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.

I have been promising you guys a review of the Weiss DAC 204 and here it is.  The real question is the comparison vs. the 501/502.  I don't have a 501/502 here at the moment for comparison.  I do have the Helios which is a bit unfair.

Packaging is kind of lame.  It is in a simple cardboard box with recycled, shredded paper as the protective material.  For $3500, I expect foam.  Maybe this is greener????

Tonally, this unit is a Weiss.  It is not perfectly neutral and drifts a hair forward like other Weiss products.  The sound is similar as well.  The unit is detailed and sounds quite revealing.  The image has good depth and width.  

In a Sentimental Mood had sparkly piano and excellent placement of instruments.  Be Still My Beating Heart has scale.  Sting's voice is not sibilant in my system, but I think in a slightly brighter setup it could drift that way.  Liberty sounds clear with very black background. Again, no sibilance. The noise floor is quite low on this.  Great detail with Duende and the unit appears to be able to keep up with the more complex portions of the song.  The Berg piece sounds right sized and intimate. 

Based on my notes, I am not seeing hug differences between the 204 and 501/502.  All indications are the 501/502 are a bit more detailed and the image is more stable.  That said, I can't say that with absolute certainty.  

I cannot believe you are that naive to think someone or a few here are shells for retailers. End game DAC to stop all this nonsense. Any Playback Design DAC. I finally got off the DAC merry go round with one of Playback DAC’s.  Playback is End Game DAC material for sure. Try one you will see or hear as it would be. 

@verdantaudio, were you using the stock power supply with the 204 or something else?   I have the 205 and just purchased a Keces LPS for it and thought it was a nice improvement in dynamics and maybe it offered a little more fullness/mass to the presentation.   I compared the combo with my Meitner MA3, and was very impressed with it relatively speaking for the difference in $$.

@ddafoe i used the stock PSU.  They make an external from Weiss.  I just didn’t buy one.  I have considered adding it.  Compared to the Meitner, this unit is a step down.  With the external PSU I am sure it is much closer.  

Let me just add one thing that Scott didn't mention.  The Weiss has two small toggle switches on the back that let you adjust down the output of the DAC by -10, -20 or -30dB.  As this is a straight-forward DAC you will be using it with your preamp or integrated, and this feature enables you to operate your volume control over its optimal range.