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Phase or Filter?

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Posted on March 3, 2017 at 09:33:13
jedrider
Audiophile

Posts: 11717
Location: No. California
Joined: December 26, 2003
In my persuit of digital perfection I have this question:

What is most important to good digital reproduction: The phase setting of a DAC or it's filter setting?

Just wondering. I am comparing a CD player analog output to the DAC's analog output and I get some perplexing results, that some CDs sound better on one DAC than with another DAC, depending upon the CD.

Good News: I got really good results with both CDs when played back on the appropriate DAC. But why? I don't know.

CD 1: Marvelous by Michel Petrucianni
CD 2: Live in Paris by Diana Krall

Both CDs appear to be excellently recorded, although Marvelous is from 1994 and Live in Paris I think is more recent.

CD 1 sounds best on my new inexpensive DAC and CD 2 sounds better from the analog outputs of my 1995 SONY XA-7ES.

CD 1 played back on the SONY sounds like the timing is just all wrong.
CD 2 played back on the SMSL DAC sounds FLAT.

But, both sound superb with the right DAC. I'm happy, but I don't know what to attribute it to.

I also have them running through separate headphone amplifiers that do sound different, but I know them well and they are both excellent in their own way, so could be one is inverting phase, I don't know yet. One is also relatively inexpensive, another SMSL headphone amp, but all with custom built power supplies.

I've never been a complete fan of Diana Krall, but I got a lot of her CDs and this one I think is pretty excellent (I always thought she needed a new singer for her group ;-) The Michel CD is quite frankly, out of the ballpark good.

I also have a turntable setup, too, which I like and I alternate mostly towards liking the analog setup, but not always. I've also been to some live concerts recently, in front row seats. So, there you have it. What do you think?

 

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RE: Phase or Filter?, posted on March 3, 2017 at 09:46:10
knewton
Audiophile

Posts: 476
Location: Mid-Atlantic/Northeast
Joined: May 18, 2010
I'm unsure what you're reporting. It seems you are reporting that CDs can have different sound, and DACs can have different sound. Therefore, some combinations of CD and DAC complement each other's sound better than does some other combinations of CD and DAC.
_
Ken Newton

 

RE: Phase or Filter?, posted on March 3, 2017 at 09:56:58
jedrider
Audiophile

Posts: 11717
Location: No. California
Joined: December 26, 2003
Well, it just could be that the two (probably both single bit implementations, but from different eras) have a different digital filter and some DACs give you a choice (but I have none and do wonder whether I really need a DAC that will give me that flexibility).

Or, it could be something else? The phase, possibly. The headphone amplifier, well, maybe, and I've noticed that when I switch cables, I may prefer one headphone amplifier over another. Could be phase again.

Damn, I need a pre-amp that will allow me to select phase, then.

Anyway, the difference between the two setups I have now is pretty stark, that I won't listen to the CD played back on the wrong setup. It is that different. I will utterly enjoy the listening session with the right playback setup.

 

RE: Phase or Filter?, posted on March 3, 2017 at 11:16:47
fmak
Audiophile

Posts: 12784
Joined: June 1, 2002
Both, and level too.

 

RE: Phase or Filter?, posted on March 3, 2017 at 11:44:49
knewton
Audiophile

Posts: 476
Location: Mid-Atlantic/Northeast
Joined: May 18, 2010
Okay, I think I understand what you are asking. As fmak said, both the absolute phase (waveform polarity) and the digital interpolation filter settings make an audible difference. What's disconcerting about multiple digital filter setting options is that while they each change the chracter of the sound, often, no one setting sounds consistently more right across the majority of CDs, which, I believe, was one of your points. I hear sound character trade-offs between slow and sharp filter settings. Gain some desirable aspect of sound character by switching to one setting, but then also lose some other desireable aspect of sound character.
_
Ken Newton

 

RE: Phase or Filter?, posted on March 3, 2017 at 11:45:36
jedrider
Audiophile

Posts: 11717
Location: No. California
Joined: December 26, 2003
Well, OK, but never understood the level argument. If the CDs are recorded at approximately the same level, I don't see what difference that could make. Of course, I have CD recorded at low output level and some recorded at high output level, but those are the exception and not the rule it seems to me.

One listens at the level that one enjoys. Obviously, if you like what your hear, you turn up the volume. I am not talking DBT bullshit, where you are asked which do you prefer? A bullshit question to me. I much prefer the question: Do you like this sound? so that 'yes' or 'no' response is the only outcome. Even better, do you want to sit for the entire CD?? That's a way better question to me, actually.

 

RE: Phase or Filter?, posted on March 3, 2017 at 13:05:21
fantja
Audiophile

Posts: 10489
Location: Alabama
Joined: September 11, 2010
Unless you can alter the "phase" of both the DAC and Sony ES, the filter(s) is the culprit.

 

RE: Phase or Filter?, posted on March 3, 2017 at 13:45:35
jedrider
Audiophile

Posts: 11717
Location: No. California
Joined: December 26, 2003
I also keep two turntable mats in case one makes the LP sound better than the other. Some things never change.

 

RE: Phase or Filter?, posted on March 3, 2017 at 13:49:15
jedrider
Audiophile

Posts: 11717
Location: No. California
Joined: December 26, 2003
That would really irk me if one filter setting would only improve certain aspects of playback while another filter setting would change other aspects and I couldn't decide which I liked better. I'm sure I must have recordings that will give me exactly those ambiguous results. Sometimes, none of them sound good and it is time to do something else.

 

RE: Phase or Filter?, posted on March 3, 2017 at 14:08:21
fantja
Audiophile

Posts: 10489
Location: Alabama
Joined: September 11, 2010
It is remarkable that the Diana Krall sounds better on your Sony ES (older player) vs the newer DAC? This is a testament to the build/sound quality of Sony ES components.

 

RE: Phase or Filter?, posted on March 3, 2017 at 16:17:01
jedrider
Audiophile

Posts: 11717
Location: No. California
Joined: December 26, 2003
I have a love/hate relationship with that player. It has only sounded good to me during the last year or so, basically, soon after I purchased an outboard DAC. I attribute most of the benefit to our electric company improving something. The other improvement is that I purchased a nice coaxial digital cable and it prefers being loaded with a cable to a DAC, even when not using the DAC. Then, I had the balanced out switches in the wrong position for the longest time (because I use to have balanced interconnect a long time ago, but gave up on them because the rest of my equipment was not up to the task).

This is why I've been a vinyl LP guy for so long now ;-)

 

RE: Phase or Filter?, posted on March 3, 2017 at 17:46:35
fantja
Audiophile

Posts: 10489
Location: Alabama
Joined: September 11, 2010
Nice! jedrider.
that was Sony's best CDP. Yes, the electric company plays a part, more importantly, an after market cable makes the better difference.

 

RE: Phase or Filter?level, posted on March 4, 2017 at 11:13:22
fmak
Audiophile

Posts: 12784
Joined: June 1, 2002
Replay level affects spacial perceptions.

 

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