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Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by magiccabbage, May 14, 2015.
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    I finally got to audition the DAVE for several hours here in Texas. I was impressed and I was unimpressed. Allow me to explain:
    I brought as much of my desktop rig as I could to compare my current setup with the equally British iFi iDSD micro against the DAVE, fully expecting the DAVE to kick its ass. Well, the DAVE did...and it didn't.
    With PCM and with the crossfeed set to 0 the iDSD and the DAVE were a wash. They sounded very, very close to the same, and the salesman agreed. There was no extra resolution with the DAVE, no special width of depth gained, nor was there anything within the redbook audio that I had never heard before. The caveat is that it took the combination of the iDSD micro and my SPL Auditor to achieve what the DAVE was doing just by plugging my HD800s direct to the DAVE's headphone jack. However, the crossfeed, at 1 & 2, on the DAVE sounded awesome, which is something that the analog crossfeed circuits on the iFi products have not been able to do. The iFi crossfeed is very subtle, and yes, while it sounds natural, it's not much of an effect, while the DAVE crossfeed sounds equally nature, only more pronounced, as if you are listening to a different system. But is the DAVE's crossfeed worth 11k or 12k more for PCM? No, I don't think so.
    DSD audio with the DAVE was something different. Neither me nor the salesman heard a difference in sonic quality with DSD files played through the DAVE, but they sounded just as good as the redbook presentation. Ironically, given the name of the iFi product, the iDSD micro, the iFi product playing DSD sounded harsh and edgy going through their proprietary analog filters. It took playing DSD against the DAVE for me to hear how brittle and unresolving the iFi is doing DSD.
    Anyway, since I listen to 95% PCM, there's no reason to get the DAVE. There just isn't.
    As an aside, I also auditioned the Berkeley Design Reference Alpha DAC2 against both of them, and the Berkeley killed them at every turn. I've never heard digital like this...ever! The reproduction the Berkeley gave the sound was slightly forward; nevertheless I would take that natural sound at every turn.
    @bigfatpaulie & @romaz, when talking about the M1, was it the M1se that you guys had owned or just the standard model?
    Light - Man likes this.
  2. x RELIC x Contributor
    Interesting observations EVOLVIST. For me what I'm hearing is more deeply in the recording with the DAVE. On the surface the macro tonality is as neutral as anything, or as coloured as anything, depending on where your neutral barometer is. The macro detail, on the surface, does indeed seem similar to other DACs. It's when listening to incredibly subtle detail within the recording that I find the differences to really start to pull away.

    The extra tonality in the female vocalist that I can hear as a slight quiver or nervousness (Eva Cassidy - Nightbird). The rain outside the recording church that actually sounds like real rain drops outside, as well as water dripping from the roof (easily heard), instead of white noise (Melissa Menago - Little Crimes). The sense of space and depth in the orchestral recording (Decca Sound - Box Set - Disc 09 - Johann Strauss). These are just some of the things I've been able to get a handle on in the short term. There are some other cues that I'm picking up on like impossibly detailed cymbal hits, piano key intensity, and clearer guitar string vibrations, but these aren't shouting out at me initially the way I might have expected them to from reading impressions.

    I find the DAVE's presentation to be organic and extremely detailed. Smooth and dynamic. Incredible transparency and detail without sounding bright. This last bit I find to be the way a lot of other source gear fools us to thinking there is detail, by sounding tonally bright and exaggerated. To me the DAVE does not fall in this trap and just sounds natural yet uncanny in its amount of detail.

    I agree with Currawong when he says that what was considered blackness before contains information previously not heard, or simply looked over by other DACs. This is a very big deal to me. The impossibly small cues that create the naturalness of the recording environment.

