The Office Rig and the Lucas Labs(CF)Linestage

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Magnaryder
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Re: The Office Rig and the Lucas Labs(CF)Linestage

Post by Magnaryder » Fri Apr 03, 2015 7:03 pm

Well here it is, my last word(for now) on computer driven hifi. I was trying to figure out whether or not I could hear the difference between on-board/out-board and stand-alone DACs. I'm running an ASUS Zonar Essence STX, Realtek ALC 889 and 892 codecs and an ASUS Zonar Essence One. I down loaded several HiRez songs from HD tracks. This time instead of listening to the same 'ol stuff I thought I'd try a different tact....songs I'd never heard before and compare each unit and try to find one of the bunch that resolved things the others didn't.

The Rig:
LucasLabs CF14 Line Stage
CarverFest 2011 (heavily modded amp)
Velodyne CHT10 Subwoofer (modded with a JLAudio 10" W3)
Alesis Monitor Ones(modded crossover)
CarverAudio and Mark Tunis Silver ICS
Audio Note AN-9 Silver Loudspeaker wires

I recently built a new PC for Hi-Fi listening (and some movie watching) at home. I did some research and decided upon the AMD 990 chipset. A trip to MicroCenter in Columbus, Ohio scored me the parts I needed to complete the PC build. I'm running an AMD 9590 BE processor, Gigabyte 990FA-UD5 board, Corsair H100 closed loop cooling solution, 2 ASUS R9 290 video cards crossfired, 32gbs Corsair Vengence 2400 DDR3 ram, 2 ASUS SuperMulti BD players, and the ASUS Zonar STX sound card in an NZXT Phantom case. It's a really cool rig.

The Gigabyte board has the Realtek ALC889 chipset which is widely considered to be the top o the heap as far as on board DACs go. My previous PC rig(AMD 890 chipset/Biostar TA890FXE/AMD 1090t processor/16gb 1333gb ram /2 crossfired AMD 6850s) sports the Realtek ALC892 chipset, which sounds pretty good also.

The ASUS Zonar Essence One is a stand alone DAC with alot going for it. First, it's fucking beautiful. Sorta fits in with the EAR V20/Fosgate Signature. Lots of power for headphones and can run in a balanced mode up to 192k/24 bit and like the ALC889 it claims to run 176.4k/24 bit audio.

I tried all kinds of settings, on all of the units and wanted this to be a fair fight, but the best I have been able to manage to this point is 96k/24bit resolution on all of the units when testing. Be that as it may, they all sounded pretty good. One thing I did notice when reading up one several of the units I planned on listening to was how important level matching reflected the outcome.

First up was 'Postcard from Paradise' from Ringo Starr. Ringo, like Troy Polamalu has lost a step, but he IS still Ringo! Sounds like he did a while ago. I bought this download because I wanted to hear differences articulated accurately in the mid to lower registers. At first blush all of the DACs performed well, until I listened a little longer and closer. The ALC892 was a little inarticulate in the lower end. All of the other units sounded the same....to me. Further listening with my girls involved netted the same result, they heard the things I heard.

Next was Boz Scaggs' "A Fool to Care". Here I wanted to hear the subtle nuances of his voice. All of the DACs came through keeping his voice intact. I was really impressed with the imaging and soundstage presented on this recording. Makes me want to find it on vinyl.

Try as I might, up to this point I can't hear the difference in any of these products. Now the ASUS Essence One and the ASUS Zonar STX are nice products with a heft and feel I like when spending that kind of $$. On the other hand the Realtek ALCs are backed by WAAY more computing power than any CD/DVD player known to man and can buffer any DVD or bluray in their ram, giving the chipsets alot of power backing them up and doing a great job on the oversampling. I just haven't found any difference to my ear to justify spending any of my hard earned money on anything other than the motherboard chipsets.

YMMV!

ray
Magnaryder

Its going to be used equipment when I sell it, so it may as well be used equipment when I buy it.

"Racing is life, the rest of the time you're just sitting around."-Steve McQueen

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engtaz
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Re: The Office Rig and the Lucas Labs(CF)Linestage

Post by engtaz » Sat Apr 04, 2015 4:32 am

Nice, you spoil yourself. lol
engtaz


Carver M4.0T in front channels to Caver AL VI's in SACD & 2 Channel setup
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radioeng2
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Re: The Office Rig and the Lucas Labs(CF)Linestage

Post by radioeng2 » Sat Apr 04, 2015 10:08 am

Thanks for taking the time to write up your work and thoughts on this Ray.

I set up a machine some time back with the Sonar STX internal card version. But I've hardly listened to it directly at all as I've wound up just steaming it via IP to my Oppo and letting it be the decoder. For whatever reason, I still like a little better just directly playing discs though. I should spend more time with it and figure out if there is a sound difference or if it's just the enjoyment of setting back with a disc and reading the cover while letting the music wash over you.

I've been buying a lot of music, cheap, lately on Amazon. It's fun exploring the forgotten and the new ones you run across. I've got a stack though I haven't had time to get to. It's been few and far between lately to find time to set down. This week was the transfer of companies and maybe it'll lighten coming up. Maybe.

Don't forget the past CF disc's on DVD. Some of that material is specifically in part because of being high quality at higher data rates. Rip it back off disc and try some of those for exposing differences.

Off to work on a nice sunny morning! Hope everybody has a great weekend!

Mark
I was there "At the Fest!" Hope you were too!

