Audio Science Review Review

Discussion in 'Audio Science' started by purr1n, Aug 30, 2020.

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  1. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF's Mr. Bean

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    It's important to note that SBAF is not about super expensive, ORFAS gear. Yeah, a couple of not-exactly-cheap pieces have gone through loaners (some of which is coming up as of this post) and we've also praised some gear that's very expensive (Utopia, SR1a, etc); however SBAF has always been more about the odds and ends that are cheap that sound good. In the end, what we're really about is good sound. And yes, we have a definition for what constitutes good sound (if you are reading this and don't know what it is, you either never read what SBAF is about or haven't lurked enough, possibly both).

    Just look at our advice threads. Most of the time, we recommend the cheapest possible good-sounding solutions. It's filled with "oh buy a Schiit XYZ, or something @Zampotech made." We have this reputation of being HD650 whores; we kind of are since you can get essentially get cheap ones from Drop. Unless budget allows, we never recommend some schmuck go out and buy a DNA, an EC, or Rockna; heck I try to stop people from buying that stuff unless they really know what direction they're going/have auditioned in it.

    Want to get us really excited? Do what @Zampotech did with the SW51, which is a relatively cheap tube amp that legitimately makes all other amps from about $500 - $2000 obsolete. Or what @schiit did with the Bifrost 2, bringing us near-Gungnir MB levels of performance for a bit more than half the price. In comparison, the Rockna Wavedream, which @purr1n very positively reviewed, didn't receive much reaction other than "oh cool, a $$$$$ DAC that actually is better than a Yggdrasil." You could argue (and I'd agree with you) that the SR1a received tons of attention. However, I'd also like to point out the SR1a is exciting because it's actually something very new and worth getting excited over; ribbon drivers, semi-open baffle.

    There is a reason why, despite the fact that many SBAF members like ZMF, still hesitate to run out and outright recommend them. One of the big reasons is price; it's a lot to risk for a headphone from a brand where you've never auditioned a product from.

    It's funny because I've seen some people accuse SBAF of playing favorites. To be blunt, we do; we tend to like MOTs who engage with the community, care about their customers, and are just generally pleasant humans*.

    *believe it or not this point makes it so much easier to like someone. People should try it out more often.

    However, it doesn't matter whether or not we like that MOT; their gear is still held to the same standards. There is a reason why we like using comparative reviews; it helps everyone if gear is talked about in the context of other gear that is more well-known. Without comparison, reviews quickly become useless. And we've poo-poo'd gear we didn't like much from MOTs too; just look at what @Hands had to say about the Magnius.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2020
  2. Ruined

    Ruined HD700 ruined my ear holes

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    I've lurked on and off for about 4yr, originally trying to find gear combos for HD800 [original] and am very aware what the site is about. I never posted though because from the posts it seemed like the community would reject my audio preferences. I, too, am about good audio but I think I have different priorities on what makes up "good sound" than some of the folks here. For example, if I had to pick only 1 headphone to keep on a desert island out of about ~15 headphones I have owned between $150-$2500 (mostly Sennheisers and including the HD6xx series), that headphone would be the HD700 - which is probably the most sacrilege thing I imagine I could say on this site - but it is due to a combination of factors; for headphones "good sound" for me begins with expansive soundstage and ends with a bright-leaning neutralish sound that has impressive dynamics - and I also highly value things like fit comfort where IMO the HD700 is at the top of the pack. Bad sound for me begins with closed-in soundstage and ends with lack of detail & dynamics. I decided to take a risk though because I do have a ton of experience in audio / video in general and thought I might be able to add a little differing viewpoint and knowledge in some areas in terms of what makes up "good sound." I disagree with assessing components solely by measurements, but I do see their value to help you "ballpark" what a device might sound like based on your preferences; due to the relatively primative state of measurements (vs. the brain's perceptual nuances) they are not a replacement for listening, though, and I am not pleased when someone derides something with authority entirely based on measurements while never actually hearing what it sounds like (or at least something with the same "house sound"). In my experience controversial sound profiles can sound very good or very bad depending on a person's preferences, but if they line up just right with someone's preferences they may be much more enjoyable than a more typical conservative sound profile.

    Additionally, I see what sites like ASR are doing to the overall gear market and I don't like it, with manufs putting their R&D sound budgets (and aesthetic choices/build quality being tossed aside for that matter) into sound I don't like because "low-cost, good measurements," so I wanted to join a site that is dedicated to furthering good sound without a $1000 total system price limit. I have never been about herd mentality, so if I try something and i don't like it or try something and like it I will express my viewpoint even if it doesn't align with what others are saying; I think this is healthy discourse in critical thinking and evaluation, as well as consideration of alternative ideas to avoid echo-chamber syndrome. I may catch heat for doing so but I if I believe I have a valid point I will express it, and if I get heat so be it, will take it in stride.


