Review of Audio-GD DAC-19MK3
Jul 22, 2009 at 9:48 AM Post #16 of 695

Drosera

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Quote:

Originally Posted by slim.a /img/forum/go_quote.gif
The Roc looks very tempting and promising, but if I get it instead of the C2C, I will probably have to look to a DAC with a CAST output
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And so it continues...
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Jul 22, 2009 at 9:49 AM Post #17 of 695

slim.a

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After 180 hours of burn-in:

The system has continued to improved in low level resolution et high frequency extension.
Just before buying the DAC-19mk3, I was thinking about buying the Moon Audio Silver Dragon cable for the Sennheiser to replace the Blue Dragon I am currently using. I was very happy with the improvements brought by the Blue Dragon over the stock cable which were numerous : better low level resolution, stronger bass, cleaner highs and better defined soundstage. However, I felt that it cleaned up maybe a little bit too much the highs but it was a trade-off I was very happy to live with.
Anyway, the DAC-19mk3 has brought back life to the highs in a good way without any false brightness.

Cable swapping:
I have been using from the start my reference cables which are : Hifi-Cables Khnoum which are true high end cables. When I bought them after trying them for free for one week I felt that they were better the DH-Labs Silver Sonic BL-1 that I had been using for a few months (they replaced my Kimber PBJ interconnects). While I was very happy with my purchase at that time, I felt that it was only marginally better, mainly sounding more natural and with a bigger soundstage.
Anyway, I tried the DH-Labs Silver Sonic BL-1 back and I was surprised about how much difference there was between the 2 interconnects. The Hifi-Cables Knhoum sounded more extended in the frequency extremes, more dynamic and more natural. The imaging is spooky real with the Hifi-Cables Knhoum and you don't have to concentrate
If I were to grade the DH-Labs at 100, the Kimber PBJ at 90, I would grade the Hifi-Cables khnoum at 200. I couldn't believe my ears how much difference there was between those cables.
I also briefly tried the Sharkwire interconnect and it felt duller and less defined than even the DH-Labs BL-1. I had them burn-in for a day (in a secondary system) before first listening to them. I think they are good budget cables, but to get the most from the DAC-19mK3, I would recommend at least something like the DH-Labs Silver Sonic BL-1.

RMAA measurements:
Since there was talk about RMAA on this thread, I decided to make my own measurements with the EMU 0404 usb.
You can find the results here and the comparison with the EMU 0404 usb here
The DAC-19mk3 measures at 108 SNR which means it is dead quiet.
As for the roll-off that is apparent in the RMAA measurement, Kingwa said that it was done in purpose (here )
I have checked the Stereophile measurements of some well reviewed CD players using the same PCM1704-uk, and there seems to be a roll-off in the highs too.
Simaudio Moon Evolution Andromeda Reference ($12,500)
Naim CD555 ($28,000)
The Zanden DAC, which is supposed to be one of the best DACs ($15,470), also exhibit the same behavior (see here $15,470).
As far as I see, the EMU 0404 usb which retails for less $200 measures better than those mega-buck DACs. However, do I think that it sounds better ? Not at all. Compared to the other DACs I own, it sounds "digital", lacks resolution, detail and has a flat soundstage.
Kingwa, who read the thread and saw the RMAA results e-mailed me to say that the EMU 0404 usb doesn't probably use an analogy filter. This probably explains why I have never been able to listen at reasonable to high volume levels with the EMU 0404 usb more than half an hour before I get tired/bored.
Anyway, I don't think that measurements do not matter but I think that our ears might be more sensitive to parameters that are not measured in RMAA : phase, time domain, impulse, output impedance, ... (I am just guessing)
 
Jul 22, 2009 at 5:31 PM Post #19 of 695

Patu

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Thanks for the review and measurements. Also very nice that you dug up some other similar equipment with similar measurements.
 
Jul 22, 2009 at 6:48 PM Post #21 of 695

slim.a

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Quote:

Originally Posted by shuttleboi /img/forum/go_quote.gif
How about a link to the product and manufacturer?

How about a picture of the unit?

How about a description of the inputs and controls?



Here is the link for the product : Audio-gd DAC-19MK3

As for inputs and controls, the stock DAC-19MK3 has 3 inputs that you can choose using the front knob : usb, coaxial and optical.
However my unit has a fourth input : I asked Kingwa to add a BNC input, which he was kind enough to accept to do but it delayed the shippment of my unit by a week.

As for a picture, I don't have a digital camera right now, but I will post a picture if I can get a good enough picture with my mobile phone camera. Anyway, you can find pictures of the unit of good quality in the audio-gd website.
 
Jul 23, 2009 at 1:58 AM Post #23 of 695

haloxt

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Thanks for the nice review and all the great info. I was rather disappointed by the blue dragon smoothing out the highs also, but the dac19mk3 made the cable very acceptable just as you described. I'd give the sharkwire interconnects 100 hours of burn-in to see if they improve, they are SPC and might require long burn-in. And I bet the roc would be great with the dac19mk3, the dac19mk3 does sound nice with the phoenix but I feel it's a bit lopsided and that the phoenix deserves to be paired with a top-tier balanced dac.
 