    With regard to the iFi gear I have an iDAC2 that I won, which iFi says sounds the equal of the iDSD (when driving headphones within the iDAC2's power output). I've personally never really been a fan and found the iDAC2 to be rather 'slow' and artificial sounding, to my ears anyway. I would never put the iFi gear anywhere near the same category as the DAVE. You obviously don't agree with this sentiment and that's fine, but I simply don't see things the same, and each of our preferences are certainly valid. You're rather lucky as you saved yourself some serious cash, lol!
  3. rkt31
    here you find Berkeley reference vs dave too .https://audiobacon.net/2016/04/15/chord-dave-review-project-evad-evaluation-dave/3/
    Currawong likes this.
  4. tunes
    Anyone compare the HE 1000 with the Chord Dave vs McIntosh MHA100? I know the DACs don't compare but for the differences in price is there such a huge difference for the average ear? The MHA is more versatile in allowing one to connect speakers. Is the amp in the Dave really powerful enough to drive the HEK to its full potential to loud enough volumes?
  5. romaz
    Congratulations, it sounds like you have found the perfect DAC for your system and for your sensibilities.  While I did not personally prefer the Berkeley Reference over the DAVE, I have not yet heard their new Reference 2.  It obviously resonated well with you.  
    I used to own the M1.  I have heard the M1SE and it is a very good DAC but my opinion hasn't changed.  The overall character of this DAC remains the same.
    I will refer to my post #3784 regarding why I believe there are some who might fail to appreciate the qualities of the DAVE.  Understand that these are my general opinions and may not be applicable to you.
    Aside from the fact that you listen mainly to PCM, you failed to mention what type of music you listen to and which tracks you might have used in your evaluation.  If your dealer is like most dealers, he or she probably presented you with a studio recording of Diana Krall or Rebecca Pidgeon since with most audio shows or dealerships I visit, these are the types of options that seem to be always playing.  They're well-recorded pieces but just not very challenging for a DAC to portray and the amp, cables or speakers may have as much to contribute to the tonality that you hear as the DAC.  I cannot speak for the Reference 2 because I haven't heard it but with the Reference that I heard, it sounded disappointingly flat with the live recordings that I brought with me that were recorded in an acoustical space that I know well.  Even though the Reference that I heard was very tonally rich and did especially well with even poorly recorded vocals, I cannot consider this DAC as resolving or transparent as the DAVE when it is incapable of presenting depth realistically, and to be fair, you cannot assess this well with just headphones.  You really need to also listen to speakers to know what your DAC is capable of.  With flat studio recordings (most studio recordings are flat by nature), the spatial qualities of the DAVE will not shine through because the DAVE will not create depth artificially.  Furthermore, most studio recordings will often have some degree of reverb mixed in to create a sense of artificial depth that most any DAC will be able to render even though it is not real.  In these situations, even a $100 DAC will sound as if it can recreate depth.  As a frequent attendee of live performances, such performances are what I use as my reference and it is the depth and the natural reverb of a venue that will differentiate the experience between a performance at Carnegie Hall and a performance in an anechoic studio.  For me personally, it's like visiting the Grand Canyon vs looking at a photo of the Grand Canyon.  Not surprisingly, it is this third dimension that I am most sensitive to and it is this quality that I first notice is missing when I evaluate a DAC.
    Since the Berkeley can't drive headphones directly, you made no mention of what amp you used and obviously the amp and even the interconnects will have some say in the tonality of the sound you heard.  Did you happen to try connecting this same amp and interconnects to the DAVE?  With very well recorded music, nothing sounds more naturally vibrant and real to me than the DAVE.  As a pianist, I have not heard another DAC portray the timbre of a piano more accurately than the DAVE.  With poorly recorded music, then a truly transparent DAC, by its nature, will  provide you the depth and detail that may be present in the recording but the glaring deficiencies will also be readily evident and so the performance may not come across as sounding completely pleasant or real.  This is where it helps to be able to add color or harmonics and this is what some DACs do but shouldn't do (in my humble opinion).  A true apples-to-apples comparison would be to compare DAVE versus Reference 2 only as DACs using the same interconnects and amp.  For me, the beauty of the DAVE is that it comes with a free headphone amp (this is the way I see it since its wonderful qualities as a DAC alone are easily worth its full asking price) for those times when I want a truly transparent presentation.  For the times when I want a more flavored presentation, then I'm free to add an outboard preamp or amp for this purpose in the same way that you are forced to do with just about any other DAC.
    Lastly, I have to agree with x RELIC x.  I own or have owned a few iFi pieces.  I recently evaluated their Pro iCan although it was not to my liking.  I have also heard both the iDAC2 and iDSD and no offense but for someone to say the iDSD competes on the same footing with the DAVE is a very strange statement as the chasm between these DACs and the DAVE is quite large, IMO.  It leads me to wonder if you used recordings that any DAC can do a good job with or else the things that you look for in a DAC are not the same things that I look for.
    x RELIC x and Beolab like this.
  6. pkcpga
    They are very different in sound, mcintosh has a very warm signature sound with purposely a tube like effect. I find mcintosh products to all have less detail retrieval because of their signature sound. Also for some reason mcintosh does not step into the year 2000 and directly play DSD. DSD is not a support format by the mcintosh. The chord Dave handles up to quad DSD so it depends on what music formats you have, the Dave has been able to power any headphone I've tried with it. The mcintosh doesn't have a more powerful headphone amp because it has a built in speaker amp they are two separate amps.
  7. romaz
    Yes, I have.  As a soft headphone, I actually prefer the HE1000 paired with an authoritative amp like the MHA100 or a GSX-Mk2 over a soft amp like a Woo WA5 or the Moon Neo 430HA, for example.  The DAVE drives it beautifully and to its full potential as an amp, as full as I have ever heard the HE1000.  At the HE1000's input impedance, the DAVE will put out about 1 watt which will be enough to drive the DAVE to ear-splitting levels.  It is rare I have to go anywhere louder than -10dB.
    With regards to the DAVE as a DAC vs the MHA100, the two really aren't close.  You will have to decide if that difference is worth the MHA100's ability to drive speakers.
  8. x RELIC x Contributor
    This thread seems to have been devoid of pics for a while. Allow me to invigorate...

