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Official Audio-gd Sparrow thread - Page 44

post #646 of 725

Okay, since Audio-GD is "working on their backlog" as reported on the NFB-11 thread, please tell me what you think:


  • Borrowed a first generation Benchmark DAC and really liked the "crisp", "linear" quality and resolution of the DAC as the HF-2 are not the highest resolving or the brightest phones.  Think it is a good pairing.  (I would like resolution in my DAC and Amp first, then to introduce amps later that "soften"...)


  • Borrowed a fellow member's Sparrow "B" USB version with AD1852 purchased through the Pacific Valve and Electric Company.


  • I listened with optical input from Apple G5 and was really impressed by the fairly "dry" sound (with some warmth in the the mids compared to the Benchmark) and found it amazing for the price.  (Listening side-by-side with the Benchmark, over 3 weeks.)


  • The owner of the Benchmark (and a mastering engineer) also liked the Sparrow "B" enough to want an "A" version Sparrow for it's 24/192 support and USB input (which his Benchmark does not have).


  • I told him I'd go to Audio-GD, buy the "A" version, and he could pay me back (if I liked it I would get one too).


  • Kingwa said that  "Now we have the WM8805 module can replace the DIR8416 to support up to 192KHz and jitter only 50PS (DIR8416 is 200PS)."


  • I said I'd take it. 


  • It arrived on Dec 19th and I gave it to my friend to check out first.  He said he couldn't use it at all, that there "must be an issue with the slew rate or something."


  •  I took it home and then did an A/B between the "A" and the "B" versions.  What I found was that the "B" sounded great with the optical input and that the "A" was "slurred" or sounded like it had additional "reverb" especially with the USB in (the optical is better but still not as clean as the optical-in on the B).  My friend said the A version is "muddy".


  • Bottom line, I would like a "B" with the AD1852 and I will only use the optical in- the USB is not as "dry" and not what I am looking for.



Audio-GD has not yet responded to a couple of emails over the past two weeks to either return or exchange the "A" with WM8741 so I have time to see what you think:


Do you find a BIG difference between the optical and USB inputs with your units?


Does anyone else find the same thing with the "B" optical vs. USB and like the optical in much better?


Has anyone else done A/B with the "A" and the "B" with USB and Optical on each?


I had hopes for the "A" because even though on the site the WM chips are regarded as "more forgiving" and "warm", there was a note that the newer Sparrow "A" had a revised and more "neutral" implementation that was a "step above the AD1852".



Edited by CEE TEE - 1/8/11 at 7:32pm
post #647 of 725


post #648 of 725

Can your friend run both sparrows through RMAA tests? Seems to me something may be faulty in the new sparrow, likely the wm8805.

post #649 of 725

@haloxt, thanks for your help with Audio-GD questions.  (Not the first time you have thought about things for me!)


I know that I can really like Audio-GD because my friend's "B" version sounds really nice through the optical input.


Maybe a Bay Area Head-fier can help me run some RMAA tests...I can try to find someone.  Though, I'll have to find someone that can also measure the optical inputs as well as the USB.  Is it true that a lot of PCs don't have optical outputs unless they have special soundcards?


Hopefully I won't still have the "A" version Sparrow when we're at the Bay Area Meet, but I could also borrow the "B" version again and bring them.


Re: WM8805...  Is the WM8805 utilized when using the optical-in?  I do not like either the optical-in nor the USB-in on the "A" version.  

post #650 of 725

Some computers have built-in motherboard optical output, but not all. I was thinking maybe your friend would have the soundcard with all the inputs and outputs necessary to do all the RMAA tests. The WM8805 is used for all inputs. If the dir9001 and wm8805 modules you have are interchangeable (might not be between the two sparrow versions, not sure!), then I would swap them and see if you still have the issue you observe. If the problem is gone, then that would mean your wm8805 module is at fault. I would ask audio-gd if it is possible to swap first, I think the layout and voltages and stuff may be different between different  versions and construction periods for sparrows.

post #651 of 725

VERY NICE.  I'm looking forward to having my own "B" with AD1852 and DIR9001 !!!


WIth Audio-GD, I have found that I sometimes have to wait a little bit and after a week or two and a couple emails (this varies)- they seem to "catch up" on emails and are then very responsive.


Just had a very nice quick string of emails with Kingwa and I am really happy that I can exchange "A" version for the "B" version I borrowed from another Head-Fier (it may be mostly a preference thing and not an issue with the unit because of this response from Kingwa)...


