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Best AD/DA Converter? Or just marketing . . . . Recorders, Players & Tape Machines
Old 18th February 2012
  #1
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Best AD/DA Converter? Or just marketing . . . .

What aspect of a converter makes one superior to the other?

If it is just a machine converting voltage into 010010101010010101

Bender had this dream and made me think perhaps DAD adds a 2?

Futurama - Ones and Zeros - YouTube
Old 18th February 2012
  #2
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Plush's Avatar
Please read:

Watkinson: The Art of Digital Audio
(Focal Press)

Then you can begin to understand all the things that are important in a/d and d/a conversion. Chief among them is the analog section surrounding the conversion.

So the quality of the analog section and the accuracy of the conversion are two places to study to learn about the differences in various boxes.

There are large differences in converter boxes today.
Old 18th February 2012
  #3
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We're just sampling in kHz with Audio

Oscilloscopes sample in MHz up to GHz

What scientific evidence is there to support the claim that one converter is better than the other when sampling in the relatively small frequency range of 192,000 HZ and below.
Old 18th February 2012
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Please read:

Watkinson: The Art of Digital Audio
(Focal Press)

Then you can begin to understand all the things that are important in a/d and d/a conversion. Chief among them is the analog section surrounding the conversion.

So the quality of the analog section and the accuracy of the conversion are two places to study to learn about the differences in various boxes.

There are large differences in converter boxes today.
Perhaps, but a few null tests using various boxes would probably say otherwise in terms of a significant audible difference.
Old 18th February 2012
  #5
the score's of AD/DA I have heard over the years, low and high quality alike, all sounded very different,

I couldn't be bothered to "null" them

of course, I could just be kidding myself and painting vivid pictures with my mind
Old 18th February 2012
  #6
The Harrison Premium I/O was by far the best when I evaluated it for my studio. I needed to do 288 channels of input and 288 channels of output, and Harrison packs that into 15RU (with space for 32+32 I/O left over). That is 2x more density than AVID offers, and 50% better than anything RME offered at the time (or yet offers, as far as I know).

Oh, and they sound fantastic, too.
Old 18th February 2012
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clueless View Post
The Harrison Premium I/O was by far the best when I evaluated it for my studio. I needed to do 288 channels of input and 288 channels of output, and Harrison packs that into 15RU (with space for 32+32 I/O left over). That is 2x more density than AVID offers, and 50% better than anything RME offered at the time (or yet offers, as far as I know).

Oh, and they sound fantastic, too.
288 channels sounds like a nightmare honestly. You couldn't pay me enough for that job. You are a man among men.
Old 19th February 2012
  #8
All are not made equal. See: B2 Bomber. Just running a mix through it adds significant warmth and depth to provide that mix glue effect. It's not subtle, which might not be desirable for everyone, but I love mine.
Old 19th February 2012
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by XodiaK View Post
288 channels sounds like a nightmare honestly. You couldn't pay me enough for that job. You are a man among men.
It is spread between two audio consoles and a video production infrastructure.
Old 19th February 2012
  #10
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swafford's Avatar
 

Metric Halo ULN8 simply the best of everything. Says so right on their website. I multiplied thier 01010101010 and came up with 0 and we all know 0 is not a number, but a symbol of nothingness and when it comes to conversion, I want to be as close to nothingness as humanly possible.

Simply the best at EVERYTHING as it approaches nothingness. Just how beautiful is that!
Old 19th February 2012
  #11
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Magucci's Avatar
 

+1 for Burl Audio and Metric Halo stuff!

Both make great products!

I'm very happy with them!
Old 19th February 2012
  #12
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Ben F's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by HMPS View Post
We're just sampling in kHz with Audio

Oscilloscopes sample in MHz up to GHz

What scientific evidence is there to support the claim that one converter is better than the other when sampling in the relatively small frequency range of 192,000 HZ and below.
Read post above- its mostly the analogue stage. Video samples in GHZ and guess what, it's the conversion quality that makes the difference.

I would choose Lavry and Prism as two of the best for mastering.
Old 19th February 2012
  #13
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cheu78's Avatar
IMHO the analog stage and the pwr supply are very important for getting a high quality converter.. Of course the circuit and how it's integrated with the chips and the clock counts, but if you get right the first two you might be on the right track..

