Over the last year I have had chance to listen to two DACs, other than the KillerDAC, that are very well reviewed and owned by various reviewers. I thought I would very briefly describe what I heard for anyone interested.
First was the Weiss DAC202 which gets a lot of press and is used by at least one reviewer. I heard it in a system with ASR amplification and Zingali speakers being fed by either a MAC laptop or a Koala CD transport. I used music that I listen to regularly and am very familiar with. The sound had the typical digital signature, which to my ears is thin, clean and clear, but lacking in tone, texture, warmth and naturalness. Spatially it was better than most. However, it sounded artificial and at times confused with either the transport or MAC feeding it. How much did the system contribute to this? In the same session I heard a very good vinyl front end that potrayed all the bits the digital left out, the sound was lovely. Very involving.
Next was the Bryston BDP-1 player and BDA-1 DAC. The BDP-1 is a digital player that can handle hi res formats and can be linked to a network for downloading/ streaming etc. and the player can be controlled by various Apple devices like an iPhone or iPad. Very cool! This is not a disk spinner or a server. To get your music into it you can stream, connect a USB hard drive or a USB stick. There are no moving parts in the machine and it is based on a modified computer with flash memory. I heard this player with the Bryston BDA-1 DAC. Both products get rave reviews and several reviewers have purchased them, suggesting a substantial step forward in technology and sound. I heard this system driving an Arcam preamp with a Bryston amp and B&W 802s. The guys doing the demo set it up while I got into position. Music was similar to that used on the Weiss202.
The system sounded very thin, hard and confused. Not pleasant at all. I asked about the system and found out that someone got confused and was using a Macintosh CD player. The front end was swapped to the Bryston combo and replayed. Much better, though to be honest, that would not have been hard. The Bryston combo was warmer, slightly richer and the confused sound was almost completely gone. Whew! I listened to several cuts of Diana Krall. One from HD tracks which was high resolution, which to me sounded very diffuse and pretty mangled, with no real centre fill. The next version was burned from the normal red book version. Better, much better centre fill, more natural and organic. However, there was no magic. The sound was still very thin, bleached, and not particularly interesting. I asked if valves could be inserted into the system and a Macintosh 275 was used instead of the solid state gear. Better, but only marginally. Still no magic, just a bit warmer and more dimensional.
Compared to the moded Phillips CD960 I use at home (thanks OzMillsy!) the sound of both systems was really lacking in emotion and beauty. I could not live with either. Compared to a KillerDac...well lets not go there, they live on different planets or planes of existence. The devide was enormous to my ears. System synery has a lot do do with the sound we get, but neither system above made music when used with those digital front ends. One did with a nice vinyl front end.
Hope you found it interesting....I did.