Some digital sources sounding harsh/too bright

Discussion in 'Digital Sources' started by Eastham, Jul 23, 2018.

  1. Eastham

    Eastham More Class-A than ever!

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    (Just to prefix, this isn't a digital bashing thread, I don't want to start arguments)

    So I've noticed this with many configs, different amps, DAC's and speakers that most of my Digital audio from my PC, FLAC, WMA and MP3 sounds very harsh and bright and kinda lacking bass.
    I've tried three different DACs so far, A Muse USB DAC based on the PCM2704 DAC chip, my computers onboard DAC and a Sound Blaster Audigy 2ZS I always seem to get this strange harshness that leaves me with ringing ears.
    I was wondering if anyone has any clue as to what could be causing it, I do keep my PC's output at 100% so could I be overloading my amplifiers input?

    Any input would be greatly appreciated. (Pun totally intended.)
     

     

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  2. E-Stat

    E-Stat AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I would definitely begin my lowering gain to match your other sources.

    Is this yours?

    DAC quality does correlate to investment to a degree. As with any component, ultimately what you hear is the analog output stage and it appears to only offer a headphone output.
     
  3. Eastham

    Eastham More Class-A than ever!

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    It does seem to become less harsh the more I lower the volume.

    This is my DAC

    Not the same brand but the same guts, it has RCA outputs so I use those.

    I also did pull out all the ChongX branded caps and replaced them with some nice Panasonic FC's
     
  4. Condorsat

    Condorsat Audio Enthusiast

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    My Digital Sources use to sound harsh/too bright … or the worse descriptor "matter of fact" or sterile. Through various equipment configurations and following the advice of folks who were pursuing better digital sound … no longer have that problem.

    Just keep an open mind (try different things) and keep pressing forward is the best advice I can give.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2018
  5. GChief

    GChief AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I feel the same about mine... no help on how to get away from it :dunno:. Just letting you know its not just you. My digital is only back ground music so I haven't bothered with it.

    :beerchug:
     
  6. Eastham

    Eastham More Class-A than ever!

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    Guess I'll have to keep playing around and trying different DAC's

    Nice to know I'm not alone in my struggle. :beerchug:
     

     

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  7. GChief

    GChief AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    My SMSL M8a sounds way "brighter" than the $30 FiiO I have but the overall SQ was an improvement so it stays for now. It has been suggested that I try a Topping D30, supposedly less bright that the SMSL stuff.
     
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  8. E-Stat

    E-Stat AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    My recommendation would be to replace what is most likely a noisy switching power supply with a linear and isolate that using a power conditioner.

    Definitely separate unit away from amplification devices.
     
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  9. GChief

    GChief AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Been looking at power supplies but noise doesn't seem to be an issue so i haven't picked anything up.

    As for the latter, I do live in a tiny house :)

    Thanks :beerchug:
     
  10. E-Stat

    E-Stat AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    What I've found time and time again is that digital and power line noise manifests itself as a false brightness added to the signal.

    Once removed, the result at first blush sounds dark. Upon further listening, you are aware that you are now able to hear details that were previously masked.
     
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  11. willyrover

    willyrover Super Member

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    Is there any processing happening in the PC software- equalizer, treble boost, etc....?
     

     

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  12. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

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    I ran into the same problem and realized two things:

    1. The DAC chipset was too direct and bright for me. I needed something else for sure. I have no idea why this is but different DAC chipsets sound different to my ears. I tried 4 or 5 different brands in my search for what sounded good to me.

    2. "Jitter" was a problem. "Jitter" refers to a slight variation, or unsteadiness, especially in an electrical signal or electronic device. I needed to reclock/resynch the digital signal between the music server/pc & the DAC.

    My solution was twofold:

    1. I tried several DACs in my system and lucked upon a nice one with the ESS 9018 chipset. The difference between it and other chipsets was the brightness or harshness if you will which made listening very fatiguing.

    2. I purchased a USB reclocker which took the jitter out of the signal.

    The music smoothed out. The detail, depth and decay were still there, even more so as I stopped trying to avoid the music and was listening more; at all volume levels.

    Good luck with your DAC search.
     
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  13. E-Stat

    E-Stat AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    "Bright and direct" is an analog result. With few exceptions, DAC chipsets don't include output circuitry. Most likely what you notice is the analog circuit used downstream - which is usually op amp based some of which are horrible sounding.

    The DAC in my garage system comes with pretty decent OPA2134s, but I was able to make significant improvements in transparency and dynamics by replacing them with Burson discrete FET modules.
     
  14. sqlsavior

    sqlsavior AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    First, realize that some masterings have harshness and/or brightness baked right into them already, particularly overly compressed victims of the loudness wars. IME, the latter are not fixable in any high-fidelity sense or manner.

    I like the sound of my Marantz SACD player so much that I really wish that I could use its DAC separately. In a direct A/B/C/D comparison, it is the darkest digital source of mine, but with non-superficial listening sounds extended and sweet. On newer models, digital inputs are available.

    It still won't fix crappy recordings, though.
     
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  15. Yamaki

    Yamaki Not For Hire Subscriber

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    I'd disagree with the assessment that bright and direct are strictly analog. I've heard those characteristics make themselves known simply with a DAC change in the same system with no other changes made.
     
  16. GChief

    GChief AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    The analog output of the DAC not what the DAC is plugged into.
     

     

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  17. E-Stat

    E-Stat AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Would you kindly provide an example? Unlike other components, DAC chips are not universally pin compatible.

    If you refer to changing out the entire unit, that will necessarily mean a change of its analog stage. Your D100 uses 5532 op amps. Upgrading them to FET based modules from companies like Burson, for example, will improve transparency and dynamics.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2018
  18. Condorsat

    Condorsat Audio Enthusiast

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    Was more than just DAC's in my case. It was the total system (all components). Had to test different components in my space until I got the sound I wanted.
     
  19. Eastham

    Eastham More Class-A than ever!

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    I've started think it's either my speakers or my room, I think the lack of bass due to being in a small room is what's making them sound harsh and shouty, My big ol' dovedales sound beautiful at any volumes with some albums that have plenty of bass, Dire straits' and The Doors' self titled albums for example. However some albums, even records, Status Quo - Whatever You Want and Kansas - Point Of Know Return are examples, sound pretty thin and as I turn up the volume to try and get some bass that's when things sound shouty and harsh unless I flick on the loudness or turn up the bass.
     

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