I'd trust brands like Forssell or Weiss..(and possibly Bricasti, but I've never used/heard his new DAC yet)..Those are among the best being made today, and afaik there's no or very little marketing to push these converters.. Just quality products made well.

I never heard of Harrison converters.. If Clueless choose them they are probably half decent LOL
I know Harrison has some digital consoles and have a strong background doing these..since the '90ies I think..I've heard some mixes done on an "old" digital Harrison in Nashville.. sounded great, even if I think that the man behind the mix was more important than the tool itself.

Clueless: Just out of curiosity which converters did you try before going for the Harrisons? Differencies? I understand that you needed a large number of channels avalaible.. (Btw GREAT studio and very nice thread on the built..)



Cheu
Old 19th February 2012
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheu78 View Post
Clueless: Just out of curiosity which converters did you try before going for the Harrisons?
None. The Harrison's are trusted by half the major dubbing stages in Hollywood, and they sounded just fine to us. We chose to spend our time obsessing about other parts of the studio--and glad we did. Everybody tells us "that's the best Control Room we've ever heard" or "that's the best we've ever heard those Dynaudios sound" or "wow, that API vision sounds amazing!" or "what an incredible mix--who did it?" Implicit in all of these questions is that nobody, and I mean NOBODY gets hung up about the quality of the convertors. Which, by the way, are fantastic.
Old 19th February 2012
  #15
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cheu78's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Clueless View Post
None. The Harrison's are trusted by half the major dubbing stages in Hollywood, and they sounded just fine to us. We chose to spend our time obsessing about other parts of the studio--and glad we did. Everybody tells us "that's the best Control Room we've ever heard" or "that's the best we've ever heard those Dynaudios sound" or "wow, that API vision sounds amazing!" or "what an incredible mix--who did it?" Implicit in all of these questions is that nobody, and I mean NOBODY gets hung up about the quality of the convertors. Which, by the way, are fantastic.
heh
Fwiw I think that you invested in the right spots
Having a great sounding room or moving the mic in the right place affects the recording way more than the converters.. (and I think that workflow is also very important).

I'd love to visit your wonderful studio one day..



Cheu
Old 19th February 2012
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben F View Post
Read post above- its mostly the analogue stage. Video samples in GHZ and guess what, it's the conversion quality that makes the difference.

I would choose Lavry and Prism as two of the best for mastering.
Just to clarify I'm just curious regarding the process of changing Voltage into 01010101 and 010101010 back into Voltage.

Has anyone taken an identical sample, run it through different converters, then compared the data of the output file?

And/or has anyone taken a data file out of a computer and hooked it up to an oscilloscope with different converters to see where the difference is?
Old 19th February 2012
  #17
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Arksun's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by HMPS View Post
Just to clarify I'm just curious regarding the process of changing Voltage into 01010101 and 010101010 back into Voltage.

Has anyone taken an identical sample, run it through different converters, then compared the data of the output file?

And/or has anyone taken a data file out of a computer and hooked it up to an oscilloscope with different converters to see where the difference is?
There's been tons of A/D/A test loops done on this forum over the years, search function or the gear shootouts/comparisons sub-forum should get you to some
Old 19th February 2012
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arksun View Post
There's been tons of A/D/A test loops done on this forum over the years, search function or the gear shootouts/comparisons sub-forum should get you to some
Yeah tests using audio. I'm saying using measuring equipment and data

more detailed than 'sounds better' or 'warmer'
Old 20th February 2012
  #19
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8inthemorning's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheu78 View Post
IMHO the analog stage and the pwr supply are very important for getting a high quality converter.. Ourse the circuit and how it's integrated with the chips a

I'd trust brands like Forssell or Weiss..(and possibly Bricasti, but I've never used/heard his new DAC yet)..Those are among the best being made today, and afaik there's no or very
little marketing to push these converters.. Just quality products mHarrison converters.. If Clueless choose them they are probably half decent LOL
I know Harrison has some digital consoles and have a strong background doing these..since the '90ies I think..I've heard some mixes done on an "old" digital Harrison in Nashville.. sounded great, even if I think that the man behind the mix was more important than the tool itself.

