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12 DACs (Observations, Impressions), 5 Amps, 5 Headphones (Cancelled)  

post #1 of 103
Thread Starter 
Cancelled due to my musical preferences. I'm not qualified for impressions due to the music I listen to.

I'm sure many others will be up for the task and better qualified with better tastes....

Hello fellow music lovers,

In the few years that I have been on Head-fi, I have accumulated a bit of gear, especially DACs, due to the wonderful postings of this site. Before joining Head-fi, I had no idea what a DAC was. I basically knew CD players had them internally, but all this talk of external DACs to bypass the internal one via toslink or coax was very new to me. I read various head-fiers were using a DVD player as a transport, connected to an external DAC, playing CDs. This just sounded crazy to me, but they were enjoying their music with this setup.

So, I purchased an inexpensive DVD player (Philips DVP-642) ($39.99) as well as an external DAC (Entech Number Cruncher 203.2) ($37.99). I first connected the DVD player via RCA outs to the only semi-non-portable amp I had at the time (Xenos 3HA). The sound was not very good. But it was expected, as a DVD player is only good for movies, right. So, then I connected the DAC to the DVD player via coax and the DAC to the amp. …..I was amazed. How can the addition of this silver box convert this DVD player into a CD player with such great sound? The music was crystal clear and the general words we are used to hearing by now applied- “I have never heard that part of the song” etc. etc…

I thought to myself “Thanks to this wonderful site I have re-discovered my music collection”. I was hooked. That was 2006.

Here we are almost four years and fourteen DACs later and I still try to get my daily fix of Head-fi (I know, I should have sold my computer and ran away very fast). I still have my 203.2 and use it via optical to my HDTV and integrated amp.

In all this time I have never really compared one to the other. Yes, I have spent a good amount of time with each, but not too much collectively. I have them scattered all over the house (entertainment center, headphone rigs, powered speakers, desktops, laptops etc.) and they all get used in one way or another.

Since the purchase of my 203.2 back then, I really liked the “transport” idea, that I currently have one DAC each connected to my Blu-Ray, HD DVD and DVD player via toslink or coax for Redbook CD playback in my entertainment center / speaker rig.

I believe the time has come to move some gear out of the house…lol
A few weeks ago I ordered some Audio-GD gear (DAC-19DF, C-2 and FUN). The wife noticed the three new black boxes and said “more of this stuff”? I assured her that they were there before but she had not noticed them….lol…..Yeah right…I kid around, but she does support my hobby and me. However, I do believe that I have run out of room and luck, so some gear will eventually go to a new home.

Before sending some of the gear off, I have decided to put them up against each other. Sound, features, functionality, synergy with other gear etc. and see how they fair.
Want to try different amps and headphones, CD players, laptop. Also, I’ll be using a couple of DACs as USB to SPDIF converters to another DAC, as well as a couple of standalone converters. I’ll also be trying out the various inputs as well. My A5s will also get a piece of the action (pre-amp FUN and Matrix) and I will be using all DACs with the WA2 and C-2s pre-outs as well...Good times....

This is going to be a very long process but definitely fun along the way.

I have picked a variety of amps, headphones and music to get different perspectives. All music has been ripped to FLAC (EAC- cue sheets and log) from original CD (I also save the WAV files for storage). I have also compiled the songs onto a CD (WAV) (Taiyo Yuden), to be used with CDPs.

The Gear:

12 DACs

Audio-GD DAC-19DF
Audio-GD FUN (A)
Cambridge Audio DacMagic
E-MU 0404 USB
Little Dot DAC_I (not pictured)
Matrix Mini-i
Musical Fidelity V-DAC
Musiland MD-10
NuForce uDac
Zero (2008)(OPA627)
Zhaolu D2.5C (CS4398 2x OPA 2604AP)
Zhaolu D3.0 (CS4398 2x LT1028)

5 Amps

Audio-GD C-2
LD MKVII (SE & Balanced)
Musical Fidelity X-CanV3 (Siemens 6DJ8 x2)
Purity Audio K.I.C.A.S. (non-caliente)
Woo Audio WA2 (Tung-Sol 6AS7G x2, Tesla ECC88 x2, Tungsram EZ80 x2)

5 Headphones

Beyerdynamic DT880 (250ohm)
Denon AH-D5000
Grado RS1i
Sennheiser HD650 (SE & Balanced)
Ultrasone Edition 9

12 Songs

David Guetta (B.E.P.)- I Gotta Feeling (FMIF Remix)
Deadmau5- The 16th Hour
Dream Theater- Endless Sacrifice
Ferry Corsten- Radio Crash (Ummet Ozcan Remix)
Joyce Simms - (You Are My) All In All
Iron Maiden- The Prisoner
Notorious B.I.G.- Hypnotize
Porcupine Tree- Anesthetize
Rage Against The Machine- Killing In The Name
The Crystal Method- Vapor Trail
The Cure- Lullaby
The Prodigy- Their Law

Links (DACs) (For info and specs)(I have no affiliation with any of these sellers)(Links are good as of 04-10-10)

Audio-GD DAC-19DF
н¨ÍøÒ³ 1

Audio-GD FUN (A)
н¨ÍøÒ³ 1

Cambridge Audio DacMagic
Specifications / DacMagic Digital to Analogue Converter / Digital to Analogue Converters / Products / Cambridge Audio

E-MU 0404 USB
E-MU Systems - 0404 USB 2.0 - USB 2.0 Audio/MIDI Interface

Little Dot DAC_I
Little Dot Amplifiers • View topic - Little Dot DAC_I Digital to Analog Converter

Matrix Mini-i
Matrix mini-i 24/192 Balanced DAC + Headphone Amp - eBay (item 350235725907 end time Apr-30-10 20:13:10 PDT)

Musical Fidelity V-DAC
Musical Fidelity

Musiland MD-10
iFi Audio

NuForce uDac
Nuforce.com | Icon uDAC

Zero (2008)(OPA627) (link is for 2009 Zero)(I have 2008 Zero (no usb) with OPA627)
ZERO (Tianyun) 24/192 DAC + Headphone Amp (OPA627) - eBay (item 260422598150 end time Apr-29-10 22:28:27 PDT)

Zhaolu D2.5C (CS4398 2x OPA 2604AP)
Zhaolu D3.0 (CS4398 2x LT1028)
(Op-amps differ from link, what I currently have is in parenthesis)
CryoParts Zhaolu

Another reason I wanted to take the plunge into this- One of our favorite terms on Head-fi--- FOTM (Flavor Of The Month). Basically, a new product comes out and a lot of folks jump on it and it's really good for the time being. But then another product comes out and that becomes the FOTM and the previous product goes down into the forgotten gallows.

What happens when the FOTM status on a certain piece of gear expires? Does the product explode? Does it stop working? Does it disintegrate? Does it send an electrical shock once you touch it, to remind you that it is no longer popular and you have to get rid of it?

I don't know. But I do know there will always be better gear and all the DACs I have, have been in one way, shape or form a FOTM. So far, none have exploded on me.

I like to take the term "take one for the team" quite literally...
I just tend to keep everything...

First up- "All-In-One" Shootout (FUN (A) vs. Matrix Mini-i) (In Progress)

After this all-in-one, I have no specific order to compare. Was going to take the most recent FOTMs and start there. I will add to this thread as it comes along. If you have any pairings that you would like compared, let me know.

Thanks for reading,

post #2 of 103
Nice, I've not read it yet but I know this will surely interest me

At-least any Audio-GD reviews do
post #3 of 103
I would want to see the audio GD DAC-19 DF connected to the C-2 and the WA2 compared.
post #4 of 103
I'm interested in getting some knowledge of the Matrix Mini-i as a DAC, and I would especially like to see it compared with the DAC-19 but also the V-DAC, the Little Dot DAC_1 and the DacMagic.
ATM I'm using a µDAC so any comparisons to that will also be welcome.
post #5 of 103
This is going to be very interesting indeed.
post #6 of 103
Oh wow, that's a lot of equipment. Can't wait for some comparisons!
post #7 of 103
That's the one I'm looking for...FUN (A) vs. Matrix Mini-i

Very interesting thread...
post #8 of 103
Interested comparisons:

Matrix Mini-i vs Little Dot DAC_I
Zero DAC vs Audio-GD DAC-19DF (to see how much of an upgrade it is)

Headphones used:
Denon D5000
Grado RS1i
Beyerdynamic DT880

Iron Maiden- The Prisoner
post #9 of 103
I just can't seem to find impressions on DAC19 + classical music + AKG K701.
post #10 of 103
Tagging this!
post #11 of 103

Very cool, will be checking this out regularly.

Currently have the Audio-gd C-2c for an amp, having just sold my DAC, I'm currently eying 3 of the DAC's on your list (DacMagic, V-Dac and uDac) so I'm really curious on your impressions on those three.

post #12 of 103
Lol why not just subscribe to the thread? I subscribe to every thread I comment on, in case someone replies to me. I have almost 600 thread subscriptions in 5 months
post #13 of 103
Very Nice Thread! I am looking forward to your comparisons Jesse
post #14 of 103
i wish you luck on this endeavor.

however, mixing and matching 12 DACs, 5 Amps, and 5 Headphones, along with various inputs/outputs and transports, is going to create literally thousands of possible combinations.

if you're going to compare, say, DACs, i'd suggest using one headphone and amp for the comparisons, as without constants this experiment will likely spiral out of control.

then there's the issue of volume matching.

personally, and probably selfishly, i also think it would be very helpful to list the DA chips, filters, and output stage of each DAC to see if any common characteristics or patterns emerge from the different topologies.

of course, it's your gear and hence entirely up to you. good luck.
post #15 of 103
GREAT!Looking forward to how this will play out...
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