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MJ-10

Ayre Codex, Lampizator Amber, Schiit Yggy, exaSound e32, and Ayre QX-5, DAC Comparison  -A Short Story

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Thanks for your comparison - they are done too infrequently.

 

Can you list what your reference tracks were?

 

And what sorts of information was provided that before wasn’t present?

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Wow! The e32 beats the Yggdrasil?! Many members of online audio forums on suicide watch! BTW, it's widely reported that the Yggdrasil needs 7 days straight burn-in, and another 2(?) days of warmup after being turned off. Astounding performance of the exaSound, which is basically just a Sabre DAC! I read exaSound puts a lot of engineering effort into clean regulated power which is a big deal in DACs.

 

But since it's a Sabre DAC you can realize big gains by up-converting your non-DSD tracks to DSD 256 through the player; this bypasses Sabre's SRC stage which leads to further quality gains. Actually, do that with the Amber too to bypass its SRC and go straight into the DSD module.

 

 

 

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I assume mileage will vary with other people's ears and systems.  My apprehension with sharing my opinion is that it wouldn't match with the general community. But oh well.  I have also learned that a single component can drastically affect the synergy of the system as a whole and I haven't experience that in my past systems. It seems you really have to marry these components well as one piece that doesn’t play well with another will impact the overall presentation greatly.  But to the question of reference tracks, there are so many but I can answer one before I'm off to work. Adele 19, Chasing Pavements (Live At The Hotel Cafe) starts with an acoustic guitar in the left speaker.  The first three plucks of the guitar moved closer and closer to being in the room with me as the sound quality move toward the QX-5/20. Later in the song that guitar would occasionally step forward on the stage of sound to challenge Adele as the leader of the band, then would ease back into the accompanying role.  The Maggies produce acoustic guitar sounds extremely well and it bordered on being a live performance, right in front of me. The sound of Adele's voice became increasingly round and smooth the closer I moved down the line to the QX-5/20.  The other DACs each had a tad bit more grain applied to her voice.  Another nuance that stood out consistently in that track occurred at 2:19 of the track. I envision that Adele really gets into the performance and seems over sings her voice slightly and turns away from the mic. In that brief silence there is are two clinks in the distance, as if a metal spoon strikes a porcelain saucer while the busser cleared the table? Or maybe it was entered in post-production to minimize the sound of her clearing her throat? Who knows... But it was how each DAC handled that moment in the performance that painted a different mental picture of what my mind was hearing.  The QX-5 Twenty put you in that café, center stage, five rows back and the busser is off stage behind her leaving blemishes on the track of a live performance. The e32 did a great job of putting me in that café as well.  The others had different and good representations of this performance but the e32 and QX-/20 really put me in the seat.

 

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Ok, another quick reference track comment and then off to work I go.  So, the Yggy is an excellent product.  I did have a problem with dot matrix rate display format, but sound quality wise it was a beast with detail and very impressive overall.   I never unplugged it until I went to put it into the box and mail it back. It was virtually playing music until the moment I made the final decision.  To your point the Yggy excelled on portions of Reference Track #2,  The Long Day Is Over, by Nora Jones.  That track begins with a few chords from a keyboard, and then the crescendo of the snare drum rolls in to introduce the other instruments followed by Norah’s voice. That drum snare crescendo went to a different level of subtlety with the Yggy. The  Yggy handled that instrument very, very well. But the tone of her voice had a smoother, rounder representation with the e32 for me.  Then the electric guitar, I believe that what I’m hearing, is another instrument in there that kinda waves back and forth as it plays, softly pulsating at times.  The e32 made that representation more visceral, the notes and tones seemed palpable.  The Yggy was more analytical with it’s presentation.  How I graded the e32 over the Yggy is probably more a byproduct of the music selections I play and how I like to hear them.  There are certainly no losers in this comparison; I wish I could keep them all. No need to talk anyone off a ledge.

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Well done and I would not be concerned about "sharing my opinion is that it wouldn't match with the general community".

 

The problems come when one does not own their post as their personal subjective appraisal...which you clearly did.

 

I use two Yggy's. One for my speaker system and one for my headphone system. What it does for plain old Redbook is so good that I do not miss DSD.

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"I wish I could re-run the whole experiment with all the DACs running thru the KX-5 Twenty"

 

Yes, that's the same thought I had by the end of your write-up (nice job, btw). That was a LOT of new gear in a short amount of time. So, what *is* your current system?

