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Review of Audio-GD DAC-19MK3 - Page 3

post #31 of 695
Quote:
Originally Posted by slim.a View Post
Thanks for the information.
I was thinking about upgrading my head-amp to C2C but since I will end up getting tempted by a balanced amp anyway (upgraditis), I better wait and get the Roc
Get the upgraded C-2C if you are considering an amp upgrade. The additional $$ for the stepped pot is worth it. Of course the ROC may be a decent choice as well

Peete.
post #32 of 695
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pricklely Peete View Post
Get the upgraded C-2C if you are considering an amp upgrade. The additional $$ for the stepped pot is worth it. Of course the ROC may be a decent choice as well

Peete.
I'm sure the Roc will surpass the C-2C. That is obvious. But will his budget permit, that is the question............
post #33 of 695
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pricklely Peete View Post
Get the upgraded C-2C if you are considering an amp upgrade. The additional $$ for the stepped pot is worth it. Of course the ROC may be a decent choice as well

Peete.
Quote:
Originally Posted by IPodPJ View Post
I'm sure the Roc will surpass the C-2C. That is obvious. But will his budget permit, that is the question............
I amstill debating which amp to get next.
When I asked Kingwa how the ST-3 and C2C amps compare, here was his answer :
"In my mind, C2C upgrade version is 100%, standard version is 85%.
ST3 is another style, it sound a bit tube like, a bit coloration, C2C is a bit monitor, DAC feed it what signal, it only gain then output same quality signal, less coloration
."
From what I understood is that moving from the ST-3 to the C2C might be just a sideways move. What do you think ?

In fact, I am pretty satisfied with my systemright now : the low level resolution is outstanding, it is tonally very well balanced, the details are spooky real yet the sound is relaxed. Overall, the sound is very natural.
The only area in which I am looking for improvements is the soundstage. According to the impressions I read about the balanced Phoenix, there is still room for improvement in that particular area.

I was not expecting spending so much for my head-amp upgrade (the ROC is 2x the price of the C2C) but it is balanced and has a preamp-function.
It is probably worth the additional cost so I will wait for the Roc to be out before making any purchase.
post #34 of 695
Imo while using the dac19mk3 instead of compass dac section, the biggest difference between compass amp section and phoenix is the soundstage after balancing. The compass amp (and I presume st-3 also) is actually pretty good sounding already, just a bit lacking on soundstage.
post #35 of 695
Thread Starter 
After 300 hours of burn-in:
The burn-in process is not over yet since the sound is still changing (mostly improving). According to Kingwa, it can take up to 400 hours for the sound to settle.
Below are my impressions after 300 hours of burn-in.

The low level resolution

The low level details are outstanding with this DAC. I am not referring with low level resolution to the definition of the sound in quiet passages (which is also excellent), but I am referring to very subtle sounds when there is already a lot going on. Small sounds are not masked by louder sounds playing at the same time : this is especially true for classical and jazz recordings but also all well recorded live music (such as Hell Freezes Over by the Eagles).
This Dac doesn't try to fake high definition by just sounding brighter and drier (such as the emu 0404 usb). The higher definition here serves a more natural portrayal of music as the listener doesn't have to make as much efforts to listen to the small details.
These impressions were done using the Hifi Cables & cie Khnoum interconnect and ST-3 head-amp. When I changed the head-amp and interconnects those qualities were somewhat diluted.

Cable swapping : Sharkwire vs. Hifi Cables & Cie Khnoum Interconnect
After giving the Sharkwire interconnect close to 100 hours of burn-in, I gave it another critical listening. The sound definitely improved with burn-in as it doesn't sound dull anymore.
Compared to the Dh-Labs Sonics BL-1, I would say it has say that in my system it has around the sound bandwidth extension but they have two different characters : the dh-labs sound a little bit forward and bright while the Sharkwire sounds a little bit warm and overall it is more pleasing to the ears. The definition level is roughly the same. The kimber PBJ compared to both cables has less high frequency extension than both cables and is otherwise pretty similar in mids an bass.
However, the big surprise was when I switch back to my reference interconnect : the Hifi Cables & cie Khnoum interconnect. These interconnects are simply wonderful, they simply disappear. While comparing the other interconnects I have (dh-labs, kimber PBJ, Sharkwire), I could always pick-up defficiencies with them : frequency extension at the extremes, tonal balance, definition, soundstage, ...
With the Hifi Cables & cie Khnoum interconnect, the first thing you notice is that soundstage seems to extend very and the low level resolution is truly outstanding. The bass extends very low and the highs are crystal clear. Those interconnects let you experiment a thereness/presence experience. It is truly unbelievable how much a pair of 50 cm of wires can let you change the sound of a system.
These are the differences I heard using the audio-gd ST-3, it was less apparent when using the little dot mkIII.

