Originally Posted by wje
And the time has come for another novella from wje. I'll apologize in advance for the extensive content, but I felt I had to write as much as I did to be able to relay my experience.
Some DAC impressions of recent experience.
These impressions are based on the use of my HD-600 and HD-650 Sennheisers. I will update accordingly, after spending time with the HE-400s this coming weekend going through a similar exercise.
DACS were tested with a Schiit Magni amplifier, and a Fiio E9 amplifier. The DACs tested were: FiiO D03K (early edition with the silver RCA connectors), FiiO E7 (docked on the E9), and the Muse Mini DAC, paired with both the Schiit Magni and FiiO E9 amplifiers. The Schiit Modi was previously owned, but never tried with these headphones, so too many comments can’t be applied, but the general sound signature will be mentioned in the below content.
Wolfson chip-based DACs. In testing both the D03K and the E7, I was able to detect what initially appeared to be somewhat detailed level of performance. However, after using for extended periods, the sound just became a bit more strident than what would appeal to me for many longer listening sessions. I quickly tired of the extra detail that was being handed to me. As to bass punch, I felt the Wolfson chip-based DACs were as capable as any other DAC that I’ve tried and similar response in the mid-frequencies, too. Additionally, while not tested, the FiiO E17 an newest E07K are built around the same Wolfson DAC chip. The D07K was based on a different variant of the Wolfson DAC chip and happed to be purchased locally off of Craigslist from a guy who replacing all the DACs in his 4-zone music system in his home. He had a bag of the D03K DACs (4 of them, actually) and I picked the silver RCA version, known as version #1. The later version has a DAC chip by Cirrus Logic. Being that he might still have the other DACs, I should opt for one of the newer gold ones, so I can test the sound signature of that variant, too. Hmm … does this ever really end?
I’m not completely writing off Wolfson at the this point as I’ve heard their offerings in two of the amp DAC combos that I owned by Audio-GD. However, in those cases, the Audio-GD did suffer from some upper and lower frequency roll off, which has been noted by others too.
Now, for the Muse Mini DAC. It is built around the Burr-Brown PCM2704 chip. This chip is a bit long in the tooth and has been around for the past 6 or so years. Possibly longer. This variant provided a well-balanced sound that didn’t push those audible upper-frequency details that became strident over longer listening periods. My other experience with the Burr-Brown DACs has also been with my (3) Squeezebox devices. I’ve never once noticed any sounds that they’ve produced that were overly-emphasized in one frequency zone or another. This DAC currently sells for about $30 on Amazon.
As to the amps I used. The Schiit Magni and the FiiO E9 amps, they both performed relatively on par with each other and the tested DACs. The DAC signatures noted were apparent with both amplifiers. However, if I were to have to give the nod here, it would be for the Schiit Magni. While on par, I still felt that the Magni just had a slightly more refined sound. Again, this was just my sound and listening observations as I experienced. I think in the E9, it happens to be more largely mass-produced and possibly, component variations that are internally utilized could periodically change from time-to-time based on availability. Since Schiit is assembled on a smaller scale here in the U.S., it is quite possible that more attention can be paid towards the components that are purchased, and I’d like to believe that there might be some more consistency in what their components their amps are built upon.
Possibly, again, at another point in the future. The Modi DAC was only sold so I could buy another item from the forum I had my eye on. Being that I had the Muse Mini DAC, I put that into use and sold the Modi for the time being.
Finally, I feel as though a comment should be applied on the Shiit Modi DAC. While not tested with any amps other than the Schiit Magni and only with my HifiMAN HE-400s, it provided a nice, even sound with the frequency ranges distributed without one range overpowering the other. I just wish I could have had it for this comparison.