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Resonessence Labs Herus Plus

  1. peter123
    A excellent sounding no nonsense device from Resonessence Labs
    Written by peter123
    Published Sep 11, 2016
    Pros - Sound quality, build quality, value for money
    Cons - Few connections, no physical volume control
    The Resonessence Labs Herus+ was sendt to me for free from Resonessence Labs in exchange for my honest review of it as well as including it in my $250+ DAC/amp comparison thread.  
    I’d like to thank Mark and Resonessence Labs for giving me the chance to check out the Herus+, THANK YOU!
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    The Herus+ is available from the Resonessence Labs website as well as Amazon and the price was $425 at the time of this review:
    For more information about the Herus+ you can visit the product page on the Resonessence Labs site:
    I’m not in any way affiliated with Resonessence Labs.
    About Resonessence Labs:
    Resonessence Labs are based in Canada and does also manufacture their products there. This is what they say about themselves on their website:
    “Resonessence Labs is a trading name of BCIC Designs Inc. a company registered in British Columbia Canada. The principal founder of the company is Mark Mallinson, former Operations Director for ESS Technology. The company’s focus is to design and manufacture exceptional audio products. Our design engineers and Investors are industry audio experts at DAC and ADC design, and were front and center in the design of the ESS Audio DAC and ADC.
    Our philosophy is simple: put together a team that includes world class audio engineers and design audio products without compromise.
    Creating the very best requires careful planning, strict attention to every detail and close supervision at every step; this is why we chose to manufacture our products locally within Canada. Each stage in the development process is monitored by our experienced audio professionals. Each unit is hand-assembled in our own engineering facility to exacting standards of performance and quality.” 
    These are people that were involved more than a little in the development of the ESS chip so naturally I was very curious to check out their entry level DAC/amp.
    About me:
    I’m a 44 year old music and sound lover that changed my focus from speakers to headphones and IEM’s about five years ago. At that time I realized that it wasn’t realistic for me to have all the different setups that I wanted and still house a family of four children and a wife so my interest turned first to full sized headphones and later also IEM’s.
    My preferences are towards full sized open headphones and I believe that also says something about what kind of sound signature I prefer (large soundstage in all directions, balanced and organic sound).
    My music preferences are pretty much all over the place (only excluding classical music, jazz and really heavy metal). My all-time favorite band is Depeche Mode although I also listen to a lot of grunge/indie, singer/songwriter/acoustical stuff as well as the typical top 40 music.
    I do not use EQ, ever.
    I’m a sucker for value for money on most things in life Head-Fi related stuff is no exception.
    I tend to value function over form within reasonable limits.
    Built, accessories and functionality:
    After playing around with devices like the Audinst HUD-DX1, Chord Mojo and iFi Micro iDSD that offers a great amount of connections and settings lately I was pretty amused when the package with the Herus+ arrived and my first though was: is this it for $425?
    The Herus is actually available in two versions: the original Herus and the Herus+, which is the one I’ve got. In short the differences between the two are that the Herus+ does also have an option to choose between two different filters (in addition to the standard output) and the possibility to switch on a power reduction mode that makes the power consumption 10% less when running it in normal mode (more about both these features later).
    The Herus+ really doesn’t look like much but already when unboxing it from the very compact retail box the weight of this small unit gave me a good feeling. It’s very heavy and solid feeling for its small footprint. The chassis is all metal and underneath there’s a rubber list making it stay sturdy in place on the surface where one choose to put it.
    The Herus+ does not offer much in the way of connections. Very simple it has one USB type B input and one 6.3 mm headphone output, that’s it.
    When it comes to accessories the trend contiues, there are actually none whatosever included. 
    IMG_4078.jpg IMG_4081.jpg
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    The “R” logotype on top on the unit light up with a red light when initially connected and turns blue when it’s connected to a music source. On the Herus+, as already mentioned, does actually have a couple of settings that you can choose from. The mentioned “R” does also double as a button and by clicking this when blue you change the digital filter in use from the standard one to switch to the Apodizing filter (the “button” now turns magenta instead of blue). Pressing the “R” once more switches to the Minimum Phase filter while the “R” still stays magenta. I typically don’t hear much difference with digital filters and the changes appear very subtle to me on the Herus+ as well even when using pretty revealing headpones as the HifiMan HE400i or IEM’s like the Accutone Pisces BA. Long pressing the “R” puts the Herus+ in a low power mode where it will drain a bit less battery from the source. When in power reduction mode the light on the “R” is turned off completely. The difference in power consumption is not big but it’s still a nice feature when using it with a phone or tablet.
