Thanks for sharing your impressions. But personally, I disagree with the way you described the Hiface as being:”Overall sound signature is a bit thin and bright
”. I think that it is an inaccurate description as the Hiface is rather a neutral and transparent unit. Below are the reasons why I believe the Hiface is not thin and bright as you described.
Comparison with other usb to spdif converters:
So far, I have compared the Hiface to 4 other usb to spdif converters. I have testes each of those converters with different drivers and usb cables (Wireworld Ultraviolet, Monster, Belkin Gold, Real Cable...). And so far, the Hiface seems the most neutral in comparison.
Here is a quick recap of how they sound:
-Emu 0404 USB: thin and edgy sounding, small soundstage, limited extension at the frequency extremes
-Musiland 01 USD: relatively neutral balance, better extension at the frequency extremes than the EMU 0404
-Teralink-X: relatively warm sounding, better extension at the frequency extremes than the Musiland
-Purepiper usb to spdif converter: relatively warm sounding, limited extension at the frequency extremes.
-Hiface: The most transparent of the groupUsing the Hiface with different digital cables:
I tried the Hiface with many digital cables. Here are some quick impressions using the dac19mk3 as a DAC.
-Hiface + Canare cable: The sound is constricted, edgy, the soundstage is small
-Hiface + Belden cable: The sound is warm, the soundstage bigger than life (but not very precise), the transients are slowed and muffled in comparison with higher end cables
-Hiface + Sobek (modded): The sound is slightly on the warm side of neutral. The soundstage is not as big as with the Belden but is more defined and varies from one recording to another. There is a big increase in details.
-Hiface + Stereovox XV2: The sound is slight on the thin side of neutral, a little bit bright/metallic timbre. However, it is more detailed and spacious than the Sobek.
-Hiface + Oyaide DB-510: The sound is neutral and transparent. It the most detailed but also the most natural combination.Using the Hiface and Oyaide with different DACs:
Since I have settled for the Hiface + Oyaide as my reference front end, I have used it to test different DACs and here is how they sound
-Hiface + Oyaide + Purepiper DAC A-1: It has a relatively neutral tonal balance with a slight emphasis on the upper midrange. It is a little bit dry sounding. With the wrong associated equipment it can sound harsh.
-Hiface + Oyaide + FUN version A (with the AD1852 dac chip): The sound is darker than the Purepiper. It is smoother; it has a lot less apparent details (different voicing) but has more low level details. It is also richer sounding.
-Hiface + Oyaide + FUN version A (with the WM8740 dac chip): The sound is warmer than with the AD1852 but there is a definite loss of details and a little bit of mid bass bloat.
-Hiface + Oyaide + FUN version B (with AD1852): It has a more limited bandwidth than version A and has dirtier highs. The sound is constricted and edgy in comparison with version A.
-Hiface + Oyaide + DAC19mk3 (with the DF1704 digital filter): The soundstage is huge and well defined, with holographic imaging. The transients are faster. There is a great sense of transparency. The bass is deep and accurate. The highs are cleaner than any other combination above.
-Hiface + Oyaide + DAC19mk3 (with the PMD100 digital filter): While the PMD100 is not as fast as the DF1704 filter, it has a purer tone with greater tonal density. It is “analog heaven” not because it adds pleasing distortion but because it has purer highs.Conclusion
Overall, I am not saying that the Hiface + Oyaide should be used in any system as component matching is important to get a musically satisfying result.
But both the Hiface as well as the Oyaide digital cable are very transparent components. It is possible to achieve a similar tonal balance with other combination, but by using lesser components, you loose at the same time low level details, frequency extension, soundstage and imaging clues, and timbre subtleties that cannot be recovered elsewhere in the chain.
So while I understand that a specific system can sound thin and edgy with Hiface, I believe it is not because of the Hiface but because of other components in the chain (digital cable, DAC) that are more likely to be the culprit.
Side Note: I suspect that in highly resolving systems when using DACs based on sigma delta chips (and opamps), it is likely that the Hiface will sound thin and dry simply because it will reveal the true sonic character of the DAC; other more jittery devices such as the Teralink seem to inject some kind of pleasing dither that makes the listening more tolerable and enjoyable (but less precise).
Here is again a few links to why sigma delta dacs are flawed and were only pursued to lower the cost of manufacturing in comparison with the R2R/multibit DAC chips.Mother of Tone - Conversion TechniquesHow DACs Work