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  1. #51
    Quote Originally Posted by JHG View Post
    How about the new Chord Hugo?
    I have the Meridian Explorer. I did demo the Meridian Director. For me price was not an issue. I just felt Director was too analytical and clinical sounding. It did not have a sweet warm musical sound. But i did demo the Hugo. The Hugo is a huge upgrade. Excellent sound stage and extremely musical. When i say musical i mean ...you feel like you are in the symphony hall listening to sweet live music.
    Music after life

  2. #52
    Sophomore Member DM's Avatar
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    Sorry guys, been away a while, so review delayed.

    here come the Sony PHA-2, Sony PHA-1 and nano iDSD review, a couple photos first:

    pha2_idsd.jpg

    The silkprint on the Sony PHA-2 came off very easily ... this is really at odds with the Sony quality I expected.
    pha-2_print.jpg
    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

  3. #53
    Sophomore Member DM's Avatar
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    Sony PHA-1, Sony PHA-2, nano iDSD

    Sony PHA-1

    4ef843aa3688dbb81527c820717f3117.jpeg

    I had this for more than a year and I now gave this to one of my colleague too. It is a nice and sturdy built unit (220g) and the industrial design is good. The way how it mounted its rubber bands is a great design.

    Support sampling frequency up to 96kHz, doesn’t support 176/192kHz; and no support for DSD and DXD. Again this is the biggest concern for our audiophiles. It does support smartphones (iOS/Android) upto 48kHz.

    Sound:

    It didn’t sound bad, but it didn’t inspire neither. It is a bit on the lean side, lacking body and too “digital” sounding. Highs were clean but a bit too bright. Bass from the Kodo drummers lost some sense of weight and the diameter of the drum seems reduced. Norah Jones also has a hint of J-Pop style with the PHA-1, I didn’t quite enjoy that.

    Conclusion:

    I only throw the PHA-1 in the review as I had it for quite a while, so just another data point. The PHA-1 is a typical Japanese product with typical Japanese sound, clean but not very engaging nor emotional. Now the PHA-2 is out and I see no reason to get the PHA-1 anymore.

    Overall, I will rate the PHA-1 a score of 50 out of 100, not recommended (even now at discounted ~USD300).

    Sony PHA-2
    6e59b018_sony-pha-2-iso.jpeg

    This is a new toy and it kept the nice industrial design as the PHA-2. The unit is a bit longer and heavier than the PHA-2 (270g),

    Support sampling frequency up to 192kHz and support for DSD128. It also supports smartphones (iOS/Android).

    Sound:

    This performs much better than the PHA-1, it actually so different that I don’t feel there is any bloodline there at all. The PHA-2 compares to the PHA-1 is meatier, higher resolution, less digital glare, more balanced overall.
    No more turning a jazz singer into J-Pop singer trick. Deep emotional expression might not be the mark of a Carol Kidd, but the PHA-2 successful creates a moody performance which stays with you after the music has stopped playing.

    With kodo drummers, the bass is powerful and the speed was not lacking neither. With DSD tracks, it adds a layer or smoothness (or softness) on top of the track. It does sound a bit artificial and fuzzy on some DSD tracks. The PHA-2’s PCM performance is better than its DSD sibling.

    Conclusion:

    The PHA-2 is a whole different breast when compares to the PHA-1. Yes, it costs twice as much currently (~USD600), but it betters the PHA-1 in each and every aspect. It has a sound quality that will make any Japanese proud. Overall, I will rate the PHA-2 a score of 77 out of 100, recommended.

    iFi nano iDSD
    nanoidsd_01.jpg

    At the beginning of the year, it took me a while to get my hands on this little guy (sold out everywhere). It built like a tank (full Aluminum) and the finishing has an Apple touch to it. The volume knob has a nice firm feeling to it and the accessories are well thought (cloth pouch, silicon pads, bands etc.)

    Support sampling frequency up to 384kHz (so DXD is supported); and also DSD256! It supports smartphones (iOS/Android). I played 384kHz/DSD256 on my iPhone 5s using HF Player. It also has adjustable Digital Filters and Minimum Phase filter is the one I liked the most.

    Sound:

    The sound is very natural and balanced, with enough speed and power and also a hint of sweetness in the vocal. It engages people and just keep pumping out emotional content over and over again. This now seems like a house sound of iFi now, both of their products (iDAC and iDSD) sounded very musical. It just made me want to keep on listening.

