Originally Posted by dunross
Anything new to report about the SA-2?
One thing that I have been wondering about is the Audio-gd response to the increasing popularity of DSD. Do you think this is something we can expect KingWa to address? I think DSD is becoming more and more difficult to ignore.
BTW, I am loving my SA-31. It is an outstanding piece of kit.
Yes, I've had the SA-2 here for a week now, and a bit over 100 hours of burn-in. I know Clem is looking forward to hearing about this as well...and now Daniel...So here goes my initial reaction, best I can do. Subject to adjustment as it ages and I listen more!
This DAC is feeding a Decware CSP3 preamp and Taboo mk3 amp. The pair of amps are very responsive to tube rolling, and the overall sound character can change pretty drastically with 8 different tubes in play. So I've left the same tubes in place that were working well for me with the SA-1.32.
I know some may think I'm nuts- a "musical" DAC and two tube amps feeding an LCD-3. Must be a gooey pile of warm muck, right? Far from it! The 1.32/CSP/Taboo combo was wonderful for my preferences. Clean, fast, transparent... but with a comfortable tonality and a bit of warmth. Tube choice is important though. I would say the the CSP/Taboo combo can be less colored than the SA-31 amp, and the Taboo alone is most definitely. And most importantly with this chain, instruments, vocals, the room, everything sounds realistic and natural. Probably going against a few "rules" with this chain but don't knock it till you try it. Of course moving the DAC into a more neutral direction certainly isn't going to hurt.
I would like to eventually get my hands on a fairly neutral SS amp to try with this DAC to get a true feeling of the actual character of the DAC itself, without relying on my "guesstimate" of what is most correct with my tube setup. (kinda wish I still had the SA-31!). As it is with the tube preamp/amp combo, I just get close to what I believe is most pleasing/correct/neutral whatever you want to call it for my ears.
The DAC is fed either by AP2+PP, or the internal USB32 interface.
In the next few days, I'm also going to run the DAC straight into the Taboo for several days listening. That amp alone without the pre is very transparent and easier to tune to a neutral (to me) signature. The pre adds most the color between the two amps. So I'll certainly report my thoughts on the SA-2 feeding the Taboo alone after some more days listening.
So anyway, that's the back story on the other gear, my initial impressions in this post will comparatively be a bit brief, as the DAC isn't burned in, and it hasn't been through the paces, and such..but the other gear is important to mention so you know where I'm coming from.
A few posts above (quite some time ago) I posted Kingwa's description of the sound difference between SA-1 and SA-2. It was- "The SA2 is less warm than the SA1.32 but better detail and dynamic, and still not bright, hold the SA series flavor". He seemed very modest in describing any difference. But he did specify that the more neutral, detailed and dynamic character of the SA-2 would be preferable, and that additional warmth could be dialed in by experimenting with interconnects if desired. Whereas the warmer nature of the SA-1 can't be dialed back, it is what it is.
My initial response after plugging this into the chain - pretty much mirrors what Kingwa stated in the quote above. The guy knows his equipment. Definitely an improvement in dynamic, it feels a bit more punchy than it's predecessor. The SA-1 is a bit more laid back and this has a more assertive nature, a little more "snap" to everything. The clarity/detail seems to have taken a step up as well. The bass has a noticeable increase in depth. Okay the bass depth and texture is fantastic! This unit is a bit less forgiving then the SA-1, flaws bubble to the surface more readily but nothing is un-listenable. Keep in mind this isn't A/B with the SA-1, just from memory, it's no longer here (thanks again, Clem!). But it was only 3 days gone before the SA-2 arrived. I promise my next impressions after some more burn in will include specifics of artist/tracks/etc.
What I like about the SA-1 was the realistic and comfortable tone. I think a lot of what was happening there is the way harmonics around notes are rendered and decayed, the reverb around piano notes, guitar string plucks, etc.. The feel of the recording space is well rendered if it's in the recording. I found male voices very good as well. It's hard to describe - but I like it, it sounds natural to me.
The SA-2 has pretty much all I loved about the previous unit, but refined a bit. Turned up a notch. It seems a bit more of a "hi-fi" take on the SA-1, more dynamic and detailed but still with great tone. Less warm. Soundstage is amazing. I'm sure the degree of differences between the units is proportional to how revealing your downstream amp/HP are. Diminishing returns? - yes!... A big expenditure for a bit of improvement. But I am pretty wowed. I'm trying my best to contain excitement, really. Until the honeymoon is over.
I can certainly say at this point that if you have heard the SA-1, and enjoy the tonality and sound of that unit, the SA-2 improves on the strengths and there really is no downside. Well, other than the $ and the sheer size of the unit, if space is a consideration. I don't see how anybody who likes the SA-1 could be at all disappointed with the SA-2. Personal choice though whether the expenditure is worth it. I felt the SA-1 was just about perfect for my preferences, and had really not a lot of interest in spending time and money trying anything else except another 1704 DAC from Kingwa. So for me it made sense to upgrade.
A couple other thoughts-
- The USB32 interface SQ on this seems better than on the SA-1. On the SA-1, the USB32 wasn't bad, but the AP2/PP was a definite improvement. On this unit, the gap between USB32 and AP2 is less. Maybe it's the newer DSP revision with the chip built into the board, etc? (DSP revision 6? - Same as Master 7). Or how the more advanced power supply works with the USB/DSP? Who knows? I need more time, but still think I prefer AP2. But I could be happy with USB32 if it were a little more idiot-proof. I have driver weirdness where USB32 doesn't always cooperate with jriver, so that's annoying. Mysterious lockups and clicks when sample rate/bit-depth changes no matter how buffers are set. For example, yesterday it worked flawlessly for hours. Today, it started with a screech noise, I restarted the DAC and computer, then it plays maybe a song and a half then just stops. Installation is convoluted and not well documented. I never know if it's really working as it should. But old news not specific to this unit. Maybe I need to try going back to Foobar for awhile to try the USB input.
- Input #1 (BNC) feeds the dir9001 receiver. Input #3 feeds a wm8805 receiver. I had the RCA changed on input #3 to BNC for the AP2. I like input #1. Input #3 does support higher sample rate and is a warmer tone. You can definitely hear the difference between the receiver chips. I tried briefly the optical input, my Centrance Hi-Fi M8 acting as USB converter to optical. It works fine and sounded good but didn't listen enough to form an opinion past that. I'm not sure which receiver takes the optical feed, I hadn't asked Kingwa but I think it's the 8805.
- The build quality is nuts! I knew this thing would be big and heavy and solid, but WOW. It gives off the impression of a serious piece of audio gear. Looking inside is an event. I am slack-jawed at the sight. I guess it's either impressive or I'm easily entertained.
I guess I've babbled enough - I'll post more as it ages and I have more listening time with it, also feeding the Taboo directly.