I've been seeing tiny bits of news about the ELAC DDP-2 streaming DAC since early last year and only recently has it become available online at a few retailers. However, there isn't a single review of it that I can find anywhere. With previous Audio Alchemy products getting great reviews, I can assume a certain level of quality nearly enough to go out on a limb and buy it for a 30-day trial, but I wanted to see if anyone has already taken that leap of faith.
From what I've read it combines the external DC power supply of the DDP-1 internally and uses AKM DACs in a balanced setup with onboard DSD and MQA decoding, upsampling, Spotify Connect and Roon and a headphone amp.
No, but it does look like a potentially nice package. Moon has something similar in the 390, but it's big, big bucks.
With how fast digital and streaming changes, I have a hard time having it all built in to a 5k unit, but the AA is a nice looking package for sure. (well, what it contains, I think they saved a bit on the box, but hey that's ok).
Agreed. I have to hope they spent the money on the inside cause lord knows they didn't spend it on the outside. From what I've read so far, it sounds like they combined the previously separate DC power supply inside the box as well as the separate streaming box. I can't find any info on what DAC chip, but I want to say an article hinted it was a higher-end AKM.
I hate to be as superficial as this, but the case really does make me hesitate on buying it. It's just so....plain.
I am too waiting someone to give their impression on this new DAC/Preamp/ Streamer from Elac AA. Jim Clark Stereo is selling this online, maybe he can give some more info on this nice looking equipment.
Read the show reviews of the ELAC Andante speakers. Lots of raves.
Now notice that Andrew Jones always demos these speakers with Alchemy electronics. And he was partnering with Alchemy before Alchemy was part of ELAC. There is a reason for that.
I agree the new packaging is a little .... plain .... but IMO the insides are awesome. Peter Madnick, the designer, was VP of Engineering at Constellation as well as a principal in the old Alchemy. He definitely knows how to get really awesome sound at a price point.
If you try one I hope you will post your first impressions. I'm in the market for such a device to replace my DAC, toslink switch, network player and preamp which all sound great but are a nuisance to control even with a programmable remote.
I recently purchased the matching phono preamp PPA-2. The styling is a little utilitarian, but it is a phono preamp after all. The performance and sound quality is excellent so far. Sound quality is what I was after, so the styling of the casework was not a big deal. It's a phono preamp after all, not the centerpiece of the system. For a system centerpiece, I'm not so sure. The circuit topology for the PPA-2 phono preamp, and also the DPA-2, employ discrete differential JFET gain stages with servo controlled outputs. The electronics seem to be top notch. These new Alchemy components would cost quite a bit more with a bunch of expensive casework. Value-oriented audiophiles should give these Alchemy products serious consideration.
The PPA-2 hits most of my requirements for a phono stage for less than $1K and sounds better than anything else I have had in my system - and not by a small measure.
There are a couple of little nits I could talk about that are probably just my own issues.
The adjusters for input loading are on the back of the unit and very fiddly to adjust. But, they work and are very effective. I can live without a third input and an extra 6 dB of gain for the very low output MCs
(I will use an SUT for those)
I bit the bullet on trying out a DDP-2 in home. I'll circle back and let you know how it turns out.
I'm using a Parasound ZDAC right now, which is fine and sounds good, but it's developed a transformer hum which spurred me into jumping on a replacement. It's only recently become audible in the signal chain that the transformer is humming.
The rest of the system is a Primaluna Dialogue Premium Integrated with Electro-Harmonix KT88s and Mullard NOS 12AU7s feeding Spatial Audio M3 Triode Master open baffle speakers with Zu speaker cabling and Blue Jeans interconnects.
Hi guys, After trying many combo Pre/DACs, this is the first one that sounds as good as high end separates that we have found. Its performs like a separate high end analog preamp and a separate high end DAC.. Separate power supplies for analog and digital. Sounds way above its price point. I have compared it to separates totaling $12K and it is right there with them sonically, no compromise. Peter Madnick and Elac offer a crazy value in this line.
Talk is cheap. Don't take my word for it. You can listen to it for yourself, in your home and system with no risk. Satisfaction Guaranteed. No-Restocking fee if you don't love it. In stock. Ships today from IL..
Update: got the IP address figured out and got Airplay up and running. Then a firmware update unlocked Spotify connect which sounds noticeably better than Airplay.
