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I think the answer has to be yes. Can a higher end HU have better SQ, of course. Do most of them? Who knows. You've got to remember that this board tends to look down on people that put money into their systems. Those people automatically get labeled as not knowing how to tune or install their stuff so you will never get an unbiased response.
Ya know.. I am starting to notice this. lol... I feel bad for the OP. I love how everyone dances around the actual question.. A simple yes or no can cut through the BS.
 

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Why would someone spend hundreds of hours doing what you describe, and then save a few hundred bucks on a HU if they felt that it would diminish their results?



Right, so given that transparency is the goal, then having zero op amp in the preamp should be more transparent than any op amp known to man, even the most expensive ones. So why do people insist on paying lots of money for boutique op amps, rather than modifying their amplifiers to eliminate the preamp stage and the op amps?

Op amps aren't required -- they're just useful for device matching and necessary for an active gain control.



How do you know that "sound" is their rationale for their head unit choice? I've spent lots of money on head units before, and not for "sound".



Settle down. I did give my opinion. It was my reply.



Welcome to DIYMA! This site was built on the foundation of challenging industry dogma. There's even an entire subsection devoted to it.
I didn't catch a YES or a NO in any of this... At least the few of us that believe a higher end head unit can have better SQ over a low end one are saying YES... the guys who don't agree..... they aren't saying NO! :rolleyes:
 

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I say yes, but is it needed? no. It really isnt that simple, ecspecially not with all of the dsp's available now.

I am not trying to be difficult but it isnt a black or white issue it is a huge gray area.
 

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I say yes, but is it needed? no. It really isnt that simple, ecspecially not with all of the dsp's available now.

I am not trying to be difficult but it isnt a black or white issue it is a huge gray area.
Another YES.... where are the NO's?????
 

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We are all here to help the OP, and he is asking whether a better head unit would help his system sound better, and my answer is YES! They all sound very different, they do not all sound the same. And to find one that fits his taste...

I dont see what all the fuss is about really? If you cannot hear a difference between a Mcintosh mx5000 and $100 dollar JVC head unit, you have no business spending that much money anyways... I for one can, so I choose to run the Mac.
I understand that your answer is that they're different. My answer is that they're not. If you have a head unit that's imparting a different sound (assuming this isn't coming from an integrated DSP of some sort, or some other "feature"), then I'd suggest that either your head unit is broken, of very poor quality in terms of transparency (even if it's expensive), or you're not using it within its intended range or application (e.g. Hanatsu's observations). I say this because it's INCREDIBLY simple and inexpensive to create a source unit with a perfectly flat frequency response, zero distortion, and noise properties below that which is introduced in the installation (like by ground loops). And by "inexpensive", I mean about two dollars.

You can verify everything I'm saying with a very simple set of tools.
 

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I didn't catch a YES or a NO in any of this... At least the few of us that believe a higher end head unit can have better SQ over a low end one are saying YES... the guys who don't agree..... they aren't saying NO! :rolleyes:
People who think that things are simple enough to be answered with a yes/no tend not to understand the complexities of the problem.

Is it possible that a head unit can sound bad? Sure. There might be some korean head unit manufactured in 1974 that none of us have ever heard of that sounds awful. There might be a $5 million dollar head unit with a 5kHz low pass filter applied to the output to try to distinguish itself from the competition. That, by itself, would render the answer "yes", even if 10,000 other head units all sounded the same. So it's a bit of a loaded question with a pretty useless answer.

If the question is how LIKELY it is that a head unit change will yield an audible improvement, then I think plenty of us (who you label as "the guys who don't agree") have made it pretty clear about what we think. It's not fair for you to try to characterize us as fence-sitters, or whatever it is you're trying to convey.
 

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I understand that your answer is that they're different. My answer is that they're not. If you have a head unit that's imparting a different sound (assuming this isn't coming from an integrated DSP of some sort, or some other "feature"), then I'd suggest that either your head unit is broken, of very poor quality in terms of transparency (even if it's expensive), or you're not using it within its intended range or application (e.g. Hanatsu's observations). I say this because it's INCREDIBLY simple and inexpensive to create a source unit with a perfectly flat frequency response, zero distortion, and noise properties below that which is introduced in the installation (like by ground loops). And by "inexpensive", I mean about two dollars.

