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.
The microdynamics are a huge part of what I have have been focusing on in this thread.  It is the fine details.  Subtleties in the way a drum roll comes together, speedy bass notes, sound effects, separation of notes in bells and piano.  These little things are inherently the difference between very good and extraordinary and they do add up.  

That being said, you do need to have a system capable of delivering those microdynamics to you.  You need a resolving enough amplifier and speakers that are sufficiently detailed.  Years ago I did a demo of a bunch of stand-mount speakers in the $1000 to $2000 range and a couple floor standers.  One test track I used was Don't Give Up by Peter Gabriel off of Secret World Live.  What I discovered in that session was that multiple speakers were simply not capable reproducing the fine details of things like crowd noise in certain parts of that song.  It was an entirely Bryston system with a speaker switch so it wasn't the amp or DAC, the only change was the speakers.  You can get the most detailed DAC in the world and if your speakers are your systems bottleneck you will not benefit.  

Regarding imaging, separation of instruments and soundstage, all of these things vary wildly from dac to dac and there is no objective "this is how it should sound" benchmark to know if your DAC is doing well.  The closest you can come is Q sound recordings but those are problematic in the opposite direction in that virtually any DAC and system should be able to make those sound incredible.  
ime microdynamics are tricky - there is no right or wrong, sometimes more detail is better, sometimes it is for the worse

what matters a lot here is low noise floor, black background (sometimes it is the gear, sometimes it is power feed/conditioning, sometimes it is cabling), and detail that is present in an easeful way, without a trace of edge or harshness - lots of systems produce detail in a highly unnatural, extruded, pressure washer shooting at you way - nooo buenoooo

listening for microdetail is tricky too... it can really get one to focus on the system rather than the music as a whole
Thank you for this civil and informative discussion.

@jjss49 That is one of my favorite descriptions I’ve seen yet regarding detail — “detail that is present in an easeful way, without a trace of edge or harshness - lots of systems produce detail in a highly unnatural, extruded, pressure washer shooting at you way - nooo buenoooo”
I have been following this thread from the beginning. My very subjective opinion is that you can not "intuit" your way into audio assumptions. This thread involves an assumption that if you keep the music server constant the DAC comparisons are valid. The reality, imho, is that the choice of music server, connecting cable, and DAC all play a significant role. The folks that shun vinyl as being too complicated fail to realize that at the highest level, digital playback is equally complicated. As just one example, my Aurender W20 and my SW1X DAC III Balanced will sound radically different simply by substituting very highly regarded S/PDIF cables. 
@fsonicsmith    I don’t disagree that choice of server, cable and even the connection between server and DAC (USB, AES, etc…) matters and can have an impact.  
In the end, I am limited in that I don’t have an infinite number of servers lying around or cables. It is not perfect but do think it has value.