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Luxman DA-200 or W4S Dac-2 - Need help finding the right DAC

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 

I'm in the market for a DAC to connect via USB or optical to my iMac.

I wonder if 192/24 will be better than 96/24 or if the quality of the DAC chip is more important.

Also, will both of these DAC connected via USB decode ALAC? That's a must for me.

And, what is the best connection method: optical or USB?

 

Not sure that I will find anyone that has heard both but maybe someone can tell me what the difference in chips used is since I know absolutely nothing about chips except that I prefer them salty. ;)

I believe the W4S uses an "ESS Reference audio (ES9018) 32 bit" and the Luxman uses " Burr-Brown PCM1792A" and how would these compare to the "Cirrus CS4398" used in my Marantz network player?

 

Recommendations for other quality DAC's in the €1000-€3000 range are welcome, as long as they can handle ALAC, have an USB and optical input and both RCA and XLR outputs.

Gear mentioned in this thread:

post #2 of 49
Thread Starter 

After reading up most of the night I am also considering the Ayre QB9 and Antelope Zodiac Gold.

Any thoughts on the 4 DAC's are very much appreciated.

post #3 of 49

I'd add the Lavry DA11 to the list of considerations.

post #4 of 49
Thread Starter 

I read about that one MuppetFace. Thank you for taking the time to help me out.

I also read Dan Lavry's comments on the nonsense of high sampling rates. If there's one who knows what he's talking about it's certainly him.

SQ-wise, I came to the conclusion that the DA11 will beat the Ayre, Antelope and W4S hands down.

I have no idea how it would compare to the Luxman though. Since I don't think anyone has the DA-200 here on HF I wonder if someone can tell anything from the specs or chip used.

The only point that bugs me a bit about the Lavry is that it has only one output. I'd love double outputs.

 

But with reading Dan's comments I really wonder if I should go for async usb up to 192khz or just be happy with 96khz. I guess the Antelope can be discarded as I am a bit scared there's more marketing talk there than anything else.

post #5 of 49
Thread Starter 

For now my thoughts go like this:

(Please note that these or my subjective opinions based solely on reading around and in no way I want to discredit any of these companies or their products).

 

- W4S: the one I'm the least interested in.

- Ayre: good reviews, some people don't seem to regard that company too highly.

- Zodiac: mainly marketing, some good reviews but by a small group.

- Lavry: SQ-wise a no brainer, but I happen to love the Luxman but don't know how it compares.

- Luxman: my favorite atm, but don't know how it compares to the Lavry.

post #6 of 49

Wait for the 4xESS9018 desktop DAC by iBasso next June xD

post #7 of 49
Thread Starter 

Hmm, found this in a review. This whole DAC quest is gonna be a PITA.

 

 

 

Quote:
"The main thing to keep in mind when reading about adaptive and asynchronous USB modes is clocking. Clocking is extremely important with digital audio. Many digital audio experts agree that keeping the clock as close to the DAC as possible, or using a master clock for all digital components is the way to achieve the most accurate sound. In consumer high-end audio as well as professional audio clocking is a major concern and very often external master clocks are used to achieve the best sound.
Asynchronous USB DACs are few and far between. Currently Ayre, Wavelength, and dCS are the major manufacturers with asynchronous products on the market. In my opinion the reason for this lack of async DACs is simply because it's very difficult implement this technology. There is a specific skill set required to implement asynchronous USB and it's not common place in high-end audio. Implementing async USB requires a manufacturer to write its own software for the TAS1020 chip and invest thousands of hours on this part of the DAC alone. The limited number of manufacturers who've decided to take on this task instead of going with a plug n' play chip are doing it because they think the performance gains far outweigh the development pain.
Asynchronous USB essentially turns the computer into a slave device as opposed to adaptive USB which does the opposite. Thus, an asynchronous USB DAC has total control over the timing of the audio. One very important feature of asynchronous USB mode is bidirectional communication between the computer and the DAC. The computer sends audio and the DAC sends commands or instructions for the computer to follow. For example the computer's clock becomes less accurate over a given period of time and can send too much data too quickly and fill up the buffer. Asynchronous DACs will instruct the computer to slow down, thus avoiding any negative effects of a full, or empty, buffer which can manifest itself into audible dropouts and pops or clicks. According to Wavelength Audio the tail is no longer wagging the dog when using asynchronous USB mode. Plus all of this is done without additional device drivers or software installation."

 

post #8 of 49

Applehead, are there any dealers nearby where you can audition any of these products?  That would obviously be your best option.  It seems the DAC world is a polarized one; You'll have a whole thread telling you the W4S is the biggest giant killer since David, and then others will tell you its the worst implementation of the 9018 available.  Antelope also has proponents and opponents.  The QB-9 sounds great but has a major lack of inputs, and I've only heard the DA10 so no comments on the 11.  As for Luxman, the DA200 is actually a DAC/headamp, (as is the Zodiac,) and it seems to be priced much higher outside of Japan then in Japan.  Calyx is also worth investigating although its seriously overpriced in europe (almost twice as expensive than in the US.) 

post #9 of 49
Thread Starter 

Hi Radio_Head,

 

Thanks for the tip on Calyx, some more reading material while listening to my W1000X.