You can verify everything I'm saying with a very simple set of tools.
Fair enough, you are entitled to your opinion and mine to mine. If you are ever in Houston, you are welcomed to come over to my house and we can do a blind test to see if you can hear differences in different head units in my car. I use a tiny PS and it takes about 5 seconds for me to change RCAs from head unit to head unit, because we all know auditory memory is not thattt great. Its almost a true AB test. We will use only 2 songs, maybe 3. If you cannot tell a difererence, maybe thats a good thing, you would never have to spend lots of money of a pure head unit. A cheap one is good enough for your ears. ;)
 

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The interesting question isn't whether you or I can detect the difference between two HUs in a blind test. That doesn't really tell us anything. The interesting question is what properties of the HUs are leading to that difference. If you have two HUs that seem to exhibit a different sound, then it would be instructive to ALL of us *how* those two HUs differ. And you can provide that information very easily without having to invite people to your house. :) A simple set of measurements can tell us everything we need to know about those HUs. Impulse response functions, FR/distortion graphs -- however you want to do it. Armed with that information, you guys can prove once and for all that there are some manufacturers that are failing to achieve the very simple goal of flat FR and low THD/IMD. And then we can point and laugh at those manufacturers.

Of course, EVERY blind test should already have some of these measurements already. You can't just unplug one HU and plug in another one. You need to at least equalize the levels of the two units you're comparing, otherwise you're not dissociating the differences in gain structures from the "sound quality" of the devices. How are you doing this presently?
 

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What is "coloration" if it's not described by the distortion and frequency response properties of the unit?
I have no idea, I am not at the level of others on this board in terms of electrical/sound knowledge. I just know I can hear the differences. It may be all those decks have integrated DSP's (which they do in the T/A's and Xovers, and I never touch the EQ's on HU's) but I honestly have no idea. I actually SOLD my CDA-117 for no other reason than the sound of it. Kenwood really does tend to sound warmer.
 

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The interesting question isn't whether you or I can detect the difference between two HUs in a blind test. That doesn't really tell us anything. The interesting question is what properties of the HUs are leading to that difference. If you have two HUs that seem to exhibit a different sound, then it would be instructive to ALL of us *how* those two HUs differ. And you can provide that information very easily without having to invite people to your house. :) A simple set of measurements can tell us everything we need to know about those HUs. Impulse response functions, FR/distortion graphs -- however you want to do it. Armed with that information, you guys can prove once and for all that there are some manufacturers that are failing to achieve the very simple goal of flat FR and low THD/IMD. And then we can point and laugh at those manufacturers.

Of course, EVERY blind test should already have some of these measurements already. You can't just unplug one HU and plug in another one. You need to at least equalize the levels of the two units you're comparing, otherwise you're not dissociating the differences in gain structures from the "sound quality" of the devices. How are you doing this presently?
Again, as stated earlier, I really do not know what attributes to the different sounds, there could be a number of things. The different parts use, the different design of the entire unit itself. I am no electrical engineer, just an audiophile and I trust what my ears tell me.

I guess I am just one of them crazy hifi audiophile nut that believes everything matters in the signal chain, even the RCAs and speaker wires :eek: shut yo mouth!!!! RCAs and speaker wires too??? Yes!!

You previously stated that all head units doesnt make a difference in the sound, thus I opened up my home to you so maybe I could change your mind. I have a few high end head unit we could play with, armed with no fancy tools, just merely your ears and mine.

The tests that I do is not very technical, its more for my pleasure than anything else. Its just a head unit test to see which I like better, not trying to prove the big bang theory here ;) I have a HU that is already mounted in my car, and one that sits in the front seat that is powered by a small PS. I unplug the rcas from the head unit mounted to my car and plug into the head unit sitting on the front seat. Turn to about the same volume using the same cd. Done! See what my ears like best! So please dont pick at my test and say its flawed, because at the end of the day its what I hear day in and day out and its what I like. :) Afterall, I listen with my ears, not with fancy equipments. Sure fancy equipment can help tell a story, but not the whole book.



I think this is starting to get redundant, and I have voiced my opinion to the OP, and I'll leave it as that. I hoped in some way I have helped the OP in making his decision.

Take care!
~C
 

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Again, as stated earlier, I really do not know what attributes to the different sounds, there could be a number of things. The different parts use, the different design of the entire unit itself. I am no electrical engineer, just an audiophile and I trust what my ears tell me.

I guess I am just one of them crazy hifi audiophile nut that believes everything matters in the signal chain, even the RCAs and speaker wires :eek: shut yo mouth!!!! RCAs and speaker wires too??? Yes!!

You previously stated that all head units doesnt make a difference in the sound, thus I opened up my home to you so maybe I could change your mind. I have a few high end head unit we could play with, armed with no fancy tools, just merely your ears and mine.

