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Audio-gd Reference 1 DAC (56 K warning) - Page 9

post #121 of 2431
Quote:
Originally Posted by Drosera View Post
I guess I'm just giving a reflection of my own mood at the moment. Listening to the Reference One makes me a bit sad, because it makes me realize that I will probably never experience an upgrade of similar magnitude again. (How's that for a first impression! )
Wow that's a powerful impression. Im still hoping someone from my country gets the Reference One so we can audition it locally.

@Peete,

I hope your health improves. Get well soon.

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post #122 of 2431
Quote:
Originally Posted by Drosera View Post
You should do upgrades one at the time and take your time with each of them to fully appreciate what you have gained. That person wanting to upgrade from his Prelude sound card to a Reference One makes me want to scream: "No, don't!" It's too big a step and you won't have a true appreciation of the road travelled.
Since I'm the person I think you are referring to, I will respond. Really just two points:

1) Personally, my goal is not really appreciation of the road traveled. I just want a nice system that I can be happy with. I am the type of person that does not really enjoy things fully when I am constantly wondering if there was something better that I should have gotten instead. Originally, I planned on getting a cheap and cheerful DAC (e.g. Zero, Compass, Beresford etc), then decided that my Woo2 deserved something a bit better, so I thought about the 3DV. Once I was up in that price range, it made sense to spend the extra (or more correctly, beg to spend the extra) on the Ref1 to know I am getting the best I could afford.

2) For reasons I won't get into, after this round of upgrades, I do not expect to have the ability to make any significant changes/upgrades to my system for many years, if ever. With the tax refund, I now have a pot of money to work with to build a system, and thats what I will have to live with. In short, this is my one shot to build a system, and I thought it made sense to make that one shot a decent one.

Hopefully I have made the right choices. But really there is FA I can do about it now, so I might as well be happy...
post #123 of 2431
Honestly, small incremental steps are nice to understand small incremental steps but ultimately, it is far more financially sound to hit an end point sooner than later. It saves time and money. Hopefully you will be happy for many years to come.
post #124 of 2431
Drosera wasn't referring to that, he was talking about one component at a time. Like if you have a C-2C you should refrain from a new dac until you've burned in the C-2C. I agree with this point, I kept buying stuff to revolve around the compass and I didn't get to appreciate what each component added because they all burned in simultaneously. Actually I do know what each component does but that's because I've wasted a looooot of time swapping stuff in and out lol.
post #125 of 2431
Well, actually I was just airing some of my thoughts, partly influenced by how the Reference One made me feel. I was just using bobsmith as an example of a huge step in upgrade that just made me wonder if there wasn't more to be said for taking it slower and taking more stops along the way.

I certainly wasn't judging you in any way bobsmith, I hope you didn't feel it as such.

After all, I may be said to be guilty of the same thing. Whether it's stepping up from a Prelude to the Reference One, or from a NAD C451 or a Compass to the Reference One, the gaps are actually pretty similar. The Reference One is that good. (And that's in my limited current setup, without extended burn-in.)

So, good investment! I can't see anything else that you could have bought for that relatively modest amount of money, that would have given you this much quality.
post #126 of 2431
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zanth View Post
Honestly, small incremental steps are nice to understand small incremental steps but ultimately, it is far more financially sound to hit an end point sooner than later. It saves time and money. Hopefully you will be happy for many years to come.
I feel thats one of the good ways to go about things, which reminds me what Peete said to me " go for the best you can afford, and don't look back ", which actually can imply both ways, buy the best and sit back and enjoy, or buy the best you can afford and look ahead..

I love my headphones and I am loving it more as days go by, but basically I am a speaker person, and through my personal experience ( and I am not trying to make a point out here, but its just my personal feeling and experience) I have found that speakers reveal the changes with upgrades in a slightly bigger scale than headphones which makes me realize the changes in a more profound manner - and personally for me it makes the journey more enjoyable, to me audio is more of a journey rather than a destination, I am sure nobody or very few bought a Ref1 or any reference DAC as their first DAC, To me, the upgrade path makes the journey more interesting and lots to look, both back and ahead.. again I must say its only my personal experience and preference..

But all said and done, in difficult times as such, passion takes the back bench while its economics that matter most..
post #127 of 2431
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zanth View Post
Honestly, small incremental steps are nice to understand small incremental steps but ultimately, it is far more financially sound to hit an end point sooner than later. It saves time and money. Hopefully you will be happy for many years to come.
This was my approach when I got my headphones. But the desktop amp/dac upgrade forced me to a stopover on middle ground for practical economic reasons Will get to the top someday
post #128 of 2431
I have been in the same situation at different points, but for speakers, I'm holding out for my dream system. No stop gaps. I know what I want. I've heard what I want and I'll get what I want, even if it takes me a decade
post #129 of 2431
I agree with Zanth about getting to the end point sooner. The road's overrated.

I've wanted a dac for some time now but I'm not going to buy what I can for now. I will save for what I want.
post #130 of 2431
Quote:
Originally Posted by insyte View Post
This was my approach when I got my headphones. But the desktop amp/dac upgrade forced me to a stopover on middle ground for practical economic reasons Will get to the top someday
There is no top.
post #131 of 2431
Quote:
Originally Posted by Drosera View Post
I certainly wasn't judging you in any way bobsmith, I hope you didn't feel it as such.
Hehe, no worries at all. I definitely see where you are coming from. If I were in a position where I could upgrade more slowly (e.g., more hobby-like rather a one-shot deal) it would certainly be a lot of fun working my way up and experimenting. Maybe one day when things settle down a bit...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drosera View Post
I can't see anything else that you could have bought for that relatively modest amount of money, that would have given you this much quality.
Now thats what I like to hear. Also, as much as I am buying this for the sound quality, I am also buying it because I get the strong impression Kingwa puts a lot of thought and craftsmanship into his products. I want to own something that the creator cared about, not just some crap someone flung together to make some cash.
post #132 of 2431
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Monkey View Post
There is no top.
Will remind myself this when I get to upgrade
post #133 of 2431
Quote:
Originally Posted by insyte View Post
Will remind myself this when I get to upgrade
A less upgraditis-prone philosophy might be that the top is wherever you happen to be at the moment.
post #134 of 2431

First impressions

Time for some first impressions. Or actually, I feel it's still way too early even for first impressions, but because I will be feeling that way for the coming months, I might as well get it out of the way now.