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Nice review. I'm also considering another Lampizator for another room. Probably the regular Atlantic, though I would have considered the Amber if it had a balanced connection. I would consider the e32 but I like to keep the DAC and headphone amp separate.

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Nice comparison.  Trouble is there are tons of DACs that you did not listen to that maybe better or as good than what you heard.  Here are some other very latest ESS DACs: Resonessence Mirus Pro and Pro Signature (two 9028 DAC chips), Benchmark DAC3 (one 9028 DAC chip),  Wryed for sound DAC 2v2SE (one 9038 DAC chip), Mytek Brooklyn ll (one 9028 chip), Mytek Manhattan ll (one 9038 chip), $799 Oppo Sonica (one 9038 chip), $1600 LKS MH-DA004 (two 9038 DAC chips), $1700 Musical Paradise MP-D2 MKll (one or two? 9038 chips). 

 

One 9038 DAC chip is essentially 4 9028s in parallel.  So, as far as DAC performance would go the LKS DAC has the most ESS DAC channels per channel.  Of course, one thing does give great sound.  However, most people feel the stock LKS is better than the Yggy. 

 

Other DACs worth considering are the latest PS Audio DACs (direct stream and direct stream junior) , the somewhat more expensive Lampy DACs, The Holo Audio Spring DAC, The Denafrips DACs, Metrum Acoustics, modified Sonica and LKS DACs (by me), etc. etc. into infinity.

 

Now if we could get all of these DACs together and A/B that would be fun.  Never happen.  So anyone's comparison like you did is really helpful.  A friend was over the other day and while I was re-capping his turntable power supply he commented that he did not understand how all these DAC companies could stay in business since there are so many of them.  Its no wonder Exa is discounting packages on their site.......probably not selling very many......no doubt, do to the prolification of DACs everywhere and little comparisons.  I mean, how do you know the Exa is the real steal at $3200 when you have not heard any of these other DACs?  I don't see one post comparing an Exa E32 DAC with any of the DACs I listed.  Have you?   Some of the listed DACs above might equal or surpass the Ayre as well.  You cannot know anything unless you do serious listening comparisons to burned in units.  This is why I am sending out a modded Oppo Sonica on tour (so people can A/B with other DACs in their own listening room).

 

We just have to do the best we can and since most DACs these days are pretty darn good, not worry about the "other ones" out there.  But it sure would be great if someone would compare a whole bunch of DACs.  Most professional reviews are worthless because of this.  The guy says...."best DAC I have ever heard".......and then you look at his reference and realized he has a five year old DAC that he uses for comparison.  Almost all of the DACs I have mentioned (in their latest incarnation) are only about one year old!!!!!  DACs are like computers......they have a short life before they are outdated.

 

Enjoy the Ayre DAC!  Have heard nothing but raves about it.

 

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Good review MJ, and great story-telling! I really enjoyed it.

 

I assume that you tested the DACs with their native power sources, whether factory power cords, or stock AC adapters and such? The reason I bring that up.... well, I'm a happy ExaSound E32 user, and have been most of this year (ran an E12 for a year or so before that), but I run it off of DC power from an SLA battery, which made a substantial improvement to transient responses of the DAC, and it put a little more "meat on the bones"  on instruments and performers as it laid out the sonic picture. 

 

As for comparisons, the only thing I can add is that I much preferred the ExaSound E12 to the Holo Spring Lev 3 DAC, that I also owned, and it was fully broken in.  The Holo was just too laid back for me, and didn't get my blood flowing listening to my tunes. Both were driven off of USB.

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45 minutes ago, 1markr said:

Good review MJ, and great story-telling! I really enjoyed it.

 

I assume that you tested the DACs with their native power sources, whether factory power cords, or stock AC adapters and such? The reason I bring that up.... well, I'm a happy ExaSound E32 user, and have been most of this year (ran an E12 for a year or so before that), but I run it off of DC power from an SLA battery, which made a substantial improvement to transient responses of the DAC, and it put a little more "meat on the bones"  on instruments and performers as it laid out the sonic picture.

 

We've made progress with the power supply. exaSound is now offering a Teddy Pardo power supply bundled with the e32 DAC.

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21 hours ago, beetlemania said:

That was a LOT of new gear in a short amount of time. So, what *is* your current system?

