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.
Don’t know how you can find sibilance distortion without sibilance.

Very simple.
Sibilance is a very complex waveform and hard to reproduce exactly with nothing added or removed.
There is natural sibilance and that’s listenable, when it’s emphasised it’s added distortion that’s created trying to produce the natural sibilance, when there’s no sibilance, usually means the amp has rolled off or masked it with bandwidth limitations

Wide bandwidth SS Class-A done right is usually the best at doing it perfect, nothing added nothing removed, and violin piano high notes are a good indicator also.

Cheers George
Next Update - Weiss 501 vs. Bricasti M1 SE vs Rockna Wavedream Signature

I would start off by saying this is in essence, no compromise space.  All three of these are elite.  They are clear.  They have incredible separation between instruments and are roughly neutral.  All three have massive soundstages.  There are simply small differences in tonal profile and detail level that would alter your options.  

This is now about careful system matching to your taste and not about compromise as detail and soundstage are cost of entry.  

The M1 SE is the least detailed but is brilliant and is extremely engaging in all ways.   Soundstage is huge and well under control.  The central image is deep.  The image is wide.  Like the M3, their is a slight emphasis on bass vs. the Weiss and Rockna but not overwhelming.  That being said, it handles the bass solo on Duende admirably, almost all the effects come out in Liberty and strings are well separated in the Berg piece.  Harmonics in female voices are brought out in a really engaging and wonderful way, the best of the three for female vocals.  

There are like 13 filters and I settled on Linear 1.  This is an incredibly fun and engaging DAC to listen too. It is not as detailed as the other two (Weiss and Rockna) but is as detailed or more detailed than any of the units in the $5K range and has a better soundstage than those in that it is huge sounding but stable and imaging is precise. 

The Weiss is about precision and accuracy.  This is clean and clear to an almost unimaginable level while throwing out a massive soundstage.  As large as the M1 SE, maybe even deeper away from the center.  In terms of sound profile, it is maybe a touch cold.  Settings are critically important on this DAC. 

First run through the songs, I was getting a touch of distortion.  Not what I was expecting.  Changed the setting from full output to -10dB and voila, perfection.  And that is the best way to describe this DAC.  It delivers borderline perfect, completely clean, undistorted sound, yet with a huge soundstage.  

There is no coloration.  There is good air around instruments.  But there is a complete lack of warmth and it is unforgiving.  That being said, it has an insane feature set.  There is no sibilance in the Sting track or during Liberty.  Brighter systems can suffer from sibilance problems so they offer a D-esser DSP to resolve that.  If you want a more analog and colored sound, it has vinyl mode.  Have a bad room, it has room correction.  Listen at low volume, there is a loudness setting.  

I tested both the M1 SE and the Weiss via USB and their own, internal renderers.  Suffice it to say, ethernet is the way to go.  The M1 SE is a little better with it's card vs. the 2Go/2Yu.  The Weiss is a lot better.  They sell just the renderer and DSP portion of this and it would make an incredible front end for a very nice system.  

Finally, the Rockna is remarkable in that it is unremarkable.  It is tough to describe the sound profile.  It is not forward.  It is not laid back.  There is no emphasis in bass.  It is also not lean.  There just nothing to note.  It is not a DAC you will ever notice.  The soundstage is big.  Detail level is as good as the Weiss or very close.   The way you would notice it is that you just don't notice it.  

Yet there is a touch of, not warmth, but harmonics that comes through that makes it a hair sweeter and more forgiving than the Weiss.  This might be the R2R ladders.  It does not sound digital and is maybe a bit more analog sounding than the Weiss.  It is almost like a middle ground between the Weiss and the M1 SE.  Comparably equipped it is $17K for the XLR version compared to $11K and $9K for Bricasti and Weiss respectively so it should be better.  It very much makes me want to hear the Bricasti M21 side-by-side which would be a fairer comparison. 

If you either just love musicality and detail is not be all end all priority or your system is a touch cold, the Bricasti is an easy choice.  

If you are focused on detail, crave accuracy or are interested in the feature set (amazing headphone amp not mentioned yet) this is a brilliant DAC.  If your system is a little cold, this may not be the best choice. 

If your system is in balance and you simply want to elevate it to and elite level, the Rockna is insanely good.  
@treebeard1 I have a PS Audio DSD Sr coming in toward the end of next week. I took it on trade today. I will add it as a point of comparison.  
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