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Meier-Audio CORDA Aria - Page 5

post #61 of 235
Wow! Thanks for the quick review saint.panda, this is so tempting. Such maddness, like many I just dropped cash on the Grado HF-1 last month, paid for the RSA Hornet this month and now I'm looking at dropping more on the Corda Aria! Must fight the urge to buy another amp until at least November!!

My only concern is how well the Aria pairs up with my Grados. I guess I'll have to drop Jan a few lines then quit Head-Fi until after Xmas!
post #62 of 235
Wow Tao, I'm impressed!

Quote:
Originally Posted by saint.panda
Marcel and I did some extensive comparisons with a Dynamight and it does seem like a very unfair comparison at first, $400 vs. >$2000, but still a valid one imo. In any case, we used three different sources (a McCormack UDP-1, a high end Dodson DAC and my custom cd player) and source differences were more apparent on the Corda than with the Dynamight. Does this tell something about neutrality or accuracy? I don't know but I did wonder why the Dynamight sounded pretty much the same regardless of the source used and I doubt it's a matter of impedance mismatching.
Indeed, and I was very puzzled about this isue. The DynaMight simply sounded like the Dynamight, independent of the source!

Quote:
As expected, the Dynamight did things like soundstage, transient response, bass impact or resolution better but I found the Aria prototype to be the more musically involving player, a bit warmer and with what seemed like a better sound integrity or coherency.
I agree on this.

Quote:
...you just can't deny the Dynamight's greatness in the bass. Summing up however, I found it to be somewhat cold and detached sounding most of the time.
In fact there wasn't a single moment where I was really impressed by the Dynamight's presentation: much too cold and uninvolved/uninvolving.

Quote:
I think a Dynamight with a different tonal voicing would be spectacular.
I think it already is kind of spectacular as it sounds now -- but I'm not obliged to be impressed anyway, am I? The Aria (prototype) on the other hand is exemplary for an unspectacular sonic presentation. It even doesn't have the HA-2 MkII's omnipresent smoothness which can sound so appealing and offers that special «high-end» feeling. Its own characteristic is a bit drier -- and more accurate instead! This may be the right place to elaborate on the Dynamight's effective «technical merits». Although it certainly gives the impression of high accuracy, resolution and control, how much does its output signal have in common with the input signal? Remember: an amp ideally should be an amplifying piece of wire, not a euphonic effect device! But how can the deviation from the original signal be verified? Well, it's not that hard to do...

Paragraph for the technically interested
...all you need is a stable low-impedance (> 200 ohm) line-out from a DAC or CDP. Now connect a pair of 300-ohm Sennheisers to it (of course you need a matching adapter) and maybe a 500-ohm potentiometer. You can renounce the latter and choose a low-level music passage on a CD or use your DAC with your soundcard (...or just your soundcard) where you can adjust the volume level. And now compare the two signal paths -- one directly from the line out and one through the headphone amp (ideally by means of a splitter cable to be able to have both amp and headphone adapter attached to the line out at the same time). Now the question is: How does the headphone's relatively low impedance affect the line driver amp (given that it's designed for loads in the 50-kOhm range)? It can be tested with a second 300-ohm headphone plugged in the headphone adapter attached to the line out in parallel to the amp: Does plugging in... unplugging... etc. affect the sound heard through the headphone amp? If not, you can be relatively safe that the sound heard from the headphone connected directly to the line out represents the original signal -- just modified by the headphone's own colorations.


Interestingly the two most expensive amps I've tested extensively in my setup were the ones with the highest inaccuracy relative to the original signal: RudiStor RP5cav and Dynamight, the latter even worse than the former, although less euphonic in its characteristic, especially due to its uninspiring midrange. Both of them had the property to exhibit their technical or sonic merits in a mannered way and to distract from the music itself. The RP5cav with its sonic beauty (as well as artificial space and drama), the Dynamight with its «resolution» and «control» (with imperative quotation marks in view of the effective inaccuracy).

Quote:
What the prototype did better than the HA-2 MkII was imo a more natural and effortlessly sounding treble. I've always found that compared to the Prehead MKII and other amps like the PPX3, the treble on the HA-2 could sound a bit strained (even more so on the MkI than on the MkII) so I really welcomed the change the Aria prototype brought.
I agree with your findings. It has to be mentioned that it's not the original HA-2 MkII, but a HA-2 updated to MkII level by Jan.

