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Chris08203
0
Feb 20, 2020
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Does this have MQA decoding?
Feb 20, 2020
Whitedragem
177
Feb 21, 2020
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The less items that do=the better for everyone. MQA is a way to encode files where people with MQA equipment get ‘a little better’, and people without MQA equipment get noticably worse (~13bit sound). I would not consider subscribing to any service that pushed for it, nor would I give serious consideration to tech that includes it. I would certainly consider/evaluate a piece of audio equipment on the merits of that equipment alone; and generally as is the case, the more patents and trademarks that a piece of kit contains, the less its’ ability to deliver sound commensurate to the price point. As a couple of examples; my Yamaha Receiver didn’t pay for the THX branding. It has the same output as the previous years’ model that did. (Its just a badge that confirms a specific quality of sound, sure.) I have a THX Ultra receiver (a few years older than the Yamaha) that is truly a flagship receiver. The Dolby Digital soundtrack (or DTS) that it decodes sounds vastly better than Dolby True HD through most sub $1000 setups. The reason I write that second sentence is to do with price points... this Echobox Explorer truly is several hundred dollars worth of sound kit (as a portable player). It should blow away just about every phone ever conceived in terms of audio. This isn’t simply about spec sheets; and I’d take the Pepsi challenge quite happily. The only reason I haven’t bought one of these for myself is that I have a Fiio X5(III) and a K5 Dock. For the digital output that these Echoboxs’ have I would consider the price justified (I am limited to COAX output from the Fiio X5). If anybody I know was considering an audio player I would heartily recommend two of these. (The second one as a fallback part in case something went wrong with the first)... Dedicated audio parts have some huge advantages (especially over phones) when being used as transports for a large digital catalogue. Having MicroSD expandability and with the cheapness of said cards, it would be super easy to store 2000+ full CDs in a lossless format. My experience of even budget DACs (Like a Creative E5 as an example) is that they sound vastly better than the decoding inside most peoples car stereos. Even using nice aftermarket alpine headunits, I have experienced (and all the other passengers), vastly improved stereo imaging and layering of the music using dedicated audio players. I can imagine most woes for these things comes from (no doubt) a want for a specific amount of power on the USB cable. I have a lot of gizmos in my house that simply will not charge unless they get the exact right amount of power fed to them. Anyone complaining about these things discharging, obviously have never owned a FIio X5(III), which, if left on pause/or stopped, will discharge in two days. For the money Drop is asking for these EchoBox’s, I’d happily use one, and use it in a plethora of ways (like the photos above, it would feed my valve monoblocks for proper high fidelity audio akin to music we had in the nineties (before surround amps started filling everybodys’ homes). I have read a lot of negative stuff on these, but the complaints fall into only a couple of topics, and appears to be luck of the drawer with regards to manufacture. (Hence why I said I would buy two, test them both, and keep the extra in a cupboard/ desktop at work etc) Lack of MQA isn’t a dealbreaker. Being able to DLNA/use third party apps to remote control is a deal seller though... If I had one right now I would feed it optically into an AudioEngine D1/Nuforce Icon/CambridgeAudio DacMagic and then into some power amps. Pick up some suitably vintage timber speakers and a few hundred dollar ‘shed setup’ that would obliterate ‘great 2 channel setups’ would be on the cards. Of course most buying these won’t move past headphone use, and that 300mA drive is fine for most modern large driver unit headphones made in the last fifteen years or so... (Hey- I said “MOST”!; obviously some just want high power desktop amps to sound their best, not a lot of portables are going to get around THAT)
Feb 21, 2020
KuroYariman
58
Feb 23, 2020
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So I’m not entirely sure if you answered the question but I think I get what ur saying about MQA support not really benefiting most. But what if the only hi-res audio you have is tidal? Is it worth it? I read a review on the new iFi Hip-Dac. Which has MQA support specifically for streaming from tidal. I’ll just say it was not exactly a glowing review. It definitely supports what ur saying.
