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Review: Yulong D100 DAC/amp - reference quality with a reasonable price

post #1 of 1160
Thread Starter 

 

 

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INTRO

 

Anyone who owns higher end audio gear knows (and hopefully is willing to admit) that it is not the best value. At some point you reach the best price to performance ratio, and it starts costing quite a bit of money to buy incremental improvements after that point. We don’t necessarily all agree on which products maximize the ratio but most people would likely agree with me when I say that my Matrix M-Stage amp is a better value than my Luxman P-1u, even though the Luxman is easily the better amp. The Luxman is geared towards someone who wants the absolute best they can get, and is actually a rather poor value relatively speaking.

 

That being said, audio equipment manufacturers are constantly looking to blur the boundaries of what constitutes “high end”, and to work some value into the proposition. Numerous companies like Audio GD, Oppo, Axiom, Wyred 4 Sound, Emotiva, LiveWires, Earsonics, and many more, have started offering near reference level products for a fraction of what “reference” has traditionally sold for. Note that I’m not necessarily talking about “cheap” products either. Some of them are still out of reach for many buyers. The point is that you can approach the absolute best available at a price that is still somewhat reasonable.

 

The purpose of all this talking is to give context to my recent favorite new acquisition, the D100 from Yulong Audio. Yulong is not a name I was familiar with, having only heard of their DAH1 DAC from a few years back. My recollection was that it was a great value, sounded nice, but had some operational quirks and quality control issues. So I was not immediately drawn to the brand.

 

After talking to a friend overseas, the D100 was brought to my attention. I was in the market for an all in one unit and the specs looked intriguing, so I picked one up. I am definitely glad I did.

 

 

DESIGN

 

 

The Yulong D100 is an integrated DAC/amp unit that costs $449, plus $40 fixed shipping; that makes it realistically a $500 product. Mine is from eBay seller wsz0304 who has been excellent to deal with. The D100 is roughly 10 inches wide, 7 inches deep, and 2 inches high, and weights about 5 pounds. It has a built in switch for selecting 110/120v or 220/240v operation, so it works pretty much everywhere, and has a standard detachable IEC power cable. It accepts most types of digital signals including USB, optical, coaxial SPDIF, and AES/EBU. It accepts signals up to 24/192 over the AES/EBU, optical, and coaxial digital inputs, and accepts 24/96 over USB.  Once the digital to analog conversion is complete, that signal can be sent out through a standard RCA output, or via balanced XLR output. It also has a built in headphone amp which features separate ¼ inch jacks; one for low impedance headphones and one for high impedance headphones. They don’t specify the cutoff ranges, but overall the unit claims to handle headphones with impedances ranging from 16 to 600 ohms. They encourage you to try both jacks with your headphones and see for yourself which works best. It features a built in display with some useful info, and a simple front panel button that cycles through the various inputs. There is a “sound mode” button that allows you to cycle between mode 1 and mode 2. Mode 1 is full range, and mode 2 is supposedly darker. With the help of a translator friend on this forum (you know who you are, thanks again!) I was able to find out that mode 2 has “a minor reduction of 0-3dB between 15-20kHz range resulting in slightly darker highs. Sound mode only applicable for the headphone out.” I wish this mode dug deeper, perhaps down to 10kHz, as that might have made it more noticeable. As it is I don’t think I can reliably tell them apart in a blind test.

 

Thus far most of my general description could be any old DAC/amp combo. The magic here is in the design, in the combination of parts and implementation. Standard digital signals are accepted by a Cirrus Logic CS8416, and USB input is handled by a Texas Instruments TAS1020B. From there the signal is sent in I2S form to the Analog Devices AD1896 asynchronous sample rate converter, where it is processed to a 110kHz sample rate using a high precision system clock, and word lengths are padded to 24-bit. That signal then goes to an AD1955 where the actual digital to analog conversion happens. I/V conversion, filtering, and buffering are then handled by the combo of AD4075 and OPA275. At that point the signal is ready to go when using the D100 as a DAC. When using it directly with headphones, the signal is sent through the headphone amp section which features an OPA2134.

