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I'm selling a new Resonessence Labs Invicta DAC rev. 2 bought brand new August 2013. It is the latest version with white OLED, DSD/DXD logo printed on the chassis and the Apple aluminium remote (included). Full original packaging and accessories in perfect as NEW condition. Price: 2.800 € including shipping New on this latest version of the Invicta (2nd gen): All PCBs have been revised based on our experience with the production of INVICTA over the past two years. The Headphone output is now generated by the ESS Sabre DAC ES9018 rather than the ES9016 of the first generation. The front panel is modified to show additional high sample rate LEDs. DSD (both 64 and 128) is now supported: you can use USB or the SD Card as the data source for DSD programs. It support DFF and DXF formats on the SD Card. Doubled the sample rate: you may now provide audio data at up to 384kS/S. The front panel and the cover are redesigned to highlight the DSD capability and reduce the internal temperature. Added a slot in the front panel to increase the IR sensitivity The unit now operates with the Apple Remote Control A cosmetic upgrade: the OLED Display is now white rather than the original blue color.
Background Having been out of ‘HiFi’ for some years and not so fresh from my last major investment in audio equipment – Audio Research based CD, preAmp, Amplifier and Sonus Faber speakers, wired with Transparent cables and interconnects – I wanted to move to the latest generation of audio replay placed on digital files. I painstakingly researched the possibilities on all the usual forums and decided to go for a headphone based system. Because I travel a great deal, I began this part of the journey by putting together something I could use while on the move, which consisted of Audeze LCD-2 Rev 2 headphones driven by an iPod / Cypher Labs AlgoRhythm Solo DAC / ALO Continental V2 Valve Amplifier. Frankly, I was amazed at the performance of this combination. Just the right balance of warmth, detail and insight with wonderful musicality. This success spurred me on to find something to front end a new desktop replay system which could also drive my existing preAmp/Amp/Speaker system at home. So it was that I began the search for the latest in DACs, firstly to drive my LCD2s and a newly acquired pair of LCD3 headphones. Tentative Beginnings Cutting a very long story short, after many, many hours of web based research on all the regular sites, I shortlisted Vinnie Rossi’s RWA Audeze Edition of his Isabellina HPA, battery powered DAC and headphone amplifier, The Burson 160D and the Soloist, which had just been released. After long discussion with Item Audio in the UK, Mark suggested I join in on a local Head-Fi meet to hear all the potential choices, or as close to that level as we could get in one place at one time. When I got there he let me audition many combinations of DACs and Headphone amplifiers, including the RWA Corvina and a new DAC from Resonessence called the Invicta. No contest. Admittedly the Invicta’s source was an Aurender S10 digital player, but the Invicta was streets ahead of every other alternative at the price. I bought the actual unit I auditioned, on the spot. Shortly after that I had to go to the US for work, s I only had a short time to acquaint myself with the new DAC, but what I heard when revisiting the favorites in my CD collection was nothing short of a revelation. That set the stage for the next phase of the upgrade. I next needed to get another system for the US apartment. While talking with ALO Audio about a new pair of Audeze LCD3 headphones and Reference 16 cables, I decided to order the Audeze edition which brings with it the special version of RWA’s Isabellina Balanced DAC/HPA. The unit duly arrived, and after a suitable amount of burn in, I can enthusiastically say that the HiRes 24 bit signal path in that unit is superb. Wonderfully musical, intimate renderings of Redbook material, with a remarkably dark background, devoid of hum and the general low level noise associated with mains power. The battery fed power supply renders an almost totally black, silent noise floor, which makes it possible to hear even the quietest small details and atmospherics. Bass is solid and tight, midrange is superb and very engaging, particularly on female vocal; treble is extended and smooth with no glare. It’s a very comfortable sound – warm and easy to listen to but very engaging. You get into the music, not the technology, and can listen for hours without fatigue. Unfortunately my unit, in my setup, suffered from distortion whenever the lower resolution NOS signal path was switched in. Despite sterling efforts by a very helpful Vinnie Rossie of Red Wine Audio, I was not able to get a satisfactory result from the NOS chip path, and although the HiRes 24/192 bit signal path was, in my view, clearly superior, I did