So far, I’m noticing much more rounded bass presentation with more authority and depth. Treble has smoothed out a bit since start up when it was pretty scratchy. Sound stage is much deeper than the Parasound and far better controlled.
It is still early on, but so far it’s promising on sound.
I've not been able to figure out how to connect to the device for files on the network that aren't on Roon. There is a very limited web interface for the device that lets you rename it, update firmware, set bluetooth discoverability, etc. but no mention of how to connect it to other files or how to browse and play them. I reached out to my dealer and they said Peter Madnick from ELAC will email me to help out. I'm relatively savvy on some networking stuff, but have never delved into setting up streaming connections within my own network, so hopefully that can shed some light on it.
After running all night last night, the sound is continuing to smooth out and the differences between the selectable filters are getting more noticeable.
Still getting a bit smoother day by day. Voices are standing out nicely now. Listening to some Fleet Foxes and it’s sounding much more natural than day one with a little more separation in between layers of the songs. Still a bit of not-broken-in smear but I’m seeing more and more of the “character” of the DAC which I’d now describe as decidedly solid state with controlled sound but supplementing some of the spooky realness and depth and width that tubes seem to add.
Weeeeelll shoot. I just had an a-ha moment with this DAC. One of my test songs that I know backward and forward sounded pretty damn awesome. You may laugh but it’s Gordon Lightfoot’s If You Could Read My Mind. I’ve always loved the layering of three guitars, a bass guitar, and a set of strings. I can’t recall hearing them more clearly separated and identifiable in space. With many other sources, there tends to be a smearing of the instruments such that strings all sound like a synthesizer and not a violin, viola, and cello. I had the thought during the song “well, how am I supposed to return this now?”
Similar experience here. On par with high end separates at many times its cost. No need for a leap of faith to order one. I take the risk. 30 day In Home Trial. Free Shipping, No restocking fee. For the next 10 people who order, I’ll even pay the return shipping coming back to me, if you are less than 100% satisfied. I want to get more of the Alchemy Series components out in the field for reviews from real people. These products can stand on their performance and value. No risk to try them in your system. On the rare occasion of a return, we process the refund the same day the item is received as shown by the tracking #. No delays or hassle at all. Excellent DAC and Linear supply FET pure analog preamp. Don’t take my word for it, try it.
I'll be showing the DDP-2 Preamp-DAC at Axpona April 12-14 feeding a pair of Bob Carver Crimson 350 Mono Blocks. Room 1215
The DAC is really really good. Tons of space between instruments which makes it easy to pick up nuances previously unnoticed in songs. Not as much midrange punch and warmth as I would like but the neutrality across the range is really nice.
I plugged in some headphones today (Sennheiser HD650) and it’s fairly disappointing. Compared to the headphone amp on the Parasound, the ELAC is thin and veiled. To get the Senns to sound as well rounded as on the Parasound, I have to crank it to uncomfortable levels. Where the Parasound imaged sounds as though they were coming from the inside of my forehead, it’s like everything is behind my head and through a blanket. Hopefully, it’s just that the headphone amp part has not gotten any attention and needs some break in as well.
In my experience the software controlling the streaming functions is very important. For streaming, a remote control is inadequate. A smartphone or tablet app is essential and a quick review on Google Play shows the apps for most of the streamers out there are buggy. I have a Marantz streamer and its phone app is not ready for prime time. Instead I use Bubble-Upnp (free) to stream high resolution files from my network, the Spotify app (requires Spotify subscription) to cast its playback to my streamer and either the Marantz app or XiiaLive (free, but works with Bubble-Upnp) to cast internet radio. That's a separate app for each streaming source instead of the single Marantz app that unsuccessfully combines the sources.
So, are you using a phone app to control the streaming functions? Which one? Does it stream from your network without stopping or worse, locking up? Have you solved your network streaming problem yet? How is the analog section of the preamp? Do you have a turntable and a phono preamp?
I really appreciate the information you've posted so far.
The headphone amp has thankfully gotten a bit better since I’ve left headphones on it for a few days to break in if it needs that. Picking up the headphones again, I found it had improved and sounded more fleshed out. So there’s hope.