From Kingwa:



Dear Christian,
This version had two or more different than your version A.
1, the AD1852 brighter than WM8741.
2, The DIR9001 neutral but the WM8805 slight on warmer side.
You want to confirm,
1, 192K or 96K?
2, USB or non USB?
Kingwa was extremely courteous and flexible with me, even though I am starting out at the very bottom of his line-up.  I will be happy to check out his "reference products" at meets and I know that I prefer his "Neutral/Revealing/Bright" implementations.  
post #652 of 725

You say the difference is pretty significant though? When Kingwa says the wm8741 and wm8805 are slightly warm, he means SLIGHTLY. I would suggest swapping the modules if possible, to try to see if there really is a problem or it is just a sound preference on your part.


Another possibility, only swap out the wm8805 for dir9001, and keep the slightly warm wm8741 because people generally regard it as better than ad1852.

post #653 of 725

Thank you, but I found it <significantly> different and do not want to take anything from the "A" version.


I'll be quite happy if I can match the optical-in of my friend's "B" version.


(And, opening his Sparrow would void the Pacific Valve Electric Company warranty which is where he purchased his from.) 

post #654 of 725

I bought the B version back in October from Pacific Valve as well Cee Tee, and Haloxt did some thinking for me too. Anywy it's sort of coincidental that you bring up your friend because I believe i exchanged PM's with the same Head Fi'er a couple of days ago after seeing the Sparrow in his sig. Basically I just wanted his impressions and he responded with a story about lending it to a friend who compared it very favorably to the Benchmark DAC. Originally I had ordered an "A" but switched to the "B." Coming from the uDAC this was really a nice value upgrade for me. AC powered versus USB powered. I also grew to quickly like the more neutral presentation of the Sparrow versus the uDAC. My main cans, my only cans really are a pair of HF2's and they seem to have great synergy with the Sparrow. I use the USB to connect to my PC but would be interested in the optical option you are discussing, but it doesnt look like I have an optical out on my PC. Is there a work around for this problem or is it not that big a deal? Is the improvement something the average listener is going to notice or are the improvements minimal. The bigger picture though is probably those folks looking for a DAC / Amp combo, and from that standpoint my impression is this is a good buy; and your impression is, if I understand you correctly, is it sounded pretty much like a piece of gear that costs 5 1/2 times as much. I wonder how it compares to Kingwa's gear then that costs 5 1/2 times as much or if crazy carl had a valid point earlier in the thread?

Edited by KneelJung - 1/12/11 at 8:15pm
post #655 of 725

@KneelJung:  Yes, that was me.  Caveat:  My impressions here are with my experience and only one year of really paying attention to audio.  My friends have always "owned" the audio realm and I was more in the visual one (photography/print). 


What I found doing a fair amount of A/B over 2-3 weeks was that the Benchmark (Older, Non-USB with HPA-1, through optical-in) sounded very "linear" and "crisp"- bordering on "crunchy" (one of my issues with the Benchmark) but having good treble extension.  With the HF-2 (before I put the Jumbo pads on), I wanted "a bit" more resolution and "a tad" more treble.  The Benchmark did that for me and also "filled-in" more small details throughout the frequency range, extending the low (without padding it) and sounding more "connected".  I think it works well with Grado HF-2 and bowls.  I planned on adding something in the chain later (probably an SS amp- they soften too) to help with some music, remove the "crunchiness", and/or "relax" the presentation a bit.  


After deciding to try the Sparrow one more time but with my optical out from my Mac at home (Benchmarks are still pretty pricey), I found that I DID like the Sparrow "B" sound.  (Now I know I wasn't as impressed upon first listen because I do not like the USB-in nearly as much).


Comparison of "B" version Sparrow with "A" version:  Note:  Kingwa did write that I should feel free to fully burn-in the "A" continuously for 10-15 days before reaching a final conclusion and not to worry about how long I took before deciding what I wanted to do (very, very nice of him).  So, without "A" being burned in for 150-200 hours per Kingwa's suggestion: The optical implementation of the "B" sounds to me "drier" or "clearer" than the "B" USB in the unit I borrowed and the "A" USB-in just sounds really "smeared" to me in comparison.   


So, I am definitely mailing back the "A" tomorrow but look forward to having a "B"!  


Comparison of "B" optical with Benchmark optical:  What I found was that the "B" optical-in is very clear, maybe just a touch of warmth in the mids compared to the Benchmark but not as "crispy" or slightly "crunchy" sounding like the Benchmark.  I didn't miss the resolution of the Benchmark when listening to the "B" and just wanted to listen to the "B" even though I had (and can still borrow) the Benchmark for periods of time.  That was a great sign.  


The "B" has clarity but is not harsh, nor does it sound too "rounded" off or too "smoothed out" to me.  And- for the price I am flabbergasted.  A easy decision for a piece of gear that I can be happy with while I take my time to listen to other gear and see if it makes differences to my HF-2.  


