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  1. #1

    DAC Review: Weiss DAC202

    Why am I posting a Weiss DAC202 review? The simple reason is that for the past few weeks, my Weiss friend (i.e. he owns Weiss fan, Jason/Medea, Minerva and now DAC202) brought his DAC202 to my place many many times and I am now very familiar with the Weiss DAC202’s sound.

    Disclaimer: Below is my experience in my system only, so YMMV.

    Tech Stuff

    We didn’t take any internal pictures but I found some on the net, so to share with people who are interested.



    Thick Aluminum face plate, but folded sheet metal chassis, fairly resonant when knocked, definitely shouting for some Dynamat treatment.



    The full picture. Clean design, not much audiophile grade component used. The overall size can be 30% smaller still, as it is quite empty inside.

    Two power transformers, one digital and one analogue, nice! But at this price, it should be like this. The digital transformer doesn’t have a faraday shield... can be better.



    DAC202 uses digital isolation transformers at the inputs, good stuff. The digital system is based on a Dice Chip, which uses PLL and asynch reclocking for jitter reduction, works well, although I still prefer memory buffer a bit more.



    Power regulation seems to use LT1175, quite generic nowadays. Analogue output stage uses OPA1632 and AD797 opamps.

    Overall, the DAC202’s digital section is quite good; but the analogue section is a bit too generic, basically straight from some IC datasheet, not much thoughts or innovation here. Generic Opamp outputs with tones of SMD ceramic capacitors (those caps do affect the sound quality and not in a good way).

    I am a bit disappointed that the DAC202’s analogue stage didn’t use any quality components (or audiophile components) for sound quality sake.

    Seems nowadays the digital circuit designers no longer believe in quality components (or audiophile components), just like many of them no longer believe tubes can sound wonderful…what a pity, what if the DAC202 has a tube output stage …

    The Sound

    Ok, now back to the sonics, the strength:

    1. Weiss DAC202 is surely a nice machine, sweet sound, full body mid-range, powerful bass and nice HiFi sounding but without the digital harshness.

    2. Weiss DAC202 does add its own color and try to “improve” the music, so even with bad recordings (e.g. Kylie Minogue CDs), it will sound better.

    3?When we played the Beethoven’s Symphony No.5, the powerful passage and large dynamics were rendered without any compression nor confusion.

    4?With Eva Cassidy, the vocal is nicely warm and sweet, very comfortable indeed.

    5. Stereophile has just reviewed the DAC202, and its measurement performance is excellent.

    Areas which the DAC202 can be improved:

    1?The depth of the sound stage is fairly shallow, for e.g. if with a given record, my LP system can produce a sound stage of 20 ft deep, the AMR DP-777 manages to do 15 ft, the DAC202 can only do 7-10 ft.

    2. Although the vocal is full body, but this comes at the expense of sharp focus, and the vocal has an “echo” effect mask over it. If your album already have quite a bit of echo (e.g. pop albums), then the overall effect may just be too much, I felt like I am listening in the bathroom.

    3?The DAC202 adds quite a bit of color to the vocal, not very natural. Although Eva Cassidy sounded very sweet, but too sweet in fact, it masks Eva’s interpretation of a song (e.g. Bridge Over Troubled Water, LIVE AT BLUES ALLEY), and turn Eva’s voice into just another copycat.

    4?The bass is very powerful, but a bit lumpy. Hence it is difficult to separate way layers after layers of different bass notes in The Planets – Mars.

    But the above are only nit picking really. The one area that really separate the DAC202 from a truly exceptional machine is the lack of musicality. It is indeed very sweet and liquid sounding but just not very musical nor interesting.

    With vocal stuff, seems some of the soul has gone out of the song and the singer is no longer interested in what he is trying to communicate.

    With big and grand classical stuff (Beethoven’s Symphony No.5; No.9, Mahler etc.), tracks with huge dynamics, DAC202 performs quite good. However, if asked to play the Mozart Piano Sonata (Piano Sonata No.4 KV 282 Adagio), then it can be quite a boring affair. If the track requires long and subtle lyrical lines to reveal its beauty, and needs to be allowed to breathe naturally, then the DAC202 may not be ideal.

    Conclusion

    As a final conclusion, the Weiss DAC202 is quite a nice HiFi sounding machine, sweet but not totally natural, also musical is not really its strength.

    P.S. We listen to the DAC202 mostly in Filter B setting. Filter A is the “Sharp roll-off” filter and Filter B is the “Soft Roll-off” filter. Filter B gives a slightly less restricted view of the music, a bit more open. The DAC202 doesn’t have a “Minimum Phase” nor “Apodising” filter.

    Also for the best sound, Weiss should be set at 0.0dB, otherwise there is a small degradation of sound whenever the volume control circuit is employed.

