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CHORD ELECTRONICS DAVE

Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by magiccabbage, May 14, 2015.
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  1. romaz
    It could potentially be end game...if Rob decided to retire.  
     
    As you start to understand the differences between the various DAC architectures that are readily available today, whether it be a chip-based DAC like the Berkeley Reference 2 or an R2R ladder DAC like the MSB Select II, it becomes apparent that each of these DAC architectures has inherent limitations that Rob himself couldn't overcome and even though the components that comprise each technology can be cleverly optimized (ie better power supplies, better isolation, better resistors, better analog section, etc), ultimately, these DACs still must conform to some rigid box that will limit them.  For a chip-based DAC, it could be something like the DAC chip itself.  A good analogy would be something like a Ford Fusion.  You could bore out the engine, improve the suspension, swap in some racing tires and transform it into a NASCAR racing car and with the right driver, maybe this car even wins the Daytona 500...but this car will never win Le Mans.  It's not in its DNA and so this car will always be defined by the limitations that define all NASCAR racing cars.
     
    The DAVE is different.  It isn't forced to conform to anything and so it has more of a potential to be anything.  Just about every aspect of its performance is based on code and its only limitation is the hardware that has to run the code and the brilliance of the individual that writes the code.   Where most DAC builders strive to create a rich and organic sound, Rob's intent was to recreate the original analog wave form.  That should tell you something.  Other DAC manufacturers speak of their desire to achieve transparency when what many of them really mean is pleasing tonality, at least that's how I see it.  As a regular patron of live performances, I have never been to a performance and wished for pleasant tonality.  There's nothing wrong with pleasant tonality but if you have to give up that 3-dimensional quality of space and depth that makes a performance sound real and palpable, for me, the compromise isn't worth it.  If a tenor makes a mistake and misses a note, then he misses a note but better that than him lip-syncing to a perfectly polished pre-recorded track.  The connection for me isn't the same.  This is for me the magic of the DAVE.  The music just breathes.
     
    Once again, for poor recordings, there are some sweetened DACs that will sound better than an accurate and transparent DAC like the DAVE.  Voices might even take on a certain heavenly harmonic character, perhaps better than the actual performance and there's nothing wrong with liking this.  I like it myself.  But in my view, you can achieve the same result by adding a tube amp and rolling in a Tung Sol Round Plate 6SN7 driver tube or Western Electric 300B power tube and not end up compromising the dimensional qualities of the recording by buying a less than transparent DAC.  What happens in the future as better and better recordings become available and actually become the norm instead of the exception?  What happens if DAVINA comes to fruition and takes off?  Are we going to want to sweeten those recordings and lose out on the depth of the details that will be there in even greater abundance?
     
    Looking at your situation from a practical standpoint, for the price of a Berkeley Reference 2 (about $20k), you could buy a DAVE, the most transparent DAC I have heard that comes with the most transparent headphone amp as a bonus along with an Eddie Current Zana Deux S OTL tube amp which would pair brilliantly with your HD800 for those times when your recording warrants coloration and while you're at it, also throw in a nice collection of tubes, an HFC CT-1 mains cable, HFC CT-1 interconnects and microRendu with upgraded power supply and still end up with change in your pocket.  And as a final bonus, Chord will even throw in that Crossfeed feature that you like so much.  Sounds like the best of all worlds to me.
     
    EVOLVIST and Torq like this.
  2. Torq

    Despite not being done with my high-end DAC evaluation, DAVE still reigns as the best reproduction of digital audio I've ever heard.
     
    Value wise, it's a hard sell compared to things like Yggdrasil and Pavane, though it does best them, for me, in absolute performance.  To go beyond DAVE, across the board ... well, it's hard to imagine.
     
    I'm a reasonably serious patron of the arts here in Seattle.  I managed to make it to table 3, with the male lead for Tosca, and his utterly  charming girlfriend (about to play Carmen in Berlin), at our table, last year ... and my fiancé and I made the Opera magazine's "best dressed" photograph collection (really more down to her and her stunning gown, than me).  Dress-circle preferred seasons tickets etc.
     
    Serious passion for, and investment in, music.
     
    From an engineering perspective, as I'm engineer, among other things, it's hard to image what several other vendors are going to do to best DAVE.  It's not apparent to me.  The usual audiophile nonsense is not, in my opinion, going to cut it.
     
