CHORD ELECTRONICS DAVE
Aug 24, 2022 at 11:33 AM Post #22,231 of 25,909
Not much for writing reviews, I mostly listen for myself, but I know a lot of other people might be interested in this so here are some impressions of the Lina stack vs Dave + Oor, from my 4-5 days with them.

First, to answer the burning question : Is Lina better? the Amp is so...not great, that I would take Dave + Oor over the full Lina stack. It sounded really small in all dimensions. Hope the dCS staff get a chance to listen to the Lina on a proper amp! The volume pot was also rubbing against internal walls when turned. Hope that was a manufacturing defect.

If we're talking dac+clock vs Dave, then yes, it's better. By quite some margin. More than Dave vs TT2. At least in my system. However I won't cop out and say IMHO, because, the difference is pretty stark and I think, biases aside, most people will objectively agree. I also have no particular preference for the sound signature.

Over the years I developed a fool proof method of differentiating between what dac sounds better, and not just different : " When there's a lot of stuff going on in a track, how much stuff can you hear and how easily?" Easy. On a track where there's not much going on, the delta is smaller or nonexistent.
It's also easier to hear more stuff on a lean sounding dac/amp. Only in this case Dave was leaner AND less transparent. It's a lot easier to imagine lean bass than a lean treble or midrange, but...it is what it is. More nuances across the FR. Is it coloration? That changes the sound, doesn't add notes and texture. Certainly not all over.
I've also added another method during my time with Lina : counting the times I went "Holy crap" out loud. 4-5 times a day. Which hasn't happened since I first got Dave, not even with the M-scaler.

I didn't like it at first, doing 30 second A/B's. Dave seemed (c)leaner, faster, punchier, with bass reaching down deeper. Lina seemed veiled and sluggish. However, adding the clock, things changed pretty dramatically, to the point where I'm sure this is by design. I wouldn't buy it without the clock, so all further impressions are after adding it.
Lina sounded bigger, denser, more 3d, especially with Expanse, which I also hated at first, using normal CF to compare to Dave's CF. Once I stopped doing short A/B's , Lina sounded more natural. Think THX amps like HPA4 vs Ferrum Oor. Reverb also sounded more natural using Expanse. Every time you're used to something, the new contender sounds off.

The sound signature is considerably more refined, with more tonal color, everything is a bit more detailed, from strings and bass notes, to the point where i've listened to some Lori McKenna songs 100 times and i never realized she had a backup singer. Yes, really. To be fair, I listen to music while I work, read, and do stuff at my pc. I don't sit on an Eames chair smoking cigars and drinking whiskey. So I am distracted. Going back to Dave, if I focus and "squint" I can hear MOST of the same stuff, but Lina hits you in the face with both micro and macro detail, while also sounding more natural and musical. Nifty trick.


Going back to "hearing more stuff more easily, in the "Forever Autumn" test track off this album, you can much more easily follow at least 1-2 more instruments than you can on Dave. And I mean follow every note, not just <insert drums here>. With Dave, some instruments take front stage at different times, while others fade into the background more or less. Almost like it runs out of breath. Lina seems to keep more stuff into focus more easily. I really thought after comparing Dave to TT2, this is where it ends. Apparently not.
And yes, I got rid of the M-scaler, but it doesn't close the gap. I've also decided to ditch Hqplayer during this comparison, as 3way Dave, Dave +HQP,Lina comparisons always resulted in the same thing, Timbre was much much better on Lina when using HQP on Dave. Also lost some clarity with HQP. This was a tradeoff I was comfortable with before adding the Oor, but since i no longer need the soundstage from HQP, back to solo Dave for me. At least this was trading blows, even winning in transient response.
I initially thought Dave also had better PRAT, but on some Billie Eilish tracks, Lina was clearly more agile with starting and stopping everything in a split second.
It sometimes felt slower, sometimes faster. BUT it varied depending on the track. Which was very curious to me. I realized, Dave felt constantly fast, but Lina offered more variance according to the track. A bit more "elastic".
Same thing with bass. Sometimes it hit like a truck with Dave, and I thought, ok, it has better bass. Until, on some tracks , Lina hit deeper, while also placing the bass in space more precisely. Something I really haven't heard before. I soon realized it was the same thing as above, it offered more variance according to the track. To me this is Dave's biggest strength, and I feel like it out-Daves Dave here.

