Essence HDACC – Quibbles and bits

Disclaimer: Essence directly supplied the Essence HDACC for the purposes of this review. HDACC goes for just 499$ USD. for You can find all about the HDACC here: HDACC For Hi Res Audio.

Let me make introductions. Essence products and distribution are the lovechild of Bob Rapoport. Bob sells seriously esoteric stuff: electrostatic speakers, coaxial oBravo headphones and earphones, passive and active speakers of all shapes and sizes, DACs, and more. What’s shaking things up more than anything else at least on the blog front are his affordable DPA-440 Class D Amp and the title item of this review, the HDACC DAC.

Basic spec

24/192 DAC (ESS9012)
Digital pre-amp with discrete volume control
digital inputs: USB 2, coaxial, optical, HDMI (v1,3)
analogue inputs: 3,5mm stereo, RCA
digital outputs: coax, optical, HDMI (v1,3)
analogue outputs: XLR, RCA, 6,3mm stereo

Emblazoned across its glossy fascia is the HDMI logo. HDMI is hard to find among audiophile DACs. HDACC’s main competition comes from NAD, among others, costing many times its price. The HDACC’s HDMI can also pass-thru digital signals to TVs and outboard DACs, which redeems sources like the new Apple TV, or cruddy TVs and monitors whose singular outputs are HDMI. All of HDACC’s inputs (RCA, 3,5mm, coaxial, toslink) pass their signals to internal ADC/DAC hardware to be spat out in any format, analogue or digital, through any port.

While it shows up as a “USB Audio 2.0” line input in Mac OS’s preference panel, it can’t digitise analogue inputs for archival to your computer. For that, you’ll need a Lynx Hilo, and Edirol, or most any mixing card. That’s the job of a Lynx HILO.

Branding

HDMI is HDACC’s biggest commercial feature. Type DAC and HDMI into Google and I’ll be damned if you won’t find something Bob sells in the first non-advertised spot. The same brute force methods apply to HDACC’s branding.

As to branding, HDACC is plagued by self-congratulatory chintz. HDMI! If you own HDACC, you sure as hell know it does HDMI. No need to remind. And seriously, Essence™?

Whatever. At most do-it-all mass-market audio gear priced around 500$ is festooned with unnecessary and chintzy labels and logos. I should mention that originally, HDACC went for 699$. 700$ is the absolute upper limit for chintzily designed audio gear. Re-pricing it was a good idea.

500$ is HDACC’s spiritual sweet spot.

Build

The HDACC’s got this sausage thing going on. It’s a look you see more often among external sound cards. It’s a bit more solid than many external sound cards, though. It doesn’t flex in the middle and doesn’t go noodley when you try to twist it. Solid. Its RCA pillar-like, as solid as those found on a number of quality mid and high-end DACs and amps. Around the back, its XLR jacks lock with the correct cables, and are ringed in impact absorbent plastic. Only HDACC’s coaxial ins and outs wobble ever so slightly.

The 6,3mm stereo headphone jack in my unit sits behind an off-centre fascia, which is shifted about 1,5mm from perfect alignment. This cateyes most input-indication LED lamps. I’m a bit surprised that an off-centre unit made it to a reviewer of one of the world’s most-read headphone review sites. It’s happened before: AudioEngine’s D1 was all finger-printed up, and a few earphones press samples arrived in such poor condition that I refused to touch them.

HDACC’s attenuator wobblies a lot and when quickly rotating it, grinds against its chassis. While that isn’t uncommon, it is uncommon for a device whose navigation system relies almost fully on the attenuator.

So, while not attractive, nor plumbing for the small things, HDACC is solid and respectably built, especially considering its price and feature set.

Function

Largely, its tackiness is forgiven because of its feature set. XLR, RCA, and headphone outputs. 24/192. USB, coaxial, toslink, HDMI inputs. Pass-thrus for everything. Analogue to digital and vice versa. Bingo.

Because the options are many, HDACC relies on a many-level GUI. Fortunately, it is simple. A short press of the attenuator brings up the menu, in which the following options: Source In, Line out Set, HP impedance, Display Set, HDMI TX Set, SRC Set, Return, and Reset to default are options. Rotate the attenuator to cycle through every function. Pressing the attenuator again will dig into the selected menu and open up a new set of options specific to that menu item. HDACC uses simple language, and a straightforward hierarchy. Without reading the manual, you can figure it out.

Audiophiles are going to love HDACC’s XLR line outs. They are great. High quality stuff that should stand up well in most hi-end audio systems. You’ll see me gush more about them later. The headphone output is par for the course. It’s best suited to non-sensitive headphones. We’ll get more into this later.

HDMI. Plug it in and get SPDIF out, analogue out, and even a pass-thru HDMI for downstream devices. This functionality in conjunction with a good power amplifier and you are good to go for most anything.

