The Objective, Subjective & Dejected Thread


The final part of the title of this thread seems to be how the Objective vs. Subjective discussions usually wind up making those involved feel. Some back and forth in normal threads on this is fine, but once it takes over the original intent of the thread, expect those posts to wind up here instead.

Remember … a) it’s your money, so follow your own truth and b) don’t worry about where other’s spend what they’ve earned.

Nobody ever wins these discussions, but they can be academically and perceptual interesting…

Balanced DAC under $300.00 (US$)
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A post was merged into an existing topic: Balanced DAC under 300.00 (US)


I have both a RME ADI-2 DAC and a SMSL SU-8. Using Focal Elegia and EVE cs 207. Sound is magnificent through either source. I also have a JDS Atom hooked to either.

I don’t know why you have to be so nasty to the ASR guy and call him irrational. His measurements are far away from irrationality. Please, back up your nasty comment Mr. Falkin.


Except that on more than one occasion his results do not gel with those, well documented, from multiple other sources, and whenever this happens there’s a consistent theme to it. And, in particular, some repetitive and curiously situational, issue with “power artifacts” that are more than likely due to how cables are laid out during measurements (at -120 dB this stuff matters) rather than any actual issue with the DuT (again, as evidenced by multiple other measurements).

And questioning that has been met with accusations of “special firmware” (which is utter nonsense, if there was a “good” firmware vs. a “bad” firmware, it’d cost the EXACT SAME to ship the “good” version to everyone and there’s be no reason for there to be a “bad” one beyond paranoid fantasies"), and other such speculation.

It’s not about good vs. bad in any case … in short, you want to a) listen for yourself before spending any of your own money on anything and b) even if you want to buy purely based on measurements you want to consider the results of more than one source if you want to minimize error and/or bias (deliberate or accidental) as much as possible.


In a perfect world I would have an RME ADI-2, Gungnir, Matrix X-Sabre, SMSL d1, su-8, dx7s, d70, Soekris, Benchmark DAC, etc. all in the same room and buy whichever one I enjoyed the most.

That is never going to happen though. Even if I go to meetups and CanJams, I’m never going to be able to compare even a fraction of those all in the same room at the same time.

As a result, I’m forced to use objective measures to dictate purchase decisions, even when I would much prefer comparing them in person. I suspect there are many others who feel this way as well.

Not to mention, for most of those above DACs I named, ASR is the only one who has published results to my knowledge (please correct me if I’m wrong). So, I’m very appreciative of the work that Amir has done in the audiophile world which so often intentionally hides things from consumers.


I don’t think anyone seriously considering cross-shopping stuff like RME, Gungnir, Matrix, Benchmark or Soekris units, its just going to default to a ~$200 unit if they care more about sound than measurements.

Nothing wrong with using objective measurements, if that’s your thing/default, but considering measurements from multiple sources is still a better way to go.

Beyond that, it becomes a question of how much you value personal experience vs. taking things on faith (which is all using other people’s measurements really is … using your own is another matter). It’s not that expensive, relative to the cost of the units you’re talking about here, to get them together. And you don’t need to compare all of them at once. Even just two at a time lets you whittle things down.

But again, that comes down to how much it’s worth to you to do so … which is an entirely personal call. What other people think should be immaterial.

RME, Benchmark, Matrix and Topping all publish proper measurements, which are verified by multiple sources, all industry respected, beyond what shows up on ASR.


I would take anyone who says they are objective, yet, will throw a huge fit and not review something due to an error, then when offered known working products will not review…because…”reasons”…with a grain of salt (edit that last part in, brain got ahead of my thumbs on my iPad)

Also, just in general the ASR bandwagon army will hate post on anyone that has different opinions, rubs me wrong, felt dirty when I first started getting into this hobby and went to ASR based on recommendations.

Really put me off of listening to measurebaters that have never actually heard something but will blind blast them based on ASR comments. Very “cult” like if you ask me…but that is just how I feel about the matter, I would rather hear something for myself and if I like it…well every one else be damned.