It might seem like I'm jumping off the bandwagon and getting a Lina, and I might eventually, but at more than twice Dave's price for the combo...I wouldn't lose any sleep over not "upgrading. And I say this as someone who has literally not slept after hearing Dave, until I got it.
At this level of SQ, Dave's already more than good enough, and objectively speaking, the differences probably range from 10 to 20% depending on the track. However, the intangibles also kick in: It's an all in...two, saves you a bunch of stuff that Dave actually needs to sound good, it's upgrade-able, and it looks good, which counts for more than it should. So it's tempting.
What gives me pause is how much the Oor and Lina Amp make or break the stack. Clearly money might be better spent on an amp or headphones themselves, but I do have a thing for source gear. And while you could add Innuos Statements, Taiko's, ferrited cables, new M-scalers, anti vibration treatments, custom PSU's , and sprinkle some holy water on Dave to get it to sound close, I doubt it will actually change so much that it's the same, not to mention better. And you'd also spend at least as much for a very diy looking solution. Which might appeal to individual tastes, to be fair.

For some context : I listen with the Meze Elites, using Dave out my pc via SRC-DX and Dc blocks. For the purpose of the review i also got a 3d Lab Platinum streamer. Didn't change the results in any meaningful way.
Lina + clock were plugged in my Isotek Aquarius power conditioner, while Dave was plugged into the Genesis One power regenerator, which is plugged into the Aquarius. Headphone amps were plugged into the wall, as i found even the high current slots affected performance.
Without the regenerator, Lina+ Clock kinda walked all over Dave. Without the clock and Dave without regenerator...none were great, for different reasons, but I'd probably take solo Dave, as Lina just seems veiled without the clock.

Great read.

As far as internal amps, I just don't think you're going to get a high quality headphone amp with TOTL DAC. It's more of a convenience than anything. I've been doing a lot of comparison on my end with the Dave's headphone out (for the second or third time in recent years), because I picked up a few more really efficient headphones, and even so there's just pretty drastic improvement. But that's pretty standard across the board.

But I think this leads to your additional point regarding the value of varying upgrades, which I think is a really important one. Downstream upgrades can really trump many of the upstream tweaks given there's a solid source and DAC as a foundation. It's been years since I've really focused on any upstream tweaks because those thousands of dollars can be better spent on amp/headphone upgrades that will literally blow most of these changes out of the water ROI wise. Obviously the specifics and use cases matter, and I'm not talking about power in this case at all--namely everything else (streamers, optical/usb gadgets, cables, etc.).. but that's been my experience over the years. And again it's all subjective and dependent upon what each person enjoys changing and investing in, so definitely the personal factor is a major one.
 
Aug 24, 2022 at 11:54 AM Post #22,232 of 25,909
Great read.

As far as internal amps, I just don't think you're going to get a high quality headphone amp with TOTL DAC. It's more of a convenience than anything. I've been doing a lot of comparison on my end with the Dave's headphone out (for the second or third time in recent years), because I picked up a few more really efficient headphones, and even so there's just pretty drastic improvement. But that's pretty standard across the board.

But I think this leads to your additional point regarding the value of varying upgrades, which I think is a really important one. Downstream upgrades can really trump many of the upstream tweaks given there's a solid source and DAC as a foundation. It's been years since I've really focused on any upstream tweaks because those thousands of dollars can be better spent on amp/headphone upgrades that will literally blow most of these changes out of the water ROI wise. Obviously the specifics and use cases matter, and I'm not talking about power in this case at all--namely everything else (streamers, optical/usb gadgets, cables, etc.).. but that's been my experience over the years. And again it's all subjective and dependent upon what each person enjoys changing and investing in, so definitely the personal factor is a major one.
Your lack of attention on the upstream is exactly why you think HP out of a totl Dac is merely a convenience and ending needlessly pouring money on an external amp.
 
