DAC Event in Phoenix AZ August 24th

Hi Folks,

For those curious about DACs, the Arizona AV Club is partnering with a number of manufactures and dealers to produce a Dac shootout on Saturday August 24th 11am to 3pm. The event will be held at Acoustic Designs 16074 N. 78th Street, Suite B104, Scottsdale, AZ 85260.

The following dacs will be present:
  • Schiit Yggdrasil
  • Chord Hugo TT + M Scaler
  • Benchmark DAC3
  • iFi Audio Pro iDSD
  • PS Audio DirectStream
  • Holo Audio Spring DAC2
  • Jolida Glass FX DAC
  • NuPrime Evolution DAC
  • L.K.S. DAC MH-DA004
  • Line Magnetic
The dacs will be played in an acoustically treated room on a reference system consisting of Focal Maestro Utopia Evos driven by SAE and Acoustic Research gear.

If you have any interest in hearing well regarded dacs on a top tier system don't miss this event! There is a $10 entry fee. RSVPs are appreciated due to limited seating; multiple sessions will be available. There will also be a speaker from Chord present to talk about their technology.

More information here: www.AZAVCLUB.COM or PM me.
Will the Arizona AV Club and Acoustic Designs publish the results of the above DAC shootout with a follow up post on Audiogon?   

If possible, any comments on each DAC would be appreciated.  
@hgeifman I imagine there will be a follow up once the event is over. One of the recent Speakerfest attendees did a great write up after the event with impressions of the various speakers.
Update: The Chord DAC in the shootout will now be the Qutest. A Hugo TT will still be present but part of different system in another demo room.
Another update: A cadre from Chord will now be present bringing with them an assortment of gear from their line. They will be set up in a couple of additional demo rooms and free to talk about their line and audio technology in general. If you are in the Phoenix area don't miss this opportunity to listen to an assortment of exceptional dacs and some top tier systems!
Hi Folks,

Just a reminder the event is happening this Saturday! There is still plenty of room for anyone interested in attending.

As mentioned above, there will be a second demo system showcasing Chord equipment. This system will consist of a Hugo TT2, Hugo MScaler, CPA 3000 pre-amp, and a pair of SPM 6000MKII amps driving a set of B&W 803D3s.
@melm, sorry for the wait we are going to publish the results along with some pictures of the event on our webpage soon. Stay tuned. :)
Interesting about the Dacs, as I was about ready to pull the trigger on a Chord Qutest Dac tonight but then I held off after reading some post on here. My current system consists of Belles MB-200 Monobloc with their VT-01 Tube Pre/Amp, I am a sucker for a good tube pre/amp, just not sure if the Chord would fit better in this system or going with the Jolida Black Ice Dac... I mean it doesn't surprise me that most liked it more, as Tubes tend to color the music in ways a lot of people prefer... 
Write up on our webpage is live in the center column: www.AZAVCLUB.COM


Session 1)

First Place = Chord Qutest

Second Place (tie) = Holo Audio Spring DAC2 and NuPrime Evolution DAC

Session 2)

First Place = Schiit Yggdrasil

Second Place = iFi Audio Pro iDSD

Third Place = Benchmark DAC3

Session 3)

First Place = Black Ice Audio Glass FX DSD

Second Place = LKS MH-DA004

Third Place = PS Audio Direcstream DAC

Session 4) Finals:

First Place = Black Ice Audio Glass FX DSD

Second Place = Chord Qutest

Third Place = Schiit Yggdrasil

The Format:

All dacs were fed the same source simultaneously via optical input from an optical splitter fed from the cd player. A professional recording engineer and myself spent the day before setting up and level matching all the dacs. For each listening session we played five test tracks from all different genres of music using high quality recordings. We cycled through the dacs using the various preamp inputs for a seamless transition during each test track with each dac playing for 10-30 seconds at a time with several transitions within each track.

Listeners knew which dacs were present in each bracket but not which dac was playing at a given time other than if it was dac A, B, or C. Votes were tallied at the end of each session and only afterward were the dacs unveiled as belonging to one of the given inputs (A, B,or C). Not even I, who set up the dacs knew which one was which until the unveiling. Participants then discussed why they liked a given dac and we discussed the dacs technology and feature set.

The System:

The event took place in a room custom built to showcase home theater design and thus was very well treated. The system consisted of:

  • Amp = SAE 2HP
  • Preamp = Chord CPA-5000
  • Interconnects DACs to Pre = Audioquest Mackenzie
  • Interconnects Pre to Power = Audioquest Water
  • Optical Cables = Audioquest Cinnamon
  • CDP as transport only = Musical Fidelity M3SCD
  • Speakers = pair of Focal Utopia Maestro Evos
  • Speaker cables = Audio Quest William Tell Silver Zero with William Tell Bass in a Bi-wire configuration.

