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Yulong Sabre D18 thread: reviews, impressions, discussion (full review added 2/5) - Page 10

post #136 of 999

Thank you for answering that for me. I thought maybe we were all crazy to pay for the same thing at 2-3X or more of the actual price.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by project86 View Post


The Grant Fidelity in-home trial is great, for just the reason you mentioned.

 

Opamps - it's a never ending debate. Some people claim to "hear" each opamp, going so far as to say "opamps X is darker than opamp Y" and things like that. I find that to be overly simplistic. What you have is a complete circuit, usually rather complex, with the opamp being just one component of many. In some situations, opamp X may indeed produce a darker sound than opamp Y... but that doesn't mean X will always sound that way in every application. People seem to think of opamps like a CPU or video card - plug it in to any motherboard and it will always perform similarly, and always compare similarly in relation to another CPU/GPU. That just isn't the case. 

 

It's like when people talk about "discrete" being the best possible thing that could ever happen to an amp or a DAC. Just like opamps, a discrete design could be amazing or could be garbage, depending on how well it is done. When you have a great designer like Yulong who has all sorts of tools at his disposal (which I'll discuss in my review), and who has a history of using both opamps and transistors in prior designs: I have to assume that when he created the D18 he used the best parts for the job. 

 


It depends on your philosophy and what you mean by "upgrade". You could probably find some parts to swap out for boutique stuff. That would certainly be considered an "upgrade" on some levels.

 

Would it actually sound better though? There are people around here who would say yes, absolutely it would. Even without hearing it they just know it would. There are others who would say no, that boutique parts are a waste of money compared to reasonably high quality alternatives (which are already being used in the D18). You have to decide for yourself which category you would fall in to. 

 

For me, I again put faith in Yulong. If there was a simple way of upgrading the D18 with some fancy parts, and it would cost maybe $100 or $150, wouldn't it have been built that way in the first place? But maybe they had a target price to reach and had to limit parts choices to hit that goal. Who knows?

 


Based on several designers I've spoken to, the demo kit has a disappointing power supply. It is decent, but not up to the task of extracting the last bits of performance from the chip. The analog components and system clock are also areas with potential for improvement. 

 



The D18 may be a good match for you and your HD800s. It kind of depends on what amp you will end up using. The Anedio paired with a super-revealing potentially bright amp like a Gilmore GS-1 will probably be too much; D18 would be a better match there. But the Anedio plus tubes combo is a great way to avoid harshness but get every bit of detail and texture tha can possibly be had. It really depends on what you are looking for out of your HD800.

 

Really, you can't go wrong with either of them. If you don't need USB, and won't use the built in headphone amp, and like a somewhat smooth sound on the top end, then the D18 will get you there and save money in the process. 

 



 

post #137 of 999


That was one of the first things I said to my son who was listening with me. It may also depend on your system, but 3d or depth as I described earlier is definitely there, and your right headphone listening and speaker listening are two different experiences.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by hificrazy View Post

Now, with more reviews coming to the thread, a general profile of D18 sound characteristics has been established. With nearly 3 weeks' listening, I'd go a little further. I'd draw your attention to the 3D effect. It may sound a bit cliche. But I swear D18 does create a sutble but quite discernable 3D sound image. It's quite palpable in comparison with Yulong D100. And I find this effect is more prominant with speakers than with headphones. This is a little bit difficult to describe. I just give it a try.  For example, with D100 for an orchestra work, the bass of the drums is punchy, the treble of the strings is clear and bright,and the details are there. However, all these details seem to be presented to you from a same plane. But with D18, things are different. I can feel the bass of drums are behind the trebles of strings. So an instrument or performer's position is not just on the left, right or middle, but also on the front, middle or back. I find this is really amazing.

 

Another thing is if anyone is looking for a headphone to mate with the D18, I'd recommend Hifiman  HE500 without any reservation. The two great products are not complementary to each other but born as a twin. I've got my HE500 (new version with silver cable) for a week. These two are perfect match, sharing almost identicle sound signiture. They were developed based on the same sounding philosophy. Both add a tiny warmth to the sound but never over-do it. Both are extremely capable of handling broad dynamics. Both are very reveiling with tons of details but tweaked to round up any harshness in the treble.  Just don't know how to describe my enjoyment in listening to soprano performances on the combo.

 



 

post #138 of 999

Anyone know what the output voltage is in balanced mode for this DAC? I can´t seem to find the specs anywhere. I´m wondering because my integrated amp doesn´t like sources that are too hot (too much over 5V). I´ve got an itch to try this DAC. 

post #139 of 999
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonic77 View Post

MY preamp now is the USP-1, my amps are XPA-1's, my subs, Epik Empire Duals.

