Input/Output line level transformers for digital glare

I have been told that putting "iron" in the line output from the preamp to amp makes for a wonderfull change in digital glare issues on a digital media system

How do you do this? With single ended ended rca analog input/ output?

it supposedly does not affect frequency range nor dynamics?


That can work a bit if the transformers have limited bandwidth.

But part of the problem is that digital glare is caused by a certain type of distortion called 'inharmonic distortion' which usually does not show up in the specs on a lot of digital gear. Inharmonic distortion is actually a form of Intermodulation Distortion (IMD) in that the distortion is caused by intermodulations between the scan frequency and the signal rather than intermodulations between one frequency in the signal and another in the same signal, although digital does that too.

Older systems had really deplorable performance in this regard; new ones are better and they all have it to some degree. Its hard to detect; the best way is to record a sweep tone from 20Hz to 20KHz from an analog source (if done digitally there are algorithms that bypass the resulting distortion so it appears to not be there) and play it back. The intermodulations can be heard as 'birdies'; little chirps that come and go as the frequency changes.

Normally in music the signal is changing too fast for the ear to hear these things outright, but the ear/brain system does detect the distortions and converts them to tonality, which it does with **all** distortions.

This is why you can turn the treble down all the way (if you have tone controls) and the digital will still have some glare or brightness. The brightness is not occurring due to actual treble energy, it occurs because the brain converts the distortion into tonality and there's no way to get into your brain to stop it.

Obviously the best solution is to get a digital system that does not have so much glare and these days that is really not all that hard to do. Price does not seem to be the mitigating factor either- Oppo makes some equipment that is relatively affordable in the high end audio world and yet in its stock form is not bad at all. Modright does a mod on one of the Oppo players that is outstanding. So there is something for almost every budget.

In case its not obvious, my best recommendation is to find some digital gear that is not so annoying. That will work a lot better than a transformer!
I agree with the last part of Ralph's comment that getting better digital gear is much smarter way to go. 
However, even though I don't doubt the technical discussion re: transformer, IHMO the approach of adding bandaids is a bad idea when it can be avoided. Going for the simpler approach with the best quality components, and those in turn made with the best quality parts usually gets the superior results especially for those like me who are on a budget. Think about it this way, if you spend on things like tube buffers etc. that you'd remove if you had better gear in the first place, it is indicative that those bandaids are taking your further away from musical truth. Cheers,
Spencer, as I read Ralph's post it was entirely consistent with your comment, although the sentence in your post beginning with "however" seems to indicate that you may have read it differently.

Very informative post, Ralph, which makes perfect sense to me.  Thanks!

Best regards,
-- Al
I agree with Ralph and Al. Just last night, I decided to listen to a CD of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos that was previously unlistenable on my former CD player.

To my surprise, my Esoteric DV 60, which I bought used a while back, made this CD sound quite good, and I was able to listen to both CD's, and enjoyed it greatly.

I'm not suggesting that you go out and buy an Esoteric, but it just falls in line with Ralph and Al's comments. Digital has improved, and "band aids" are not necessarily the best answer.

Good luck, Regards,
@almarg Thanks, to clarify, my "However.." was because I was surprised by one small part of Ralph's post...the first sentence. I didn't know that would be the case, realize that it was not intended as a recommendation and I didn't want a "quick reader" to take that sentence alone and skip past the meat of his suggestion which goes in the better bigger picture direction. Cheers,
@sbank  The reason a transformer might help if it has limited bandwidth, would be to filter out digital noise. I've seen at least one DAC that sounded pretty good in its day that incorporated the inductance of the transformer as part of the smoothing circuit for the output of the actual DAC.

Of course this points to one of the major limitations of digital IMO, which is not much bandwidth on top. A typical LP record and playback chain has bandwidth to about 40KHz no worries.

thanks for for all the info on the options 

I still notice all the outboard Dac's, good ones, I think 
still have output transformers vs other methods

i also see the transformer guys;  lyndall & Jensen advertise the output transformers as smoothing of digitis?


Post removed 
I still notice all the outboard Dac's, good ones, I think
still have output transformers vs other methods

i also see the transformer guys;  lyndall & Jensen advertise the output transformers as smoothing of digitis?
Some do some don't.

