Why would you get another DAC with your NFB-8?
Audio-Gd Reference 10 - Page 11
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I am going to sell my NFB-8 and get the Ref 10.32 primarily for a change towards more neutral.
Also I wanted to simplify. Formerly I had a Phoenix so with the DI and power supply and DAC I am going from 5 boxes to one. I am risking some performance consolidating the power supplies of the DAC/PreAmp but I trust the difference to be small to the point I do not notice.
Last, Kingwa says the ACSS in the newer units to also be a bit more neutral.
Got a Ref 10.32 delivered today. So far so good. Sounds great without any burn in yet. Running wifi toslink via air tunes so I haven't even heard any hi res stuff yet. Impressions to follow after burn in.
Audio-gd Ref 10.32 balanced DAC/Amp + LCD rev.2 = Euphoria!
If you have followed this thread you already know that the Ref. 10.32 is a one box DAC/Pre Head Amp that combines the cores designs of both the Master 8 and the Reference 7.1 DAC designs. The Master 8 is the successor of the Phoenix Pre/Headphone Amp with an updated ACSS design. The Reference 7.1 (or more recently the Master 7) is the flagship Audio-gd DAC based on the PCM1704UK chip. Like the Audio-gd separates mentioned, the Ref 10.32 combo uses the same box and has three R-core type transformers. The separates have three R-core transformers each, their own boxes and the Ref 7.1 DAC uses 8 versus only 4 1704 chips in the REF 10.32.
Initial Impressions at 100 hours
The Ref 10.32 headphone amp:
Formerly I had a Phoenix and my usual analogue source is a Rotel RT-1080 tuner. I have a Rega table with a Elys cartridge and Rega Fono preamp but just don't use it much. King-wa mentioned the Master 8 and the amp in the Ref. 10.32 has a more neutral and dare I say brighter sound than the Phoenix due to an update to the ACSS design. I have definitely noticed more lively mids and treble from those of the Phoenix and a better sound stage and depth without compromising bass.
I had a DAC19 DSP I was pleased with it in the past so it wasn't much of a risk going to a Audio-gd 1704 implemented balanced DAC. I was however afraid I would regret losing my Wolfson Audio-gd DAC NFB-8. The Ref 10.32 DAC depth, details, mids and highs are improved from my former Phoenix/NFB-8 combination. Specifically the sense of sound stage is wider, taller and includes a noticeable front to back is depth. Music is more lively, bass is tighter and not fatiguing. The Ref 10.32 is a better match for the LCD 2s for my ears. I am having the usual new gear euphoria-hearing things I have never noticed, etc. The PCM1704UK chip implementation from King-wa is detailed yet smooth where the Wolfson DAC is smooth dark with details but less depth, sound stage and less forward mids and highs .
Would I rather have a Master 8 preamp and Master 7 DAC? Yes but that costs twice as much and I wonder for how much more improvement. So far I couldn't be happier and I have one component on my shelf versus 5 boxes with my old system with a digital interface.
I would love to compare the Sabre NFB-27 and Wolfson Audio gd versions of this DAC/PreAmp combo along with the new Schiit products. That being said I would be surprised if I preferred anything over the Ref 10.32 and I wont have the upgrade bug for a while. The bottom line is the Ref 10.32 with LCD-2 is the best I have heard.
Whether you go for the master 8 with a Ref 7.1 or (master 7 dac) or spend half as much and get a Ref 10.32 prepare to have your mind blown. My ref 10.32 is approaching 300 hours burn in as I have had it on for a week. I am still blown away with what I am hearing and I was used to AGD separates. I still can't believe that the head amp in the Ref 10.32 sounds better than my Phoenix and I am loving the 1704 DAC. I get why King-wa made it his reference (haven't heard the Sabre so I can't compare). I would suggest you consider going full AGD dac-amp if your considering a AGD amp so you have the ACSS and continuity between components.
Total newbie and first post, so please bare with me. I been lurking for a long time and see that the Head-Fi forums seems to have some of the most knowledgeable people and thought I would jump in with a question.,
Preface - I listen to both headphones as well as some custom speakers I built. I mostly listen to FLAC files (Vortex box) via Squeezebox Touch to my system. I am currently not very happy with my set-up. I initially built my system using the Emotiva XDA-1 as my DAC/Pre-Amp http://www.emotiva.com/resources/manuals/xda1_manual.pdf I wasn't really happy with the system since the volume control on the XDA-1 had some issues (sounded muddy at low levels) - noted many volume complaints on the forums. I guess the implementation of the digital volume control was an issue. The suggestion was to set the XDA-1 at the highest volume (80) and run it into a separate pre-amp. I was able to grab a Stereoknight magnetic passive pre-amp (for very little money) and that solved the volume problems with the XDA-1. However the sound wasn't a huge improvement over my Squeezebox DAC amazingly enough (XDA-1 uses a single sigma-delta ad1955). The other problem is that I do NOT have a head-phone amp, which is another big problem (Stereoknight is passive). This system is limited to ONLY listening via my speakers. Additionally I have a cheap TEAC CD player, which has a headphone amp which blows and also means I am reliant on the internal TEAC DAC. Now the TEAC just died as well so no headphone listening :-(
So I have been (for the last 6 months) researching a replacement and of course I stumbled on Head-Fi forums which of course lead me to Audio-gd and eventually this thread.
The Audio-gd ref 10.32 seems to answer many of my problems.
3. Head-phone Amp
I have budgeted $2k to find a solution and at this point the Ref 10.32 seems the best idea as far as I can see.
My other problem is now finding a decent CD transport, but would like to keep it down below $500. I looked at the Emotiva ERC-2 ($450) and it has AES/EBU digital output via XLR, which I assume is better than COAX or OPTICAL and the Ref 10.32 supports that input. http://shop.emotiva.com/collections/sources/products/erc2 I really just need a reasonable and more importantly reliable CD transport, since I assume the Ref 10.32 will NOT be a slave and handle the master clock - solving jitter issues.
Two other questions:
What is the preferred method for connecting the Squeezebox to the Ref 10.32 (USB, COAX, or OPTICAL)
Is the 4-pin headphone jack a big improvement? I am just wondering if I should also attempt that mod. I have a pair of Grado-80s and a HE-300s.
Thanks - I welcome suggestions, comments, and of course criticism.
Edited by Prohobo - 10/30/12 at 10:33am
I posed some similar questions to Kingwa (of Audio-gd), who is amazingly fast to respond.
He stated that if I liked a "neutral sound" that he thought the Reference 10.32 would be well suited for my system. He stated that I should remove the passive pre-amp because it may have usually very high output impedance that can cause it to emphasize the sound characteristic on the signal cable.
As far a CD transport, he stated that most Redbook players don't offer very good SPDIF output in the low and sometimes high price ranges. He suggested both the Marantz CDP and Pioneer DVD players and that from his experience they have good coaxial output.
The Squeeze Box touch he suggested the coax, but has read that some SB users have gotten the USB output to work with great success as well.
It looks like I maybe in for a Reference 10.32 for the holidays. I look forward to your comments and suggestions.
For Reference - here is Kingwa's email: