Rowland Capri S2 Preamp with hi-res DAC option
When I got the Jeff Rowland Capri S2 preamp, it came with the hi-res DAC option preinstalled. I didn't think much about it then until lately after I got the Marantz NA8005 network player reviewed in another thread.
One day, the curiosity bug bit me - how would the Capri DAC option compare with the Marantz NA8005's internal dac?
First off, the Capri dac does hi-res pcm up to 192kHz but no dsd. The Marantz does both, including native dsd and double dsd, instead of dsd over pcm. So, I can only compare hi-res pcm.
The Marantz dac is fully burnt in now while the Capri dac has just been just switched on for the very first time. It is interesting to note the evolution of the Capri dac sound as it breaks in over time. I brought back out the Oyaide single-ended digial cable for connection from the Marantz coax output. All listening comparisons were done only with a usb flash drive plugged into the Marantz front panel usb port.
When first switched on, the sound fron the Capri was thin, reedy and pinched. The Marantz was ahead in tone density, body weight, soundstaging and overall musicality.
After about 100 hours, the soundstage via the Capri is starting to open up but things still sound lean. However, the Capri is now resolving better than the Marantz in terms of transparency and air in the treble frequencies. Bass is still deficient.
At about 150 hours, the sound takes a sudden dramatic turn. I say sudden because when I sat down to listen at the 150 hour mark, having not listened much before this, my ears perked up. Whoa! - tonal density and instrument body have both gained by leaps and bounds, but overall musicality is still inferior to the Marantz.
At the 200 hour mark, that's it! My feet started tapping again and it is all good. I am sure there will still be incremental gains beyond this but I think the Capri is probably already at 90% of its full potential.
In summary, the Capri DAC option at US$400, beats out the Marantz internal dac. The Marantz as a media server, provides the vehicle for use of a usb flash drive and network streaming, together with dsd processing at a little more than 1k. But sonics wise, the Capri dac is worth every extra penny for it where hi-res pcm is concerned.
This has been an unexpected but pleasant discovery of the Capri dac's capabilities.
I hope you are reading this. Would you know if the Capri's dac section is similar in chip design architecture to that of the Aeris dac which you now have in your system? If it is, I can only imagine how much better the Aeris would be with its separate chassis and power supply.
And I can also picture the grin on your face when you finally decide to take the hi-res plunge with the Aeris.