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Thoughts on a bunch of DACs (and why delta-sigma kinda sucks, just to get you to think about stuff)

Discussion in 'Dedicated Source Components' started by purrin, Dec 5, 2013.
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  1. Tom W
    @ Sorrodje,
    Thanks for the comparison.
    Just curious original Octave or Octave Mk II?
    What digital source(s) did you use? USB? CD Player?
  2. Sorrodje
    Octave MKI , Xmox USB to SPDIF interface with lits inear power supply , mostly 16/44,1 material  upsampled ( OS upsampling)  to 24/88,1 because I felt the octave sounded better that way as I've previously noticed during the year I owned it.  :wink:
  3. SynthAddicted
    If people don't mind jumping back to the subject of ~$500 Dacs,
    The Gamma2 looks interesting but I think I'd rather not go for something DIY (At least as long as it's going to be my only setup. So that leaves me looking at:
    Magni/Modi 2 uber stack
    Emotiva XDA or DC-1
    ifi Micro iDSD
    Mousai MSD192
    Most of the DACs I have listened to are professional audio interfaces/converters, often on studio monitoring setups- The only real exception to this is the McIntosh D100 with headphones (which I enjoyed but it didn't sound too accurate to me- but then maybe that's just the 50 ohm headphone amp it has).
    I will be using whatever I opt for to do sound design as well as just listening to music, so accuracy, "resolving power" (to hear what I'm doing with synthesizers etc) and avoiding listening fatigue are my priorities. Given the feature sets of the above devices, I find myself leaning towards the ifi and DC-1, which out-value the others imo (Granted the schiit stack is cheaper, but still). At the same time, sound quality is king for me- so I'm open to any of the above. Also, I'm really curious about the Mousai because LFF praised its accuracy for the price (And I'm considering a pair of Paradox).
    Purrin, if you read this, I would love your input, as I seem to hear similar flaws to you when auditioning DACs. During studio sessions at my college, I am fortunate enough to have access to rather impressive-sounding recording chains (U47 FET through a RND 5088 for example, if anyone happens to be curious)- and I always saddened when I switch from the live feed to the one coming out of the Mac Pro- especially about the high frequencies, in a way that I suspect that my frustration might be at least somewhat with delta-sigma modulation. This has me curious about the pcm1794 implementation of the ifi micro, but I am not nearly as knowledgeable as I would like to be about audio electronics.
  4. purrin
    Magni 2 / Modi 2 Uber was pretty darn good for the price. It is on the warm sounding side, especially if you get the Magni 2 Uber instead of the Magni 2 standard.
    I think @thegunner100 wrote a review on DC-1 vs. Gungnir. The Emotiva was received favorably. I have not heard the DC-1 myself, but I trust gunner. The DC-1 has the AD1955 which I feel is a good sounding chip. Also uses good opamps LM4562 and has a good sized transformer. Based on parts, it's a good value.
    I don't like any of the PCM179x DACs. The sound is not offensive, but rather slow and dead. Something happened with BB/TI. Since PCM63, everything DAC chip they make seems to get progressively crappier sounding. Lots of people like the ifi Micro iDSD. I only have the ifi Nano iDSD in my possession, and it is one of the biggest turds I've ever heard. The Micro being more expensive could be better sounding though. But I think this is unlikely if it's powered from USB. I've never liked any USB or small battery powered DAC. The iFi Micro seems to have poorer value than the rest when cost of parts are taken into consideration.
    Mousai I have not heard, but my friend LFF liked it. Wolfson chips and OPA627 opamps. In theory shouldn't be bad sounding. Great price on Massdrop recently.
    If you live in the USA, Schiit and Emotiva might have service advantages, but it probably doesn't matter because you will get something different within a year.
    Personally, I would get the DC-1 from Amazon and try it out.
  5. kugino Contributor
    so has anyone here heard any of the older monarchy audio dacs? they used the pcm63 chips in them and seemed to have really favorable reviews at the time.
  6. SynthAddicted
    Thanks for the input Purrin :)
    I concur about trying out the Emotiva- I was planning on auditioning at least it and the ifi- which I love the feature set of, but sonically I have read more and more concerning things about it as time has gone on (at least from the perspective of working with it for any kind of sound design/music production). I would love to hear the mousai, but I don't want to deal with returning it to china- so I would have to find one near me to listen to. Also, the feature set is a bit limited for my tastes/desires, so I will probably only really consider it if the DC-1 and I don't get along for whatever reason.
    As far as the Schiit is concerend, I might just scoop the pair up to audition against the DC-1, especially given that this would actually give me four different configurations to try out. I definitely enjoy a warm sound as long as it is not bloated, but I would prefer to have speed and transient accuracy for production purposes.
