Really important, I think, to distinguish between the Emotiva XDA-1, a two generation old model, and the Emotiva DC-1, a subject of this review.
Totally different creatures.
Alright, for those few of you still tuned in to this show, for the past several hours I have been testing the Benchmark DAC 2 against the DM Source. I had planned to test the Ciunas, but managed to run down the Ciunas battery, as well as the portable Li-Ion charger that I had been using to feed the battery, by leaving the DAC on overnight for several nights. I didn't have it plugged into a USB port because I didn't have any available at the time, but I pulled out the printer cable, so I've been charging the Ciunas for most of the day off of the bus, and it will be ready to go for tonight's testing.
In any case, I can say that the Benchmark DAC 2 is a fine DAC, and it sounds EXACTLY like the DM Source. As in, after 40 songs, I hear absolutely zero, none, nada, nul, zippo, difference on ANY of the music, whether audiophile hi-res or crappy MP-3. So add it to the list of "indistinguishables". The Benchmark does have a ton of connections and flexibility, including 2 HP jacks, but so does the DM Source. Yeah, the Source requires you to buy some adapters to use all of the connections, but it also costs $1100 less. Both seem to be quality units.
This lack of difference between the two actually does not surprise me at all, since Benchmark has been a leader in designing neutral DACs based on the needs of the recording industry, and Dangerous Music is also a music-industry-first supplier. The Benchmark and the DM clearly targeted neutrality with their latest designs, and in my view they achieved it. In fact, I wouldn't doubt that DM targeted Benchmark with the Source, and hit that target dead on too. Both sound great, as do the NAD, Concero, Emo Stealth, Gungnir and even the Arcam which sounds pretty close to the others, with maybe just a bit more mid-range energy, The PWD has a slightly different flavor, with recessed mids, but with a little equalization, I believe it too could be made indistinguishable from the others, except for the extra echo that I didn't like too much.
So far the only DAC that sounds clearly, undeniably different, and to my taste, is the Metrum. Remember, though that I still have to test the Ciunas, Yulong DA-8 and Chordette QuteHD. The Ciunas is up tonight, so stay tuned, I'll post something before dawn Sunday. I hope. Then I expect to get the Yulong and Chord done by Monday night (or Tuesday at the latest).
Then we'll see who stays beyond that point, but I can tell you that anything that ends up in the indistinguishables club will be returned this week (or has already been returned), except the DM Source and Emo Stealth. As I said in the opening post, ties go to the cheaper unit, and those two are the cheapest given their feature set, with the Arcam losing out because it has fewer features in the same general price range. So unless the Ciunas, Yulong or Chordette have a clearly unique flavor, they will go back too (the Ciunas because it too lacks features and costs almost the same as the DM Source, and hundreds more than the Stealth).
Then I will put any uniques (at this point that's only the Metrum) up against the 2 indistinguishables (who will be competing against each other based on features -- mostly their HP jacks -- vs price), and I'll pick a winner (or maybe two if I decide I want the Metrum... the Stealth is pretty cheap, and combined they cost about the same as the NAD or the Benchmark) in the next week or so.
Okay, dinner time! Then the Ciunas gets to torture me!!!
Ohhh... to increase the torture you should listen to it only with Miley Cyrus or Lindsay Lohan :P
Great job on this Gary. I can hardly wait for this to be over and the winner to be announced.
I've been doing a little research on the Dangerous Source, and it has an interesting feature--there are two independent DAC circuits. The USB and AES/SPDIF inputs feed into their own DACs, so you could have two different digital sources feeding the DS. This could be useful in a complex setup or for A/B-ing sources, or DJ/performance work.
The Hilo seems very flexible--it's too bad it didn't get included in the mix. Then again, it's $2500 and some of the more studio-oriented features aren't that relevant to head-fiers. The DS features are also overkill, but at $900--it seems like a better value.
Yeah, the benefit of NOS is the lack of pre/post ringing on the impulse response, but you do get a good amount of added harmonics. I think he already hinted that the Ciunas was going back? As i understand it right now, he is preferring the Emo because of price/performance, but I think that might change once he start playing with the DA8 because of its versatility, which is great for future gear changes :) Has he tested the Chord yet? I don't even think that one will agree with him because of the price compared to the Emo lol.
Gotta love speculation