Short Review: Sunrise Audio Ray – Excellent portable DAC/Amp
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Sunrise Audio is currently known on Head-Fi mostly for their IEMs and earbuds, but the company has plans to become a major player in the audiophile market this year. This includes branching out from headphones to other parts of the audio chain, including amps and DACs.
 
I received a unit of the DA-P1 Ray, Sunrise’s new entry-level DAC/amp combo, by pure happenstance in place of some IEMs I wanted to review, but decided to try it before sending it back. After a few hours with the Ray, I was convinced that it warranted a much longer audition.
 
The Ray, said to be priced around the $200 mark, is a portable DAC/amp with USB input and a built-in Lithium polymer battery. I’ve owned at least a dozen portable amps in my time here at Head-Fi but my long-term collection is rather small – a DIY mini3 amp and an iBasso D10 and Fiio E7 DAC/amp combos. The E7 and D10 are older models but their extant counterparts are competition for the Ray – one cheaper (the Fiio E07k) and one more expensive (the D12).
 
As with all my reviews, this is my subjective opinion and should be taken as such, perhaps even more so than usual since an evaluation of an amp depends on many different factors. For reference, though other sets were used, all of my comparative listening was done using two headphones and two earphones, as follows:
 
Ultimate Ears 600: UE’s entry-level balanced armature monitors notable for their low impedance and high sensitivity
Unique Melody Miracle: a high-end custom monitor that happens to be one of the better-performing headphones I own
V-Moda M-80: Upper-tier portable headphone that has become a favorite around Head-Fi for its smooth and relatively balanced sound signature
Sennheiser HD580: Age-old Sennheiser reference headphone that bears a close relation to the current HD600
 

Packaging & Accessories

 

Sunrise Audio Ray with carrying case
 
The Ray comes in plain-looking cardboard packaging but boasts a plethora of pack-ins, including a very nice hard shell carrying case and all of the necessary cables - a rather long mini USB cord, a short 3.5mm interconnect, and an LOD for previous-gen Apple devices.
 

Design & Build Quality

 

Front of unit
 

Back of unit
 
The construction of the Ray is simple, but solid. It is similar in size to my Fiio E7, only a little wider and shorter. The finish of the aluminum case is part brushed, part sandblasted. The top of the unit holds a Sunrise plaque underneath a clear plastic window. Two indicator lights signal on/off and charge states.
 
The front of the amp holds a smooth volume knob that doubles as the power switch, as well as input and output jacks. The rear has only a mini USB port. The unit is well-designed in being able to accommodate two large 3.5mm plugs side by side. The jacks can also handle 4-pole TRRS plugs, which are used by IEMs and headphones with headset functionality.

Specifications

 
Wolfson WM8740 DAC Chip + TI PCM2706 USB Receiver
Output Power: >250mW (16Ω load); >36mW (300Ω load)
SNR: ≥109dB (Amp); ≥104dB (DAC)
Distortion: <0.001% (Amp); <0.007% (DAC)
Frequency response: 10Hz~100kHz (Amp); 10Hz~20kHz (DAC)
Battery: 1500mAh Li-polymer
Charge time / play time: 3.5 hours / 30 hours
Product Size: 90mm*60mm*15mm (L*W*H)
 
 

Functionality & Sound

 

Size comparison between Sunrise Audio Ray (left), Fiio E7 (center), and iBasso D10 Cobra (right)
 
The Ray is a very simple device – there are no gain settings, no onboard EQ, and no Coax or optical input. The volume control is the only means of interaction with the amp and there isn’t even a line-level output jack. I don’t know if this minimalism is what’s responsible but the Ray lacks all of my usual portable amplifier pet peeves. There is no audible voltage spike when powering on the amp – the one that usually results in an annoying loud “click” when an amp is powered on or off and can even damage headphones in extreme cases. The noise floor is quite low - with the UE 600, which is one of my most sensitive armature-based IEMs, I can just barely detect a hint of background hiss. Contrast this with the $500 ADL Cruise Amp/DAC, which left me completely cold due to its excessive background noise with most armature-based IEMs.
 