    Digital Sources: Optimised HP TouchSmart PC/CEC TL-1X CD Player/AMR DP-777 DAC/Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II (old)
    Analogue Sources:Koetsu Jade Platinum MC Cartridge/Tri-Planar arm/Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable/AMR PH-77 Phono Stage
    Amplifiers:The Gryphon Elektra Preamplifier/Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 Stereo Amplifier
    Speakers:Kharma Grand Ceramique Midi[br]Cables:Nordost Valhalla (interconnect and speaker cables)/Shunyata Research power Snakes power cables

    Portable: Sony PHA-1/PHA-2; Dragonfly 1.0/1.2; Meridian Explorer, Director; iFi nano iDSD, micro iDAC, micro iDSD; Geek Out; Hdta Serenade DSD

  2. #2
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    DM.....

    Excellent review! Always glad to read an honest impression of a component, warts and all.......and they all have them in some form or another. Thanks for the pics as well.

    Bob
    Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not." — Nelson Pass

  3. #3

    wow 5 grand doesn't even buy


    wow 5 grand doesn't even buy you a decent chassis ;-)

  4. #4
    Sophomore Member MetalNuts's Avatar
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    Most trustworthy review

    Thanks for the review and I find it the most trustworthy review so far regarding the DAC 202.



    MetalNuts

  5. #5
    Sophomore Member krass's Avatar
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    which input interface ?

    did you use for your listening ? I've seen some very positive reviews using the FireWire interface so wonder if your less positive experience could be related to use of different interface ?

    nice honest review....
    Aurender X100L > Audiophilleo USB/SPDIF > Devialet 200 > Verity Audio Parsifal Ovation

  6. #6

    Burl DAC

    I'd be interested in your review of Burl equipment, last summer I upgraded my ADC converter for ripping vinyl and after much research I chose the Burl B2 and it was a huge upgrade over my previous converters. I've been very pleased. From what I understand the Burl excels in terms of musicality and uses a transformer design which some folks believe is also critical to the musicality of highly regarded mic pre amps. It would be interesting to see where their DAC and ADC line up against the Weiss.

    Also, I'm curious how you measure soundstage depth, you quote it in feet, is that a subjective impression?
    Lyra Delos, Thorens TD 295 Mk 4, Parasound JC3, Burl B2 Bomber ADC, Mac Pro, Lynx 16aes, Pure Vinyl Software, Burmester Audio System

  7. #7
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    wow 5 grand doesn't even buy


    wow 5 grand doesn't even buy you a decent chassis ;-)


    Close to 7 grand doesn't either!

  8. #8
    Senior Member One and a half's Avatar
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    +1

    Excellent review, an improvement of at least 600% compared to this site's moderator's reviews which rarely touch on sound quality, interior shots, sound stage and the like.

  9. #9

    Absolute Phase?

    DM

    You probably did, but just checking, did you ensure absolute phase was the same as your existing system?

    Only ask because the SQ negatives you describe are similar to the impact of absolute phase being different to your base system.

    I have found over the years that not enough reviewers check this out before trying to make valid comparisons.

    Cheers
    Frank

  10. #10
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    What about the 777?

    Hi,
    Very nice/useful review. Thanks for taking the time - its people like you who make the site so great. The Weiss is on my short list - had one here to pitch against my Calyx months ago.

    Could you eventually give us a similar tour of your AMR? It is in my very short list too.

    For people who are interested in better understanding Daniel Weiss's approach, I suggest this::
    http://ukiro.com/2011/05/12/interview-daniel-weiss/

    It is quite intriguing to see that his design reflects his views, for example regarding components.

    My feeling was that the Weiss lacks a tiny bit of soul... maybe we know why now....
    Shunyata Hydra 2 w Black Mamba / Mac Mini 2011 (8G/SSD) w Amarra Mini 2.5 w 2T OWC Mercury Elite Pro (FW) / Ayre QB-9 DSD w Siltech Classic Anniversary USB w Nirvana Interconnect / Nagra MPA w RCM w Nirvana power cord / Magico V2 w Siltech LS120 w Shunyata Dark Field Elevator / REL Stadium III w Shunyata Diamondback power cord

  11. #11

    Soul

    Weiss may lack soul, but soul is for musicians and composers. What he has is engineering, which trumps soul when you're designing electronic equipment. If you read the interview, he implies that you can hear the difference between hi res and standard cd.

  12. #12
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    Source ??

    What precisely was the source used - I see there is a list but you didn't say what you actually used, or whether your plumbing was via firewire or SPDIF.

