August 24th "DAC IT OUT"
Fellow Club member, Paul Righello, planned and brilliantly executed this event. Thanks Paul. Great Job!
We want to thank the 7 manufacturers who supplied dacs for "DAC It Out" event: Chord, IFI, Schiit, NuPrime, Benchmark, Black Ice Audio, and Holo Audio. It takes great fortitude as there will be winners and losers. The AZAVClub.com provided its own samples for PS Audio and LKS.
"DAC It Out" was attended by about 35 people who were all very curious to hear the comparisons. One couple was in from Chicago. After each session we discussed results and asked what in particular made people choose one over another. Comments generally went to better Sound Stage, Dynamics and/or Openness.
All dacs were fed the same source simultaneously via optical input from an optical splitter fed from a cd player. A professional recording engineer and Paul spent the day before setting up and level matching all the dacs to ensure the only variable was the dacs. For each listening session, we played five test tracks from all different genres of music using high quality recordings. We cycled through the dacs using the various preamp inputs for a seamless transition during each test track with each dac playing for 10-30 seconds at a time with several transitions within each track. Each group session lasted about 45 minutes with each DAC playing for an average of 10 minutes per session. The whole affair ran from 11am to 3:30pm.
Listeners knew which dacs were present in each group but not which dac was playing at a given time other than if it was dac A, B, or C. Votes were tallied at the end of each session and only afterward were the dacs unveiled as belonging to one of the given inputs (A, B,or C). Not even those who set up the dacs knew which one was which until the unveiling.
Polling results were generally very consistent. However, in the fourth session which was made up solely of the preceding three session winners, Chord Qutest, Schiit Yggy and Jolida Black Ice Glass FX DSD, it was nearly a dead heat.
The shootout was held in an upscale theatre room of about 20 x 30 with well treated surfaces. Sound was measured at 75-80db during play. The machines were broken into three groups using three different DACs per session.
Amp: SAE 2HP-D, Pre-Amp: Chord Electronics CPA 5000, CDP: Musical Fidelity M3i, Speakers: Focal Maestro Utopia EVO, Digital Interconnects: Audio Quest Cinnamon, Analog Interconnects: Audio Quest Water Speaker Cable, Speaker Cables: Audio Quest William Tell Silver Zero with William Tell Bass in a Bi-wire configuration, and Audio Rack: Bassocnitinuo
System retail approximate value of $118,000
First Place = Chord Qutest
Second Place (tie) = Holo Audio Spring DAC2 and NuPrime Evolution DAC
First Place = Schiit Yggdrasil
Second Place = iFi Audio Pro iDSD
Third Place = Benchmark DAC3
First Place = Black Ice Audio Glass FX DSD
Second Place = LKS MH-DA004
Third Place = PS Audio Direcstream DAC
Session 4) Finals
First Place = Black Ice Audio Glass FX DSD
Second Place = Chord Qutest
Third Place = Schiit Yggdrasil
Scientists my shoot holes in our methodology. However, we did have three representatives from Chord present. They were pleased with Chord's showing and complimented the testing methods and promising to bring "Dave" next time!
Tubes faired better than solid state. Ladder DACs did pretty well with the Schiit finishing in the top 3. The other Ladder was the Holo which some thought was "Darker" while some found its clarity excellent. We would enjoy seeing another club perform a similar test so the results could be expanded. Perhaps a magazine would take a crack at it.
Opinions may vary.
I would enjoy seeing another club perform a similar test so the results could be expanded. Perhaps a magazine would take a crack at it. Recognizing the fast changing nature of the digital HiFi world, logic dictates that the far less expensive ($800) Black Ice DAC may be the wisest purchase.
Jeff Kalina, President Arizona Audio/Video Club
A short review of AudioQuest Robin Hood Zero speaker cables.
