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I have posted on this general topic before. I started out with the Hex (running SPDIF to transport) and "moved up" to the Pavane II a couple years ago. Subtle improvements in detail extraction and info retrieval were the yield. IMO, the Hex represents the better value but the Pavane is more complete. Bought both units new from HiFi Heaven.
Little off topic but you mentioned you were running the onyx through ambre with I2S. Did you try running it via spdif also to compare? I'm wondering if you heard any differences between I2S and spdif?
I have the onyx also but running it via spdif. The only way to use it via I2S would be to purchase an ambre so wondering if spdif to I2S is significant and warrants buying an ambre.
I'm using a modified Wyred for Sound Sonos Connect which only has spdif rca digital output. I'm also using a modified cd transport with the same digital rca output connection to play cds.
I know I've read the I2S is supposed to be better but was wondering for any comments from those that used both.
The Wyred for Sound does sound very good when streaming Tidal. At some point I may buy the Ambre with Roon and connect via I2S.
@nitewulf @justjames72 - +1!
I enjoy my Onyx as well, and good to know that its so good that the Pavane, even though I'm sure it's likely a "little" better than the Onyx, it may not be justifiable for the add'l $$ required.
I run mine via AES/EBU from a Gustard U16 DDC (MacBook Pro connected to the U16 via USB), and the music is highly engaging, exciting, while liquid and natural!
I would love to know if the Ambre would be an upgrade to my setup above?? Now that Roon supports Tidal and Qobuz (btw, I think Qobuz hi-res is much better than Tidal MQA, but I don't have the Metrum module in my Onyx to do the second unwrapping of MQA), it might be time to try an Ambre. Any thoughts?
@1markr Greetings! That's interesting you say that Qobuz is better. My limited testing showed MQA to be better, but obviously it's all subjective. I don't have MQA enabled in my Onyx either, but I let Roon and the Ambre take care of the first unfold. I think you should def try the Ambre. what do you use now?
Interesting thread as I also was wondering about this given the large price difference between the two. I guess the implementation of the output stage, etc. is good or similar enough in the Onyx that the extra expensive DAC chips don't make all that big of a difference versus the added cost? Whatever, this was interesting info.
Given the apparently relative small gains to be had by spending $$$ on the Pavane, it would seem trying a DAC from another make might make more sense. SW1X is another R2R NOS DAC that seems to be really pleasing their owners, and they offer an in-home trial period (and an upgrade path, I believe). I’d be inclined to try that before considering the Pavane since I think SW1X may be less expensive and will likely produce more absolute differences in sound vs. the Onyx than the Pavane. Whether good or bad, who knows? But that’s why the trial period is so key. FWIW.
@justjames72 …. I've had great success using a Gustard U16 to convert from my laptops USB output to the AES/EBU input on my Onyx. Before that, I used a Matrix X-SPDIF2 powered by an Uptone LPS1.2, and that worked great too, but I think the U16 itself is better. I recommissioned the LPS1.2 to my ethernet switch.
So, are you going to take one for the team and audition SW1X against the Onyx? ;) Would love to hear about that comparison!
I think they use tubes, which I think helps with the sense of utter dimensionality that owners seem to rave about. No idea if better or worse than Metrum (that's always a personal decision anyway), but I think the use of tubes will make them sound different. And I emphasize "different," not better or worse. Again, they have a trial period and if you have the means it would seem like a REALLY good comparison. Personally, these two are in the top two in my sites so I'd love to hear a comparison. Someone did a comparison between an Octave and an SW1X DAC and preferred the latter, but I pretty much reject that as I don't think the Octave is near the performance of the Onyx nor an appropriate comparison, so the beat goes on.
@1markr -- I'd absolutely love to do the comparo, but my amp is currently dead as would be my marriage if I tried to both repair my amp and buy another DAC at the same time. Very much hoping someone else can do it though.