Am I just deaf? Or Should I just sell my DAC and buy a better turntable?

Discussion in 'Leaderboard, Overboard, and Deals' started by MrTie, Apr 6, 2016.

  1. MrTie

    MrTie Friend

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    I want to preface this by saying, I'm not a objectivist witch-hunter, All these impressions are my ears, my gear, my software.

    I don't think $$$ DACs are a good use of MY audio money. Bare with me here as I spin a yarn of my last few months of gear. I have for the past 5 or so years used an Essence ST soundcard as my primary means of getting audio out of my PC, more often as a DAC than as an amp. I have been mostly satisfied by it's performance in this regard, clean in my system, fairly transparent, it always just worked. It has been my primary digital source for my revolving door of gear over years. Some it modest, some of it fairly expensive, both for two channel and headphones.

    I went to a meet up in the fall where I heard a Gungnir Multibit for the first time and it kinda kicked me in the chest and left an impression. It had a certain effortlessness to it that reminded me of analog sources more so than digital. This all kinda pushed me back into headphones and gear, which of course led me here. Now over the past few months I have had the following in my house Modi, Bifrost Vanilla(then installed an Uber board), Bifrost Multibit, and now finally a Gungnir Multibit. All of them sounded different to me, after level matching and very careful listening. The crux of my issue is though, the differences are EXTREMELY small to me.

    Yes the Gungnir Multibit is extremely capable, yes it has better micro dynamics, more holographic imaging, better instrument separation, and a better sense of ease. Versus a $200 sound card DAC.

    The problem is, I once had a few fairly capable analog setups, and stupidly sold them on during moves in my life. The difference to my ears in my system better "Decent" DAC and "Great" DAC is equivalent or less than that or a moving up the stylus refinement chain of a cartridge(Think 2m Blue vs 2m Black). I'm not disparaging the DACs in question they all did in fact move up on a scale of refinement and they all worked well for me. I just can't say the $ to improvement makes a lot of sense to me personally.

    This Gungnir Multibit has only been on for about 40 hours(though it's not a new unit), so I'm going to give it more time before I throw in the towel. However I'm left at a crossroads as to where I should go with my system.

    1. Enjoy the Gungnir Multibit for what it is, a capable and slightly more refined digital source, that's flexible, well built, and futureproof.

    2. Sell it on and throw the cash in toward a better Vinyl rig again, and live my life, I still have around 4-500 records.

    3. Something else?

    My Current Chain if it helps.
    Software: J-river
    Sources: Essence ST SP/DIF Coax
    Motherboard Optical
    USB
    Analog: Dual 1226 + Shure M95ed
    DACs: Essence ST analog outs
    Gungnir Multibit
    Amp: Anthem i225
    Headphone: Modded HE-6
    Speaker: JBL LSR-305
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
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  2. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    It is a personal choice.

    IMO I feel that if the improvement does not justify the $ to you, then definitively invest in something you feel will give you more for your $.

    That's what I do (I think).
     
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  3. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I can only speak for myself, but I have listened to only one piece of digital out of my main system in the past several months. And that was an LFF remastered Mozart Requiem performed by the SCO. (Actually add Nirvana unplugged too, but that was before I my found the album in one of my boxes.) The jump from digital to vinyl is so huge that I could care less about DACs anymore, much less USB decrapifiers or converters that increase digital sound quality by 0.0283%. As you said, the difference between the DACs is even smaller than the difference between cartridges. I could see myself with only a Sonic Frontiers TransDAC or maybe a multi-bit Modi whenever Schiit figures out how to miniaturize all that stuff into such a small footprint.
     
  4. Kon Peki

    Kon Peki Friend

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    The difference (to my ears) between Modi and Bifrost Multibit was small enough to convince me that Bifrost Multibit is good enough for me. If it had been a big difference (to me), I would have been tempted to try Gungnir Multibit or Yggdrasil.
     
  5. Thujone

    Thujone Friend

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    I bought a Gungnir Multibit at the beginning of this year and I found similar results. Is it better than the Uberfrost I had? Yes, but not astronomically so (as many reviews would lead you to believe).

