Streaming and AV receivers
I have been reading with interest
Gramophone technical reviews assessing the performance of streaming units and
AV receivers. I have been wondering whether these subjective assessments have
any real significance in view of the absence of objective lab. evaluations.
Since the digital audio signal to
a receiver is a flow of ones and zeros, is there any real difference in the
audio quality of the digital signal reaching the amplifier? The assumption is
that the circuitry is constructed from microchips and other components from
reputable manufactures. In the conversion to an analogue electrical feed are
there all that many options in designing a DAC that can influence the purity of
the signal? In the next step, which is the amplifier, the designer may use a proprietary
design to optimize audio performance at a given price. It seems to me that the
weakest link in the chain beyond this point is the loud speaker. It is safe to
assume that the audio quality of an entry level speaker will be inferior to a
high end product. Speaker prices can easily vary by one order of magnitude.
In the pre-digital age (vinyl)
the performance of a cartridge of say ₤50 was significantly inferior to a MC
cartridge costing ₤500. This was obvious even to the uninitiated listener. Add
to this the effects of wow, rumble and flutter from the turntable the need for
costly precision engineered, to watchmaker standards, players becomes paramount
to the audiophile. Regarding CD players is there any real significant difference
between CD players in the ₤400 range compared to much more expensive machines
as is the case for an analogue front end?
My point here is that apart from
the amplifier and speakers there is probably no real measurable difference
between the electronics involved in processing digital data. Technical reviews are
usually subjective, apologizes to A. Everard, et al, and may be reflecting more
of the personal biases of the listener. The feed source (bit rate) is of course
critical, but this is independent of the streaming device.
It seems to me that the choice
between AV receivers is increasingly dependent on features such as, USB
options, internet radio, access to computers, digital optical connectors, aux.
ports, Airplay, etc. Fine details such as, the size and readability of the
screen, handset design and easy access to functions on the front panel could
make or break the decision to buy.
Does anyone agree with at least parts
of these observations: that the audio performance assessments of current
digitalized systems are largely hokum?