RWAK100-S review - a highend audio player
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Sasaki

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[size=10pt]Vinnie made it again. RWAK100-S is another excellent mod for AK100. I wrote RWAK100 for my post and much enjoyed to use it. RWAK100 is a register bypass mod with his fine cable in it. But the RWAK100-S is totally different. He replaced old WM8740 with Wolfson flagship WM8741. WM8741 is used in highend audio gear like LINN Accurate DS,[/size]
[size=10pt]To know the detail, click here to invoke his info page. Here is purchase info too. You have two choices to mod your own unit or to buy new one and mod it.[/size]
[size=10pt]http://redwineaudio.com/mods/rwak100[/size]
 
     
 
[size=10pt]RWAK100-S is what I  wanted. It's the true line-out capability of AK100. AK100 use digital volume which is a function of WM8740 software mode. But even if we use full volume level(labeled 75) AK100 attenuates some of them. Anyway RWAK100-S is not an AK100 anymore because the RWAK100 employs WM8741 and MP filtering.[/size]
 
 
[size=10pt]I got a unit of RWAK100-S which is upgraded from RWAK100 model. You will get the same package as you sent because this is upgraded mod of original unit.[/size]
[size=10pt]Outlook is almost same to original AK10 but I noticed the side volume knob has been removed and it is replaced with a rounded low profile cover over the hole. It tells user the RWAK100-S is now a dedicated source gear. You MUST use a portable headphone amp to play with RWAK100-S. [/size]
 
[size=10pt]     [/size]
 
[size=10pt]I have a stock AK100 and a stock AK120 to compare with RWAK100-S. Most of the time I compared RWAK100 with AK120 because single WM8741 vs dual WM8740 is an attractive comparison for me.[/size]
 
[size=10pt]* portable setup[/size]
 
[size=10pt]In the following Portable setup comparison, I used Dirigent Japan made cable which employs Cristal cable micro for mini-mini cable(micro is thicker than piccolino) . I used Edition 8 for headphone listening and UE18 for CIEM(with Whiplash TWag v1). Though I think JHA/Suyama FitEar is also a good combo with these DAPs but UE18 is my favorite on AK100 series. Firmware of RWAK100-S is 1.32.[/size]

 
[size=10pt]First, I hooked ALO RX MkII up to the RWAK100-S. I think this is the "genuine combo" since Vinnie works there too. [/size]
[size=10pt]I feel very rich and full sounding over the entire frequency range. This combo delivers exceptionally decent sound experience to listeners. I  meant decent as the every note in the sound is well shaped and solid, the instrument sounds are articulated and well separated each other. Transparency is very excellent. Highs are crystal clear while the harshness is none. Probably thanks to MP filtering of the RWAK100-S hardware mode. [/size]
 
[size=10pt]I also surprised how deep is the low extended. The low is well extended into the very deep but the real surprise is the low is very solid and firm. I never felt this level of low definition in portable rigs. I think it is similar to highend speaker rig's sound reproduction. Since the low is a fundamental of sound structure, the entire sound is standing like a solid tower on the firm basement.[/size]
[size=10pt]The details of the sound is also awesome. I could hear the subtle whisper of the lively vocal, also a fading echo of instrument very clearly. I think the detail extraction and definition is surpass the AK100 line out, thanks to WM8741 decoding.[/size]
 
[size=10pt]I also compared AK120 stock with RWAK100-S with the same setup. I used a music track that is bass rich "Hands" by Brian Bloomberg and Herge Lien trio's "Take5". Because I think these type of "snap and attack" music is good to test digital circuit especially for jitter reduction.[/size]
[size=10pt]Both DAP sounded very nice but RWAK100-S has an edge for stopping and attacking the sharp snaps. RWAK100-S is also better at PRaT feeling. AK120 is a tad slow and the bass is a bit bloated compared to RWAK100-S. I also compared with AK100 stock. In this case I feel obvious lack of detail and thinner on AK100 that I felt like something essential is missing from the music. (I think AK100 is still good for the price though)[/size]
[size=10pt]Just a note, RWAK100-S delivers true 2V line out so the sound pressure is higher even if I turn volume knob all way up to 75 level in the AK100/120.Vinnie told there some attenuation in software mode WM8740 in these DAPs.[/size]

[size=10pt]Next, by comparing to iBasso DX100 phone out, RWAK100-S + RX MkII combo also surpass the sound quality of DX100 phone out. DX100 sounded a bit bloated and I felt something is missing again on DX100. Then I hooked DX100 up with RX MkII using same cable, that is to compare source quality to RWAK100-S. This is far more bulky setup to RWAK100-S + RX but the richness transparency and attacks are much improved than DX100 alone. I compared with this DX100 combo to RWAK100-S combo. I think this is a good game and the either side has pros and cons. I think this may be depended on personal taste rather. DX100 combo is cool while RWAK100-S is warm.[/size]
[size=10pt]RWAK100-S shows a great ability as a source gear by comparing t[/size][size=10pt]o DX100(renowned ES9018) or AK120(dual WM8740l) highend DAPs.[/size]
 