Aug 24, 2022 at 11:59 AM Post #22,233 of 25,909
I have a Qutest, which "decent" LPS are you referring to? I would like to try it.
I bought the MCRU Ultimate, I bought it with the intention of returning it if I had any doubt, needless to say it stayed. On my system the sound expanded which I guess is soundstage and I swear a couple of very subtle instruments in King Crimson's track Islands stood out.
 
Aug 24, 2022 at 12:16 PM Post #22,234 of 25,909
Your lack of attention on the upstream is exactly why you think HP out of a totl Dac is merely a convenience and ending needlessly pouring money on an external amp.

If you'd take literally 30 seconds to read a post for true comprehension rather than to craft your next mindless attack on anyone that doesn't succumb to your easily proven faulty POVs, you would see that I CLEARLY stated that I've already experimented, multiple times.

I have nothing to debate with you, and why the mods continue to let you troll and attack others for not submitting to your one and only set of views is just absolutely lost on me. Entire threads derailed over and over by one person that seeks absolute submission to their POV. Absolutely insane to me.
 
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Aug 24, 2022 at 1:11 PM Post #22,235 of 25,909
Great read.

As far as internal amps, I just don't think you're going to get a high quality headphone amp with TOTL DAC. It's more of a convenience than anything. I've been doing a lot of comparison on my end with the Dave's headphone out (for the second or third time in recent years), because I picked up a few more really efficient headphones, and even so there's just pretty drastic improvement. But that's pretty standard across the board.

But I think this leads to your additional point regarding the value of varying upgrades, which I think is a really important one. Downstream upgrades can really trump many of the upstream tweaks given there's a solid source and DAC as a foundation. It's been years since I've really focused on any upstream tweaks because those thousands of dollars can be better spent on amp/headphone upgrades that will literally blow most of these changes out of the water ROI wise. Obviously the specifics and use cases matter, and I'm not talking about power in this case at all--namely everything else (streamers, optical/usb gadgets, cables, etc.).. but that's been my experience over the years. And again it's all subjective and dependent upon what each person enjoys changing and investing in, so definitely the personal factor is a major one.
Thanks! I agree, this is why i'm not even considering using any integrated amp from now on. I feel the best approach is getting a streaming dac so you don't have to deal with jitter, cables, and all that crap. As shown even by dCS, headphone amps are better left to the companies that know how to design them.
They might get it right eventually, but 10k to be a beta tester is not a good look. I guess it's a good way to tell if someone got the stack for the status symbol/look or actually knows what they're buying.
Completely agree, I've also tested everything else under the sun upstream wise and it's been more or less a waste of time. Audible, sure, but nothing earth-shattering. The 2k streamer added to Dave didn't even put a dent in the gap between it and the Lina. I've already had and sold another streamer. Power is the only exception that made a massive difference with Dave, besides skipping USB and using the SRC-DX.
As much as people here like to overlook this aspect, it does show subpar engineering and cutting corners.
Since I don't listen THAT much, that I can justify more than 2 pairs of headphones (1 open, 1 closed), I can sort of justify having a better chain to feed them. I've also found I can't stand going back to a lesser dac, no matter the headphone.
I'm just not sure how much I'm missing out on by not using electrostatics , but I do think I'd end up missing the slam of planars. My Z1R might be next up for an upgrade.
 
Aug 24, 2022 at 1:20 PM Post #22,236 of 25,909
Thanks! I agree, this is why i'm not even considering using any integrated amp from now on. I feel the best approach is getting a streaming dac so you don't have to deal with jitter, cables, and all that crap. As shown even by dCS, headphone amps are better left to the companies that know how to design them.
They might get it right eventually, but 10k to be a beta tester is not a good look. I guess it's a good way to tell if someone got the stack for the status symbol/look or actually knows what they're buying.
Completely agree, I've also tested everything else under the sun upstream wise and it's been more or less a waste of time. Audible, sure, but nothing earth-shattering. The 2k streamer added to Dave didn't even put a dent in the gap between it and the Lina. I've already had and sold another streamer. Power is the only exception that made a massive difference with Dave, besides skipping USB and using the SRC-DX.
As much as people here like to overlook this aspect, it does show subpar engineering and cutting corners.
Since I don't listen THAT much, that I can justify more than 2 pairs of headphones (1 open, 1 closed), I can sort of justify having a better chain to feed them. I've also found I can't stand going back to a lesser dac, no matter the headphone.
I'm just not sure how much I'm missing out on by not using electrostatics , but I do think I'd end up missing the slam of planars. My Z1R might be next up for an upgrade.
It seems Chord has to pay more attention to power supplies in their next models, almost every one agrees, time for them to listen to their customers.
 
