Originally Posted by Bluebear
I wouldn't say a DAP is a failure because it does not offer a flat/neutral signature to pair well with multiple cans/IEMs. That would come off as saying DAPs like FiiO X3/X5/HM901 with balanced card etc. fail because they are all slightly warm like the AK120. Not to mention Calyx M is the least neutral I have heard which would make it epic fail according to how you define a good DAP. It depends more of the individual's usage patterns. For e.g. there are many like me who only listen primarily to only 1-2 preferred TOTL IEMs and rarely bring along multiple headphones to switch around while changing music tracks. Finding the best pairing DAP for that one favourite IEM is more important than a completely neutral DAP to play around with multiple headphones. As long as the right DAP can pair with the right IEM, it can still sound more awesome than a neutral DAP. Otherwise if our goal is just to listen to how the music sound, everyone will be only using neutral DAP+neutral amp+neutral IEM. Bringing a stack of DAP + amp may also not be ideal for some who wants to travel light.
Again your statement that the bass of AK120 never sounds right with your JH16 is just reinforcing my point that completely neutral DAP is not the only solution. If you are not using JH16 which is bass heavy but a more neutral IEM, you will probably think AK120 is fine. I also like my AK240 over my AK120. Yes, AK240 is much more neutral than the AK120 but that is not the reason why I like it more. It is because it's SQ is much better. Similarly, even though AK100 MKII is more neutral than AK120, I find it slightly more grainy.
Another reason I can guess is probably the difference in individual's music genre collection. I also tend to prefer bass quality from dynamic drivers which IMO is more smooth, richer and natural than the bass produced by BAs. I find most BA bass tend to be more digital and dry no matter how many low end drivers are tuned to reproduce it.
That is why I never was a fan of Fiio. DX50 + Rockbox is still my reference for a neutral DAP. However, DX90 beats it in resolution, clarity, imaging and soundstage, though not completely neutral, it is very, very close. I bet Rockbox will make it completely neutral.
On both DAPs my JH16 has that huge punchy bass but much clearer and detailed on DX90. My T1 sounded bright as it should be and still delivering the right amount of bass
AK120 never sounded right not because of the sound signature. It was because it made my JH16 bass thin which is quite the opposite why I got JH16 in the first place. This doesn't make sense right if AK120 is suppose to be warm.
In my opinion a flat/neutral DAP pairs easily with phones with different signature and should behave as expected. A warm phone will most likely sound warm with a neutral DAP. A bright phone will sound bright.