The Ray’s volume control remains sensitive all the way down and the unit avoids another issue common with amps that use analog potentiometers - there’s no channel imbalance even at the very lowest volumes. This is not something I can say even for my iBasso D10. Lastly, the unit seems to be properly shielded from interference and works fine when stacked with a phone – an issue that plagued older Fiio models, for example. Combined, these factors lead to the Ray being one of the better amp/DAC combos I’ve tried for use on the go.
 
The DAC section of the Ray uses a popular chip combination, pairing a Wolfson WM8740 DAC with a TI PCM2706 USB Receiver. I tested it mostly in DAC mode but it had very similar tendencies when used only as an amp. The Ray is quite transparent but pursues a slightly leaner, tighter, and less warm sound than my Fiio and iBasso units. The bass is very clean and quick, and seems to be reduced just a touch when used with earphones that have extremely low impedance, such as the UE600. I still like the iBasso D10 best with the UE600, followed by the Fiio E7 and Sunrise Ray. With the less sensitive UM Miracle, I ended up having a hard time choosing between the slightly warmer D10 and the leaner, tighter Ray, but both sounded better to me than the E7.
 
Sets with a signature that’s warm and smooth, on the other hand, pair noticeably better with the Ray. The V-Moda M-80, for example, had the quickest and cleanest bass and was closest to a neutral balance, and thus my ideal sound, out of the Ray. The Sennheiser HD580, too, sounded a little more open and effortless from the Ray compared to the Fiio and iBasso units while keeping the same quantity and quality of bass. This clean, well-separated sound was a consistent trait of the Ray and I liked the unit with all of the headphones I tried. Driving power was clearly plentiful and the HD580 sounded no less effortless than it does out of my full-size Tianyun Zero amp/DAC. In fact, I had no problem using the Ray as my primary source both at home and at work for a couple of weeks.
 

Wrap-up

 
In my long-term listening impressions I compared the Sunrise Ray to a Fiio E7 and iBasso D10. To my ears, the Ray easily beats the E7 despite having fewer bells and whistles. And, while it doesn’t pair quite as well with ultra low-impedance earphones as the D10, it offers a tight and quick sound that paired very well with most of the warmer-sounding headphones I tested – a sound I actually prefer. The bottom line is that the Ray provides a no-frills listening experience that avoids the common vexations of other portable amps and will likely be replacing my D10 as my primary headphone test bed. Well done, Sunrise.
 
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Deviltooth

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Thanks for the review.  I was looking at an HRT Microstreamer for my next travel amp/dac but now the Sunrise Ray is also on my radar (I do like a physical volume knob).
 
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I'm hopefully going to review one of these to, I recently got a Muse PD1+ which could be an interesting comparison, both are fairly similar but PD1+ has line out.
 
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This also has a line out!

I have also confirmed it works with Android!
 
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Quote:
Thanks for the review.  I was looking at an HRT Microstreamer for my next travel amp/dac but now the Sunrise Ray is also on my radar (I do like a physical volume knob).
 
I wouldn't mind a digital control if it was easy to operate. Unfortunately with my Fiio E7, for example, there is no way I can change the volume without taking it out of my pocket because the buttons are on the side. 
 
Quote:
I'm hopefully going to review one of these to, I recently got a Muse PD1+ which could be an interesting comparison, both are fairly similar but PD1+ has line out.
 
It's a good unit, more so for its ease of use. I like my source gear to just work. 
 
Quote:
This also has a line out!

I have also confirmed it works with Android!

How does one work this line out on this thing? It's not labeled and not mentioned in the specs/manual. 
 
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Swimsonny

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USB in and amp not on and the line is a line out if I'm not mistaken. When USB is in you'll get a blue led to show working. I think this it, I will check tomorrow as in bed now.

Also how amazing is the case!
 
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Thanks for this, my friend has been looking for something similar, but didn't know which way to go
 
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Quote:
USB in and amp not on and the line is a line out if I'm not mistaken. When USB is in you'll get a blue led to show working. I think this it, I will check tomorrow as in bed now.

