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Comparison: M-DAC vs ZODIAC GOLD w/VOLTIKUS vs HEGEL HD20 - Page 2

post #16 of 48

I think a clarification of terminology is called for here.

 

First of all there is "sample rate", "bit depth" and "bit rate".

 

1. "Sample rate" is measured in kHz, as in Red Book CD's are 44.1kHz, according to the "Nyquist frequency" where most humans can't hear anything beyond 20kHz or so (if you can hear beyond 20kHz don't blame the messenger, please talk to Nyquist.), and if you sample your analog music at roughly twice that frequency, you capture all the audible information reasonably well. Again I am only relaying the design decision. Please don't shoot the messenger.

 

2. "Bit depth" is how many bits you use to store each sample of data. Again Red Book CD's use 16 bits, or 65,536 different values or levels.

 

3. "Bit rate" is measured in bits/second (or kilo-bits/second or mega-bits/second) which represents how fast the bitstream is transferred over a medium. Again Red Book CD's bit rate is 1411200 bit/s, or roughly 1.4Mb/s. This is calculated from 44100 * 16 * 2. The last (*2) is due to the left and right channels you have to account for. For lossy compressed music such as MP3, AAC or whatever, sometimes the songs are specified in "bit rates" as in 320kbps MP3 or 192kbps AAC, this signifies the level of compression (down from 1.4Mb/s) that is applied (irreversibly) to the file. A higher bit rate song/file retains more of the original information compared to the uncompressed version, as the algorithm is "lossy", which means it throws away (supposedly inaudible) information to achieve the level of compression required, to save disk space being one of the chief reasons.

 

I hope all is clear as mud now.

post #17 of 48

The USB chip in HD2 is the same as in HD20, Hegel’s Anders Ertzeid explained the situation, using the HD2 as an example: 

 

 

Quote: http://www.goodsound.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=275:hegel-music-systems-hd2-digital-to-analog-converter&catid=56:equipment-reviews&Itemid=37
The actual DAC chips used in audio all have an optimal operating frequency (as in sampling frequency). As an engineer, you really want to let them operate at exactly that frequency, or they start adding lots of high-frequency distortion. To let them do that, you actually have to upsample all signals to this specific frequency before it enters the DAC chip. The clue is that the result of the high-frequency distortion is far worse than the result of an odd upsampling. Therefore, we upsample all music to 192kHz (or, actually, very close to 192kHz), which is the optimal operating frequency. With this in mind, it no longer made sense to specifically look for a USB receiver chip that accepts 88.2kHz signals. They would later be upsampled anyway. [Whether this is] done in the computer or in the DAC doesn’t really matter. What we ended up with was a chip called the TENOR TE7022. It is very good and very affordable. The low price allowed us to include our proprietary reclocking technique in the HD2. This is the same technology as used by Esoteric, dCS, and others. The result is better sound, less jitter, and a low price point. 
post #18 of 48
Thread Starter 

Then that goes to show how much more a dac is than just the dac chip, because the HD2 and HD20 are worlds apart.

post #19 of 48

Yes, of course.

 

I was referring to sampling rate and the USB chip, otherwise they differ as the HD2 is powered by the dirty USB bus and has neither impedance matching nor any analog output stage.

 

HD2: AK4127 (SNR) - PCM1754 (DAC)

HD20: AD1896 (SNR) - AD1955 (DAC)


Edited by Albedo - 7/25/12 at 10:03am
post #20 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by thenorwegian View Post

At normal listening levels the sound was already a bit thin, and from there on up it just kept getting worse. The m-dac actually did a bit better, sounding more powerfull at the same level.

Norwegian, I own the zodiac gold/voltikus combo and the audeze lcd-2. I can tell you that using the right settings with the control panel, the amp of the Zodiac drives the audeze easily and with great power and authority...I own a Violectric V200 amp as well, which is widely regarded as a very good match with the audeze. The headphone amp of the Zodiac dac is at least on the same level as the Violectric....
post #21 of 48
Thread Starter 

Thank you! The control panel refuses to work on my pc so I have no way of checking. Do you use the zodiac via USB, and does it make the same annoying clicking noise when it stops/starts getting data?

post #22 of 48

Hi thenorwegian, appreciate you sharing your impressions on these dacs. I am curious to know what is the cable being used between the DAC and the m1 hpa?

