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So, when talking "high-end" DACs....


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I think the ...Esoteric D-05 and ...are reasonably semi-high-end. Of course, there are some even higher-end units out there.

I would certainly hope so, given the price. Everyone is going to have a different mental fiscal figure of what constitutes high end. I would ask anyone who thinks a $7,000 DAC is not high end what they're opinion is. Whatever price point they mention, there will undoubtedly be someone who believes that is mid-fi. And so on...

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i... disagree. it's not so much the detail as the spatial information.
I don't disagree that speakers are superior on spatial information, but it's not less important to me. When I was talking about detail, I was talking about raw information. I still think headphones reveal more detail than speakers will at the same listening level.
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the lavry da10 is slightly inferior to the slim devices transporter but is a clear step up from a battery powered apogee mini-dac. the benchmark dac is around the same level of the battery powered mini-dac.

i have no experience with truly high end dacs but if you're into PC audio, give the transporter a listen.

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I think that Indra is quickly developing a love/hate relationship with this site. "Love" because the information is so good. "Hate" because that good information is causing her wallet to scream! :D

Indeed indeed! The information here is overwhelming and I didn't expect to get an answer that none of these DACs are high-end. Makes my wallet scream for sure but not really when I thought longer about it.

$3500 for a DAC..wow...I think I better save up for a mid-fi one that's good and fits my possible budget of MAX 2500, but preferably less first. When I get the urge to upgrade in let's say 5 to 10 yrs from now, okay, so be it.

I'll hopefully earn more money by that time than I do now, I mean, I'm just 24 now. I've got all the time in the world to buy that stuff and like to listen to music more than equip in the end, although good equip can definitely cause you to enjoy the music more as it presents you with more. And when I ever reach that point of blowing that much money on it I think it's wiser to first join a CanJam or something ;D

Thank you all once more again for replying and taking the matter seriously. These answers are definitely something that HF can't provide me with. Look at the "Best SS-amp" thread; on HF I got like 12 responses, over here more than 200 :-*

I'll have to dive into these options you mentioned and go out on a search. Not now as the weekend is too busy (Roger Waters concert of DSOTM coming up tomorrow ;D ) but it's soooo bloody interesting! Too bad photography is sucking up A LOT of my money, although I hope the business stuff is gonna work out well for me so I can fund that out of another pot than my private one.

Dang, Indra. You're starting to spend more money than I.

Hey darling, it's easy to talk about high-end expensive equip when not yet spending so, concerning that you're still way ahead of me :D

I'm just willing to spend that kind of money, I just have to get it first :o haha!

Anyways, thank you all again once more. I'm glad I've found this site, although I still also really like HF.

Now, off to get myself ready to go out for dinner, yay!!!!

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It might be easy to forget here ;), but it is possible to have a great musical experience on mid-fi gear as well. Compared to my other phones, I don't think too highly about my DT 770, but it has been several times at work that I have been so impressed by the Pico/DT770 combo that I had to stop working and just listen for a few minutes. My exposure to real hi-end is very low, so I guess I don't know what I'm missing. ;D

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Nothing about my rig reaches the esoteric levels discussed by many here, but I've had many transcendent experiences with it. Mac Mini, Apogee Duet, DIY M3, modded grados. Most expensive thing was the amp, total rig including the computer and hard drives was very near the $2500 budget for your dac. I'm still not sold on the value of really expensive cd players.