[size=10pt][/size]
 
[size=10pt]I moved onto amp-rolling next. I took RSA SR71A that is my long reference amp. As expected, the sound become warmer than RX Though the sound staging is better with RX MkII, SR71A sounded more musical and smooth. Bass impact is also stronger with SR71A. The sounding signature has changed from RX2 combo but I still feel the whole rich sound signature is similar to that of  the RX2 combo. It tells me how RWAK100-S sound lives in any amp combination. I was impressed with the strong RWAK100-S influence and I realized the importance of source gear on audio setup. [/size]
 
[size=10pt][/size]
 
[size=10pt]I also found RSA Tomahawk is a very good mate for RWAK100-S. Tomahawk is a bit old amp but the big capacitor makes the sound good old warm sound signature. The tiny Tomahawk does not bring out the best of RWAK100-S ability but I still feel the sound is solid and has very nice rendition of the track. I use Sanyo rechargeable for Tomahawk. This small setup is good for this hot summer season which we usually have only shirts pocket. I am still able to enjoy the sound of RWAK100-S even if I use tiny Tomahawk. The SQ may decrease with Tomahawk but sound signature of RWAK100-S still lives there.[/size] 
 
[size=10pt][/size]
 
[size=10pt]My additional surprise is a combination with iQube. This combo bring out the best of RWAK100-S. I thought I knew that iQube has a great sound reproduction ability thanks to Hypex digital circuit. But I now realized I did not know the best of iQube till now. iQube brings out the best of RWAK100-S and RWAK100-S brings out the best of iQube. Anyway I was impressed with realistic, rich and precise sound reproduction of this combo. The sound stage is 3D and deep. This is almost beyond portable setup and sounded like a sort of magic. [/size][size=10pt]I have iQube V1 and V3 each and I prefer V1 rather because of the size is small but still retains the magic.[/size]
 
[size=10pt][/size]
 
[size=10pt]Next I tried with PortaPhile 627 which is needless to say the portable beast. [/size][size=10pt]The PortaPhile 627 also brings up the best of RWAK100-S. The details are on par with the iQube while the spacious sound staging is better on Portaphile. Now I get soundstaging larger and expansive. [/size][size=10pt]iQube is more precise to reproduce instrument notes while Portaphile is warmer and delivers good smooth music. The flagship DAC chip WM8741 and the MP natural filtering of RWAK100-s shines on both amp. [/size]
[size=10pt]The PortaPhile 627 has been often told as a performance monster however I think the real virtue of the Portaphile 627 is a tube like smooth sounding rather. I found 627 sounded similar to my Analog square paper(A2P) Tu05 which is a full tube amp. I am not saying this is the same but close however it's a fun to find the Solid-state king is similar to the Tube king. [/size]
 
[size=10pt][/size]
 
[size=10pt]Speaking of the A2P Tu05, the RWAK100-S combo is simply awesome. Smooth and sweet sounding of-course, further I get a home audio like authentic music experience. Its a shame the Tu05 is a transportable rather. (TU05 is a full four mini tube amp, not a two sub-mini tube hybrid amp which is commonly used in portable tube amps)[/size]
[size=10pt]I also tried now-oldies Xin SM4(I believe I have the last mods) which used to be a king of portable amps. However, I was not so impressed with the SQ while the SQ is not bad at all. Time has passed since then...[/size]
 
[size=10pt]* speaker setup[/size]
 
[size=10pt]I was luckily enough to use CHORD high-end rigs for another audition. I am a lector of a periodic audio seminar at CHORD distributer showroom and I was able to use them after my seminar. [/size]
[size=10pt]I used CHORD preamp CPA5000, poweramp SPM 1200 mkII and Raidho Acoustic S2.0 speakers.  All of them are of highend class. I used ALO mini-RCA interconnection cable to get the best result. I hooked RWAK100-S up with CPA5000 via ALO cable. I used MA recordings or other good music source for the audition. I also brought AK120 stock to comparison.[/size]
 
[size=10pt]     [/size]
 
[size=10pt]I did not compared with CD players but RWAK100-S sounded great with these true highend setup. AK120 sounded very nice too with this setup but RWAK100-S sounded richer and fuller than AK120 stock. The attack and impact of percussion is remarkable on RWAK100-S and the sound is better than AK120. RWAK100-S delivers solid instrument sound and makes music clean and clear.[/size][size=10pt]It's a fun that the RWAK100-S act as a small hero like David vs Goliath. [/size]
 
[size=10pt]* conclusion [/size]
 
[size=10pt]To sum up, the impressive points of RWAK100-S sounding are rich, solid and deep. RWAK100-S sounded like a decent highend source gears regarding micro detail reproduction and the retrieval of fine texture. I think this is the virtue of RWAK100-S. RWAK100-S is the best portable source device especially if one were considered the size it's unbeatable. Even if the size does not matter, RWAK100-S still shows remarkable ability of the first class league as a source gear.[/size]
 