post #23 of 48
Thread Starter 

I can't tell the difference between reasonable and silly-expencive cables, so I have these:

http://www.hifiklubben.no/produkter/kabler/signalkabler/argon_5055_kabel_1,5_m.htm

post #24 of 48

thenorwegian, thank you for your post and review you made on these three excellent DACs. I did perform a rather similar comparison in my system when I was selecting a new DAC (no Antelope was involved as I could not find one for home demo) and ended up with M-DAC. Maybe because it indeed sounds very 'mainstream' as you mentioned, but also because of features since I do want to reduce box count on my rack. Aside from M-DAc and HD20 I tested Rega DAC, M2Tech Young, W4S, and Benchmark.

 

Interesting issue with M-DAC is that, at least for my ears, its USB input sounds better than its coax. I never intended to use it that way given that I was quite pleased with coax output from my ESI Juli card, but when out of curiosity switched to USB it was a clear step up. The sound became more natural, a bit warmer, wider soundstage, more details, and bass become a bit more pronounced. When I added Furutech GT2 USB cable the SQ became even better. I am not 100% sure if these changes can be attributable to the USB input of the M-DAC only or a characteristic of the Juli card, but frankly I did not have the same feeling when I tested Yound by going both coax and USB.

 

Also, for any potential M-DAC users - the firware updates do make difference (slight and obviously not night and day).

post #25 of 48
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the tip, will have to try the USB out. Did all the testing with coax, just to avoid having to re-select the new usb device as speaker out every time I changed. There's (finally) a page set up where all m-dac firmware is posted now:

 

http://wikkii.org/wiki/M-DAC

post #26 of 48
Cool thread. Looks like Hegel gear is really rare in the US, not a suprise since they only just entered that market though. Here in Scandinavia it´s pretty mainstream as they are from Norway.

As an MDAC and Hegel HD20 owner I fully agree with the OP´s assessment. The Hegel HD20 is definitely not neutral, I´d place it in the same league as Linn/Naim gear sound signature wise. It´s warm, musical and romantic. Clearly flirts with tube sound even though it´s a solid state design. I got it for pretty cheap as a special deal alongside my H200 integrated amp. Didn´t really have any major expectations, except I knew it has gotten positive reviews in local hifi magazines. I´ve heard quite a lot of DACs, but nothing like the HD20. It doesn´t sound at all like a typical Delta-Sigma DAC (even though it runs mainstream parts), it has more in common with R2R gear.

Emotionally involving, romantic, warm with no listening fatigue and the best dance factor I´ve heard in a DAC in addition to the Naim DAC. Very quiet noise floor too. The highest compliment I can say about the HD20 is that it was supposed to be just a temporary DAC for me until I could afford a REF 7.1 after I sold my REF 7. Ended up being so happy with it that I never upgraded. Now that the euro is getting weaker and weaker importing gear is getting too expensive with the local 25% VAT + customs here in Finland. Sure a REF 7.1 would be better, but I´d rather put that upgrade money into speakers.

As for the MDAC, with the optimal spectrum filter I think it sounds like an improved Benchmark DAC-1 PRE. It´s more forward, in your face. The thing often said about Sabre32 pulling tons of detail and putting it in your lap, comfortable or not, is pretty accurate. It´s a good DAC too, just very very different compared to the HD20. Most albums sound better to me on the HD20, but some well recorded ones are unbelievable on the MDAC. The MDAC is a lot more fatiguing to listen to though, more suited for demos while the HD20 lets you listen to 4 albums in a row no problem. Personally I easily preferred the HD20 over the MDAC, but I can understand if it´s the opposite for someone else. In home theater use the MDAC is much better than the HD20 though. The HD20 is just too romantic and warm for that. MDAC being more neutral and dynamic makes it more suitable for action movies, gaming etc. That said, even with the Sabre32´s heightened dynamics, the Hegel DAC has way more dance factor. All in all I think the price difference between the HD20 and MDAC is justified. Both are fantastic products though.

Also in my experience SPDIF is an audible improvement over USB in both DACs. I wanted to prefer USB to keep things simple, but a low jitter coax over a converter still sounds clearly better to me, even when using an USB isolator.
Edited by vrln - 8/7/12 at 4:32am
post #27 of 48
Thread Starter 

It's funny you posted this just now, because recently I've found myself missing the HD20, so about 30 minutes ago....

