Some Advice on Listening Setup

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by Pili, Jul 15, 2008.

  1. Pili macrumors regular

    Nov 1, 2005
    Orlando/Miami, FL
    I definitely dont have the most astute ear but as i listen more and more im learning a lot more about what to listen for, differences, etc.

    My current setup is digital out from my mac pro to a beresford dac and using the built in headphone amp to drive a pair of akg k701s. The more and more i listen, i feel like the amp is not giving near enough power to the akg's and im not getting the full sound they can produce. With that said, i tried plugging the headphones into a yamaha mid range home theater receiver playing a cd through a ps3 and noticed some interesting differences from the beresford with apple lossles.

    First thing i noticed with the yamaha was that the overall sound (soundstage?) was much more full and balanced and as I turned up the volume and I didnt feel like the highs were going to blow my ear drums out (sometimes feel this way with the beresford). Im guessing this is just an issue of providing more power although i still felt like the akg's have more in them if there was even more power.

    Second thing I noticed though was that the beresford seemed to produce much cleaner highs and mids. Im guessing that this is because of a higher quality signal/DAC in the beresford.

    Now the only thing that caught me here was then when I was comparing the 2 systems with "Us and Them" from Dark Side of the Moon, i could hear a few details with the Yamaha that were much harder to hear with the beresford. For example, there is a slight vibrato sound from the sax in the intro as its trailing off right before the vocals start (1:37 ish). I didnt have much trouble hearing it with the yamaha (in fact i never really noticed it with the other setup) but with the beresford, it was muffled and i really had to listen closely to hear it.

    Sorry for the long post but I guess what im wondering, is what are causing these differences and what would I need to get more out of these amazing headphones. Keep in mind that this is for my personal listening, not for mixing, recording, etc.

  2. SigmundFraud macrumors member

    Jun 11, 2007
    Do some diagnostics

    I have no experience with the devices you are describing, but it sounds surprising that a consumer Yamaha is outperforming a dedicated DAC. Could it be that the Yamaha is a bit "enhanced" in a quite pleasant way? Anyway, it sounds to me like trying to isolate the problem in the signal path might be a good start. Can you plug some other device's digital out into your DAC to exclude the Mac? Try an external amp for the phones to rule out the DACs built in phone-amp (this may not be the device's strong point).

    There was a long argument on this forum about 6 months ago about iTunes adulterating the digital signal path. Though no agreement was reached, make sure any enhancements, eq's etc are off in iTunes, and make sure the sample-rate and depth are the same across your system - i.e. if you are playing 44.1KHZ 16 bit audio from CDs, make these the iTunes settings and the setting in Audio-Midi set up (Utilities) and your DAC so there is no up-sampling. Some were convinced VCL player sounded better - you could give this a try.

    Another long bow is the optical signal path. I never used to buy the idea that optical was inferior to other forms of data transmission - 1's and 0's after all. However, a recent Sound-On-Sound article on digital audio made a good case for the "1" pulse waves degrading on the instantaneous attack side, becoming more saw-toothish - leading to fractional timing errors. I figure this would only happen over long cable runs if perceptible at all.

    Hopefully someone else will have some clearer thoughts.

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