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.

+1 @verdantaudio- spot on and one of the best thought provoking posts on digital I have read on this forum… An Accuphase dealer I know said the new $25k Dac 1000 is incredible, and low and behold I believe the architecture is based around an ESS Sabre 9038 chipset- this adds further credence to your assertion.  @Charles- thoughtful comments as always from a fellow Coincident speaker guy :-)

OTOH- I can totally understand how companies have to play to the market. Even Esoteric went to an FPGA. The customers appear to like the newer releases, but I wouldn’t be surprised the sonic differences were due to something other than the change from chips to fpga.

@verdantaudio- you should try and get some Aries Cerat product at some point.  Build quality is insane.  Even the Helene Dac had a fluidity that my previous Rockna and Tambaqui dacs couldn’t match.  The Kassandra is a completely different level after that.  I have local audio friends that have full AC systems and it is really amazing gear…


Do you know whether Playback Designs will soon be coming out with a Merlot replacement dac for the Sonoma series, now that the Merlot is discontinued but the other pieces in the series apparently are not?

@sutts AC is a brand that will get added.  I like Worldwide and have a good relationship with Robert so it is a brand I was naturally considering and will look at seriously as the year progresses.  I would be shocked if I am not a dealer for AC at this time next year.  

@kren0006 I have asked this and my understanding is that there is no timeline for replacement of the Merlot.  The priority was getting the MPD-6 to market as a replacement for the MPD-5.  I also recently inquired about a Syrah and am not sure I can even get one of those.