    With PCM materials, it is almost as good as the PHA-2, but loses out slightly on outright spaceness and vocal body. The PHA-2 does have a slightly full body. On DSD material, the iDSD is in a class of its own, it doesn’t sound fuzzy like the PHA-2. The DSD recordings from 2L (DSD128) and wechdomi.org (DSD256) are just fabulous.

    Conclusion:

    On outright PCM sound quality wise, the nano iDSD is very slightly behind the Sony PHA-2 and the Meridian Director. However, on DSD materials, the iDSD really holds its own, especially with the free DSD256 upgrade. Overall I will rate the nano iDSD 75 out of 100. But consider the difference in price, USD189 vs. USD699 and USD600, the nano iDSD also has DXD/DSD support for iPhones, it is a no-brainer recommendation. In fact, I will name it the first Best-Buy in this ongoing review.
    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

  4. #54
    Just wait until the micro iDSD comes out this summer...
    JRiver 20/Roon, Squeezebox Touch, REGEN, NAD M51, Audio Research SP-9 mkIII, Odyssey Stratos Monos (maxed out), Anthony Gallo Ref 3.5

    JRiver 20/Roon, Ayre Codex, Audeze LCD-3F, Sennheiser HD800S, ADAM F5

  5. #55
    DM,

    I'm unsure as to whether this was asked earlier in the thread but are you testing the DAC/Amps as a true DAC (line out) or through its headphone out, using its amplifier capabilities? By any chance, have you had the chance to listen through a DACport LX or a CLAS -dB DAC?

  6. #56
    Orange is the new Putin wgscott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Computer Audiophile View Post
    Hi DM - You said, "This shows when an actual audio company (not some cable company like Audioquest) designs a DAC, they at least know what they are doing."

    I highly recommend fact checking before leading people astray with untrue comments. The DragonFly was designed by the "Godfather" of high end USB audio, Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio.

    This kind of thing, and the pseudo-quantitation (75/100 score), really makes me worry that this is subjective impressionism run amok.
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  7. #57
    Sophomore Member DM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maricius View Post
    DM,

    I'm unsure as to whether this was asked earlier in the thread but are you testing the DAC/Amps as a true DAC (line out) or through its headphone out, using its amplifier capabilities? By any chance, have you had the chance to listen through a DACport LX or a CLAS -dB DAC?

    I did the tests using my headphones and my QMS active desktop monitors.

    No, haven't heard DACport LX or a CLAS -dB DAC yet.
    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

  8. #58
    DM,

    Seeing that you liked the iDSD Nano, check this out.
    Micro – iDSD

    and this

    http://cdn.head-fi.org/0/0d/0d4e0f55_mDSDunderside.jpeg

    I hope to see this in your comparison!!

  9. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by maricius View Post
    DM,

    Seeing that you liked the iDSD Nano, check this out.
    Micro – iDSD

    and this

    http://cdn.head-fi.org/0/0d/0d4e0f55_mDSDunderside.jpeg

    I hope to see this in your comparison!!
    The iFi Micro iDSD is going to be the bomb! I'm all over it
    John Walker
    IT Executive
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    Mac Mini running Roon Server > generic HDMI > Pioneer Elite SC-81 > MartinLogan Motion series home theater speakers + M&K subwoofer

  10. #60
    Have anyone had the chance to listen the Audioengine D3?

  11. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhwalker View Post
    The iFi Micro iDSD is going to be the bomb! I'm all over it
    I certainly looks that way!

  12. #62
    mikemcsw
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    I just sold my second dac and i am in the market again. For the most part, i think i will just do dlna and let my AVR be my dac. Several cheap recievers now have internal dacs for dsd. And i don't care what others say...The dacs in these recievers sound just as good as any of these lower end dacs, and sound as good as a $2k Dac i had as well.


    Back to this thread...This thread needs a bump. Several questions unanswered.

    1. What about the M2tech?
    2. What about the D3?
    3. What about the geek out?

    4. Do any of these allow you to adjust the volume from the PC besides the dragonfly. I think the herus does too? Basically if the unit has buttons or knob for volume control, it will NOT allow you to control the volume from the PC. I have had a few dacs now, but that is what i miss about the dragonfly.

    I would buy the ifi, but i want one that allows me to control volume from pc, and i think only the herus and dragonfly do that.

    Finally, A question about the external usb power supply mentioned made by ifi. I have a powered external usb hub will that serve the same purpose...is it just that the power is external or is there something in the ifi that supposedly makes it more "musical"?