    Cool to hear that you're friends with LFF. I'd love your opinion on his Paradox headphones, as I have all but decided that I'm going to buy a pair to use as production/studio workhorses. I'm actually pretty limited for options as I want closed, accurate (neuteral), production-oriented cans, but they have to be planar magnetic- I have yet to hear a pair of dynamic headphones that I don't find at least a little bit fatiguing (some are ok for listening to music, but for the dynamics involved in production it doesn't work out), much less enjoy as much as planars. Perhaps I'm particularly sensitive to IMD? I'm not sure, but the upshot of it all is that while I might tolerate the limitations of open planars, I'm not going to spend hundreds on a pair of dynamic headphones at the moment.
    As far as I'm aware, this essentially limits my options to a T50RP mod, HE-400i/500/560s, PM-3s and EL-8's, (I probably shouldn't budget more than around $7-800). Having heard the LCD-2 and LCD-3, I presume I would really enjoy the EL-8s but I'm not sure if the Audeze house sound is what I want for studio/sound design work. Also, from what I've heard so far it seems that the PM-3s aren't quite at the same sound quality level as some of the other options. I don't really want to go for the HE series as they are open, so that leaves the Paradox and the Alpha dogs/primes as front runners alongside the EL-8. I have heard a pair of DIY-modified T50s that I absolutely loved, but they weren't really accurate. I also listened to a pair of Alpha Dogs at a meet and while the frequency response sounded pretty linear, the highs seemed a bit off somehow (my pet peeve, even with speakers, is highs that either sound quite unrealistic or irritate my ears) and while they sounded 3d, the sense of space seemed somehow unnatural (especially going back to back with HD800s- which I did)
    All that being said, based on my experiences and what I have read thus far I expect to probably love the Paradox (I think its the time domain coherence of the "RP" technology in the T50rp drivers that does it for me), and I am immensely curious as to what the EL-8 will sound like. If you have any thoughts about all this, I'd love your input :)        
    Thanks again,
  7. purrin
    The Schiit low end stuff is really just too neat and cheap not to try. It's like the cool stuff on Massdrop. I have schiit from Schiit and Massdrop still sitting inside the boxes.
    I'm down to one headphone now, and that is the Paradox. I liked the HD800's technicalities, but it just gives me a headache and I really don't want to screw up my ear now that I'm back experimenting with speakers again. Audezes are nice listen, the only problem with using them for production work is that you'll probably end up with too bright of the sound if you acclimate and forget they are tuned to be laid-back / rolled.
    You can look up random FR graphs here and there, and at the end of the day, the Paradox sounds the most like my speaker setup (using an old B&K microphone target response at listening position). The Paradox is a touch bright in the mid-treble. Just notch down 2-3db around 9k and you are done. Depends upon the chain. I know Luis likes a little boost up there to help definition when he's mastering stuff. IME, Paradox + Sabre DAC = bad idea. Actually, anything, with some exceptions of couse, with Sabre = bad idea. :)
    The Alpha Dogs are OK, slightly better resolution and definition compared to Paradox, but I found a hardness or glare in the treble to the sound which only weakly correlated with measurements (maybe a small bump around 6kHz).
  8. purrin
    I would have gotten one, but people are asking too much for them.
    Now what would be awesome would be a tubed Yggdrasil. But I know Mike, Jason, and the guys at Schiit would never do that. Yup never. Never ever. Probably not enough real estate since would need separate power supply for the tubes.
  9. EraserXIV
    I've been pretty impressed with my Modi 2 Uber. It sonically reminds me of the Gamma 2 when I had it, but for half the price, in a better looking chasis, and a much more robust USB implementation. It's on the warmer side, but is still detailed, dynamic, and the bass impact is great.
    Been thinking of getting a normal Modi 2 (non-uber) as a gift for a friend, but I'm afraid the loss of the linear power supply will change its sound. Can anyone confirm or deny?
  10. 7ryder
  11. jexby
    this "warmth" of modi 2 uber is interesting, IIRC the modi 1 non-uber was initially reported as "slightly bright, or thin" ?
  12. snip3r77
    Is there an R2R usb stick type ( ala dragonfly ) ?
  13. jexby
    my ears dream of such....
  14. EraserXIV
    It's not warm, it's essentially neutral at its core, but I would say it leans more towards the warm-side of the neutral spectrum. Never heard the modi 1, but I definitely wouldn't call the Modi 2U thin or bright.
    If you've heard the Gamma 2 before, I'd say its pretty similar to that.
  15. thegunner100
    The DC-1 is a great value at $500 and comes with tons of features that similarly priced dacs don't have. You get multiple inputs, SE/balanced pre-amp outputs, and a remote control! At the time that I wrote my comparison between the DC-1 and Gungnir, I felt that the two weren't all too much different from each other. However... now I can probably tell more of a difference between the two since I'm more experienced. By association though, the DC-1 is probably a better buy than the bifrost with the uber and gen 2 usb upgrades.
    I returned the DC-1 and kept the Gungnir because I felt that the Gungnir was just a bit better, and while it doesn't have the features that the DC-1 does, it will be upgradeable in the future. 
    Another dac that you could try right now is the GO 450 since it is just $129 on massdrop right now. The GO is seriously a VERY good dac for it's price, plus it's very portable if you need that sort of thing. I don't know how it compares to the Modi 2 uber though. 
    jexby likes this.
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