As said before, I'm using the Reference One in a very basic setup. Fed by a Pioneer hi-rez player (RCA -> BNC) and with RCA output to my Corda Opera amplifier.

Where to start? I could talk about definition, separation, instrument colour, acoustic cues, etc, but that all feels rather irrelevant, the Reference One seems to do these things as if they didn't pose a challenge for a DAC. They are so well done that they don't strike you as distinguishable properties anymore. Transparency indeed.

It's interesting that it always only strikes me in hindsight that I apparently was straining to hear certain things with previous equipment. It might be a very important aspect of good upgrades that they provide a more relaxing listening experience, that simply allows your mind to connect to the music more directly. Transparency again.

There is one aspect of the Reference One that really stands out for me. First of all, and what appears to be it's real "party-piece" is spaciousness. It happened to me quite a few times already that I put on a new cd, wearing the K500 headphones, and, for just a second, have to do a doubletake to check if I haven't accidentally switched on the large floorstanding speakers. It might go a little too far to say that, analogous to Peete's observation of his speakers disappearing, the Reference One makes my headphones disappear, but it comes close sometimes, remarkably close. An effect that's even very present with mono recordings.

Another thing is naturalness. Although I don't seem to suffer from the same sensitivity to digititis that Curra has, I'm hearing for the first time the full complexity of something like the sound of a grand piano or a violin. Voices have a richness and body that I hadn't even hoped could be realised by the redbook-format. But more than this is the simple fact that music through the Reference One speaks to me much more strongly and hits me that much harder emotionally.

It is usual with upgrades to talk about how your new purchase lets you hear certain things in your recordings that you hadn't heard before. That's not the case here, because I actually often have a hard time recognizing recordings that I thought were very familiar to me. They sound that different and new.

Usually that's a good thing, sometimes it is not. Sometimes you don't want to hear what's actually on the recording. One of my favourite opera recordings, Karajan's Turandot (DG) is revealed in all its early digital awfulness. And I shouldn't even speak of what horrors I encountered with some albums of extreme metal. Oh dear...

Usually what a reviewer says at this point is that the unit is 'unforgiving of bad recordings', but that wouldn't be the right way to put it. There seems to be a distinct dividing line among recordings, between "The Bad" and "The Ugly". I have plenty of bad recordings, take a good example like Mravinsky's 1952 recording of Shostakovich' Symphony #7 (BMG/Melodiya), not a good recording to begin with and to make matters worse it also has been 'cleaned' with the universally dreaded NoNoise process. But it doesn't sound 'bad' in the strict sense, actually it sounds much better and far more enjoyable than I've ever heard it. The same goes for another rather extreme example, Enrico Caruso's earliest recordings from 1902 (Naxos Historical). Yes, the surface noise of the shellacs is presented in just as much detail (if not more) as Caruso's voice, but once you listen through that you can discover a dimensionality in the recording that wasn't there before.

I feel like I've embarked on an unexpected voyage of discovery. And I have thousands of cd's to go.

That's it for now. Did you really expect it to be anything less than gushing?
post #135 of 2431
Thread Starter 
Good job Dro of trying to explain what the RE1 doesn't bring to the table.....I know it may seem rather odd to view this DAC in that light but I agree with Curra's methodology for this DAC as it represents a very different way of trying to describe this DAC, since the RE1 does not present in a classical sense, any of the traits of current or past DAC sound qualities we have become used to listening for, and as such makes it really tough on the end user to come up with meaningful words to describe the RE1's abilities.

I think the DSP1 chip is one of the keys to this unit's success the other keys being fairly obvious I would think (PSU build, DAC chip selection, analog output stage etc...). That being said I still feel the Cyclone II is the critical factor as it does away with aspects the other chip types struggle with when making sense of the data stream. The technical aspects one need not have a complete grip on to appreciate but it does explain (in part) why the RE1 may have a critical advantage over other DAC's that relates directly to SQ results.

Moving on....

My unit continues to improve with increment shifts (level of stage depth, dynamic contrast, textural depth etc) that I will get into later on when I've had better chance to fully evaluate what's happening (or not happening ).

SNR is SOTA, period. I have never experienced a blacker presentation, it's truly remarkable the way notes. voices, etc simply appear, fade in , fade out with this unit...nothing is truncated, compressed or confused/smeared no matter how simple or complex things get regardless of level (from titanic bursts to the softest most delicate of passage). 100% honesty in tone shading etc....amazing transparency comes to mind each and every time I sit back and hit the play button !

I'm nearing the halfway mark (I feel give or take 50 hours) of 500 + hours meaning (with the tidbit spoke about previously) what Drosera and Curra have described thus far is exactly what I'm experiencing more or less.

IMHO the RE1 simply does a masterful job with no drawbacks that I can find (so far).

BTW thanks all for your kind words of support (get well soon wishes etc...I appreciate those words and thoughts !!!!). I do feel much better now but worry about what the near future may bring because of this latest setback....I'll cross that bridge when I come to it I suppose but for now...Phew, dodged a rather a large bullet (yet again).

Peete.
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