 

The key portion of this design is the ASRC process. I’m no expert, but I’m told that ASRC can be tricky to do well, yet is also well worth it when properly implemented. The main enemy in the digital world is jitter, and it must be dealt with. There are other methods of reducing jitter, such as running in Asynchronous USB mode like Ayre and Wavelength, but those are considerably more expensive. By using off the shelf solutions in a well designed circuit, the D100 is able to achieve excellent results in a manner similar to Benchmark with their DAC-1.

 

Looking at the parts list above, many of the choices seem familiar. The AD1955 is used in the Berkeley Alpha DAC among others. The CS8416 is used in the PS Audio Digital Link III and the Grace Designs m902. The Lavry DA10 actually uses the same AD1955/AD1896 combo as the D100. The USB receiver (TAS1020B) can also be found in products from Wavelength, Ayre, Empirical, and of course the Benchmark DAC1 USB. Some may scoff at the OPA2134, but it is used in the Matrix M-Stage (aka Lehmann Black Cube Linear) with excellent results, so again we see that good products are more than just the sum of their parts.

 

The point here is not just to list a pile of parts and somehow claim high quality. If that were the goal I think ASRC could be avoided in favor of more exotic capacitors and such. Yulong claims they designed this unit to show that they can compete above the level of your standard eBay type DACs, and they have put in the effort with prototyping, testing, and even redesigning. And we can even find a bit of proof for that: the original info stated that they had tested various frequencies and found that 256fs/132.3kHz was about as high as the AD1896 could run, and provided the best performance. The master clock ran at 33.8688MHz. The AD1896 absolute max MCLK is 34MHz under specific conditions, so everything fit together. But somehow after the first 50 units were made, it was discovered that the lead-free AD1955 in the production version could not run reliably at 256fs/132.3kHz. There were minor changes to the circuit for an end result of 110kHz resampling. The sound signature and technical measurement supposedly remains unchanged, with a claimed slightly better imaging for the 110kHz version. I can’t verify this as my unit is serial number 92 and thus already has the redesign. But the point is there is some real engineering happening here, not just throwing things together and churning out an impressive spec sheet. They could have gone with 192kHz upsampling, but claim that the 110kHz gives a distinct filter performance benefit (Benchmark makes the same claim).

 

Much has been said of the benefits of Asynchronous USB mode versus Adaptive USB mode. You can read all day and not find a consensus on the issue. While it is true that Asynchronous mode (not to be confused with the ASRC process) seems to have more potential, it is also generally expensive, and in practice there are plenty of excellent options (like Wadia, and the above mentioned Lavry and Benchmark units) that utilize Isochronous Adaptive mode and achieve excellent results. Ultimately it is the sound that counts, not the method used to produce it.

 

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PACKAGE

 

The D100 arrived very quickly considering its international journey to my house. The box is fairly plain, but the packing inside was sturdy and did the job. Inside I found the D100 itself, a power cable, a USB cable, and a user manual. Nothing too exciting but enough to get you started.

 

The manual is particularly confusing, with multiple typos and odd wording. Most likely it was translated poorly from the original language. There’s not really much info in there anyway; it still talks about the 132kHz ASRC. I talked directly to Yulong to get the updated info above. About the only interesting thing in the manual is a printout of a frequency response test, which looks nice but is too small and hard to read to be of much use. You can see it on the eBay listing from wsz0304 as well.

 

 

BUILD QUALITY

 

The D100 is very nice looking. It features a thick brushed aluminum silver faceplate, and even though the rest of the unit is black, it has a nice textured smooth feel to it. The volume knob turns with tiny clicks that are felt but not heard, and the buttons on the front panel have a nice action to them.

 

The LCD display lights up in a bluish color, and tells you a bit of useful info: which input you have selected, what the sample rate is of the incoming signal, and which sound mode you have selected. I found the sample rate info to be consistently accurate, which is helpful when dealing with a variety of signal types. It allowed me to figure out that I needed to switch a setting on my Rotel player to output at 96kHz instead of downsampling to 48kHz.