Read all about its Performance and Sound on the next page after the click HERE or below

Essence HDACC – Quibbles and bits
4.3 (86.15%) 13 vote[s]

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

36 Comments

  • Reply January 14, 2016

    bob rapoport

    Thanks for the informative review Nathan. If I could add anything it would be more info about the “upsampling” feature, the HDACC is a digital to analog sample rate converter that enables users to improve the sound of lower resolution MP3 music files, CDs, DVDs, and streamed radio or TV broadcasts with a choice of 5 higher sample rates; 44.1K, 88.2K, 96K, 176.3K, and 192K. Data rich hi res audio content like that found encrypted on Blu-ray requires an HDMI connection, the content is copyright protected so USB, Optical, and Coaxial connections will not allow you access to the highest resolution content in the history of audio. HDMI’s data rate is 10.2 Gbps while USB is only 500 Mbps and SPDIF is 250 Mbps.
    HDMI is a transformative connectivity protocol that makes it possible to hear a one to one copy of the “native” LPCM original master recording at 24/96K without compression of any kind, what I like to call the holy grail of high fidelity. There has never been a better time to be an audiophile than right now.

    Your own pics of the HDACC dont reveal the imperfect alignment of the front panel so its like telling me my daughter is cute enough except for her big nose, naturally I was a bit upset by these comments and want to assure all prospective buyers of the HDACC that our manufacturing process is highly automated and almost impossible to mis-align because all the jacks and sensors are board mounted inside.

    The pristine acrylic front panel is protected by a layer of protective film so if that’s not peeled off at the start, which is covered in our Getting Started Tips I sent you in advance it might lead to a negative impression of its cosmetics. More than a few people who dont like reading manuals and instructions made the same mistake so its pretty common for us to respond to those who complain about the look of the front panel at first. The volume knob is also perfectly aligned and separated from the front panel by enough space so as not to make any rubbing noise when being turned, nobody else has ever complained about that so if this review sample had an imperfection, I apologize and promise its not common to production.

    Last but not least, IEM’s put the transducer inside the ear canal where any residual hiss in the headphone amp would easier to hear in the absence of music but its not audible when playing actual music. Conventional over the ear headphones make it harder to hear and when the HDACC is used with in-room speakers, there is no hiss at all, its dead silent, as conveyed but its exemplary specs. There is only one DAC inside driving all 3 analog outputs so the variations had more to do with the use of those outputs than anything else. These caveats aside, I think you did a great job of revealing the true nature of the HDACC and your assessment is accurate, its a heck of a product for $499.

    As for your quibbles about my “fact-checking” I apologized for offending your sense of journalistic integrity during the review process and told you about my long history of trade journalists who’ve gotten the facts wrong time after time, I was merely attempting to make sure your review was factually correct, if I stepped over the line of propriety it was only because I bet the farm on this venture and have a lot at stake financially, making sure reviews are accurate and fair is my job. You said you understood at the time but I can see you were still upset enough to reveal what happened in your review publicly. I accept your scolding and humbly ask for your forgiveness, lets not let that ruin an otherwise worthy effort.

    • Reply January 14, 2016

      dalethorn

      One of the best mfr’s responses I’ve read.

      • Reply January 15, 2016

        ohm image

        I need to get a ‘dalethorn’ dictionary.

        • Reply January 15, 2016

          dalethorn

          I read a lot (a lot) of mfr’s comments on Stereophile, and while I will concede this one had some PR dodges and moves in it, it was civil and even a little bit informative. Get into the Stereophile mix sometime and you’ll feel like you’ve been eaten by sharks. All in all, an epic review and, umm, responses.

          • Reply January 15, 2016

            ohm image

            Thanks for the clarification, Dale. I’ve not really followed Stereophile that much. Need to bone up.

    • Reply January 15, 2016

      ohm image

      Thank you for commenting Mr. Rapaport. I appreciate it. Now, for posterity (figurative language alert), let’s run through your responses, paragraph by paragraph.

      1st paragraph:
      To your first paragraph: upsampling files to higher sampling rates does not improve their sound. It does not restore lost data. It is a nice feature that allows for better compatibility, and can be used to actualise certain filters. It does NOT affect the quality of the original file.

      2nd paragraph:
      I take photos for review. I try to make them look cool. Headfonia is not a tech site. If you’re keen, I will dedicate a thread specifically to the manufacture imperfections in the HDACC in my office.

      3rd paragraph:
      No where did I talk about the protective film. Look closer at the photos: it is peeled off. You are assuming two things: that I didn’t peel if off, and that I didn’t read the instruction book. I both read the instruction book and peeled the film off.

      Please be careful with your language. The volume knob is _not_ perfectly aligned. It can’t be. Even a 10.000$ USD Leica lens exhibits slight amounts of play and their helicoid costs more to manufacture than most sub 1000$ DACs.

