Here is my set up:
RWAK 120-B > Balanced connector > RSA Intruder (balanced)> Moon Audio Silver Dragon IEM Cable (balanced) > UE Pro 18. IEMs. All FLAC. Mix of standard and higher res files.
I've had the 120-B for two weeks. Punchline -- it's terrific. As you well know, the incremental price of all these gadgets and mods don't produce a linear return...the gains are not only small to medium relative to price, they are 'to taste'...meaning, what I may define as 'awesome' and 'significant change' someone else may find minor and/or not like it at all. With those disclaimers in mind, I'll offer the following re: my impression of this set up:
** "Balanced" is a new thing for me in headphone land. Prior to the RWAK 120B I had a standard AK120; SE Out to RSA balanced intruder amp. The reason I bring this up is that I liked the balanced sound in that original config, whereas this fully balanced set up (RWAK120B) is far better. It's a better balanced experience. It's more natural to my ears.
** This set up offers more natural attacks and resolution of notes. Subtle but real. "Pre-ringing" (or lack thereof) was a new term for me, and as I understand it, the 8741s have this advantage over the other Wolfson DACs. I'm not sure if this feature or some other part of the chain is responsible for the attack/resolution improvement, but I thought it worth mentioning. Come to find out I have these DACs in my home system (Linn Klimax, VTL/tube amps, Wilson) and I've been trying to replicate that sound in my head...silly goal, as these are completely different animals, but this SS is closer to my home system, which I happen to like.
** Burn in. I don't believe in it, but I certainly do believe in aural acclimation. And I can tell you it is better now than it was 20 listening hours ago. Whereas some set ups never seem to 'fit', this one keeps getting better.
** Blend/balance. Slightly better balance and blend of instruments and voices across all forms of music, but particularly in acoustic oriented folk/bluegrass music. While you can still pick out each instrument with absolute ease, the separation isn't so stark that it becomes distracting. I'm not sure why this is happening, or why this particular genre of music makes it more apparent, but it does.
** Sibilance. There is less of it. I get distracted by it, so I'm glad this set-up tamps it down.
I came from a hifiman 801 (selling by the way) to an AK120 with a stock IEM cord running straight out of the headphone jack to my UE PRO18. And that experience was terrific! This little guy is excellent and needs no amp or other mods. That said, I'm glad to have the set up I have. In the end this may all boil down to perception, post purchase rationalization, etc. I don't care. Sounds better to me so I'm happy.
Finally, I echo the other comments on here re: Vinnie. Good guy. Put up with all my stupid questions without ever making me feel dumb.
Thanks to all of you for your posts -- I enjoy your perspectives.
Hmm.. I am thinking of going SE out to balanced amp (RSA or MK-3) but then I need to get balanced cable for my se846. Any suggestions as to whether it is a significant upgrade?