[size=10pt]In recent days, my intentions of portable rig is inclined toward standalone highend DAPS like DX100 or AK120 than traditional portable amp combo. But RWAK100-S awakes me up again to the world of portable amp setup. I enjoyed the smoothness of Portaphile, precise reproduction of iQube, warm sounding of SR71A eve if I use Tomahawk I can still enjoy the RWAK100-S sound signature. I felt that I discovered the joy to use and choice portable amps. [/size]
[size=10pt]I'd say the RWAK100-S brings an authentic highend audio source experience like a decent CD Player sounding in the portable audio world. This is worth to try for a people seeking highest portable setup quality.[/size]
 
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cooperpwc

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Excellent review! Thanks.
 
It would be great if you could please give some indication of battery life for the modded RWAK100-S.
 
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This is an excellent review Sasaki-san. It mirrors what others have mentioned about the RWAK100S but you have given more depth to the findings. It also gives me more confidence in considering the RWAK120S in the future too.
 
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Gintaras

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Excellent review, answers all my questions, good idea about sending Rwak100 for moding to S version when buy ak120.
 
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Sasaki

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Thank you for the comments!

About the battery life, I did not measure it exactly but I did not notice the huge difference to the stock during my use. Vinnie wrote it would be 20% decrease.
 
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icefalkon

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Great review bro!
 
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cooperpwc

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Quote:
Thank you for the comments!

About the battery life, I did not measure it exactly but I did not notice the huge difference to the stock during my use. Vinnie wrote it would be 20% decrease.
 
Perfect, that is what I wanted to know. Thanks.
 
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CosmicHolyGhost

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This is such an awesome read. Many thanks.

I take it that DX100 amp combo is on par for the sound quality when comparing with rwak100s amp combo
 
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Fatalethal

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Thank you Sasaki-san for this comprehensive review/impressions of the RWAK100-S.
 
 
 
I also surprised how deep is the low extended. The low is well extended into the very deep but the real surprise is the low is very solid and firm. I never felt this level of low definition in portable rigs. I think it is similar to highend speaker rig's sound reproduction. Since the low is a fundamental of sound structure, the entire sound is standing like a solid tower on the firm basement.
 
 
can you kindly give me an idea of how low it actually goes? say, which instruments in the tracks you use goes the deepest?
 
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Sasaki

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I mostly use Jazz wood bass to see bass response.
But the impression above is a result of general feeling over my playlist songs, not by the specific track.
 
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precsmo

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really good review. Thanks. I would feel wonderful if Meier Quickstep which I'm having was included in the review!
 
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Sasaki

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Though I don't have QuickStep, I quickly tried with my CORDA MOVE. I found this is also a good combo. RWAK100-S's rich, full and warm character retains, in addition  I noticed a noticeably 3D spacious sounding there. Instrument reproduction is very crisp and clean. I think QuickStep would be even better :) 
 
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audionewbi

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It seems like to get the best of A&K as a source we need to once again sacrifice on battery and smaller foot print which is still compared to other stacking setup considerably smaller.
 
I am not too pleased with how AK120 is performing as a stand alone amp. I am a IEM person and 80% of my collection is IEM and I find myself only liking one of the dozen IEM I own. I was really expecting a one unit fit all AMP but it seems like we are still required to select the amp we like as no matter what A&K can only do so much about the amp section in such a small form factor. 
 
Thanks for the review, makes me think about saving for the upgrade. 
 
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Natronious

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Quote:
It seems like to get the best of A&K as a source we need to once again sacrifice on battery and smaller foot print which is still compared to other stacking setup considerably smaller.
 
I am not too pleased with how AK120 is performing as a stand alone amp. I am a IEM person and 80% of my collection is IEM and I find myself only liking one of the dozen IEM I own. I was really expecting a one unit fit all AMP but it seems like we are still required to select the amp we like as no matter what A&K can only do so much about the amp section in such a small form factor. 
 
Thanks for the review, makes me think about saving for the upgrade.
Using IEM's exclusively for music on the go, I'm curious about the first-level AK120 mod which is mentioned to specifically improve performance for IEM's, namely lower impedance variations.
 
I haven't seen anyone posting about this mod however, perhaps with a little more time.  It seems evident that the 'S' mod is ultimately going to produce the best sounding player, but will require the use of an amp.  Also, if you purchase the AK120 from RWA, the 1st level mod will cost $195, $55 less relative to a $1300 full retail cost of the unmodded player, so a fair bit less than the 'S' mod and you get to keep the small form factor.  I'd love to try it out...
 
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Rumpelstiltskin

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Hi and many thanks for the review. Good depth.
Can you help me? I live in UK and v.interested in mini-to-mini you're using
on rig.
Please also spec details of your mini-to-mini order.
Cheers!
 
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