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Audio-gd DAC choice: RE5 versus the RE7

post #1 of 51
Thread Starter 

The Audio-gd Reference 5 is a similar but scaled down version of the Reference 7 with advantages on cost and rack space use.

 

On paper the REF7 is clearly better in terms of design, BUT has anyone lined these two DACs up to hear if there is actually a difference in sound quality?

post #2 of 51

Kingwa is very honest about his designs and never tries to sell anything to anyone out of turn.  In fact he usually tries to steer you away from purchases if you're not 100% sure it's what you want.  If the Ref 7 wasn't audibly better, he wouldn't be selling it.

post #3 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by IPodPJ View Post

Kingwa is very honest about his designs and never tries to sell anything to anyone out of turn.  In fact he usually tries to steer you away from purchases if you're not 100% sure it's what you want.  If the Ref 7 wasn't audibly better, he wouldn't be selling it.


I have the similar purchasing experience, he never hard sell anything to you. If you are uncertain or in doubt of their product, he would suggest you to try something cheaper in their product line or if you want to buy two pieces of equipment, he would ask you to buy one first so to make sure that you will like their house sound (especially you come from tube).

 

I have not heard REF5, but I have REF7HE. What I would suggest is go for their TOLT if budget allow, for audio-gd gears, the more expensive one is always the better.

post #4 of 51

 

The TOLT of Audio-gd's stuff are significantly better than their mid-end products. It is worth the money and save you from upgrading in the future.

 

I was also go straight to the RE1 when I first bought Audio-gd gears. They are more expensive (relatively), but you won't regret.

 

post #5 of 51

Unlikely someone other than audio-gd employees has compared them, Nada. The only possibly related comparison was by someone who compared roc vs phoenix, and the difference he noticed was in soundstage. As said above, you should ask Kingwa what differences are there, take it with a grain of salt if you wish. My guess is that the ref 5 is a good dac to build an audio chain around and you'd probably need some super high end speakers and headphones and an insatiable desire for better reproduction to need a ref 7 over the ref 5. The ref 5 would probably benefit more from additional power filtering than the ref 1 and ref 7 as the latter have sturdier psu's.

 

If you ask whether you should upgrade to ref 7 from your ref 5, there's going to be more to consider than the price difference between ref 5 and ref 7 as you would absorb some loss from selling the ref 5 used. The important thing is whether you need more "sound quality" (I haven't compared ref 5 and 7 so can only guess what sound differences there are) and if you're willing to give more rackspace, money, electricity cost, and room temperature :P for it.

 

If you think you might still have upgraditis no matter what equipment you upgrade around the ref 5, then upgrade in such a way that makes those other equipment suitable for a higher end dac (ie get phoenix instead of roc). After that you can upgrade to a higher dac without feeling upgraditis for other aspects of your audio chain. But now that you have the ref 5, you should try to see whether the sound is satisfactory to you or not. If you see some shortcomings, describe them and maybe we can guess whether what you need is a new dac or other upgrades, as there are many other things to consider when your goal is to improve sound, ie transport, amp, speaker/headphone, additional power filtering, or cables.

 

I'm not trying to disagree with the above posters who say higher end audio-gd dac's are better and maybe better deals, I'm just saying higher tier gear might not be what you need, and you may be able to fulfill all your expectations for satisfactory audio reproduction from lower tier gear.


Edited by haloxt - 7/7/10 at 8:12am
post #6 of 51

Also consider their musical line over their neutral line of DAC's,  they are better IMO.

post #7 of 51
Thread Starter 

Just wanted to say a big thanks to the posters above for their help. All the views are useful in helping me see the big picture more clearly. Ultimately I guess the only was to know is to get a REF7 next to my REF5 at home and listen over some time. I wish Kingwa would do a loaner program in Australia. Maybe I should just fly to China for an audio holiday and have a listen. Or maybe someone in Malaysia could fit out a resort with differing listening rooms with high class gear. That would add a great dimension to a holiday package.

post #8 of 51

Well I finally got my Ref7.  I will be doing a full comparo during and after the breakin.

 

But right off the bat I can say that the Ref7 is INDEED something special.  With only the 100hrs of Kingwa breakin it came out running.  The bass is considerably more textured as well as deeper.  Even more sense of space and air, and it has an Iron Grip on my amps like no other Dac has been capable of doing.