Head-amps : Audio-gd ST-3 vs Little dot MkIII
My little dot MkIII was rarely used as a headphone amp since the time I fully burned in the ST-3. When using the DAC-100 as a source, I clearly preferred the ST-3 (as they were made to be used as a pair anyway). In fact, I found another usage for the mkIII as a tube buffer between my dac and my desktop speakers (the gigaworks s750). It sweetened the somewhat dry sound of those speakers.
However, since I was trying to get a better sense of how the DAC-19mk3 sounded, I thought I should try it in another head-amp than the ST-3 to get a comparison. So I put the mkIII in place of the ST-3 using the same power cord, the same interconnect and the same isolation components I have been using with the ST-3 (vibrapod cones, plywood and carbon fiber rigid sheets). This experiment made me realize just how vibration control is important on tube gear.
Dynamics : the Little dot mkIII was to my surprise the clear winner in macro-dynamics. However, when I listened more carefully I realized that much
Soundstage : the little dot mkIII has a wider soundstage but a less defined one. While the soundstage with the st-3 is smaller, it is razor sharp defined and there is a better separation of intricate sounds
Transparency : Here the ST-3 is the clear winner by a very wide margin. If I were to make a comparison with tv resolution, I would compare the little dot to standard def 480p and the ST-3 at high def at 1080p.
Timbre : While one might expect a tube amp to offer a better refinement in sounds, it was the opposite in my system. The ST-3 let me hear (thanks to its superior resolution) more refinement and differences between sounds especially when listening to non amplified instruments (violins, pianos, ...).
Tonal balance : when comparing both amps, I realized that the little dot mkIII was the better balanced amp. The ST-3 can reach very low in the bass while its highs don't extend as much by comparison in the treble. Therefore, it sounds slightly bass heavy with the sennheiser hd-650.
Overall, I found that the 2 amps have more sonic differences thant the last time I reviewed them with the DAC-100 (Compass DAC), this is because the more neutral DAC-19mkIII and the more neutral cables I am using allow me to hear more easily any differences. I guess it is time I upgrade to a more appropriate amp.

Conclusion (after 300 hours of burn-in) :

To sum up, I cannot find any discernible sonic character/fault with the DAC-19MKIII using my current equipment but here are the main impressions : Excellent definition and low level resolution, High dynamics, Very deep and articulated bass, Sweet and natural highs and most of all, it is "analog" sounding.
I will update my findings once I upgrade my headphone amp.
post #36 of 695
A very nice, info packed look at the various players in your system slim.a !

Thanks

Peete.
post #37 of 695
I have DAC3 on its way. I'll do some comparison between these two when it arrives. I guess it'll be a very interesting comparison.
post #38 of 695
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patu View Post
I have DAC3 on its way. I'll do some comparison between these two when it arrives. I guess it'll be a very interesting comparison.
It will be a very interesting comparison. Did you get the DAC 3SE or the DAC 3DV (with the DSP1) ?
post #39 of 695
Thread Starter 
By the way, I have finally decided to upgrade my ST-3 with a C2C headphone amp. My unit should be on its way.
post #40 of 695
Oh sorry, forgot to mention the manufacturer. It's Bel Canto DAC3.

About 5x the price of DAC19Mk3. I still think that it'll be very even comparison.
post #41 of 695
Thread Starter 
That is an even more interesting comparison since there aren't many reviews about how the DAC19mk3 compares with dacs from well known manufacturers such as Benchmark, Bel Canto, ...
Keep us posted with your findings
post #42 of 695
DHL dropped off a present for me today! The DAC definitely needs some burn in though, the two things that stood out most to me out of the box are the low level resolution like slim.a said... and muddy bass.
post #43 of 695
Quote:
Originally Posted by somestranger26 View Post
DHL dropped off a present for me today! The DAC definitely needs some burn in though, the two things that stood out most to me out of the box are the low level resolution like slim.a said... and muddy bass.
I've noticed that amplification has much to do with bass performance. DAC19Mk3 performs great on low end IMO. Definitely nothing muddy neither on my headphone rig nor speaker rig.
post #44 of 695
Quote:
Originally Posted by Patu View Post
I've noticed that amplification has much to do with bass performance. DAC19Mk3 performs great on low end IMO. Definitely nothing muddy neither on my headphone rig nor speaker rig.
That's why I said I think it needs some burn-in (The EF1 has pretty clean bass). Getting better already .

Edit: MUCH better. The bass's muddiness and overpowering qualities have subsided after just half an hour or so.
post #45 of 695
Just IMO, if the pro 900 are the headphones that are sounding muddy, I'd say it's going to remain pretty muddy until you replace the stock pro 900 cable. The dac19mk3 has complex bass but when I tried using the stock pro 900 cable it just made things really stuffy, in which case you might actually prefer the dac19mk3 to have less bass detail. Maybe slim.a can test his HD650 with stock cable instead of the blue dragon and see if he can vouche for my opinion. Most DIY cables are probably just as good as the blue dragon so you don't have to spend a lot of money either, the important thing from recabling is to replace the stock pro 900 cable which turns low-end detail into boominess.

Oh I see it's not bothering you anymore . If it does though you could pretty cheaply hijack the neutrik on one of your two pro 900 cables and make a hardwire cable to see if you like the difference.
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