      In the unit in my office: 1. the front plate is off-centre, and grinds the attenuator. 2. the attenuator, like every attenuator wobbles against its own tolerances. In this case, the attenuator cants at an angle clearly visible to the eye. But as you’re adamant that the HDACC I have is perfect and that my eye is wrong, I will do a photo thread about all the imperfections you say don’t exist.

      Congratulations! It’s never been done before. For your information, I’ve not tampered, dropped, or otherwise mishandled it. I took it out of the box, photographed it, and enjoyed it.

      Obviously this is an anomaly, which I suggested in the review. But anomalies exist, and are FAR more common than you think.

      Further, no manufacturer has ever suggested that their product is beyond reproach, that their manufacturing skills are perfect. Reputable manufacturers expressed quality by acceptable tolerances, not by grammatical superlatives. Wait, that’s incorrect. HiSound, a snake-oil DAP maker back in 2009 or 2010 did. But I don’t think you want to be lumped in with them. HDACC is a far better device than any of their DAPs. The attitude of their CEO, however, was similarly combative.

      Please understand, this article is NOT a takedown. This is how I review EVERY single product that comes my way. If you wanted a fluffy, upper-tinged happy-gaffy report, there’s Sound on Sound (which reviewed HDACC). But HFN readers do not read what I write for a daily dose of goodness and light. They hope to get reports about performance and a decent, but not Biblical report of important feature sets.

      That said, I see I missed a few things. I will promptly update them.

      4th paragraph:
      Please don’t tell me about IEMs or hiss. I _review_ amps, DACs, IEMs, and headphones every week, and have done that since 2009 (with a break in 2011 and 2012). I know hiss, I know background noise, I know that certain earphones/headphones are insensitive to it. Please do not lecture me on hiss. Re: with loudspeakers. Naturally, used as a DAC, all hiss would be the product of whatever poweramp is powering the speakers – unless, of course, the DAC was poor. As you and I both know, that is not the case. HDACC’s DAC is very nice.

      We agree: it is a heck of a product for 499$. A heck of one.

      5th paragraph:
      I am hardly a journalist. I write about products. I’m not an investigative reporter (Thomas Tsai is that). I’m not an music/audiophile cultural advocate/reviewer. John Darko is that. I’m not a smiley face in baggy clothes. Michael Mercer is that. I have no bone to pick, I have no axe to grind. I touch ten different products a week, mostly audio. I know how they feel, sound, what is considered acceptable manufacturer standards.

      And, if you distill my review down, you will see that I am overwhelmingly happy with a number of HDACC’s key features. Overwhelmingly happy. And the ones about which I have questions, I question. As I did. In the future, I suggest stepping back and letting reviews review (including whatever it is Sound on Sound do). The good will come to the top. The bad will come to the top. Readers will weigh both. And good readers should weigh the reviewer. Peace and light and happy giggles all around is worth nothing to anyone but fanboys. Considered criticism and light shed on important product-defining positive points is what makes a reviewer worth their salt. I’m far from the best out there. Far from it. But I try to be worth it to my readers.

      And you never know, my readers may be or may become your customer. That is how it works. Have a good day.

      • Reply January 15, 2016

        Barun C

        Thanks for being honest and forthright with your reviews. Appreciate it. And man was that an awesome response!!!!

      • Reply January 15, 2016

        bob rapoport

        Thanks for your clarifications Nathan, my manufacturer’s response was not intended to arouse you further, and as Dale pointed out, it was one of the best of its kind he’s seen compared to what goes on in some publications, I have the scars from the shark bites to prove it and didnt want anything like that to result here, its OK for us to speak open and honestly about this.

        Quibbles aside, I am happy with your review and thank you for your time spent exploring the HDACC’s virtues, your thoughts are very similar to what other noted reviewers have found as well, the HDACC is quite good for its price, no arguments from me about that at all.

        It’s too bad you never got around to trying the upsampling feature, increasing the bit rate to 24 from 16 and increasing the sample rate from 44.1K to 96K/192K actually does improve the sonic quality and detail of low resolution sources, I have too many happy customers who enjoy the HDACC for that reason alone for me to ignore speaking up. Like you, I was skeptical about that issue for a long time until I heard it for myself, challenge your assumptions and give it a try, I think you will be surprised too, I know I was.

        Quoting from Steven Stone’s HDACC review in The Absolute Sound Jan 2016 issue, “The HDACC’s upsampling feature had the most effect with 320k MP3 files (the lowest-res files in my library), where increasing the rate to 88.2 or 176.4 reduced electronic grain and edginess in the upper frequencies”

        We do this because music is the essence of life, I share your passion for good sound at a down to earth price.

