If you're reading this page and you've never played Skyrim, then stop reading. Now. Go play Skyrim. One hundred or 200 game-hours later, you'll appreciate the remainder of this page...
...or will you? In the game's encoded format (a lossy, compressed, WMA-related format with an .xwm extension), Skyrim's soundtrack is pretty outstanding. But the official soundtrack on CD has a special degree of immersiveness that goes beyond the in-game music (or so my brain seems to think).
So, after you put in your game time, go buy Skyrim's soundtrack, spend some more time just listening to that, and after you catch yourself singing out Dovahkiin! with those 90 voices, you will really appreciate the rest of this page.
The Dragonborn track itself is a Red Book-standard 16-bit, 44.1 kHz file. It is remarkable because of its deep vocals and bass-heaviness, intermixed with high treble female vocals that create an extreme sonic contrast.
Test results (Listener A)
|Run||Actual Device||Guess device||Correct / Incorrect|
|1||Benchmark DAC2 HGC||Benchmark DAC2 HGC or JDS Labs O2+ODAC (uncertain)||(Directionally) Correct|
|2||Realtek ALC889*||Realtek ALC889 (uncertain)||Correct*|
|3||Realtek ALC889*||Benchmark DAC2 HGC or JDS Labs O2+ODAC (uncertain)||Not Correct*|
|4||Asus Xonar Essence STX||Asus Xonar Essence STX (uncertain)||Correct|
|5||Benchmark DAC2 HGC||Benchmark DAC2 HGC or JDS Labs O2+ODAC (uncertain)||(Directionally) Correct|
|6||JDS Labs O2+ODAC||Asus Xonar Essence STX (uncertain)||Not Correct|
|7||JDS Labs O2+ODAC||Realtek ALC889 (highly uncertain)||Not Correct|
|8||Asus Xonar Essence STX||Benchmark DAC2 HGC or JDS Labs O2+ODAC (uncertain)||Not Correct|
Listener A's comments:
As we start our blind tests, I'm not really sure what exactly to listen for. Based on the results above, obviously for an untrained ear it is hard to tell most devices apart. I'm really curious to see if I improve as I listen to more content. From my notes, it seems that the device I subjectively preferred was what turned out to be Asus' Xonar Essence STX (runs four and eight). That is surprising to me. I'm curious to see if that continues to hold true.
*: Tests of the Realtek ALC889 codec marked with an asterisk had a volume level calibration issue that was corrected later. We kept the results in for the sake of transparency, although they should not be considered representative of an actual ability to distinguish the ALC889 from the other devices being tested.
- Turning The PC Into A True Hi-Fi Audio Platform
- Four Devices Tested: From $2000 Down To $2
- Benchmark DAC2 HGC
- JDS Labs O2+ODAC Combo
- Asus Xonar Essence STX
- Realtek ALC889
- Test Setup: Sennheiser HD 800 And AKG K 550 Headphones
- Test Setup: Volume Matching And Testing The Listener
- Test Setup: Cables, Software, And Tracks
- Test Setup: The Blind Testing Process
- Results: Dragonborn / Jeremy Soule
- Results: Soothe My Soul / Depeche Mode
- Results: Through The Fire And Flames / DragonForce
- Results: Get Lucky / Daft Punk
- Results: Symphonic Dances / Andante Con Moto / Rachmaninoff
- Bonus Test: DSD Versus PCM; Billie Jean / Michael Jackson's Thriller
- Why We Need To Test Low-Impedance Headphones Soon
- Why Audio Formats Above 16-Bit/44.1 kHz Don't Matter
- Anything Above $2 Buys More Features, Not Better Quality