 

One thing I like is that it remembers which input you last used before you turned the unit off. Apparently the old Yulong DAH models had an issue with resetting to a certain input after every power down, and that has been fixed on this model.

 

Overall the unit looks and feels like a high end piece of gear, and I don’t think anyone would be disappointed with it. One odd thing I noticed: when I first took some pictures for this review, I found that the flash made visible a slight haziness to the front panel finish. It was not something I could see directly, but only showed up with flash photography. Check my pictures for examples. I ended up wiping it down with a damp cloth and it went away completely, so it must have been some type of remnant from the manufacturing or shipping process. In any case, if the front looks odd in the pictures, that is the explanation, and it is not a real issue to be concerned about.

 

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On the above pic, I had not yet taken off the little clea plastic sticker that covers the Yulong Audio logo. So that's why it looks like it has a border. The pic above that is correct. 

 

 

REVIEW GEAR

 

Sources:

Rotel RDV-1092 player

Dell Mini with Windows 7, 2GB RAM, 64GB SSD with Foobar2000 Kernel streaming

QLS HiFi QA350 solid state transport

 

Amps:

Matrix M-Stage

Fournier HTA-1

Luxman P-1u

DarkVoice 337SE

 

DACs:

Musical Fidelity X-DAC v3 with X-PSU

Sigtone Shek D1 NOS DAC

Audinst HUD-mx1

AMB GAMMA2

Wavelength Audio Cosine

 

Headphones:

Sennheiser HD800

LiveWires Trips

AKG K702

JH Audio JH13pro

Audio Technica W2002

Kenwood KH-K1000

Monster Turbine Pro Copper Edition

BeyerDynamic DT990 600ohm

 

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LISTENING

 

 

As always I burned in the unit for at least 100 hours to make sure it was working properly (and so nobody would complain that I had not burned it in). In this case I probably did more like 200 because I was busy monkeying around with my new toy, a Hackintosh netbook. Turns out I’m not a huge Mac fan so back to Windows 7 I went, and then started spending time with the D100.

 

Right off the bat I could tell this was something special. Sometimes you hear a piece of gear and it grabs your attention with huge bass, or sweet mids, or some other coloration that you may or may not appreciate months down the road. Not so with the D100; what first grabbed me was the total lack of any unnatural enhancement to the sound. It just translated the music as the source presented it, with nothing added or taken away.

 

The tricky part about explaining highly transparent gear is that it doesn’t really have a sound of its own, so you end up describing the sound of the other associated equipment instead. That would make for a short read, so I’ll try my best to explain what I can.

 

I used the Rotel player to listen to “Illinois” by Sufjan Stevens, which is one of my favorite albums. Sufjan’s voice was carved from the mix with lifelike detail, and nuances in the recording were exceptionally easy to hear. The bass region was clean, tight, and very well controlled, proving the D100 has guts down low. From “John Wayne Gacy, Jr” to “Casimir Pulaski Day”, the D100 delivered every last drop of the smooth yet visceral emotion that Stevens is known for.

 

Next I switched to the QLS QA350 and played one of my favorite albums, “In the Ley Lines” by Dengue Fever. This Bowers and Wilkins Society of Sound release is about as good as I’ve ever heard 16-bit/44kHz audio sound, and I wondered what the D100 would do to it. I was pleased to hear that it didn’t really do anything….. that is to say, it did not add any brightness, or unneeded sweetness, or any other “help”, but rather allowed it to sound unbelievably natural and real. Several of the tracks are live performances, and those sounded especially good, with each voice and instrument in the complex mix skillfully fleshed out. The soundstaging and imaging were superb, and the overall resolution outstanding. If I didn’t know better, and I was told B&W had labeled this as a Hi Res release, I would absolutely believe that to be true, as it just sounds that good on the D100. Lesser recordings played through the QA350 didn’t quite have the same magic, but still sounded quite good. The D100 is not the type of unit to polish a turd so to speak, but it does seem to bring out whatever goodness does exist in the recording with a very even hand. I found that even listening to older punk and grunge that is not really audiophile fare, I didn’t find myself turned off by the sound. Instead I ended up just focusing on the music and looking past the flaws, which is usually something that a good NOS DAC can help you accomplish rather than a clear and detailed upsampling unit.