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can it really be said that headphones are more detailed when they don't show all the spatial info and cues correctly?
Yes, absolutely. Try binaural music. Then speakers are the ones getting the spatial info and cues incorrect. 'Detail' and 'Soundstage' are two quite different things.
...i can't count the amount of times i've heard something new on the speaker system with music i've listened to dozens of times...
At the same volume level? You must either have had a really crappy headphone rig (which I doubt), or...I don't know. That's the only explanation I can think of. I have had the exact opposite occur -- I hear the new things on headphones, not speaker systems. And I've heard some pretty nice speaker systems (probably the high-point of my speaker listening was having the Dynaudio Special 25's driven by Musical Fidelity A300^CR, MF A308 CD player, and I forget what pre I was using. It did sound sweet, and I did hear things to a great level of detail, but I don't remember hearing anything new. Equivalent at best. And I think I tended to listen louder on speakers (which should overcome my "background noise" argument). Just because they sounded so good loud.
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It might be easy to forget here ;), but it is possible to have a great musical experience on mid-fi gear as well. Compared to my other phones, I don't think too highly about my DT 770, but it has been several times at work that I have been so impressed by the Pico/DT770 combo that I had to stop working and just listen for a few minutes. My exposure to real hi-end is very low, so I guess I don't know what I'm missing. ;D

Even after all the superb gear I've experienced - my Koss PortaPros unamped from my iMac can be hellaciously enjoyable. It's been my office work rig for quite some time now and I've not been tempted to upgrade due to the logistics of keeping expensive gear away from home. I've enjoyed music on some other pretty cheap gear but the PortaPro really nails it for me and way transcends its price tag.

Of course, when working from home I just situate the iMac near my turntable so I can indulge in the hifi rig when necessary :)

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Yes, absolutely. Try binaural music. Then speakers are the ones getting the spatial info and cues incorrect.At the same volume level? You must either have had a really crappy headphone rig (which I doubt), or...I don't know. That's the only explanation I can think of. I have had the exact opposite occur -- I hear the new things on headphones, not speaker systems. And I've heard some pretty nice speaker systems (probably the high-point of my speaker listening was having the Dynaudio Special 25's driven by Musical Fidelity A300^CR, MF A308 CD player, and I forget what pre I was using. It did sound sweet, and I did hear things to a great level of detail, but I don't remember hearing anything new. Equivalent at best. And I think I tended to listen louder on speakers (which should overcome my "background noise" argument). Just because they sounded so good loud.

Have to back up Dusty here. Top notch speakers can be something special, but coming from the headphone world it's been hard to adjust to just how much the room messes with the speakers' sound...extremely difficult to approach accurate 20-20K in-room. The spatial effects of great speakers on a great stereo recording in a great configuration in a good room are awesome, but it's not usually at the top of my sonic priorities - hence I'll always want an excellent headphone system to supplement my listening diet, even though I already know what my "ultimate" speakers of the future will be (Tannoy Kensington).

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but on my speakers, there is his huge depth and width, where everything is separate and easier to hear. i heard things that i hadn't heard before.

from an absolute detail level, you guys are probably right. what i'm looking for is musical detail, i guess.

I believe this to be *THE* difference that makes you either a speaker audiophile or headphone audiophile. If you really "must" have such soundstaging, you will never be completely happy with headphones.

Personally, recorded soundstaging is produced by microphone/recording technique and the recording/mastering engineer's fingers on the mixing board and has little to do with actual "soundstage" that existed live. This makes me a happy headphone audiophile :dance:

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from an absolute detail level, you guys are probably right. what i'm looking for is musical detail, i guess. and i need the music to "breath," if i may be excused for using a audiophile magazine term. i always listen fairly loud, no matter what i'm using.

I'd have to say speakers still win out in absolute detail, granted, I haven't heard an optimized Stax or R10 setup so that might change things. However, I have heard stock HP-2's, K1000's, and RS-1's on pretty much the best setup money can buy and they're still outclassed by something like the Living Voice OBX-R's, and those aren't the last word in detail & resolution. For instance none of the headphones can clearly differentiate between the echoes of the spring reverb and room reverb of the guitar in "Crossroads" from Whites Off Earth Now!! by the Cowboy Junkies unless it's cranked up to the 85dB range. OBX-R's can do it at around 75dB or so, I can hear more details more clearly at a lower volume.

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From all the speakers I've heard, including (most notably) my aftermarket car stereo, they predictably provided a more physically sense of being there, i.e. you could feel the music via bass impact. Perhaps the tone can get a little more accurate as well, considering, as reks noted, everything is not squished together.