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Magnaryder
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Re: The Office Rig and the Lucas Labs(CF)Linestage

Post by Magnaryder » Sat Apr 04, 2015 6:23 pm

radioeng2 wrote: Don't forget the past CF disc's on DVD. Some of that material is specifically in part because of being high quality at higher data rates. Rip it back off disc and try some of those for exposing differences.

Off to work on a nice sunny morning! Hope everybody has a great weekend!

Mark
Thanks Mark, while I play the CDs often I forgot I can rip the DVDs to my SSD drives too!

ray
Magnaryder

Its going to be used equipment when I sell it, so it may as well be used equipment when I buy it.

"Racing is life, the rest of the time you're just sitting around."-Steve McQueen

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Re: The Office Rig and the Lucas Labs(CF)Linestage

Post by EndersShadow » Sat Apr 04, 2015 7:50 pm

I've got to say, I've found outboard DAC's to make a HUGE difference.

TBH I wouldn't qualify Asus soundcards as "hi-fi". They are more marketed at gamers than audiophiles so I dont think they are a quantifiable example of a "normal" outboard DAC most folks would use.

I've run through the following DAC's/headphone amps and ALL of them have made improvements over the stock soundcards: Meridian Explorer, Audio GD NFB-5, Cambridge Audio DacMagicXS and lastly a Cambridge Audio DacMagic.

For me the DacMagic is what stayed with the rest cycling their way through. The sound is just better than my onboard soundcard when using the Cambridge. Now this thing upsamples so maybe its that, but honestly I just think that most computer manufactures just dont really spend a TON of money on decent DAC's. They make sure they work for games and thats about it.

Like you said YMMV, but if your really wanting to try out a outboard DAC, I'd look for something other than Asus. You could even just try the DragonFly v2 which is both a headphone amp, and can function as a pre-amp. My version of the DacMagic (the original) can be had for about 150 give or take, so there are a lot of other options. USB or Coaxial/SPIDF depending on what flavor of chipset you want.

But thats just my view.
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Magnaryder
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Re: The Office Rig and the Lucas Labs(CF)Linestage

Post by Magnaryder » Mon Apr 06, 2015 5:27 pm

Magnaryder wrote:
radioeng2 wrote: Don't forget the past CF disc's on DVD. Some of that material is specifically in part because of being high quality at higher data rates. Rip it back off disc and try some of those for exposing differences.

Off to work on a nice sunny morning! Hope everybody has a great weekend!

Mark
Thanks Mark, while I play the CDs often I forgot I can rip the DVDs to my SSD drives too!

ray
Right now I'm listening to the CF'12 DVD-A sampler Mark gave us, and if memory serves me(hahaha) There is alot more soundfield and detail information on the DVD. For those of you who want to try this on your PC or laptop I'm using a free DVD player called IReal.

you can download it here:

http://en.softonic.com/s/ireal-blu-ray- ... e-download

enjoy....I am

ray
Magnaryder

Its going to be used equipment when I sell it, so it may as well be used equipment when I buy it.

"Racing is life, the rest of the time you're just sitting around."-Steve McQueen

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Re: The Office Rig and the Lucas Labs(CF)Linestage

Post by Magnaryder » Wed Jul 15, 2015 5:03 pm

Today I added a Schiit Audio Modi 2 Uber to the OfficeRig(tm).
IMG_0358.JPG


I'm using USB 2 from my PC to the Modi. What a nice little DAC, it opened the sound up nicely. The fine folks at Schiit shipped my Modi the day I ordered it and I got it 3 days later. If you are a fan of Schiit products they deliver the goods. I've been digging a wide variety of music on the OfficeRig since I got the Modi running. I have noticed that the vocal images are located a little higher than I remember. I hear a bit more 'air' and a kind of subtlety to the music....maybe it's just what I'm listening to at the moment.

For those of you unfamiliar with Schiit Audio, they build DACs, amps and pre amps here in the USA mostly of USA sourced components. Build quality is VERY GOOD and the sound is exceptional. The Modi 2 Uber is better than my ASUS Zonar STX sound card and at a significantly lower price.

IMG_0359.JPG
IMG_0359.JPG (29.98 KiB) Viewed 3614 times
I thought my rig sounded excellent but now there is something special going on I hadn't noted previously. Right now I'm listening to Keb' Mo's 'The Reflection' ripped from the Richland Cty Library. I'm impressed with the overall improvement of the portrayal off the soundfield. Keb's voice is at cenerstage surrounded by several female vocalists. I can hear the bass just to the left of Keb' but behind him and the drums centered right behind Keb'. I can hear the bassist plucking the strings and the bass is articulate, not boomy or overbearing.

On Mairead's 'Rain Up' her violin is really pleasantly portrayed, not harsh or strident...very easy on the ears. Chloe's 'Walking on Air' contains some VERY deep bass lines and the Modi reproduces them in a grand manner. I've been playing around trying to successfully integrate my Velodyne CHT10 into the OfficeRig and suddenly discovered I've gotten it pretty close. Gabiel's Oboe sounds like an Obeo. I think this is a step forward for the OfficeRig.

From 'Super Hits' by Sly and the Family Stone features some vintage '70s funk/rock. The Modi take the vocals up above the stage but leaves instruments at ear level on certain tracks. At first blush the Modi is very good at reproducing the musical soundscape without any additions. I hear some things going on in the image and soundfield that are markedly different than what I remember from alot of the recordings I'm listening to today.

All in all the Schiit Audio Modi 2 Uber is worth all of the $164 I paid to get it to my door.

ray
Magnaryder

Its going to be used equipment when I sell it, so it may as well be used equipment when I buy it.

"Racing is life, the rest of the time you're just sitting around."-Steve McQueen

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