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DAC Showdown: AQVOX USB 2 D/A vs. Benchmark DAC1 vs. Lavry Black DA10 - Page 2

post #16 of 133
The only thing that doesn't appeal to me about the aqvox is those buttons on the front, it looks real confusing and nonnewbie friendly. Would you say the aqvox is the most musical of the DACs?
post #17 of 133
Very good review, nicely structured
Going to remove the SDS labs amp from the signal chain tomorrow. Is it possible to drive headphones with a pot inline from the RCA of the AQVox - not sure about the output impedance either ?
post #18 of 133

Unbelievably Detailed Review!

My little pea brain is having a hard time comprehending the detail of this excellent review. Nicely done. I like how you state the differences between the components rather then stating this is better with no explanation. Gives me a good reference.
post #19 of 133
I've been looking forward to this review. Very well written. I would like to try the Lavry.
post #20 of 133
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mshan
Could you elaborate, please?

Is it just that the soundstage collapses a little bit, or is it more significant than that?
It's more significant than that, it's some of the thin sound like the headphone amp, where the decay of a note is not all that it should be. The XLR's are fuller sounding. I think folks who critize the DAC1 for being overly thin are either referring to the headphone jack or RCA's.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mecc
Any thoughts on RME AES/EBU in comparison to optical out via toslink?
This depends on how jitter effects the DAC you are using it with. AES/EBU is certainly lower jitter though, because both the Lavry and Aqvox sound better with it than through the optical of the RME. Look in the review for how increased jitter effects each DAC. Considering I was able to build a good AES/EBU cable for the RME for $20>, I think it's definitely worth it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by darkless
Out of curiosity, did you use your XLR-RCA adapter on the AQVOX DAC when comparing it to the other DACs?
Yes, I used the XLR-RCA adaptor for all three DAC's so that I would have an equal basis for comparison.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ferbose
You mentioned using the Hosa adapter for XLR-to-RCA, did you open it up to modify it, floating pin 3? I opened up my Hosa adapters to cut away the wire connecting to pin 3. John Siau, designer of DAC1, posted on head-fi saying if pin 3 is grounded, it will generate noise. When I did not float pin 3, I did not really hear any obvious noise, but it definitely did not sound as good as floating pin 3. I guess the so-called noise is a slight distortion that degrades sound quality.

Another observation I have made is that floating safety ground (third prong in the power cord) with DAC1 makes it sound better. I reemember Neilpeart posting on this as well. Empirical audio also believe DAC1 sounds best when safety ground in the power cord is floated. This is how I always use my DAC1.
Yeah, I modded those adapters as soon as I got them, since floating the inverting channel has always sounded better to me.

I also did float the ground on the DAC1, this is how I have used it for a very long time. I tried the other DACs with the ground floated, but I did not notice any differences.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TVeye
how good is he usb input of the Aqvox (not for an headphone/mic input use but for a standard use with rca or xlr output),did you compare it to your RME pad?

Is the Lavry your first choice for heavy rock too?
The USB input is pretty decent, it's better than what I get from the iRiver, it is probably about as good as an AV710. I think i would use the USB if I couldn't at least afford something like a Juli@ or 0404 as a transport.

The Lavry is my overall choice. Sometimes for not so well recorded rock, the combination of Lavry/Dynahi/SA5000 can be a bit much (in terms of being revealing), but I have the DT531 which is a bit more forgiving/groovy, so it is my weapon of choice when I need that kind of sound (whereas if you use the Aqvox it is a bit more forgiving/groovy regardless of the headphones used), so that way I can control the sound characteristic more easily just by picking which headphones I put on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianS
The only thing that doesn't appeal to me about the aqvox is those buttons on the front, it looks real confusing and nonnewbie friendly. Would you say the aqvox is the most musical of the DACs?
Don't worry about the buttons, the manual clearly explains what they all do, and if you need more description, just contact Aqvox, they are very friendly and informative.

I'm not a big fan of the term "musical," but I guess I would say that the midrange of the Aqvox makes it more "musical" as most people like to use the term, as it is easier to just listen to and forget about, if you have a highly revealing rig (like Dynahi/SA5000), whereas the Lavry points out all the extraneous details (like page turning, chairs rocking, etc.) moreso on such an analytical rig. I would liken it to some of the better tube amps I've heard, though not quite as blatant a coloration. Let me put it this way, it is easier to get enjoyable sound out of the Aqvox, whereas the Lavry can be a bit more demanding of components and recordings, though a bit more rewarding in the end, to me at least.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Daroid
Is it possible to drive headphones with a pot inline from the RCA of the AQVox - not sure about the output impedance either ?
I have not tried anything like that, perhaps contact the manufacturer? Norman told me the output impedance is 120ohms, so it could be possible to drive high-impedance cans from it directly.
post #21 of 133
Thank you for another great review!

Did you get a chance to compare how DAC1 and Lavry drives headphones through XLR (unamped)?
post #22 of 133
Quote:
Originally Posted by TVeye
Very interresting review!

how good is he usb input of the Aqvox (not for an headphone/mic input use but for a standard use with rca or xlr output),did you compare it to your RME pad?

Is the Lavry your first choice for heavy rock too?
I second this question about the quality of USB input for AQVox main DAC output vs. spdif input. I did not get to try the USB input when we compared the DAC's.

BTW, good work on the review, Peter. You obviously put in a lot of thought and effort into it. The most interesting find for me was the AQVox b/c I already expected Lavry to sound as refined and neutral as it did, and I already know the Benchmark well.

I quite agree about the "midrange dynamics" of AQVox. Since my favorite music lives and breathes in the midrange, I am probably more enamored by AQVox than you. It's probably not a coincidence that you favor Sony SA5K and I favor AKG's

I can see playing Emiliana Torrini, Maria Taylor, Feist, Buddy Guy over the AQVox via my tube amp through my speakers and just going, "Ahhhh..."

