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Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by magiccabbage, May 14, 2015.
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  1. Christer

    Thanks for your clarifications.
    Although they still leave me a bit confused.
    Regarding your choice of music I am not really familar with  anything you mention more than Diana Krall.
    Nor do I understand what you mean by "typical modern sound" at all?
    By "natural instruments" do you mean acoustic instruments  or only more "naturally"  mic'd than the "hot" voice as you term it? 
    Does  "lots of reverb" refer to real acoustic reverberation  and decay from instruments playing or a voice singing in an acoustic venue? Or do you mean the electronically added, artifical reverberation so common in the pop rock genre?
    But thanks anyway.
    It  seems to me that you have not really put Dave or for that matter your comparison DAC  Yggy, really to the test if you are only using rbcd quality pop/rock material.
    My guess would be that  if you get the masterfiles instead of playing the cds via your ever so  expensive cd player, directly via Dave and usb, you would hear both more of what Dave is really capable of and what's  been recorded in the studio more accurately and realistically too.
    If I am not wrong Diana Krall's recent recordings are actually from 24/96 masters?
    She seems to be  filling concert halls both here in KL and Singapore during her tour this spring.
    Cheers Chris
  2. romaz
    I have enjoyed very much Shuttlepod's and The Attorney's reviews and comparisons over the past few days.  I find more value and enjoyment in posts like these than anything I can read in a magazine as they represent honest and real world experiences by earnest individuals looking to actually own the product(s) they are talking about.  It also helps that they both shared their experience with other equipment and their general music preferences as it provides the reader perspective and a point of reference and perhaps some idea of whether the opinions expressed will be applicable to the reader's own situation. 

    Having been referenced in each of their reviews and with The Attorney perhaps not drawing the same conclusion that I have drawn about the DAVE (at least not to the same degree), as britneedadvice said so well, it leaves some confused.  Having been a participant of Tyll Hertsens' Big Sound 2015, it was interesting to read how each participant had very different ideas of what the best headphone and best headphone amp was and it left many skeptical about the value of the exercise because who do you believe?  This is where it becomes appropriate to utter the line "YMMV" and "you really need to hear it for yourself" but for those who don't have an easy opportunity to hear a piece of equipment for themselves, then at least find someone who you feel you can relate to who shares your preferences and has similar ancillary equipment.  In my own experience, this advice has worked well and I am better off because of the honest opinions provided by many of you.

    As some of you have PM’d me indicating that you have ordered a DAVE or will be ordering a DAVE based on things I have said, it has left me wondering (or at least hoping) that I have steered you in the right direction and that I have set your expectations appropriately.  I have tried to be fair and balanced about my reporting but understand that my opinions are my own.  I have no affiliation with Chord as some have suggested.  I waited 10 weeks to receive my DAVE and paid for my DAVE just like everyone else.  While the DAVE is unequivocally the finest headphone DAC I have heard and may well be the finest DAC period (open to debate and further comparison), should something better than the DAVE come along, just like I did with the TotalDac, I would not hesitate to move on.