 



 


Ah, cool.  We have (well, you had) the same front end then: XDA-1 > USP-1.  So I should realize a very similar improvement in SQ going to the D-18 as you did.  Perfect, because what you've described so far is exactly what I'm after.  My speakers are different, but I bought the LSA-1's after auditioning about a dozen different monitors for two reasons:  My wife vetoed Maggies in the living room, and the LSA-1 came the closest to the transparent, slightly warm smooth sound of the Maggies.

 

You guys keep speaking my language—3D!  Deep!  Layered front to back!  Yes!  Now tell me that it throws sound outside the speakers and not just between them, and I'm sold. 

 


Edited by CrazyBlue - 12/31/11 at 2:28pm
post #140 of 999
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by vrln View Post

Anyone know what the output voltage is in balanced mode for this DAC? I can´t seem to find the specs anywhere. I´m wondering because my integrated amp doesn´t like sources that are too hot (too much over 5V). I´ve got an itch to try this DAC. 



I'd shoot an email to the folks at Grant Fidelity, and they can check with the designer. I would guess it is not that hot - likely around 4V. Same with the D100 I believe. But it would be good if they posted that somewhere. 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by CrazyBlue View Post

 

You guys keep speaking my language—3D!  Deep!  Layered front to back!  Yes!  Now tell me it that throws sound outside the speakers and not just between them, and I'm sold. 

 


I hate to say this but........ it throws sound outside the speakers.

 

Seriously, the soundstage performance on this thing is right up there with some of the best I've heard. You don't get quite the same top end as those expensive units, but soundstage comes quite close. It's really very impressive. 

 

post #141 of 999

Okay, I'm sold.  Just have to wait a few more weeks for profit sharing.

 

I've got plenty of top end and am actually looking to smooth it a bit. 

 

 

post #142 of 999
Quote:
Originally Posted by project86 View Post

 

The D18 may be a good match for you and your HD800s. It kind of depends on what amp you will end up using. The Anedio paired with a super-revealing potentially bright amp like a Gilmore GS-1 will probably be too much; D18 would be a better match there. But the Anedio plus tubes combo is a great way to avoid harshness but get every bit of detail and texture tha can possibly be had. It really depends on what you are looking for out of your HD800.

 

Really, you can't go wrong with either of them. If you don't need USB, and won't use the built in headphone amp, and like a somewhat smooth sound on the top end, then the D18 will get you there and save money in the process. 

 


Thanks very much project86. I think I'll wait to see what the Anedio D2 (or whatever) looks like. I'm a patient guy -- and I'm getting a great deal of enjoyment from my FLAC>Squeezbox Touch>McIntosh preamp>HD800 arrangement. And I understand there are new Violectric offerings coming pretty soon (and I know you are also impressed with your Violectric 181/200). And Yulong is working on a headphone amp to match the D18. Plenty of great choices!

 

Thanks again.

 

Dave 

 

post #143 of 999

Have you tried RCA out?     Yulong told me that RCA out sounds more 'modern': high resolution but not dry or clinical.   XLR out sounds more 'vinyl', 'traditional', which is thicker, warmer.  (I know this sounds the opposite compared to other people's description, but that's what he told me in Chinese.)

And Yulong mentioned that this design of 2 different sound flavors is intentional.  So that D18 can satisfy different people with different needs.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by slackman View Post

Hooking up was very straightforward. I used the XLR out to my powered Klein+Hummel O300 speakers.

 


Edited by yfei - 1/1/12 at 8:36pm
post #144 of 999
Quote:
Originally Posted by yfei View Post

Have you tried RCA out?     Yulong told me that RCA out sounds more 'modern': high resolution but not dry or clinical.   XLR out sounds more 'vinyl', 'traditional', which is thicker, warmer.  (I know this sounds the opposite compared to other people's description, but that's what he told me in Chinese.)

 

 


 

 



Thanks for the suggestion.

Just did a really quick test, and first impression is that it does sound different. Cleaner perhaps with lovely mids.

But I'd not really call it a modern sound I think, the treble still sounds very smooth. And the more I've listened to the D18 (with XLR) the more I find the dynamics lacking and the sound / treble "dead" / un-alive, I still get that feeling with the RCA I think.

My D18 ships to its new owner tomorrow (monday) but perhaps I'll have the chance to test RCA vs XLR a bit better before I pack it up and bring it to the post office.

post #145 of 999

Just did another comparison between RCA and XLR.

RCA has a bit less top treble to me and a bit less bass, also sounds less wide to me (after level matching of course). So consistent with what has been reported in this thread before.

Both RCA and XLR sound smooth and warm to me. Not transparent.

RCA out gives the most lovely liquid analogue sounding mids I've ever heard.

