to the SOUND of music.

Thanks for taking the time and doing this test. You saved me a lot of money because now I know I don't need to upgrade my converters.
fedexnman
KVRian
 
1358 posts since 3 Jan, 2005

Postby fedexnman; Sat Feb 25, 2012 7:01 am

On laptop speakers they all sound the same .
lfm
KVRAF
 
2925 posts since 22 Jan, 2005, from Sweden

Postby lfm; Sun Feb 26, 2012 8:39 am

geroyannis wrote:I can't hear a difference. I don't know if it's my headphones or my crappy ears (most probably) but they all sound the same to me. Even if there are differences I could find by listening more attentively, I really don't care, because I never pay THAT much attention to the SOUND of music.

Thanks for taking the time and doing this test. You saved me a lot of money because now I know I don't need to upgrade my converters.


Maybe your listeners care. ;)

If having a minor difference in clarity and definition of an A/D converter, and add 20 tracks recorded with that input - that will be a huge difference in the quality of the total mix.

Just another view...
geroyannis
KVRAF
 
2098 posts since 1 Apr, 2004, from Athens, Greece

Postby geroyannis; Sun Feb 26, 2012 10:24 am

lfm wrote:
geroyannis wrote:I can't hear a difference. I don't know if it's my headphones or my crappy ears (most probably) but they all sound the same to me. Even if there are differences I could find by listening more attentively, I really don't care, because I never pay THAT much attention to the SOUND of music.

Thanks for taking the time and doing this test. You saved me a lot of money because now I know I don't need to upgrade my converters.


Maybe your listeners care. ;)

If having a minor difference in clarity and definition of an A/D converter, and add 20 tracks recorded with that input - that will be a huge difference in the quality of the total mix.

Just another view...

Yeah, I know what you're saying and you could probably be right, but if I can't hear the difference don't expect me to care that much about my listeners. That would assume that I am a man of faith, and I'm not. If I don't see-hear-taste-smell-touch-comprehend something then it doesn't exist.

Then again, it would be great if we could have an example like the one vieris did but with multitrack recordings to see if the cumulative effect is more noticeable.
lfm
KVRAF
 
2925 posts since 22 Jan, 2005, from Sweden

Postby lfm; Mon Feb 27, 2012 1:34 am

geroyannis wrote:Then again, it would be great if we could have an example like the one vieris did but with multitrack recordings to see if the cumulative effect is more noticeable.

You can't just listen through 11 minutes of music and switch to other.

The way to note differences for me was to listen to the same part on two at a time, back and forth - and decide which was more pleasent or better in some respect.

Notice where you listened(part starts) and then switch, and just click on the same starting spot again for the other track.

Concentrate on one thing at a time(at least I had to), like upper frequencies for cymbals, and next time you listen do it for only ability to destinguish differens instruments, next is it clean or harsch sounding and so on.

The last parts(last 3rd) with syntetic music is useless in this regard. It does not contain complex timbres of sound.

It's really nuances on the equipment he had, and nothing was bad, really. But as I said before, if recording it's cumulative effect and makes a bigger difference once doing many tracks from analogue sources - then it's may be microphones quality, plus preamp quality and A/D-converter quality that is the chain. That is why studios spend so much more on each part in the chain to make final result so much better. Where the casual home recorder spend $500 a studio spend $5000 on the same thing.

And I think good headphones is the way to go, besides and DAC(soundcard) that is not too bad. After all what you listen through is the final interface to the real world(our ears).
vieris
KVRian
 
1367 posts since 21 Oct, 2004, from New England Transplant to West LA

Postby vieris; Mon Feb 27, 2012 9:17 am

Well as of today before this reveal.
12 voted for A (API).
14 voted for B (TC).
5 voted for C (Lynx).
3 voted for D (MBox).

I'm not to surprised with these results based on my more analytical D-Scope measurements beforehand. I don't expect a different outcome, but I'll do a multi-track test when time permits.

.
"Any experiment of interest in life will be carried out at your own expense." http://rhythminmind.net - http://signaltonoize.com - http://popsound.com

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