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Forthcoming Converter Shootout in LA Digital Converters
Old 27th October 2003
  #1
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Forthcoming Converter Shootout in LA

We're planning a public ProTools converter shootout in Universal City, Los Angeles over the next month or so.

The DAW will be a ProTools HD3ACCEL - but we're still deciding how to run the session.

I have some ideas how set up the shootout but I thought I'd throw it to the gearslutz and see what suggestions you guys have for running a fair test. Source right through to monitoring.... so guys, how would you run the ultimate 'fair and balanced' converter confrontation?????





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Old 27th October 2003
  #2
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jwh1192's Avatar
if you need an Apogee rosetta 800 for the test let me know ...

john
Old 27th October 2003
  #3
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I hate to be "that guy" BUT...to truely test converters you need to get away from studio monitors and go for the audiophile thing. Wilson audio watt puppies are an audiophile favorite and make even the high end ADAM stuff seem less than stellar (as far as acurate reproduction is concerned) . They are however a little over $20,000 a pair but I know quite a few people in the biz own a pair.Perhaps someone could bring the Ferarri to the party.
Old 27th October 2003
  #4
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I agree using high end monitors will best show off the converters differences (I reference to martin logans) however, whouldnt it be a more useful test for most people if you used something common like genelecs and headphones like some hd600. This would be more representative of the high end home user. If you cant tell the differences easily on a mid/high end system do the differences really matter? I mean they do but if they are that close, Im probably not spending several grand more on one converter over another.

Inn order to set up a test we really need to know what your testing? The AD,the DA, the clock, all, and what happens when a bunch of this converters tracks are mixed.

I would like to see converters tested how I use them. compare a bunch of 8channel AD DA coxes. Make a mix into protools by routing mic preamps into different converters. Then make a mix using stems through something like a D2B. Insert each converter (DA). Mixes will then show AD, DA and cumulative effects. You could also add a clock to the DA part of the chain and compare that.

The only problems with this scenerio are that on the AD side, everything will need to be clocked to something other than itself (except #1 in the chain) or seperate protools rigs will be needed, and it can affect the signal to split a mic pre more than a couple of times.
Solutions?

Frost
Old 27th October 2003
  #5
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Although I too enjoy good electrostatic speakers such as Martin Logans, They tend to have an extremely narrow sweet spot. This might leave a great margin for error if the listeners seating position changes much. I do agree with you however on the monitor and headphone suggestions but I think an audiophile setup would bring legitimicy to the test.
Old 27th October 2003
  #6
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I disagree about the audiophile speaker thing. All speakers have theyre own sound no matter how expensive....I'd probably go with a few sets of industry standards. A buddy of mine has a 'budget be damned' listening room with a pair of Wilson Grand Slams and a pair of hand built amps that make new cars look cheap, but I would trust my ProAcs more in a listening test because I know them like the back of my hand. The studio I work at has a pair of ATC SCM150s, Augspurger 5.1 custom monitors powered by Crown Studio Reference and Bryston 9B amps along with KRK E7s, Genelec 1031s and NS-10s... but most of the work gets done on the nearfields....
Including some of the newer crop of midrange converters in with the big boys would be my suggestion.
Old 27th October 2003
  #7
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OK I've tried not to say this but I just can't hold it back any longer! We as engineers and producers (in general) are in the dark ages when it comes to audio reproduction. Audiophile grade speakers such as the Martin Logans and Wilson Audio's (mentioned earlier) have substantially less color than industry stuff. The whole idea behind these speakers is to not have a signature sound of thier own but to reproduce the purist signal possible. Frankly it is not economical to have $20,000 plus monitors in a tracking situation because they are not meant to slam. They simply tell the truth. And one of the biggest signs that they do more accurately portray a clearer image is in the top mastering houses in the world where price is no object and audiophile setups are the standard.
Old 27th October 2003
  #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by patrox247
OK I've tried not to say this but I just can't hold it back any longer! We as engineers and producers (in general) are in the dark ages when it comes to audio reproduction.
No we're not. We just have different opinions. And both the ATCs and the Augspurgers are well above the 20K range.
I think your over looking the fact that the amp and the room play huge parts in the sound no matter watt (get it?heh) speaker you go with. Nearfields lessen the unpredictable effects of the room and provide a known reference that your used to.
Old 27th October 2003
  #9
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I'm not aware of any mastering studio's using Wilson speakers......i've got a pair of Wilson Watts' sitting out in the corridor gathering dust (they were here when i came)....i wouldn't touch 'em with a bargepole.......terrible low-end....YMMV