    Beauty shots




    Playing with setup

    image.jpg NewDesk_All_HP_02.0001.jpg
    The quote on the Millenium Falcon was a gift from my daughter. I always
    seem to beat the odds with my work deadlines.

    Ring Wraith approved

    One DAC to rule them all... :rolleyes: Yes, I'm a child at heart, ask my wife.

    Just out of the box.

    With the stand. Yes, I bought the stand.

    What I said when I purchased the DAVE.

    Compared to it's smaller brother, the Mojo.

    I don't care what anyone says, to me the DAVE is a beautiful piece of gear!!
  9. ecwl
    Evolvist, I was wondering what software you used to listen to DAVE and whether you did any upconversion? I noticed in your previous iFi iDSD posts that you sometimes convert PCM to DSD before playing them off your iDSD micro. Did you do the same for DAVE? Or did you upsample your 16/44 PCM files to a higher PCM file when playing off the DAVE? Obviously, you won't be able to do that for Berkeley Alpha DACs. Just curious.
  10. Mython Contributor
    Both good points.
    As I've remarked to Rob, in the past, I feel that head-fi, being (understandably) so focused upon use of IEMs/CIEMs/headphones, may not be the place where DAVE will demonstrate its spatial talents so obviously as it may on websites focused upon 2-channel loudspeaker playback. Though I am a fan of IEMs/CIEMs/headphones, I feel that it is easy to become myopic and overlook how lacking this mode of audio reproduction can be, sometimes, in comparison to the spatial representation possible with 2-channel loudspeaker audio reproduction. That's in no way a dig at EVOLVIST; not at all. It's not personal in any way. It's merely a simple observation on the limitations of head-based audio reproduction, that I, and thousands of others, have made, over the years.
  11. romaz
    I completely agree.  It's easier to see what a bargain the DAVE is when you realize it competes with DACs that sell for $100,000.  The problem is that most Head-Fiers aren't going to be using $100,000 DACs with their headphone systems when the most expensive production headphone you can buy today sells for $5,500.  It just doesn't make sense.  Realistically, most Head-Fiers are probably using DACs below $5k and so here on Head-Fi, it is understandable that the DAVE's price tag will raise an eyebrow for many, no matter how good it is.
    The other problem Chord has is they are often competing against themselves with the DAVE.  With something like the immensely popular Mojo, Hugo or TT, many are wondering why they would ever need the DAVE when they are already very happy with the Chord DAC they have.  Certainly, the DAVE can't be 22x better than the Mojo to justify paying 22x the Mojo's asking price but as we know, this type of logic can't be applied to an irrational and emotionally-driven hobby like high-end audio, otherwise, how would we ever justify something like an HD650 over the stock earbuds that came with your iPhone?
    Another problem Chord has is that there are many well-heeled 2-channel audiophiles out there who would have no problem affording the DAVE but many of these individuals have deep roots in vinyl and many of them refuse to believe that digital has arrived.  I know many 2-channel speaker audiophiles who fire up their DAC "only when I have no choice."  If you visit RMAF, AXPONA, THE Show in Munich or Newport, it's amazing how analog sources still dominate the very best rooms.
    For those 2-channel speaker audiophiles who have embraced digital, especially those who might own a $180,000 pair of Focal Grande Utopias or are in the market for a $600,000 pair of Magico Ultimates, Chord DACs unfortunately often don't register on their radar screens because in their minds, Chord is a headphone DAC company and headphones, in the view of many speaker-based audiophiles are second class commodities.  It would probably help Chord's cause in the minds of these audiophiles if they added a zero to the end of the DAVE's price tag but hopefully, with time, this upper echelon of audiophiles will discover the DAVE for all of its merits.
    Finally, it's amazing how many dealers fail to appreciate what a truly good DAC can do and it is often these dealers that end up influencing the buying decision of their customers.  You see this by their choice of music during a demo.  At AXPONA earlier this year, as I asked a certain dealer to demonstrate his DAC against my DAVE (which I brought with me), the only tracks he was initially prepared to play for me were EDM (electronic dance music) tracks by Daft Punk.  Of course, after the demo, he boasted how his much less expensive DAC that came integrated with his amp performed as well as my DAVE with this kind of music.
    shuttlepod and Sonic77 like this.
  12. lovethatsound
    @ xRELICx
    Very nice pictures,just out of interest has the cradle you've got Dave in,improved the
    sound,I've got to say,it certainly looks very impressive:blush:
  13. pkcpga