  13. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Mcsweeney View Post
    I just sold my second dac and i am in the market again. For the most part, i think i will just do dlna and let my AVR be my dac. Several cheap recievers now have internal dacs for dsd. And i don't care what others say...The dacs in these recievers sound just as good as any of these lower end dacs, and sound as good as a $2k Dac i had as well.


    Back to this thread...This thread needs a bump. Several questions unanswered.

    1. What about the M2tech?
    2. What about the D3?
    3. What about the geek out?

    4. Do any of these allow you to adjust the volume from the PC besides the dragonfly. I think the herus does too? Basically if the unit has buttons or knob for volume control, it will NOT allow you to control the volume from the PC. I have had a few dacs now, but that is what i miss about the dragonfly.

    I would buy the ifi, but i want one that allows me to control volume from pc, and i think only the herus and dragonfly do that.

    Finally, A question about the external usb power supply mentioned made by ifi. I have a powered external usb hub will that serve the same purpose...is it just that the power is external or is there something in the ifi that supposedly makes it more "musical"?
    Well I read every post in this thread trying to decide what to buy and if to by and this last post put me right back to square one. I am not an audiophile by definition I guess, and I've spent way to much time on a flight line with turbines and at the range to say my hearing could pass any real tests. I guess you could call my a budget audiophile hobbyist. I have read reviews and carefully picked what I have to try and provide bang for the buck. Right now I have a Denon AVR-X1100W, B&W 685 S2, Definitive SuperCube 2000, and SpeakerCraft Aim-8's, a Mac Mini (2012) and PS4. My system has to play both roles of 2 Channel audio and 5.1 movies. The Mac Mini & PS4 are both connected to the Denon via HDMI, the audio settings of the Mac are set to 96/24 and I purchase 96/24 FLAC when I can and burn CD's to the FLAC. The B&W's are bi-amped since I only need 5.1 of the Denon's 7.2 capabilities.

    I read this hoping to get just a little more out of my system for just a little more. My Denon has a TI PCM1690 DAC built in and comes with Audyssey MultEQ® XT but it also has Direct and Pure Direct modes. Initially I was thinking about the Meridian Explorer thinking it probably met my "bang for the buck" requirements.

    So there is a question in here. I know this system doesn't come close to most people's here, but would buying the Meridian or even splurging for the iFi iDSD change the sound of my system?

  14. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by nomad33fw View Post
    Well I read every post in this thread trying to decide what to buy and if to by and this last post put me right back to square one. I am not an audiophile by definition I guess, and I've spent way to much time on a flight line with turbines and at the range to say my hearing could pass any real tests. I guess you could call my a budget audiophile hobbyist. I have read reviews and carefully picked what I have to try and provide bang for the buck. Right now I have a Denon AVR-X1100W, B&W 685 S2, Definitive SuperCube 2000, and SpeakerCraft Aim-8's, a Mac Mini (2012) and PS4. My system has to play both roles of 2 Channel audio and 5.1 movies. The Mac Mini & PS4 are both connected to the Denon via HDMI, the audio settings of the Mac are set to 96/24 and I purchase 96/24 FLAC when I can and burn CD's to the FLAC. The B&W's are bi-amped since I only need 5.1 of the Denon's 7.2 capabilities.

    I read this hoping to get just a little more out of my system for just a little more. My Denon has a TI PCM1690 DAC built in and comes with Audyssey MultEQ® XT but it also has Direct and Pure Direct modes. Initially I was thinking about the Meridian Explorer thinking it probably met my "bang for the buck" requirements.

    So there is a question in here. I know this system doesn't come close to most people's here, but would buying the Meridian or even splurging for the iFi iDSD change the sound of my system?
    Unless you're going to run the output of the new DAC through your Denon AVR in Direct / Pure Direct mode only (in which case, you give up the benefits of both Audyssey and subwoofer management), inserting an additional device in the signal path will not likely provide a great deal of improvement, as the Denon takes the analog output from your DAC, re-digitizes it through *its* ADC, runs it through all it's internal processing (which likely involves yet more digital / analog conversions and additional "Denon-ization" of the sound), etc., before finally spitting it back out to your speakers.

    With AVRs, I think it makes sense either to run only in Pure / Pure Direct mode (in which case, better have quality, full range speakers, since you lose both subwoofer and Audyssey processing) or just use the AVRs internal DAC(s), which tend to be pretty nice these days, in any case.
    John Walker
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    Home Theater
    Mac Mini running Roon Server > generic HDMI > Pioneer Elite SC-81 > MartinLogan Motion series home theater speakers + M&K subwoofer

  15. #65
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    Thank you for your reply. I learn so much here. I broke out the Denon manual and found that in Direct and Pure Direct modes the subwoofer is on if I set it to LFE+Main. The B&W frequency response is 52Hz - 22KHz and by SuperCube claims it can go down to 20Hz..
    When you say I loose subwoofer management what do you mean?