RCA out sounds more "analogue" / "vinyl" to me.

It's still not what I'm looking for (luckily as it would have been weird to ship the D18 to the new owner while just having found out i would have liked to keep it haha)

 

I have even begun to wonder if the Sabre DAC chip is right for me.. I don't think all of what I'm hearing is simply power supply, jitter and output circuit related.

I am hearing the "cardboard cutout" / "HD cartoon" thing other people have described in the sound of other Sabre DACs.

It's related to 2 things I think..

One is the way details are attached to the sound.. the details all so effortless and upfront but this is not completely natural to me, it's like detail layers are more compressed into one "cardboard cutout" / "HD cartoon drawing" of the sound (yes I get those silly descriptions hehe)

The other way is how dynamics are handled.. There is a certain kind of dynamic "washout" where sounds seemingly can't be truly upfront in your face, nor truly way back in depth.

And I mean this in a very particular way that is related to what I described before on detail presentation, and on top of the bad dynamics / warmth I think may come from other parts of the D18 (power supply / output stage related?), so I think it may be a Sabre thing as some reviews I've read of Sabre chip based DACs describe the sound in ways that makes me attach this to the description.

Funny thing is that as much as I hated the DA10 faults, I may prefer it overall to the D18 for studio work..

The D18 has completely opposite "faults" to me, it does right what the DA10 did wrong, and the DA10 didn't do right what the D18 does "wrong" (it even went over the top on some dynamics with added noise/low treble click that wasn't there in the recording), but it did it a lot better at least and was more dynamic, transparent and natural sounding as a result.

 

edit: Just one more description that comes to mind is this. If you have a percussion sound of hitting wood for instance, I'm hearing the tonal impression and details of this sound very clear, but not the "shape" of the dynamics of the sound, this is somehow secondary to the other things, the balance between them is somehow artificially changed.

Maybe also related to bass. I'm not hearing the "shape" of bass tones very well. There is plenty plenty of bass, but it is a little bit boomy in shape even though it's very tight. Perhaps this is due to mid bass / high bass where it sounds like dynamic form / amplitude shape is not created well? Hmm don't know, this could very well be due to something else (everything is related and one big balance of things).


Edited by slackman - 1/2/12 at 6:11am
post #146 of 999

I asked this question in the D100 thread and was frowned upon, but will aski it here too anyway.

 

Is anyone using this DAC with a USB>SPDIF converter? Does it make it sound any better/ worse?

 

I am still looking for a DAC and looking through my notes I keep coming back to this one. Anedio would be my best bet, but being unavailable doe snot make it a very good option.

post #147 of 999

Just had some reflexion on my time with the D18.

 

First of all, I found that my test with the RCA outs was somewhat flawed.

I used a decent quality stereo RCA to XLR cable with neutrik connectors 2 meters length (cost about 25 euro), then connected that cable to decent quality balanced XLR to XLR cables also 2 meters length with neutrik connectors (cost about 55 euro if I remember correctly), which connected to the speakers.

I had it set up this way because I usually used a balanced connection so for unbalanced it was quicker to connect it to the balanced cables already connected to my speakers.

This afternoon I hooked up my old Roland UA-1EX again which is a USB DAC with RCA outs, with the cable configuration as described above and it sounded just like before (and actually somewhat similar to the way the D18 sounded from the RCA outs).

But then thought, well I don't have a balanced DAC anymore at the moment, so why not take out the balanced cables and simply connect the UA-1EX directly to the speakers with the RCA to XLR cable.

I did not expect to hear any difference. I once did a careful test with different interconnects a few years ago with a different speaker and room setup and didn't hear any difference until really cheap cables were used (though these cables were all less than 2 meters)

But right away after taking out the excess 2 meter balanced cable this time.. a very clear difference!

The "analogue" sounding top end became quite a bit cleaner and transparent. Enough to make a very real difference.

Enough in fact to make me like the sound of the UA-1EX connected this way more than I liked the sound of the D18 connected through RCA with the extra cable extension.

It simply sounds more transparent and real now, I quite like it and consider it good enough to do studio work on.. bit surprised by this. (could it be due mainly to the extra connection between cables, or does 2 meter of extra cable has this effect.. And could it even perhaps be that some output stages are more sensitive to outgoing cable sound degradation? I'm going to do more testing with this and perhaps make my own RCA to XLR cables from higher quality parts)

Since the D18 is underway to it's new owner I can't check how the RCA of the D18 would sound connected this way, but I suspect that what I wrote before about less treble through the D18 RCA outs is not true and was in fact cable induced.

 

Sorry about this.

I realize that I'm not a great reviewer because of several reasons.

I don't have my setup to the point where I want it yet, still tweaking things including room, and have plenty of things left to check.