Feb 23, 2020
Whitedragem
177
Feb 23, 2020
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Yeah - that is hard to answer with specifics to one player: I like ‘generalised rules’ (the notion of “teach a man to fish”),.. The idea of buying hardware specific to ONE playback software, if it is all it is going to do.. well that DOES REQUIRE SOME thought; and I am glad that you are reading reviews to find out what a fair budget for equipment that gives up some grunt to pay MQA licensing really offers. I find that my preferences change often, during the lifetime that I use equipment for... When my child was apart of the school choir, having an Apple music subscription met our need to quickly get access to any song (for practice at home). Did I use Apple music? sure for ONE artist I was interested in it was cool to get a lot of alternative recordings of their work (Florence & the Machine), and I really dug Scott Bradlees’ Post Modern Jukebox- which I would never have found without Apple Music.. The $500~ that I spent on that Apple music subscription over that time period WOULD HAVE BOUGHT ME a lot of Post Modern Jukebox recordings, every Florence album and tickets to Live Concerts when they toured. Sadly once my child discovered the benefit of lossless audio, Apple Music didn’t get a single listen for many months. (So I unsubscribed). True my listening tastes are well catered for by the 3000-4000 CDs/full albums that we have (which includes quite a few double ups due to special editions and bargain prices). So for us, given we like equipment to last at least three-five years (before reselling it), or seven plus years if using it for the whole nine yards... I wouldn’t be so short sighted as to buy a budget part that gives up a significant amount of its’ net worth to a license though. If MQA and ‘Hi-Res’ is so important, and it was a long term investment I’d just make sure I spent enough money to get good value from the part over the parts life. Real world experience has shown me, that a flagship part from yesteryear, playing antiquated formats, will sound outstandingly better than equivalent money on something ‘new’ that is playing a spec war/bragging rights game. When it comes to audio, tuning equipment to look good at a spec sheet level often robs it of a higher fidelity sound it would have achieved, at the same pricepoint, if it had focused more on what makes us actually tap our feet. Without making this post really long to explain how that might be so, I will leave the notion of that being a possibility to be dwelled upon. The simple version of what I am driving for here is this: A slightly older piece of mid tier tech, at drops prices ‘costing entry tier/budget tier pricepoints’ is definately going to deliver better sound than a budget piece of tech at full retail that is made to a cheaper pricepoint. The example in my house that keeps me selling this notion is a flagship surround receiver that cost $8500 at RRP circa ~2000AD. I paid ~$200 for it about six-seven years ago. Sure it was a bargain then, but equivalent bargains turn up regularly in local markets all around the world. That amp doesn’t have HDMI inputs, and can only be fed lossless 8channel surround formats from dedicated 8Channel line out sources. That amp actually sounds better than much more modern surround amps selling for ~$3000. Fed Dolby Digital or DTS (not true HD/DTS master audio) it blows away majority of surround systems sold with support for the ‘newer formats’. Given Netflix outputs Dolby Digital mostly, it is definitely the best part for the job. Do I feel I am missing out on Dolby Atmos? Not at all. If I only had a library of UHD discs to spin, and was only ever going to spin UHD discs into my surround receiver, and never older formats like Dolby Digital,.. then it would be the wrong part for the job. (It would still sound wonderful, and for the money I’d still take it in a heartbeat and put extra money into a UHD player with 8Ch RCA/phono outputs... So, sure,.. thought is needed for each persons specific case. A budget MQA part sounds oxymoronic to me, and hence why in a few threads I argue with people stating said equipment is USELESS as it doesn’t support MQA (to each their own/your mileage may vary). Without qualifying what the rest of the system is, I think it strange the notion of ‘one size fits all’ responses on internet forums, mostly where people stand by their own purchases and really upsell them. I am open to ideas... But lets qualify the pricepoints of the rest of the setup.. as if it is only going to a soundbar/only being played in a non ‘dedicated listening room environment’ at loud enough levels to really want the extra bit depth.. analytically listened too.. then I’d certainly want to have a system synergy in place. So: a) What is the Budget? b) What is the System to feed into? c) What are the listening use cases? d) How long will the part need to serve you? e) do you keep your old kit for ‘second system’ eg garage/bathroom/kitchen etc? (..and yes; the basis of your enquiry is Tidal HiRES as the sole source....) A lot of my soliloquy is rhetoric.. but you are welcome to discuss. The best thing about internet forums is the brains trust/ collective experiences that become available. Drop is one of the healthiest internet communities I have ever come across. (Since the nineties anyway)