  16. #66
    Sophomore Member DM's Avatar
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    Hi, sorry for no update for a long while. I finally had the Geek Out for a while now, so will do an update shortly. I also have the iFi micro iDSD and hdta (Tempotec in China) Serenade DSD here. I am stilling waiting for my Geek Pulse...
    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. #67
    Quote Originally Posted by nomad33fw View Post
    Thank you for your reply. I learn so much here. I broke out the Denon manual and found that in Direct and Pure Direct modes the subwoofer is on if I set it to LFE+Main. The B&W frequency response is 52Hz - 22KHz and by SuperCube claims it can go down to 20Hz..
    When you say I loose subwoofer management what do you mean?
    I think of the LFE + MAIN setting as a "double bass" feature. When your receiver is set to "Direct" or "Pure Direct" as indicated by John, traditionally this means the receiver does essentially nothing to the signal besides the D/A conversion and any volume control. This also means any bass management/crossover to your subwoofers is ignored, so in traditional Direct/Pure Direct, you would not hear anything from the subwoofers as there is no signal being routed to them.

    However, with LFE+Main, even when the receiver is set to Direct/Pure Direct, bass signals are still routed to the subwoofer IN ADDITIONAL TO a full range signal being sent to your main speakers. This is why I refer to it as a "double bass" kind of feature- instead of signals being routed via a crossover or bass management feature to the subwoofer to only be played by the subwoofer (and easing the load off of the main speakers), you are getting the full range to your mains "plus" the subwoofer. The sound usually takes on a significant bass flavor to it, and is not really an accurate representation of the original signal.

    Also, depending on how spirited your playback level is, there could be a fair level of additional strain placed on the Denon and the B&W speakers since a full range signal is being sent to those bookshelves, which are according to the specs not the most efficient of speakers, and that can place a little bit more demand on the Denon amplifier as well.
    Office: iPod classic/iPad -> Shure SE425 IEM Home: Oppo BDP-83/Synology DS211j -> Integra DTR-7.8 -> Revel speakers

  18. #68
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    Thank you. For now I just purchased Audirvana Plus, think it sounds better but that could be physiological too. The HD music I have from B&W sounds terrific, I had been using VOX to play it. I've seen the iFi Nano for $189 so it's not out of the realm of buying it to experiment with.

  19. #69
    Ph.D. Level Member Paul R's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nomad33fw View Post
    Thank you. For now I just purchased Audirvana Plus, think it sounds better but that could be physiological too. The HD music I have from B&W sounds terrific, I had been using VOX to play it. I've seen the iFi Nano for $189 so it's not out of the realm of buying it to experiment with.
    I am thinking that you are in the hot seat between traditional 2channel (with a manually tuned sub if 2.1 or 2.2) and multi-channel processing with an AVR doing that processing. Irritating place to be!

    Given the AVR1100w, I *think* you would get a bit better music reproduction in pure direct two channel mode with an inexpensive DAC like the iFi iDSD Nano or Micro. But the tradeoff there, if you want to use your sub, is you would need to manually dial in the crossover from your sub. Not hard to do, but it would affect your multichannel listening.

    I would suggest a good USB to S/PDIF convertor might be an improvement for your two channel sound, and allow you to use the DACs in your Denon as well as let the Denon manage the crossover. Might I say, so if you can, borrow one from a friend, or buy from an online site that allows returns.

    This is a much tougher to solve problem than it sounds like, but the good news, you are starting with what is probably pretty good sound already, and can take your time trying different options out. One path may be to move "up" to a prepro and separate amps. You can get extraordinary sound that way.

    -Paul
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  20. #70
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul.Raulerson View Post
    I am thinking that you are in the hot seat between traditional 2channel (with a manually tuned sub if 2.1 or 2.2) and multi-channel processing with an AVR doing that processing. Irritating place to be!

    Given the AVR1100w, I *think* you would get a bit better music reproduction in pure direct two channel mode with an inexpensive DAC like the iFi iDSD Nano or Micro. But the tradeoff there, if you want to use your sub, is you would need to manually dial in the crossover from your sub. Not hard to do, but it would affect your multichannel listening.

