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.