Feb 23, 2020
Whitedragem
177
Feb 24, 2020
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Hifi Trends writeup included this paragraph ”On the amp side, you also get iFi’s popular balanced design, which they tend to incorporate in all their amps, now from the bottom to the top. Now they also claim input from John Curl of Parasound fame, which can only be a good thing, understanding his profound influence on amplifier design.” That made me sit up and PAY ATTENTION. The reviews for it are outstanding, from the six or so pages I opened. We just have to remember that it is as good as other entry level bits of kit, but in the ENTRY LEVEL HIFI range it is well regarded. For the same money here at Drop you could by into a category (or two, just about, depending on present ‘Drops’) of equipment higher than entry level sound. Well regarded entry level sound or ‘average’ mid-fi? I’d go average Mid-fi every time! The nice thing about new stuff on the market IS the ability to buy into the newest tech as it launches. My experience of buying ‘the newest tech’ is all the teething issues and not having all the right parts to, initially, to make use of it. ie to use the LDAC on my wireless Sony ‘cans, I had to buy a ‘slightly newer’ android device (My ‘ancient’ Note Edge, becoming a Note Fan Edition (Note 7)). The silly thing is is some older Definitive Technology ‘Symphony 1’s’ (only Apt X), flog the ‘flagship’ (mid-fi) Sonys’ for sound quality irrelevant of sound file. (which is generally lossless). A classic example of how a ‘spec sheet’ part doesn’t deliver better sound like a read up on it might suggest. For a true Pepsi challenge on these headphones- one would have to listen in a quiet listening environment, acutely focused, and ‘know what to look for’... Any use of Active Noise Cancellation Circuitry etc,.. and well it isn’t apples to apples. I would take the Sony 1000 (m3) for slightly better ANC, but for everything else the Def Tech Symphony 1s’ destroy them- to be fair the Symphony 1s have larger 50mm drivers, angled, in a great comfortable headphone that is a veritable swiss army knife for use cases (everything from USBing into them and direct DAC access, to ANC, great Bluetooth sound and by far the best closed headphone soundstage I have heard in a long time; and they AIM for ‘flatline’ sound (studio) vs everything else with ANC/bluetooth generally being a ‘V-curve’).. Anyhow I am ‘off topic’; the Symphony 1’s just highlight that at present price points (~$129Australian dollars/ EB games in January), getting ~$700 price point headphones, albeit a few years old, instead of the Sony (rrp~$550/ typically $378 ($330ish COST)), the older part that doesn’t compete on paper flogs the more expensive newer part that has a great ‘spec sheet’/feature sheet. back to that iFi part..... It looks great. Reads up really well. But most things are built to a price point. Sometimes technology patents CAN make a part punch above its ‘weight class, hence the legitimate questions with regards to MQA and Tidal HiRes/Master files.. For me, I’d scour Drop for some part 2-5 years old that is 60%+ off, and ‘buy with confidence’. For you, a new part from a shop you can walk into, supporting local ‘bricks and mortar’ (my general preference), with the support that offers and a timeframe that is ‘instant’ (no delaying gratification), might be the way forward. Getting back to a part ‘punching above its’ weight’; It is often patents or ‘clever circuit design’. eg Creative Labs (generally a tier above logitech parts ‘back in the day’) paid Henry Kloss to design a 2.1/4.1 setup. It smashed the sound quality out of the park, especially for the pricepoint. Creative didn’t keep paying for Henry Kloss’ name though... but of course they kept using the design. with regards to iFi,.. Parasound are a true ‘step up’ company. bargains for what they offer. (akin to Rotel etc) Real hifi. A great design will do it every time. I LOVE the sound from the ‘budget’ Nuforce(Optoma) offering “Icon HDP” that turns up here on Drop. They are not charging a premium for ‘clever design’. A great case of getting more than paid for, when the part released. A few years later and a few companies had achieved the same sound quality for similar prices.. Does a Nuforce Icon compete at its’ original RRP? No. At Drops price? Forget about it being ‘antiquated’, it has some great output, and