On streaming from services, I’m using Spotify connect and it’s worked very well with the DDP-2. No playback issues, no dropouts, no noise, no problems.
There are zero instructions for how to get my flac files to stream to it and it and the web interface is barebones. You can only rename the device on the network and login to the WiFi. That’s it. So for streaming on your own network or for non-Roon browsing and playing your files, it offers no solution.
For that alone, because of the amount of files I have, I may be returning it so I can get a better and more cohesive streaming solution with a Bluesound Node and a different less costly DAC.
Just came across this thread. In the most recent update, we added DLNA support. We did not officially announce it yet since we are still tweaking it a bit. You should be able to use apps like MConnect (For content on your phone as well as Tidal/Quobuz) and Jriver for your laptop to playback files stored on your PC through the DDP-2. I forwarded this thread to Peter so I am sure he will add some comments. We are working on updating the manual to reflect the most recent updates.
Peter is traveling at the moment, however, I am guessing he will respond soon.
I appreciate the response. While the methods you mentioned are possible, in my mind it kind of defeats the purpose of having a streaming DAC if I have to connect it to a computer. If I’m doing that, I might as well do all of the streaming from a computer and get a DAC that doesn’t have the capabilities for it built in. I know it’s pretty much the standard these days, but i really wish products wouldn’t be released until they are fully baked and not with an asterisk beside certain advertised features. I know that’s not always possible.
Apparently all the hifi developers are hardware guys who think software is just an after thought. When my streamer locks up mid song and I not only have to shut it off but unplug it to clear the problem, then it doesn't matter how good it sounds when it's playing, my listening experience has been ruined. It appears that Elac is trying to avoid some software problems by relying on other people's software. Good luck. Auralic states that they are giving up on Android software and only developing iPhone apps. Good luck in kissing off half your market. I have a suggestion, farm out your software development to a company that specializes in that sort of thing.
Thanks for prompting me. I ended up returning it. As a DAC and probably as a preamp it’s really really good. I was primarily interested in a streaming DAC and it does most of that, but too many of the features advertised weren’t fully baked so rather than hope they would be all that I would like, I decided I would risk going beyond the no return policy to find out.
The DAC is really really good. I kind of wish they left streaming out of it and just made a really good DAC because it sounds great. The filters on it are arguably too subtle to differentiate, but there was some slight flavor difference between them.
Didn’t get to try it as a pre amp since it was going straight into an Integrated amp, but the sound quality from the DAC section was very encouraging.
Overall, I’m going to wait a bit and let them flesh out the software and try some different standalone streamers with a standalone DAC. Probably going to try an R2R just to see what the fuss is about and thinking of the MHDT Orchid for that first.
Dealer in full discloser. Have some more experience with the DDP-2 as a DAC and as an analog preamp, I total agree with rickallen81, " it’s really really good". Sounds like high end separates. I have used it both as a DAC and preamp together for many weeks.
I’m new to the server, streamer, end of the hobby. We have had many separate DACs and preamps using laptops and tidal for streaming. My question is the same as some of yours, whats up with a streamer? If I need a computer either way why add it? Sounds like I’m paying for something that is inadequate for its purpose, if so, why add more stuff?
This is where the server, streamer, end point device has been confusing to me. I remember the times before digital anything existed. Mixing a computer with my audio is kind of forced on guys like me. I like the convenance and selection of streaming. You can always buy the music if you like it, so I’m learning.
For streaming with the DDP-2 you still need a music server (another word for computer). This runs your music and operates your service such as roon, Spotify and many others. The DDP-2 is a roon endpoint. This means that roon will recognize the DDP-2 as a device on your network for you to select and stream to. The list of supported services includes PCM, DSD, DoP, Roon endpoint, Spotify Connect, MQA..
I have been using a Discovery music server, but there are many available and a computer will work too. One important note when using the DDP-2 with your server; the DDP-2 and your server must both be connected to the SAME network preferably over an ethernet connection. This allows them to communicate.
In my case I had been using my laptop for serving and ran a USB cable from the laptop to the DDP-2 and streamed tidal that way.
Most recently using a server has been nice. The server and the DDP-2 are connected with ethernet cables to our wireless router. My laptop is connected to the (LAN) network wirelessly as a controller for the app.. Now the laptop is used for many things and it not tied up just for audio streaming. The DDP-2 is directly connected to the router with a short ethernet cable. The audio is not being processed through my laptop any longer and the laptop is free to move around the house.
