but.. but... im not supposed to hear a difference!

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by NickSo, Aug 28, 2004.

  1. NickSo

    NickSo Producer

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    Okay... ive always been one of those 'bits are bits' people. THat there is no diff between cheap and expensive digital interconnects, that there was no diff between coax and optical, and there was no (or very, very little if any) difference between different transports as long as it was the same DAC.

    However, a situation rose recently that contradicted my belief:

    My firend just bought a Panny XR10 from ebay, and i went over to his house to check it out, bringing along my old (1991) luxman CD player with optical out.

    So just out of curiosity, i hooked up my Luxman via optical to the optical input of his receiver, and he had his Toshiba SD3860 (similar to the 3960, but canadian) via Digital Coax using a Composite video cable.

    I compared the two (expecting no difference) multiple times, using the same CD in each player (swapping CDs), experimenting with different albums. I was suprised that I could DISTINCLTY tell quite a large difference between the two! How can this be?! Even on his basic 2ch audio setup (XR10 receiver, Athena AS-B1 speakers) i could hear a difference. Its all the same 1's and 0's going through the same DAC!

    The luxman sounded distinctly cleaner and more detailed in the higher end, but the Toshiba was fuller in the midrange and sounded tighter in the low end.

    What caused the difference in the sound of the two as transports?
     
  2. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    Did you switch them out, so that the Luxman was doing coaxial and the Toshiba doing optical? That would tell you if the difference you heard followed the connection protocol. (Scratch that - I just noticed, looks like the Luxman only has optical.)

    Barring that, I’d put my vote on the particular players. Not all digital circuitry is created equal.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt

    P.S, I notice you've changed your sig picture - very cool. [​IMG]
     
  3. Brian Fellmeth

    Brian Fellmeth Supporting Actor

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    Nick,

    You have a great opportunity to teach yourself the awesome power of the placebo effect. Get 2 copies of the same CD. Set up the two players as before and cue the CD to the same spot, play both at the same time. Have your buddy switch back and forth so that only he knows which is playing. That obvious difference will mysteriously vanish.

    This happened to me when I hooked a single player up both coax and optical to the same receiver. When I switched myself and knew which connection was active, there was a huge difference. When I asked someone else to do it, I suddenly had no clue which was which. The huge difference just kind of melted away. It was spooky.
     
  4. brentl

    brentl Cinematographer

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    "i went over to his house to check it out, bringing along my old (1991) luxman CD player with optical out."

    Must have been a 3rd or 4th birthday present eh?[​IMG]

    B
     
  5. NickSo

    NickSo Producer

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    Wayne: Hehe, yah i decided to stop freaking members out :p)

    Brian: Yeah, i reslly should try something like that... I was really skeptical at first, so i was expecting to hear NO difference. Isnt a placebo usually effective when the person thinks he/she WILL hears a difference and believes he/she does? Ohwell, it most likely wouldve been placebo.

    brentl: Hehe, no, it was a garage sale find... CAD$2! It sounds actually very nice in my ultra-ghetto bedroom system, which consists of the Luxman, a 14+ year old Toshiba TV, 70's vintage Kenwood Intergrated Amp, and Radioshack Minimus 7's (another garage sale find, CAD$6). For its price it sounds as good as many bookshelf systems out there (the boombox-type ones).
     
  6. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    Your old one looked like you were holding on to a live 120v A/C line! [​IMG]
     
  7. Brian Fellmeth

    Brian Fellmeth Supporting Actor

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    Yes, true and good point. But I didn't expect to hear a difference between optical and digital coax connections between the same equipment- yet I did. Clearly. and it was totally fabricated by my mind.
     
  8. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Did you check the levels in both cases and determine if they were in fact the same with no inter-channel imbalances?
     
  9. Robert Cowan

    Robert Cowan Supporting Actor

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    its amazing how everyone in this forum is not only has a psychology but an engineering degree too [​IMG]

    placebo effect implies that you THINK there will be a difference, or that you want there to be. if you arent expecting one, or arent looking for it, its not a placebo effect. its called something else, reality.
     
  10. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    There are lots of related effects, such as halo effect, etc. The fact that someone hears a difference, regardless of what they were expecting, can't be automatically assumed to be reality, unless it can be done double-blind. Double-blind experiments get rid of a lot more than just placebo effects, that is assuming they are properly conducted.
     
  11. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    Yes, you need to make sure the levels are within 0.1 dB for each player/connection method comparison really to mean anything.
     
  12. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Although it's not the easiest thing to find a VOM that reads accurate voltages at different frequencies (the Simpson analogs, though are damned good in this respect) you could burn a CD with some test tones at different frequencies and determine such things as output levels, estimated FR just using an el-cheapo VOM. It might allow for deeper insight into what's going on.
     
  13. Greg J

    Greg J Auditioning

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    Its seems to me that you arent comparing two different digital transport systems here but comparing two different players. Any difference in sound can not be attributed to the cables used. You are using two different sources here.
    If there were no difference in players everyone would have the same $49.00 units from K-Mart and there would be no need for these discussion forums.
     
  14. Kelly Grannell

    Kelly Grannell Second Unit

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    Well, both my husband and I experienced the exact same thing. Using both coax and optical out from the same unit fed to our receiver, we switch back and forth between coax and optical, we can always tell the difference.

    No better or worse, just different.
     

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