Is the Strata the S300 + SGCD all in one? Or does the Strata have a different sound/ architecture than that combo?
There are a number of inputs that lead to the one output which is the decision to buy assuming one is searching within a specific budget. This is what crosses my head right now, so please bear with me:
1.1 Equipment used for measurement: Up-to-date, designed for purpose, calibrated (or not)?
1.2 What the testing person(s) is / are looking for, what they want to highlight, what they want to ameliorate or turn a blind eye to (knowledge & transparency)
1.3 How the testing lab makes a living / the source of funding influences the test. Please note that these labs and persons are not charities. Magazines earn from advertisings for all.
2.1 Context when listening (associated equipment, room acoustics, type of music)
2.2 Experience of listener with similar equipment of the same caliber
2.3 Personal choice. I call this the listener’s sound. One could attend a demo of top notch gear, but walk away saying I do not like the sound. This is not my sound. Pretty much like preferring an instrument over another. Personal choice is the wild card and the ultimate determinant. I have noticed that my taste and preferences changed a lot over the years. I wonder if this applies to many others.
Very little is actually measured.
Harmonic Distortion for instance does not take into account the different levels of harmonics. For example a piece of gear may have very low distortion with low order harmonics but may have high distortion with high order harmonics that have more of an impact. Simple measurements are dangerous and misleading.
I am in the UK, and did a lot of research into various Dacs at various price points between £500 and £1600. I too read the the ASR review, but being a person who takes reviews with a “pinch of salt”, I opted for the Stellar GainCell Dac/Pre, as I already owned a new S300, and THAT was a super bit of kit. The website, HI Fi Pig ( Hifi News | Hifi Pig reviewed both items together, and it was that that made my mind up, as they listen to a product
Your point about the degree of magnitude of measured results is a good one, and should be kept in mind by everyone. I don’t personally discount the value of measurements, but I do think they need to be kept in context, and I firmly believe if component A is deemed more real-sounding than component B under identical conditions, but component B measures “better,” then the wrong thing is being measured. Whether the knowledge and technology necessary to measure the right thing even exist is a whole different issue.
I also don’t want to come off as a complete subjectivist, but I’d rather own and listen to something I enjoy, albeit with a questionable oscilloscope trace, than something that produces lovely charts but my ears find disagreeable. I think the matter of quality in all art (and I consider music reproduction an art) lies somewhere in between the “there are rules for what’s good and if they aren’t met, it’s bad” world and the world that says genuine merit is 100% perception by the observer/consumer.
You are correct on all counts. Because music is art and art is mostly “in the ear of the beholder” in this case it is very hard to correlate measurements to personal enjoyment. Obvious flaws (audible noise, digital artifacts, etc.) notwithstanding enjoyment has to be at the top of the list. Think about other types of art and try to measure them with some type of tool. It’s almost impossible.
I work with a bunch of young engineers who for the most part don’t know which end of a screwdriver is the business end and are always sitting too close to the screen wasting too much time on details that only seem meaningless once you zoom out a magnitude or two and get into real life scale. Worrying about .01mm when 0.1mm or 0.25mm or will do is a common error.
This hobby runs the gamut from $100 systems to $1,000,000 systems but in the end if the user is happy with the results that is all that matters. Trying to sway innocent people with mostly meaningless measurements just offends possible users who place too much emphasis on the numbers.
Little is similar between the Strata and GDAC + S300. Completely different amp stage and DAC stage. The two things that are similar however are the headphone amp and the analog preamp stage. All of this renders a pretty different listening experience between the two systems.
So my s300 is on the way. My tube integrated is also ready for testing.
Can I just turn the volume to 80% on my integrated and use my dac as volume control for both, so I can compare?
Don’t see why that would be a problem. Certainly something to play around with when you get the system put together.
Is there a prefered way of connecting the amp? Rca or xlr, does it make a difference?
I am using right now an xlr->rca cable. All my other gear has only rca inputs… so this is why the weird cable :).
If the two components being connected are balanced internally an XLR cable connecting them is typically best.
If one or both components are single-ended, it does not matter if you use RCA or XLR as they are carrying a single-ended non-balanced signal anyway.
How do I know if they are balanced or just using xlr?
Ist the s300 balanced?
The S300’s XLR input is balanced.
I have the S300 - use it in my office system driving a pair of Magico A1’s. I can’t imagine a better one box amp for the money. I love it.