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December 2013 Mid-Level DAC Comparison - Page 38  

post #556 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Turn&cough View Post

Pro audio = analytical. Popular misconception? I can get it locally will try and check it out on Monday (if they let me take it home for a trial)
The DS is certainly not cold/lean/analytical. It's smooth, fluid and highly musical with all the details you should expect from a revealing pro source.
It's a great surprise for me.
It replaced my beloved fostex HP-A3 at work. This might not tell you much because the Fostex is a $400 USB-powered DAC + headphone amp that obviously don't fight with the more expensive DACs I own(ed), but it is the DAC that I've been highly satisfied with for 1.5 years now. Many more expensive DACs were sold in that period because, while they were much better technically, they wouldn't connect me so deeply with the music.
The Source has this connection to music.
post #557 of 1331
Thread Starter 

Just a VERY quick note.  The Ciunas is here.  Thanks Clem!

post #558 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary in MD View Post
 

Just a VERY quick note.  The Ciunas is here.  Thanks Clem!

 

Perfect.

You probably need to charge it first, though.

 

Enjoy :beerchug:

post #559 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Clemmaster View Post


The DS is certainly not cold/lean/analytical. It's smooth, fluid and highly musical with all the details you should expect from a revealing pro source.
It's a great surprise for me.
It replaced my beloved fostex HP-A3 at work. This might not tell you much because the Fostex is a $400 USB-powered DAC + headphone amp that obviously don't fight with the more expensive DACs I own(ed), but it is the DAC that I've been highly satisfied with for 1.5 years now. Many more expensive DACs were sold in that period because, while they were much better technically, they wouldn't connect me so deeply with the music.
The Source has this connection to music.

Sounds good. What chip does it use?

post #560 of 1331

The Dangerous Source seems to use a TI 1789 chip, with a x8 oversampling.

Quite interesting because you realize how the SQ is not only due to the chip, but the result of the power supply quality+conversion quality+inputs quality+analogue par quality. You buy a DAC, not a chip ;-)

Rgds

post #561 of 1331
Thread Starter 

Okay Folks:

 

After several days of being tortured by DACs that came and went as they pleased, and player software that has huge capabilities but a few irritating quirks, I completely finished initial testing of 2 DACs (PWD II Mk II and Arcam irDAC) and listened carefully for several songs to 3 others (NAD M51, DM Source, Emo Stealth).  I have 10 pages or so of typed notes on the 2 finished DACs, which I will go into in great detail soon.  But here's the quick upshot:

 

  1. The PerfectWave DAC Mk II has slightly reduced mid-range energy, or conversely, slightly elevated bass and treble energy.  Not a V, not even a U.  More like the shape of a large but shallow pond or really a big puddle, where if you were to look at a side cutaway view from some distance the banks on either side are the bass and treble range of the spectrum.  This frequency response curve gives the DAC a slightly -- and I mean slightly -- thinner sound signature.  Is it airy?  I don't know what the F that means.  It is slightly less full in the mids than the other DACs I've listened to so far.  It loves, and I mean really loves, drums and percussion.  Crazy good with that type of instrument.  Pianos and other acoustic instruments can, particularly on certain songs, sound a tiny bit too thin to me.  Some voices can be pushed back a bit in the mix on some songs.  On a lot of songs the voices have more echo than on the other DACs, as if somebody had pulled the acoustic foam out of the studio or something.  These are subtle effects, but I found them a bit tiresome after a while.  My brain was searching for something that it thought was missing in the mid-range.  But remember, I'm a mid-range guy -- hence the LCD-3s, not the LCD-Xs.  I found myself asking why so many of these songs sounded like they were recorded in a bathroom or subway station.  Could I live with this DAC?  Probably, but I wouldn't choose it first.  However, if you are a treble-lover, but don't want to give up on the mid-range completely, this might be the DAC you prefer -- assuming you have the space.  This thing is huge, and heavy.  I does have a very nice touch screen control system that only aggravated me a little bit when I tried to change the volume with my fat fingers.  It does have a remote too, but I haven't tried it (never would... but some of you might like that amenity).
  2. The Arcam irDAC has a more full mid-range than the PWD, but it has a tiny bit of edginess or grain when treble peaks on certain songs get too high for it, as if it was a singer straining to hit the high notes.  As long as the music stays within its limits, or you don't push the volume on it so that the edginess protrudes, the irDAC is a very enjoyable DAC.  If you listen to classical chamber music or small jazz ensembles without brass sections, you would probably never hear any issues with the irDAC.  If you listen to rock, classical music with lots of brass, big band music, or anything else with big treble peaks, you will probably notice the edginess/etch/grain on some songs.  Is it bad?  Not with the Cyclops and LCD-3.  But I wouldn't pair this DAC with a Mjolnir, or with anything driving the LCD-X, or with a Beyer T1 (in any setup).  I personally could live with this DAC, particularly at its $700 price tag, but I suspect that those of you who focus on treble and hear etch and grain easily would not be very happy with it.  Note also that it is a very small black box with no fancy anything, which is great from a space perspective, but has some limitations in flexibility -- like no volume control.  It comes with a remote that changes the input, but the volume is line-level, can't be changed internally.  So you plug it in, plug in your input and output cables, choose a source and it plays music.  Period.  No drama, no problems, no issues, except when Windows magically decides to mute the volume by itself, probably after having discussed with JRiver how the two of them could best mess with my brain tonight.  Took me an hour to figure out what happened there.  Grumble.
  3. I shouldn't really say anything about the other 3 I've had in the loop, because I have not had a chance to do detailed testing of the DM Source, Emo Stealth or NAD.  However, because several of you have asked for information on some of these models I will break my own rules and say that just flipping back and forth between them on a few songs when they are level matched, it is REALLY hard to tell them apart.  Barry couldn't distinguish the DM or NAD the other day either when I was flipping the switch for him, and when I matched the levels on the Emo it joined the "nearly indistinguishables" as well.  They are really incredibly close in performance, at least with a cursory listen.  Let me listen to 50+ songs over and over again for the next couple of days and I will probably find some differences in performance. 

