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Audio-gd Reference 7 Loaner Program (USA) - Page 23

post #331 of 370

hot damn project86, you never fail to outdo yourself! great review!

post #332 of 370

Yes excellent review. It appeared very balanced. 

 

Is there any likelihood of the loaner Reference 7 being upgraded to the current Reference 7.1?

 

Regards

 

Macrog

post #333 of 370

Excellent review, project86.  You certainly put a lot of time and thought into it and I'm sure everyone appreciates it.  I am looking forward to finding out how much better the Ref 7.1 is over the Ref 7, and will hopefully know soon enough when mine finally arrives.

post #334 of 370
Thread Starter 

project86, thanks for the great write-up. I hope I didn't suggest anything in my PMs to you, as I tried very much to avoid suggesting anything to anyone beyond the suggestion that the DAC be used when warm.  Now this round has come to a close (there are no more people on the list to loan it to currently), I will comment on a couple of things: Regarding transports, while I don't feel the DSP is completely insensitive to transports, the differences are subtle but enough IMO that experienced listeners will hear them while listening closely to good acoustic music.  I did manage to get hold of a Parasound DAC1600HD, which is very similar in design to the Reference DACs (3 transformers, overbuilt power supply, R2R PCM63K DA chips etc.) and without a high-end speaker rig to compare with, they are almost identical in sound, with the Parasound reproducing pianos in a manner that, to my ears, is slightly more natural.  Other than that, there are very subtle differences in tone which I'd be quite hard pressed to nail down, but the output stage is somewhat different in both.  I understand computerparts' feeling regarding vintage DACs now.

post #335 of 370

Thanks Currawong. No, I certainly don't think you pushed any ideas on me. Now that I think about it, we may have had the discussion about digital harshness and such before you even mentioned anything about the loaner program. I think it was just a separate discussion about DACs in general. 

 

In any case, I've gone back through and read most of the comments by the other participants in the loaner program. Very interesting. Some LOVED it, and some thought it was pretty good but that better could be had on the used market for the price. That might be true but it probably applies to almost ANY new product. Still, I've heard my fair share of nice DACs from yesteryear (Theta, EAD, Audio Alchemy, Proceed, etc) and none of them really blew me away. I've probably said this before, but a DAC is sort of like a purpose built PC, and generally speaking a 15 year old PC is not competitive these days. Not a perfect analogy, but you get the idea. While the fundamentals of good analogue design have been in place for many years, the digital side of things is constantly moving forward, and it is just hard to keep up.

 

I almost choked on my drink when The Monkey said the Ref 7 sounded like an Esoteric D70, since that's exactly what I thought too. 

 

I'm also curious about the Ref 7.1 and how much it can improve on the already great sound. The website just says they improved the output stage by building it into the motherboard instead of using modules. That doesn't necessarily mean an improvement but we'll see. 

post #336 of 370
Quote:
Originally Posted by project86 View Post

I've probably said this before, but a DAC is sort of like a purpose built PC, and generally speaking a 15 year old PC is not competitive these days. Not a perfect analogy, but you get the idea.



That cannot be further from the truth from my experience with Electrocompaniet ECD-1, Parasound 1100HD(single ended version of 1600HD), Assemblage DAC3.1 Platinum Edition. 


Edited by moonboy403 - 4/16/11 at 10:11am
post #337 of 370

Parasound and Assemblage DACs are fantastic stuff.

post #338 of 370


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by moonboy403 View Post

That cannot be further from the truth from my experience with Electrocompaniet ECD-1, Parasound 1100HD(single ended version of 1600HD), Assemblage DAC3.1 Platinum Edition. 


Agreed. I'd also take a strong issue with the idea that a current DAC is the equivalent of an Intel Core i7, while vintage DACs are Pentium IIs. Audio obviously doesn't just move forward in a straight line of improvement like that. UltraAnalog and PCM63P-K based DACs can more than hold their own against current entry to mid-level DACs using CS8416 receivers and DACs like the PCM1795, especially if crappy sample rate conversion is also involved.


Edited by DaveBSC - 4/16/11 at 11:44am
post #339 of 370
I have to see what the fuss about this Parasound is all about. If all goes well I should receive mine next week.
post #340 of 370
Quote:
Originally Posted by moonboy403 View Post





That cannot be further from the truth from my experience with Electrocompaniet ECD-1, Parasound 1100HD(single ended version of 1600HD), Assemblage DAC3.1 Platinum Edition. 