Quote:
Soundwise, there's nothing to complain about at $400 but faced with more expensive and imaginary competition, I think the Aria could use more bass slam and a bigger soundstage (mostly in width). A lot of amps I've heard have a better (and for me that means bigger) soundstage and it's something I'd love to see in a Corda amp as well. The soundstage is very consistent, quite holographic, has good depth and height and is well-focused but I wouldn't mind more soundstage width. The bass tends to be on the leaner side. Some people like that refined tightness but personally I really like the bass slam some tube amps have. This is not to say that the Aria lacks bass but there's always that extra miniscule improvement to wish for.
I partly agree on the bass -- but it's by no means thin or lean. It is a tiny bit less full than the HA-2 (MkII) -- and the direct connection to the UDP-1's line out --, especially in the upper bass, but in turn the low bass seems to come more into its own. I'm not very sensitive to soundstage when it comes to headphones, but I really appreciate an accurate spatial depth of the instrument placement, and I don't notice any shortcomings compared to the direct connection and even think it does a better job than the HA-2. This thanks to its high degree of transient accuracy and its excellent texturing -- that's where it's superior to the HA-2 as well as to any other amp I've auditioned in my setup. Together with a quite neutral sonic balance this makes it the most neutral and accurate amp I've heard.

What about weaknesses? Like the great majority of pure solid-state amps I've heard so far it slightly tends to make the sound harder, less smooth and less liquid. Thus the opposite of tubes which tend to make it softer and more liquid. Whereas the HA-2 MkII -- slightly untypical in this regard -- combines (overly) liquidity with hardness, the Aria prototype manages to sound more organic despite (or because of) its drier, more accurate presentation. In fact it sounds quite a bit more focussed than the HA-2 (MkII) throughout the frequency spectrum, but at first listen it is the less spectacular and less euphonic amp. What's obvious after a while is its higher dynamic contrast -- blacker blackness between the notes. Nevertheless, it still sounds «better» -- in the sense of more euphonic -- than the direct connection. And it reacts extremely well to different cable characteristics -- this could be filed under the positive aspects --, it's easy to restore smoothness and liquidity that way -- although the sound won't correspond exactly to the original signal then. Long story short: It's clearly my favorite dynamic amp to date.

I'm not a dye-hard direct-path advocate. I think in view of the sonic imperfection of the digital format(s) a little bit of forgivingness makes sense, and be it by means of a slight coloration added by the amp. But why should I want to pay thousands of $ for higher colorations and a more spectacular sound than the original signal? My benchmark will always remain the original signal. That's why you'll never see me own an amp that costs more than say $1200.


post #63 of 235
Quote:
Originally Posted by saint.panda
Sure, the Cyrus chip looks better on paper than the TI chip but what does that tell us about the specific DACs in question? Very little in my opinion.
The only thing on the subject I could 'swear upon' is that the more recent 24 bit resolution DACs sound better than the previous 16-18-20 bit ones. Even the lower grade ones will deliver a warmer, richer, more fluid sound with respect to the better 16-18 bit DACs -- at least this is what I seem to have learnt from experience.
post #64 of 235
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jahn
The headphone out can serve as a pre amp line out for your speaker amp - just use a 1/4 to rca cable!
Well, once I tried to replace the pre-amp with one headphone amp, but it didn't sound good... so I just wanna know if Aria has a ACTUAL line-out so sometimes I can use it as a DAC only... and I also care about its sound quality compared with MicroDAC. Does anybody have idea? Thanks.
post #65 of 235
Quote:
Originally Posted by zhengzong
...I just wanna know if Aria has a ACTUAL line-out so sometimes I can use it as a DAC only...
No, it doesn't have a line out.



post #66 of 235
THX...
post #67 of 235
The jacks and voltage switch on that rear view look crooked.
post #68 of 235
Quote:
Originally Posted by JaZZ
It's clearly my favorite dynamic amp to date.
That's just because you haven't heard Kurt's new Black Rose or my Headcode yet.

In any event, I think the Prehead MKII is still notches above the Aria because when comparing the Ha-2 MKII to the Prehead MKII, I could hear the differences right away, especially in the soundstage and treble, but I'm sure a side by side comparison with the Aria would be interesting.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JaZZ
In fact there wasn't a single moment where I was really impressed by the Dynamight's presentation: much too cold and uninvolved/uninvolving.
(...)
Interestingly the two most expensive amps I've tested extensively in my setup were the ones with the highest inaccuracy relative to the original signal: RudiStor RP5cav and Dynamight, the latter even worse than the former, although less euphonic in its characteristic, especially due to its uninspiring midrange. Both of them had the property to exhibit their technical or sonic merits in a mannered way and to distract from the music itself. The RP5cav with its sonic beauty (as well as artificial space and drama), the Dynamight with its «resolution» and «control» (with imperative quotation marks in view of the effective inaccuracy).
Actually, my impressions on the Dynamight are not quite as negative as yours (although I haven't spend so much time with it as you did). In any case, I think it's still a very good amp and as for not being able to tell source differences, maybe there was something we overlooked, I don't know.

