DACs and the placebo effect

I have recently experienced some portable DACs (Fiio Q1 Mark II and BTR5) and compared them with my iPhone 6s line out.
Certanly, the power that the amp brings is much better than the iPhone 6s but is the DACs any different?

I have to say that I can´t hear any substantial differences.

This video asks the same question.

What do you think?

This is the 3rd time this video has come up


So far, what I’ve learnt, is that this guy isn’t trustworthy with his reviews. About the dac, maybe your headphone/iem is not high end enough to pick up the ‘noise’ aka the difference between the devices you’re using. A dac is important. But if you had to classify gear in order of importance. First comes the headphone. Second comes the amp. Third is the dac.


Anyone seen benchmarks of any DAC using a proper Audio Analyzer?

Not saying every small YouTube guy or audio blogger should have a U8903B, just curious.

I have, but it was in industry and they are not released to the public

It’s mainly if you have a good enough dac in the budget area, focus more on amps (and of course your headphones and source material). Large dac differences mainly start to only really happen in the higher end range imo (perhaps around 600 and up?)


i wonder why the dac isn’t the one that should be having the different sound instead of the amp… the dac is basically an equalizer and gives you higheer fidelity files… i just wanna know if buying an amp/dac for my computer is snake oil

The headphones I used: HiFi Man HE4XX - Tin Hifi T2 - KZ ZS10 Pro - Shure SRH440

The dac is what actually recreated the analog sound so I would say it’s one of the most critical parts of digital audio lol. It’s just that we have been able to offer higher preforming dacs at lower prices now to the point where you have to jump higher to get a better sounding dac. Also typically the analog components play a large role as well inside the dac besides the actual chip, so the quality of those can really determine the quality. The implementation is what counts, you can take a mediocre dac chip and implement it extremely well and have great sound, and if you take a higher end dac chip (this is assuming sigma delta) and implement it poorly the results will be mediocre


so basically just stick with onboard laptop shit until i get good enough headphones or enough money for a difference? (my laptop only has 16/44.1 so i am not hearing the most out of high res files or any 24 bit)

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That depends on how good your laptop is and what headphones you use. Since you use the 58x it’s not that amp picky. An amp and dac will help for sure, but with the 58x it won’t be night and day. I think if you did want an improvement, getting something like a magni heresy and running it from your laptop as a dac might be worth looking into

A good dac will improve cd quality audio as well not only high res performance. Some totl dacs by some companies top out at 16/48 khz

not enough space for a magni on my bed… that why im hoping for a portable DAC for that… the only headphone i know would be impossible to drive on a amp/dac like that is the argons which sucks because they seem good for me (also i noticed basically nothing with my dragonfly on M50s)

You could get them moving well on a xduoo xd05 which you can find for around 140 direct on eBay. Also the xd05 is pretty nice, and looking for a used ifi idsd micro (non black label) could be an option

depends on future stuff like what formats i’d need (i might move to tidal and join the weirdness of MQA) or what headphones i would buy (i need at least one closed back)

I think that’s kind of the ‘key word’ here… a lot of people probably over-state the differences. No DAC after a certain point is going to make any sort of real major difference, I don’t think. It’s just part of the hobby, and being super anal and looking for tiny differences (Which could very well be placebo in many cases). It’s just like a slightly different seasoning on a meal… most people are not going to care or even tell a difference. IMO, the iphone 6s is pretty good for what it is and plenty good enough for most people. Lol

But for people into the hobby, it’s just ‘fun’ trying different DACs and looking for differences… whether or not it’s placebo doesn’t really matter. You perceive a difference, then you’re perceiving the difference. Definitely never stretch your budget or take out a loan for any of this stuff.


Hi there,
to be honest if you say from the beginning that you see no difference for the mobile Dac’s.
Then it honestly doesn’t matter what you take for you.
Only the technical would be important to note that it plays at least on 16/24 bit and 96 khz would be the minimum. If it is still 192 khz it can also be okay. But everything that’s about it is just marketing, to help the cow To name.
I don’t really want to go deeper DSD is certainly great and an experience, but nothing more, that says everyone and everything that goes above 192 khz, many listeners couldn’t tell the difference, between 96 khz and 192 khz, but rather only one Handful of people.
Everything that goes over it is probably also needed for DSD.
Another thing is again the source of the music, file format, resolution, quality ect ect.
As long as the Dac meets the standard 16/24 bit and can convert between 96 and 192 khz, that’s okay, it doesn’t need much more if you want to be mobile anyway, and that’s better than what the cell phone can do, where only a maximum of 48 khz The only difference is that the Dac improves the signal and resolves it better if it can upscale, which would still be important when buying.
if only information is given that it only plays up to 192 khz then this is the maximum resolution. That means in reverse you have a file that plays back 48 khz then the Dac plays it because it has no upscaling. With upscaling it calculates you the file is as high as you have set it or programmed in house, so you will not hear any difference because your Dacs are not upscaling, that would be an explanation.
You would hear a difference between 48.96 and 192 khz. Especially in the 48 khz range to 96 khz you can hear it clearly. At 96 khz to 192 khz you have to listen a little more sharply. But you hear it, but then it stops at 300 I don’t hear anything upwards anymore, for example, DSD is a completely different kind of musical experience, the question is whether you need it, I personally am not because the differences are quite small for me I tell it to me It is not worth spending more money on streaming providers who are only out for the money. And a lot of titles, especially the older ones, are hardly there if they sound a bit unemotional to me and break it more than what you experienced in childhood, for example. But that’s another story and my view of it. See if you can set the Khz and bit depth on the mobile phone. For example, on the PC, just set the maximum resolution and listen again. If then standard 16bit / 48 khz was set and you could change you will hear the differences for sure.

also tbh when you know the science of nyquist shannon and the audible range of human hearing its hard to believe that a higher quality DAC or higher frequencies will really do anything

its hard not to believe something is snake oil when science is involved


For me it doesn’t matter if it is placebo or not. If I or anyone else has the funds to purchase something perceived as audibly pleasing, then it really doesn’t matter much.

It’s like the movie Shallow Hal, if what he sees is Gwyneth Paltrow, who is to question him…don’t be Mauricio and ruin it, lol!

I agree with this now. And I question Oluvs hearing. He compared the He4xx and hd800S and picked the He4xx…

has nothing to do with science, he says for himself that there is no audible difference, the question is why? Is he hearing badly? Is it related to the settings? Is it the structure of the device?
These are things you can also read on the Internet, where they are explained in more detail.
And in fact it is also that there are enough Dac’s that do not upscale by themselves, but you have to set it up manually only then upscal it. It was also a thing that I had to learn myself, whether there is a difference to 48,96,192 You actually do khz by yourself. It doesn’t take long either. Well, it’s the little things that make the difference. But we’re human beings who are lazy. That is the nature of the matter. The computer only does that what you tell him is actually stupid. And that’s the same with electronics. A film will only be recorded if you have told your receiver. Before you go to the snake oil seller, you should know a little bit about the theory You also quickly in peace. I know that even those who don’t know how to operate a device Yx only tell you how good it is and what it can do. No one shows you anything today. Either you understand it or stay stupid But maybe that’s what is wanted because of society.