Jul 23, 2009 at 8:16 AM Post #24 of 695

slim.a

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Patu /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Just out of interest, what tracks do you use to test the performance of the high register of your equipment?


I don't have one particular recording / track to test the high registers. However, to do my review I tried to listen to tracks that are known to be of good quality.

Some of my reference recordings/tracks are :
Glenn Gould, The Goldberg Variations 1981
Arne Domnerus, Jazz at the Pawnshop
Eagles, Hell Freezes Over, Hotel California
Gladiator Ost, The Battle
Vivaldi, La Serinissima : I have downloaded the whole CD from Linn in 16/44.1 and I also have some tracks at 24/96
 
Jul 23, 2009 at 8:51 AM Post #26 of 695

slim.a

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Quote:

Originally Posted by haloxt /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Thanks for the nice review and all the great info. I was rather disappointed by the blue dragon smoothing out the highs also, but the dac19mk3 made the cable very acceptable just as you described. I'd give the sharkwire interconnects 100 hours of burn-in to see if they improve, they are SPC and might require long burn-in.


Good to know you had a similar experience with the Blue Dragon.

As for the Sharkwire interconnect, after giving thema total of around 30 hours of burn-in they seem to have improved a lot. They do not sound dull anymore and they are at the same level as the DH-Labs bL-1, but smoother. I will give them more burn-in to see if that makes anymore change.


Quote:

Originally Posted by haloxt /img/forum/go_quote.gif
And I bet the roc would be great with the dac19mk3, the dac19mk3 does sound nice with the phoenix but I feel it's a bit lopsided and that the phoenix deserves to be paired with a top-tier balanced dac.


It is good to know that the dac-19mk3 sounds nice with the phoenix which I read is one the most revealing amps there is.
However, as I understand, to get the most from these amps they have to be used with balanced cables for the headphones ?
 
Jul 23, 2009 at 9:06 AM Post #27 of 695

slim.a

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Quote:

Originally Posted by IPodPJ /img/forum/go_quote.gif
So this DAC is only $480. Do you think its performance is way above its price level? If this DAC were made in America or Europe, how much do you think would be fair market value for it?


I haven't had a lot of experience with high grade DACs in my system, so I don't know for sure if its performance is above its price level. But compared to more expensive CD Players and DACs I listened to in other systems, this the best sounding digital source I have listened to.

I think it is a much better value than buying an EMU 0404 usb or the old Audio-gd DAC-100. One would think that the more you go up in the price range, the smaller the improvement in sound quality, but the improvement is huge compared to the price difference.

Also, just by looking at the build quality, the high grade components inside, and the technology (CAST), I would say that it is a true bargain. I have seen the insides of CD players/DACs costing 3 to 4 times more that look very cheap inside.
I wouldn't be surprised if it were priced at $1000+ if it were made in Europe or America.
 
Jul 23, 2009 at 11:54 AM Post #28 of 695

haloxt

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Quote:

Originally Posted by slim.a /img/forum/go_quote.gif
It is good to know that the dac-19mk3 sounds nice with the phoenix which I read is one the most revealing amps there is.
However, as I understand, to get the most from these amps they have to be used with balanced cables for the headphones ?



Roc and Phoenix can be used with unbalanced dacs and I know the Phoenix is pretty good with unbalanced headphones, but using it with balanced headphones improves the sound drastically, mainly in imaging, blackness and control, things that mostly hardcore audiophiles will appreciate. In terms of plain "fun" factor though, they will probably be in the same league.

Quote:

Originally Posted by IPodPJ /img/forum/go_quote.gif
So this DAC is only $480. Do you think its performance is way above its price level? If this DAC were made in America or Europe, how much do you think would be fair market value for it?


If sold directly from the shop like audio-gd does, I'd say around $1000 minimum. But I don't know if you could put a price on the kind of perfectionism audio-gd strives for. The amount of attention to detail in the dac19mk3 is kind of astounding. For example the optical input shuts down and you hear a click when you turn off the optical source. IMO that's a pretty extreme measure to improve sound quality for the other inputs.
 
Jul 23, 2009 at 1:24 PM Post #29 of 695

slim.a

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Quote:

Originally Posted by haloxt /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Roc and Phoenix can be used with unbalanced dacs and I know the Phoenix is pretty good with unbalanced headphones, but using it with balanced headphones improves the sound drastically, mainly in imaging, blackness and control, things that mostly hardcore audiophiles will appreciate. In terms of plain "fun" factor though, they will probably be in the same league.


Thanks for the information.
I was thinking about upgrading my head-amp to C2C but since I will end up getting tempted by a balanced amp anyway (upgraditis), I better wait and get the Roc
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