    As mentioned earlier in this thread Head-Fi is the "everything is grand" site; on one thread I posted that buying random hifi gear from aliexpress was a bad idea due to the QA issues and lack of recourse you have on many items from that site (i.e. common sense), and I received a page-long PM from someone in Thailand trying to convince me how great the specific company was and how I should give aliexpress another chance, also with the request to not bring up my negative viewpoint of aliexpress items again in the forum - was a bit creepy TBH and I imagine it happens frequently to people who take a negative opinion of some gear.



    Yeah, but my point was that $2000+ amps, etc, are an instant turn off to segments of the population. Meaning, they see these not as "wow looks cool maybe I will get this someday" to instead be "wow what a rip off, I would never be able to afford it and anyone who buys this is a moron" because that person thinks they probably never will be able to get it someday and subconsciously wants to protect their ego. The fact that good sounding cheaper items are recommended does not matter to this type of individual because a person like this who might have some insecurities doesn't want to feel like they are buying the cheap item , they want to feel like they have the most elite system. And, if they can never hope to afford the best, its far psychologically easier to embrace a site whose mantra is that "the best is voodoo, you already own the best on your limited budget" than to have FOMA.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2020
  3. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    ASR is not pushing "low-cost, good measurements".

    At the top of their charts currently is the Mola Mola Tambaqui ($6000), followed by the Matrix Audio X-SABRE PRO MQA ($2000). Those ASR chart toppers seem to fit your "Wow what a rip off, I would never be able to afford it and anyone who buys this is a moron" category.

    Next is the Topping D90 ($700) as if to say that you get close to $6000 performance with Topping.

    $700 is not pocket change either.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2020
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    The key difference is that we don't pretend to not play favorites like ASR. ASR hides behind the mask of measurements while freely doling out their subjective nonsense! I see ASR as at least 40% subjective per my points above.

    We don't pretend that subjective impressions on SBAF aren't flawed, but we try to control the variables with loaner programs and getting gear in the hands of folks who have been highly involved and consistent with their observations over time. It's not much different from pain medication testing, except with a smaller sample sizes and without a placebo group (since this last part would be difficult).

    One thing I've noticed is that good or bad gear tends to rate consistently, e.g. if 80%+ of the impressions say something is good or bad, then it's probably good or bad. Mixed gear tends to goes likewise with a split. It may be interesting to go back and score gear according to subjective impressions using a simple 0-4 scoring system and assigning weights depending upon the reviewer.

    As far as biases, I think those vendors who do engage with SBAF do get nicer treatment. Although I do realize now that @Hands flat out said the Pontus was a piece of shit. Oh well, I guess it doesn't happen all the time. I think what it comes down to is whether the manufacturer is in the long game and wants us to be sincere, or is just seeking a positive review - the latter we have no patience for. In a few instances, manufacturers have worked with individuals here to tune a product. Of course something like this is going to receive at least a fairly positive reception!

    As far as Magnius, I mostly stayed out of it. One reason is because I hauled my ass up to the Schiitr to get one only be be disappointed because I was hoping for a Heresy+. The other thing is that Jason is a friend, so I didn't want to hurt his feelings. Finally, I knew the negative (mixed) impressions were going to come in. I tend not to directly crap on gear as much these days and would prefer to leave hints (the members who know me usually get it - although oftentimes I wished I got pushed harder by the readers to give a straight answer, but this never seems to happen). And BTW: the Magnius is the worse sounding amp IMO that Schiit has ever made. There I said it. :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2020
  5. Ruined

    Ruined HD700 ruined my ear holes

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    If good measurements is the only benchmark, that benchmark is achievable at low cost. Hence despite a few chart toppers that is in actuality what they are pushing, because no one is going to spend an extra $1300-$4000 for "1 spot" difference, and it flows from there to the low cost gear. If anything, having a $700 item 2 spots away from a $6000 item reinforces low cost, good measurements idealogy. Because it implies that there is barely any difference between the two for $5300 more, and discounts other things that might gained for that price sound or otherwise.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2020
  6. BenjaminBore

    BenjaminBore Friend

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    I think the main differentiator is that going a bit easier on something or someone, or even abstaining from comment, is about as far as it goes here. With relationships being disclosed. Which with being a community first is pretty natural behaviour, even if not ideal.

    I’ve never seen, or even sensed, any deceit from established members. Those that have verged are called out. For anything more egregious outright banned.

    That and the pursuit of the truth of a given matter regardless of beliefs and assumptions is why I pitched my tent here.

    With Amirm at ASR I was immediately put off by a review he did of some Schiit gear. Where he proceeded to make mountains out of molehills, from a starting point of unequal ground, saying little to nothing of merit. It didn’t smell right.

    As long as you’re aware of your preferences and qualify your statements, and don’t try to force that on others as the one-true-way you’ll be fine. Of course fine is a relative term. You may be challenged, even ribbed, but this functions as an informal test of your perspective and your character.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2020
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    $100-$200 is one thing. Once we get to $500+ gear people will really start to using their ears. The excellent measurements will draw people to buy the gear, but no amount of excellent measurements will convince people that it sounds good for the price. Tons of Topping D70 and D90 on the used market now.
     
