Originally Posted by TheWuss
i think it is no coincidence that w4s / LCD-2 rigs have become so common.
the synergy is certainly there.
and, what shortcomings the DAC2 has, the LCD-2 has as well.
so, no need for a DAC with a huge soundstaging capability if you are going to listen to the lush and intimate LCD-2 (especially Rev.1).
it's a really fine DAC. built like a tank, and sounds as clean and clear as any i've heard.
which is why i am sure it will keep a place in my home...
Originally Posted by Solude
To add my two cents... the DAC-2 is unbelievably awesome at this price. It just walked all over all the DACs in my profile and achieved that high resolution, high energy sound while being smooth and grain free. Its USB implementation is also quite friendly and crash proof. I originally had the DAC-1 but its USB, and frankly its could have been the unit, was less integrated than the DAC-2s.
Beyond happy, should definitely be on someone's short list if they are looking in the 1K+ range. I would say that some have reported that as a preamp its not going to compete with similar priced preamps. But then they, having no digital inputs, make terrible DACs at any price :p
I guess when we speak of soundstaging in this thread it is mostly directed at headphones and the DAC-2's synergy with whatever headphone amps and headphones that are used in that combination. Recently I have been assembling a 2.1 speaker rig using the W4S DAC-2 as the source end center piece and since it has the digital volume control I was going to use that feature to control the rigs volume and act as the pre amp for the rig, and why not since the digital volume control feature seems like a great idea and for the most part it is.
Over the many years I've spent as an audiophile (at least 32) and the many years I spent professionally mixing audio and editing broadcast video in NYC (24 years) I have come to know what it is that I enjoy most from a speaker rig. A knowledge for me that took trial and error over the years and many hours and dollars in front of many different systems to discover. Basically I love a beautiful sound stage, a 3D holographic soundstage that is realistically wide from left to right, realistically deep from front to back, and realistic also in vertical height. This type of soundstage by it basic 3D nature of sound arriving to the listeners ear from a real place both in time and in space cannot exist with headphones. Soundstaging in headphones is a completely different concept and in many ways a shadowy perversion of what we know and experience as a soundstage from a speaker rig. Two drivers placed upon ones ears can never have the same type of dimensional space/time existence as sound moving thru the air from various points in time and space which is the way sound travels to our ears in the everyday world.
Knowing that my main pleasure in musical reproduction is soundstaging and imaging I set out to build a system to do so. First I obtained the Anthony Gallo Acoustic Reference Stradas known for their freakish 3D holographic ability to soundstage. They have this ability and much more. They have amazing resolution without becoming artificial, pinpoint imaging which allows them to separate deeply crafted mixes. Soundstaging is their thing. If your tracks and your source end have the ability the Stradas will produce the goods. They do not create an artificial soundstage but implement whatever signal that is sent to them in a very efficient manner by faithfully and accurately reproducing all the sonic dimensional cues intended to recreate the soundstage when the recording/mix/master was made.
This brings me to theW4S DAC-2 and two recent discussions about the DAC-2's ability to soundstage and also act as a quality pre amp using the DAC-2's digital volume control.
To amplify the Stradas I obtained the Wyred4Sound ST-500 amplifier and used it in partnership with the W4S DAC-2 and its digital volume control. The soundstaging was impressive. Inner detail retrieval, instrument separation, soundstaging all of it very satisfying. But I began to become concerned with the DAC-2's digital volume control as a serious component with regards to the rest of the system. Was it up to par as a pre amp? I was using the volume control between 30 and 40 units for most of my listening experience. Was this reduced level truncating the word length of the DAC-2's digital output? Being a digital volume control I was not sure but it seemed perhaps theoretically likely. This idea was all I needed to convince myself a quality Pre Amp was essential to my rig.
As luck would have it a bel canto Pre3VB Pre Amp came my way. I inserted the Pre3VB into my rig, set the DAC-2 to 60 and discovered a few things. One, that is was still possible for me to be stunned by a piece of audio gear. As Solude has pointed out the DAC-2 digital volume control is not the same as a separate high quality Pre Amp. While the digital volume control in the DAC-2 is no slouch in terms of performance it is not a high end Pre Amp. Granted the bel canto Pre3VB and the LNS1 power supply is 1K more than the entire cost of the W4S DAC-2 itself it clearly shows that the DAC section of the W4S DAC-2 will really and truly shine when allowed to be caressed by a proper high end pre amp.
This brings me to the soundstaging aspect of the W4S DAC-2. I have only used the W4S DAC-2 with LCD-2 r.1,r.2 and LCD-3's with the Violectric V200 and the Lyr amp which was supplied with at least ten sets of quality tubes so I cannot speak about headphone soundstaging beyond that gear but I will say that in a speaker rig such as the Gallo Stradas (soon to be added a Gallo TR-3 subwoofer), W4S ST-500, bel canto Pre 3VB Pre amp that the W4S DAC-2 as a digital source has excellent soundstaging capabilities.
My system in its current state is soundstaging and imaging with breathtaking ability. Instruments seem to be sculpted in space as if I can now reach around behind them as they play. Inner detail is outstanding and detail retrieval seems never ending. The bel canto is now able to plumb and caress these delicacies from the outstanding signal the W4S DAC-2 is converting. None of this would be possible for the bel canto Pre2VB,W4S ST-500, Gallo Stradas to recreate if the W4S DAC-2 did not have the ability to produce an excellent and realistic soundstage to begin with. So in conclusion I would say one needs to consider that soundstaging in the speaker realm is very different than what is understood to be soundstaging in the headphone realm. Personally I feel they are two completely separate paradigms whose only common denominator is that they share the same term.
I might also add that the bel canto has brought a level of musicality to the rig which I have simply not experienced from a solid state pre amp in the past.
Edited by WarriorAnt - 4/13/12 at 11:27pm