 

I love my little Dell Mini netbook (which just happens to fit perfectly atop the D100, nearly identical in size) because it is completely silent. No fans, no moving parts, just pure audio goodness. Some people claim more RAM makes their sound improve, others claim Macbooks sound better than other laptops. I’m not so sure I believe those to be tangible benefits, but I doubt anyone would argue the merit of a literally silent system. USB mode proved to be every bit as good as the other inputs, which is usually not the case with most multi-function units. I was able to play 24/96 tracks from Chesky, HDtracks, AIX records, 2L records, and others, and they all sounded squeaky clean. For recordings with sample rates higher than 96kHz, you have to adjust a setting in Foobar, just like with the Audinst unit. This only came up once in a while so it didn’t bother me, but I wish they accepted higher rates just for convenience sake. Other than that the performance was flawless and the sound quality breathtaking.

 

My Lexicon RT-20 is the only player I own that has an AES/EBU output and unfortunately I just sent it in for service so it won’t be back for a while. But testing the USB, coaxial, and optical inputs, I could not discern any difference. This is likely due to the ASRC processes acting as an equalizer to level the playing field, but it also points to a lack of compromise in the USB implementation.

 

That’s about the best I can do to describe the utterly transparent sound that I seem to be getting from this unit. I apologize as it feels inadequate but what else can I do? I’ll try some comparisons and see if that helps clear things up a bit for the reader.

 

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COMPARISONS

 

 

Note that I won’t be doing an in depth comparison to each of my other DACs as most of them are not currently available on the market, but I’ll summarize those comparisons anyway.

 

Sigtone Shek D1

 

This NOS DAC was almost $300 new, and I like it a lot. It’s very musical and engaging at the expense of some accuracy and detail. The D100 seems to somehow match all of the things I like about the Sigtone unit while simultaneously filling in all the weak spots. I really did not expect it to cover all the bases in such a way, but after much listening I have to admit it does. I’m hearing background coughs, sheet music pages turning, and metronomes quietly clicking away but remaining undistracted by those imperfections in the recording. It is rare that a DAC can achieve such a balance.

 

Musical Fidelity X-DAC v3 with X-PSU

 

This older DAC (I paid around $1200 with the X-PSU) still holds up well compared with many new offerings, but simply cannot match the Yulong D100. The differences are fairly easy to hear using the Matrix M-Stage amp’s dual inputs to switch between the DACs in real time. The X-DAC initially seems nice, with good detail retrieval and solid bass performance. But when you flip the switch to the Yulong, the soundstage seems to really open up, and the highs become both more detailed and less harsh. Switching back to the X-DAC, the soundstage collapses and the treble grain seems very obvious. It’s odd how satisfied you can be with a sound until you have a comparison to expose all the flaws. If I went back to listening with the X-DAC exclusively for a while, I would probably be content. That is, until I heard the Yulong again.

 

Wavelength Cosine

 

My Cosine is one of the older models that only accept 16-bit/44.1kHz signals, but it still sounds excellent. This is an interesting unit as it has no oversampling, no upsampling, and no filtering of any kind. It was quite expensive about 12 years ago, and is still the best NOS DAC I’ve ever heard at any price. It has very analog-like sound and is great for all music, from audiophile quality to low budget demos by local bands.

 

The Yulong D100 sounds very similar in many ways. Both have exceptional tonal accuracy. Both have exceedingly clear and controlled bass. Both are well balanced and exhibit no easily discernable weaknesses. The main difference I noticed was that the Cosine seems to have a slightly sweeter midrange followed by a delicately rolled off upper register. When I saw sweeter, I don’t necessarily mean louder, but there seems to be more energy there. Both male and female voices more priority in the mix, as do acoustic guitars. The top end doesn’t seem to lose much detail but also isn’t quite the last word in resolution. In contrast, the Yulong has more of a flat response, which makes it likely the more “correct” sound but ultimately not as pleasing to listen to. This was one of the only times I ever felt hampered by the flat nature of the D100.