In addition, AQVox has easier mod potential than Lavry. It looks like it there are some generic-looking ouput coupling caps in there. Something like VH Audio V-Caps there will likely clarify the treble a bit. The PS also appears in need of bigger/better electrolytics, which may improve that bass...
post #23 of 133
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon L
I second this question about the quality of USB input for AQVox main DAC output vs. spdif input. I did not get to try the USB input when we compared the DAC's.

BTW, good work on the review, Peter. You obviously put in a lot of thought and effort into it. The most interesting find for me was the AQVox b/c I already expected Lavry to sound as refined and neutral as it did, and I already know the Benchmark well.

I quite agree about the "midrange dynamics" of AQVox. Since my favorite music lives and breathes in the midrange, I am probably more enamored by AQVox than you. It's probably not a coincidence that you favor Sony SA5K and I favor AKG's

I can see playing Emiliana Torrini, Maria Taylor, Feist, Buddy Guy over the AQVox via my tube amp through my speakers and just going, "Ahhhh..."

In addition, AQVox has easier mod potential than Lavry. It looks like it there are some generic-looking ouput coupling caps in there. Something like VH Audio V-Caps there will likely clarify the treble a bit. The PS also appears in need of bigger/better electrolytics, which may improve that bass...
You needn't really be too concerned with the USB quality of the Aqvox, it's not the type of solution I know you're seeking. It's basically a good work-around for using on many different PC's (if applicable) or if one can't afford a better PC transport, but for ultimate sound quality, it's not the solution.

The Aqvox's much larger case, and less dense circuit boards certainly make for more of a modding opportunity.
post #24 of 133
Very nice review!!!
Next: Lavry DA10 vs. Bel Canto DAC3
post #25 of 133
So Dan Lavry is still not going to respond to whether or not a rotary encoder can be swapped out for that sillyd toggle switch?

-Ed
post #26 of 133
am i correct in saying you said the lavry had more "depth" than the others? Kind of like how i prefer my brother's bose speakers in his car over my harmon kardon. I can feel the music better with the bose, what term would we call this?
post #27 of 133
I'm surprised you found the Lavry less jitter resistant than the DAC1. The "Wide Mode" of the Lavry uses the same jitter immunity method as the DAC1(implementations are different, of course, but the same ASRC IC is employed), but Dan Lavry seems to think the "Crystal Lock Mode" is more jitter resistant than wide mode.

Hmmn.

Is the digital output of the iRiver known to be good?
post #28 of 133
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianS
am i correct in saying you said the lavry had more "depth" than the others? Kind of like how i prefer my brother's bose speakers in his car over my harmon kardon. I can feel the music better with the bose, what term would we call this?
I am not quite sure what characteristic you're getting at with the HK/Bose comparison, but I don't think it is what I meant by depth. The Lavry does have the most depth to the soundstage, in that I could better place instruments in a wide range from very close to me to far ahead of me.

If by "feel the music better" you mean it seems more viceral, you're probably referring to bass impact, which is generally more dependant on your transducers and amplification than the source.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikenet
I'm surprised you found the Lavry less jitter resistant than the DAC1. The "Wide Mode" of the Lavry uses the same jitter immunity method as the DAC1(implementations are different, of course, but the same ASRC IC is employed), but Dan Lavry seems to think the "Crystal Lock Mode" is more jitter resistant than wide mode.

Hmmn.

Is the digital output of the iRiver known to be good?
Well I haven't really tested it in the wide mode much, and the part where I described the jitter resistance part was using Crystal Lock. It's very possible that wide mode quashes jitter as well as the Benchmark does.

As far as I know the digital output of the iRiver is not known to be particularly good, it's just rare that portable players offer a digital optical output, so it has become well known for that feature.
post #29 of 133
yeah i was probably referring to bass impact

i am still debating between the aqvox and lavry. considering i am a newbie to all these connections, i need clarification. i will be using the dac between my emu 1212m and mpx3 which only has rca out. the emu has all sorts of outputs including midi, analog balanced, spdif optical and adat out. i dont know which is the best in my case. all i know is the lavry has xlr balanced out and that would have to terminate in rca to my amp. the aqvox has both rca and xlr. which is the best? a separate pm from anyone would be great or post here if you feel necessary. i just dont want to hijack this thread. thank you
post #30 of 133
Quote:
Originally Posted by Iron_Dreamer
The Aqvox was always used with upsampling bypassed, dithering on, pulse filter, phase normal, and oversampling at 32 (lowest setting, manufacturer recommended).
You are fairly new to this DAC, and maybe you should give some other settings a second chance.
Admittedly I sometimes bypass the upsampling, but most of the time I prefer the upsampling.You might need some time to readjust, it's similar to a noncoloring amp that sounds uninvolving when you are long term used to a coloring amp, but after a few days of uninterrupted listening to the new one the colored presentation sounds weird.
At least with upsampling switched on you actually might get some jitter reduction.Your preference for bypassed upsampling has a side effect : you are bypassing the reclocking, too.
Doesn't surprise me you've found the Aqvox to be much more prone to jitter than the Benchmark, especially when feeded by the extremely jittery USB signal.
Just switch the damned upsampling/reclocking on, bypass the infamous K-mixer by utilizing the recommended third party USB driver, and in case your mobo USB chip is decent (Intel chipsets are generally, others vary) you might find that the USB input option is quite decent.
Well, jitter reduction at it's current state is not perfect, in fact the jitter is kind of transferred to noise and therefor the input signal with the lowest jitter is still the best, but it makes a small difference.
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