I try to keep an open mind regarding sonic improvements from peripherals but when it comes to speaker cables I lean a bit towards the skeptical side of the spectrum. My defining factors for any new piece of gear have always been: “Can I hear a difference and is it an improvement?” Over the years I’ve tried a number of different speaker cables from different manufacturers yet I’ve never noticed a difference in the sound let alone an improvement. This all changed when I picked up a pair of new AudioQuest Robin Hood Zeros from my favorite local dealer, Acoustic Designs in Scottsdale, AZ. These cables have changed my perspective on speaker cables. Not only did I hear a difference but the sonics of my system took an audible step forward. Call me a believer now, though I am a bit shocked to admit it.
So what changed? When I swapped out my QED XT40 speaker cables for the AQ Robin Hoods’ there was an immediate improvement in clarity and dynamics. Working through Sting’s Fields of Gold, an album I listen to almost weekly, cymbals on tracks like “Be Still My Beating Heart” became coherent and engaging. What was once a smeared ringing now became a clean attack and decay with the Robin Hood’s in place. Ditto for the drum work towards the latter end of “Englishman in New York.” In addition to this new found clarity, there was also a smoothness to the presentation. It is hard to put into words but the sonic character of my system is now more relaxed, the details are still there but all hints of harshness are gone. This is quite a boon in my lively room.
Granted, there is a sizable price gap between the QEDs and the AQs. Some will say: “Why spend more…cable is cable right?” Well, apparently not as I discovered. With the right cables in the right system there is an audible improvement to be had as I came to experience in my own home. For those still on the fence, give it a try and hear for yourself the difference a good pair of speaker cables can make.
Arizona Audio Video Club
*Note: this is not a paid review.
Come and listen to Great Speakers graciously provided by : Sanders Sound, ATC SMC 40's Tekton Design, Spatial Labs, Salk Sound, Joseph Audio, ZU Audio, MarkAudio-SOTA and LSA.
All brands have been recognized as Best in Class
Amplifiers Very Generously supplied by Dan D'Agostino and family. Located in Cave Creek, AZ The standard of Excellence in the World.
Special Guests: Sean Casey, Founder of ZU Audio will be available to chat.
Additionally we will have a member of the D"Agostino group on site.
None of the above speaker brands have any representation in Arizona. We are excited to be providing everyone a very inexpensive way to hear some specially chosen gear.
Results: The overall crowd pleaser was the ATC SMC 40's set up by Lone Mountain Audio's
Brad Lunde and new local rep Tom Rothermel.
Honorable Mentions: Salk Songbeat 3, Joseph Pulsar, ZU Soul Supreme and the LSA Signature 10s. We had an inadequate amount of time to correctly set up the Sanders Speakers which had performed magnificently in an at home preview. They remain my personal favorite.
People drove from as far as California to hear the Tekton Double Impacts. This brand seemed to have a very mixed following. Some people love them, others not so much. The new Moab model seems to be getting a lot of hype and may be the model we should have had.
The Spatial Speaker arrived at the last minute and was a raw prototype. Sadly something was off with this speaker. Owner Clayton Shaw promised further investigation.
For the Audio Industry digital has been a blessing and a curse. Though the digital format offers advantages like unlimited accurate reproduction of original copies and near effortless worldwide distribution, this also brings with it a horde of security and policy headaches like piracy protection and Digital Rights Management. So which side wins the Analog vs Digital audio war? As far is sound quality is concerned, for all practical purposes, it is impossible to say which is better, analog or digital. In individual test cases what is most important is the quality of the recording and playback components, not whether it is analog or digital. For both types of audio signals, one can outperform the other as the equipment gets more expensive and elaborate to offer higher fidelity. Loudspeakers will always need analog signals, and the best way to store auditory information will always be digital. Either way, there’s an upper limit to the quality that a human ear can differentiate, so it matters not which is best. What matters most is if it is good enough.
This article was first published in November 2016 issue of Fast Track on Digit magazine. To read Digit’s articles first, subscribe here or download the Digit app for Android and iOS. You could also buy Digit’s previous issues here.