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REVIEW: Keces DA-151 DAC 800+ hours burn-in

post #1 of 311
Thread Starter 
Source: Laptop using FooBar and/or iTunes
Interconnect: ALO Au/Ag Series
Amp: Lisa III, GoVibe Petite
Headphones: SR80, RP21, UM2, DT770 80ohm, Skullcandy Ink'd, JVC Mallows
Burn-In: 800+

My DAC references are against a D1, and Petite. Against the Petite was a little different because I couldn't use it as JUST a DAC, I had to use it as an amp/DAC, then compare my differences when I heard it used as JUST an amp. Considering the Petite SQ doesn't degrade like the Move did when used as a DAC, it made the comparison easier.

Other DAC's owned: Indigo DJ, D1 (rolled opamps), M-Audio Transit
Other DAC's extensive time with: Emu 404, Entech 203 and 205, Audigy NX

The main difference between this model and the previous version is it's SOLELY designed around USB, rather than other inputs. So it's a little more concentrated/specialized. Circuitry has also been revised.

The 1st thing you notice is how SOLID the DAC feels. It comes double boxed. The dark top adds to a clean look while hinting as to what's inside. At night, if you leave the DAC on, the blue led is BRIGHT and shines an "o" on the ceiling.

Set-up is VERY easy, as you turn it on the computer automatically recognizes it as "usb speakers". No hassle, nothing. Just plug and play.

Upon 1st hearing it, the very 1st thing you notice is both how fast it is, and how crisp it sounds. Next you notice how PUNCHY the amp is. It's not colored, but it really does have IMPACT, across the board.

Soundstage and Presentation
You'll notice the DAC sounds VERY open even upon first impression. I was comparing it to the DAC section in the Petite, as well as the DACs coming from my Nano and 4th Gen iMod. It's a very WIDE presentation. Imagine sitting about 5 rows back in a concert, where the music is present upfront, but you feel surrounded by the music. It's especially evident when using Grado's, as the already upfront presentation is even more pronounced. People say Grado's have no soundstage, well, the SR80's sound WIDE. RP21's and DT770's sound fabulous on this DAC. UM2's as usual, nothing new there.

The Keces demolishes the Petite and iPod's transparency. I mean, as it easily should, but the difference is fairly dramatic. Not a hint of warmth, coldness, just completely transparent and neutral sound. I was petty shocked at the difference coming from an iMod...

The highs don't seem as bright as the DACs coming from the like of an Indigo DJ or the iMod/iPods. Don't get me wrong, the amp can SPARKLE, but the highs don't seem to PIERCE your ears like they do from other sources. Which is good for the Grado fans, as the already bright signature would maybe seem overwhelming if it were any brighter than the Petites. The decay is however MUCH MUCH smoother, where in comparison the Petites DAC sounds grainy. Even teh D1 sounds grainy, and it's renown as a smooth DAC when opamps are rolled.

Punchy lower mids. Vocals seem a bit more forward. Nothing out of the ordinary, only noticeable when A/Bing other DACs of obviously lesser stature. otherwise, nothing special here other than how fast it sounds. but this DAC is very fast sounding....VERY fast sounding. it doesn't seem to struggle with even crazy double kicks in metal...

Strongsuit. You'll notice how much more prominent and weighty the bass is when switching from iMod to the PC...it's amazing really. It also really exposes how well your amp can handle the extreme lows, because it seems to handle really deep lows from say, Massive Attack, than it does coming from the Petite or D1. It also doesn't sound quite as grainy. Whenever I would A/B it made the other DACs sound a bit grainy...as expected, considering it's not a portable and it's it's sole purpose.

A nuance I noticed is the bass knob on the Lisa III. Well, not physically the amp, but because the bass is already WEIGHTY and deep, when using the bass knob on the Lisa, anything above ZERO, it distorts it and there is MAJOR flab. I'm talking, close to (not quite as bad but it's a shocker when considering the amp used) blown speaker flab and it messes up everything else, especially in the higher volumes. It's almost like you have your headphones turned up really loud and you hear the ugly bass distortion, but it happens at low volumes and only gets worse as the volume is cranked up. I'm unsure as to why it doesn't do this with other sources, but it's CLEAR when the signal is coming from the Keces. I didn't get the same distortion coming from the D1 or petite. Like i said, it's ONLY when you decide to use that knob. Otherwise, it's fine.