Clueless: Just out of curiosity which converters did you try before going for the Harrisons? Differencies? I understand that you needed a large number of channels avalaible.. (Btw GREAT studio and very nice thread on the built..)




Cheu
Sure man!
Old 20th February 2012
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HMPS View Post
What aspect of a converter makes one superior to the other?

If it is just a machine converting voltage into 010010101010010101
First... your usage of "just" implies that conversion is straightforward and black & white.

It's not like that at all. Conversion from an analog signal to a digital number is imperfect. All products no matter how expensive suffer this imperfect conversion. DAD included. The all have slightly different approaches to manage tradeoffs in component price, power consumption, etc to translate voltage into 0s and 1s. The total sum of engineering decisions result in sonic differences. For some folks, the differences are audible enough to pay a premium for it.

Quote:
If it is just a machine converting voltage into 010010101010010101
But dig deeper to consider what "voltage" it is actually "seeing."

The pure "voltage" of a microphone signal? There is no such thing. The "voltage" the AD ultimately sees is affected by the electronics of the AD unit itself. Its own power supply, transformers, circuitry disturbances will add its own sonic imprint to the voltage you're trying to sample. There's no way to get around this. You can't "sample" a voltage without affecting the incoming voltage signal itself. Each manufacturer will use different strategies of filters, circuit board layout, shielding, etc to minimize self-induced noise, smearing, etc. but it can't totally eliminate it. This is the "analog circuitry" that above posters are talking about that affects ultimate quality and price points.

Consider an extremely simplified example:
Suppose 2 engineers both get a Texas Instruments PCM4202 analog-to-digital chip.
Both are instructed to build the simplest AD device possible on a breadboard. The digital chip they use is exactly the same but they are free to use their engineering judgement for everything else.
They look through a components part catalog to build their complete unit.
They will inevitably choose different power supplies, transformers, op amps, clocking circuitry, etc. The way they lay out their components (topology) will be different.

The end result is that the 010010101010010101 will be different. The remaining question is whether that difference is audible enough to pay a premium for Engineer #1 vs Engineer #2.

With all that said, I do believe some of the audible differences between AD converters stated by marketing is a little overhyped.
Old 20th February 2012
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason West View Post
First... your usage of "just" implies that conversion is straightforward and black & white.

It's not like that at all. Conversion from an analog signal to a digital number is imperfect. All products no matter how expensive suffer this imperfect conversion. DAD included. The all have slightly different approaches to manage tradeoffs in component price, power consumption, etc to translate voltage into 0s and 1s. The total sum of engineering decisions result in sonic differences. For some folks, the differences are audible enough to pay a premium for it.



But dig deeper to consider what "voltage" it is actually "seeing."

The pure "voltage" of a microphone signal? There is no such thing. The "voltage" the AD ultimately sees is affected by the electronics of the AD unit itself. Its own power supply, transformers, circuitry disturbances will add its own sonic imprint to the voltage you're trying to sample. There's no way to get around this. You can't "sample" a voltage without affecting the incoming voltage signal itself. Each manufacturer will use different strategies of filters, circuit board layout, shielding, etc to minimize self-induced noise, smearing, etc. but it can't totally eliminate it. This is the "analog circuitry" that above posters are talking about that affects ultimate quality and price points.

Consider an extremely simplified example:
Suppose 2 engineers both get a Texas Instruments PCM4202 analog-to-digital chip.
Both are instructed to build the simplest AD device possible on a breadboard. The digital chip they use is exactly the same but they are free to use their engineering judgement for everything else.
They look through a components part catalog to build their complete unit.
They will inevitably choose different power supplies, transformers, op amps, clocking circuitry, etc. The way they lay out their components (topology) will be different.

The end result is that the 010010101010010101 will be different. The remaining question is whether that difference is audible enough to pay a premium for Engineer #1 vs Engineer #2.

With all that said, I do believe some of the audible differences between AD converters stated by marketing is a little overhyped.
How wonderful that the best answer has come from Dallas. TI is off of 635.

