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DAP-off: Astell&Kern AK240, HiFiMAN HM-901, Sony ZX-1, FiiO X5, Chord Hugo, Calyx M, Aurender... - Page 2

post #16 of 1135
Quote:
Originally Posted by audionewbi View Post

I think he might be a mac user. I think for mac we need the android app.

 

I don't see why that would be, as the Sony mounts as a standard USB drive. Then again, I don't have a Mac or know its idiosyncracies..

post #17 of 1135
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post
 

 

He has the loaner AK240. I saw the writing on the wall and just bought one on the spot. His review is on the front page. He actually did an excellent comparison but I'll be using different headphones and music. It is ridiculously good. But, it has a couple of caveats: First, I've found to get the most out of it, you have to have (or intend to buy) top-of-the-line IEMs or headphones to use with it. In other words, it's a $3500+ "end game" investment. 2nd, you have to like a clear, detailed and un-coloured sound signature. It is quite a departure from the AK100 and AK120.

 

Isn't that all good daps are supposed to provide clear, detailed and un-coloured (aka, transparent) sound? Audio 101. :wink_face:

 

IMO, there is NO hi-end or low-end sound. There is only preference for sound. My preference is absolutely transparent sound. With the transparent source, let the phones dictate the sound preference of your choice.

 

I still don't understand why in the market there is no dap-only product free of amp section which can provide a true analog line out to external amp.

post #18 of 1135
I have been asking the same for a couple of years


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post #19 of 1135
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Metalomaniac View Post
 

I have Sony's F886, and uploading music is a breeze: hook it up via USB cable, tap on "turn on USB" that pops up on the DAP's screen, and you can upload music directly from your PC file browser. Upload it to /music directory - no need to use sub-folders unless you want to.

 

 

I remembered about Developer Mode. USB was already on, so that issue was sorted. I usually use The Missing Sync to copy across playlists from iTunes, as it works as well with an SD card as it does with MTP units like the AK240. 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DMinor View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post
 

 

He has the loaner AK240. I saw the writing on the wall and just bought one on the spot. His review is on the front page. He actually did an excellent comparison but I'll be using different headphones and music. It is ridiculously good. But, it has a couple of caveats: First, I've found to get the most out of it, you have to have (or intend to buy) top-of-the-line IEMs or headphones to use with it. In other words, it's a $3500+ "end game" investment. 2nd, you have to like a clear, detailed and un-coloured sound signature. It is quite a departure from the AK100 and AK120.

 

Isn't that all good daps are supposed to provide clear, detailed and un-coloured (aka, transparent) sound? Audio 101. :wink_face:

 

IMO, there is NO hi-end or low-end sound. There is only preference for sound. My preference is absolutely transparent sound. With the transparent source, let the phones dictate the sound preference of your choice.

 

I still don't understand why in the market there is no dap-only product free of amp section which can provide a true analog line out to external amp.


Let's address these one-by-one: 

 

1st: Every amplification circuit in every device is slightly different, as are the components chosen and power supply feeding it, so while they all measure flat and may have only small distortion peaks, during playback, there are subtle differences because of all these things.  See the last post Jason Stoddard made about DACs in his story about Schiit. 

 

The AK240, I'm guessing is designed by a person or people who are incredibly good at what they do, combined with only the best components available and I imagine they had a considerable budget to work with on the design*. All these things add up. However, while to many people the subtle differences probably doesn't matter but to many people it does. Every designer has their preferences too about what "sounds good". 

 

2nd: You'd love the AK240 + UERMs then I reckon, especially if you have some very well-recorded acoustic music you listen to often. Not everyone likes the AK240 though. One person's excellent is unpleasant to someone else and those subtle differences add up to a lot after many hours.

 

3rd. What do you mean by "true analog line out"? The output of all DACs has to be amplified. Even the direct-out capable ES9023 and BB5102 DACs have built-in opamps for amplification. Whatever is responsible for the output in a DAC has to have sufficient voltage and current to send the signal down long cables to whatever it is connected to.

 

Anyhow, all I've done so far is compare with IEMs. What will really be interesting I think is when I start breaking out the full-sized headphones and see how well they all do as I want to see if they can be a good one-unit portable solution.