Currently my big rig includes the QX-5/20, KX-5/20, PASS LABS 250.8, Marantz AV7005, Parasound JC1 for the center channel, Lexicon 512 for the surround channels, OPPO 105D, Martin Logan DEPTHi sub, Maggie 3.7i's, RM 1.3 GENIE turntable, Sonos Connect, Maggie CC2 center, Martin Logan Fx Motion rears, KANEX PRO HDMI de-embedder.  And as of this very morning, with the help and courtesy of Peter at TheCableCo Lending library, in the two-channel portion of my system I have a full loom of Audience AU24 SX (1.5m XLR, 1m XLR, and 10ft AU24 SX speaker cables). On the home theatre section I have an assortment of other interconnects like Tributaries, Transparent, BlueJeans, Monster and generic cords. I run ROON and JRiver23 with a little Dell Inspirion Laptop i3 2.3GHz, 8Gb Ram, Windows10, 120Gb SSD, with two 1Gb SSD drives for additional storage. Recently elevated with eight PANGEA amp stands and racks.  And I have a strong suspicion I will be liquidating my small rig to continue to afford all of the aforementioned.

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18 hours ago, Ralf11 said:

BTW, did your Yggy have the Gen 5 USB upgrade in it?

Only if they shipped it with that upgrade.  I also didn't make any firmware updates to any of the units.  I just pulled them out of their boxes and plugged them in.  Because it was all new equipment I didn't think to check.  However the QX-5/20 did make a network upgrade on it's own.   I will try to reach out to Schiit to try to confirm.  If the Yggy did not have the best and most up to date equipment that will not bode well for my therapeutic recovery.  I am not sure that I mentioned that I am almost completely new to this HiRez music format and I have found there is a lot to learn.  Previously I would play SACDs and DVDAudio disks thru my OPPO 105D.  I also used the OPPO to play all of my FLAC and DSD files.  Prior to two months ago I never owned Roon or JRiver. I had by OPPO and didn't see the need.  Then I auditioned the Codex and bam, look at my system now. It was a quick an tumultuous drop into this abyss but I never new all of my music could sound soo good. 

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34 minutes ago, MJ-10 said:

Currently my big rig includes the QX-5/20, KX-5/20, PASS LABS 250.8, Marantz AV7005, Parasound JC1 for the center channel, Lexicon 512 for the surround channels, OPPO 105D, Martin Logan DEPTHi sub, Maggie 3.7i's, RM 1.3 GENIE turntable, Sonos Connect, Maggie CC2 center, Martin Logan Fx Motion rears, KANEX PRO HDMI de-embedder. 

 

Thanks for the reply. Your write-up made it clear you liked the QX-5 the best but this part

On 11/1/2017 at 9:53 PM, MJ-10 said:

I was enjoying 95% of this sound quality for a fraction of the price with the e32.

 

led me to believe you went with the e32. I'm sure your system sounds fantastic, have fun!

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I enjoyed the review, and it reinforces my own thoughts about all of my testing i have done.

 

1. Not dis-satisfied with any of the DACS.

2. Preference was minimal (e.g. 88, 91,93)

3. Preference was not true for all tracks

4. Preference was not even true for one track (e.g. likes snares on yggi, and voice on e32)

5. Some dacs don't have DSD capability (which to me, the best native dsd tracks sound best even on cheaper dacs)

 

This has been my observation in all of my testing over 15 different products over a 4 year period.

 

No dac is a (TRUE) winner in all cases in all tracks or even all instruments in one track, and the differences are relatively miniscule, even in a budget of $300 to $2000 dacs.

 

Buy a GOOD amp and GOOD speakers and just about any DSD capable dac will satisfy.  I will always remember the story where a best of show contender used wilson speakers with an iphone.

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@MJ-10

 

Hi OP,

 

Thanks for your review, and for sharing your journey into the abyss - one to which we can all relate! 9_9 

 

I agree with @beerandmusic above. DACs have gotten so good, even large outlays of $$ buys very modest incremental gains. My own experience reflects that. I upgraded from a Benchmark DAC1 HDR to an Ayre Codex about a year and a half ago. That was a major improvement, for sure.

 

Since then, I have had the opportunity to audition/review several DACs, some considerably more expensive. One thing I was on the lookout for was that "must have it" feeling - the 

lustful urge that says - price be damned, sell the Codex, and buy this NOW. Honestly, that never happened! Now maybe I am more frugal and have better self-control than others. I doubt it!