Also don't have a true reference DAC (or several reference DACs) for direct A/B comparison. (and ideally one would do measured level matched blind comparisons, requiring the help of a friend)

And another reason I'm not a great reviewer is that I'm way too much of a perfectionist (I've just spent 6 years researching just intonation full time lol), and find I have only one true goal for a DAC. Simply honest and uncolored as possible reproduction of the recorded audio as it is represented in the bits. (even if this means half of all music becomes unpleasant on some level to listen to, quite different from the goal of many audiophile music lovers)

In hindsight I don't know what I was thinking getting a DAC clearly described as smooth :)

So my review was first part honeymoon (first day listening) where I heard all the things the D18 did right that for instance the DA10 did wrong, though I noticed the treble was too smooth to me. Then after more listening I found many other things that were not to my liking for my personal goals. Others may think the exact opposite of these things in their system for their listening pleasure goals.

 

I have found it very insightful to hear the D18 though and have also found that I find it interesting to really learn about DAC chips and power supplies and output stages etc.

Have been doing a lot of reading lately, and I don't think the Sabre chip is something for me and fitting my goals. For instance the asynchronous resampling and the way it does jitter reduction are not the purest things possible.

I can't really find a DAC that does things the way I'd like to see them done at a reasonable price.

So I'm thinking I'm going to build my own DAC, time to take the plunge into serious DIY :)

I'm thinking using the computer for upsampling in highest quality, then asynchronous USB at 32bit (well actually 24bit is plenty) 384khz to the DAC chip without further resampling and one precise clock that times both the asynchronous USB and the DAC chip bringing them in perfect sync to work as one without any tricks (I mean this is how the real benefits of asynchronous usb will truly show)

Oh and no spdif inputs at all, don't need them, only USB and only 384 or 352.8khz (only need one, computer does upsampling well enough to not matter that it's not a direct multiple, only costs more processing for the computer) . That's all for the digital side. Analogue filtering after that should leave everything under lets say 25khz untouched including phase, somewhere above that 1st order filter (and I don't care about high bandwidth above that it's inaudible to human ears, high sample rate is not about high frequencies)

Output stage as transparent as possible, power perhaps from batteries. These things I know very little about yet, but will be fun to learn.

Oh and computer for fine level control (dithered), and a switch for something like -15db and -30db analogue attenuation on the DAC output so I can connect it directly to my speakers power amp without lowering the signal too much into the output stage noise floor when listening more quietly and using computer for volume control (my speakers amp input has an attenuation pot built in but it degrades the sound a little and is best left full open)

Such a pure DAC can be cheap I'm figuring. A great designer could probably make it for 200-300 euro in parts costs or cheaper even.

I hope I can do it in a reasonable time (half a year?) with 2-3 times as much money.

 

Ohyeah btw I forgot to mention that I did all my listening to the D18 at 96khz, with all 44.1khz music upsampled by SOX at highest quality setting linear phase.

I found it did make an audible improvement to the D18, more of a difference than it does for for instance the Lavry DA10, much less than it does for Echo Audiofire2.

Not a big difference but perceived quality went up, it sounded slightly "deader/flatter" when feeding 44.1 directly.


Edited by slackman - 1/4/12 at 12:07am
post #148 of 999

@slackman:

 

I remember that you are looking for a neutral source. Have you ever heard Atoll DAC100? I have been reading about it for some time now and it seems it 'might' be something of that sort. I am looking for something similar and it draws my atention. It is not as modern as D18, but has a good price too and got a great review from 6moons.

post #149 of 999

what did you expect from a DESIGNED in china dac? Built in china is not an issue, as long as quality control is there. But china designers can't do digital to save their lives. Heck, they can't even do analog properly - look at most of the tube amps they are churning out. Those amps in their stock form are a far cry from what they can do. The dudes in china swap out any part they can for a cheapie, sometimes even outright changing the resistor values. And the china tripath amps (ready made amps, not diy kit)? They try to copy the datasheet schematics - and still mess it up. How can anyone trust them to design a dac from the ground-up that is solidly engineered?!

 

"it's like detail layers are more compressed into one "cardboard cutout" / "HD cartoon drawing" of the sound" -> compressed sound is the hallmark.. of lousy dacs, period.

 

i think the yulong is a classic example of, the dac chip does not make the dac. Everything else does. The ess 9018 chip is not an particularly easy chip to work with.


Edited by sorue - 1/4/12 at 3:52am
post #150 of 999

I didn't want to tell you told you so but..

Good luck on the next one maybe you should try another industry dac Mytek 96 or mytek 192 DSD mastering, 800€ 1300€ respectably.


Edited by OrcaMarinha - 1/4/12 at 4:24am
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