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Apogee Duet DAC ROCKS!

post #1 of 525
Thread Starter 
Ok so I spoiled the entire review/impressions thing with the title but I am just that enthusiastic about this new piece of gear from apogee

Apogee Electronics: Products: Duet
The unit itself is designed for the recording musician on the go. The unit is powered by the firewire port and that port also serves as the digital in as well. There are NO other digital inputs on this unit and it is designed for Mac users only. The analog ins and outs are acessed by a breakout cable. The analog outs are 1/4 mono females and are meant to be hooked up to powered monitors for audio playback of tracks you have recorded or to monitor recordings as they happen. There is also a 1/4 stereo headphone jack that produces pleasant but not outstanding sound. I hooked this up to my system with a little ghetto magic from Radio Shack, I purchased cheapie 1/4 mono to rca adaptors from them and then was able to use my regular rca. This unit does not provide balanced outputs.

After a quick download of the software from the apogee site I was up and running.
Right from the first note this bar is a kick but winner. The unit throws a wide soundstage actually wider than my current favorite the Wavelenght Cosecant. Images are incredibly detailed and have extremely defined placement on the stage. Bass is deep and tight and kept suprising me over and over again while I listened to this dac. Now I did switch to a poorly recorded/mastered track Jump (Van Halen) from the hits cd and yes the sibilance and bright highs are oh so present but switch to a good recording Eric Clapton unplugged or Kind of Blue and it sounds killer. This dac reminded me in a way of the Ayre cx7e cd player in that is has great prat with a highly defined stage and killer bass. This to me is saying alot since the ayre is $3k and the apogee is $500.

What could account for such great sound in a small low priced box ?

We'll I don't know too much about components and layout and why certain choices make great sound but my conjecture is

uses just one digital input firewire so it can optimize for this
power is provided through firewire port
is shiney and we all know shiney sources sound better

I have owned the transporter, ayre cx7e, wadia 302, exemplar 2900, apogee mini dac and the wavelenght cosecant and beleive this unit holds its own with this group. It is probably not as good as the exemplar or ayre but I might pick it over the transporter, mini dac or wadia 302
I'll be doing some more listening this weekend but so far I am really impressed by this dac. I am lukewarm on the headphone section as it is ok but not what a typicall user here might be looking for.
post #2 of 525
Quote:
Originally Posted by jp11801 View Post
.......There are NO other digital inputs on this unit and it is designed for Mac users only.
I was about ready to move up from my 0404 USB to a MiniDAC FW, then heard another unit was coming out from Apogee, figured I'd wait (given that Apogee was already admitting problems with sourcing components for the Mini series).......then read the initial release about the Duet........and immediately, the huge disappointment set in.

For a lot of reasons, I need to use a PC-compatible notebook, and I could never justify a Mac for music only. Apogee finally responded to my inquiry that they have no plans on pursuing a PC-compatible version of the Duet, that the MiniDAC is all that they plan on making available for PC users.

I just knew the Duet was going to be a giant killer!
post #3 of 525
that's quite an incredible product. will you be at voltron's next meet? i'd like to take a look at it.
post #4 of 525
The Duet's uses the same converters as the multi-channel Ensemble, but the verdict on gearslutz.com seems to be that the Mini-Dac still has the slightly better d/a section. Some, however, claim that the Ensemble's d/a is just under the Rosetta.

I'm still trying to decide between the Pico and Duet for portable laptop headphone listening, but the Mac-only aspect somehow speaks for the Duet. "Sorry, you can't connect that to your laptop. It's Mac-only."
post #5 of 525
On jp's recommendation I picked one of these up in my never ended quest to find a source as good as the Cosecant for less money. I don't know if I found it but I am closer than I was yesterday. This dac is by far better than the Cayin I auditioned a few weeks ago. This dac is really giving the Cosecant a run for the money. To me it has a slightly warmer sound but still incredibliy detailed. The bass response is to me where it is clearly a winner. I've volume matched as best I can without a meter (picking one up tomorrow) and on every track I play there is very noticable difference. The bass just goes deeper. I mentioned the volume matching because being off a bit can create the illusion of deeper bass so I will wait for the meeter before passing judgment.

It's difficult to get out of my head the fact the Cosecant retails for $3500 while the duet retails for $500. Something this relatively inexpensive shouldn't sound this good. At least that's what I keep telling myself. As I listen, I'm asking myself whether I can live with this sq as part of my system and the answer keeps coming up yes. At the moment I'm going strictly with my speakers but will give Tom H's 650s with my GE Senn cable a try later.

Quote:
Originally Posted by granodemostasa View Post
that's quite an incredible product. will you be at voltron's next meet? i'd like to take a look at it.
There should be 2 at Mayberry on Acid.