The tests that I do is not very technical, its more for my pleasure than anything else. Its just a head unit test to see which I like better, not trying to prove the big bang theory here ;) I have a HU that is already mounted in my car, and one that sits in the front seat that is powered by a small PS. I unplug the rcas from the head unit mounted to my car and plug into the head unit sitting on the front seat. Turn to about the same volume using the same cd. Done! See what my ears like best! So please dont pick at my test and say its flawed, because at the end of the day its what I hear day in and day out and its what I like. :) Afterall, I listen with my ears, not with fancy equipments. Sure fancy equipment can help tell a story, but not the whole book.



I think this is starting to get redundant, and I have voiced my opinion to the OP, and I'll leave it as that. I hoped in some way I have helped the OP in making his decision.

Take care!
~C

I appreciate the offer, but Houston isn't very convenient for me and I've already done similar tests many times. It's difficult for me, or anyone, to try to identify over the internet what the sources of these differences you're hearing are, but as a first step I'd suggest doing your best to isolate variables. Which means doing things like defeating on-board processing and tone controls, carefully matching outputs, eliminating noise cues, and other things that have been proven to impact the sound but which we wouldn't normally attribute to the "sound quality" of a device. You're right that we're not trying to prove the big bang theory, but any time you make a definitive statement it's really important that you're not drawing faulty conclusions because you haven't conducted the experiment properly.

Honestly, you can't really come in here and say "XYZ sounds different from ABC, but no I haven't conducted the test correctly because it's too tedious and I'm not trying to prove the big bang theory." Because there are people who HAVE conducted it correctly, and can report their results which end up being more meaningful. When you don't do the tests in the appropriate way, it leads to epic threads like this one where there's a disagreement that ultimately stem from results obtained using two different methodologies. And then the OP becomes confused because there are two camps telling him two different things.

Or threads like http://www.diymobileaudio.com/forum/car-audio-truth-myths-industry-dogma/93704-class-d-amplification-can-sound-just-good-true-b-17.html, where a guy just came in yesterday to proclaim there was a huge difference in sound between two particular amps, before we pried out of him that his gain structure between the two was all whacked. This is why it's important to conduct listening tests in a controlled manner.
 

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Yup, I am out also. Simple yes or no.. and I gave my YES.. still waiting on the NO from some but I don't see it coming. OP good luck with the info you were provided.

Laters!
 

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I appreciate the offer, but Houston isn't very convenient for me and I've already done similar tests many times. It's difficult for me, or anyone, to try to identify over the internet what the sources of these differences you're hearing are, but as a first step I'd suggest doing your best to isolate variables. Which means doing things like defeating on-board processing and tone controls, carefully matching outputs, eliminating noise cues, and other things that have been proven to impact the sound but which we wouldn't normally attribute to the "sound quality" of a device. You're right that we're not trying to prove the big bang theory, but any time you make a definitive statement it's really important that you're not drawing faulty conclusions because you haven't conducted the experiment properly.

Honestly, you can't really come in here and say "XYZ sounds different from ABC, but no I haven't conducted the test correctly because it's too tedious and I'm not trying to prove the big bang theory." Because there are people who HAVE conducted it correctly, and can report their results which end up being more meaningful. When you don't do the tests in the appropriate way, it leads to epic threads like this one where there's a disagreement that ultimately stem from results obtained using two different methodologies. And then the OP becomes confused because there are two camps telling him two different things.

Or threads like http://www.diymobileaudio.com/forum/car-audio-truth-myths-industry-dogma/93704-class-d-amplification-can-sound-just-good-true-b-17.html, where a guy just came in yesterday to proclaim there was a huge difference in sound between two particular amps, before we pried out of him that his gain structure between the two was all whacked. This is why it's important to conduct listening tests in a controlled manner.
Ok so I can assume ...... is very far from Houston. ;)

I get your point, I really do. There are tooo many people that perform flawed tests, or just dont have the ear to hear the details in the music on this board and mislead people with their findings. And then people read their reviews and that is the bible, an end to all reviews. I get it. But I actually pride myself in having a pretty good ear, I am not new to hi fidelity. You dont know me, so I dont expect you to give me any credentials, and thats OK. I'll leave it at that. :)

And remember, Im just one of those crazy audio nutz that dont believe that measurements tells the entire story, our ears are the final tools. As crazy as that sounds. :( So those people who performed the tests correctly and measured everything, I still dont feel those measurements tells exactly how the head unit sounds.

And thats all folks! :)

Take care!
~C
 

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You're absolutely 100% correct that ears are the only measurement tools that matter. The ears are the end goal, period.

But when you draw conclusions about something -- anything -- you often need to employ other tools so that you can identify what it is that you're concluding! If I listen to your car and then listen to my car, and hear that there's a huge difference, I can't conclude, "Well, there you have it! You and I used different speaker cables, so therefore our speaker cables provide vastly different sound!" That would be foolish. We would have to identify what component or what aspects of the environment are responsible for the differences we perceive -- can't just pick one of the many possibilities and go with it. So, for that example, I might electrically measure the individual components (or at least the speaker cables) to identify whether the speaker cables are in fact responsible for the differences observed.