    For those that don't know my preferences and my experiences and are perhaps wondering if my opinions are even applicable to your situation, I will try and do as good a job as Shuttlepod and The Attorney have done and then you can make up your own minds.  Like Shuttlepod, I have broad interests in music but 75% of what I listen to is classical.  I can listen to Mahler all day long but I especially enjoy music from the Baroque period.  It is what I grew up on and what I consider “comfort food.”  As a piano player and a former clarinet player, I have an affinity for woodwinds in general and for piano and organ music.  A certain head-fier has questioned why I have such a need for my headphones to portray top quality bass, well, it's because of the organ.  I love large orchestra in grand venues and small ensembles in small intimate venues.  My wife and I will often travel just to experience music.  Two years ago, we traveled to London from California to hear Salonen conduct Mahler's 8th at the Royal Albert Hall with its grand Mander organ.  Just recently, we returned from Australia where we enjoyed a spirited performance of La bohème performed at the Sydney Opera House.  We are frequent patrons of the Sacramento Philharmonic, Disney Hall in Los Angeles and the Hollywood Bowl, just a few of our favorite venues.  We are also season ticket holders of our local symphony and just so you know the caliber of our local organization, our season opened with Joshua Bell accompanied by Sam Haywood.  As my brother loves jazz, we are frequently found at jazz clubs together.  Chick Corea, Branford Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Bela Fleck – just a few of our favorites.  Yes, I love live rock and pop, especially in big arenas.  U2 performed at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1987 and is the finest rock concert I have attended.  Coldplay would rank as #1 for me as my favorite concert in recent memory with John Mayer and Maroon 5 not far behind.  As a child of the 80s, the British invasion from that decade (The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, U2, The English Beat, The Cure, Queen) is as good as it gets and I saw just about all my favorites live.  As for acoustical vocal performances, yes, I absolutely love these and because we have a nice acoustical space in our home, we often host live concerts.  If there is one pattern I want you to catch, it is that I love love love live music.  Is the DAVE with my collection of headphones an equal substitute to live music?  Not a chance, not even close, but what I am getting now is as close to real as I have experienced.

    As to how I evaluate my equipment, I try and keep it simple and I look mainly for 4 things:


    (1) Tonal richness and balance.  For me, these are qualities you don’t have to look for because you know when they’re absent.  I have never found myself at the symphony or at an acoustical performance and wished there was more bass or a less peaky treble or wondered why the choir sounded flat and yet when these elements are missing while listening to audio gear, you notice right away.


    (2) Dynamic contrasts.  In the same way that Shuttlepod recommended going to see Jeremy Denk perform, I would offer a similar endorsement for Alessio Bax, a talented up and coming pianist that offered a performance I won’t soon forget.  I wasn’t so impressed by how dynamically he could play as this is a quality shared by many pianists I have heard but how well he could play softly.  In a similar way, I am not as impressed by how good a certain piece of equipment sounds loud but how well it plays soft and how well it goes from loud to soft or vice versa and it is often in these transitions where I find the emotion in a performance.  I’m looking for nuance and texture and this inner detail is often best appreciated during the quieter passages.  Lovethatsound suggested that I like to listen to my headphones very loud but really, this only applies to live musical performances with large dynamic range where I’m trying to glean the subtle detail.


    (3) Harshness and brightness.  They’re not necessarily the same thing but they affect me in the same way.  Sometimes it’s digital hash, sometimes it’s RF noise but sometimes it’s just my personal sensitivity to something.  It’s not always evident right away but you know it if you can’t listen for hours because it leads to fatigue.  Sometimes it’s the recording but more often, it’s the equipment.  For me, it can be evident with certain headphones (HE-6, Abyss with stock cable, unmodified HD800, SR-009 on certain amps), poorly designed or constructed cables, high power solid state amps and many DACs.