However, I still prefer headphones to said car stereo, despite loss of bass impact, because I believe I can hear further into the mix.

One example is the dialog sections of Pink Floyd's The Wall. "Are all those your guitars"... etc. You can hear all the background stuff much clearer, because it is not competing for airspace the way it is in a speaker environment. I know that sounds counterintuitive given my last statement about speakers sounding like they have more space, but I guess I am saying I can pick up micro details much easier on 'phones. To hear them the same way on speakers, I would have to really crank them. I suppose the headphones playback those details at a similar volume to the more obvious/prominent material. Or it all just hits your ears at the same time, giving the illusion of similar volume. That may not be technically desirable, but it does make for at least the illusion of a more balanced spectrum, even if it means sacrificing some space to do it.

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I firmly believe that a lot of that something special I hear in live club music and with great speaker systems has to do with the secondary sound reflections from the room accoustics. Headphones can never reproduce IMHO, those very subtle refections of the mids and horns bouncing off the walls and ceilings. Headphones can produce "soundstage" but I always feel that there is something missing that just isn't live music for me.

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the main reason, i think, that i notice new things isn't detail, per se, but instead, since the music isn't squashed, things aren't bunching up on each other and are easier to separate when listening. for instance, St Vincent's Marry Me didn't really impress me as a great sounding album, on headphones, but on my speakers, there is his huge depth and width, where everything is separate and easier to hear. i heard things that i hadn't heard before.

from an absolute detail level, you guys are probably right. what i'm looking for is musical detail, i guess. and i need the music to "breath," if i may be excused for using a audiophile magazine term. i always listen fairly loud, no matter what i'm using.

Well, it may have had a lot to do with the level you listen to. When amps max out, they start to compress before they start to distort (it's actually the same thing at different levels). When they compress, it'll still sound okay, except things will start to blur together. People like you definitely need multiple drivers, because most single-driver systems (headphones, single-driver speakers like Lowther-based speakers, Quad ESL's) don't go loud well. IIRC, you don't like Quads either, so...QED.

At the levels I listen to, I have no problem hearing things I've never heard before. (Wait, that didn't sound right...)

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I guess the Northstar is off the list as it has no XLR outputs (and that means it can't provide the Beta with a balanced signal, right?) and as I would like to experiment with that in the future it would be a no-go.

The Electrocompaniet is the most beautiful of them (imo) and the Bel Canto DAC3 appeals to me as well from what I've read although it looks rather strange.

The Azur looks nice as well, but I don't really need a CDP as I already have one and don't have the intention to keep on using it when I get my MBP, at least not with my hps.

To adress the talk we had about the optical out of the MBP, using the internal soundcard or not, I had a chat with a friend of mine yesterday and he said it does use the internal soundcard as it's not streaming data via optical but realtime music, which has to go through the soundcard. The soundcard however doesn't have to do anything with the sound so it probably won't change a lot but he said that, theoretically spoken, it does alter the sound as it has to stream realtime.

Via Firewire or USB it streams data and that signal doesn't go through the soundcard thus bitperfect.

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OK, I popped the Bel Canto's cherry and took pics. While I was at it, I took some pics of my Ear HP4. I'll post those real small since its a bit off topic, and link to larger images. These are on Flickr, which has some funky server load times sometimes, fyi.

First a little striptease...

The top is actually really heavy. Its some thickass metal, thats for sure.

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On with the show...

I'm not well versed in electronics, so I'll let others more adept at such things comment to they're satisfaction.

Regardless of how these internals are received here at HC, I stand by my opinion; this DAC sounds fuckin awesome. O0

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sorry for the blur, but I don't have an iphone tripod :angel:

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EAR HP4 Headphone Amplifier

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I've included a pic of my custom mouse pad, to avoid all the PMs I'll get if I don't. I learned my lesson on [H] a while back ^-^

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