Again, nobody is challenging your assertion that you hear a difference. The only challenge is that you identify the offending component. You might argue, "I only swapped out the head units and nothing else, and therefore it must be the head unit." But you haven't demonstrated that 1) the output settings were the same; 2) the operation was at a constant level (vol controls are different); 3) the tone controls/DSP were flat; 4) the units were operating within their linear ranges. That's where measurement tools come in.

And this is important, because it greatly alters the conclusion that one can draw.

You asked for credentials -- I don't have any credentials to provide regarding listening, aside from having played instruments for a little over 20 years. I do not work in the audio field, although I am an engineer who has performed these sorts of measurements in a professional capacity for about 10 years, and I have expertise in performing sensory testing for several years as well.
 

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You're absolutely 100% correct that ears are the only measurement tools that matter. The ears are the end goal, period.

But when you draw conclusions about something -- anything -- you often need to employ other tools so that you can identify what it is that you're concluding! If I listen to your car and then listen to my car, and hear that there's a huge difference, I can't conclude, "Well, there you have it! You and I used different speaker cables, so therefore our speaker cables provide vastly different sound!" That would be foolish. We would have to identify what component or what aspects of the environment are responsible for the differences we perceive -- can't just pick one of the many possibilities and go with it. So, for that example, I might electrically measure the individual components (or at least the speaker cables) to identify whether the speaker cables are in fact responsible for the differences observed.

Again, nobody is challenging your assertion that you hear a difference. The only challenge is that you identify the offending component. You might argue, "I only swapped out the head units and nothing else, and therefore it must be the head unit." But you haven't demonstrated that 1) the output settings were the same; 2) the operation was at a constant level (vol controls are different); 3) the tone controls/DSP were flat; 4) the units were operating within their linear ranges. That's where measurement tools come in.

And this is important, because it greatly alters the conclusion that one can draw.

You asked for credentials -- I don't have any credentials to provide regarding listening, aside from having played instruments for a little over 20 years. I do not work in the audio field, although I am an engineer who has performed these sorts of measurements in a professional capacity for about 10 years, and I have expertise in performing sensory testing for several years as well.
I've probably had over 20 different headunits I've both installed and tested over the past 8 years. I've never heard any difference between them, other than high noisefloor on some units. These units have ranged from Alpines cheaper units like CDA-111R and Pioneer p9 ODR. The time it took to swap the units in a new install was that much that the auditory memory no longer remembers how the old unit sounded (auditory memory lasts less than a second btw...). I've even done ABX blindtests between highend amplifiers and source units, some I heard differences, but I couldn't tell if it was better or worse. The expectation that it will sound better after spending money on equipment will actually have the effect that it does sound better. To get objective results whether something actually sound better you need to measure it, all electronic parameters can be measured in great detail. Same with cables, there's no mystery here either. The only parameters a cable have is capacitance, inductance and resistance. Noise shielding should be taken into account as well, especially in a car. If these parameters don't affect distortion, noise, frequency response or impulse response then it changes exactly nothing. Listening to this would be redundant. If you want to alter the way a system sounds, you buy yourself a DSP. Don't understand this talk about that some source sounds different, even it would, you can alter it via a DSP. Source units and amplifiers make lousy equalizers. They should always sound neutral/measure flat. I totally agree that it's s the ears we listen with and that should be final judge in the quest for better sound but in some cases I only find it weird that so many people go buy stuff because some magazine tells them that this new cd player will do wonders in your system without even mention one objective reason WHY it is so much better than your current. To convey such objectivity, measurements are the the key. If something measure that good that it is well below human hearing and other environmental issues for that matter (the car's interior do degrade sound quality) - it must be transparent.

The OTs question: is there a difference between headunits? Of course there are! Can the differences with distinguishable to the ear? In most cases, I'd say no. There's audible sound degradation among noise and crosstalk parameters (on some cheaper units), other than that I find it highly unlikely to hear differences. If there's no difference, why the hell did I buy a Pioneer P99RS then?!? Because it has an awesome built-in DSP with 4-way capabilities with a 31b GEQ I can change the sound however I want to. It got awesome iPod control, nice display, good build quality and some other really nice features not available in cheaper models. Just saying, buying highend models gives you features to make the unit sound however you want it to sound! If you have the money, why hesitate. If you don't have the money, spend it on other things like installation where the real difference can be found.

I rephrase the question: Head unit upgrade = better SQ output = YES, if it does have a DSP built in. Definitely, it's absolutely necessary imo!!
 
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