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The Storm Pandora Thread

post #1 of 173
Thread Starter 
For all discussion about Ken Law's previous dodgy business practices, please visit the Action Against Storm Digital thread. This thread is ONLY for discussion the Storm Pandora DAC. The other thread is ONLY for discussing the previous problems. Thankyou

Storm Digital is infamous around these parts, and finally after a long eager wait their new DAC has been released on the world. The previous model, the D02, was largely loved by those who owned it or heard it, but it unfortunately suffered from some technical problems.

After a long (and painful for storm fans - i'm looking at you rincewind) time the storm pandora has released. Although few people have yet to receive one, I'm lucky to be auditioning one right now. Those with preorders will presumably receive theirs soon

So, since I haven't had a good listen yet, lets start with the technical details..

Features

The pandora is a NOS dac which uses, in its stock form, 8 TDA1543 chips. The dac chips all sit on a separate board, which is stackable to allow the use of extra chips. At least 16 is able to be fit within the case, but I think the design allows an unlimited amount of boards to be stacked [with the lid off, for example]. The reason to add extra boards is that the TDA1543 seem to work better when many are used in parallel - the more, the better.. but with diminishing returns. 8 chips is largely considered to be the "sweet spot" between good sound and an affordable quantity

Here is a photo of the stacked chips:

[note: the heatsinks are added by COEM. ken's next batch will come with heatsinks attached]

Inputs
- Coax - 32 / 44.1 / 48 / 88.2 / 96kHz (via bnc. it comes with a bnc/rca converter for those of us who use RCA terminated coax cables. BNC is the better standard for low jitter)
- Optical - 32 / 44.1 / 48 / 88.2 / 96kHz
- USB - 44.1 / 48kHz (it does usb-> i2s which i think should make it low jitter)
- AES/EBU - 32 / 44.1 / 48 / 88.2 / 96kHz (i believe this is a spdif connection)
- sync in/sync out (for wordclock? i'm not sure)

The selection of inputs seems to be focused on minimizing jitter.

USB works fine plug-and-play on linux, so presumably it also works on every other system known to mankind

Outputs

it has single ended output via rcas, or balanced output via XLRs



Clocking

The pandora has a number of different "signal synchronization modes". At this stage I'm getting over my head, so I'm not really sure what they do. The purpose is undoubtably to minimise jitter.

Since i'm over my head i'll just do my best to compress the manual

- Crystal clock mode (internal or external)
- PPL (phase locked loop) mode
- asynchronous mode
- word sync mode (master or slave)
- CD sync mode

PPL

"a closed-loop feedback control system is used to generate signal in relation to the frequency and phase of the input. it is complied to the standard of sp/dif"

Crystal Mode

Uses the transport's clock. If a signal lock cannot be achieved it will switch to PPL mode

Word Sync Mode

Pandora has both word sync in and word sync out, so it can be either master or slave for wordsync.

CD sync

The pandora can synchronise with a cd player with bitclock capability. it can use either 16.9344mhz or 11.2896mhz

Asynchronous mode

"this mode is a special method to synchronise the incoming recovered signal at very fast clock. the digital signal latch out the rising edge of the fast clock. you may configure it use internal or external source". yup, no idea what that means.
The signal sync mode can be set as a different item for each different input (eg you could have your coax set to PPL as default and your optical set to async). The screen shows what frequency is being received



Construction

The pandora is slightly smaller than the d02 and has very similar construction. It's made out of thick aluminium, either in silver or anodized black. it. "Mine" has a solid lid, but future production will come with holes in the lid to assist with cooling. Ken runs the chips at high voltage to make them sound better, but it requires heatsinking and venting.

The front display can be dimmed. There are 6 brightness settings, the lowest of which is about as dim as a screen can possibly be without being turned off. I generally like this feature as i hate bright leds and such. Unfortunately the leds stay bright. Ken's maybe working on that

it weights 6.5kg (14.3lb)

Firmware

The DAC has updateable firmware. I think this has to be done by the retailer, but possibly it may be doable by usb.

The internal software can be used to change clocking modes, input and output methods, screen brightness,

Battery

n the d02 there was an internal battery, but to be honest i couldn't hear the difference between AC mode and battery mode. In the pandora there is no internal battery, but it is available as an external add-on. there's a battery input on the rear. I'm not sure if it will make a difference or not in the pandora

Other stuff

There's a phase invert button to, uh, invert the phase.

Only one output can be used at a time (single ended or balanced). it's selectable by pressing the "output" button.

what else to say? So far it sounds very nice.. but impressions will come later.

The d02 was a nice dac, and if nothing else the pandora certainly blows it out of the water for features. i have to give it a proper listen before i say much about the sound
post #2 of 173
Thread Starter 
A flowchart of the menu options, to give an idea of the clocking methods:


The rear of the pandora (top) and D02 (bottom). The labels "usb" and "opitcal" are mixed up, which i believe will be corrected:


closeup of analogue output:


closeup of digital input:


Fairly bad random internal photo (bad camera + bad lighting). It has two clocks (one for 44.1, one for 48):
post #3 of 173
Quote:
Originally Posted by hugz View Post
[B]
what else to say? So far it sounds very nice.. but impressions will come later.
Ahh, the suspense!