    (4) Depth and Air.  Having shared my penchant for live performances, this quality is perhaps what is most important to me.  When I go out of my way to attend a musical performance at a certain venue, it is generally because I want to hear the acoustics and the natural resonances of that venue.  I would never buy tickets to a studio recording, for example.  I would do just as well to buy the CD.  Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall is said to have a reverberation time of 1.8 to 2 seconds whereas Alice Tully Hall (also in New York) has a reverberation time of 1.4 to 1.5 seconds.  Carnegie seats 2,804 and is one of the largest world-class music venues while the Alice Tully seats a more intimate 1,086 and so it has only a fraction of the air present at Carnegie.  Alice Tully is reported to sound fast, focused and full bodied without being bloomy while Carnegie is noted for its rich, sweet, blended and warm properties.  If I’m listening to a performance that was recorded at Carnegie Hall, I want to feel like I’m at Carnegie Hall!  IMO, this is the most difficult thing for audio equipment to convincingly portray and it is this singular characteristic more than any other that caused me to sell my TotalDac and buy the DAVE.  Show me something that conveys depth as realistically as the DAVE and I will buy it (if I can afford it) and to date, I haven’t heard a DAC that can do it as well.  With 2-channel, you can sometimes use the resonances of your listening room to create a sense of depth but to my ears, it sounds artificial.  Same thing goes for DSP.  With headphones, some convey acoustical ambience better than others but this is a feature that I equate as the responsibility of the DAC more than anything else. As I evaluated the $7,000 TotalDac d1-single to the $10,000 d1-dual to the $25,000 d1-monobloc, the main differentiator as you moved up the chain was depth and air and it was worth it to me to pay monobloc money for it.  With the d1-monobloc, the tonal richness and balance were there and with its very low noise floor, so was the low level detail, texture and nuance.  There was no reason to leave the TotalDac for these reasons.  While the TotalDacs sound a bit drier in comparison to the DAVE, there was certainly no harshness.  Certainly, this was not a reason to leave the TotalDac either.  While the d1-monobloc had this intoxicating sense of space that allowed the music to breathe and come to life compared to the lesser TotalDacs, the DAVE just did it better still and more realistically.


    During my day with Tyll at Big Sound 2015, he was surprised at how well I did with the blind listening tests.




     This was a test where we were challenged to differentiate between a Bakoon HPA-21 current drive amplifier, Apex Teton tube amp and a Moon Neo 430HA solid state amp connected to an HE-1000 and HD800 while blinded.  Only one track was played, a male Brazilian vocalist singing in Portuguese, and it looped continuously.  It was a track none of us were familiar with and while it was a studio recording, it had ambience to it.  While you would think this wouldn’t be a difficult series of tests, out of 30 tests, most participants, Tyll included, scored closer to about 50%.  I scored 93% and answered incorrectly only twice (during the first trial when I wasn’t real familiar with the process and during the last trial when fatigue had set in).  Tyll asked me what I was hearing that allowed me to tell the amps apart and I told him each amp portrayed a different amount of “air.”  To my ears, it was the only difference I could lock in on.  In all of my listening, I have become very tuned in to this quality and it’s the first thing I look for and the first thing that I notice is missing.


    If there are some that suggest they can’t tell the difference between the DAVE and another DAC, it’s possible you are comparing a studio recording without much depth (most studio recordings have very little real depth) and the DAVE won't artificially create depth that isn't there.  If you want to see just how good the DAVE can be, I suggest a good modern 2-microphone hi-res recording (24/192 minimum) of a large orchestra in an appropriately large venue or at the very least, a good live recording of an acoustical performance (the less amplification, the better).