In summary, the other two are completely outclassed, even though they use of the PCM variants, it goes to show circuit implementation is CRUCIAL to the opamps performance. I have no hesitation recommending it as a budget DAC as it's a GREAT performer for the dollar.

If you don't NEED a portable solution, this is DEFINITELY the route to go. If you have the cash, I would get just an AMP, like a Hornet, Headsix, or Petite (or if going DIY, Mini3, XP) and use that for your portable rig, and keep something at home/office like the Lisa III mated with it, or if you don't want to sacrifice, just get a home amp, but the Lisa with ALO Au/Ag cables sounds FANTASTIC and still gives you the ability to take your amp out and about with you, if you don't mind the REALLY STUPID RCA ONLY input and 1/4 output...but it works as a transportable or desktop unit
post #2 of 311
Great review! Thanks...I'm definitely going to buy this, now. Your words only add confirmation to what I had already surmized. Now, I'm also shopping for a home-amp to complement it. I want to match this ,Little Dot MK V "Dual-Mono" Headphone Amp Amplifier! - (eBay.ca item 200200466684 end time 22-Feb-08 08:53:32 EST) to the KECES DA-151, and drive my Grado 225's. I'm betting this would be a great match with other Grado cans, too.
post #3 of 311
Very nice review, oicdn. I've had mine for about 2-3 months and I agree with you completely. It beats my Move, iBasso D1 modded and also the firestone Fubar USB DAC which uses the same PCM2702 chip. I just love the design of the unit, very clean and professional.

courierdriver. I have the setup you have mentioned and it is eargasmic.

I hope you don't mind me adding some of my setup pics.

post #4 of 311
Great review! It's bad that it don't have the power button on the front and a power led. How is the instrument seperation?
post #5 of 311
Thread Starter 
It does have a Power LED. It's under the translucent black lid. It'd bright, so trust me you know it's on. Like I said, when it's on, the Blue LED, at night, will leave an "O" on my ceiling. It's pretty neat.

The power switch on the back I personally think it lends to it's CLEAN look.

Nice pics Dual, it does have a nice sound with Grado's. I think I'm going to get a tube amp as well to see how my Grado's act....
post #6 of 311
Dual: Very nice pics of your setup. I wonder if you'd be so kind as to post some impressions, or do a review in a new thread, on your LD Mk-V. Just as I was taken with the build quality, and visual appearance of the KECES DA-151 USB DAC (not to mention, it's price is within my rather limited range of disposable income); the same can be said for the LD Mk-V amp. I have seen numerous threads posted on many LD, but so far nothing on the Mk. V. Some listening impressions of your amp would be much appreciated

oicdn: Again, great review. I'm wondering about that translucent black lid. What is it made of? Plexiglass? How thick would you say it is? Seems to me I read somwhere that the DAC could be ordered with a solid metal lid, too. I'm not sure about the sturdiness of the translucent lid, which is why I ask.
post #7 of 311
Thread Starter 
The translucent lid is made of plexi-glass. So it's VERY durable, so no worries about that. I believe you can get a solid metal top, but I think the translucent lid adds a nice touch to it because you can see the innards. As far as how thick, it's about a 1/4 inch without breaking out a ruler.

As far as that LD MkV, here's a review:

post #8 of 311
Thanks for the info and the link, oicdn! I definitely now know, what I'm going to spring for within this year. I'm gonna start with the dac, and maybe around May (my birthday), get the LD Mk-V. I love the sound of my Grado 225's so much, and I'm dying to see what a good front end and better amplification can do for them. Then, maybe I'll find the desire/need to upgrade my cans.

For now, I want to exploit their full potential with gear that is affordable, and has great value. That's what I always look for, when making a decision on what to buy. Stuff that competes soundwise (give or take 10%) with the higher-priced gear; but is much less expensive. IMO, the KECES DA-151 and LD Mk-V are two great examples.
post #9 of 311
Hello oicdn,

Thanks for the nice review. I'm happy to see that you like it, we take pride in optimizing the performance of our product. Some may question the performance of the PCM2702 chip, but we believe there's more performance to be had from that little chip.

We believe in pricing it at a point that provides very high C/P, because we want to share the fruit of our work.

I've recently also been carrying a line of power cables from IeGO, and had started a discussion thread at AudioCircle's Industry ad forum. If anyone is interested in that, can check out the thread there.
post #10 of 311
Thread Starter 
I've been comparing it to other USB dac's back to back lately (Indigo DJ, Entech 203 and 205) And I must say this unit is IMPRESSIVE. The other DACs seem to add a TAD of congestion.