can have a power supply upgrade as an investment path... The $250 US pricepoint has a lot of parts to choose from. FActoring in the random lottery of a second hand market and the world is your’ oyster! Sometimes the nice thing about buying the generic stuff that everyone else is using is being able to get opinions with how the part fares with other equipment. The Drop collaborations on DAC/Headphone amps and this sites ACTIVE USERBASE to discuss and general non toxicity (head-fi has rebirthed a few times), makes for a great place to be. Sorry if these come across as rants- if spoken the flow is pretty natural and is only ‘one person discussing for a minute’ and then asking questions to follow the discussion on to a logical end.... Always happy to give a minute of my time ;-)
Feb 24, 2020
KuroYariman
58
Feb 24, 2020
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Thanks I appreciate it!! despite the rant length of your posts you have provided me with a lot of info and plenty to think about. I think I am going to pick up either the iFi hip-dac or iFi Zen dac. They are right in my price point and have all the functionality I need. I could spend a life time looking at reviews of how they sound with different headphones and numerous other variables but ultimately for a first dac/amp. Either one would fit my needs perfectly. In the future as I start to build a library of music and don't need to rely on streaming apps I can start considering what else I want out of my hardware. That will give me time to look into finding some used equipment and maybe get in touch with some of my local hifi community. Again thanks so much for your help.
Feb 24, 2020
Whitedragem
177
Feb 25, 2020
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Alright; your (thankyou) post gives me some incite you your present system/useage scenario. May I offer (a short) “two cents”? (rhetoric, and kinda ‘choose your own adventure from this point forward’; “No you may not!”=stop reading, “Sure!”=read on...) HiRes isn’t all it is sold to us as. The majority of ‘hi res(olution)’ stuff that is sold to us is so lame (by audiofool hifi standards) it really is just a way to resell us what we had decades ago. (hence the huge resurgence of vinyl and most new CDs my friends seem to be picking up nowadays being all GOLD PRESSED) For casual listening/listening in a ‘non dedicated’ audio setup (including, generally ‘room treatment’).. the gains of going ‘better’ isn’t really a thing the average user will ever get. It does make for bragging rights/a reason to rebuy whole catalogues/buy a whole new ecosystem of parts- the reasons are certainly there for the sellers, and most webpages that discuss this stuff will be aligned with a retailer or product at some level (advertisements pay). If we were two people who met on a bus, and one of us was an ‘authority’ (subjective), and the other willing to listen wholeheartedly and trust the words of the other... my subject opinion could be pretty convincing.. and I am not even selling anything. Imagine if I was? I could easily convince a user of the benefits of HiRes... Decades ago it was accepted knowledge between people with kilobuck hifi systems, certainly those with an engineering degree.. that electrical circuits generally didn’t yield 22bit of info. (it may have been 21.3 bit, but somewhere in the ballpark of 21bit was the absolute that could be achieved) This is for a range of technical reasons, but in the real world it came back as this: HDCD, a 20bit format, was as great as consumers would EVER NEED. Mostly the sound engineer and mastering was the difference between great sound and average. This simple fact still holds true today. (recorded garbage will still be garbage, at 24 bit, it will be the best garbage imaginable!) There are great recordings made seventy plus years ago, and I’d still choose great music through a mono AM radio player, than the worlds best hifi playing music that doesn’t interest me. Which simply means we should consider if HiRes has a catalogue of sound that interests us. (I only ever bought a few SuperAudio CDs) Norah Jones and Sting were must buys, the remaster of War of the Worlds DID not get spun as much then, or even now, as older 16bit & Superbit pressings.. Some of the catalogues are yawn central to me... Given most consumers do not own equipment that will render them better than what CDs gave us (back in the nineties, no less!), the notion of rebuying into a modern audio ecosystem is a silly prospect. I would NEVER consider it. It generally takes me a few months/years to assemble killer rigs, for peanut pricepoints, but without spending 10-20x more money, most people would not find EQUIVALENT sound. The exception are the few well selectable parts, at quite ‘spendy’ pricepoints, and feeding them ONLY HiRes media. Then the playing field equals quite a lot. If you