    My dealer does use the chord Dave DAC as an option in one of their upper tier rooms, but chord has developed a mid range appeal in two channel not because of their headphone DACs but because of their 2 channel choral line not being nearly as good as the Dave. Chord has been present in the home audio world for a while now they just haven't produced any stellar amps yet. I use the Dave with naim preamp, amp and b and w nautilus speakers. I found the Dave DAC was much better than my naim DAC and than few other similarly priced DACs. What's hard for most 2 channel buyers is selling them the chord Dave is a better product than the rest of chords two channel equipment. Chord needs to sell a class A amp not class AB amps they claim slide into class A category.
    romaz likes this.
  14. ecwl
    While I agree with everything that's said about music selection, I personally think that it's best not to say that you need a specific kind of music to show the difference between Chord DAVE and another DAC. I've listened to Random Access Memories by Daft Punk on Chord DAVE and I can tell you it sounds the best I've ever heard. I have a friend who loves listening to very unique musical genres that I'm not even sure how to describe. Our favorite test track for him is Cantoma's Cantoma album Marisi track. Once again, Chord DAVE really shines. Even in these so-called sub-optimal music tracks, Chord DAVE shows off how perfect the timing is so every instrumental strike is much more engaging and then Chord DAVE also ensures the accuracy of the timbre of the instruments so everything you listen to is more natural (or in the case of electronic music, more accurate to the intention of the artist).
    What I do think is true is that for some music selection such as electronic dance music by Daft Punk, most people truly does not have a reference point. We don't know how it "should" sound like. Because of the ubiquitousness of DAC chip based DACs, we are used to the noise floor modulation and timing distortions of limited tap length. Moreover, we are always most used to how our favorite track sounds like on our current DAC. As a result, for these more challenging music selection, it takes a much longer time for people to appreciate how Chord DAVE is truly sonically more true to the source (and IMHO superior) than other DACs. Obviously, there is also a matter of musical preference as some people prefer distortions (which sometimes I'm prone to myself).

    Yeah, I don't let the dealer dictate what kind of music I should listen to; I bring my own tunes, some of them crap recordings, some of them very well recorded. I base my choice of demo music off of certain sections or cues within the song that are often difficult for DACs to reproduce regardless of recording quality. For instance, I listened to Jeff Buckley's song "Grace" in redbook, because there is quite a lot of siblilance in his voice and I want to see how a DAC handles that. Or the very beginning of Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower," because the opening instruments are very congested and it's difficult to untangle that mess. Also I think the tape got a little chewed either on the multitrack or the master. Tracks like Patricia Barber's "Use Me" and Elvis Presley's "Fever" because I want to hear the close mic'ed upright bass, because like piano, you can tell a lot about a DAC with how it reproduces that instrument. And on and on...

    Anyway, I listened to both the Berekely, the DAVE and the iDSD all through the same headphone amp, my SPL Auditor, with my same custom Mogami XLR cables. Well, not the micro, because it only has RCA outputs. All of the power was first fed through my PS Audio P300. I also used the iUSB 3.0 in and out of each rig. I could not tell the difference with the iUSB 3.0 with both the Berkeley and the DAVE, but the iDSD micro needed it, along with the Gemini cable.

    As for my music software, well, I can't bring my home computer, which is an all SSD drive, 128gb ram, 6 core intel, water-cooled machine running Windows Server 2012R2. Instead, I had to use my son's little audiophile laptop I made for him (he's 13), which only has 16gb of ram. The reason I mention this with my playback software is because I use JRiver18, which still had the option to play from memory back then. I also use Jplay, along with Jplay mini, having the option to play from ram, as well. I've tried most of the other players, and yes, I've tried upsampling within my software, but I don't like, especially for an audition, because I only want the straight juice. Always kernel streaming.

    That's it in a nutshell. I ain't using no speakers. Haha!
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