Pros: Very Fast Transients, Good Instruments Separation, Great Headphone amp, Level of detail compared to other units.
Cons: Needs a better Headphone Volume Control
Background: Started listening music on computer speakers 15 years ago. From CD Players to MDs, Vinyls and everything between until i got an Asus Sonar Essence STX ( My first Dedicated Audiophile grade unit ). Since then ive run over lots of audio interfaces and dedicated dacs.
Used Gear for comparission on the DAC side:
UA Apollo Audio Interface
Yulong D18 Sabre DAC
Black Lion Audio Sparrow White
Used Speakers for comparission:
First of all i want to say that my main focus was between the Yulong D18 wich im very used to and the BLA Sparrow DAC both using mainly the Focal SM9 Speakes that have a response of 40hz - 20khz with +/-1dB of variation and that go up to 30hz - 40Khz at +/-3dB.
Ive tryed other gear a bit but ended up cutting them cause they didnt came close to the Yulong and BLA units, also the speakers, these three way Focals really nail everything i need right now.
The link between the DACS and Speakers was done with Mogami cables on the balanced Outputs and Digital coming from the UA apollo via Coaxial SPDIF.
There seem to be all kinds of discussion over the new 32Bit Technology and i will not enter inside this area, only in the sound of the two units.
First the Yulong D18. For me it was a big step over my previous DAC ( D100 ) wich is really hard sounding in comparission to the D18 unit, of course its not a huge thing but when you listen with care and mostly when you listen over all the day you find the D18 much more enjoyable with an overall response that i can only describe as the diference Between an analog recorded sample and a digital synthesizer generating that sample.
The analog sound is more organic in the brain, it glues easily and can hit hard on tremble without hurting your ears because of the natural compression and other effects.
The Yulong D18 is that kind of unit, its organic and beautiful, it really have a sound signature that i can name as a bit heavy handed on the lows with small cut in the Highs, something hard to measure but its there.
The BLA unit on the other hand has a dif approach, the best word for decribing it is Airy. The soundfield is larger, the transients come and go much faster and you can really feel the position and reverb of the instruments without doubt, making the mids a lot less colapsed in comparission to the D18.
The highs on the BLA put the SM9 speakers much upfront of the listener, creating a larger atmosphere that embraces the room, making the sound seem less processed in comparission to the Yulong D18 unit. Of course its not a night and day diff. but its really there.
The Lows were pretty close on the 2 units with both having nailed it up to the taste, maybe the clock doesnt print a dif. on the lows like in the highs ? All i can say on this area is that you could achieve the D18 sound with a small boost on the lows if using the BLA, but i prefer everything flat without any Eqs...
It made me think of how much a DAC can imprint a sound signature in your speakers and in the perception of each person about what hi fi should sound. And from my perception the BLA unit is on another level as it really helps me enjoying more each individual part instead of the whole sound approach of the D18, something hard to explain but would say like feeding the ear with small bits of pleasure instead of the whole meal all at once.
All in All for my tastes im pretty impressed with the BLA Unit, i must say i got this cause ive heard of many high grade producers that handle some of the biggest artists today use these converters.
I can say its up to the hype and that ill be selling the D18 unit soon.