I’ve become increasingly interested in hard disk playback of audio and the many variables, that each creates a slightly different playback quality. I’m increasingly beginning to believe that jitter while it’s become the well known bête noire of the audio industry is not the only serious concern.
I was listening yesterday to the Cambridge DacMagic connected to my HP2133 via USB. The sound quality was really unpleasant: especially in the treble where it was very splashy and relentless. I then connected the DacMagic via an optical isolating USB hub. Not a practical solution as the hub, which is designed more for medical applications, is more expensive than the Cambridge. I won’t say the music was transformed into something truly audiophile but it was significantly better. The splashy quality was still there but much less obvious, the sound was more three dimensional and the bottom end was easier to follow. Realistically the jitter shouldn’t have changed (much). If anything, one would perhaps expect jitter to have increased but the sound was definitely better.
Today I played the DacMagic versus the V-Dac both connected via USB and using the USB isolating hub. I think I can here now where the differences in opinion between CA and MF come from. Back to Bananarama: Robert DeNiro’s waiting and the Cambridge sounds faster but the MF has a more airy 3D feel which is instantly appealing. As I listen for longer though I become aware of a irritating quacky quality to sibilants from the MF.
Bananarama isn’t the last word in great quality recording so I chose Tumbleweed from Bill Miller’s album Reservation Road, a live recording of Bill singing and playing guitar. Again the MF does an excellent job and had I not compared it with the DM, I would have been happy. The Cambridge just has more dynamics; it goes quieter. Bill’s guitar playing improved as it was now possible to easily here how hard he was strumming. On this track the DM had the better sense of acoustic space and, most important of all, it communicated the passion of the song.
A friend is popping round tomorrow so I’ll play all this stuff to him and see if we hear any more differences.