ASR forums and their $75 dongle DAC ideology

So I made the mistake of coming across a review of the Bartok on this forum called “Audiosciencereview” that is pretty much dedicated to “measuring” audio equipment and then being critical (usually the case) of said equipment due to it measuring poorly vs something a lot cheaper. The review of the Bartok was, well, let’s just say, completely focused on the idea that you can get the same audible performance from a DAC at 1/100’s the price… or even less.

It seems with DAC’s they take a different angle than with speakers or example… they admit that some DAC’s measure better than others, but stand by the “science” that beyond a certain threshold , digital processing is a mature science and all you need (and can hear with your human ear) can be handled by a $75 USB dongle DAC…

Here is just one of their threads where I tried to weigh in with some reason but found myself quickly surrounded by the local villagers with their pitch forks and torches…


You can already see the type of confusion that can affect that type of person. In this case it is a failure to distinguish between DAC ( the digital processor) and DAC ( the component with an analogue output stage). Though admittedly a contributor does raise this issue later in the thread. Unfortunately so many contributors to that forum appear to suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect.


:rofl: I feel for you. Been there, done that. As Pete notes . . … In fairness, I think some of their work contributes to better understanding, but they are themselves blinded and biased by their own prejudice, especially the administrator. Still, when you’ve got “skewer candidates” like Audio Bacon, unarmed personnel abound in that battle of wits.

On the plus side, you will know precisely how long the pitchforks are and the exact candlepower of the torches. :wink:


Yeah … we’re at the point now where one of them is trying to convince me that dCS builds their stuff in the UK, but uses Chinese chips and electronics … something I know to be untrue.

“Dunning-Kruger effect” ——LOVE IT!


:rofl: To an extreme degree.


Reading on ASR is like watching TV show Emmerdale you can just skip a hundred episodes (pages) and you have not missed anything the first page have the same content as page 99.


There is only one way to participate on ASR. You have to stick to their rules, the first one being level matched blind test. If you want to discuss something else, I recommend you go elsewhere.
I participated in a discussion that started out with the usual dismissive comments from ASR diehards, but then actually evolved into something more interesting and even helpful. The diehards simply left the discussion at some point. Some of the people who hang out there seem quite knowledgeable.
Just don’t try to discuss anything that is not numbers based. Statistics and Setup of a level matched blind test usually go down well. Questioning their core beliefs does not go down well. I asked whether everyone was sure that the measurement parameters of the ASR test suite were enough to fully represent the hearing experience. Some people did not appreciate that at all.
It would actually be interesting to take them up on their challenge for a level matched blind test of their favorites (i.e. Topping D90) against some dCS stuff. I am quite sure I could tell them apart easily. But flying across to the US just for that is a bit wild.

1 Like

This is my take on things… if one product sounds better than another product but the test results say otherwise then it’s simply a case of not measuring the relevant parameters that can explain this contradition. In the world of hifi/audio it’s you’re own ears that are the key measuring device and what a set of graphs or table of figures say is largely irrelevant.

they seem prepared to accept that dCS measures well, based on the measurements that stereophile published, but that they’re saying is pretty much any reasonably well engineered DAC, even the $100 ones, made in China, are going to be good enough for what the human ear can detect…

Hard to make an argument with them from a purely scientific perceptive, but I do value the fact that my DAC isn’t made in a sweat shop… that’s for sure.

Amir and his crowd are a kind of sonic nazis…never understand why he posts this stuff. Made a pile of money in the early days of Microsoft so is reasonablly well funded but never understand his animus.


everything at ASR is a self fulfilling prophecy. All his reviews (at least digital) begin with what he intends to find, then he devises a test to find it, then he finds it, then his minions pile on and agree that everything he intended to find is what he found and therefore it is incontrovertible that all digital equipment measures the same therefore it all sounds the same… very simple

If he does hear a difference it is expectation bias so can be dismissed. If there is a difference in a measurement it is deemed to be below the threshold of human hearing so can be ignored.

If you question any of his processes you are viciously attacked by the aforementioned minions. For example, he loves to do a spectrum analysis at a fixed frequency and amplitude as a way to show 2 DACs measure identically, therefore they sound the same. If you point out that music consists of constantly changing frequencies at constantly changing amplitudes and therefore his test does not replicate how the DAC is used they really have no adequate response but you are viciously attacked anyway.

One of their favorite positions is… if you can’t prove that there is a difference, meaning show me a measurement that proves there is a difference, then it is impossible for a difference to exist. If you do happen to show me a difference in how they measure, then prove to me that this difference is audible, They feel that everything about how we hear is completely understood so unless you can provide them measurements to prove otherwise, there is no difference. If you point out we can’t completely explain or measure any of the other senses (touch or smell or taste or sight) so how can we definitively measure how we hear, that really sets them off.

Either join the cult or just don’t go there… their mind is made up. It is entertaining for a while but gets old very quickly.


For me, it’s still entertaining. I find this mindset intellectually challenging. It makes me think. Just as does Archimago, who is far more reasonable and open-minded, though still an objectivist at heart.

1 Like