Im looking forward to the new Schiit DAC, does anyone know if there a release date yet?
I would of thought that the NAD M51 was up there with the PWD2
LOL, the little Loki will allow DSD via DoP. Now someone mentioned to me the Schiit USB Gen 2 boards may be able to support DXD (352 PCM). I need to check on this.
Another alternative is to convert DSD to PCM in foobar or JRiver. I know JRiver supports internal conversion with various options on the DSD high frequency filter, since stuff past DSD 20kHz incrementally becomes more and more noise because of the noise shaping it uses. So much for a hires format.
The USB input implementation is just OK on the M51. A power conditioner like the ifi iUSB Power or Aqvox helps it a lot. However, it is a completely different animal fed through a really good AES source like the Berkeley Alpha, Offramp, or even a Yellowtec Puc2. Plug in the Offramp and it would be much higher as you suggest. I actually did compare the two before taking the M51. I had to chuckle a bit about the "sigma-delta nature" comment.
This list is really unusual. These rankings are quite erratic. While I haven't heard them all, I have heard enough of them to know that not only the rankings but also some of the subjective comments don't agree with what I have heard. Different strokes I suppose...
One critical thing to note is that the PWD2 I have is an older one converted to 2 with the upgrade board. (We actually had two of those specific models on hand - with a third unit that we've heard.) We have questions about the units coming out from the factory as straight newer PWD2 units which do or possibly or maybe sound different ("different" as in I wouldn't use it, even for free.) The reason that we cannot say for sure that all newer PWD2 units suck is that we only had one sample.
Ouch, I can't say I'm surprised about the Teac. I've heard their headphone amplifier and the sound didn't come close to matching the sexy looks.
Any thoughts on the Peachtree Dac-It or iDac? The Dac-It was/is my first "real" stand alone DAC and I really adore it. I was hung up on choosing between it and the Bifrost for the longest time before I picked it up. First real jump in quality I've experienced in hi end audio (having dabbled with various amps and headphones...I run a Lyr and HD800 in my main rig), made me realize how important a DAC is.
Any thoughts on the Gungnir via coax? I have heard that improves the sound on it, compared to the USB. Would be curious to see a comparison of USB vs coax. Am glad to hear it is excellent with vocals, as I have one on the way.
One major suggestion. Please post prices for these, as that can be a major deciding factor for a lot of people.
So far just that. I would need to re-verify. In a nutshell, I slightly prefer the Gen 2 USB over the "decent" coax out from my PC.
Yes. That is one reason I asked the others involved with the DAC-Off sessions for a meeting so we could all put down our thoughts. We were aware that our observations generally ran against the grain. Some of the DACs we rated as less than stellar are widely accepted as excellent. I think counterpoint is a good thing.
There are many variables with the PWD 2. If i'm reading between the lines correctly, you're using a 2.0.2 firmware version perfectwave which many seem to like. I've tried them all and with my system I strongly prefer either 2.4.1 or 2.4.3; but the 2.2.0 and 2.2.1 I didn't like at all (thin and clinical) which may be why you did not like the 'newer' PWD 2's as they were running these firmware versions.
I suggest you try different firmware versions as they all sound vastly different in my revealing speaker set up.
Furthermore, the PWD 2 sounds best balanced out. I'm assuming you're using balanced out anyway because many of these DACS in your list are balanced DACS.
And one last thing is the network bridge module. I personally find that this module sounds vastly better than the USB input; and would suggest you have a look into this avenue. I costs less than the audiophileo pp1 with battery; but when used with a simple 20 dollar crossover cable into a mac mini, it blows USB out of the water.
Many other DAC's are clear cut and simple to evaluate. The PWD is far from that unfortunately. A lot of tweaking is needed
I have discovered (not that long ago) that most USB implementations suck. I only wish I had known (I should have known) sooner as I'm sure many of the DACs listed here could have benefited from a proper USB/SPDIF converter. It's frustrating because there are so many combinations to try out. And I can't but help think some of the DACs didn't get a fair shake - that they would have radically improved, especially if their built-in USB converters sucked.