    I hate to say it because this is a touchy subject but I’ll do it anyway because it may represent another reason why someone doesn’t appreciate what the DAVE can offer.  As I stated above, some headphones portray depth more convincingly than others.  Closed headphones do it better than IEMs and open headphones do it better than closed headphones (in my experience).  It was one criticism I had with the HiFi News review of the DAVE.  They showed a photo of the DAVE connected to an Audeze LCD-XC, a very fine headphone if it is what they used in their review but a closed headphone is not the best way to showcase the spatial abilities of the DAVE.  With open headphones, I have not heard a headphone that portrays depth and air better than the HE-1000.  While I have fatigue issues with the Abyss (that I’m hoping can be overcome with a better cable), the Abyss portrays this acoustical ability well also even if it is not to the same level as the HE-1000 to my ears.  Unfortunately, I have not found electrostatics to portray convincing depth.  Having once owned an SR-009 and having recently listened to the SR-009 again (but also the new Mr. Speakers Electrostatic, HiFiMan Shangri-La and Orpheus HE1060), there is no comparing the clarity and detail that these headphones portray but the depth I hear is not as good as what I get with the HE-1000 or even the Abyss.  To be fair, I have yet to hear any electrostatic headphone driven by the DAVE and so I will withhold final judgement until that happens (hopefully, it will happen soon thanks to @Crashem) but my feeling is that it won’t be as good especially since you are forced to use an intermediary amp between the DAVE and an electrostatic headphone.  Regarding the HD800 (or at least my HD800S) that The Attorney connected directly to the DAVE and compared against the SR-009, I know I might get roundly criticized for this because of the popularity of this fine headphone and again, this is my opinion so take it for what it’s worth, but this is a very flat headphone, even flatter than electrostatics and in no way can compare to the clarity and immediacy of the SR-009.  The HD800 has a wide soundstage but very little depth.  Many studio people use this headphone for mixing and mastering and rightfully so, because this headphone doesn’t editorialize and has very accurate timbre, but as I stated, most studio recordings are flat to begin with and so headphone depth is probably not a concern for these professionals.  When I listen to my HD800S, I feel like I am in the rehearsal room sitting alongside the orchestral performers as they rehearse but with the HE-1000 (and the Abyss), I feel like the orchestra has moved on to the Carnegie Hall stage and I am sitting 7th row center where I am enjoying the acoustics of the venue.  I’m not suggesting the HD800 is anything less than a SOTA headphone nor is it not worthy of the DAVE because for some things (like imaging and soundstage width), it is superior but if we are talking about depth, I stand by my claim. 


    I know not everyone will agree with my assessment and that's ok.  I'm not here to try and change anyone's mind if they have already made up their mind about the DAVE or to try and convince you to buy a DAVE if you're already happy with your DAC but for those who are earnestly searching for a DAC, then maybe my perspectives might be of value.  I know others will have their chance to audition the DAVE for themselves soon and I hope you will offer your fair and honest assessment of it here.  I’m sure Chord would love nothing more than to have the whole world proclaim their love for the DAVE but I’m sure they are realistic enough to know that just isn’t realistic.  If anything, it may push Rob to create something even better one day.

    ekfc63, onsionsi, Blitzula and 5 others like this.
  3. Jawed
    Please, everyone who agrees with Romaz: don't quote the entire post just to say you agree. Or to say thanks.
  4. izzard1982
    Romaz, so which headphone you use the most with DAVE? I have had DAVE for a little over three weeks and still in the process of break it in. I use a HD800 now and have HD800S and LCD4 on order, after reading your post, I'm wondering if I should try HE1000 as well as soundstage depth is also very important for me.
  5. Priaptor
    Interesting review about the DAVE with some remarks about using it as a "DAC" v. Direct.
    Some of the comments run contrary to some of the reporting made by owners on this site.  While reviews have their downfalls, this guy put it through the ringer acknowledging just how amazing of a DAC it is and making some incredibly bold claims compared to some of it's higher priced competition.  
    All the more I would love to get one of these in my home to listen and compare to my MSB Diamond.  As a HUGO owner I absolutely love it in my headphone rig.  
  6. TheAttorney
    I'm disappointed with this post, considering I have regularly stated that I was looking forward to DAVE enabling me the opportunity of saving money on source and cables.
    I was going to give a robust response, but I think I'll just "let it go". People sometimes disagree on the internet. Yes, it really does happen - it's not necessarily a bad thing.
  7. oscarnr