        • Reply January 15, 2016

          dalethorn

          There are people who don’t believe in upsampling, don’t believe in cable differences, don’t believe in burn-in — the whole 9 yards as it were. Then you find people like Gordon Holt and his proteges at the hi-fi magazines who explain in an engaging way how our ears and brains hear much finer detail than anyone would guess. There are also guys like John Swenson who reveal some of the audible anomalies in digital systems. I have a lot of digital music that I’ve accumulated since I started with MP3’s in 1998, and while I’ve replaced most of it with better downloads and lossless bit-perfect CD rips, there are the leftovers, which I’ve uprez’d myself, archiving the originals just in case. People should realize that no matter how perfect their system is, the music player still does a degree of interpretation on lossless music as well as the lower quality stuff, not to mention wading through a rat’s nest of electronic junk that pervades everything. So uprez’ing, if done right, should provide a better container for the player to do its thing with certain tracks, although to be fair, results vary according to each track’s content.

          • Reply January 15, 2016

            bob rapoport

            Well said Dale. I was a co-founder of Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, we tried to make records that sounded as good as the original master recording, that was the masthead of all the record jackets. In the analog era we reached dynamic peaks of 90 dB on magnetic tape masters but vinyl was limited to 60 dB. Today’s Blu-ray content reaches 120 dB dynamic range, but its encrypted against piracy, it cant be copied or stored digitally on any computer at the highest resolution, a one to one copy of the 24/96K LPCM original master recording. We can listen but we cant copy.

            HDMI is the connectivity protocol to enable playback of the pure Bitstream with no down-rezzing. I designed the HDACC with HDMI for audiophiles such as yourself with legacy systems they love so they could add Blu-ray Concerts to their hi res audio options along with HD Tracks type downloads. Our systems will only ever sound as good as the content we play, thats what upsampling is for, to improve on where we’ve been since 1984. Here’s a link to just some of the content now released on Blu-ray; http://www.essenceelectrostatic.com/blu-ray-music-now-available-950-concerts-worlds-popular-artists/

            Thanks for speaking up for me too, I really appreciate it.

            • Reply January 15, 2016

              dalethorn

              Thank you. My only use for any physical player, blu-ray or otherwise, is to rip the music to tracks I can archive. I went through several media upgrade cycles with vinyl, tape, CD etc., and now it’s hires and remastered downloads, or what I get from CD’s when I can’t get downloads. My collection is good enough that I can afford to ignore albums that can’t be ripped, or purchased as downloads without DRM. In the vinyl days (for me prior to ca. 1986), MFSL was a godsend, primarily in getting a quality piece of low-noise vinyl for the turntable, and secondarily in getting a better mastering. I had Japanese, German, and British import LP’s to fill in the blanks, as the poor quality U.S. vinyl was the chief problem. Don’t even get me started on cassettes – the ones from CBS/Columbia didn’t use impregnated silicone in the tape, and they friction-crashed after an average of 8-10 plays. Nightmare stuff. Anyway, let technology roll on….

              • Reply January 15, 2016

                bob rapoport

                You’ll notice you cant buy a download of a Blu-ray Concert, this level of fidelity to the original is only available for purchase on a tangible disc and must be played on a Blu-ray player, with a point to point connection between the player and the downstream component that authenticates a secure connection via HDMI, its actually a two-way communication. Is it worth it? Oh yes, if you never heard it try to get a demo at a store first, giving up the right to record it is a more than fair trade-off with the record labels. This is what we’ve been chasing for 40 years, the holy grail of high fidelity. 🙂

                • Reply January 15, 2016

                  dalethorn

                  I hear what you’re saying, and I understand your product’s connection to this. But, let’s be very clear – ripping is not recording – ripping is simply preserving the musical property that we paid for, against deterioration or damage. The controversies about whether users can preserve what they purchased by ripping CD’s (or taping from their LP’s) was decided long ago in the U.S., and that won’t change. I’m not aware of the actual legal status of blu-ray vis-a-vis unlocking codes and so on, but even that issue may have been decided already when cell phones were unlocked or “rockboxed”. The genie left the bottle long ago, and won’t be returning.

                  • Reply January 15, 2016

                    bob rapoport

                    You’re thinking of the “Fair Use Doctrine” a legal precedent that was over turned by the Supreme Court in 2001 after the DMCA law went into effect. The rights of the copyright holders take precedence of the owners now, thats true for all digital media. The studios and record labels drew the line at Blu-ray, they hired Intel to create a throughput protocol that could not be hacked, HDMI with HDCP. To see and hear the highest resolution, you trade off your rights to do with it as you please, even for your own use. Its the ultimate example of DRM. I think its worth it, there are 125 million Blu-ray players now deployed around the globe, the ability for our favorite bands to create this new protected content brought some out of retirement, the Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac among them. With their copyrights protected, they can play live shows and earn a living again.