I will ponder what you have written.
Old 20th February 2012
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HMPS View Post
How wonderful that the best answer has come from Dallas. TI is off of 635.
By coincidence... back in 1999, I did some consulting work at TI for 2 weeks at a building off of I-635. However, it was unrelated to their chip work. Back then, I don't believe TI was a well-regarded source of ADC chips for high-end audio. That came later when they acquired Burr-Brown in 2000. That acquisition let them compete better with offerings from AnalogDevices, Cirrus, Wolfson, etc.
Old 20th February 2012
  #23
Gear Nut
 

What about Mytec converters ?
Old 21st February 2012
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peter434 View Post
What about Mytec converters ?
someone should post the different schematics for the different converters so we can compare the differences
Old 21st February 2012
  #25
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8inthemorning's Avatar
I don't think you can find Mytek schematics. If you do, please let me know.
Old 21st February 2012
  #26
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RightOnRome's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by clueless View Post
none. The harrison's are trusted by half the major dubbing stages in hollywood, and they sounded just fine to us. We chose to spend our time obsessing about other parts of the studio--and glad we did. Everybody tells us "that's the best control room we've ever heard" or "that's the best we've ever heard those dynaudios sound" or "wow, that api vision sounds amazing!" or "what an incredible mix--who did it?" implicit in all of these questions is that nobody, and i mean nobody gets hung up about the quality of the convertors. Which, by the way, are fantastic.
sorry but omg your studio if stunning!! Awesome! Well done sir!
Old 21st February 2012
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HMPS View Post
We're just sampling in kHz with Audio

Oscilloscopes sample in MHz up to GHz

What scientific evidence is there to support the claim that one converter is better than the other when sampling in the relatively small frequency range of 192,000 HZ and below.
Would you consider dynamic range and distortion measurements as "scientific evidence"?

24 bit converter A ( in a cheap pocket recorder) might have only 90 db dynamic range, while converter B ($$$$ high end unit) 127 dB. This all can be measured quite easily and scientifically.

It is easy to compare output files from converters, and they will never match at the least significant bits. That would no tell which one is better, just that they convert a bit differently, and/or the levels could not be set exactly the same.

Of course you are trolling, but if you are really interested in this there is a lot of material available about the problems with accurate conversion and what the solutions and compromises are.

Besides comparing video and audio conversion is not valid. Sample frequency is not a problem here, doing an accurate sample measurement at 24 bit sample depth is the problem, not even solved yet. Video sampling is typically 8 bits only.
Old 24th July 2014
  #28
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a2dpapi's Avatar
 

Differences in converter

I have been testing converters by doing loopback tests and can tell you that both subjectively and objectively that converters perform very differently.
What I am hearing is supported by the science 100% which is validating and comforting. My ears work very well despite marketing and hype.

Taking program material and recording da-ad after proper calibrating with tone can point to the accuracy or level of degeneration that the converter imparts.

There are many more that I have yet to do, and would love for you guys to offer up some submissions to our site.

The BLA and Antelope offerings are without parallel at the moment. I have not tested Burl which I am dying to do.

gearevu:

Recording Gear Reviews - Recording - Converter comparison shootout

Please pm me if you have any converters that you can add your own results for.
Old 24th July 2014
  #29
You bumped a 2 year old thread to show us a Loopback Test?
Old 24th July 2014
  #30
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We have yet to have a large blind shootout of converters to a monitered live stereo source to determine, A). ranking of converters closest to the source (most transparent) and B). Of the colored converters, which subjectively we like the best.

Many here have done simple non-blind A/B converter comparisons with just two or three converters at a time, likely never comparing against a monitered live stereo source in that testing (which tells you how much of the the 3D info is intact/in-place after a round trip through the converter). Their comments while helpful likely reflect this type of testing.

The fact that for most there is a pronounced sound difference between DSD conversion and PCM conversion (because of the extra stages it goes through) shows that there is still a need for converter advancement and the need for a large shootout to determine best available choices today.

Thus the bottom line is that marketing/hype/personal preferences/price points have more of an influence than actual testing at this point in time. Just determine your needs first and then look at the available options to narrow the field.
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