    My interest in the source is always sparked by mention of a laptop - I've got a macbook and a Hackintosh, and the difference in sound via firewire is immense. You can lift the macbook sound by running the player (usually Amarra) and source material out of a ramdisk, but it never gets close to the purpose built machine (SSD disk, fanless, quality power supply).
    Source: Diskless fanless PC Win Server12, fed from HDPlex linear supply and 19v pico
    All SSDs on JCat battery supplies - Roon+HQPlayer - JCat USB - Lampi Big 7
    Amps: Merill Audio Veritas
    Speakers: Trenner and Friedel RA
    Cables : Kubula-Sosna Elation I/C and speaker

  13. #13
    Sophomore Member kana813's Avatar
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    DM, excellent review. Similar

    DM, excellent review. Similar take on the unit's SQ as:
    http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue59/weiss.htm.

    I've heard the DAC202 in my system, and always preferred my PWD. Now with the PWD MK II upgrade, it's really no contest.

    IMO, at its current retail price of $7737., the DAC202 is not a good value.

  14. #14

    Weiss DAC 202 review on Positive Feedback

    My system, used for the review in PFO, is very simple: Computer source, DAC and amps. This eliminates quite a few of the variables.

    My observations on the Weiss DAC 202 are based upon hundreds of hours of use, and comparison with DACs way more expensive ($30-70K) as well as somewhat less expensive ($5K). The associated gear included the Pass XA200.5, as mentioned in the article, and Wilson Sashas. The system is very simple.

    Regarding the use of an external clock, why this should make any difference is not at all clear to me or others who are much better informed on the engineering level, but it certainly does. The DAC sounds best with the Grimm clock, especially at 44 kHz. FireWire was definitely not the best-sounding input, at least with my computers.

    The outstanding virtue of the product is its flexibility with respect to integration with a complex recording studio environment; right behind it are the excellent ergonomics, appearance and ability to match the gain structure of the rest of one's system. The sound quality is good overall, but one should give a careful listen to similarly-priced competing products, some of which are quite a bit newer in design.
    Nicholas Bedworth[br]GMT -10

  15. #15
    Sophomore Member blaine78's Avatar
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    i kinda had a thing about

    i kinda had a thing about weiss products being really overly expensive in general. example, Weiss DAC2 around $3400, weiss minerva, $5000.. it's the SAME DAC! the only difference is the face plate and very cheap plastic and rubber feet!. i bought a minerva, only cause it was on sale as the same price as the DAC2. The firwire didn't work well at all with my PC last year, so i returned the minerva. but have recently discovered that there are a couple of tweaks to fix the firewire issue on my PC and now is working perfectly with the Mytek DAC which uses the same firewire chip...
    Windows 10 | Roon | Lossless | ASIO | Schiit Wyrd
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    PMC Twenty.23

  16. #16

    My CAS sources

    The Weiss 202 was tested with both Fireware and SPDIF. At some instances, the Fireware connection sounded better, especially with high res materials. On other instances, the SPDIF input sounded better.

    Before I thought the Fireware was always the better one, now I am not so sure.

    My CAS setup

    Ripping: was EAC and now dBpoweramp with AccurateRip enable

    PC system:
    Sony Vaio PCG-X505 Notebook (WinXP using MinLogon)
    Apple Macbook (Mac OSX/bootcamp/Win7, SSD mod)
    HP TouchSmart 310 (Win7, SSD mod, I also wish I got the 610 instead, 20" screen is still too small)
    (all boot around 10-20s, so this is how lean/optimise the system are)

    Playback s/w:
    MacOS: Audirvana and BitPerfect (tried Amarra and Pure Music)
    WinXP: ASIO/CPlay on WinXP
    Win7: ASIO/WASAPI(event style)/CPlay/Jplay/J.River

    Computer Connections:
    USB cables (various, including battery powered ones)
    Firewire cable various(This was used only for Weiss DAC202)
    Digital Sources: Optimised HP TouchSmart PC/CEC TL-1X CD Player/AMR DP-777 DAC/Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II (old)
    Analogue Sources:Koetsu Jade Platinum MC Cartridge/Tri-Planar arm/Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable/AMR PH-77 Phono Stage
    Amplifiers:The Gryphon Elektra Preamplifier/Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 Stereo Amplifier
    Speakers:Kharma Grand Ceramique Midi[br]Cables:Nordost Valhalla (interconnect and speaker cables)/Shunyata Research power Snakes power cables

    Portable: Sony PHA-1/PHA-2; Dragonfly 1.0/1.2; Meridian Explorer, Director; iFi nano iDSD, micro iDAC, micro iDSD; Geek Out; Hdta Serenade DSD

  17. #17
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    Wiess is definitely not a

    Wiess is definitely not a great value. I recall, when CA was doing the review, the price went up $400 while Chris was writing the review. Then I noticed while reading Stereophile review, the price went up $1000 more. That's just crazy.



  18. #18

    FireWire tweaks for PC...