Also, with a Dynamight in the house, I could sell off my electrical heater.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrea
The only thing on the subject I could 'swear upon' is that the more recent 24 bit resolution DACs sound better than the previous 16-18-20 bit ones. Even the lower grade ones will deliver a warmer, richer, more fluid sound with respect to the better 16-18 bit DACs -- at least this is what I seem to have learnt from experience.
I still can't agree with this statement.

There are so many more things to consider like upsampling/resampling, power supply, etc. My E-mu 1212 which uses that 24 bit Cyrus is a good source by all means but I've heard countless smoother, richer, more fluid and simply much better sources using 16 bit chips. I mean, what about all the high end DACs and cd players made a couple of years ago? In fact, I'd describe my E-Mu as more grainy and less fluid (amongst other things) compared to my standalone cd player which uses a 16 bit Dac chip.
post #69 of 235
Tao, we can't get over the fact that we're comparing a all-in-one usb-only DAC chip with integrated headphone driver (you could bypass the amp stage!) to a top-spec DAC from a competing brand, can we?

None of the two implementations use upsampling, certainly not the 16bit/48KHz dac of the Aria (would you upsample 16bits to 16bits? ).

And if we begin to talk of computer soundcards, we must start to consider a bigger cause of decrease in performance than DAC resolutions, like switching computer power supplies, lack of shielding from electromagnetic interferences, poorly buffered output stages...
post #70 of 235
Thanks for all the impressions of dynamight. These opinions are helpful to me.

Corda Aria looks so beautiful and i believe it sounds sweet too.
post #71 of 235
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrea
Tao, we can't get over the fact that we're comparing a all-in-one usb-only DAC chip with integrated headphone driver (you could bypass the amp stage!) to a top-spec DAC from a competing brand, can we?

None of the two implementations use upsampling, certainly not the 16bit/48KHz dac of the Aria (would you upsample 16bits to 16bits? ).

And if we begin to talk of computer soundcards, we must start to consider a bigger cause of decrease in performance than DAC resolutions, like switching computer power supplies, lack of shielding from electromagnetic interferences, poorly buffered output stages...
Hm, you may be right. Anyway, let's wait for some sound impressions first.
post #72 of 235
Quote:
Originally Posted by zhengzong
There's no reason why the Aria's headphone output shouldn't be able to perfectly drive a power amp -- with a corresponding adapter or cable. Headphone amps are (more or less) preamps with low output impedance.

post #73 of 235
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrea
16bit/48KHz dac of the Aria
That spec bothers me. All my music is 44.1 khz. Does that mean I'd have to let my computer interpolate to 48 to use the usb dac? I sure hope it will also accept 44.1. . .
post #74 of 235
Dear Headfellows,

"I sure hope it will also accept 44.1. . ."

Don't worry, it also accepts 32 and 44 kHz!

"There's no reason why the Aria's headphone output shouldn't be able to perfectly drive a power amp -- with a corresponding adapter or cable."

True, but be aware that almost any DC-couples headphone amplifier like the Aria will show small offset offset voltages at the output. If your poweramp is DC-coupled then I strongly suggest to add coupling capacitors to the adapter/cable

As for the quality of the DAC. Sure, the chip used is not the very best in terms of sound quality (can't be for this price) but a very carefull implementation really makes the chip sing. It certainly is better than a regular sound card or cheap CD-player.

As for the comments of Jazz and Saint.Panda. I really feel the same as they do with the limitation that I can't compare to any of the other amps they mentioned. I never heard them myself.

Cheers

Jan
post #75 of 235
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrea
None of the two implementations use upsampling, certainly not the 16bit/48KHz dac of the Aria...
From Texas Instrument's data sheet:

Quote:
The PCM2704/5/6/7 has a DAC that uses an oversampling technique with 128-fS second-order multibit noise shaping. This technique provides extremely low quantization noise in the audio band, and the built-in analog low-pass filter removes the high-frequency components of the noise-shaping signal.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jan Meier
"There's no reason why the Aria's headphone output shouldn't be able to perfectly drive a power amp -- with a corresponding adapter or cable."

True, but be aware that almost any DC-couples headphone amplifier like the Aria will show small offset offset voltages at the output. If your poweramp is DC-coupled then I strongly suggest to add coupling capacitors to the adapter/cable.
Thanks for the clarification!


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