Apogee One Review
Oct 9, 2009 at 12:59 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 4

maxray

New Head-Fier
Joined
Oct 8, 2009
Posts
2
Likes
0
Disclaimer - Not sure how useful this review will be to most folks on here, as this is my first ever DAC purchase (it has been a long time coming.) Therefore, I don't have much to compare it to other than what I describe here, but wanted to "give something back" as I used this forum as a great source of information in researching DACs.

I listened to this DAC in three different configurations:

1. Apple Mac Mini (mainly ALAC rips from Max, although I tested other lower bitrate files as well) -> Apogee One -> Rotel RC972 pre -> Rotel RB980BX amp -> Paradigm Mini Monitors v4

2. Apple Mac Mini -> Apogee One -> Sennheiser 570 (sorry, best I have - I figured I should at least listen to this thing with headphones for this forum!)

3. Apple Mac Mini -> Apogee One -> Rotel RC972 pre -> Sennheiser 570

I mostly listened with Configuration 1, although I am switching between #2 and #3 as I write this. :)

My other component source is a Rotel RCD-971, which is a pretty decent CD/HDCD player, so I can make some comparisons to this as well.

Source material was pretty varied, but since I have been addicted to listening to Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of the Moon lately, and I know it well, I used this as my main reference point.

A little background...been into audio and music for many years now, but have let my system stagnate, and really got lazy, mainly listening to low bitrate AAC files from the Mini direct out of its soundcard into my Rotel system, and all but gave up "critical listening". I always knew I wanted to get an outboard DAC at some point, and the upcoming delivery of my Beatles stereo box set remasters motivated me to get one. I was on vacation this week, and had lots of time to sit down and listen to a lot of music, but not enough to wait for something to be shipped to me, so I headed out to my local Guitar Center to purchase the E-mu 0404. None of my local GC's had the 0404, but they had the Apogee Duet (well reviewed on here, but more than I wanted to spend on my first DAC), and the Apogee One (hmmm, this thing is new, not many reviews out there, but the company seems to have a solid reputation, and I NEEDED! something! NOW! so I plunked down the $250 thinking if things went horribly wrong, I could return it.)

Hooked it up, loaded the drivers, which failed on install (I have Snow Leopard, and the software kindly prompted me to go the Apogee website for the Snow Leopard version of their software.) Easy enough. Downloaded that, and after a very easy install, the machine asked me if I wanted to default the sound from the system out to the One - why, yes, I do! Fired up iTunes and immediately went to my brand new rip of a brand new CD of DSOTM. Wow. All the usual stuff, a veil has been lifted, etc. etc. Kind of what I expected, but DRAMATICALLY more than I had counted on. All of a sudden I had a 3 dimensional image emanating from between the speakers, and talk about detail. Tons of stuff that I hadn't heard before in the recording, a little background noise or voice, some percussion instrument etc. I was particularly blown away by the resolution of the drums - each individual tomtom, the bass, cymbals, open and close of the high hats, all easily resolvable. Amazing. Such natural tones too, while this device seems to be very very neutral it did nothing to tame the natural slight leaning towards brightness that my system normally has - but then, I expected this as well, and further demonstrated to me how accurately it was representing the source music (in comparison to my reference CD player.) In further comparison to the CD player, I will say I am much more impressed with the clarity of detail, and the overall image/soundstage that the One possesses.

Some recordings were good, some were astonishing. For some reason, Neil Young's Live at Massey Hall sounded absolutely outrageous. His voice, the guitar, even the sounds of the audience just reeked of realism. It started to approach having Neil sitting on a stool with his guitar ten feet away from me. Truly amazing. Over an over again, I found this DAC to be very reflective of the quality of the underlying source material. Not so great recordings represented everything that they had to give - excellent recordings just blew me away. I moved around, from other Floyd albums (Echoes from Meddle was delicious!), to Steely Dan (nice Sign in Stranger, Peg, Do It Again, and Gold Teeth II - Aja was fantastic.) Then some early Allman brothers, Eat a Peach and Beginnings, while occasionally showing their inherent weaknesses continued to give out a very detailed image and accurate representation of the music. Again, the drums really shined for me, in this case, the congas in the percussion section were incredibly detailed. Great vocals as well. I tried out some Metallica (...And Justice for All) to see how it would rock, and it kept up the trend of fantastic detail throughout (did I mention detailed drums?!?!) It was here that I noticed just how quiet this device was, no background hum, hiss or anything that I could detect. I listened to a variety of live recordings of Grateful Dead, both very high quality soundboards, and some ok audience recordings, and they both sounded very very good. The detail paid off here, where an audience recording can sometimes mush everything together, I was able to get excellent resolution of individual instruments . On to Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers - very very impressed, great vocal representation, and one of the best soundstages I had heard yet, Keith's guitar tone rang through loud, clear, and true (Can't You Hear Me Knocking was a really good standout for me.) I briefly listened to the new Wilco album, which sounded ok, but Yankee Hotel Foxtrot sounded unbelievable. My wife, who isn't really known to sit down and listen critically sat down next to me while I was listening and remarked how much better the system sounded - she was very amazed, actually. OK, I'm sold!

I have spent a couple of days now with heavy listening, been through a lot of different types of music, and the bottom line for this device for me is, detail, detail, detail (I mean, this thing resolves individual instruments AMAZINGLY), and overall neutrality (analytical?) - not so great recordings are going to sound, well, not so great, but good recordings are quite good, and excellent recordings are awe inspiring. To my ear, there is very little coloration added by this DAC - everything sounded very realistic and transparent to me - with maybe the slightest bit of what I would call "cold analytical" in some recordings...probably not a bad thing in the grand scheme, and further showed me what I already knew - I need better tweeters!

As far as the Sennheiser 570 configurations (they ended up sounding largely the same) - I don't often listen with these headphones anymore, as they are so darn hard to drive, and I don't have an adequate headphone amp so not sure how informed I am in this regard. That said, I spent a couple hours listening with them directly connected to the One, and it sounded quite good, again, more of the same - lots of excellent detail, but while I didn't need to crank up the volume too high to get a good sound level, they still sounded a little under-driven to me, but very listenable, not fatiguing, but just not quite the same level of clarity and overall dynamics that I was hearing through my speakers from the fairly prodigious amount of wattage that my amp provides, but I am pretty well picking nits now, the sound quality overall was still very, very good on a variety of different recordings. In particular, I thought vocals sounded particularly good through the headphones, probably the strongest feature I noticed in this configuration - something I have noticed with these cans in the past as well.

In closing, I am not sure why I waited so long to get a DAC, I am now furiously re-ripping piles of CDs and totally rediscovering some excellent recordings...and I think I am set for the arrival of the remastered Beatles catalog!
 
Oct 9, 2009 at 12:34 PM Post #2 of 4

sonci

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
Apr 3, 2008
Posts
898
Likes
14
Nice review!

Maybe you noticed better detail because the Rotel compared should be on the warm side,

If its analitical, as it should be from a Pro manufacter, then the Sen and Rotel ampl should be good match,
 
Oct 9, 2009 at 3:13 PM Post #4 of 4

maxray

New Head-Fier
Joined
Oct 8, 2009
Posts
2
Likes
0
If someone wants to ship me a Duet...I would be MORE than willing to do a comparo!!
biggrin.gif
biggrin.gif
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top