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?


Compair them on a very revealing system.  In  some systems, you may not notice and significant differences.  

So the difference would be that the cornering somehow just feels better in the Ferrari and so is a more enjoyable experience that justifies the cost.

Really? You think that's the only thing setting a Ferrari and Corolla apart? I don't have the means to own a Ferrari but I have driven one on a track every time I get a chance to go to Vegas. The acceleration, the way the steering wheel communicates the road to the driver, the way it sounds when gathering speed, the braking ability, and the overall exhilarating feeling you get every time you get behind the wheel ... there's nothing even remotely comparable to a Corolla.  All these are factors (or nuances) that collectively contribute to making the whole greater than the sum of the parts. The same holds true for higher end DACs as well. You simply cannot isolate a few measurements or one or two aspects of performance. You have to evaluate them as a complete package.

Have you had your hearing checked by an audiologist.  I know I have hearing loss and have an appointment next week.  Still I can readily hear differenced in DACs.

I have found the more I invest in AC and electrical noise control the easier it is to hear the DAC's sound.  The first thing I notice is the fullness and clarity of the low end.  After that I hear the separation of notes and instruments.  And then timbre and tone.

I have settled on a balanced DAC with a good tube DHT output stage.  I am looking for a relaxing sound.  Along the way I have learned to recognize the fatiguing digital characteristics of DACs with jitter issues.

I will say 5 years ago I could hear differences in DACs but maybe couldn't readily tell which I preferred.  I would listen to one DAC for a few weeks then change to another for a few weeks.  Eventually after getting over chasing the shiny stuff like low end clarity or soundstage or midrange presence and holography I would find I just liked listening to one DAC over the other because it was more relaxing/engaging.

As I moved up the DAC ladder price-wise I got more of the shiny stuff and more engagement at the same time.  However,  I am not sure I would appreciate a lot of the differences without the level of AC noise control conditioning I have.

I have found with each addition of noise control the performance of my system improves readily and changes in gear becomes easier to hear.

I find it very easy to tell the difference between DACs and I am not some golden ear guy. But as you read in several replies, some can and some cannot tell the difference. Would save me a lot of money if I couldn’t, but I can. 

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