                    • January 15, 2016

                      dalethorn

                      Not really – fair use had a lot to do with sampling and stuff unrelated to archiving one’s personal collection of purchased music. The law now is pretty much common sense or common law – take your pick – just as the homeowner in most of the U.S. has the right to kill an intruder into his or her home, the music owner (i.e. purchaser) has a right not only to defend their purchase against the deterioration of the physical media, but they have the right to play that music on their various devices, as long as they use only one device at a time, and don’t violate any sharing laws.

                      Think about what a music buyer is purchasing – a disc worth 50 cents or less, or the music – i.e. the right to play the music wherever and whenever they please. The tying of the music to a specific physical media was ended for all practical purposes years ago, with certain important stipulations – among which are if a CD owner sells or even gives away the CD, he or she no longer has a right to possess the music ripped from that CD. If the CD were said to be lost or destroyed, and the RIAA suspected some shenanigans there, they might at least demand a proof of purchase.

                      Some of the institutions in the U.S. who add confusion to these issues are restaurants and other service places that play music on their stereos or PA systems, and college dorms where music sharing is rampant.

                    • January 15, 2016

                      bob rapoport

                      Actually today we pay for the resolution; MP3 quality is virtually free because the dynamic range is compressed 10 to 1. The record labels know people are ripping their CDs to their hard drives and portables, they are OK with that as long as nobody tries to make money selling them. CD resolution is lossy, so is DVD, compressed 4 to 1 and 2 to 1 respectively. Only Blu-ray offers a one to one copy of the original and its encrypted on the disc behind the security protocol called HDCP, without an HDMI connection and authentication, you wont hear it, you’ll only hear the default lossy version. These are the facts Dale, as the Borg used to say, resistance is futile. 🙂

                    • January 15, 2016

                      dalethorn

                      For me and millions of hirez users, the 96K Flac downloads like I got just today (Bach Mass in B Minor) will serve our needs well, and automatically back up to our archives. So these hirez downloads circumvent the physical media, and since they’re used in the same format that was purchased, the RIAA etc. have no issue (even though they’d prefer to DRM those as well.

                      In your case, you have an upscale technology linked to physical media, and while you’ll undoubtedly make some money from it in the next year or so, here’s some advice from a guy who developed new computer technology before most of the gurus in this business today: Don’t put too many eggs into that basket – virtual media is here to stay, and even in the niche markets, devices will change and device-dependent markets will get shaken up or eliminated. Unless you’re Apple (sigh).

                    • January 15, 2016

                      bob rapoport

                      I hear where you are coming from Dale, however the sensory experience of seeing your favorite artists actually at their craft making them music in high def and hearing them in hi res simultaneously is so sublime that millions of music lovers now have adopted this format with the next generation about ready to start shipping, 4K UHD. I have a large projection system with 111″ diagonal screen, electrostats in a 5.2 channel set up. I was an early adopter of this technology and a leading advocate for the adoption of the Blu-ray standard from my days working with DTS, I introduced the first DTS decoder for home systems in ’97 with Brad Miller of MFSL.

                      Operas and classical music are best sellers on Blu-ray, watching the conductor from the musicians perspective on stage while he communicates with his musicians cannot be done at even the live event so most of us think of Blu-ray concerts as a new artform, the emotional intimacy is beyond words. In any case, you should get a demo somewhere, you dont know what you’re missing. This is the last tangible format, its how the artists are surviving now, worthy of your support.

                    • January 15, 2016

                      dalethorn

                      I hear ya -skeptical or not, experience or not, I’ll suggest my contacts look into this, for the simple reason that it has HDMI as a window into a higher technology. It’ll be interesting to see who adopts it – how the actual user reports come out. I know there are some already, but I’m going to be more interested in new users now that it’s landed here.

        • Reply January 25, 2016

          ohm image

          Before I piss off from this part of the thread (something I should be doing now) I want to address a few false assumptions:

          1. “It’s too bad you never got around to trying the upsampling feature”

          – I did try it.

          1.a. “increasing the bit rate to 24 from 16 and increasing the sample rate from 44.1K to 96K/192K actually does improve the sonic quality and detail of low resolution sources”

          – No it does not. In the absence of introducing missing information back into a file (not even possible), there is no such thing as increasing sound quality. Subjectively, the sampling system _may_ sound better _to you_, or another person (as you noted). It may not. That is the nature of sound, whether objective or subjective. You either face the facts of objective SQ, or you go with what suits you. But doing the latter, it isn’t smart to preach about SQ when in reality what you are preaching is personal bias. It has nothing to do with objective sound quality. It is impossible. Anyway, there is no reason to get into it in a 1500 word essay. Headfonia isn’t the place to deal with pseudoscience.

          2. Steven Stone’s review.

          – I don’t care about other subjective reviews. If they correlate with mine, good. If they do not, just as good. They are all subjective. It’s like you and me discussing my sweater. Is it red enough? Not red enough? Is it more orange than red? There are ways to scientifically dissect the issue and point us to the truth of the matter: the mix of colours, the ratios of them, how dye reflections is affected in sunlight or under the tungsten lights of a pub, etc. But you saying you like it and I saying I don’t reflects nothing of the truth. Ditto with Absolute Sound’s reviews, which, like most audio reviews, are completely subjective.