    HRedF.png HBlueF.png HMagentaF.png
    Pictures from the Resonessence Labs home page showing the red, blue and magenta lights 

    The specs:
    Asynchronous USB Audio 2.0
    PCM bit width
    24 or 16
    Bits (If provided with 24bits HERUS uses them all, but it works with 16 bits also)
    Supported Data Rates
    44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192 and 352.8
    Supported Formats
    PCM, DXD and DSD64/128
    Uses DoP protocol 1.1 over USB for DSD
    Operating Systems
    MS Windows, MAC OS and Linux
    Use the Resonessence Thesycon Driver for USB Audio 2.0 on Windows
    Output Signal Level
    At Maximum Volume level
    Output Impedance
    at least
    dB, Typically 108dB
    at least
    dB, Typically 90dB
    Into 32 Ohms
    THD + N
    0.0035 (89)
    % (dB) Typical
    Into 60 Ohms
    THD + N
    0.0032 (90)
    % (dB) Typical
    Into 300 Ohms
    THD + N
    0.0032 (90)
    % (dB) Typical
    Into 600 Ohms
    THD + N
    0.0032 (90)
    % (dB) Typical

    I’ve used the Herus+ quite a lot during the last couple of weeks and it has played for well over 100 hours.  
    I’ve combined it with my LG G3 phone, Chuwi Vi8 tablet and two laptops running Windows 7 and it has worked very well with all combinations. It does however need a driver to work with Windows but that’s easily available on the Resonessence Labs website.
    Demo list:
    Mark Knopfler – Sailing to Philadelphia
    Røyksopp (Feat.Susanne Sundfør) – Save Me
    Ane Brun – These Days
    Michael Jackson – Dirty Diana
    Metallica – Die Die My Darling
    The Peter Malick Group – Immigrant
    Eva Cassidy – Songbird
    Thomas Dybdahl – A Lovestory
    Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why
    Celldweller – Unshakeable
    Jack Johnson – Better Together
    Seinabo Sey – Younger (Kygo remix)
    Dire Straits- So Far Away
    Bjørk - Moon
    Lupe Fiasco - Deliver
    Morrissey – Earth Is the Loneliest Planet
    The first time I listened to the Resonessence Labs Herus+ I got the same feeling as I got (and still get) with the Cayin C5 portable amplifier: WOW, this is fun! It’s not that they sound similar but rather that they’re both extremely musical sounding and engage in a way that makes me forget about the way they really sound and just enjoy the music.
    The overall signature of the Herus+ is what I’d call analogue sounding with great texture, timbre and a very wide soundstage,
    The bass is definitely one of the best I’ve ever heard with a great balance between a healthy quantity and great quality. The bass depth is very good and impact through the whole bass spectrum is enough to never feel lacking but not boosted either. The bass control is great making for a great dynamic presentation that never goes overboard. The natural balanced sound continues in the mid-range giving it a good depth and great drive without being fatiguing. This combined with excellent timbre and the great soundstage makes a very coherent and great sounding signature that continues in the upper frequencies as well. The treble does feel as natural as the rest of the frequencies and I’m not able to detect any roll off. The overall presentation makes “toe tapping” come spontaneously when listening to pretty much anything on pretty much anything with the Herus+ and this, to me, is what this hobby is really all about.
    I could go on writing more words about how the Herus+ sounds but to be honest all that really matters is already said so anything more would just be filling out the page so let’s get onto some comparisons instead.
    Please note that the comments in the comparison section are not in absolute terms but in comparison between subject A and B. This means (as an example) that if subject A is found to be brighter than subject B it does not necessarily mean that subject A is bright sounding in absolute terms. I hope this makes sense.