    At the same time, I can still see places, again from an engineering perspective, where DAVE might be improved.
     
    Power-supply design is one area.  I'm all for SMPS implementations, done properly.  Go look at what Linn do with their Dynamik PSU.  Up to 1.14 Kw on demand with better measurements than many battery-driven linear models.  Makes me wonder what might be possible with a "dual-mono" implementation of DAVE with those kinds of PSUs and none of DAVEs, audible, display nonsense.
     
    Maybe in a non-aesthetically-repulsive chassis ... :wink:
     
    DAVE is a tour-de-force to be sure, but I don't think it's the limit of what is possible yet.
     
    If you're ever in Seattle, ping me.
     
  3. pkcpga
    I'm sure there are plenty of ways they can improve the Dave on paper but the question is will it improve the sound quality. The Linn DAC is not very impressive sound wise so might be a great engineering build but nothing special to listen to. For less money the naim DAC v1 sounded better and plays high res DSD which the Linn was still incapible of playing. I like that chord invested its efforts in sound quality and being able to play any format thrown its way very well over worrying about over engineering it. Keep it simple, solid, reliable and most importantly amazing sounding from great digital to analog converting code.
     
  4. Torq

    Yggdrasil, at $2299, bests Linn's line-up as I've posted here.  
     
    That said, speaking as an engineer, I can't name or find anyone that's bested their PSU design - at any price.  And either the PSU matters, in which case DAVE could do better, or it doesn't.
     
    I still consider DSD a red-herring.  Despite large-scale, multi-product, evaluation, I have found no evidence that it is better.  Different, sure, in some cases, but better ... no, not really ... not in ways that weren't directly traceable to the master at least.
     
    Linn could easily add DSD support if they thought it was worthwhile.  Given the other processing their units are doing it's a trivial implementation.  There's just not real call for it.  It's a niche within a niche with sod-all software support.  Why would they bother?
     
  5. Mojo ideas
    We are hoping and I should re state this .....Hoping to have the first one available for one of the shows at the end of September. It's been a lot of work for Rob but I think we are close now. It'll be called 2 Blue of course .....
     
  6. Mojo ideas
    It simple it's because Rob is a professional and really knows what he is doing. Half of the overblown oversized overpriced products out there are not designed by such creditable or knowegable designers. Therefore they possibly tend to over compensate in their products with physical size or not really required exotic materials and components.
     
  7. ToroFiestaSol
     
    attachment.jpg
     
    So, are you saying that, for example, Flemming E. Rasmussen, founder of Gryphon (one of the most respected audio companies in high end audio) doesn't know how to design a DAC?
    Look, it has two oversized power supplies, dual mono layuout, super expensive components and a custom, very, very high quality PCB...
     
  8. pkcpga

    That's fine if you see no need for DSD or dxd or better resolution format. But if you are spending 100k on a two channel set up, timing is very important and can be noticed, the less gaps in converting the better so for me I can hear the difference. Now if meridians new format can gives us similar result with 1/3 the file size that would be amazing. But people have been saying DSD is dead since 2011 and for 2015, sales were up 14% over the year before and many new titles were added again. Their also is dxd format which I person struggle to hear any improvement over high res DSD but it exists as well and people still buy it. If your happy with low res Sonus quality music that's fine and probably a large chunk of people are but those are not the people buying large scale hifi equipment. And this is something Linn is trying to sell with their upper tier speakers that cover themselves in curtains of your choice. Linn upper end speaker are almost always in hifi shops matched up with other vendors DACs and sometimes even other vendors preamps because you don't spend a lot of money to listen to music only through tidal or Spotify like Linn's app wants you to do. It's all a preference and everyone is happy with certain levels, I personally like DSD and for headphones or my home office with ls50 speakers, tidal lossless is fine. But with the Dave and nautilus speakers I want something more.
     