          – I’d love to see the proof that upsampling reduced electronic grain and edginess (whatever they are).

          3. We do share that passion. I just don’t share a passion for nonsense. Of course, I haven’t the method, the knowledge, or the money to make a truly objective set up and bypass my ears. Even if I did, it would be silly to. Enjoying music is personal and subjective. But me enjoying DAC A over DAC B does not make DAC A better. It means that I prefer it. So, while I agree that music is (a) essential part of life, I do not agree that it is essential to conjure magic, and trump up certain features that do absolutely NOTHING to affect actual objective sound quality. I will not dilly dally on the subjective nature of 88,2kHz over 44,1kHz, making truth claims that it actually improves the sound of MP3s. Why? Because it is, from an engineering standpoint, a measurable standpoint, and from a common sense standpoint, patently false.

          • Reply January 25, 2016

            dalethorn

            “No it does not. In the absence of introducing missing information back into a file (not even possible), there is no such thing as increasing sound quality.”

            I seem to remember that uprezzing a small photo with the right software can make a better print – not by adding ‘new’ info exactly, but by reducing the pixellation effect, simply by having more, carefully interpolated. One could make an argument against such things sonically based on a given software, but I’d guess there are some who could make improvements, although perhaps not with every track.

            • Reply January 25, 2016

              ohm image

              Just like up-ressing does nothing for the original file but interpolate output data (which is aberration) an up-sampled file isn’t improved. It is actually the inverse of that. Again, subjectively, a person may prefer it, or the may not. But the file is not improved.

              • Reply January 25, 2016

                dalethorn

                That sidesteps what I said. I’m not suggesting an improvement in the source file etc., I’m suggesting in the photo example analogy that uprezzing avoids pixellation, ergo an improvement in the print, i.e. the result or experience. I have no doubt that uprezzing audio may improve the experience in some cases, when not uprezzing produces a negative experience due to players not having a proper virtual container for the data. Some players may already have such issues solved, or mostly solved already. I don’t intend to dive into it at this point, since I think the problem is mostly solved for most people anyway. But the theory is just as sound (heh) as in the photo example.

                • Reply January 25, 2016

                  dalethorn

                  A more extreme example of uprezzing (which you may know under a different name) is how the horrible-sounding Caruso voice from early mechanical 78 RPM records became the much better sounding Caruso from Caruso 2000 and so on. Ignoring the substitute orchestra of course. If (!) uprezzing software were smart enough to interpolate missing information without all of the tedious efforts in the Caruso example, and also reduce or eliminate distortions, the experience would be much better. And as the years go by, things will get better with such technology, for the average audiophile.

                  • Reply January 25, 2016

                    dalethorn

                    In the 1970’s, the “Soundstream” computer process did the first level of restoration of Caruso’s voice, with the original instruments. The voice sounded quite distant, tinny, and muffled. The year 2000 computer process eliminated the scratches and distortions, but even though the voice was much better with some body, it still lacked realism due to a lack of highs. My understanding is that we’re just a handful of years away from being able to restore the highs, so that we will have a good facsimile of his voice. All recordings are facsimilies of course. And since all microphones sound different (as do speakers and headphones), who’s to say that that future restoration is any less honest or accurate than modern recordings? But I’m not looking to do that type of restoration myself – I’m looking forward to the time when I can play Bruckner’s 9th by different orchestras, where one orchestra sounds much more distant than another or much brighter/duller, and at least partly compensate the differences so they’re in the same ballpark. To make that worthwhile, I need either to be able to save those settings per recording *and* be able to transfer them to different players, or more likely, be able to apply the settings permanently without otherwise lowering the quality of the track. The really awesome thing about living in this age is, there is no limit to the amount of improvements and progress we can make.

                • Reply January 26, 2016

                  ohm image

                  I forgot that you are a enthusiastic camera nerd. Touché! Oh, naturally, up-rezzing (uprezzing?) helps when making large prints, but digital audio analogies and digital photography analogies do not work. ‘Resolution’ in both are mutually exclusive: where in digital photography, it is determined by the combination of sensor and lens to extract as much detail from an analogue target as possible, in digital audio playback, the source file is the medium, and its quality can’t be raised or lowered. The recording/mastering phase is where a digital camera analogy _might_ work, as it is the creation phase.

                  But you are right about compatibility, and are right to say that ‘the problem is mostly solved for most people anyway’. Prior to this ridiculous thread, what I knew about up-rezzing was purely theoretical, and, though Bob assumes I did not, anecdotal.