Great info, prighello.  I look forward to attending one of your events when I'm back in AZ.
The results seem in line with what would be expected of group listening sessions. 

Ironically I had narrowed it down to a used Chord Qutest and or Black Ice Audio Glass. Well your little blind test might have narrowed it down more. ;) Thanks for the write up and info! 
Where does one purcahse the Black Ice Audio? I only see a few on eBay and Jolida's website mentions nothing about dealers or purchasing options. Very strange.
@audionoobie, Black Ice sells through dealers as far as I know. Underwood Hifi is one of them. For the event, I just contacted them directly via the website information.

@toneranger58 , the test tracks are not listed anywhere. I am going to see if we can get them listed on our webpage somewhere. Off the top of my head some of them were:

  • Norah Jones - Come Away with Me
  • MOD - Skyrim Age of Oppression
  • Jack Johnson - Wasting Time
  • Turtle Island Quartet - Julie O
  • Andreas Vollenweider - Pyramid (Live Zurich)
  • Bastille - An Act of Kindness
  • Erich Kunzel - Robin Hood Theme
  • Thomas Bergersen - Final Frontier
  • Ottmar Liebert - Fireopal
  • Hall & Oats - Out of Touch
Thank you very much for holding this demonstration and for your reporting of it.  It's going to be one of the more popular readings on this site.

I would add my voice to that of toneranger58 and inquire about the tracks.

My second question is about the methodology although it may convey a misunderstanding.  It looks as though you had three initial sessions, each ranking 3 DACs.  You then took the three winners and had a 4th session choosing a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place overall winners.   A DAC that took second place under the winner in one of the initial three sessions was then, in effect, knocked out of consideration for the final listen.  Logically, though, a DAC placing second (or even third) in one of the initial three sessions might have been ranked above one of the three initial session winners--if given the chance.

Have I got that right?
@melm, you are correct in your thinking. It is possible a second place dac could have beat a finalist. It was just the way the bracketing system worked within the time constraints we had. Kind of like March Madness.
I had the same concerns as @melm when I read the findings yesterday. As he correctly points out, even a third place finisher might have been ranked ahead of a "finalist."

I’m glad (very glad) you and your group went to the trouble you did and more should do the same, but March Madness this isn’t. All 4 sessions stand as unique entities. Crossover conclusions regarding the uncompared components do not hold up.
You must be kidding,  did you guys read the test setup and protocalls?

A pair of $64k Focal Utopia EVO 
a  Chord CPA 5000 preamp  a $20k preamp
a  SAE ampliifer $20k?

Dac to preamp interconnect $239 AQ Mackinzie

Preamp to Amp inteconnect AQ Water $600

Speaker cables abount $15,000

Do you guys see anything wrong with this picture?

You are losing all your information from a $200 inteconnect not to mention you are feeding dacs with a jitter prone optical cable rather than a USB server which allows for much higher data rates then you are using a $600 Inteconnect from the critical preamp to amp junction.

We have done cable evaluations from the wind, water, earth series and you can absolutely tell the difference between the series.

For a system of this calibre you should have used much higher end intereconnects $2k at least up to the Dragon or higher series of cables.

Please try to re-run your demo with proper interconnects and a USB server and then see if your results don't change considerably.

Yes your testing everything was the same however, many of the better dacs what you are paying for is increased resolution, a much better soundstage and it is doubtful that your setup limitations allowed you to fully appreciate the quality differences which may appear subtle at first but then with proper inteconnects and a digital server should become much much greater.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ

Do you guys see anything wrong with this picture?

I jumped when I saw 'Optical' and AQ Cinnamon. : )

Perhaps the OP can explain the club's thinking / reasoning on cabling choice, etc.?
weird cabling choices, I agree...optical cable? inexpensive interconnect inconsistent with rest of the gear?
The cabling choices were odd and only 30 seconds of each track?But it was a first attempt so that could change for next time.
Dave and Troy from Audio Doctor NJ beat me to it.
I own the Current Yggy dac. Optical sounds the worst compared to all other connections. AES/EBU and BNC are the best sounding in my system. I prefer BNC. Sure I’d love to save over $1k and get a Black Ice Audio dac, and I bet it is an excellent dac. Would be nice to compare the finalist dacs with different connections though.But, I’m sticking with my Yggy + I support American products as best I can.  We make the best stuff here and don’t copycat. Oops... another topic for another time. Ha!