    In these comparisons I’ve been listening through my HifiMan HE400i’s.
    I’ve been using the USB input when doing these comparisons. Both units has been hooked up to two different laptops both running Windows 7 with the same settings and I use MediaMonkey as my player of choice.
    Both units was connected to a simple switch box through their respectively headphone outputs. This way it’s very easy to switch between the sources in minimal time. I also use a simple Android app to volume match the amplifiers so although maybe not perfectly scientifically the result should still be pretty correct.
    Burson Audio V2+ ($1,499) + vs Resonessence Labs Herus+:
    These both are of course vastly difference with the V2+ being a heavy weight weighting in at 7 kg while the Herus+ is a feather weight weighting only 64g. So despite this how does they compare sonically? Bass on both are excellent with similar depth, layering and details. These two are both definitely in the absolute top tier among the stuff I’ve heard when it comes to bass reproduction. The V2+ has a bit more air between instruments while soundstage width is equally great on both. To my ears the Herus+ actually has a touch more natural sounding vocals while the V2+ is a similar touch more smooth. The better separation with more air on the V2+ combined with its very dark background gives the impression of a slightly more relaxed overall presentation. Micro details are equally great on both as is clarity.
    The V2+ of course has a lot of other advantages such as significantly higher power output (4W @32Ohms compared to the 129mW on the Herus+ at the same load), more inputs (both coaxial and optical as well as two analog inputs in addition the USB input) and outputs.
    Both have a little background hiss but it’s low enough to only be audible with my most easy to drive IEM’s.
    LH Labs Geek Out V2+ Infinity ($699) vs Resonessence Labs Herus+:
    The V2+ Infinity and the Herus+ does actually share quite a bit of their overall tonality. They both have what I’d describe as an “analogue” sound and both have a very musical overall presentation. Running the V2+ Infinity in single ended mode it’s a bit more refined all over with a bit better separation between instruments but the difference is not big. Shifting to balanced mode on the Infinity it pulls even further ahead with a more refined sound and separation is now definitely on another level while the background is darker. Detail retrieval is actually pretty similar on both as is soundstage width.
    The Herus+ is much smaller that the Infinity but the form factor of the Infinity does still feel more user friendly being much more easy to stack with a phone for example. The internal battery does also make the V2+ Infinity more well suited to use with a phone or tablet as transport. The Herus+ has the 6.3mm headphone output while the V2+ Infinity offers two 3.5mm headphone outputs: one single ended and one balanced.
    None of these gets very warm.
    Both have a little background hiss but it’s low enough to only be audible with my most easy to drive IEM’s.
    Burson Audio Air ($499) vs Resonessence Labs Herus+:
    The Air is the unit in this comparison that’s most similar to the Herus+ when it comes to features. When it comes to sound the Air has a similar amount of bass presence as the Herus+ but the Herus+ bass is a touch more controlled. The Air has a bit more air between instruments while the Herus+ has a slightly wider stage. Overall impression is that the Air is a bit more smooth and relaxed while the Herus+ is more distinct in its presentation. Detail retrieval is equally excellent on both as is dynamics.  In short it’s as if the Air is more digital sounding while the Herus+ sounds more analogue if that makes sense.
    The Herus+ is smaller than the Air, maybe about a third of its size and is connected to the source through the USB B port as while the Air uses one USB micro for sound and one separate for power. The Air has a 3.5mm headphone out while the Herus+ uses a 6.3mm one.
    None of the runs particularly hot but the Air can get a bit warmer in comparison but it also has significantly more power.
    The Air has a physical volume control as well as a remote control in addition to a display showing what volume you’re using while all volume control for the Herus+ is done on the source. The Herus+ has different digital filters while the Air offers a 3.5mm pre amp out.
    Although both of these works well with Android devices the Herus+ has such a heavy power drain that it’s really not very well suited for it. Due to its separate power input the Air is better in this regard but then you’d need to have an external power source available. To be honest both of these are best suited connected to a computer or lap top but can work as a temporarily solution with a phone or tablet.
    Both have a little background hiss but it’s low enough to only be audible with my most easy to drive IEM’s.