 

post #9 of 51

Two days into the break in the Ref 7 has taken no turns towards the worse but instead has only become a more solid performer.

 

For the comparison I used both Dacs with my main system consisting of Xindak 400w class A mono blocks and Dynaudio Audience 82 speakers.  The Dacs were connected directly to the amps, one way connected with the volume controlled by software Music Player Deamon and again with the volume controlled by a TC Electronics Level Pilot Volume knob [utterly transparent].  Front end was Linux and Music Player Daemon, wire was Mogami balanced and Oyaide coax...all music was 44.1K no upsampling.

 

Compared to the Ref 5

 

Ref 7 has more slam and impact than the Ref 5, although the Ref 5 is already an outstanding Dac the Ref 7 seems to take control of my amp and drive it much like a preamp driven amp.  With the Ref 5 the music flows through nice and smooth but the Ref 7 seems to make itself known as a driving force.

 

Ref 7 has more inner detail though out the frequency spectrum, inner details stand out just a bit more.

 

Mid-bass resolution is just superb with the Ref 7, it grooves to bass guitar like nobodies business.  Comparing the two, the Ref 5 gives me a smooth detailed representation of guitar plucks, sounds great no doubt but the Ref 7 seems to bring out more of the soul of the music, perhaps this is due to the better drive and grip on the amps.

 

Soundstage both present a very good soundstage in both width and depth, instruments are very clearly placed, vocals are just as clear and distinct the speakers disappear completely.

 

Highs and mids, neither Dac shows the slightest bit of glare or harshness the highs on both were very detailed and clean with the Ref 7 slightly nudging the Ref 5 out again in the resolution department.  By resolution I mean more texture, more information Diana Krall's voice went from lush and real with the Ref 5 to spooky real with the Ref 7.

 

Deep bass, again I am thinking this is due to the Ref 7's ability to take control of the amps but the low bass was just awesome, deeper fuller and with greater impact.  I had no choice but to crank the Groove Collective up and Groove the energy in the low end was undeniable.

 

All in all, I would say the price difference is worth it.  The Ref 5 already being an outstanding Dac and a value in its own right still is not on the same level as the Ref 7. 

post #10 of 51

Po-wer-Su-ply... Po-wer-Su-ply... Po-wer-Su-ply...

post #11 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by FauDrei View Post

Po-wer-Su-ply... Po-wer-Su-ply... Po-wer-Su-ply...



Yes, and more 1704s are being stacked.

post #12 of 51

I find my Ref 5 too analytical for my taste, even with a tube amp. I think Ref 8 would suit me. I listen to my DM 90% of the time since its more musical even though Ref5 has tighter bass and more details.

post #13 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by .Sup View Post

I find my Ref 5 too analytical for my taste, even with a tube amp. I think Ref 8 would suit me. I listen to my DM 90% of the time since its more musical even though Ref5 has tighter bass and more details.



Can I ask how many hours are on your Ref 5 and the associated wire [power cords and IC's]....at about the 2-300 mark mine smoothed out considerably, now its more like vinyl or tube sounding than anything else still clear but very smooth.

 

 

post #14 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dynobot View Post





Can I ask how many hours are on your Ref 5 and the associated wire [power cords and IC's]....at about the 2-300 mark mine smoothed out considerably, now its more like vinyl or tube sounding than anything else still clear but very smooth.

 

 

I have more than 250 hours on it. After 200 hours bass quantity increased and tightened. I have no aftermarket power cords. But I doubt power cords would make it more musical. I think kingwa advertises it as a non-musical DAC. What amp do you use with it?
 

post #15 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by .Sup View Post



I have more than 250 hours on it. After 200 hours bass quantity increased and tightened. I have no aftermarket power cords. But I doubt power cords would make it more musical. I think kingwa advertises it as a non-musical DAC. What amp do you use with it?
 


What amp?

 

I use powered Dynaudio speakers with the Ref 5

 

As far as musical, I think he says its neutral that is to say it does not have a flavor of its own.  Maybe to some musical = flavor.

 


Edited by Dynobot - 10/4/10 at 1:59pm
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