 

With the Wavelength limited to standard resolution signals (at least in my unit), the D100 ends up being more versatile of a performer, but I’ll be keeping the Wavelength around for a long time.

 

AMB Gamma2

 

My Gamma2 is of the “type E” configuration which means it does not have USB; just optical and coaxial SPDIF. There are several configuration options available; mine uses the Wolfson WM8740 DAC chip and the TI SRC4192 for ASRC. I have always felt that this DAC is one of the absolute best values around, but when I got my Audinst HUD-mx1 I realized that it came very close in performance for less money.

 

The step up from the Audinst to the Gamma2 is fairly small, but the step up from there to the D100 is slightly bigger. In comparison, the Gamma2 sounds a bit dry and dull, even if it is slightly brighter. The brightness ends up coming across as a poor attempt to add detail, and it is not quite convincing to me. In comparison, the D100 maintains a smooth detailed sound signature from top to bottom, and nothing sticks out as being artificial.

 

This sounds as if I dislike my Gamma2, which is not the case at all. It has many good traits such as excellent soundstage and nice smooth upper mids that really pop. But the D100 just seems to be in another class overall, especially in terms of timbre and detail retrieval. I never thought the Gamma2 would be so thoroughly beaten by a competitor in this price range until many years down the road. Apparently I was wrong. Other Gamma2 configurations may very well perform better than mine, so I can’t make a blanket statement; I’m just pointing out what I hear with my particular unit.

 

Audinst HUD-mx1

 

Obviously if the D100 beats the Gamma2, it also beats the mx-1. The Yulong is superior in pretty much every category. I still feel that the mx-1 is an excellent value for its particular price point, and it is still one of the best USB to SPDIF converters I have ever heard. I also love how small and portable the mx-1 is; I’d take it travelling along with my netbook and it wouldn’t add much bulk at all.

 

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AMPLIFIER PERFORMANCE

 

Thus far everything said about the Yulong D100 has been in reference to its DAC capabilities. I consider this (and indeed any all-in-one unit) to be primarily a DAC with the added benefit of an amp if you need it. Many devices that integrate both features seem to treat the amp section as a bit of an afterthought, especially in budget products, and there is almost always improvement to be had by upgrading to even a modest dedicated amp.

 

The Yulong thankfully breaks this cycle of mediocrity by offering a truly excellent sounding headphone amp. I’m not exactly sure how they have achieved this feat, as it certainly isn’t anything amazing to look at inside the case. But somehow they have managed to pack in a very high performance amp, suitable to drive any headphone you can throw at it.

 

The amp section is dead silent. This is tied for the quietest amp I own, along with the Luxman P-1u. I tried my most sensitive IEMs and heard no hum, buzz, or hiss whatsoever. It continues the tradition set by the DAC section by offering an amazingly transparent sound without any noticeable boosts or dips to speak of. At the same time, it doesn’t bore you by sounding “flat” or “analytical”. I know that sounds like a contradiction but that’s how it is. It actually ends up sounding nearly identical to the Matrix M-Stage. I was the first around here to have an M-Stage, and probably have more listening hours on mine than most people, and I’m genuinely shocked that the D100 sounds so similar.

 

I tried and tried to find a difference between the built in amp and the M-Stage, but for the longest time I could not. I tried it with the best IEMs and full size cans I have. Finally I was able to find 2 examples where the M-Stage outperformed the D100 built in amp, by a small but noticeable margin. The first of these was with the Sennheiser HD800, which seems to be the virtual soul-mate of the M-Stage, as I mentioned in my review of that amp. At low to medium volumes, the 2 sound identical. But when volume rises a bit higher, the M-Stage pulls ahead with more clarity and control. This is most noticeable in the bass impact and decay, as well as the highs which are notoriously troublesome with the HD800; the D100 by itself seems to sharpen the highs too much, which upsets the overall tonal balance of these otherwise excellent cans. Not that the D100 becomes terrible, but it stops being “excellent” and merely settles for “great”. The other area where the M-Stage pulled ahead was when powering my Beyerdynamic DT990s. I have the 600ohm version, which I find to be very fun with their big (but not too big) bass impact and smooth detailed highs. Again at lower volumes things were the same but as volume rose, the M-Stage maintained complete linearity while the D100 became somewhat unbalanced. The highs were still quite admirable but the bass got a little loose and flabby sounding. It never ruined the listening experience, and if you didn’t have a reference comparison you might not even notice, but objectively it was definitely a step down in performance.

