May 13, 2019

Different Dacs, Different Sound?

Astell & Kern uses several different Dacs in its various players,e.g. Sabre 9038 and akm Dacs. Does that result in these players having a markedly different sound?

The chip used matters less than the implementation as the entire design can impact the levels of noise, crosstalk, distortion. Set a budget, define the features you need, then start comparing models with objective reviews and subjective impressions
Agreed, I’ve conversely observed several makers use the same DAC chip but end up with markedly different final sound. I also agree on objective and subjective reviews! Graphs and stuff can give us a baseline idea of character, but we currently don’t have the science to completely describe the character of all the attributes of a headphone, so you need the subjective observations to let you know if some details are masked, impact is soft/punchy/too much, soundstage and imaging are good, etc.
As usual we share similar views... agree on the specifications/measurements giving you a rough idea. They can also be used to identify problem thresholds but I would never choose one piece of kit over another solely based on a couple of dbs better Signal to Noise, distortion, etc... Unless that minimal difference pushed one of the devices into "area of concern" territory. Over 60% of a certain websites SINAD numbers are completely inaudible so the ranking is pointless and misleading IMO.