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.
Dbcd6fec 4ef5 4a7d b812 98d46add4990verdantaudio
@in_shore,
Thanks for sharing your listening impressions of the two DACs. Does the Audiobyte DAC superior timbre and realism apply as well to acoustic instruments (Or just human vacals) ? That’s a coveted attribute.
Charles
@verdantaudio I’ve been following your thread. Thanks for sharing your findings. A time intensive endeavor, to say the least.

I’m curious about your thoughts on the following:

With Charles’ Yamamoto DAC, my previous ARC DAC7, etc. ... given the time/provenance when they were developed...do you feel the reference points and focus by the development engineers was different (back then) than it is now?

I’m over generalizing here to make the point: Today, many DACs, like the Holo May, deliver / are focused on a different sonic presentation. More theatrics than fidelity to live acoustic performance [again, generalizing to make the point].

Note: I’m not picking on the Holo May...using it for discussion reasons, since it was recently mentioned.
Charles yes I would say so , the AudioByte Vox presents timbre of Acoustic instruments better then the Holo Audio however we’ll recorded vocals are truly breath taking and for the price of the AudioByte Vox it’s a honey with it’s purpose built headphone section and wife accepts it tidy small foot print in her part of the house . 
@david_ten This is tough in that I don't have a Holo May and will not comment on that exact product.  But I do understand your point.  There are a few other brands I can think of (that will remain unnamed) that deliver experience over accuracy.  This is not bad, and clearly, lots of people like this.  It is a choice.  What is unfortunate is that folks can get caught up in enthusiasm around a product and end up with something that is not to their liking and not know why.  

I am not sure you can make an industry wide generalization though. I think that the core brands mentioned here, Chord, Rockna/Audiobyte, Bricasti, Weiss and I would add in MSB, dCS & Playback Designs are committed to delivery of an accurate listening experience.  The deviations between these brands sound profile is real and obvious, but not so extreme that it is challenging to build a system with them as a source and get a great result.  

@in_shore,
Thanks. I suspected this would be the case. More often than not if a component can reproduce high quality midrange with human voice it will excel with unamplified/acoustic musical instruments. This is not an easily accomplished task. Kudos to the Audiobyte Hydro Vox.
Charles