  8. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Last edited: Sep 2, 2020
  9. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    Exactly. He is pushing the Topping D90 because the approach is impling exactly what you just said. But as pointed out, $700 is not low cost gear.

    Note he is arbitrarily making an example out of Auralic Vega (G2), which has good measurement performance, but maybe they didn't pay up.
     
  10. JustAnotherRando

    JustAnotherRando My other bike is a Ferrari

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    My interpretation is that this a deliberate way to make the Topping look good. It's a commonly used ploy on higher end restaurant menus (price anchor, point 2): https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jan/21/menus-cunning-marketing-ploys

    Whilst not wallet-breakingly expensive, I wouldn't call $700 "low cost" either.

    Whups, ninja'd.
     
  11. Ruined

    Ruined HD700 ruined my ear holes

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    Right that's the idea, but having a $700 item display as performing near identical to $6000 item then equivocates $700 to the "absolute highest cost necessary" item in terms of ultimate sound performance. While $700 isn't cheap, it shifts the entire cost spectrum down , where now $700 is the top instead of $6000. Hence, even though $700 isn't cheap it still massively reinforces the whole low cost good measurements ideology as makes everything over $700 irrelevant for this crowd

    So $700 changes it's status from the "not wallet breakingly expensive" item to the "elite very expensive but low price for performance " item on the now shrunken ASR price scale
     
  12. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    Not necessarily.

    He still has not updated the front page of the Modi 3 which to this date still shows incorrectly it's performance at -96 dB THD+N because he miss-meassured it.

    I also bet many folks, given the chart position, will be more inclined to buy the $250 Topping D50 (-110 dB THD+N based on ASR @ 2 Vrms) than the $100 Schiit Modi 3 (-107 dB THD+N based on ASR @ 2 Vrms).

    And most folks would miss the fact that Modi 3 actually hits -110 dB THD+N @ -5dBFS, and the D50 might or might not (see page 11):
    https://www.schiit.com/public/upload/PDF/Schiit DAC APx555 Standard Test Suite_ Modi 3.pdf?force_isolation=true

    Most folks will go and make a decision based on the ASR summary.

    Also, I made a mistake. The Mola Mola with the two tumbs up is $11500. The high-end and similar performing Auralic Vega for about 50% the price of Mola Mola is $6600 and has two tumbs down, because though it is half the price, it is not -121 dB THD+N, but -116 dB THD+N. Note both the Mola Mola and the Auralic Vega reach -110 dB IMD at full scale, but Auralic Vega does so for 50% the price and stil gets the two tumbs down. How is this "objective" or pushing "low cost"?

    Also note he pushed the Auralic Vega G2 1 dB hotter which when nearing 0 dBFS can tilt the scales "un-objectively" in favor of this or that product. Further note that the distortion sweeps have about +/-3 dB of noise which affords ample cherry picking to tilt the scales at ASRs fancy. There is no margin of error in the charts.

    Giving two tumbs up or down in a highly opinionated tone, based on the above facts, is obviously misleading. And is BULLSHIT.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2020
  13. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    It's a trick.
    • Phase 1: Lay basis of rip-off audiophile gear by borking measurements of $2500 item.
    • Phase 2: Show $100 Topping item measuring with better ENOB ("Amir-bits" interpretation with wrong methodology - no bandpass on linearity plot as called out by Jude/AP) than various Audiophile brand items at $5000
    • Phase 3: Introduce $300 Topping item with marginally better SINAD than $2500-$5000 that tops the Excel bar charts
    • Phase 4: A few months later, introduce $500 Topping item with marginally better SINAD than before that tops the charts yet again!
    • Phase 5: Another few months later, introduce $800 Topping item with marginally better SINAD than before that tops the charts yet again!
    As HF used to say: sorry about your wallet!
     
  14. Metro

    Metro Friend

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    But ASR is causing manufacturers to move in that direction.
     
  15. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    If he did, the chart would look different.

    He is certainly pushing Topping.
     
  16. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    They just pushed Schiit to allocate resources to that market. From what I am aware, Schiit has done all they can in terms of high-SINAD low-cost products, and will be resuming their regularly scheduled programming now that they've proved that they can design high-SINAD low-cost stuff in their sleep. ASR and friends are patting themselves on the back for getting Schiit to buy an AP555 and making them design better measuring gear using chips. Good for them! Both.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2020
  17. Senorx12562

    Senorx12562 Case of the mondays

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    I am thrilled that Schiit has addressed that part of the market and hope they make a schiit-ton of money doing so, both because I think they deserve it ( and based on what I know, I like Jason and Mike as people) and more importantly, it will allow them to keep designing and building products that are of more interest to me personally than the .0000x thd stuff. JMO.
     
  18. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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  19. Ruined

    Ruined HD700 ruined my ear holes

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  20. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Don't you guys love it when I sell something that I don't want, I'll actually admit that it sucks (if it sucks) and drive the price down even more!
     
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