The most important thing is knowing your speakers/room and how they'll translate......the better they are and the better the room, the easier it'll be.
Old 27th October 2003
  #10
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I'm very curious...I've never heard the word terrible associated with any aspect of the Wilson Watts sonics. Are they in a proper listening area?
Old 27th October 2003
  #11
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They were in a room that's had 70,000 euro of threatment by Andy Munro.....all i know is when i came here, there was a BIG problem with bass in the room........swapped out the Watts for my Dynaudio's.....problem gone....and the Dyn's go much lower then the Watts.......
Old 27th October 2003
  #12
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Well maybe it's the right moment to ask.
I'm gonna buy a HD system the next days together with a 96 I/O.
How much better is the 192 in musical terms, considering the high price difference.
I'm gonna track at 48Khz, mainly rock music.

Will a beter external clock make a big difference?
Old 27th October 2003
  #13
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Watts are funny in that in certain situations they can bring out flaws in the system that might otherwise go overlooked. The reason I find it curious that they sounded so poor, is that as far as paper driven speakers go they are one of the most accurate. I can't imagine having a pair sitting around and not using them. I can't afford a pair of Watts, however I own a pair of cubs which are driven by a Krell power amp by way of Harmonic Technology cabling. Even the Cubs (which are a third of the cost) when matched to a great amp in a good room are amazing. Perhaps you didn't let yourself adapt. Remember the Wilsons aren't voiced at all. They are not made to sound good, but only to tell the truth. Source void as much as possible of media.
Old 27th October 2003
  #14
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Can you please list allt he convertors that you are going to hsoot out? as well as clocks, amps, active speakers if any, spoeaker, cable blah blah blah!

Wiggy
Old 27th October 2003
  #15
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Are they going to include the benchmark ADC-1?

Is it comparable to the Rosetta 800 conversion?
Old 27th October 2003
  #16
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My suggestion for testing is to have a repeatable analog source- a piece of half inch- that has a variety of instruments recorded on it. With this method, you will be listening to original source and then post conversion cycle. Differences between convertors will be screamingly clear very quickly, even without super expensive monitoring.

Since the analog source is repeatable, being able to record is irrelevant, so you can actually take PT out of the loop for the convertors other than the 192- just run each convertor in ad/da mode. That way each clock can stand on its own.


As a suggestion for a source to record, I find that a great mono room mic (we're talking 47/67/251) about 5 feet in front of a drum kit is your best and most telling thing- the toms, and the way they ring in a room while a cymbal decays, are an amazing test of resolution that is something we've all heard (violins aren't something most of us have heard up close, but every engineer has been in a room with a drum kit.)
Old 27th October 2003
  #17
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You may want to have a source thats been digitally recorded instead of recorded to tape first. I think tape adds too many things to a signal that would make it harder to tell the effects of different converter.
Kevin
Old 27th October 2003
  #18
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which sample rate?

96 is great, but most stuff I run into is still at 48 or 44.1

Will there be 2 versions of the session to listen to?

Out of curiosity, I have a swissonic AD/96 4 ch a/d converter that I could lend to the cause if it can be included. xlr in adat toslink out.
Old 27th October 2003
  #19
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I dont think high sample rates provide a very accurate representation of the true nature of a converter. All the filtering is happening that much higher so its a lot harder to hear how well its being implimented. Effectively higher sample rates serve to level the field slightly allowing a converter to sound better than it really is at a lower rate. In addition I'm sure the majority of us still work at 48 on a regular basis. Besides I dont think the converters are likely to get worse at 96, so why not test at the lower rate.
J
Old 27th October 2003
  #20
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De chromium cob's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by kevinc
You may want to have a source thats been digitally recorded instead of recorded to tape first. I think tape adds too many things to a signal that would make it harder to tell the effects of different converter.
Kevin
If the source is recorded digitally then it will have already gone through a converter. An analog deck like the ATR 102 1/2 inch will give you back what you put into it.
Old 27th October 2003
  #21
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Please contact me if you need a KSP8 for use in the test
Old 27th October 2003
  #22
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to kevinc, regarding using a digital source instead of analog:

The point of the test is to hear how well a given convertor recreates a signal coming into it. If a piece of tape has the weakness of certain "characters" this doesn't really change the test- we are asking the convertors to recreate its sound, which, if you are using well recorded material on a good machine, is one hell of a challenge.