The Indigo DJ Line out seems a bit FLAT, so flat where it somewhat kills the mids to take the life out of the music by comparison to the Keces...I still REALLY like the IDJ because I can take it with me anywhere, but when I have a Petite here, it doesn't seem to be so hot anymore....atleast, while my batteries are still working, lol.

*edit* Just checked out those cables...whoa....very nice looking. Not a "cable guy" myself, but I wouldn't mind giving one of those a go-round, lol.
post #11 of 311
Thanks oicdn! Though I have DA-131 model, which is a step up from DA-151 if I understood correctly. Since I havent heard other external DACs, just internal soundcards (M-Audio 2496 and X-Fi Elite Pro) which this one beats IME, its nice that KECES seems truly great for the buck against other cheap DACs too.

I wonder how KECES fares against dacs above its price range though, the DAC is the final thing im going to upgrade now, and after that my time on headphone world is finished.
post #12 of 311
Thread Starter 
I'm curious as well. Not that I wouldn't like to hear what the higher end DACs have to offer, I just don't think my digital source is serious enough, or dedicated enough to warrant such a purchase. I would much rather keep it how it is, and explore my amplification options, as I feel much above both the cost and performance of the Keces unit will be fairly diminishing returns.
post #13 of 311
Can anyone offer up a comparisan of the 131 and the 151?

I currently run an M-Audio 24/96 and could do the S/PDIF route (151) or replace the rig with a USB DAC (131).

My current setup is noise/trouble free, so that doesn't weigh in on my decision. I am only interested in the overall sound.

post #14 of 311
Originally Posted by nightfishing View Post
Can anyone offer up a comparisan of the 131 and the 151?

I currently run an M-Audio 24/96 and could do the S/PDIF route (151) or replace the rig with a USB DAC (131).

My current setup is noise/trouble free, so that doesn't weigh in on my decision. I am only interested in the overall sound.

i have the same question as nightfishing really. which is better, taking into account what i want to do. i want to get my pc hooked up to my amp for flac playback. i will need to pick up a dac, and these look like attractive options. primarily the source will be PC (flac). at first i was thinking that ill just get a USB dac, but then i thought id really like to have the flexibility of coax/optical input that the 131 provides(who knows what sourcesill have later...). my pc has spdif out, but my laptop doesnt. im more inclined to use my laptop(IBM T43) for this kind of setup. if i use a USB->coax/optical converter for when i use my laptop, will this be favourable setup or should i just stick with the 151 from the beginning. i dont want to compromise PC/laptop playback on the 131 if i can just get the 151 which is usb from the get go. does this make sense?

what kind of money do i need to spend to get a decent usb->coax/optical converter? any recommendations?

my setup is:
1) shanling CD-T80 -> music fidelity x-150 amp -> spendor s3e speakers
2) shanling or sony cd player(dne9) -> little dot MT Micro Tube -> audio technica AD1000

would love to use this dac on system (2) mostly..and also with system (1) if i dont have the original cd

dont know if these are wierd combos or not..i just grabbed what was available to me at time of purchase..

im hoping that this dac/pc setup can be as good as the shanling....

need to pick up a turntable as well...managed to somehow pick up about 30 lps after tool released lateralus on vinyl, yet i still dont have a turntable (dont worry i hate them now...)

looking forward to hearing more about these dacs.


(first post..been a lurker for a little bit!)
post #15 of 311
A slight correction:

DA-131 = SPDIF only, Toslink/Coax input selectable.
DA-151 = USB only, slightly lower end than 131

DA-131 is going to be superior to DA-151 if it is fed from a good digital source, such as the M-Audio card you mentioned, EMU121M, RME, or stereo component that provides SPDIF signal.

DA-131's strength over DA-151 is mainly at frequency extension, it extends out further on both ends, and it is going to be more detailed and neutral than DA-151.

DA-131 however was released before DA-151 and comes standard with BB's OPA604. OPA604 while good in its own regard, it is not as good as the LME49710 taht comes with DA-151, and thus we currently offers upgrade to anyone who orders DA-131.

Just add $10 to shipping and handling, and put it in the paypal payment note and we will either include it in the package or install it for you. (Depend on how you like it, if no preference is mentioned in the note, we will just include in the package.)

That's about it I suppose.
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