A good transformer will have bandwidth well past 20KHz which means its not going to do a whole lot of smoothing. In fact if not loaded correctly it can also ring (distort) which will make it sound brighter.

Lyndahl and Jensen both make excellent transformers. If used carefully they can be of some benefit, for example they can be used to go balanced even if the output of the DAC is single-ended. You **might** get some sonic advantage from doing that as if balanced line is executed correctly, the result is that the interconnect cable will cease to have an effect on the sound of the system. If it was contributing brightness prior, then this is an advantage. They can also isolate grounds; if you have a ground loop (which can allow noise in the ground to get amplified) then the ground isolation can be help out as well.
If you are willing to spend the money, get them from Jensen. They also have isolation boxes which include two transformers, and all the in and outputs you need.  By all means try it.
Did we talk about what speakers you are using though? Maybe the real problem you are having is an exaggerated top octave or two. But over the past 4 years specifically a lot of really good sounding DAC's have come onto the scene, such as Mytek, Schiit. Portables such as the Fiio, Pono and the UFO DSD DAC also sound really great.

I think you said you tried the Schiit and you found it "glare"ing. If that's true, I don't think it's the DACs you are listening to though. I find the Schiit a bit on the warm side.


Erik & Atmosphere;

I might be nuts!
You guys had a few questions:
speakers: Thiel 
I've upgraded all the cables, power and amps
All changes were smoothing, way less glare,and detail adding to the positive 


I went from cd ( Mac mini) to Tidal and Amarra with parametric eq
My pants fell down over the improvement in quality of the streaming  recording from ripped crap cd's!!!!

Anway, I've tried to look at improving the Dac and preamp.

All the tubed preamps I've listened to have been marginal improvement in digital glare, so next thought is DAC 

Ive read a few reviews and listened to DAC's that have seemed to offer digital glare improvements on the 80's compressed rock that is my "test"( it's always on the cymbals sounding like they are " hissing" at me)
All good albums sound real smooth to me on my system (Peachtree DAC)

so, My dilemma is maybe not solvable?

My "test " is a Rush song called " Red Barschetta" that I found great on a lp in the treble & cymbals, but streaming or cd, nope!

So, I continue my search and incessant questions!     I am nuts!

Dac's I've listened to so far: Metrum, Exogal, benchmark, Lavry, and next Lampizator Atlantic, I'm hoping 
preamps: Conrad Johnson, Primalyna, arc, etc

Crazy Jeff

If these are Jim Thiel era- Thiels, then I'm quite sure what the problem is. Your hearing is far too good for your age. You either have to get an excessively warm/mellow DAC's like the ARC DAC 8, more neutral speakers like modern Monitor Audio, or a digital EQ to tone down the treble.  For YOU and YOUR symptoms, stay away from B&W/Golden Ear or Triangle.  I'm not sure how much of the Thiel sound is on-axis. With some speakers reducing toe-in can realy diminish the top octave glare.

A good inexpensive compromise if you absolutely love your speakers on vinyl is the $170 miniDSP nano. It will sit before your DAC and let you apply very subtle and versatile EQ.

Another approach is to add more room treatment which will reduce the treble output, if you don't already have it. This is always a good choice, contact GIK Acoustics, as the acoustic treatments will outlast your gear. :)



My "test " is a Rush song called " Red Barschetta" that I found great on a lp in the treble & cymbals, but streaming or cd, nope!
It may not be the fault of the digital gear that this sounds bad. It might just be a poor transfer. If other recordings sound OK (against the LP in particular) then I would not use this as a reference.

I have Amarra and have Dirac room correction, so covered the tone down the Jim Thiel "Thiels"
The Red Barshetta note is true on source quality!!!!!   Big differences especially since going to Tidal and hearing differences

Other Nasty recordings in the " screaming edge" frequencies that my stupid hearing magnifies are:  Foo Fighters The Pretender & Bob Dylan Like a rolling stone & CCR Commotion

Ive heard the music on lots of systems and compared some to the vinyl ( great turntables(
vinyl is always, always clear and clean with no " fuzzy hiss" that I hear
stupid hearing and it's accents

The only exception is. Full Bricasti system with Tidal speakers;  So far

I must be doomed, until I give up on Digital or run across $100k fun money