    Thank you, Priaptor. Interesting review. The preamp topic is very subjetive, since he compared DAVE directly to power amp with DAVE to a preamp -Ayon Spheri III- (to power amp) that costs 3 times DAVE price, and even results are slightly confusing. Using Hifiman HE-6 as headphone test does not seem the most common approach, either.
  8. TheAttorney
    I think I've answered this in the course of this thread, and I don't like to bore long term readers by repeating a resume at every other post. But just to clarify where I'm coming from:
    All my serious listening is done with CDs. Although I also have redbook flac files for portable use.
    For a long time I've been aiming to move to some form of server based system, but I haven't yet found the right one for me. Maybe when all servers come with sufficient capacity SSDs, rather than spinning discs, then I'll have more to choose from.
    In the meantime, I rather enjoy playing CDs (rather like the tactile vinyl ritual) and you can get them pretty cheaply these days, so I'm in no great hurry.
    In preparation for the inevitable, I have been looking for a more modern DAC that will improve on what I've got, plus allows me to experiment with computers/servers, i.e. the DAC must at least have a USB input, which of course most do these days. But I'd still like it to be small and as integrated as possible.
    The obvious step up from my Nagra CDC would be the new Nagra HD DAC. But it's off my radar because I didn't like the increase in both price and size.
    I got the Yggy as stop gap because it was cheap and because it sounded better than the integrated DAC of my Nagra CDC.
    But the Yggy is full size, looks a bit bland to my eyes and doesn't have a headphone section. Therefore enter DAVE!
    So finally to answer your question, it's not my intention to "put DAVE through its paces" because I've only got CDs to play with. I'm sure DAVE will be just fine with all sorts of hi rez files in the future. I've taken that as given based on all the reviews so far. All DAVE has to do for me right now is get past the first hurdle, which is to sound better than what I already have. And in that it has succeeded enough for me to put in an order, albeit with some disappointments on some of the details.
    So I can't help if my review hasn't covered enough bases, and I didn't mean to cause as much confusion as I appear to have done, but if nothing else I've at least reminded everyone that YMMV even with something as perfect as DAVE.  
  9. rgs9200m
    I wish there was some sort of software change in headfi to (severely) automatically limit or truncate a quote. I bet there is a tunable parameter to do this and maybe the moderators could look into this. I think the best thing would be to substitute a quote with a hyperlink to it. It would be great if the software could put this link in by itself when someone tries to quote something huge.
  10. paulchiu
    Definitely have an audition with the CDC to Nagra HD DAC using both power source.  I think the CDC is better sounding than my 44.1 files, for sure.  Higher res, I am not sure.  I would have added the CDC as well but I pretty much gave away my entire CD collection after ripping them years ago.  (looking back, a big mistake!) 
  11. Staxton
    I agree.
  12. shuttlepod
    Thank you Priaptor for the English translation of the Polish review in High Fidelity. I'd been looking for a translation for a while and could not find one. 
    I think it's useful to see the diversity of opinion out there regarding DAVE's attributes and how to get the most out of it. My personal opinion is that we should not be too quick to criticize when someone like the The Attorney offers his honest opinion and is open about how he formed that opinion. If he hears a difference when using different optical cables, I don't think anyone should get bent out of shape -- he is simply offering his honest opinion and that's all we should ask. Wojciech Pacula is certainly a very experienced reviewer and he brings his own peculiar vantage point (probably made even more peculiar by the difficulty in translating the Polish to English). For example, he concludes that DAVE is better when used with a preamplifier and also concludes that the headphone section is "not bad" and better used with an outboard headphone amp. Again, the tent should be big enough for a wide diversity of opinion.
    Despite these differences, there really does appear to be a general consensus among people who have actually listened to DAVE for an extended period of time and who report their impressions -- it is a special dac, among the very best.   
  13. rgs9200m
    Has anyone listened to the Beatles via the DAVE? If so, I'd appreciate any comments. (They sound great and less notoriously peaky through the TT, for the record.) Thank you.
  14. rkt31
    if someone is not habitual of feeding recent chord DACs direct to a power amp, initially the dac can sound a bit forward ( there is more zest ) as I found when I fed Hugo to the power amp. but I think either there is a cable burn in for the change in balance of the sound or it may be brain burn in. but one thing is very sure the music that way sound much more transparent and fast , there is lot more insight. sound becomes more realistic !
  15. lovethatsound
    I've got the Beatles number 1s cd,I'll try it tomorrow for you:blush:
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