Opinions as they say are like arseholes…we all have em :wink:

@Anonimar I think do you, if you get the opportunity to listen to something go for it, life is made up of experiences, go have em…don’t let someone else’s experiences dictate your own, use measurements to inform but not dictate your own opinion.


I’m caustic & irrational, too. I have no agenda beyond Duke Ellington’s genius observation: “If it sounds good, it is good.” Specifically:

  • The DACs I heard that sounded like shit measured magnificently well
  • The few DACs I heard that sounded pleasing & musical measured rather badly

I was born with ears but no multimeter or oscilloscope. I just go with what I know.


I can concur with Duke Ellington’s sentiment here lol!


As someone who bought an SU-8 for use in a powered monitor setup, I can wholeheartedly recommend it. I hope to be able to test it in a balanced headphone setup at an upcoming Head-Fi meet, but I don’t anticipate that my thoughts on it will change as a result. It’s transparent out of the box and offers a wealth of functionality in terms of inputs, outputs, filter options, and optional coloration that I haven’t scratched the surface of.
I’m disappointed to see people dismissing ASR in this thread. I think the discrepancies between his results and results posted on other sites have much more to do with other sites having a financial interest in making gear from their sponsors look good than anything else. He’s done more than anyone else in the hobby to expose bad engineering practices and poor product design from companies taking advantage of audiophiles who think their hearing is better than it really is.

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If you (colloquial) claim “science”, then you should be observing the scientific method. That means that when several people perform the same test, and multiple independent sets of those results agree, but one is an outlier, then it is much more likely that the outlier is where any issue lies.

It won’t always be the case … sometimes the outlier is a breakthrough … but that’s comparatively uncommon.

The proper, scientific, way to deal with that is to find out why, at a technical level, your results differ from others. Anything else is somewhere between putting one’s head in the sand, observing the same kind of faith one is claiming to try to undo in other areas, or devolves into conspiracy theories.

Regardless the principal point is that if you’re going to take input (be it objective or subjective) from others, no matter who they are, you really should consider multiple sources and not put all your faith in just one.


Financial interest… so, Head-Fi. Almost none of the other sites are financially sponsored by these companies, so your supposition that all other sites have financial interest is anecdotal at best, delusional at worst. Further, when so many different (and unsponsored) sites independently showed grossly negligent ASR testing methodologies, inaccurate measurement results, and proved it by openly releasing measurements and calibration data ASR refused to release, anyone with half a brain should have started to question ASR as a valid, unbiased source of information.

Part of science is peer review. ASR has fought that process, hidden information, and flat out lied to avoid such scrutiny. I’ll tell you now, Amir has no regard for science or it’s methodologies. Audio “science” review my ass.


I find ASR an interesting read, although most of it goes over my head. I also enjoy Z reviews.
One is all numbers and one is all emotion.
I take from each and read everything I can find on the net. And then I try to make an educated guess.:grin:

Shane D

PS: IMO, the SMSL looks like a great value. Not state of the art and certainly not perfect. But a VERY nice package for just over $200.00.


I am a recovering audiophile and had been convinced for years (decades) about voodoo stuff that would make my sound system better. Tubes, fancy wires, thick aluminum plates in my equipment. isolation gizmos, etc. Until I realized that there is no objective scientific evidence that they make any difference. I eventually found that tubes color the sound. I went back to comparing my experience at live concerts with my equipment and realized that equipment accuracy made more sense. I discovered ASR by chance, from this site. I find that his measurements of DACs and amplifiers are straightforward, reproducible if you have that equipment, and intuitively correct. Why would you want to have more distortion? I also started using less fancy words to explain the sound. The RME, the SMSL SU-8 the Eve CS207, the Focal Elegia plus my primary stereo convinced me that accuracy matters. I replaced my old heavily modified amp for a Nord Type D and the sound improved, but I will not use the fancy audiophile words.
However, Paul McGowan still sells voodoo. And people love his nonsense drivel. he is charming but that’s it. Even the woman from Blue Sound records admitted in PS’ site that DSD transfers MODIFY the sound.