Of course there are always standout products that hold up well, but that's the exception rather than the rule. And I still submit that they hold up well on the strength of their excellent analog stages and such. My Wavelength Cosine is at least a dozen years old and I'd put it in that "standout" category along with those you listed. 

 

At the same time, there are improvements to be made due to better technology. For example:  I'm positive that if Parasound were to make a new version of the 1100HD they would no longer use the CS8412 as a digital receiver. Just one example.

 

I guess I came across a little harsh with my prior post though; there certainly ARE good older DACs to be had, and the prices are quite good on the used market. But let's not just assume that vintage equals better, no matter how expensive it once was. 

 

 

post #341 of 370
project86, excellent impressions and comparisons on the Ref7, great presentation as you have done on your Anedio D1 review.
post #342 of 370
Quote:

Originally Posted by project86 View Post

 

Compared to some of the usual suspects from Lavry and Benchmark, the Ref 7 does seem noticeably smoother up top, and not just from a pure frequency response perspective either. I’m not one to believe in magical properties in audio gear (no disrespect to those who do), and I believe it’s possible that this smoothness should somehow be measurable, but don’t ask me where to start.


It is measurable.  There is an analog filter which rolls off the top end by a curve of -0.5dB at 12kHz through -1.5dB at 20kHz.  This is/was a common trait of many high-end DACs magazines have reviewed over the years.

 


Edited by IPodPJ - 4/16/11 at 4:08pm
post #343 of 370
Quote:
Originally Posted by IPodPJ View Post




It is measurable.  There is an analog filter which rolls off the top end by a curve of -0.5dB at 12kHz through -1.5dB at 20kHz.  This is/was a common trait of many high-end DACs magazines have reviewed over the years.

 


It apparently measures like so, however, I would like to add that my subjective experiences does not point to a dark dac whatsoever.  In my opinion, I felt that the Reference 7 was noticeably well extended and quite brilliant in the treble, which for me equaled the brightest dac I've owned to date, the Dacmagic, but it isn't an overall lean dac, which is how I felt about the dacmagic.  It is also noticeably better than the Dacmagic in key technical benchmarks.  I felt the treble was smooth, natural and kinda bright, yet without exhibiting digital harshness - which IMO is not an easy trick to pull-off.

 

Tonal trickery and personal preferences aside, I felt the Reference 7 earns its respect in terms of achievement for a product in its price category.  Certainly it performed higher than every mid level dac I have owned and built and overall noticeably better than one particular hi-end dac priced almost identically that I owned for more than a year and I have since sold after comparing to the Reference 7.  It was good for me to read that this particular design compared very favourably to processors that were considered the best money can buy only yesterday.

 

I also felt that the tonal balance of the Reference 7 on its own was not entirely ruler flat neutral, with a slight bump in low bass response and a slight tilt in treble response.  Yet I felt that the Reference 7 fell in line when mated to the Phoenix amplifier, which for me had the exact same opposite characteristics.  I mean that these are very small perceptions, and most would not notice this, but I honestly feel that the designer designed them as such, they were designed to match some kind of reference neutral as a matched pair, and I feel the inclusion of a unique current mode transmission points to these design parameters.

 

post #344 of 370
Thread Starter 
My Ref 1 does seem to have a touch more bass presence than the Parasound DAC1600HD. It, and similar DACs were discontinued due to the PCM63K being discontinued. I gather there is much debate about whether a modern delta-sigma DA chip is capable of as pleasant and real reproduction of music as the old R2R chips were. Maybe I'll need to get something like a Berkeley Alpha to figure that out (as I don't see myself ever being able to afford a DCS stack), as the Berkeley designers are ex-Pacific Microsonics.
post #345 of 370
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post

My Ref 1 does seem to have a touch more bass presence than the Parasound DAC1600HD. It, and similar DACs were discontinued due to the PCM63K being discontinued. I gather there is much debate about whether a modern delta-sigma DA chip is capable of as pleasant and real reproduction of music as the old R2R chips were. Maybe I'll need to get something like a Berkeley Alpha to figure that out (as I don't see myself ever being able to afford a DCS stack), as the Berkeley designers are ex-Pacific Microsonics.


The Berkeley uses the AD1955, which is perhaps the best overall D-S DAC out there. It certainly seems to show up in a lot of very well received DACs and CD players. The much hyped Sabre DAC doesn't seem to have done as well.

 

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