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Meier Audio StageDAC - Page 11

post #151 of 634
dont suppose anyone wants to show internal pics?
post #152 of 634
@ Leonardo

Can't wait for your test !! I will follow you for sure if you give me an OK sign. Especially with your HD 650.
post #153 of 634
Same, I'm definitely interested in seeing more of your impressions Leonardo_BVB.
post #154 of 634
The story so far.
I remember when I was in the university many years ago and we were testing the speed of reaction of a particular enzyme. I remember my frustration when the predicted reaction would not show in the empiric experiment. I did not know what I was doing wrong and I was very upset indeed. A Doctor from the Biochemistry department laughed at me and told me what an ass I was. I was using the technique perfectly fine with no flaws, the problem was that the technique itself had its limitations. That happened about 15 years ago and I have never forgotten the lesson about the scientific method.
My first approach for this test has been: first test the tester.
I am pleased to say that my hearing works very well from about 31.5-40 Hz to 20 kHz. This is a complete surprise for me because I was not expecting to hear beyond 16 kHz. I suppose my loath to discos and crazy decibel leves in bars has paid off in the long run.
When you read other very interesting reviews, you just put your faith in the tester and how good their hearing is. Well, I do not have any reason to suspect that it is not the case, but it is probably better to test. So I did. For my hearing I used the AKG K601 (being the more lineal headphone I have, it makes sense) and I used the 8 fold oversampling with the first filter in the Stagedac (according to the manual, with this combination, the pulse response is a sin(x)/x function and the frequency response is practically lineal. I want to mention here that the manual that Jan has written is extremely good and clear. I never read manuals but I have read his from first to last page).
I have been through the following tests:
2Left, Right, Center, Surround (like Dolby Pro-Logic)
3Dual Tone 700 L, 1k R 0dB 30s
4700 0dB 30s
51k 0dB 60s
6Log Sweep 20 to 20k, 0dB to -6dB, 32s
7Linear Sweep 20 to 20k, 0dB to -6dB, 32s
880Hz warble +-40Hz -1dB 60s
9100Hz warble +-40Hz -1dB 60s
10120Hz warble +-40Hz -1dB 60s
1116 -1dB 30s
1220 -1dB 30s
1325 -1dB 30s
1431.5 -1dB 30s
1540 -1dB 30s
1650 -1dB 30s
1760 -1dB 30s
1863 -1dB 30s
1970 -1dB 30s
2080 -1dB 30s
2190 -1dB 30s
22100 -1dB 30s
23125 -1dB 30s
24160 -1dB 30s
25200 -1dB 30s
26250 -1dB 30s
27315 -1dB 30s
28400 -1dB 30s
29500 -1dB 30s
30630 -1dB 30s
31800 -1dB 30s
321250 -1dB 30s
331600 -1dB 30s
342k -1dB 30s
352500 -1dB 30s
363150 -1dB 30s
374k -1dB 30s
385k -1dB 30s
396300 -1dB 30s
408k -1dB 30s
4110k -1dB 30s
4212500 -1dB 30s
4316k -1dB 30s
4420k -1dB 30s
45Piano A4 440Hz
46Piano solo, stereo
47Drum solo, stereo
48Digital Metronome 120bpm 4mins
49Crest Wave 10s

Rather than using a tone generator, I have burned the Wav files from the Michael "Bink" Knowles website. Michael is a very generous Audio Engineer that allows anyone to download his own audio test files (you can download free at: Michael Knowles: Audio and Video Production).

With this first basic test I can confirm now two things: First, the DAC seeems to works as reflected in the manual (so I can infer that Dr Jan Meier is an honest man, which is not always the case with other companies of Hi-Fi) and second, that my hearing is very good. This is a very good start indeed.
With that in mind, I will move to phase two: testing the DAC section. For the record, I haven't found any significant difference between Coax and Optical so I will be using the optical connection for the tests. Unless otherwise stated, I will use the HD650 because of popular requests!
post #155 of 634
Dear all, this are the CDs I have chosen to test the DAC side. They are trully excellent recordings that will test the DAC capabilities quite well. They are:

1. For high Frequencies: James Ehnes. “Caprice No 24 in A minor”. Niccolo Paganini: 24 Caprices For Solo Violin. Telarc, 2003.