    I would suggest a good USB to S/PDIF convertor might be an improvement for your two channel sound, and allow you to use the DACs in your Denon as well as let the Denon manage the crossover. Might I say, so if you can, borrow one from a friend, or buy from an online site that allows returns.

    This is a much tougher to solve problem than it sounds like, but the good news, you are starting with what is probably pretty good sound already, and can take your time trying different options out. One path may be to move "up" to a prepro and separate amps. You can get extraordinary sound that way.

    -Paul
    Thank you Paul. I had yesterday off and spent it listening to my favorites. For music I think it sounds better in direct mode, there is way too much bass in standard stereo mode, it's unnatural sounding. Think I will pick up an iFi and tune the sub manually like you say. I will then run the Audyssey for surround and let it correct what ever it wants for that mode.

  21. #71
    IME most of the time pure direct is better with music reproduction. BUt with Audyssey I suggest you try their setting. BUt that means you are bypassing the DAC and therefore don't need one.

    Let us know what's better. I always like DENON sound..
    ~Jason
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  22. #72
    Sophomore Member DM's Avatar
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    Part 3: Geek Out, Hdta Serenade DSD and iFi micro iDSD

    Hi brothers, I am back with a few more reviews to share.

    Here comes the Geek Out (finally), Serenade DSD and iFi micro iDSD.

    img_2820.jpg

    Hdta Serenade DSD : I picked up the Serenade DSD out of curiosity, a new company but with decent marketing, and the most attractive thing of the Serenade DSD is the price, consider what it promised it will be a bargain if it delivers.

    Geek Out: I was one of the original backer of the Geek Out, at the time of the crowd funding campaign, it was one of the more advanced portable DAC announced (the other one was the iFi nano iDSD). However, the delay on the Geek Out was a bit on the excessive side and I got mine more than 9 months later than LH had promised. The Geek Out does look impressive on paper and this is one of the main reasons I went for it.

    iFi micro iDSD: I now use the iFi nano iDSD for travelling and it is my de facto DAC to go to for portable/travelling. When the micro iDSD came out, I just have to try it. It has killer spec, but does it have killer sound?

    Hdta Serenade DSD (Tempotec in China)
    s.jpg
    The Serenade DSD is surely well made for its price (~US$100 in china after some bargaining), although not as well made as the Sony, iFi or Merdian stuff.

    It is quite heavy and require an external 5V DC to run (contrary to earlier reports that it can run on USB alone), so it is definitely not for portable use.

    It said it can support DSD512, but I couldn’t get it to work, it can only go up to DSD256. It doesn’t support DoP, which means no go for Mac users.

    Anyway, for ~US$100, can’t ask for too much.

    Sound:
    The price of the Serenade DSD is the lowest of the all the DAC tested, sadly the sound quality of the Serenade DSD is also the lowest.

    The sound is quite forward and harsh, with a whitening effect on all the music, the sound also become quite fatigue after a while, switching to DSD tracks doesn’t help much, it just has a very “Digital” and “Dirty” sound.
    Even I put AudioQuest's fabulous recording of bluesman Robert Lucas, it sounded like 128k MP3, not good.

    Conclusion:
    For ~US$100, I could see people rip out the guts of the Serenade DSD and keep the nice casework for its own DIY projects. But as a USB DAC, it just doesn’t cut it.

    Overall, I will rate the Serenade DSD a score of 40 out of 100, avoid.

    Geek Out
    g.jpg
    The one I have is the 720, one of the more expensive one. This one I waited long enough for (>9 months), if there was a refund button I properly would have clicked it long ago, but finally it arrived.

    The workmanship is ok, the two metal buttons are very loose and rattle around, not very assuring. The printing on the back is ugly but luckily it is on the back.

    It has a 3D awesomifier feature which I will discuss later. It is quite small and light, good for portability. But the USB A male socket is not very sturdy and after using it for a while, it started to wobble; now I am worried it may break off soon.

    The little Geek Out does run quite hot, hot enough to be on the uncomfortable side.

    Sound
    It is quite a bit better than the Serenade DSD, less whitening sound, more resolution and more punch. It doesn’t turn all your tracks into 128k MP3. If one likes clinical sounding DAC, Geek Out will suit you very well.

    Compares to the Dragonfly, the Geek Out is more resolving and dynamic, it makes some of the slow 2L recordings sounded more exciting. It has quite similar sound signature to the Sony PHA-1 (but overall better) and compares to the Median Explorer, the Explorer is slightly more musical and less fatigue, but also less resolving.