 

Aside from those 2 experiences, the D100 amp is every bit as good as the Matrix M-Stage. If it was a stand alone product, I would rate it higher than some of my old favorites like the Graham Slee Solo, the Eddie Current ECSS, and Musical fidelity X-Can v8. To find this type of performance hiding in the case of a DAC is truly impressive; to find it at this price is almost unbelievable.

 

OTHERS

 

I no longer own these items, so I am not going to do detailed comparisons; but I’ll give a summary from memory to help answer what I feel might be some obvious questions. At some point over the years I’ve owned a Benchmark DAC1 (older non USB model), a Lavry DA10, and a Grace m902. These 3, and their siblings like DA11 and the newer DAC1 variations, represent the top of the line in mainstream all in one DAC units. Most people would consider them reference quality, and the prices are significantly higher than the Yulong D100. So how does it compare?

 

Grace m902

 

I had mixed feelings about the m902. On one hand, I was just a tad underwhelmed by the DAC section. Not that it was bad by any means, but it didn’t quite live up to the hype I had heard about it. At $1500, it was presented to me as a giant killer, but I found that it was just about in line with that price. I especially felt the USB input was the weakest link. On the other hand, the amp section was extremely good, as in one of the best amps I have ever heard. The fact that it had analog inputs allowed me to get maximum use out of it, often pairing it to a DVD-A or SACD player since those won’t usually allow a digital bitstream output for Hi-Res material. I also liked the Xfeed option which I used when I was in the mood. I felt that the overall sound on this unit was a bit colored, but with excellent taste. It seemed to be more punchy and full than the DAC1, which could be good or bad depending on your preferences.

 

In comparison, the D100 is sort of the opposite. It has a very high quality DAC section, approaching or perhaps even equaling the m902, but the headphone amp section is not as good. Again we are talking about the difference between great (D100) and exceptional (m902) so it is really not a huge mark against the Yulong. I do wish Yulong had added analog inputs like the Grace, again for SACD or DVD-A listening. On the other hand, I believe the D100 to be superior when used in USB mode. The D100 is closer to the DAC1 sound, slightly less lush and warm than the Grace unit. This is more evident in the amp section than with the DAC.

 

Benchmark DAC1

 

The Benchmark is an excellent unit that sometimes doesn’t get the credit it deserves. I think the problem is that it is the most “mainstream” of these units, thus not being exclusive or rare enough for some people. In any case, I loved the DAC1 and felt that it was a steal at just under $1000. It had such clarity and precision that I knew it would be around for a long time, and I was right. If I had to choose a weak point, it would be that the built in headphone amp was not quite up to the same level as the DAC section.

 

As hard as it is to believe, I think the Yulong is in the same league with the DAC1. They are actually very similar. If anything, the DAC1 might have the edge in DAC performance, and the D100 might take the lead in headphone performance, but they are very close in both respects. The Benchmark might be slightly more flat sounding (again up to you if that is a benefit or a drawback), but I’d have to have one in front of me to double check. The older DAC1 units can sometimes be had used for $700 or less, and if someone was turned off by the “budget” name brand of Yulong, I would by all means recommend the DAC1 at that price. I don’t think you would be buying much of an improvement in sound though.

 

Lavry DA10

 

To me, the Lavry DA10 sort of splits the difference between the Benchmark and the Grace units. It is equally competent as both DAC and amp. It is extremely accurate, but also has just a touch of warmth and smoothness added to help ease the experience of listening to a bad recording. Build quality is a bit suspect for the $1000 price but there are plenty of features to keep you busy.