Being able to connect direct to your router and LAN, then streaming direct to the DDP-2 works very well. Thats the streamer part.
It is not a server. Thats the computer that is used as a source and human interface.
Hope this helps and is not confusing. Happy to answer questions. I will ask the factory guys any questions you may have, that I don’t have answers to.
I just find it hard to see the new DDP-2 being better than the DDP-1. Just the fact that the DDP-1 has the power supply externally, and is quite substantial on the inside. So is the parts on the inside of the DDP-1 itself (think Constellation Audio). It just makes me wonder about cost cutting with the company going over to ELAC. I have a DDP-1 and it is very very good for preamp and DAC. Worth many times what you pay for it. Squishing all what is in the DDP-1 into the DDP-2 seems not likely. I use a 5 meter USB Audioquest Cinnamon to connect from my Microsoft Surface Clone (Acer 12). It was recommended by a Doctor that has very sensitive instruments. He has gone thru years of using substandard USB cables at the 5 meter length. Only to find the Audioquest works every time. Sitting with my touchscreen Win 10 machine next to me, I can use Groove Music to listen to flac files, or using wireless AC getting Tidal to produce the tunes. Some of the audiophiles with money say that the
Aurender N100H Network Music Streamer
or greater gives them better sound for really high end stuff. It offers a 2 terabyte drive to put your music files on and you use an Ipad at your chair to choose songs. These audiophiles say they can clearly hear a difference with the better electronics in the Aurender Units. In closing, I really wanted to like the DDP-2, but I think the original DDP-1 has superior electronics, (but no MQA unfolding). Tidal masters still sound fantastic on my system. I also use a Singxer USB Bridge (SU-1) between my laptop and the DDP-1, and connect to the DDP-1 with AES/EBU. It sends a purer signal to the DDP-1 with the Singxer SU-1 using Femto Clocks to really remove jitter. Is it needed with the DDP-1? Not sure, but it has worked so well with other DACs I have had. Supposedly, the brain behind Audio Alchemy, Peter Madnick, has been a master of removing jitter on digital audio to back all the way to the nineties
offering similar jitter reducing boxes. So my Singxer SU-1 may not be needed. I have quite a good system going with Krell Vintage KSA-200S and Martin Logan Montis speakers, and the DDP-1 just brought the sound to another level with my system. I also put inline a Schiit Freya preamp in "tube mode" with (4) 6SN7 tubes. It makes for a really nice smoothness, and I can press a button and turn the Freya preamp into pass-thru and listen with no tubes. Then the last part is 2 REL S3 subwoofers, hooked in stereo directly to the speaker outs on the Krell KSA-200S. These are sitting on the inside of the Martin Logan Montis for bass foundation, and not the thumpy bass that most subs put out. The sound is at the top of the chain, and I can say the the Audio Alchemy DDP-1 DAC and Preamp changed my system to fantastic. Any thoughts on the construction of the new DDP-2, or pics of the inside would be of great help.
I got to see inside the DDP-2 with a video posted of it on the ELAC Alchemy Forum. There is some serious hardware inside, and I have no doubt that the DDP-2 will be one of the best buys you can get for a Preamp, DAC combination. I am astonished by the sound of my last generation unit (DDP-1) and the new unit really has an ability to sound as good as those units costing many times more.
right now, my wish list is head to head between the TEAC NT-505 and the DDP2 next down the chain is the NAD C658 then various chi-fi, which will end up on the end of a generic USB cable in me stack yup
About a year ago I bought the DPA-1 first, then a couple months later the DDP-1, sans PS 5. It took 5 months to acquire a solo PS -5 direct from factory, as no one wants to sell it separately and WOW what an improvement the PS 5 made/makes. I am feeding it with a slightly moded Oppo 105, where the incoming power and IEC were upgraded as well as replaced the crappy SMPS with a aftermarket LPM from Ebay. I also have a Marantz HD CD-1 that I bought to use as a transport, but it's skipping and I haven't gotten around to finding out the problem, and the Oppo sounds pretty damn good, though far from a TOL transport
FYI I have seen a DDP-1 + PS 5 for sale at the ridiculous price of $1100