Great review Headphoneaddict.
My Pico arrived earlier this month and I have been listening to it strictly as my usb dac/amp out of a Dell Vostro playing apple lossless and 320mp3's. I've put on about 900 hrs on the Predator and have been enjoying the heck out of it the past few months, so it was time for the pico. I half expected it to blow the predator away as it seemed that the pico was often described as Lush, Musical, Rich and Smooth and there was no question that the pico's dac was its best asset...but, no, I was pleased to hear that these portable units are BOTH Lush, Musical, Rich and Smooth. It really just depends on the music that you are listening to and the Headphone (pl2500 for this study)
So today I set up both dac/amps to the laptop and played a variety of songs that I wanted to hear today....
Devil's Haircut/Hotwax - Beck Odelay : The Pico really displays it's Airy soundstage with the hammer sounds in the beginning of the song more prominent and having an overall more "headphone " effects sounding. But the bass seemed a little Fat. The predator presented a warmer overall sound, but rather than that hammer it was the cymbals that really presented itself. The low end was more controlled. The ending Distortion so much more Fun and Coherant on the predator.
Concrete Sky - Beth Orton Daybreak : Pico had the bass down on this song, while the predator did the drums/cymbals right for my ears. Beth's vocals were nice and up front on both but the male vocals doing harmony were placed by her side and behind her on the pico and seemed behind my head and a few feet away on the predator...go figure.
Mushaboom/ 1234 - Feist : Pico just nails Feist! Both had the vocals right up front but the pico placed the clapping hands up front too. the overall sound/bass was more visceral. You are there with Feist. That banjo clearer , more detailed ( you can hear the fingers sliding along on the strings) I like that...some do not. The predator had vocals up front and the clapping more back of the stage. Fun in that you are in the room watching the band from across the room.
Handshake Drugs - Wilco : Both amps were very enjoyable with the pico have a deep controlled bass but the guitar was a little biting. The predator had the vocals way up front and almost sibilant. The Distortion at the end was sooooo good on the predator.
Tu Sei / Vittorio Grigolo : Switching to some pop opera now and I expected that the pico's detail and mids would carry this song, but both were Very good in getting Vittorios rich voice in those power mid/highs that tenors can do. I switched to a Sarah Brightman /Andrea Bocelli song Time To Say Goodbye and was pleased again with both the pico and predator. Ms. Brightman seemed a touch more intimate tho on the predator.
I enjoyed both of these dac/amp's very much and find them both musical and fun across a wide range of musical styles. The Predator has a slight warmer presentation, but detailed highs while the Pico does sound at times more Full and expansive. It's treble were more controlled, while the predator could get aggressive. Both have an excellent midrange...The bottom end on both can be fat and sassy or tight and...
just depends on the song. To me neither is better...now to try some Juno Reactor/Congo Fury!
The comments I have are straight from a notepad that I jotted down my immediate thoughts as the songs played. No going back and forth to dissect a tonal passage. Next will connect each to the speakers in my exercise room