                  But I’ve gone back over up-rezzing from the point of view of audiophiles, and find the opinions about up-rezzing silly. They are based on nothing but anecdotal experience. Sure, if it makes a person feel better, it will be better for them. That of course is the experiential element. There is no problem with that. In fact, I claim in many reviews to appreciate slow low pass filters, etc., even though they introduce their own aberration. But I would never claim, as some audiophiles (and Bob) do, that such filters improve the sound quality. They may or may not improve a person’s subjective experience of the music. But in every measurable way, they reduce the quality of the music as it is measured against source.

                  Finally, I enjoyed the pun. Thank you.

                  • Reply January 26, 2016

                    dalethorn

                    It appears we’re talking apples and oranges. I am aware that the theoretical resolution cannot be upped in some sense that you understand, but I suspect that your thinking is very limited on this. Remember colorizing movies? Not good in the early days – better now – much better in the future. Police agencies are able to uprezz photos and films, often with spectacular improvements. You can argue technical truth on various sides of this, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The eye-brain and ear-brain have certain limitations, and are subject to illusions. For instance, we literally see upside down. A bright area in a photo adjacent to a dark area may make it difficult or impossible for most viewers to see detail in the dark area, as a peak in the headphone adjacent to a recess can make some data in the recessed area essentially inaudible. EQ works, period, and degradation theory has to take a back seat to end result in appropriate circumstances. Same with everything. If the playback of a low-res track is perfect at 128 kbps, then what’s happening? Is the music player setting the playback channel to a matching low resolution, or uprezzing the data to 44 khz WAV format on the fly? Can we say exactly what happens with all players, and that all of those that play the track ‘perfectly’ sound the same? I’m skeptical, to say the least.

          • Reply January 26, 2016

            bob rapoport

            Its clear to me and I think your readers too that your responses to my comments have been rude and mean-spirited even after I apologized to you for perhaps over-stepping the traditional boundary when it comes to manufacturer’s responses to a review during the fact-checking process. You are obviously not an audiophile, if you cant hear the difference between 16 bit and 24 bit or sampling rates between 44.1K and 192K, you insult all audiophiles by your insistence that there is no difference to be heard. I should have known better than to submit my product to you in the first place, when it comes to hearing hi resolution, it takes a system capable of reproducing the full dynamic range of the original master recording, no headphones I know of are capable of reaching those peaks and sound pressure levels. Instead of arguing, we should have reached that conclusion together, not traded insults.

            The readers of your review will reach their own conclusions about both of us and how we comported ourselves in our commentary after the review. You clearly liked the HDACC and thats good enough for me, all your negativity and nit picking was borne of your ego because you were mad me personally for correcting your first version of the review. Most of the reviews that cross my desk contain errors of fact because most of the reviewers dont take the time to read the owners manual. You even bragged about that fact in your review, telling consumers they didnt have to read it, which for me raised a red flag at the start. I called that unprofessional and remain convinced that your readers are ill-served by that kind of advice.

            For the headphone listeners, the HDACC has a combination of features that cant be found on any other DAC / Headphone Amp at 2x to 3x the price, including HDMI, A to D conversion, selectable impedance matching, and most importantly, a way to make all their low res content sound better, regardless of your opinion, there is universal consensus about that within the audiophile community. Thanks again and now please return the HDACC to me with the Fedex shipping label I provided.

            • Reply January 26, 2016

              ohm image

              Bob,

              The HDACC will be sent back to you this week.

              I wasn’t the one that attacked another with base assumptions. From the first, that was you. I didn’t write my review, or any response, based on poison pot fallacies, that was you.

              Nor did I make hasty generalisations about your experience, or about the HDACC. In fact, my conclusion is very positive, as is the entire review. But I will make an assumption: what constitutes a ‘review’ to you must be a basic advert. I read every single HDACC review I could find and not one was specific about any level of performance. Every single one was essentially an expanded spec list with typical audiophile-ese thrown in.

              (Audiophile-ese means nothing. I could write about the spaces between and the lush, inter-transcendentalness of frequency mulch all I want, which is what most audiophiles do. They write the same review every single time. There are many places where I fail as a reviewer, but I try to use real language that’s tied to observable, testable reality.)

              Vis-a-vis upsamplig: I didn’t say there wasn’t a difference to be heard. I said: “It has nothing to do with objective sound quality”, which was reply to your statement: “increasing the bit rate to 24 from 16 and increasing the sample rate from 44.1K to 96K/192K actually does improve the sonic quality and detail of low resolution sources”, which is objectively unverifiable. At best it is anecdotal evidence. Again, it is my green versus your green. That isn’t to say that your green is worse, or mine better, but to each his own.

              I take serious issue with your assertion that my responses have been rude. Apart from suggesting that you may or may not strong arm reviewers, I made no assumptions about you or your product. I gave it phenomenally good words and backed it up with (admittedly amateur) objective measures.

              I do this EVERY review. Last week, I reviewed Dunu earphones, which I took much more issue with than I did with HDACC. I have no idea what you typically read, but again, I must assume that you only read advertising sites that don’t review, but blow out gee-whiz articles.