not keep the unit. Instead, largely because I had been so impressed with it in the UK only a few weeks earlier, I decided to order a second Invicta DAC/HPA together with a new Mac Mini to provide the server end of the system, and, after even more research, I also ordered a Ray Samuels Dark Star headphone amplifier to complement the Invicta and the LCD3s. Everything arrived very quickly and so I set to burning the system in for a couple of hundred hours before doing any serious listening. The Invicta arrived first and before I had the opportunity to return the RWA unit. That gave me a chance to compare the two DACs. I think it’s fair to say that the Invicta gave the more transparent, dynamic, lively rendering of the two but retained the refinement of the Isabellina, the onboard headphone amplifier in the Invicta more than holding up its end of the challenge, but more on that anon. When the Dark Star arrived, I made sure I had top quality interconnects and power cords for it. After consulting David Saltz, we decided on Wireworld’s Electra 5 Squared power cables and Gold Starlight 6 balanced interconnects. He said he had recently cabled an exhibition demonstration setup of the Dark Star for Ray Samuels and that this setup would represent best value for money versus performance. This setup, with the Invicta, was then burnt in for over a hundred hours more before listening seriously. I later added another Wireworld Electra 5squared power cable for the Invicta and, boy, did that make a difference – night and day – in terms of improved noise floor, solidity of imaging, sound stage width and depth and most of, tonal accuracy – particularly evident in string tone and ‘body tone’ of all stringed instruments in the chamber music I auditioned. Returning to the UK, I again contacted Item Audio to discuss with Mark what I could add to the UK based Invicta to improve on the already excellent on board headphone amplifier section. We landed on testing a Burson Soloist, A Red Wine Audio Corvina versus the Invicta’s solid state internal headphone amplifier. I was also interested in establishing whether there were any genuine differences in how each input – Toslink Optical, AES, USB or the internal SD card – performed, all else being equal; but more on that another time. How Good is the Invicta's Headphone Amplifier? Mark sent along the RWA Corvina and the Soloist, both well burnt in, together with a reasonably expensive Vera Starr pair of RCA Interconnects. Mark has warned me that comparing the Invicta’s own HPA to two quality external HPAs would bring compromises in that more circuitry and cabling in the signal path would result in at least some losses, and so it turned out in practice. It made it more difficult to get a true read on just how well the internal headphone amplifier in the Invicta compared to a dedicated downstream amp’s performance. In the end Mark sent me ‘the most transparent interconnects’ he knew of – VeraStarr Grand Illusion - £1,800s worth of very short cable! But, was there a difference? You bet! Once everything had been settled in and run for a couple of days, it was very evident that these cables made all the difference, unexpectedly removing a hitherto inaudible veil and allowing the maximum SQ through to the downstream external amplifiers, where they had been somewhat held back with the other interconnects in place, although the earlier cables were still very good. This final change made it possible to hear everything in the chain at its very best. All the auditioning was done with a Macbook Pro front end driving the Invicta DAC and amplifiers through the Toslink Optical output of the Macbook into Audirvana Plus’s 1.3.10 beta version of their player in direct mode driving the amps and my Audeze LCD3s. Some time was spent listening via iTunes, but A+ in direct mode was far superior as a player rendering everything much more cleanly with a more controlled and tuneful bass, better detailing, more transparency, less smearing and masking of low level detail and more air around instruments. I also used the SD card as a means of playing back files so as to remove the possible effect of using a less than perfect music server setup. The Invicta’s firmware was updated of the latest version before the tests. Volume levels among the units were carefully matched with a sound pressure level meter. Although I listened for over a week to a wide variety of recordings, both standard Redbook and high resolution downloads, perhaps the notes I took on the Valerie Joyce New York Blue recording of Fever capture the differences best. I say differences because at this level all three contenders were very, very good and the differences amount to small superiorities and characters of rendering which may be more preferable to some than others and, in effect, as a matter of personal taste or predisposition towards a particular style of presentation. Burson Soloist Female