How easily can you distinguish between different DACs?

When I read reviews or watch them on YouTube the reviewers talk about the vast differences between various DACs.  I haven't compared too many, but found the differences pretty subtle, at best.

Which got me into thinking:  Is my hearing ability really that bad?

Do you notice the differences as easily as folks make out?



Hi Mike,

I realize your playing in a different realm than I am, but I am curious what was better about the Wadax?  To paraphrase Good Fellas...Better, Better How?

Not asking for a detailed answer, just the nickel tour.  Thanks



Your hearing is fine. Darko admits that if there are differences, they are very minor. Any sighted testing is going to almost always produce a difference, as it does with everything. Only blind testing is valid to accurately determine if there is a difference in sound. 

That’s interesting that you ask this @audiodwebe as I did an experiment just the other day.

My system is a high-end system (Vitus amplification, top of the range Boenicke speakers). I have two identical SOtM sms-200 streamers which I connected back to the switch with identical cables. I then connected each with identical USB cables to two different DACs, one costs $1500 and one $25000. I grouped the two SOtMs on Roon so that my chosen music played simultaneously through both DACs. I attached these to two different amp inputs and volume matched the input, so it became possible to flip between them instantly from the remote, in real time.

Before the start I would flip between inputs at rapid speed so that I had no idea which was playing first. I made notes.

The result was that I could not reliably tell which was playing as they both sounded identical. At one point I was convinced the more expensive one one was flowing more naturally and had the a more realistic timbre of instrument. But when I tested myself I could not reliably pick out the more expensive DAC.

My conclusion is to spend your money elsewhere in the system.

Hey, I already owned an OPPO 205 that you can use with MConnect. I purchased the Ayre QX-5 DAC/ streamer via the network card. I tested them back to back playing all sorts of different songs on Tidal and Qobuz. They sounded different but one was not better than the other. In fact, I liked the little more warmth the OPPO presented. I might try the OPPO 205 against a Lumin P1 or X1. Most of the time I use my BlueSound NODE into a Wired for sound reclocker into the OPPO. It sounds really good and I love using the BS App. My system is pretty resolving so I can hear a difference in components and cables very well.