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Different sound quality from different playback devices?
Old 13th December 2016
  #1
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Different sound quality from different playback devices?

This is something that has always confused me...

Let's say I play the exact same MP3 on three different devices...
From my laptop
From my tablet
From my audio interface

AND I'm using the exact same headphones each time...

Now even though it's the exact same MP3 file and the exact same headphones, it still sounds different on each to me, the audio interface seems to have more bass, the tablet is not as clear as the other two, etc.

But I always thought that in each case the same signal or sound information would be sent down the wire and the only thing that would make a difference would be if you had different quality headphones...

OR is it the same and am I just imagining they're different?

Please can someone explain this greatest of mysteries??
Old 13th December 2016
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Joeywhat's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
All three are different devices. It's analog audio before it gets to your headphones, and each device is handling it differently which leads to the difference in sound.
Old 13th December 2016
  #3
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
because the laptop sound card, Tablet sound card, and audio interface are all different quality sound cards with different Digital to Analog conversion chips and circuits. Tablet and laptop audio circuits are probably 16 bit vice interfaces that are mostly 24 bit. Hence the reason there is a market for better outboard interfaces.
Old 14th December 2016
  #4
Lives for gear
 
Robo's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Welcome to the world of audio!
Old 15th December 2016
  #5
Lives for gear
 
lestermagneto's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
yes, not all D/A is created equal I imagine! I would imagine my apogee interfaces sound "better" or more "true" then simply the audio out on my computer... but haven't exhaustively tested it..
Old 16th December 2016
  #6
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Yeah this is to be expected. Different analog circuity and D/A implementation. Power supply, jitter, noise, among many other things.


(Wait till you get to sound differences among digital sources/transport feeding the same analog chain.)
Old 16th December 2016
  #7
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Thanks to all who replied!
It's not a massive difference between the devices, though it just surprised me that they weren't identical...
Old 16th December 2016
  #8
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by BertyBert ➑️
This is something that has always confused me...

Let's say I play the exact same MP3 on three different devices...
From my laptop
From my tablet
From my audio interface

AND I'm using the exact same headphones each time...

Now even though it's the exact same MP3 file and the exact same headphones, it still sounds different on each to me, the audio interface seems to have more bass, the tablet is not as clear as the other two, etc.

But I always thought that in each case the same signal or sound information would be sent down the wire and the only thing that would make a difference would be if you had different quality headphones...

OR is it the same and am I just imagining they're different?

Please can someone explain this greatest of mysteries??

Digital Audio has no standards when it comes to levels. Corporate marketing of reduced dynamic range and slightly clipped be accepted as the norm. They tried to make digital have the same delivery as a radio signal.


ok, I will reveal what is the deal. Its the true analog signal. There is nothing wrong what you are doing. it is supposed to be this way instead of the other way.

Consumer gear has dynamic range, but after 2002 the source material was reduced in dynamic range considerably, and in some cases, they clipped the signal.

Transparent limiting method and the brick wall limiting methods that was stealthy introduced in 2002 to try to make the cd's output match the radio's output when they change sources. Thus, they have forced us to reduce the dynamic range by a factor of 10 or clip your signal by 5% to get apparent loudness up because of the changes that happened and most consumers think this more amplitude is a quality improvement and in reality its the exact opposite. Over time consumer gear had to add more dynamic range in the reproduction side to prevent digital source material from overloading. So now the truncated audio signal is at the same respected level as your signal is on your daw. unfortunately if your signal is played through consumer gear it sounds apparently weak because the gain structure has cause a -12db signal reduction. Also when they reduced the dynamic range of a factor of 12 they had to eq out bass stuff. Unfortunately, the consumer gear started to do the bass boost thing but doesn't engage till the signal level reaches up to a point (lack of bass in consumer gear, but not in the studio using the same monitoring headphones)

hopefully that is the illumanatus illustratio you need.

What the record companies did is ruin the CD and digital reproduction format. That is why the format doesn't sell anymore.

Btw your signal would etch better on a record because it actually represents the audio wave. Now, those slightly clipped and hard limited audio signal will have an inverse effect because eddie currents build up in the cutting head causing them not to deflect the needle correctly causing low and distorted audio.
Old 16th December 2016
  #9
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
the artist and everyone else non corporate should abandon brick wall and clip limiting pactices and take back the cd format to 1982 standards, back when they sounded good.
Old 16th December 2016
  #10
Lives for gear
 
DCtoDaylight's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Another factor that no one's mentioned is just plain old amplifier power. Yes, the D-to-A conversion and other signal chain elements will have an effect, but it's also virtually certain that the interface has a more substantial headphone amp in it, with more wattage. That can make a significant difference, especially in the bass realm. And the tablet probably has the least powerful amp of the bunch.
Old 17th December 2016
  #11
Gear Maniac
In all playback devices, the digital audio goes first to the conversion, which produces a very weak signal. This signal goes to an amplifier. The quality of both components play a major part of the final sound. There's a reason studio's spend thousands of dollars on stand alone converters and stand alone microphone amplifiers (preamps). The laptop and tablet would use some generic mass produced chipset to accomplish these tasks, and the manufacturer would weigh the quality vs cost of these chipsets. They usually go for cheaper components because most people would never hear the difference.

For those rare people, such as yourself, that can actually hear the difference, there's companies such as Hifiman, and Astell &Kern that make mp3 players with higher quality conversion and amplification.
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