And then there's the question of the effectiveness of USB/SPDIF converters. For example. I suspect the AP1 (at least without the PP PS supply) doesn't do anything. It sounded worse than the PWD2's built-in USB and Amos / Currawong said it sounded the same as his AGD M7's USB (which I felt sucked balls). The AP1 ain't cheap. It's even more expensive with the PP. At this price point, even if it did work, it's not viable for any DAC less than $2K. I would have liked to find out if the PP did anything, but the owner of the AP1 was already pissed that it didn't do jack and said "F that."
In terms of input differences with Gungnir - in order of goodness.
I don't have my OR5 right now, it's on loan, but I will report back on it. The thing with the OR5 is that it's not worth it for the Gungnir. The OR5 as I have it configured is ~$1500. The Gungnir is $750. But cost aside, the Gungnir won't scale with the OR5 like the M7 or PWD2. The fact that the M7 or PWD2 will take i2s provides even another level of advantage. The USB Gen 2 option is $100, optimally scales with the Gungnir's inherent capabilities, and better matches the Gungnir's particularities. By this I mean the USB Gen 2 provides more clarity, really brings out the sweetness of the AKM chip, restores the soft sounds which were either dropped or compressed upward, adds more low level information. From memory, the OR5 only did a little bit to address the last three shortcomings. The OR5 mostly did what it does best: blacken the background, tighten up the sounds, making things more precise sounding, provide more clarity, etc. However, I'm not 100% sure at this point and will require more listening / testing. We are not talking about huge differences.
That's the reason why I'm reluctant to buy an ap1 as there's no proper way for me to verify whether or not it works. The or5 on the other hand is a bit too expensive to use with cheaper dacs as it sort of diminish their means as a cheaper alternative. Depending on what option you click it could even reach the price of a new master 7. It makes more of a sense to use it with dacs above 2-2.5k mark. Schiit however, judging based on your observation seems to have somewhat solved the usb problem and this makes it significantly more attractive than other dacs in this price range.
I believe its possible that the new production NP-PWD2 (new un-downgradeable) fw 2.20 unit we tried was just foobar.
We had our two PWD1-2s. One running 2.03 and the other running 2.20. Comparing old and new with the same fw 2.20, the NP-PWD2 was a notch behind in most technicalities with much less sub / low bass volume, and a ton of congestion on complex musical passages. We were like WTF during the comparison. I even tried to mess with my two friends as we were listening. Telling them that I changed DACs when I really didn't. And even then, they picked it out! "You are sure? You are messing with us dude."
We played with a lot of variables, including even trying it with the various OR5 outputs and on different filter settings, but no matter what, the NP-PWD2 just seemed like a shadow of our own PWD1-2s. My friend contacted PS Audio, and supposedly there had been a few cases of NP-PWD2s like this. All it took to fix was a swap of the digital input boards. I don't know how the story ends as the NP-PWD2 was a loaner to us and we simply returned it.
As for the Bridge, I need gapless, and I'm not willing to use that horrible eLyric software for gapless playback. I kind of feel ripped off on that one by Paul; and personally I think he should refund all Bridge owners expecting that gapless function since he kept saying they was working on it, and in the end, PS Audio never got it to really work. But yes, the Bridge does sound better than USB. But the OR5, even via coax, sounds better than the Bridge.
I've heard good things about 2.4.3, but I haven't tried it yet. Just sick and tired of craptastic web support pages and confusing messages from PS Audio. For the longest time, they took down all their download pages, and it became a chore to get the firmware revisions. It's a joke when it easier for me to obtain firmwares from other HF'ers than from the PS Audio website. Don't get me wrong, I love the PWD1-2, but I'm never going to buy another piece of PS Audio gear again.
I think it's rather interesting Schiit used to Schiit on how Schiity USB was on their webpages. They seemed to have backtracked. At least I can't seem to find those statements anymore.