              I made it clear that the physical problems with my unit were issues with my unit. You took issue with that, going so far as to call it impossible. You even attacked my personal credibility as a journalist. I replied that I am not one. But, if the job of a journalist is to present all sides, I submit that I am far more a journalist than the advertisement re-writers in the reviews you quoted me to attack this review.

              Finally, it was your choice to call this review out. I’ve spoken to at least one other reviewer about HDACC. We both agree that it sounds good. But we both agree that your handling of the reviewer borders on gladiatorial. If you want to be judged by the community, you need to post a c’est la vie attitude. Again, I reviewed HDACC far more positively than I review a lot of gear. It isn’t my review that is at fault. It is the plethora of advert-in-camouflage reviews out there that splash sites, or publications you frequent.

              That isn’t my problem.

              HDACC is a very nice product. At 500$ it is a bargain. It isn’t perfect. No device is. And in light of that, it is only fair to point out the imperfections not only that I spotted, but which you belligerently said didn’t or couldn’t exist.

              For your pleasure:

              http://ohm-image.net/opinion/audiophile/geometric-porridge-essence-hdacc

              • Reply January 26, 2016

                bob rapoport

                Insulting the journalistic integrity of Mark Fleishmann, Steven Stone, and John Gatski is not smart Nathan, its says a lot more about your ego than their ability to write a review that reflects more than simply the marketing hype of any manufacturer, yours truly notwithstanding. I try to keep my marketing limited to the features and benefits as well as reflect my own personal experience with the product involved, be it a speaker, amplifier, or DAC. I’m not selling snake-oil or over-charging consumers, my products represent great value and performance and on that you agree so lets just leave it at that.

                Your pictures indeed show an offset on the LED sensor and volume knob, no question about that. I am surprised to see that, we take a lot of pride in not letting units like that out the door and I want to assure your readers that your sample’s flaws are not common place. I would expect any consumer who received a unit like that to return it for a new one and I would honor that request. I am sorry you had to be the guy who got that one, the last thing I would do is knowingly send a review sample with those flaws to anyone. My bad. I was defensive about it because its so rare, I had a hard time believing you but the proof is there to see now, if you had sent me these pics at the start I would have replaced your review sample right away like I proposed. But you didnt send the pics till now and I got defensive about it like any parent might defending their child from un-kind remarks about their looks. I regret we got off on the wrong foot over this too.

                Suffice to say, most manufacturers will speak up to defend their products when they think a review is in-accurate or the conclusions reached unfair. In this case, I liked your overall conclusions except for a few quibbles and so I spoke up about those. It was your choice to go public with our earlier correspondence, which in my opinion was published to make me look bad after I apologized to you privately, it was un-neccessary to try to embarrass me, mean-spirited and un-kind as well. I’ve spent my whole life in the industry and for the most part had good relations with audio journalists. I’ve learned the hard way that some writers try to make themselves look smart at the expense of the manufacturers, hoping perhaps to burnish their credentials with their readers, which is what I suspect was going on here.

                Lets call a truce now, further argument is not going to do anything to aid the readers, maybe they will find it entertaining to read but I think it will do nothing except make both of us look silly. Peace out.

                • Reply January 26, 2016

                  Headfonia_L.

                  I understand both Nathan and Bob defending their different positions here but there’s a line. I still need to read upon everything you guys have written to see if this line was crossed, so for now I’ll lock this thread. Get in touch with me if needed. Lieven.

  • Reply August 7, 2017

    Alfy

    Headfonia is certainly not the only site to have had a run-in when reviewing the HDACC…

    http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/2014/05/blu-ray-audio-with-the-essence-hdacc-part-2-192khz/

    • Reply August 7, 2017

      dale thorn

      I read the linked review, which was surprisingly positive. Unless I missed something, the negativity was entirely in the personal communications between the reviewer and the product rep.

      • Reply August 7, 2017

        dale thorn

        BTW, this thread was locked before today’s comments. I wonder if it was accidently unlocked when changes were made to the forum’s software.

        • Reply August 7, 2017

          Alfy

          Yes, I was talking about the personal communication, just wanted to point out the issues Nathan had here could be found elsewhere (I found a couple more examples, all of which seemed very surprising considering the equipment itself does indeed generally get overall positive reviews).

          And I did notice the thread was supposed to be locked from the comments, but as I was given the option to post… I did! Sorry if I should not have. 🙂

          • Reply August 8, 2017

            dale thorn

            It was interesting to me, the quality and quantity of the differences in those communications, between the reviewer you posted the link to, and Nathan in this review. Nathan certainly made it clear about the contentious exchanges, but he gave the impression it was well under his control. What the other reviewer described sounded like the situation was way out of control, with occasional assurances that just didn’t seem reassuring.

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