    As a result, the Gungnir Multibit sort of killed this hobby for me (temporarily, I'm sure). The objectivist in me will not let it go but the subjectivist in me is not convinced that this hair splitting is worth my time OR money.

    At the end of the day, I don't feel like I am as passionate about the minute differences between gear, as most folks are here. That said, my subjective input falls on deaf ears. Nobody wants to hear me say that Gungnir Multibit isn't THAT great.
     
  6. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    @MrTie

    I feel your pain. For me dac comparisons on headphones has always been harder. They lack the spatial information that differentiates a lot of the dacs sound character in many cases. Yet, you are also correct, the differences are in fact rather small. We have a tendency in this hobby to magnify the differences and sometimes that sets expectations higher than should.

    For my ears, using speakers can allow the dac differences to be more easily heard. But many times the limiting factor as we go up the ladder and steep price curve is the resolution of the system as a whole. I know in my setup I would never think of putting a megabuck dac since the surrounding equipment would probably not be able to reveal the last bits of goodness I paid for so handsomely.

    And getting back to headphone setups for a minute. I also believe that the source has to be really good to hear the nuance of some of the dacs. My laptop for example, as tweaked as it is, is a bottleneck that limits using a fancy dac for me.

    Your not deaf, you are hearing things correctly . ;)
     
  7. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Broken record here, but I was looking at some jitter measurements for the Essense ST, and that's probably holding your DACs back. Unless I misread and you're using USB to Gungnir Multibit, which, still, you are holding it back.

    More and more individuals on this site that have yet to jump into vinyl have found a really good USB->SPDIF converter boosts performance of DACs like the Gungnir Multibit more than the subtle differences they hear between DACs. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but that's what I've seen and heard.

    I have my CI Audio Transient Mk2 on loaner right now, and if you're in the states, I'd be happy to put you on the list so you can give it a try. That way you can try a different SPDIF source without having to spend your own money (except shipping). Either way, I'm sure you can find some form of gear loaner to see if maybe I'm right, and I very well might not be, having not heard the Essence ST myself. Just making guesses at this point.

    If in the event you try a good USB->SPDIF converter or some other nice SPDIF source (some vintage CD players, some digital audio transports, etc.) and are still left unsatisfied, perhaps you should get back into vinyl.
     
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  8. Mikoss

    Mikoss Friend

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    How's Gungnir Multibit sounding now? Just wondering if you're any closer to a decision.

    I really like the convenience of digital, and there are other things that I appreciate about it. With Gungnir Multibit, I hear a fairly precise, accurate presentation.

    Analog has a tendency to excel at sounding more natural/at ease/like actual music as opposed to just a recording. It also has a tendency to sound shitty when the records have the tiniest amount of dust/surface imperfections/etc. I think having perfectly clean records is becoming a priority to me for this reason.

    I've been tempted to sell Gungnir Multibit and just stick with analog myself, but I'm personally going to keep it for the sake of convenience.
     
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  9. MrTie

    MrTie Friend

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    Wow this picked up all of a sudden, I sold the Gungnir Multibit and bought a used Clearaudio concept locally.

    @Hands regarding jitter, I do have the ST which has a different/better clock than the STX, I have also tried usb and my mobo optical. I'm not exactly convinced on my ability to hear/be bothered by jitter, and I appreciate the offer, but I no longer have an external DAC.

    In the end it was an interesting first third of the year with different DAC ownership for me and while I definitely learned that DACs do sound different, I'm personally happy now with good enough versus chasing the state of the art.

    I think I may pick up a used Gungnir Multibit again in a few years, whenever Schiit offers Multibit 2.0 and tanks the used the market. I could justify to my listening habits and my budget when they are $5-700 a lot easier. Maybe I'll even try a USB to SP/DIF bridge then.
     