 

*For those of you who have been around a long while in 2-channel audio, let me just say: This is the first CS4398-based unit I've heard that I have really liked. 

post #20 of 1135
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post
 

 

 What do you mean by "true analog line out"?

 

I meant the analog signals converted from DAC go to external amp directly. Let the external amp to handle the dc offsets (yeah I know there is a liability issue for potentially damaging gears). There is brilliant amp design which can compensate for the dc offsets without using caps to maintain transparency.

 

I came to realize the significance of transparency which has enabled me to differentiate the bad recordings from the good ones using the same  phones. The everything sounds open, airy and effortless.

post #21 of 1135
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DMinor View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post
 

 

 What do you mean by "true analog line out"?

 

I meant the analog signals converted from DAC go to external amp directly. Let the external amp to handle the dc offsets (yeah I know there is a liability issue for potentially damaging gears). There is brilliant amp design which can compensate for the dc offsets without using caps to maintain transparency.

 

I came to realize the significance of transparency which has enabled me to differentiate the bad recordings from the good ones using the same  phones. The everything sounds open, airy and effortless.

 

Ok, fair enough. Many DA chips have current output or voltage output that is too small for that to be good. I suppose it would work in a portable set-up but then you're getting back to using two devices and dealing with cables and bulk, so we're back to where we started. With every design choice the manufacturer ends up introducing different problems.

 

It's rather like: 

 

Portable audio:

1. Inexpensive

2. Convenient

3. Transparent and capable.

 

Pick two.

post #22 of 1135

Well for audiophiles sound quality comes first, right? Everything starts from concept design. IMO the all-in-one brick in concept will have difficulty to exceed a 1-2 punch (e.g. true LO to a dedicated external amp), due to interference in power and circuit. So it's simple to just separate them. Simplicity is a beauty.

 

Being portable does not have to be one single piece. As long as it's not too bulky, the 2-piece can be very portable using some cases, wallets, whatever to secure them in style. In my book, gear up to 1.5" total thickness is highly portable.

 

With the freed space, the dap should focus more on UI and mega storage, for example using very affordable and compact mSATA's (now up to 1 TB available) while offering the most capable DAC's. Let the amp designers compete and take care of the amp, independently.

post #23 of 1135

Hi Amos

 

Great thread - and like Eke I'm very interested in hearing your views on the overall comparison.  Definitely interested in how the iP5 fares as well.  Couple of quick questions - 

  1. For the comparisons, are you volume matching (and how)?
  2. What full sized headphones will you be using?  Particularly interested in anything you have around the 250-300 ohm mark with moderate sensitivity.


I very much enjoyed both my DT880 (250 ohm) and HD600 with the X5 when I had it on the world tour.  For me it was a great all-in-one solution.  Curious as to how the other DAPs fare with something similar.

 

Lastly - when you do your summary - could you give us a subjective view on perceived value.  I know everyone's thoughts on this will be different - but I'm curious as to your view.

 

Thanks again

 

Paul

post #24 of 1135
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brooko View Post
 

Hi Amos

 

Great thread - and like Eke I'm very interested in hearing your views on the overall comparison.  Definitely interested in how the iP5 fares as well.  Couple of quick questions - 

  1. For the comparisons, are you volume matching (and how)?
  2. What full sized headphones will you be using?  Particularly interested in anything you have around the 250-300 ohm mark with moderate sensitivity.


I very much enjoyed both my DT880 (250 ohm) and HD600 with the X5 when I had it on the world tour.  For me it was a great all-in-one solution.  Curious as to how the other DAPs fare with something similar.

 

Lastly - when you do your summary - could you give us a subjective view on perceived value.  I know everyone's thoughts on this will be different - but I'm curious as to your view.

 

Thanks again

 

Paul

 

Hi Paul,

 

Good questions! When I volume match (which admittedly isn't always), I use SoundMeter on my iPhone with a pink noise track. It's difficult, as I have to hold an IEM to the mic of my phone without it moving at all while I switch DAPs as even the slightest movement as it changes the volume. This isn't always possible (eg: When switching IEM cables). In the future I hope to use a Mixerface with a mic that will allow me to get everything positioned consistently.