 

If the DAC1 is on the one side being completely neutral, and the m902 is on the opposite side being colored, the DA10 is in the middle. The D100 ends up falling somewhere between the DA10 and the DAC1. Once again it has its own character but is not blown away by the more costly competitor. If anything the D100 looks like it should cost more than the DA10, and has a better build quality, but with less options for tweaking the sound.

 

The only other thing to consider is that the Yulong does not have volume control for the RCA or XLR outputs, so it can’t be used as a preamp in a system the way these other units can. It has to be paired with a preamp of some type, or used with as a standalone unit with headphones. That was never a limitation for me but for some people it might matter, so I mention it.

 

Lastly, I regret that I have never owned a Cambridge Audio DacMagic, so I can’t do much of a comparison with it. I have heard it a few times and felt that it seemed somewhat bright and overall pretty nice, but it didn’t knock my socks off. This is about as far as I can go on the subject though as I haven’t spent enough time with it to really get to know it. It seems like an obvious competitor and is well reviewed, so definitely consider it if you are looking for something in that price range.

 

CONCLUSION

 

The Yulong D100 is surprisingly good. For $500, this thing can perform as well as some others costing 2 or 3 times the price. I know that is an old review cliché, but in this case I have named the specific competitors with which it keeps up, so I don’t feel bad about saying it. I don’t have some of the units above to directly compare any more but I know I’m not crazy because it stands up well compared to the DACs I do still have around, and totally blows away my $1500 Rotel player.

 

The DAC section is excellent, and the headphone amp is not far behind. It works well with almost any headphone you try, and is absolutely silent. It doesn’t seem to be very source dependant, so you don’t need a megabuck player to get good sound from it. Build quality is top notch and if you told someone it was a $1000 unit they would not have any reason to doubt you.

 

I don’t know what else I can say other than I am extremely pleased with my Yulong D100, and can’t recommend it highly enough. I am not aware of a separate DAC and amp combo that could outperform it for the price. I know there are plenty of excellent products out there for good prices, and I’ve not heard them all, so I’m not saying this is the absolute best deal around. But it certainly must be up there near the top. A few years ago I would not have thought it possible to achieve such performance for $500. I look forward to seeing if this was just a fluke or if Yulong has more outstanding products like this in the works.

 

 

 

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Shows up as "YULONG Audio" , no device drivers needed. I got it to work on Windows 7, vista, and Snow Leopard with no issues.

 

 

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 I tried to capture the finish of the black metal case. It's got a nice brushed texture to it, sort of an understated classy look. In comparison, the Matrix M-Stage is also built like a tank but is not as refined, with rough surfaces everywhere but the front panel.

 

 

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Under the hood, parts are of high quality, the toroid fairly large, and the layout seems well thought out to minimize signal paths

 

 

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All caps are Rubycon

 

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Kind of hard to see, but here are some of the main guts: CS8416 in the middle, AD1896 on the left, and TAS1020B on the right.


Edited by project86 - 2/6/11 at 4:00pm
post #2 of 1160
Thread Starter 

Here is a pic of the design layout, complete with mispellings and everything.

 

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Edited by project86 - 6/27/10 at 11:52pm
post #3 of 1160

appreciated. I hope you get a chance to review the Matrix DAC when it comes out :)

post #4 of 1160

Much obliged to you for taking the time to share your thoughts on the Yulong.

 

I had to chuckle at the model name,perhaps evoking some confidence for the male purchasers...

 

7976b4b3.jpg

 

If you watched "She's Out of My League"  the jet pilot's handle had a similar ring,yar!

 

I really like the fact that it pairs up nicely with your netbook and can be used to amplify IEMs.

 

Nice comparative views,sure inspires some buyer confidence,even if you forego the D100s name.

 


Edited by 5aces - 6/29/10 at 8:41am
post #5 of 1160
Thread Starter 



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cravenz View Post

appreciated. I hope you get a chance to review the Matrix DAC when it comes out :)

 

Thank you! I would absolutely love to try the new Matrix DAC if I get a chance. I don't know much about it but it has potential to be great.



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 5aces View Post

Much obliged to you for taking the time to share your thoughts on the Yulong.

 

I had to chuckle at the model name,perhaps evoking some confidence for the male purchasers...