    So how did you get the FireWire to work with your DAC? In my case, it would work fine on Vista, with a Qosmio laptop, but not with any of my Windows 7 laptops from HP...


    Nicholas Bedworth[br]GMT -10

  19. #19

    The "Phase" thing

    I went through the "Phase" thing a while ago, spend many hours together with my friends and try to listen for differences.

    First, the system is checked and the Phase is correct in normal use.

    Both the Weiss and DP-777 had a phase switch, we have tried many combinations and the sonic difference was small to say the least. More psychological than actual I would say.

    We did some further research into this area and found out that this has been discussed to death on Audio Asylum already and like all Hi End stuff, there is no agreed position.

    But basically this come down to:

    Absolute Phase is only relevant if one only record the recording using minimum miking, i.e. only with two microphones or less.

    If more than two microphones were used, then the phase information is lost at the mixing desk already.

    Sadly 99.99% of the recordings now use multiple microphones, for 5 to 6 for Jazz records and up to 15 for classical records.

    But anyway, I did check my system and it is in the correct phase, just to be on the safe side.
    Digital Sources: Optimised HP TouchSmart PC/CEC TL-1X CD Player/AMR DP-777 DAC/Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II (old)
    Analogue Sources:Koetsu Jade Platinum MC Cartridge/Tri-Planar arm/Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable/AMR PH-77 Phono Stage
    Amplifiers:The Gryphon Elektra Preamplifier/Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 Stereo Amplifier
    Speakers:Kharma Grand Ceramique Midi[br]Cables:Nordost Valhalla (interconnect and speaker cables)/Shunyata Research power Snakes power cables

    Portable: Sony PHA-1/PHA-2; Dragonfly 1.0/1.2; Meridian Explorer, Director; iFi nano iDSD, micro iDAC, micro iDSD; Geek Out; Hdta Serenade DSD

  20. #20
    Sophomore Member SteveS1's Avatar
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    Firewire / A Filter

    Interesting review. Using Mac/Firewire and various Spdif sources including PC/CD Transport/Streamer - I formed a preference for the Firewire input. Also, the A filter sounded more neutral and natural to me, with some HF roll off and slight warmth introduced when listening to B.

    At the eye-watering prices quoted here I would rate it less highly. I paid significantly less and have yet to hear anything as good in that range. The CD player I used to own, now comprehensively outperformed by many DACs that we routinely see analysed here, was rrp'd at $10k or so. :-)
    Mac Mini/Amarra Symphony With IRC/Stello U3 - Weiss DAC202 - Lavardin IT-15 - ART Emotion Sigs

  21. #21

    Great review! Very good

    Great review! Very good information provided!


  22. #22

    And yet for all those prosaic

    And yet for all those prosaic components it's the best measuring dac that Stereophile has ever had on its test bench. Which just goes to show it is not the parts that count but how you use them.

    I feel sure that if the transformer were radiating and negatively affecting sound quality that they would be shielded, the output stage and dac section is shielded no doubt for just this reason.

    There's a difference between sufficient and excess, many dacs include a whole lot more things that we might think make a difference, yet they don't measure as well as the Weiss 202.

    A cursory glance at a pcb layout can only tell you if it is majorly flawed, it tells you nothing about the countless careful hours of design, measurement and generations of revisions and improvement that have gone into the product delivered to the customer. Assuming that one understands the circuit better than the design merely from visual inspection is most humorous.

    I look forward to the OP coming up with a full upgrades pack for the Weiss 202 based on his insight.
    17\"MB-Pro-Weiss 202-Muse 200- NS 1000M

  23. #23

    Nice review

    The comments echoes what I feel about the Minerva and DAC202. Good to know I'm increasingly not alone.

    Have you done a comparison with the Medea and if this breaks the mould? Or does it have the same sonic character?

  24. #24
    Senior Member barrows's Avatar
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    Thanks for...

    This:

    "I look forward to the OP coming up with a full upgrades pack for the Weiss 202 based on his insight."

    Nice humor for the day! I would take it one step further-I look forward to the day when the OP releases the superior DAC of his own design, at a much more reasonable price point! And, I hope that it is made in Switzerland as well.




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    Design/Build Consultant with Simple Design/Sonore

  25. #25
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    Tough for me to believe

    the statement "The depth of the sound stage is fairly shallow..."

    First and foremost sound stage depends on the speakers more than anything else and my experience with a similar Weiss product (DAC2 which shares many features with DAC202 except the analogue stage) is quite contrary to the claim (fairly shallow sound stage)

    Now I use them with Revel Ultima Salon2's which are well known for their outstanding soundstage but my DAC2 never seemed to deduct/restrict any aspect of the speaker on the sound stage domain.

    I will be very surprised if I hear non-neutral vocals with DAC202 as well, based on my experience with a similar line of product.

    But like the reviewer said, YMMV.

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