Do we then want to hear accurately or do we want to hear what we like? Preferably both. I strongly believe that ASR points in one direction and then it is up to us to decide what we want. I also agree he has too many sycophants.

But please, don’t try to sell me the difference in power wires…


Peer review? I don’t think you understand what peer review means in this context. It SHOULD be a review of the methods used to test and the results achieved. Dis they use the correct analyzer, the right set up, the right tools? Were the measurements correctly described?

Peer review is NOT about concurring with the conclusions ONLY.


Careful mate, deep breaths, I didn’t pick up what you thought was being put down here…

ASR has a tendency to hide behind “reasons” or subjective nonsense when called out, or will just go silent. I have no skin in this game other than being annoyed by people that foster ignorance and belief that they are infallible.

If there was nothing to hide then an open dialogue between differing views and a discussion on what was used, what was the causes of the difference etc would be peer review, ASR has refused to do these things multiple times…not a good look…

I’m not an engineer, but I do have a background in dealing with people…and ASR has a strong dictatorship in play, with admin/commentator hit squads that silence any nay sayers…I’m being overly dramatic with my description on purpose…it paints the picture.

Now, ASR has done some good work in bringing FR to the masses…

It is just a shame ASR can’t see past themselves and start collaborating more with others instead of trying to make themselves out to be the end all be all and infallible.

Sorry rant over…By all means ignore my post :face_with_raised_eyebrow: …at your own peril!!!

Joking, do you! At the end of the day if ASR makes you happy then who am I to judge, just don’t tread on me with it…everyone around you is their own protagonist in their own stories…and not just NPCs…it is good to remember that…


I don’t think that position holds for everyone. In fact I’m sure it doesn’t (even if I’m the lone exception). Which tends to be the biggest problem with objective assaults on a subjective experience; i.e. faulty assumptions about what the desired end result should be.

I listen to music exclusively for pleasure.

My favorite way to do that is to spin vinyl on my speaker rig.

I would never argue that vinyl is as technically accurate as properly handled digital audio. And similarly I wouldn’t be worrying about the difference between 0.001% and 0.0001% distortion in the DAC or amp when the speakers likely have 2-3 orders of magnitude more distortion.

But no amount of measurement data changes the fact that my vastly-superior-measuring headphone rig, or digital source, is not as enjoyable for me to listen to as that vinyl-sourced speaker setup.

I want to enjoy the listening experience. I want to enjoy the music. All other considerations in the construct of the system that does that are, at best, secondary.

If I like what I hear, then I care more about aesthetics than I do about numbers.

One day that might mean cranking the bass levels way up to suit my mood. Another day it might mean listening via a tube amp vs. a solid-state one. Again, the tube amp doesn’t measure nearly as well as the solid-state one, but I’d still rather listen via that 99% of the time.

That’s 100% at odds with the idea that accuracy is at the same level of importance or relevance as enjoyment or preference for me.

And the unavoidable conclusion there, for me, is that it is clear that for whatever reason I find systems that have some level of coloration (which is just a fancy word for distortion) more enjoyable to listen to than those that do a closer-to-100- perfect job of reproducing the original performance.

I say that in ownership of systems that have state of the art measurements and those that use vinyl sources and tube amps. I have both options available right here, and I invariably chose the less-well-measuring systems when I want to relax and enjoy myself.

Which is fine, because I’m listening to music, not pursuing the assembly of an idealistic “highest-fidelity” system. They are not necessarily the same thing.

Now …

That does not mean I am not interested in measurements, just that they’re not how I choose what I like to listen to (generally done blind, with a shortlist of components).

I expect that if a device is sold on the basis of FIDELITY, or OBJECTIVE performance, then it needs to meet its manufacturer’s claimed performance metrics. There are fraud laws that are meant to help ensure such claims are met and to protect the consumer.


Hi Darth,

Thanks for the reply. I don’t have awareness of the examples you are thinking of. Please be specific about the issues you have with ASR. I don’t have the long term reading history to know what you are talking about.