 

On the other hand, it is easy to find differences in price.  The Emo Stealth was $500 (might still be) for the holidays and has some pre-amp capabilities, as well as dual HP jacks (but 3.5mm... yech) and a solid remote control if you value that.  The DM Source is $900 with even more pre-amp capability and real HP jacks but no remote.  The NAD is $2K, is not a pre-amp (tho it has lots of inputs, including HDMI) and has no HP jacks, but does have a remote.  Again, I haven't really even started testing these 3, but after my cursory first listen, I found no glaring (or etched, or grainy, or sibilant, or boomy, or any other bad thing) issues with any of them.  You can come to your own conclusions about which one(s) I would consider good values. 

post #562 of 1331
Thread Starter 

Double post... I need to get more sleep...

post #563 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by phile1 View Post

Quite interesting because you realize how the SQ is not only due to the chip, but the result of the power supply quality+conversion quality+inputs quality+analogue par quality. You buy a DAC, not a chip ;-)
Rgds

We'll said.
I 'm not too sure you can repeat this too much.
When we listen to a DAC:
we are actually listening to a system which includes a DAC chip, a PC board (PC board layout is critical!) and many other building blocks.
Don't get too hung up on DAC chip brand names.
post #564 of 1331

Gary,

 

Just some mid-effort encouragement, here...  It's readily apparent, and I (we) very much appreciate both your ability to write about what you hear AND the great job you are doing in putting everything into the context of your well-described personal tastes and the headphones you are using, as well as headphones you are familiar with (i.e. your recommendation that the Beyerdynamic T1 would not pair well with Arcam irDAC - this rings so true with my experience with the T1.) You are obviously well-qualified to pull this off, as you are smartly uncovering nearly all of the variables, including the subjective factors.  

 

Spectacular effort, man! 

 

Mike

post #565 of 1331
I would even go one step further. The better your source at the beginning of the chain, the smaller the differences further down the road.
As my computer audio source has become better and better over the last few months, I was amazed again and again how much better the DDC sounded or the DAC or the speakers for that matter.

I am certain with another source you will come to different evaluations of all these DACs, in both directions.

My conclusion: I believe everything you say and I believe nothing. I needed to listen to it in my own environement.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME! biggrin.gif
post #566 of 1331

The Dangerous Source does not appear to have a standard coax input. Is this correct?

 

The irDAC appears to hold its own quite well but based on sound alone(not price or features) how does it fare against the DS?

 

In other words - which one would you rather live with (soundwise)? 

 

Thanks

post #567 of 1331
I see your point - a source is akin to a lever where the fulcrum is set very close. Small changes there might translate to large changes downstream. But if Gary's source is a constant across these comparisons, as is his amp and headphones, his description of traits that distinguish various DACs is still valuable, even thogh his source may not be "ideal" and even though his well-described subjective preferences may be different than those of any given relader.
post #568 of 1331

Gary, the M51 can function as a preamp. Attenuation is achieved digitally and its 35bit architecture ensures no truncation of data in the usable range (you'd have to go -66dB with 24bit data).

 

The NAD's RRP in the US does seem a deterrent. Particularly if you have no use for its additional inputs and preamp capability. In Australia, the M51 could be had for less than $1400AUD. Price has gone up of late to align with other regions. As much as I love the M51, it is difficult to recommend without also mentioning the value proposition of its competitors. I'm just glad I jumped in early and bagged a steal.

post #569 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris J View Post


We'll said.
I 'm not too sure you can repeat this too much.
When we listen to a DAC:
we are actually listening to a system which includes a DAC chip, a PC board (PC board layout is critical!) and many other building blocks.
Don't get too hung up on DAC chip brand names.

I agree with this but still think that DAC chips have certain inherent characteristics which is why I'm looking to try something other than an ESS based DAC.

 

I'll quote another member(purrin) regarding the ESS chip:

 

Quote:
 

I've compared both M7 and NFB7.32 side by side. It's not just the vocals, although vocals is a good / obvious test. The NFB 7.32 has a weird raspy grainy treble quality and lacks bass pitch differentiation, i.e. "thud, thud". (These characteristics are typical of every SABRE DAC I've heard). I wouldn't even say the NFB 7.32 is one of the better SABRE implementations. A "proper" implementation of the SABRE chip only mitigates, not eliminates its weirdness. From Invicta, NFB 7.32, Oppo, X-Sabre, ODAC, Teac, Mytek, etc. I've heard and directly compared them all under the same conditions / using the same equipment.

 

The only thing good about the SABRE is detail retrieval without the need for multiple chips.

post #570 of 1331
Quote:
Originally Posted by Turn&cough View Post
 

The Dangerous Source does not appear to have a standard coax input. Is this correct?

 

The irDAC appears to hold its own quite well but based on sound alone(not price or features) how does it fare against the DS?

 

In other words - which one would you rather live with (soundwise)? 

 

Thanks

 

 

The Source has USB and AES3 inputs, with the AES3 input doubling as a coax input when using a 75 ohm cable that converts from RCA to XLR.   There's more info on it in the Source manual.

 

Thanks,

  -Mike

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