    In pure sound quality sense the Geek Out is broadly comparable to the nano iDSD in overall quality, but with very opposite sonic personality – nano iDSD is musical, more varied tonal colours, full body and smooth; Geek Out is clinical, white/forward sound,a little edgy but can be exciting on the go...

    Finally, the 3D awesomifier, it is just one of those gimmick and pretty useless. In most case it just change the sound to the worst, made the vocal very hollow and enhance the treble hissness. With Geek Out latest firmware, LH removed this 3D feature altogether.

    Conclusion
    I am a little disappointed about the Geek Out performance, with such high tech specifications and marketed as a “giant killer”, I really wished it could have sounded better. For it price (the crowding funding price, not the retail price), I will rate the Geek Out a score of 70 out of 100, I would give it a recommendation if the one likes this forward, clinical sound, but I do suggest you try to hear it first or purchased only with a return if not satisfied option.

    iFi micro iDSD
    i.jpg
    This is the one of most expensive of the lot tested here at US$499, but not as expensive as the Sony PHA-2 ($599) nor the Meridian Director ($699).

    The micro iDSD has killer spec with native DSD512 and PCM768 support, a 4000mW headphone amp and tons of features. Power modes (turbo, Normal, Eco), Filter (Bit-Perfect, Minimum Phase, Standard), 3D and XBass, iEMatching (Off, High, Ultra-sensitive) and a power pack function to charge the phones.

    It is more like a full fledge desktop then a portable one, how on earth can iFi pack so much into such a small package is beyond me.

    Sound
    I had the nano iDSD (75/100) and micro iDAC (73/100) for quite a while now, I now know the house sound of iFi, natural, full body and very musical. So can iDSD improve on the two already pretty good products? The answer is a resounding yes. It improves on them in particularly each and every way.

    It has more of everything, more resolution, more refinement, darker background, more dynamic (both micro and macro) and more musical. It is so far easily the best DAC from all the DACs I have tested. With some of the Harmonia Mundi CD rips I have (e.g. Requiem for a Pink Moon), the sound was just surreal.

    This little DAC make me dig out all the CD rips and try to rediscovery them all again. With DXD tracks from 2L and DSD256 tracks from Japan, I was in music heaven.

    I may sound bias but this DAC is the one you have to hear it to believe it.

    Conclusions:
    Best DAC of the bunch, period. The others didn’t even come close. I will give it 84/100 and it will put some of the expensive desktop DACs to shame, this is a giant killer (although not advertised as one), get it.

    Side notes:
    The 4000mV headphone output is no a joke, it drove my friend’s HiFiman’s HE-6 perfectly; I literally saw my friend’s jaw dropped when he tried it.

    The 3D and XBass on the micro iDSD actually worked as advertised (contrary to the 3D awesomifier in the Geek Out), the effects are nice and subtle and actually improve the listening experience on many recording I had. May be there is the difference between the technologies used in implement those, Analogue Signal Processing (ASP) in iFi micro iDSD vs Digital Signal Processing (DSP) in the Geek Out.

    For the digital filter, I like the Bit-Perfect the most, it just render the music more realist than other filters.
    Last edited by DM; 01-26-2015 at 02:56 AM.
    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

  23. #73
    Sophomore Member DM's Avatar
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    Quick Summary of the DACs tested so far

    (ranked by score)

    DAC score
    iFi micro iDSD ............84
    Sony PHA-2 ................77
    Meridian Director.........75
    iFi nano iDSD..............75
    iFi micro iDAC.............73
    Geek Out....................70
    Meridian Explorer........ 67
    Sony PHA-1.................50
    Dragonfly 1.2..............50
    Dragonfly 1.0............. 45
    Hdta Serenade DSD......40
    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

  24. #74
    Sophomore Member DM's Avatar
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    Someone asked me to do a more detailed comparison on the Geek Out and the nano iDSD. Actually the difference is quite easy to spot, one is clinical and one is musical. With Eric Clapton's Tears in Heaven, the Geek Out makes Eric sounded a bit younger and a bit more lively, so it isn't too sad a song; with the iDSD, Eric's more full body and most importantly, it literally brought tears to my eyes.

    I can see some people will like the Geek Out's forward lively sound, and others will take the nano iDSD music and soul each and everyone. So it's down to one's music tease really.
    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

  25. #75
    Sophomore Member DM's Avatar
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    Gee, must be early in the morning, lots of typos, I meant:

    I can see some people will like the Geek Out's forward lively sound, and others will take the nano iDSD music and soul each and every time, so it's down to one's music taste really.
    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

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