I do think that ASR can be very dogmatic with sycophants. You get that in any organization. It takes three people and you already have politics. But I also see them as attempting to collaborate. The developer of REW participates and helps. Floyd Toole of acoustics history participates. The people from SMSL too.

It is not that ASR makes me happy. That is not the point. It makes me think. And when I think, I tend to agree more with the ASR view than in McGowan’s magic tricks. Even if I have PS Audio (old) which I liked and is now not connected to any of ny systems.

I work in a science field, and in it, there are a lot of people that base their talks in eminence or eloquence and some on evidence. Even in medicine! Talks, I mean. So, I do have a bias and evidence is my bias. This is why I find ASRs analysis persuasive.

Again, show me the specific examples and I may change my mind.


Interesting comments, Torq!

So, if you allow me to paraphrase you, the equipment you listen to music for you is an instrument and not a medium. It is not a device but part of the music process.

I was walking my dog and began to think what I meant by accuracy. We go to concerts at Disney Hall, sitting around 30 yards away from the musicians. We also have season tickets to the Hollywood Bowl (not every concert, buy a series) with seats very close to where the sound engineers have their booth, this is like 100 yards away from the musicians. My wife sings at a Master Chorale so I listen to her concerts from usually 8 to 20 yards away. What is accurate in each setting is different. It is also different to listening to John Pizzarelli playing at Catalina Jazz club or at Cal State Northridge. Or my wife’s piano at home, a gorgeous sounding baby grand.

I have an app that measures sound pressure levels in my phone, plus another app that is used for tuning instruments. I do know how loud music sounds in most settings, annoying people all the way as they think I am pirately recording.

I have a sense of what I listen to. If I say that the sound of the orchestra at Disney sucks, I mean it! The higher frequency instruments sound lovely. But that hall removes any bass sound. I have many examples where you can see the musicians struggling trying to generate bass. At HB, the orchestra sounds more balanced! But I don’t think it sounds more accurate, I listen to big speakers from that distance!

I prefer accurate devices because I want to hear what the musicians or the producer was listening when they made the recording. If the sound sucks, this is what they generated. I don’t want to modify this. Anyway, long, long story for a short blog.


An interesting way to describe it. I probably wouldn’t make the statement quite so boldly, but that’s not to say it’s a long way from the mark.

Similarly, adding a glass of Scotch to my listening session fairly reliably increases my enjoyment, as does the presence of my wife.

Very much!

There’s a definite reason I have multiple recordings of many pieces that vary purely by venue (same conductor and orchestra … though for most important pieces I have multiple variations there too).

All other things being equal, I would rather experience Carmen at Covent Garden or the Sydney Opera House than at McCaw Hall (which is, nonetheless, excellent as well).

My favorite instrument!

I have one from early last century (back when the keys were ivory, whether you liked that or not), there’s a picture of it in one of my reviews somewhere (it’s on storage at the moment, sadly, since there’s no space in our current place for it).

Glorious thing it is.

Very nice to have visiting virtuoso’s play on it, and hear how it really can sound (with the limits of the acoustics of the last house we had it in), at our little charity soirees.

I’d likely agree with you on that sounding awful. Other’s may like it though, especially if they have significantly attenuated hi-frequency hearing response (e.g. older people).

(Not understanding one’s own hearing profile is probably responsible for more arguments about how a given piece of gear sounds than anything else).

Nothing wrong with that approach at all, of course.

I started my “audio” journey quite resolutely in a “High Fidelity, Purist” mode. >$250,000 in gear later (flagship Meridian gear with room and speaker-correcting DSP etc.) and I was left with an accurate but musically not very enjoyable solution.

Today I’m in another camp … I want that when I want it. Which isn’t that often it seems (I put that hat on for reviews when referencing neutrality or resolution etc.).

At the same time, if I love a song, or a performance, but the mastering engineering jacked the bass up to the point that my speakers are rattling the windows at my desired listening level, or they over-did the treble for the venue and the recording is too bright (but otherwise awesome), I’ll EQ that down too.