haven’t gone down the road yet of commiting money into building a playback chain; I would suggest, quite honestly, that buying better equipment, at lower pricepoints will yield vastly better playback ALL THE TIME. In this instance, what is ‘BETTER EQUIPMENT’? A confusing amount of info, sold by everyone based on their idea of Pinnacle systems/“summit-fi” exists. Given the average user would love a 16bit, 44khz file (eg CD format) played into nice equipment.. I would start with the idea that we all own a potential transport (eg phone/computer etc), a nice/musical DAC (something to buy, as low as $50 cost), and suitable amplification to drive headphones is a super cheap setup. Money spent trying to support an audio industry mostly disinterested in actual consumer enjoyment (first world problem, but money has to be made), is not what the poor should be considering. Better headphones will yield better sound. and just like the days of old.. speaker placement affected sound quality much more than the cost of the parts usually did. The modern equivalent is choosing the right type of headphones for the music you wish to enjoy. Given the pricepoints of headphones that yield all genres of music well is stratospheric (if they even exist), most audiofools (myself included) own several sets. Some open back units might give great sound stage and spacing, but not the sort of bass response that ElectronicDanceMusic requires.. as an example. An easy way to greatly reduce the minimum cost to build a great audio setup is to consider ‘easy to drive’ headphones (that don’t demand an amp to remove congestion/sound ‘their best’ (amps to an audiofool are seldom about volume level, but rather the clarity of sound they offer at a level that drives equipment properly). So what would make a great budget setup? Super budget: an Echobox explorer and the remainder of the money spent on InEarMonitors. I have found that even shitty MP3 files played through nice equipment sound great, and definately better than HiRes formats played from super mainstream equipment (eg a mobile phone). Most people find that using their phone as a transport into a better DAC circuit (remember DAC playback is dependant on SO MUCH MORE THAN THE SPECS OF THE DAC CHIP ITSELF), that an outboard DAC is the first true hearing of ‘great sound quality’ for majority of the world considering the jump to ‘big $ audio’. A large part of a system is matching components. Too many people buy into HiRes nonsense only to bluetooth the data anyway (strips 3/5-4/5 of the sound information), and most people just don’t have the audio snobbery training to discern the nuanced ‘air’/last bit of echo information that better playback offers. Combined with majority of the world listening in non ideal situations to make use of even ‘CD sound quality’... uneducated people arguing (based on rehashing others ALSO UNEDUCATED viewpoints) -hey everyone has an opinion, but 99% of people just haven’t heard good audio outside of, possibly, at the cinema, or nowadays, generally a great car stereo system. Again I reiterate.. shoddy MP3s played through a ‘near entry level DAC’ sound better than uncompressed file formats played through typical consumer electronics. Compressed music really lets down highly detailed genres (eg classical symphonic stuff), but can easily pass a double blind test for a simple three piece band. The music we listen to is the biggest reason to choose a particular audio path, and people listening to classical music require ‘better headphones, generally requiring better amplification, and need better upstream equipment (Digital to Analogue Conversion, and source files). The rest of us will find HiFi Nirvana in something as low priced as an EchoBox. Honest! :-)
Feb 25, 2020
Whitedragem
177
Feb 25, 2020
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Noticed you expanded your equipment considerations to include ‘desktop’ setup. Not knowing your useage case or intended music genres; I am a little in the dark with ‘giving advice’ hence why I generally refrain from telling people what to do... If considering desktop, then don’t forget that Drop presently has these on offer https://drop.com/buy/xduoo-ta-01b-headphone-amp Im my experience Valves go a great job of making low res and grainy audio sound fantastic. I have no opinion on this part/nor have read reviews, but I would believe it to be ‘a step above’ and a small pricepoint.
Feb 25, 2020
TheBatman
69
Sep 6, 2020
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Superb, sir! Simply, utterly, S U P E R B! People need to stop "listening" to equipment and just enjoy the music it provides them. If I want to do anything that one might call "subjective" with a device such as the Echobox, I will look at it and enjoy it's uniquely beautiful design. Thanks!
Sep 6, 2020
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