I may be getting more finicky and may sound a lot like I am exaggerating, but I really noticed these differences.  I know I will continue to learn and hear more differences as I go along, too.


I checked my findings with my musician/mastering friends without telling them what I thought I was hearing and they said the same things.  


I have been learning/listening and then checking what I think I hear with what they think to test myself.  


I'm also listening to my reference recordings on my friend's speaker system (D'Appolito array) to try and learn about frequency extension and what is in the recordings.




Edited by CEE TEE - 1/12/11 at 9:41pm
post #656 of 725

Since Kingwa wants you to burn it in continuously before deciding, I would do it. A lot of people have said audio-gd gear changes a lot with burn-in, 250-350 hours being when it finally starts to settle down. Another option to sending back your sparrow A, is to buy the dir9001 and ad1852 modules for your sparrow A. It may end up being cheaper or just about the same price as sending back your sparrow for another sparrow.


And I hope you guys aren't offended I give advice like this :p, I just want to help people save money and find the gear they may like best.

post #657 of 725

Thanks, haloxt...very appreciative, you have much more experience than many of us so not offended at all by any of your thoughts or advice!


I did think about what Kingwa was saying (he was extremely nice and flexible about return/exchange/try-it-out options) but I took that burn-in advice in conjunction with some of the other communication that the AD chip as well as the DIR module are both "less warm" than the WM chip and WM modules according to him.  So, that's not what I'm shooting for even if burned-in...


(This way they can also listen to the unit and check it out.) 

post #658 of 725

No apologies necessary Cee Tee I appreciated your detailed impressions and thought process. I've only been doing this headphone thing for about a year too. I bought some SR60's about this time last year and then shortly after that purchased a uDAC. Both purchases were based on stuff I read here. After those purchases I lurked for a while now and again and unfortunately the more I read the more I felt like upgrading. The Sparrow was the first piece of gear I upgraded other than phones. Initially all I wanted to do was upgrade the headphone out on my uDAC. So I was thinking a little tube amp like the Little Dot +1 or the Hifiman EF2A. I also had a gear crush on the Schiit Asgard. ultimatey though I decided I didnt want to fiddle with tubes or have multiple components. What I wanted was something with it's own power source like a dedicated amp has. Eventually my search ended up focusing on Audio GD stuff because of the reputation of other gear like the Zero, the Compass, the Fun etc.I was at one point thinking I wanted a Fun since it could be used as a DAC only that I could scale up to a dedicated amp (still had a gear crush on the Asgard).


Anyway I ended up deciding on the Sparrow because it basically fit what my purchase hot buttons were. A good reputation amongst head fi'ers.not the Sparrow in particular but Audio GD stuff in general. It looked good and seemed well constructed, and it had it's own power source versus being powered via USB like the uDAC. I did some other research on DAC chips that didnt yield anything necessarily but it helped; and I think what cinched it was I asked the Pacific Valve salesman if he had heard both the A and B and he indicated that he had, and thought the B sounded better. His impression was that the A sounded smeared. That conversation was like a week before I actually bought. Anyway when I initially ordered I went with an A because of the 24/96 via USB, the reputation of the Woolson chip and because they had one in stock. Plus it cost more and was the premium version so it must be better, isnt that the conventional wisdom.I ended up changing my mind before they shipped it and got the B. because I had that nagging thought planted in my head by the Pacific salesman, glad I did.  Why am I boring you with all this you might be wondering?


Well it's more for somebody that might happen along in search of a budget DAC / Amp combo, and looking for some impressions on the Sparrow. For those folks, two thoughts, It's pretty nice and offers a lot of bang for your buck.

Edited by KneelJung - 1/13/11 at 1:15pm
post #659 of 725

@KneelJung- thank you for the confirmation!  Much appreciated.  Just sent off the unit and am looking forward to getting my "B" too.


I really think it is a good value and a nice unit.  I agree, sound signature preference and implementation are more important than just price alone for what we might prefer.


If not for other Head-Fiers, I never would have heard of (nor heard) Audio-GD.


Hopefully we've got LOTS more happy listening to do!!!   beerchug.gif



OH!  Please let me know what you think when you have a chance to listen to your Sparrow with the Optical-in!  I'd like to know if yours also has a difference in sound and I will report if mine ends up sounding as good as my friend's after Kingwa's recommendation and around 200 hours on it...

post #660 of 725

I have the DIR9001/WM8741 combo, and I agree it totally nails it with the voicing.  It's fun even with the LCD-2s, which otherwise can sound somewhat boring out of many amps.

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