Aug 24, 2022 at 2:09 PM Post #22,237 of 25,909
It seems Chord has to pay more attention to power supplies in their next models, almost every one agrees, time for them to listen to their customers.
I don't really mind if they don't put an expensive upgrade into the DAVE's power supply because after reading Stevehulk's post about putting in the Farad it's nice to have a choice of what to buy. It looks pretty easy to do (regardless of warranty issues) and as part of this hobby I quite like the idea of choice whether you do it yourself. In some ways I relate it to cars my latest car has enormous BHP but you can't really do anything to it because it's already done , whereas my little track-day VX220 Turbo can be fettled to death and it's rewarding.
 
Aug 24, 2022 at 2:50 PM Post #22,239 of 25,909
It seems Chord has to pay more attention to power supplies in their next models, almost every one agrees, time for them to listen to their customers.
Innuos seems to have done this to great success…
 
Aug 24, 2022 at 3:11 PM Post #22,240 of 25,909
I just switched the power supply of the Qutest for an Ifi IPower X and oh my God. It's crazy how much it opened up and how everything sounds smoother but with more detail. Crazy.
I'm glad you found a difference I certainly did, hard to believe it could make a noticeable difference but it does.
So I'm convinced on the Dave it must be the way to go.
 
Aug 24, 2022 at 7:10 PM Post #22,242 of 25,909
If one wants to impart more "Dave-ness" to the chain, should one use pre-amp vs DAC mode? I feel the headphone amp is part of the Dave signature for better or worse ... the headphone out got so much better with the Farad3. So if I use DAC mode will I lose some of the gains I received from the upgraded headphone out? Thanks.
 
Aug 24, 2022 at 7:17 PM Post #22,243 of 25,909
If one wants to impart more "Dave-ness" to the chain, should one use pre-amp vs DAC mode? I feel the headphone amp is part of the Dave signature for better or worse ... the headphone out got so much better with the Farad3. So if I use DAC mode will I lose some of the gains I received from the upgraded headphone out? Thanks.
DAVE pre amp and dac mode are identical in sound.
 
Aug 25, 2022 at 2:18 AM Post #22,244 of 25,909
DAVE pre amp and dac mode are identical in sound.
You do however lose dynamic range when using Dave to adjust volume compared to a good pre-amp.
If one wants to impart more "Dave-ness" to the chain, should one use pre-amp vs DAC mode? I feel the headphone amp is part of the Dave signature for better or worse ... the headphone out got so much better with the Farad3. So if I use DAC mode will I lose some of the gains I received from the upgraded headphone out? Thanks.
The answer depends on the pre-amp and headphones used (because you have to turn it way down with efficient headphones, and the problem above comes into play) but since i know you're talking about Oor, from what i've seen in Goldensound's measurements, it seems like Dave in dac mode is the way to go, even for Susvara i'd think.
 
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Aug 25, 2022 at 2:23 AM Post #22,245 of 25,909
Innuos seems to have done this to great success…
Indeed and the most recent Innuos much lauded revision to their top of the line Statement was a power supply only change.

Also, apart from their entry level Zen Mini everything else in their range of digital streamers uses linear power supplies. Indeed often the only real difference between some models in the range is the power supply, ie the Zen and the Zenith. Innuos it appears has come to a completely different conclusion in the matter of whether a SMPS is better than a LPS for powering digital circuits and limiting noise in them.

When I owned a Qutest I settled on a Farad Super3 power supply but was then staggered by the more or less jaw dropping improvement by changing the Farad to a Sean Jacobs DC4. It was a similar improvement when I changed my DC4 on the Dave to the ARC6 (ie the same power supply as has just been adopted by Innuos in their Statement). At the moment I am looking forward to Sean’s latest tweak/upgrade to the ARC6 which I think is due out soon. Happy days of ever improving sound with the Dave.
 

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