 

I'll use HD-800s (with damping added) and LCD-X and XC. I also have a pair of 300 Ohm MB Quart QP400s which I might use too. They tend to be good for testing how well amps handle high-impedance headphones I've found.

 

As for value: I understand your question and even though I don't like answering it, I do have some thoughts about where each DAP could have practical value for a person. Beyond particular headphone or IEM pairings, a lot of that comes down to features and what limitations a person can tolerate in the functionality.

post #25 of 1135

From what I read, because of it's super UI, for ma a Sony ZX1 with a micro-SD slot or internal 256 Gb will be a winner to pair with my HUGO.  But... this one do not exist :rolleyes:

 

So, I need to find how to increase Sony's  storage (External WiFi HD...?) to use my +200 Gb Music library 


Edited by bmichels - 4/14/14 at 3:56am
post #26 of 1135
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bmichels View Post
 

From what I read, because of it's super UI, for ma a Sony ZX1 with a micro-SD slot or internal 256 Gb will be a winner to pair with my HUGO.  But... this one do not exist :rolleyes:

 

So, I need to find how to increase Sony's  storage (External WiFi HD...?) to use my +200 Gb Music library 

 

Totally agree here. I was just thinking the only thing the Sony is missing is a microSD card slot. I imagine they don't like having them as it would increase warranty returns with crap getting in them and customers busting cards in the socket putting them in backwards.  This reminds me of a picture, possibly still on her old blog, of Utada Hikaru, the famous Japanese singer, with a SIM card stuck in her phone which she'd inserted backwards. 

 

I think streaming music is going to be a big deal with future DAPs. I'd not thought about it until now really, but now with DAPs becoming good enough to replace "desktop" gear it is kind-of obvious.  Even so, this set-up was fantastic and something I could live with right now if I was up for getting rid of my rack of hot components and buying the WA7 PSU.

 

post #27 of 1135
Quote:
Originally Posted by bmichels View Post
 

From what I read, because of it's super UI, for ma a Sony ZX1 with a micro-SD slot or internal 256 Gb will be a winner to pair with my HUGO.  But... this one do not exist :rolleyes:

 

So, I need to find how to increase Sony's  storage (External WiFi HD...?) to use my +200 Gb Music library 

 

The ZX1 is capable of streaming music from a server, given the fact that it has access to apps on the google play store. I tried it myself, and it works flawlessly.

post #28 of 1135
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post
 

 

 

I think streaming music is going to be a big deal with future DAPs. I'd not thought about it until now really, but now with DAPs becoming good enough to replace "desktop" gear it is kind-of obvious.  Even so, this set-up was fantastic and something I could live with right now if I was up for getting rid of my rack of hot components and buying the WA7 PSU.

 

 

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

 

 

My sentiments exactly.  And I can only imagine the arguments that will take place regarding the advancement of high def recording in the streaming music industry!

 

Very nice rig, BTW!  The Woo is not yours?

post #29 of 1135
Thread Starter 

Ok, since I'm at home today doing work preparation, I have time to play around more, so next up is the HD-800s single-ended. They have extra damping and an ALO Reference 16 cable.

 

Music: Amber Rubarth -- A Kiss to Build a Dream On (binaural). Players were volume matched to -0db pink noise at 115.7dB (equivalent to a much quieter listening volume with regular, uncompressed music).

 

X5:

 

While very pleasant to listen with, the soundstage seems smaller than with the ZX-1 or AK240, suggesting less drive for high-impedance headphones.

 

ZX-1:

 

The soundstage is nice and wide -- better than I had expected -- and more of the nuance and detail is apparent compared to the X5.

 

(HM-901:)

 

(Being charged at the moment. I'll add impressions later)

 

AK240:

 

Same wide soundstage, but it is as if the electronics have disappeared and the delicacy of Amber's singing and the micro detail is more apparent. Not only can one mentally picture Amber and the instruments, but within those images parts of each of them as well.

 

I didn't expect such a difference with such a simple track and thought I'd have to break out the big orchestral performances to get a very noticeable difference.

post #30 of 1135

I take it these tests aren't done blind?

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