DAC Shootout Starts This Weekend

Okay...in another thread I promised to do a side-by-side evaluation of the Audiobyte HydraVox/Zap vs the Rockna Wavelight. Due to the astonishing incompetence of DHL this has been delayed. At the moment, I have a plethora of DACs here and am going to do a broader comparison.

I am going to do a compare of the Rockna Wavelight, Rockna Wavedream Signature, Audiobyte HydraVox/Zap, Chord Hugo 2, Chord Hugo TT2, Bricasti M3, Bricasti M1 Special Edition, Weiss 501 and the internal DAC card for an AVM A 5.2 Integrated amp as a baseline.

For sake of consistency, I am going to use that same AVM integrated amp driving Vivid Kaya 45s. I may branch out and do some listening on other speakers (Verdant Nightshade of Blackthorn and/or Wilson Benesch Vertexes) but want to use the Vivids for every compare as they are the fullest range speakers I have here. For sake of consistency I will use a Chord 2Go/2Yu connected via an Audioquest Diamond USB as a renderer. The only exception is the Hugo 2 which has a 2Go directly attached to it. I will use a Roon Nucleus+ as a server in all cases.

My plan is to use the same five songs on every DAC; In a Sentimental Mood from Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, Be Still My Beating Heart from Sting, Liberty from Anette Askvik, Duende from Bozzio Levin Stevens and Part 1 of Mozart String Quartet No 14 in G Major from the Alban Berg Quartet. The intent is to touch on different music types without going crazy.

I will take extensive notes on each listening session and write up a POV on the strengths of each unit. I am going to start this this Friday/Saturday and will be writing things up over the next month or so. If you have thoughts, comments or requests, I will be happy to try and accommodate. The one thing I am not going to do is make the list of songs longer as that has an exponential impact on this and make everything much harder. If and when other DACs come in on trade I may add to the list through time.
@georghifi.  I thought I mentioned that the Vu Jade was an R2R.  Definitely a good
sounding unit.
No, you only mentioned the cheaper single box was Delta Sigma

verdantaudio OP
Today I had a visit from Peter and Karl of Vu Jade. The brought their DAC 100 which retails for $12K and is a two chassis tube DAC. They also offer a single chassis, delta-sigma DAC using 6SN7s and is one I am looking forward to hearing.  

@georgehifi.  Not an intentional omission.  Thanks for catching.

@jjss49 i very much want to know your thoughts on this.  Thank you for sharing.  
Hugo 2 vs. the internal DAC card on the AVM Evolution A5.2 Integrated.  

At first I thought this was an unfair comparison.  A $2500 DAC/ headphone amp vs. an $800 card.  Take away the headphone amp and battery and the Hugo 2 is basically a Qutest.  No need for a case and power supply....strong potential these would be pretty comparable.  I was correct.  They are two very different sounding DACs but in many ways are quite comparable. 

This is by far the hardest portion of this to write.  I wish I would not have listened to the better DACs before writing it.  All DACs in the price tier above (~$5K) are better in every way.  It doesn't make them bad.  Just not as good as the units that are 2x-6x the price.   

The Hugo 2 is a DAC I use for lots of stuff because of its mobility and connectivity but other than with headphones, I rarely listen to it critically.  The immediate thing you notice is stable and clear.  It is centered but did not extend beyond the speakers.  This is not a bass heavy DAC(this does not show up with headphones) and this is what creates the perception that it can be a hair bright.  Instrument separation is good.  Some massing of string in particularly challenging parts of the Berg piece and the opening of Duende was a challenge but overall, detail is a strength for this DAC.

The AVM is the opposite.  It had a lush central image with an emphasis on bass that creates a perceived warmth.  The image also did not extend beyond the speakers but it was more layered and delivered more of an experience.  Detail is not a strength.  Strings massed during more challenging parts of the Berg piece and the opening of Duende was a struggle.   Expectations though with AVM are that it will have a richer, warmer sound and it did.  

Basically, if you are looking for a good DAC in the $2500 range and below, Chord is going to be on many lists and belong there.  Detail retrieval is excellent and if detail is your priority...this is a brilliant DAC (as is the Qutest).  

For what is not an inexpensive integrated amp ($6995 list) with two optional cards push price to $8595 (Phono & DAC - each $800) you would hope the DAC would be decent and fit with the brands house sound.  It does.  It would not be uncommon for someone to pair a Chord Qutest with the AVM integrated or a similarly priced DAC.  If you like a warmer sound and want a one box solution, this would not be a bad option.  
Good job so far Scott. I was wondering and maybe I missed it but did you try the different filters on the TT2?