2. For low frequencies: Esperanza Spalding. “I know you know”. Esperanza. Heads up, 2008.

3. For mid frecuencies: Cat Power. “Metal heart”. Jukebox. Matador records, 2008.

4. For dynamic range: RPO. “Mars, the bringer of war”. Holst, The planets. The Royal Philarmonic Orchestra. RPO, 2006.

5. For live “feeling”: Domnérus, Hallberg, Erstrand, Riedel & Johansen. “Take Five”. Jazz At The Pawnshop - 30th Anniversary. Propius Records, 2007.
post #156 of 634
to save me wading through this complete thread, could you list the dacs you have used in the past?
would be nice to know how the stagedac compares to them
post #157 of 634
Originally Posted by oldson View Post
to save me wading through this complete thread, could you list the dacs you have used in the past?
would be nice to know how the stagedac compares to them
Personally used at home with my equipment Musical Fidelity A324 and Beresford TC-7520. Listen to with enough time to assess Bryston BDA-1 & Behringer DEQ2496. I have also listened to the Cyrus DAC X, but not in a quiet environment, so I cannot give a proper opinion (but it sounded very good indeed on the shop). I'm afraid is not that easy to listen to DACs as it is to try other components.
post #158 of 634
Originally Posted by oldson View Post
to save me wading through this complete thread, could you list the dacs you have used in the past?
would be nice to know how the stagedac compares to them
Hey Oldson, you just KNOW you're gonna buy the StageDAC
post #159 of 634
Here we go with my impressions.

I'll cut it short before I go in detail: In my opinion, this is a extraordinary piece of kit in musical terms that delivers incredible performance for a very reasonable price. In fact, I think value for money the Stagedac will be very difficult to beat for many reasons that I will expose later.

I want to talk first about biases (mine, actually). Music is a personal experience. We do not listen with our ears but with our brains and that makes the whole process far more complicated that just plain acoustics (which are very complicated already). Listening to music, as opposed to hearing music, is an emotional interaction, subject to interferences like emotional status, general health, etc. On top of that, we all have biases that will dictate the way our brains understand the music: some are intrinsic to our own genetic footprint and others are acquired through our culture and personal experiences. Basically, what I am trying to say is that you should take my impressions with a “pinch of salt”. They are, after all, “mine” and only “impressions”. You may have a different experience and that should not undermine what I am saying in my posts. You cannot infer a general principle out of a personal experience, as my father told me a while ago.
I will briefly describe some biases that I can identify in myself :

1.To me, the full satisfactory experience is a live concert with good acoustics. I attend to as many as I can and I can tell that the experience of listening to Peter Cincotti live in a club in Barcelona or listening to Mozart by candlelights in St Martin in the Fields, London directed by Sir Neville Marriner simply cannot be compared to listen to the CD equivalent. It just cannot cut the mustard (that is my personal opinion anyway). I love live music and nothing yet has given me that real feeling. The standard is that high for me.

2.You have to compromise when it comes to recorded sound and in my case, I will sacrifice definition in order to get a more organic or analogue sound. So, I love Thermionic valves and the harmonic distortion that they introduce. It is not about accuracy what drives my taste but about the “feeling”. Saying that, I sold my vinyl records many years ago and I never looked back. You have to strike a compromise somewhere. Mine is SACD when possible, otherwise, the best remastered CD that I can get hold of no matter where it's sold – for instance, Japanese CDs of jazz tend to be of better quality than American or European ones. I have started also listening with High definition music, normally 24bits/48 or 96 if I am lucky. Still in its infancy but no doubt it is the future.

3.Musical taste: we all have some preferred type of music. Normally, when you listen to lots of music, you tend to diversify or at least change the style so it does not get boring. My taste is truly varied covering from American Head Charge or Type O Negative to Renaissance music (I love Requiems, being my favourite the Missa Pro defunctis of Cristobal de Morales). If the music is good, I will listen to it, no worries about style at all. I remember myself few years ago enjoying “Musica de banda” in the North of Mexico and I swear it was so unexpected (I was then mainly into Metal and grunge at that stage in life). It was just plain weird how much I loved the live music in the bars and how good the bands and the lyrics were -plenty of narcocorridos in Sonora state! There you go.

The funny thing about me buying the Stagedac is that I was not looking for a DAC. I was very happy with the one included in my SACD once filtered through 6SN7s (of which I have a collection). I just wanted the crossfeed so I could finally listen with headphones to Miles Davis and Wes Montgomery. Very many records in the 60s and even some in the 70s have terrible mixing that make the music sound unnatural, with a 180 degrees sound stage. That is all I wanted: to reduce sound stage in those CDs. I had few possible contenders: the new Lavry DA11, the SPL Phonitor, SPL 2Control, Grace m902, the Headroom models and the Meier ones. The fact is that I was happy and I still am with my valves and with the Graham Slee Solo, so the Stagedac came into scene like sent from heavens.
I was expecting a very good crossfeed with some controls, and a good DAC. After several hours I am very happy to say that I have more that I bargained for. I have an excellent DAC with an excellent crossfeed section.