    The output impedance of the headphone out on the Herus+ is rated to very low 0.2Ohm. This means that it should work well with pretty much all low and high impedance headphones and IEM’s available out there.
    In this section I’ve tested how some of my favorite headphones but also one earbud and one pair of IEM’s pairs up with the Herus+.  
    AKG Q701 ($300):
    The Q’s makes a good pairing with the Herus+. The soundstage width is amazing and overall tonality is very good. I don’t know if it’s the quite modest power from the Herus+ or just the pairing but the bass does not dig as deep with the same impact as it does in some other pairings but still more than sufficient to be highly enjoyable. The Herus+ has no problem to power the Q’s to louder listening levels but as already mentioned it’s not able to bring out the deepest bass that I know the Q’s to be capable of.
    Philips Fidelio X2 ($300):
    The X2’s, being quite warm and full by itself, is a great match with the Herus+. The extreme details and wide stage from the Herus+ combined with the well controlled but yet impactful  bass it offers makes the X’s really sing and this is some of the best I’ve ever hears them, a total bliss to listen too.
    HifiMan HE400i:
    The HE400i sound very good with the Herus+ and this pairing makes a very detailed and engaging listening. The wide presentation from the Herus+ is very welcome with the HE400i and the overall sound is well controlled with extremely good detail retrieval without even getting even close to fatiguing. Bass hit hard and deep with excellent control and although the Herus+ is not the most powerful it has more than enough power for the HE400i’s. In all this is an excellent pairing.
    VE Zen 2.0 ($138):
    The Zen 2.0 is a 300Ohm earbud that I like a lot and tend to use instead of closed headphones. It’s also a reliable travel partner for me when I stay in hotels and don’t have any full size cans around.
    The soft and smooth signature from the Zen 2.0 fares really well with the analogue and natural and wide sound from the Herus+. Bass is as good as I’ve ever heard it with the Zen’s and overall sound whit this pairing is very natural sounding and enjoyable.
    Aurisonics ASG-1PLUS ($500):
    The ASG-1PLUS is an 11Ohm hybrid IEM (1 DD + 1 BA).
    This is a fantastic pairing and I’ pretty sure that this is the best I’ve ever heard the 1PLUS this far. The analogue sound, great bass and large soundstage on the Herus+ seems to fit the 1PLUS like a glove and really does bring out the best in them. The subbass is just amazing and the out of head experience is the best I’ve ever heard in an IEM. This pairing is extremely natural and non-fatiguing while still being very engaging, pure magic.
    To round off the matching section the signature of the Resonessence Labs Herus+ work great with every pairing I’ve tried it with and it’s really a great all-rounder for my preference. It’s far from always this is the case and I’ve reviewed excellent units that has been only average in some parings but that’s not the case with the Herus+.
    The Resonessence Labs Herus+ is a great “no nonsense” product that does not offer a myriad of connections and setting options but does two things, and does them really good, namely decoding and amplifying USB audio. One input, one output, great sound. As simple as that and why should it be any more complicated?
    The Herus+ is a pure joy to listen to with its dynamic and at the same time extremely detailed sound. It seems to pair up excellent with pretty much every headphone, earphones and IEM’s I’ve tried it with and its construction does also seem very reliable.
    It won’t, of course, be the best choice if you’ve got several different sources and want to use your amp/DAC as a hub for them or if you plan to use it mainly with highly sensitive IEM’s but for anyone looking for a great USB DAC to either listen directly from with your full size headphones or connect to an headphone- or even stereo amplifier should seriously consider the Resonessence Labs Herus+. If there’s anyone that haven not noticed I’m super impressed with the performance of this humble looking little device and my only reason for not giving it a five star rating is the lack of connections given the price.
    Audio Quality: 5
    Design: 4.5
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Features: 2.5
      Baycode, daduy, tomscy2000 and 8 others like this.
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    2. pretzel06
      Great review, I had them once I returned it because of not enough features I need but still awesome product.
      pretzel06, Sep 11, 2016
    3. gr8soundz
      Excellent review!
      gr8soundz, Sep 14, 2016
    4. peter123
      Thanks for the support guys, highly appreciated! 
      peter123, Sep 14, 2016