Voice: warm central solid body, a little sibilance in places Drums: light, airy: in the ‘air’ – dynamic, ‘fast’ Artist’s finger clicking; thin, not so natural Double Bass: Pleasingly ‘stringy’, more controlled than the Invicta – less ‘fat’ Piano: good tone some key impact noise: image solid; could hear the ‘rolling’ of keys Sax: lots of reverb around it: not so ‘breathy’ Sound Stage: slightly odd; unnatural size, slightly off to upper right Overall impression; slightly leaner and ‘faster’ than the Invicta and much more so than the Corvina RWA Corvina Female Voice: warmer than Soloist, central, solid body, intimate, can hear more reverb around her voice, no sibilance, softest sss's, voice appears second closest to the listener Drums: closer than Soloist: airy: more solid, more body in the slap, better weight and ‘hollowness’ than Soloist but not as good as the Invicta, lots of variation in the percussion ‘slap’ sound Artist’s finger clicking very clear, recognizable, reverby Double Bass: stringy, but weightier, thicker; panned more to the right side, played with softer sounding rounded plucks than the Soloist, softer leading edge, slightly behind the head and to the side positioning Piano: good tone, bigger than Soloist: some key impact: bigger spread - could just hear the ‘rolling’ of keys; between the Soloist and Invicta in terms of piano attack Sax: smaller sounding, reverberant; not so breathy as Invicta Sound Stage: bigger but more coherent than Soloist Overall impression; very warm and cozy sound, easy listening, somewhat soporific by comparison Resonessence Invicta Female Voice: Warmest of all; most solidly central image, solid ‘body’ feel, more intimate and more natural, can hear more reverb around her voice, closest positioning of all three – feels like she’s standing next to me Drums: closest and very detailed: airy: in the ‘air’; most solid sounding, more body in the slap, even more drum ‘hollowness’, lots of variation in the percussion ‘slap’ sound – best rendition, though a smidge less dynamically rhythmic than Soloist Artist’s finger click very clear, recognizable, reverby, very natural Double Bass: satisfyingly ‘stringy’, but weightier, thicker; panned right side, played with softer plucks, softer leading edge than Soloist, more three dimensional Piano: excellent, natural tone, bigger than Soloist: less key impact: bigger spread of instrument image, best weight of all three by far Sax: more reverberant, clearer atmospherics; most detailed of three; breathy but weighty tone Sound Stage: bigger but more coherent than Soloist, close to Corvina’s width - most depth of all three by far, very believable Overall impression; more weight - more natural sounding; most natural instrument tonal rendering; best atmospherics and ‘air’ around instruments; a little less ‘dynamic’ than the Soloist, slightly ‘slower’ – more relaxed, but not detrimentally so. Ray Samuel’s Dark Star No sooner had I completed all this listening, I had to return to the US for work, and so got the chance to compare my findings with the number two Invicta coupled to the Dark Star. Now bear in mind that I didn’t have the benefit of the very expensive VeraStarr Grand Illusion interconnects between the Invicta and the Dark Starr in this setup, but, the internal headphone amp still acquitted itself extremely well; almost embarrassingly so! The Dark Star, however, offered a more solid sound stage and ultimately more solid imagery, with more ‘air’ all round; a more musical and dynamic rendering with more ‘clout’, ‘weight’, natural perspective front to back, and most importantly, with a more natural tone to the instruments – just, more of the same, across the board. The Dark Starr was particularly impressive in its rendering of chamber music – I felt I was there, in the front row, the musicians deployed around me, everything sounding more musically vibrant, exciting, powerful; detailed yet still convincingly natural in tone and weight. It was hard to stop listening at the end of every session. This was truly a delightful combination – highly recommended. Conclusions So, after all this, I can genuinely say that, in my opinion, with it’s quite superb internal headphone amplifier section, the Invicta DAC takes a great deal of beating. It stood up extremely well to a very detailed comparison with two highly regarded stand-alone units, and was bested only by the comparatively expensive Dark Star. You would have to go a long way to beat the Invicta’s internal amplifier, and by the time you’ve added in the cost, in this case, of the Dark Star and suitably transparent interconnects and power cabling you would have to spend more than double to top it. In short, the Invicta offers the relevant user a ‘damn’ fine bargain. Both the DAC and the internal headphone amplifier render a top notch, highly musical presentation of both Redbook and high resolution material. Can’t be beaten, at the price.