 

The DACs that have come through my system are:

  1. The Yggy
  2. Chord DAVE
  3. Ayre QX-5 Twenty
  4. Chord Hugo 2

Yes, the DAVE and the QX-5 sounded considerably better. The QX-5 was the most seductive to me, and came closest to making me take the plunge. But was it 4.5x better than the Codex? Of course not.

 

That roughly $2k price point is a real sweet spot for DACs right now, after which a serious case of diminishing returns sets in.

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On 2 November 2017 at 3:53 AM, MJ-10 said:

I headed back to my local Ayre dealer confused and befuddled.  His conclusion was I improved the system so much with the 250.8 and the KX-5 Twenty that I was now exposing weak points, namely the interconnects.

 

I am not surprised that you felt "confused and befuddled" since you broke one of the golden rules of audio: never ever under any circumstances evaluate two different elements simultaneously (with this I mean replacing your power amplifier half way through the DAC comparison).

 

Your dealer's conclusion is not helpful either...

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24 minutes ago, austinpop said:
  1. Yes, the DAVE and the QX-5 sounded considerably better. The QX-5 was the most seductive to me, and came closest to making me take the plunge. But was it 4.5x better than the Codex? Of course not.

 

That roughly $2k price point is a real sweet spot for DACs right now, after which a serious case of diminishing returns sets in.

 

 

Too bad it's impossible to plot SQ against price. I would guess the Codex would be above the infection point but still on the ascending part of the curve (ie, still worth spending the extra $, compared to the median product, if you're an audiophile) whereas something like a $100K dCS stack might be well out toward the asymptote.

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3 hours ago, beetlemania said:

Thanks for the reply. Your write-up made it clear you liked the QX-5 the best but this part

On ‎11‎/‎1‎/‎2017 at 11:53 PM, MJ-10 said:

I was enjoying 95% of this sound quality for a fraction of the price with the e32.

 

led me to believe you went with the e32. I'm sure your system sounds fantastic, have fun!

I shipped the e32 back the day after I made the post. It wasn't until the FedX guy had the box on his side of the counter, did I truly make my final decision.  Prior to that I had it in the box and pulled it out twice for one last listen. Twice...   I could have made a last millisecond chance to keep the e32 and save some money, but ultimately I want to see just how good the QX-5/20 can sound after 1000 hrs.  I failed to mention I received a great deal on a mildly used demo QX-5/20 with only a few hours on it, so that helped to make the final decision a little easier.  If I had paid full retail, I am not sure the final decision would have gone to the QX-5/20; back to those diminishing points of return vs. disposable income challenges.  I also want to get my hands and ears on the PlayPoint as it has ROON SERVER capabilities and I can let my laptop go back to being a computer. Again, I am an enthusiast and not a real audiophile, and really closer to a novice when it comes to ROON and JRiver.  Working my music files between all these apparatuses confuses the QX-5/20 and or myself at times and can get a little frustrating.  I assume if I were to pick one program to use and stuck with it maybe muscle would set in for the both of us.  I guess I'm saying that maybe the PlayPoint  will improve the e32 sound quality and would be a better fit for me and my system as I use my stereo to get away from my work/laptop, and if the sound quality gap is minimized enough I can put the QX-5/20 on Audiogon and get most of my investment back, and still save thousands. TBD. Maybe.....

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1 hour ago, austinpop said:

That roughly $2k price point is a real sweet spot for DACs right now, after which a serious case of diminishing returns sets in.

I know this is not the proper thread for this question and I don't want this to get too tangential, but what are your thoughts about the affects of interconnects/speaker cables and their diminishing points of return? I have my thoughts on the subject, as I have been letting the full bloom of AU24 SX's settle into my system for the past few hours.  Anybody????

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22 minutes ago, MJ-10 said:

I know this is not the proper thread for this question and I don't want this to get too tangential, but what are your thoughts about the affects of interconnects/speaker cables and their diminishing points of return? I have my thoughts on the subject, as I have been letting the full bloom of AU24 SX's settle into my system for the past few hours.  Anybody????

 

NOOO! Shhhh...

 

Although - it's already too late. Your mention of expensive cables making a difference - quelle choque! - has already triggered the alarm at the Ministry of Magic, and trolls have been dispatched 

 

There's no time to lose. Make sure you have your "Ignore User" feature memorized. Lock and load! Here they come.

 

:D

 

Seriously speaking - this is a very personal and contentious area. I do find cables to make a difference, but a smaller one than the components themselves. So I just try to set a spending threshold of 10-20% of the component value on cables and try to live within that. I know others disagree.

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