I will describe the tests in the next post sometime today. It is a glorious sunny day here and my wife's priorities do not match mine, hence I have to go for few hours.
post #160 of 634
I have to agree with you on the Meier crossfeed circuit. It's a beautiful piece of work. I use it on my Move all the time.
post #161 of 634
So many words yet so little actually said...
post #162 of 634
STAGEDAC review. First part

I'll try to describe the sound of the DAC and the Crossfeed section. Please excuse me if I cannot express myself any better but bear in mind two things: first, describing sound is almost like describing a colour, very tricky indeed. Second, English is not my mother tongue, therefore I have some limitations there.

After the battery of sound tests that I carried out yesterday I was happy the DAC was working fine. It is not good fun to test with tones rather than music but it is the right thing to do.
Just to make it easy, I will describe the positions of the switches by numbers, I will call the down position 1, the centre 2 and the top 3. The DAC section have three switches. The first one is for selecting the source, the second one selects the Pulse response (that is, the filter used) and the third one selects the oversampling ratio (position 1 is x8, position 2 x4 and top position is x2). There are then, 9 possible conbinations between pulse response and oversampling. I will say right now that it is almost impossible to distinguish between some of them but there are some differences easy to spot with the HD650 and far easier with the GS1000i.

I started with music, more exactly with “Take Five” from “Jazz At The Pawnshop”. This hybrid SACD is well renown for being one of the best audiophile recordings ever made and for a very good reason, when you listen to it is one of the closest experiences to being there. I played the CD layer and left the crossfeed section in stereo mode (no crossfeed).
I started with 1:1 wich is the more lineal response. The result was incredible detail with good pace but a little bit of digital glare when listening with the Grados GS1000i or the Denon D7000. With the HD650 was fine and dandy, but a little bit too clinical for my taste. I left the oversampling where it was and moved the filter to position 2 (2:1). With the HD650 and the D7000 there was no major change but with the GS1000i you could hear less sibilance, nothing dramatic, but noticeable. I moved the filter to position 3 and left the oversampling factor in x8 (3:1). Wow, that sounded almost like valves! I checked in the manual and it says that this filter lowers the high frequencies and also shift them on time so there is not pre-ringing. It sounded more analogue, no doubt about it. At this stage I switched on my buffer preamp with the Sylvania 6sn7 to compare the sound. It was pretty alike. Actually, the sound from the Stagedac was fuller, with more body, but that may be due to the volume difference. I just loved this combination. This was a hell of a good start. I changed the sampling to position 2 and left the filter in position 1 (1:2). Nice sound, but still a little bit “clinical”. Less sibilance in the Grados. I moved to the next filter with x4 oversampling (2:2). According to the manual, this is almost equivalent to the sound of vinyl records. I liked it very much indeed. I was very organic but, somehow the definition was less precise than the position 3:1 (not a massive difference, but you could tell that it was less vibrant). In my opinion, this combination was only second to 3:1 so far. Very good indeed. I moved the first switch (filter) to the top with the x4 position. It was a little bit strange, because it sounded again a little bit clinical. I was expecting similar sound to my, so far, favourite combination 3:1 but it was not the case. Back to the manual to see what it says. This combination does not sift frequencies and therefore there are pre-ringing artifacts. Well, that was why. This one was not for me. Next round: I tried the position 3 for oversampling (x2 factor)with the first filter (1:3) and It did not sound very good to my ears, it was quite raw, like “tinned”. Next down was x2 oversampling with 2nd filter (centre). Again, a little bit “metallic”, not for me. According to the manual this is the best combination for optimal timing and pacing. It may very well be, but it is not my cup of tea. Last position, x2 oversampling with 3rd filter (3:3). Well, it sounded awful, more like a cheap CD player.
I was very happy because I found 2 positions that I liked very much indeed. I compared those 2 with my valves that where connected through RCA to the SACD and from the preamp to the input 1 in the GS Solo so I could switch between the SACD DAC+ Valves and the STAGEDAC. I have to admit that I was very surprised with the beautiful analogue sound coming from a digital device (the Stagedac). This could almost make my valves redundant! -well, not quite, but almost. Very good first round.
I have to say that some changes are not so noticeable with the HD650 but if you switch two positions in one go (from 1 to 3 or vice versa) the changes are noticeable with the HD650, there is no doubt about it.
I will write the second part tomorrow.
post #163 of 634
Leonardo seems like a methodical man. I like his think process and the way he posts his impressions. I think it is far better than some - I got new toy and it blew me away/sucked description.
post #164 of 634
Originally Posted by thathertz View Post
Hey Oldson, you just KNOW you're gonna buy the StageDAC
you are right.
i have no will power when it comes to toys!

i just hope i get a wow factor over my v-dac.
i am very happy with my solo amp, but i will at some point add a tube amp.
simply because i have never heard one.
post #165 of 634
Originally Posted by Leonardo_BVB View Post
DAC review. First part.......
Thanks for sharing your initial impressions (and intro) Leonardo, I enjoyed
reading them very much and look foward to the next installment.

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