  9. JaZZ Contributor
     
    I'm one of them. DAVE was the most expensive component of my audio career, but it's worth its price – I would buy it again. The sound it delivers is by far the best I've heard from any source. (Granted: I haven't heard any of today's high-end DACs.) If it really could be bettered in the next three of four years by a competitor's product (which I doubt in view of Chord's technological advance when it comes to DACs), that one will certainly cost at least the fourfold of it. And Chord Electronics itself will most likely not produce an improved sequel until five or six years from now. Which means I'm 72 then. Independent of the question if I'll be able to notice the improvement there's also the question if I'll need it. Even now I don't feel the need to invest some more money in power conditioners and cables. My humble PS Audio Ultimate Outlet quit working a year ago while developing an ugly mechanical noise. I don't miss it one bit, which means I didn't hear a difference without it. The data provider of my headphone system is a FiiO X5 II player, with a coaxial S/PDIF output. Having it attached to the mains or not doesn't make the least difference to the sound – the same as with Hugo and Mojo, BTW. The only thing I might try is a different headphone cable for my HE1000 (to explore if it gets even better than with the now Silver Dragon) – it will be a DIY project. In terms of equalizing I seem to have reached the end of my journey. That said, I wonder how this very plausible option for improving the sound on a very plausible level simply gets forgotten beside all this power cleaning and cabling efforts. How come that people aren't sensitive to amplitude nonlinearities? The HE1000 – although certainly very listenable as it is – can be massively improved by equalizing its frequency response. It also cures the softness it's often accused for (the poor stock cables may also be the culprit in many cases).
     
    The sound isn't perfect (yet) – I'm speaking of the combo DAVE/HE1000 with the latter as the limiting component –, but after all it is free from irritating flaws and easy and comfortable to listen to, moreover as close to reality as I can imagine a headphone system to get. So I'm in a phase where I'm trying to focus on the music and the enjoyment it provides instead of searching for further improvements. That's only possible due to the high quality level – also thanks to Rob's masterpiece. [​IMG]
     
     
    There are two problems: 1) getting used to it, 2) overcoming the preconception of a signal degradation through an artificial electronic effect. The classic Crossfeed simply means monophonizing the low-frequency content to compensate unwanted effects in speaker-based recordings for headphone reproduction (unnatural one-sided low-frequency content). In my exprerience (with my own Crossfeed implementation) it comes without any negative effects in terms of transparency, it even often plausibly recreates a passably natural soundfield. In turn such one-sided low-frequency content is a mixing fault (from the perspective of headphone listening) which needs to be corrected (remixed).
     
     
    Actually (powerwise) you don't need an extra amp for the HE1000. The shortest signal path providing the purest signal is using DAVE's headphone output. If you need some extra coloration (or equalization), there are better options around. [​IMG]
     
  10. miketlse
     
    As an engineer involved in product development, I am curious as to why you propose that the Gryphon is a better engineered product. I have just compared the dac in the photo with a DAVE, and spotted the following interesting differences:
     
    1. The Gryphon weights 40% more than the DAVE
    2. The Gryphon is approx 5 times the volume of the DAVE
    3. The signal to noise is worse for the Gryphon
    4. The THD is worse by a factor of 100 for the Gryphon
    5. The Gryphon would cost me approx 50% more to buy than the DAVE (and presumably I would also need to buy a headphone amp)
    6. The Gryphon PCB does not seem to have been designed using a lean engineering philosophy (particularly the part-reduction aspect)
     
    You have puzzled me why you think the Gryphon is better engineered.
     
  11. ToroFiestaSol
     
    I'm not saying that the Gryphon DAC is a better product overall, what I'm trying to express is:
     
    If Dave has a rock solid FPGA development inside, which is very impressive, why the fkn PSU is a clusterfuk?
    Why it has that headphone amp, for 520 usd you can buy this:
     
    audio-gd_nfb1amp_-3.jpg
     
    That amp is overkill for any headphone and costs 520 usd...
    Why it doesn't have psu equally impressive as the software part?
    Why that fkn headphone amp? Is redundant, people that buys a +10k DAC of course have money for a headphone amp or already has a very good one.
     
  12. JaZZ Contributor
     
    Apparently you haven't followed this thread very carefully – otherwise you wouldn't come up with something like this.
     
    DAVE has the best headphone amp you can get: none. No added distortion/coloration/signal rounding, a signal path as simple as possible for the highest possible signal purity. The DAC itself (more precisely: its line-out stage) drives the attached headphones – there's no additional amplification stage. Following Chord's design philosophy, realized already in Hugo and Mojo.
     
  13. miketlse
     
    Those people will have the money - but why would they desire to have an additional head-amp box clustering up their hifi stand (or whatever they use)?
     
  14. Sunya
     
    Clueless about SMPSs I see.
     
  15. lovethatsound
    Hi john
    I know it's early days yet,but have you any idea how much it will cost to upgrade the blu transport to the new spec?
     
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