Analog is preferable to a digital source because it does not have the weakness of completely reshaping the high end that digital systems do. It will provide a more difficult/exacting test to the convertors that you are testing if you give them a signal with the more realistic high freq content of analog rather that high freqs that are already damaged by digital recording.
Old 27th October 2003
  #23
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Let me know if you need a Metric Halo 2882.

Better yet, post a list of what you intend to "shoot-out", what you can get and what you need.
Old 27th October 2003
  #24
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Quote:
Originally posted by kevinc
You may want to have a source thats been digitally recorded instead of recorded to tape first. I think tape adds too many things to a signal that would make it harder to tell the effects of different converter.
Kevin
But then you already have the sonic stamp of 2 digital converters. If you were comparing analog tape decks I'd recommend using a digital source.

-R
Old 27th October 2003
  #25
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protoolsusers's Avatar
 

So guys - the word here is comparison.... so so long as we have a couple of high end monitors and a pair of headphones set up is there any reason you would need the best speakers in the world to COMPARE ad / da converters to each other.

Surely the best converter will sound best regardless of monitoring????
Old 27th October 2003
  #26
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So guys - the word here is comparison.... so so long as we have a couple of high end monitors and a pair of headphones set up is there any reason you would need the best speakers in the world to COMPARE ad / da converters to each other.

Surely the best converter will sound best regardless of monitoring????

**********************************************

This could be argued over for days, but I think that this is the most practical solution for the purposes of the test. I'm glad that you mentioned headphones as they are often the best for revealling these types of comparative differences. I'd suggest some Beyer DT770s or you could just provide a multi-feed .headphone box and the user could provide his own pair.


We're planning a public ProTools converter shootout in Universal City, Los Angeles over the next month or so.
The DAW will be a ProTools HD3ACCEL - but we're still deciding how to run the session.
I have some ideas how set up the shootout but I thought I'd throw it to the gearslutz and see what suggestions you guys have for running a fair test.

************************************************

I'm guessing that it would cause mass confusion (panic?) if you also threw in a pair of DSD converters as well? Too bad as it might prove very interesting.
Old 27th October 2003
  #27
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Fletcher's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by protoolsusers
So guys - the word here is comparison.... so so long as we have a couple of high end monitors and a pair of headphones set up is there any reason you would need the best speakers in the world to COMPARE ad / da converters to each other.

Surely the best converter will sound best regardless of monitoring????
Typical of a P-T (Barrum?) kinda dude... yes, you can go for lowest common denominator in the interest of "everyman"... but the fact of the matter is that when you do a "comparative" test like this it's kind of a good idea to shoot for the best monitor chain you can... it's those little subtle details that will be lost if you don't.

The key to this **** isn't the ****ing broad strokes, it's the details.

Make sure every converter you "test" is matched to within .1db or your test is 100% invalid... if you want to see it done right, check out the 3D Audio version of the test. It was done as well as the test can be done... but the CD isn't as dramatic as being "in the room".
Old 27th October 2003
  #28
Max
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Fletcher's right, you need the best monitoring chain you can get. Listening back on lesser monitors makes it harder to distinguish the characteristics of the source that you are trying to replicate with the converter. Headphones are especially bad on many levels.

Calibration is key as is individual clocking. The source material needs to be dynamic with exceptional imaging. The comparisons then should be vs. the source, not each other as you are trying to determine how well the converter replicates the original. Comparing a converter to another converter without listening to the source is meaningless.
Old 27th October 2003
  #29
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ducter's Avatar
 

I did a shoot-out.
No "shared" clock. Seperate ProTools or "whatevers".
We had an unamplified unplugged group as our source.
The test was which of our 4 ProTools with 4 different converters sounded the most like "reality"
A stereo DPA pair which gave us lots of depth took it in to a Neve which bussed it to the 4 PT
Then we randomly played back.
BUT closed monitors would helped us to hear the depth and width.
This is how I made my discovery about how bass-flex smearing phase and transiants.

The people had a very hard time in the studio, they were sitting with the musicians.
In the control room on NS-10s it was much clearly the differences.
Yes, the room was partially to blame, but when I took the ns-10s out there after to check, it was easy to hear, I thought they would be too underpowered, but they would have been just right.
DAMN.
Old 28th October 2003
  #30
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Why don't you guys just digitize a good vinyl recording? Get a great turntable, a great phono preamp, and use a very high end distribution amplifier to feed all of the A/D converters at the same time and record then to different stereo tracks. Just an idea. Good luck with the tests!
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