Also how amazing is the case!
 
For me the blue LED is only on when the battery is charging and I can't get any sound out of it without turning it on. I really don't think it has a line out function. 
 
 
The case is absolutely fantastic, makes the pouches for all my other amps look like junk. It's not pocketable but it fits 1-2 earphones and all of the necessary cables in addition to the amp. Might even fit a Sansa Clip or iPod Nano or something. 
 
 
Quote:
Thanks for this, my friend has been looking for something similar, but didn't know which way to go
 
 
Glad it's useful 

 
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How did you find it compared to the Cruise outside of noise floor?  Noise is one of the few sonic problems that, while incredibly disruptive, can be worked around with a resistor adapter.
 
Swimsonny, what phone did you test it on?  Newer handsets from Samsung, HTC, and Sony all support USB DACs.  Most others still don't.
 
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Hmmm.... what is the maximum audio sample rate that it supports?
 
48kHz/16 bit or more?
 
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Quote:
 
For me the blue LED is only on when the battery is charging and I can't get any sound out of it without turning it on. I really don't think it has a line out function. 
 
 
The case is absolutely fantastic, makes the pouches for all my other amps look like junk. It's not pocketable but it fits 1-2 earphones and all of the necessary cables in addition to the amp. Might even fit a Sansa Clip or iPod Nano or something. 
 
Oops, yes my mistake. I sort of just guessed that the line out will work as most similar devices i have such as the xDuuo XP-1 and the Govibe Vestamp do not have a line out advertised any where but i did discover that if you do not turn the amp on the input is a line out. This is not the case here so sorry for my hasty mistake.
 
As for the case, yes i am in love with them (as i have to two, one for the dolphin as well) and i use them for my AK100 and a pair of earphones with ease and hold a few spare tips and SD cards in there as well. I think in my unboxing i mention how i wish they sold them separately!
 
Unboxing:
 

 
Also, thanks for the recent sub Joker, i was quite honoured :D
Quote:
Swimsonny, what phone did you test it on?  Newer handsets from Samsung, HTC, and Sony all support USB DACs.  Most others still don't.
Many still do not although some you can flash kernels tat support it, i can confirm this works with my mates S3 and my Nexus 7 that is rooted with a custom kernel.
 
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Nice review Joker.. I expect future Amp/Dac releases are gonna follow suit and start offering awesome cases lol.
 
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Quote:
How did you find it compared to the Cruise outside of noise floor?  Noise is one of the few sonic problems that, while incredibly disruptive, can be worked around with a resistor adapter.
 
From what I understand while a resistor adapter may work well for headphones and dynamic-driver earphones, a lot of armature-based earphones have non-linear impedance and may be affected in various (sometimes negative) ways by added serial resistance. 
 
I also had a shielding issue with the Cruise - it accepted interference from my phone.  
 
Anyway, I liked the Cruise aside from these two issues in my 1-day audition - it's transparent with very good deep bass and a very clean sound. There's tons of power, too. Even the shape worked better than expected in-pocket. 
 
 
Quote:
Hmmm.... what is the maximum audio sample rate that it supports?
 
48kHz/16 bit or more?
 
It is limited by the TI PCM2706 chip, which is 16/48.
 
Quote:
Oops, yes my mistake. I sort of just guessed that the line out will work as most similar devices i have such as the xDuuo XP-1 and the Govibe Vestamp do not have a line out advertised any where but i did discover that if you do not turn the amp on the input is a line out. This is not the case here so sorry for my hasty mistake.
 
Ok, thanks for the clarification. Thought I missed something. 
 
Quote:
Nice review Joker.. I expect future Amp/Dac releases are gonna follow suit and start offering awesome cases lol.

Thanks, let's hope so!
 
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I'll have both of these within the next week, I'll be posting comparison reviews for both.
Quote:
Thanks for the review.  I was looking at an HRT Microstreamer for my next travel amp/dac but now the Sunrise Ray is also on my radar (I do like a physical volume knob).
 
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