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  10. Wfojas

    Wfojas Friend

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    I agree, I was also going to sell my Gungnir Multibit last month, then I listened with a good spdif to go to the Gungnir Multibit with, and it tipped over to being comparable. Now I know that the rest of my chain is strong enough for anything before it. I do primarily do vinyl, but not everything is available in vinyl. Its funny though, that one thing made it okay and now I am satisfied enough digitalwise. I was already using a lesser SPDIF converter previously, so there seems to be a minimum the music acceptable in my setup. I don't listen to headphones much anymore, though, so I can better discern location, resolution and space through a large speaker setup. Its made it more lifelike.

    Vinyl also has a minimum level, but that is so much lower. Stick with the vinyl if the music is there for you, you can stop there, too!
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2016
  11. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    This vinyl thing amazes me. I would not go back to vinyl if you set me up with a Fremer approved megabuck setup. I cringe everytime someone plays a new hipster song with some vinyl pops or crackles that jump out of nowhere. I played and enjoyed vinyl for decades and even with meticulous care and cleaning, Last Factory preservative, etc. I will never miss the inevitable pop.

    People go nuts if digital has a click or dropout and rightly so, why the eff would one put up with that and vinyl?

    At least this site has the word audio in it, not headphones, speakers, vinyl or digital, whew |\/|
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2016
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  12. MrTie

    MrTie Friend

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    @bixby

    I totally understand, and my listening is very much split between both worlds. I don't think vinyl is inherently better. I do however like how "tune-able" to taste vinyl systems are. Objective neutrality be damned. I'll fully admit it takes a special kinda masochist to enjoy that, but there is something appealing with the interplay of deck, arm, cart, and phonostage. That said, digital still makes up about 75% of my listening, I just haven't experienced enough change from "good enough" digital to "great' digital to justify the cost difference.

    TL;DR It's not that my turntable sounds better than my Gungnir Multibit did, it sounds different, and I can further change that at will.
     
  13. MrTie

    MrTie Friend

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    I could also be a tin-eared gear slut, who knows. :D
     
  14. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    Yes, Jimi Hendrix never sounded as good as it did back in my youth when we spun the wonderful Reprise disks on my cousins Zenith Console!

    [​IMG]
     
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  15. rott

    rott Secretly hates other millenials - Friend

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    The beauty of choice is that if it doesn't seem worth it to you, let it go and use the money for something that will hopefully be of more value to you. (Of course you already sold it so the point is moot for you.) I'm just beating a dead horse I guess.

    Sure the Gungnir Multibit was very well received (and even won a super schlong award from Mr. Vinyl here at SBAF) and compared favorably to much more expensive DACs, but I can see how owners would be second-guessing spending that much money for what can easily be considered just an incremental upgrade, especially if gimped via USB.

    For whatever reasons I haven't been able to spend as much dedicated time as I'd like to actually enjoy music these past few months, but I haven't reached the regret/sell-it stage. Still blows me away the rare times I do listen.

    But if I had the chance to do it all over again I doubt I would make the same decision - I'd stretch no further than Bifrost Multibit or 4490.
     
  16. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    I am with you 100%.

    However, I still feel that home without a deck hasn't really got a hifi. It's like there's a limb missing, somehow. Mine's been in the cupboard since the flood, and I have a horrible feeling that it is going to stay there, and that, in fact, I'm never going to set up what I would always have called a hifi ever again :(
     
  17. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    I can't go back to vinyl knowing what is done to the sound. Vinyl is only for Bathory, Popol Vuh, and Motorhead now for me. Everything else is digital but I can't find a DAC I want to upgrade to inbetween my Modi2U and the Yggdrasil.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2016
  18. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    maybe one day there will be a balanced 4490 DAC at an affordable price.
     
  19. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I'm sure Schiit willl eventually shove the 4490 into the Gungnir DS.
     
  20. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    All the AK4490 implementations I've heard were colored as hell. DACport Slim was out of phase, Bifrost 4490 was warmer than the Bifrost Multibit and had an artificially wide staging, and the Grace M9XX was bloomy with a wonky treble as it voiced specifically around the HD 800.
     

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