 

As for auditioning, Belgium isn't that great for exotic brands (or at least what is found exotic over here).

If a dealer has those brands there's usually not much in stock to audition.

 

I can get the Luxman from my trusted dealer where I buy all my other HiFi and AV gear, but only on special order and not possible to audition first since he normally doesn't carry the brand.

I did find a dealer for the Antelope though, but still have to call if he has them in the store.

As to the other brands, not easy to find around here.

What's more, when auditioning properly, I would need to hear the gear side by side. That's definetely not going to happen.

With headphones, I usually buy a few, compare and sell off what I don't like. Quality DAC's are a bit expensive for that approach though. wink_face.gif

 

You seem to be familiar with the 9018 Sabre Dac. Any opinion on the Burr-Brown PCM 1792A or Cirrus CS4398 as bare DAC's regardless of their implementation into a device?

post #10 of 49

If you want exacting Japanese build quality but don't need a headphone amplifier attached to it, I'd consider the Onkyo DAC-1000 over the Luxman DA-200. It costs less than half as much from PriceJapan, and I know Gu Sensei uses it with one of the most revealing headphones--- the SR-009---and seems quite pleased with it.

 

As for the Lavry DA11, I know it's used by and comes with recommendations from Jude, Todd the Vinyl Junkie, and other head-fiers who use it with revealing high-end gear like the Sony Qualia, BHSE and SR-009. I've spent time with it myself recently. Let's just say I'll be placing an order for one this month.

 

Honestly, I've found DACs to be prime examples of the law of diminishing returns. Once I hit the $1,500+ mark, I found it pretty difficult to justify spending any more personally.


Edited by MuppetFace - 12/11/11 at 9:01am
post #11 of 49

That seems to be the point I'm getting to.  It's just as much about implementation as it is the chip itself.

 

The following is just my opinion: A DAC within a certain price range will not have as much variance from one to another as some might have you believe.  Its not night and day as many dealers may intimate.  The Zodiac I have uses the 1792A, but is it "better" than a well-implemented sabre like Calyx or the newly released Invicta? (Conjecture, i've never tried the invicta.)  Think about how much of the price of these DACs actually goes into the chip - $40 maybe?  What's the rest of the price for?  Power supply, output stage, chasis, etc.  Thats why an audition would be best.  If you know anyone who has a 14 or 30 day no questions asked return policy that would be even better as the used market on sources is much worse than amps/headphones (but better than speakers.)   

post #12 of 49
Thread Starter 

MuppetFace!

 

You just may have solved my dilemma ... and saved me a fortune as well.

The Onkyo has all the ins/outs I need and it's async as well. Burr Brown like the Luxman but a newer version.

The price difference here in Europe is HUGE though: 650€ for the Onkyo and 2890€ for the Luxman. That's almost one fifth of the price.

And if Gu Sensei loves it with the top Stax, it can't be bad can it?

I wouldn't buy it in Japan though since I prefer an original 240V version to using transformers.

 

I think you're right about spending too much on DAC's though, especially since those things keep evolving fast.

The less I spend on one, the less I will feel bad about upgrading to something newer later on. It's a virus, I know.

 

As for the Lavry ... still thinking about that one. As I recall seeing somewhere it's no where near as expensive as the Luxman as well.

 

Thanks a million! normal_smile%20.gif

post #13 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleheadMay View Post

MuppetFace!

 

You just may have solved my dilemma ... and saved me a fortune as well.

The Onkyo has all the ins/outs I need and it's async as well. Burr Brown like the Luxman but a newer version.

The price difference here in Europe is HUGE though: 650€ for the Onkyo and 2890€ for the Luxman. That's almost one fifth of the price.

And if Gu Sensei loves it with the top Stax, it can't be bad can it?

I wouldn't buy it in Japan though since I prefer an original 240V version to using transformers.

 

I think you're right about spending too much on DAC's though, especially since those things keep evolving fast.

The less I spend on one, the less I will feel bad about upgrading to something newer later on. It's a virus, I know.

 

As for the Lavry ... still thinking about that one. As I recall seeing somewhere it's no where near as expensive as the Luxman as well.

 

Thanks a million! normal_smile%20.gif



Glad to help. I'm just not sure if the Onkyo is available outside of Japan, which may be a problem if you don't want to use a transformer. The Luxman is more expensive since it has a built in headphone amp, as well as the boutique audio brand name. The Lavry DA11 has a headphone amp as well but is still reasonably priced.

post #14 of 49
Thread Starter 

Yes, just searched around a bit.

The Onkyo should be coming in a 240V version for Europe but isn't available yet.

I'll make some calls tomorrow.

post #15 of 49
Thread Starter 

Matrix Quattro and Yulong D100 are two that came up in my search as well.

Seem to get nice reviews here as well.

Since I can't get the Onkyo yet and these are cheapish I might just get one like those and keep an eye open.

Also, I was informed from my firend and Marantz dealer that Marantz will be bringing out a Premium Range model of their network player in a few months.

Curious about that one too. And having some DAC to use meanwhle would be great.

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