What other sources have you heard and is there anybody near you that can also listen to the DAC and post impressions?
post #4 of 173
Haha Yeah Hugz. :P Mine's next to ship! Hooray! It's kinda cool that us Aussies are the first to get in on something for once. When mine arrives, I plan on posting a very, VERY in-depth review. I got kinda chewed out last time for my methods (eg surfaces different DACs were sitting on, as well as the music I used for comparison). I've been waiting for this a long time and very eager
post #5 of 173
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Azure View Post
Ahh, the suspense!

What other sources have you heard and is there anybody near you that can also listen to the DAC and post impressions?
Unfortunately this is where my impressions meet their limitation. I've heard plenty of dacs (in particular pretty much the whole chinese lineup but also many other nice dacs and especially a number of good cd players), I've never heard the benchmark/lavry/stello/et al. Alas, I am just a young aussie with limited access to fancy dacs.

The first storm just HAD to go to a good-for-nothing no-benchmark-having aussie, eh. life sucks huh

I'll be sure to give my impressions of whether i like the dac or not, but for the moment at least this is not the thread to come to if you want to hear if the pandora beats the benchmark dac1. And that will be the limit to my posts. I'll say whether I like it or not, but i dont think i'll compare it to anything. I've just sold my modded dacah and the only other dac i have on hand right now is the d02. I prefer not to do memory comparisons because my memory really isn't that good (and probably neither is anyone elses)

i'm happy to posts as much technical info i can, and photos etc... but no benchmark comparisons, sorry

also i'm largely a 2ch speaker guy, but i'll bust out my headphones for this review (the senns anyway. the alessandros aren't on hand at the moment)

unfortunately there's no one in the area that i really know of who can come around to listen, and unfortunately i'm in the middle of moving houses right now so i dont really have time to mess around with that kind of thing either (thats why i was a bit slow to start this thread.. kinda preoccupied - yes that's right.. the first pandora went to a good-for-nothing no-benchmark-having aussie who is preoccupied)
post #6 of 173
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rincewind View Post
Haha Yeah Hugz. :P Mine's next to ship! Hooray! It's kinda cool that us Aussies are the first to get in on something for once. When mine arrives, I plan on posting a very, VERY in-depth review. I got kinda chewed out last time for my methods (eg surfaces different DACs were sitting on, as well as the music I used for comparison). I've been waiting for this a long time and very eager
i wasn't gonna accept the pandora for audition, but it was too hard to resist teasing you by getting to hear it first

i'm not sure if i mentioned it in the first post, but i should be clear in pointing out that i'm only auditioning the pandora at the moment. I'll buy one later
post #7 of 173
Holy sh*t....
post #8 of 173
Thread Starter 
Just a quick initial impression of the sound..

very nice. the sound is very well balanced so far. it has a real feeling of depth and weight so far. also, the speakers are indeed (as per rincewind's prediction) "disappearing" to some extent, which is quite difficult in my rig at the moment because my speakers are very large but in a small room which is full of big reflective surfaces that emphasise the speakers' positions. soundstage seems big

from my quick initial listen I'd say that i think with the pandora in my setup I'd be happy with my rig for rock/accoustic music etc (my speakers produce very little low bass making them impractical for certain genres of music, at least until i add subwoofers). For a long time i've felt that something is missing from my rig and from an initial listen I think it could now be complete

However this is just from listening to one cd so far (sorry i've been busy again ), so the opinion is subject to change. but so far, so good

i've been listening on:
pandora -> ming da mc67-ha (tube preamp) -> firstwatt f2 (5w solid state current amplifier) -> dallas II (8 inch single driver rear loaded horns)
post #9 of 173
Yeah the Pandora is a damned impressive looking DAC. I would have been modestly tempted by it if the wait time wasn't so dodgy ;p Still, it is affordable enough given the specs to still kindaaa be tempting for an office set up or something.
post #10 of 173
Hey in case anybody did not know this existed:
http://storm-audio.com/j/index.php?o...d=20&Itemid=58
post #11 of 173
Quote:
Originally Posted by 003 View Post
Hey in case anybody did not know this existed:
http://storm-audio.com/j/index.php?o...d=20&Itemid=58
Didnt know about that. Some nice pics and even a PDF version of the Pandora manual.
post #12 of 173
And a new ''budget'' dac too.
post #13 of 173
Is the COEM Audio price the standard price for a Pandora ($1100!)?
post #14 of 173
I wouldn't be surprised, looking at the DAC and it's features. I don't know the exact price but those black clarity caps alone are really expensive.

edit:
I think that price might be in aud, and it is also on "sale" for $1000, and if it is AUD, that would be $860 USD, still expensive. $1100 aud would be $945 usd.

I have sale in quotes because a lot of places list a higher than MSRP price, and then say "but it's on sale" and list the sale price as the MSRP price so you think you are getting a good deal, and then the "sale" just lasts forever.
post #15 of 173
Those fake 'on sale' prices can only be deemed fake on well established product lines where a product has been on sale for ages and every knows what it's RRP is. This is a barely established product line and all prices you see are of course subject to whatever change the manufacturer and retailer see fit. I wouldn't be surprised if the price goes up. I suggest you compare this DAC and it's features to other products similarly priced then consider the comments made here.

BTW: Having compared COEM AU's prices against others for a fair while now, I can tell you with certainty that they don't do those fake advertisements.
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