Quote:
Originally Posted by saint.panda View Post
The Duet's uses the same converters as the multi-channel Ensemble, but the verdict on gearslutz.com seems to be that the Mini-Dac still has the better d/a section.
I'm not saying they are wrong but as much as I like the Mini-Dac, I don't remember it sounding this good.
post #6 of 525
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tyrion View Post



There should be 2 at Mayberry on Acid.



I'm not saying they are wrong but as much as I like the Mini-Dac, I don't remember it sounding this good.
INHO this beat the mini dac hands down
post #7 of 525
I own both with firewire and they both sing. I give a slight edge to the Mini-Dac but its double the price and upsamples to 24/192 vs. 24/96 on the Duet.
post #8 of 525
Quote:
Originally Posted by jp11801 View Post
INHO this beat the mini dac hands down
Strong words, but you've never lied to me (well, except that one time about the check being in the mail, and the other time about not doing something in somebody's mouth), so you must bring this litle satan box to MOA so I may hear it with my newly acquired MacBook (yes, the dark side is calling me, and it's all your fault).
post #9 of 525
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by agile_one View Post
Strong words, but you've never lied to me (well, except that one time about the check being in the mail, and the other time about not doing something in somebody's mouth), so you must bring this litle satan box to MOA so I may hear it with my newly acquired MacBook (yes, the dark side is calling me, and it's all your fault).
IT will be there at MOA it's a pretty cool albeit limited by the mac only/firewire implementation but given the intended audience (recording musicians) aI can't knock them for it.
post #10 of 525
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jetstream View Post
I own both with firewire and they both sing. I give a slight edge to the Mini-Dac but its double the price and upsamples to 24/192 vs. 24/96 on the Duet.
when you give the mac mini the edge is as a dac/headphone amp or as a stand alone dac out to the singlepower amp you have??

I think the headphone section in the mini was probably better but I like th sound of the dac in the duet.

While the mini can read 24/192 does it upsample? I thought the variable sample rates and word length was because people record with different settings?
post #11 of 525
dac/headphone amp stand alone.

And I stand corrected, below are specs for Mini from Apogee.

Output level xlr’s: 24dBu max (internally or externally adjustable) ultra low impedance, high current drive balanced outputs.
Output 1/8”: +10dBV max (fixed or externally adjustable)
Headphone out: 300mW into 30 ohm
Sample rates: 44.1/48-88.2/96-176/192 . All +/- 10%
Max word length: 24bit
Frequency response: 10-20k +/- 0.2 dB (at 44.1kHz)
post #12 of 525
Perhaps this is an example where audiophile and studio quality standards vary. A representative from Apogee himself said that the Mini-Dac is a step up: link, link. Although the product in quotation is the Ensemble, the converters are also used in the Duet according to Apogee.

Anyways, I'm glad if you guys like the Duet so much. One more reason for me to get one as well and see for myself.
post #13 of 525
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by saint.panda View Post
Perhaps this is an example where audiophile and studio quality standards vary. A representative from Apogee himself said that the Mini-Dac is a step up: link, link. Although the product in quotation is the Ensemble, the converters are also used in the Duet according to Apogee.

Anyways, I'm glad if you guys like the Duet so much. One more reason for me to get one as well and see for myself.
I am not sure why the duet would sound better but to me at least it does. It will be put through its paces at the Mayberry on Acid meet in NorCal next month.
Do you know what dac the duet uses I can't find that information anywhere?
post #14 of 525
It's not quite an Ensemble with 192khz and +4dBu, but I feel your enjoyment. Apogee is one of the reasons I don't leap at all the new dac/amp combos. etc... The icey clarity out of their newer products (Mini is warmer, IMO), goes sweet with a good tube amp; at least, I haven't been pursuaded out of my combo as of yet (longest non-upgrade yet, ha). It's cool that so much is now being offered in such small packages!
post #15 of 525
Quote:
Originally Posted by jp11801 View Post
I am not sure why the duet would sound better but to me at least it does. It will be put through its paces at the Mayberry on Acid meet in NorCal next month.
Do you know what dac the duet uses I can't find that information anywhere?
Hey, if it sounds better to you, all the better. I believe you can just use the dac information available for the Apogee Ensemble. As stated by Apogee, they use the same converters: link (see post #5). Not sure why they have different frequency inputs/outputs.
As for the dac chip in the Ensemble: It's a Cirrus Logic 4272. Link (see posts #2 and #8).

As for the Mini-Dac from a converter-only stand point, it should be super high end because the top end Apogee AD-16X uses the same converters, but the AD-16X also uses a much better clock. Mini-Dac + Big Ben clock = AD-16X, more or less. Too bad that the Big Ben at around $1300 costs more than the Mini-Dac itself.

Could somebody post a real life picture of the Duet? Just to get an impression of the size and how it compares to popular portable headphone amps.

Edit: Just found this audio interview with the same Apogee guy that posted all the stuff above with some comments regarding the Duet and Ensemble. More focused on the recording side of things, but clearly very passionate about what he does.
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