 

1000

 

I just had to have it L3000.gif I've missed it a bit since I returned it, but the thing that really got me thinking about the hd20 again was the lcd-3. The m-dac with the lcd-3 is a bit too correct, too polite, for my taste. I'd rather take fun/musicality (?) over "correct" any day, so with the added warmth and fun the hd20 brings, I think this'll be pretty sweet. I'm especially looking forward to hearing the combination of the added bass the hd20 brings with the already fantastic out-of-the-box bass the lcd-3 has (I litterally just got the hd20, havn't had time to listen to it yet)

 

Interresting to hear your thoughts about both m-dac and hd20 against other dacs, thank you for that. I hope if anyone else has any experience with the mdac/zodiac/hd20 VS other dacs they'll share it with the rest of us. And regarding inputs: I moved my computer last night to be able to use the USB on the m-dac (as suggested earlier), which ment changing all kinds of cables and irritation. With the usb set up on the m-dac I uninstalled and removed the asus xonar soundcard and thought I'd sell it. Now, today, one of the first things I read in the hegel hd20 manual was that the sound with coax input 1 is better than the other digital inputs on the hd20 blink.gif So.. the asus xonar is installed again.

post #28 of 48

Interesting comparison.

 

I really love the detailed, in your face sound of the M-DAC. But then again i haven't had a chance yet to experience other dacs in that price-range.

 

Is it fatiguing? I don't know, i can listen for hours, but it is certainly so detailed and attention-grabbing that it gets distracting k701smile.gif So listening with headphones while getting some work done is more difficult than before....triportsad.gif

 

Just myy 2cts.

post #29 of 48

Good read, thanks for writing it up. Seems like honest impressions which are always easy to relate to. 

post #30 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by vrln View Post

Cool thread. Looks like Hegel gear is really rare in the US, not a suprise since they only just entered that market though. Here in Scandinavia it´s pretty mainstream as they are from Norway.
As an MDAC and Hegel HD20 owner I fully agree with the OP´s assessment. The Hegel HD20 is definitely not neutral, I´d place it in the same league as Linn/Naim gear sound signature wise. It´s warm, musical and romantic. Clearly flirts with tube sound even though it´s a solid state design. I got it for pretty cheap as a special deal alongside my H200 integrated amp. Didn´t really have any major expectations, except I knew it has gotten positive reviews in local hifi magazines. I´ve heard quite a lot of DACs, but nothing like the HD20. It doesn´t sound at all like a typical Delta-Sigma DAC (even though it runs mainstream parts), it has more in common with R2R gear.
Emotionally involving, romantic, warm with no listening fatigue and the best dance factor I´ve heard in a DAC in addition to the Naim DAC. Very quiet noise floor too. The highest compliment I can say about the HD20 is that it was supposed to be just a temporary DAC for me until I could afford a REF 7.1 after I sold my REF 7. Ended up being so happy with it that I never upgraded. Now that the euro is getting weaker and weaker importing gear is getting too expensive with the local 25% VAT + customs here in Finland. Sure a REF 7.1 would be better, but I´d rather put that upgrade money into speakers.
As for the MDAC, with the optimal spectrum filter I think it sounds like an improved Benchmark DAC-1 PRE. It´s more forward, in your face. The thing often said about Sabre32 pulling tons of detail and putting it in your lap, comfortable or not, is pretty accurate. It´s a good DAC too, just very very different compared to the HD20. Most albums sound better to me on the HD20, but some well recorded ones are unbelievable on the MDAC. The MDAC is a lot more fatiguing to listen to though, more suited for demos while the HD20 lets you listen to 4 albums in a row no problem. Personally I easily preferred the HD20 over the MDAC, but I can understand if it´s the opposite for someone else. In home theater use the MDAC is much better than the HD20 though. The HD20 is just too romantic and warm for that. MDAC being more neutral and dynamic makes it more suitable for action movies, gaming etc. That said, even with the Sabre32´s heightened dynamics, the Hegel DAC has way more dance factor. All in all I think the price difference between the HD20 and MDAC is justified. Both are fantastic products though.
Also in my experience SPDIF is an audible improvement over USB in both DACs. I wanted to prefer USB to keep things simple, but a low jitter coax over a converter still sounds clearly better to me, even when using an USB isolator.

Nicely expressed characterization of the two dacs.  Wait until you hear a really good usb/spdif bridge feeding your dac!

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