 

7976b4b3.jpg

 

If you watched "She's Out of My League"  the jet pilot's handle had a similar ring,yar!

 

I really like the fact that it pairs up nicely with your netbook and can be used to amplify IEMs.

 

Nice comparative views,sure inspires some buyer confidence,even if you forego the D100s name.

 


You know, I hadn't even really thought of that..... At least it is complimentary though; I don't know if a "Yu-short D-3incher" would appeal to the male ego.
 

post #6 of 1160
Quote:
Originally Posted by project86 View Post



 

 

Thank you! I would absolutely love to try the new Matrix DAC if I get a chance. I don't know much about it but it has potential to be great.
 


I'd be looking forward to that. I do hope there is good synergy between the M-stage and the new DAC. I'm really eagerly anticipating this because I'd like to pull the trigger on a nice DAC before the Perth meet I'm trying to organise at the end of July and it's getting a bit tight! That being said, I'm half considering finding a used transport, but no one seems to ship one over here.

post #7 of 1160

...Another great review from you...

 

Thanx, project86

post #8 of 1160

Very good and well thought out review project86.

post #9 of 1160

This a well design dac, should gather more concerns.

post #10 of 1160
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the feedback everyone. I agree that this DAC is probably going to be slept on, party because there is not much prestige associated with Yulong Audio as opposed to perhaps AudioGD, PS Audio, Cambridge, etc. I'm not saying this DAC is the best in the world, but I've heard many competitors around this price point and the D100 remains one of the best.

 

The fact that it has a very good built in amp is a nice feature too. I could see someone having a simple setup based around the D100, with a nice tube amp (perhaps the Schiit Valhalla when it comes out), and the option of using the built in amp when the SS sound is desired.

post #11 of 1160
Thread Starter 

I have received some questions via PM, so I figure it would be good to do some clarifying here.

 

Ranking the D100 compared to the Grace, Benchmark, and Lavry units I mentioned above. Pretending for the moment that price is not a factor at all.

 

DAC sound quality:

 

1)Lavry DA10

2)Yulong D100

3)Benchmark DAC1

4)Grace m902

 

Headphone amp sound quality:

 

1)Grace m902

2)Lavry DA10/Yulong D100 tied

3)Benchmark DAC1

 

Build Quality and appearance:

 

1)Grace m902

2)Yulong D100/Benchmark DAC1 tied

3)Lavry DA10

 

Features:

 

1)Grace m902/Lavry DA10 tied

2)Benchmark DAC1

3)Yulong D100

 

Of course when you consider value, the Yulong is on top. But when you consider resale value and prestige of ownership it is dead last. I'm not in a position to judge warranty, support, or customer service issues, but I imagine it would be easier to deal with one of the more established brands.

 

To answer another question, I have not heard the Mytek Stereo96 to compare that, but I have read nothing but praise for it, and it seems geared towards a different market anyway.

 

I might have access to a Cambridge Dac Magic soon, and if I get a chance I'll do some direct comparisons. I can't promise anything though.

post #12 of 1160
Quote:
Originally Posted by project86 View Post

 

I might have access to a Cambridge Dac Magic soon, and if I get a chance I'll do some direct comparisons. I can't promise anything though.


I'd be interested in that! :)

post #13 of 1160

Project86, that is a very impressive review!  I was sent a loaner of the D100 to review, which just arrived.  But there is no way I will be able to even approach the thoroughness of your review.  Nicely done!!!!

post #14 of 1160

Project86  another great review. I wish had your patience and dedication in the time you put into a review. Very impressive and what up next. How about a good tube amp in the 400-600 range.

post #15 of 1160

Wow high praise indeed from the resident reviewer prolificus exellantus and that praise is well deserved. Terrific review P86 !. Nice to see a Plitron traffo in a Chinese build (that is pretty rare). The Ruby caps ..what series do you know offhand ? If they are ZA/ZL or similar that would explain (partly) the silky black background and of course the grainless character of the DAC and Amp. Rubycon ZA/ZL are excellent caps, period.

 

Tough if not impossible to source Rubycon locally on this side of the pond I find.

 

Peete.

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