Dangerous Music Convert-2 DAC Review - Stream of Consciousness

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by purr1n, Oct 26, 2018.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I've been out of the DAC game for a long time for a few reasons. My primary source is still my turntable, something that I do not think that will ever change. I actually limited myself to only records for the better part of a year until the Yggdrasil Analog 2 came out. I found the Yggdrasil Analog 2 to be "close enough" and it certainly came in handy when I only had digital versions of recordings that I wanted to hear. I had zero desire to chase after other DACs because I knew good audiophile DACs tend to start at $5000, or more.

    So being completely out of it, I started to hear murmurs of these TOTL pro-audio DACs being awesome and shit. Names like Prism, Crane Song, Forssell, Dangerous Music, Burl, etc. Surely this could not be possible, as my prior experience with pro-audio D/A converters during my DAC search years ago (fully documented on HF) was less than stellar. The Lavry DA10 was the best of the bunch, but it wasn't terribly good at any one thing. The Mytek Stereo DSD made me want to kill myself, along with everyone else who was in the room - I think @ultrabike might have been there too. The highly recommended (at HC) ULN2, ULN8 was good enough in technicalities, but was lean sounding and exhibited serious sigma-delta treble stridency. The Benchmark DAC1 was already considered a piece of garbage by most people back then: false detail and no bass. I think the one DAC that I might have liked during that era may have been Lavry Gold, but I never had a chance to hear it. The Gold was also horribly expensive back then, especially if you take inflation into account.

    A lot of time has gone by since those days. Today, we are blessed with TOTL pro-audio DACs that are actually semi-affordable (that is affordable to mere mortals who make an effort to save money for a few months). They aren't all $4k++ like they used to be, or require another $8k "plutonium" clock so they don't sound like shit (this is the kind of stuff that pisses me off and makes me want to give certain MoTs* a severe pummelling).

    *If one of those MoTs does get beaten up, please don't direct the cops to me, someone else did it. I've taken a vow of non-violence.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2019
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I'm trying not to read what people say on other sites, especially since they are not known quantities to me. Nothing personal. Might be fun to read impressions here and then compare later.

    On the AKM4490, I too have doubts about it. The 4490 was two steps forward (deeper stage, better retrieval of low-level information) and three steps back ("velvety" bass, depressed mids, softer attacks). For a cheap DAC, it's fine and has good synergies for a lot of entry-level headphones (Grados, AKM, HiFiMan, etc.) However, Schiit's latest Modi 3 (AKM4490) did seem to be a step in the right direction with more a normal bass presentation, but it still couldn't fix that darn laid-back presentation - the older Modi 2U's (AKM4396) had nicer crisper transients and attacks. We'll see what Crane Song can do. The Solaris is on the way. Until I hear otherwise, I will give them the benefit of the doubt. The Convert-2 is making me a believer in pro-audio DACs in 2018. My bet is that the Solaris will be different, not necessarily worse or better.

    Not step down, but 1:1 isolation transformers for XLR to RCA. Dangerous Music recommends stuff like the Radial J-iso* box instead of those XLR-to-RCA cables where the (-) pin is shorted to ground. This is studio gear after all, so transformers (good ones) aren't "scary" to them, but weird ass hacks like XLR-to-RCA conversion cables with pins shorted are.

    *I believe it's the exact same 4:1 transformer used in the Jenson box many are familiar with here. I already stated that I preferred the 1:1 CMLI-15B because it doesn't impart any warmth.

    Yes, this DAC belongs in my Class A list. I wouldn't say it's organic sounding because that word has certain connotations. I will say that it's normal sounding: none of those horrible digital highs of pro-audio DACs from an earlier era, or robotic vocoder timbre of some popular audiophile DACs (Vega DAC cough cough); and none of that lean thin tonality or over-sharpened transients. Everything seems just right. Tonality is neutral (neutral does not mean thin), transients are crisp, but normal. I still hear the slightest hint of sigma-delta highs, but we'll see where that goes in the next two days.

    I've already cited the OG Gungnir DS (specifically with the analog upgrade cards released a year later) having a similar intense and dynamic sound. The Convert-2 is going to grab a hold of you and is not going to let you go. Some people are not going to like this. Personally, I think the Convert-2 is a lot fun. Makes me turn my head around because I think something in the recording is in the room.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2018
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Brought out one of the transports. That's not a normal Marantz CD5004. It probably weighs about four times more than a stock Marantz. Oh yeah, I shoved the Cinemag isolation transformers into that little old re-purposed Schiit box.

    IMG_20181026_214558.jpg

    The verdict is this: modded Marantz CDP > XMOS > Eitr. The Eitr works great with the Schiit DACs, just not here. I am also wondering if all these reports of Eitr awesomeness should be doubted. To be honest, I just took other peoples' word for it. I never did an exhaustive comparative evaluation of it myself.

    The CDP takes retrieval of low-level information (plankton) and microdynamics (small gradations of volume, registering fast small changes in volume) to yet another level. This was easily and immediately discernible. Macrodynamics also seemed to better. On the plankton: I'd need to do another direct comparison to see how close to the higher line Schiit DACs, but it's getting scarily close. I already feel the Convert-2 does many other things better (dynamics, clarity, "blackground", transients, and microdynamics) when comparing Convert-2 XMOS vs Gungnir MB A2 Eitr.

    The characteristics of the CD transport are translating well. The Marantz tends to have the slightest bit of "stat-icky" or jumpy highs, and I am hearing this. I am pretty sure that the Theta Data III, with its more dampened and controlled presentation, would mate better with the Convert-2. But it's good to know that gains can be had with "real" SPDIF / AES sources. The downside is that this adds another variable to the equation.

    AVAILABLE CD TRANSPORTS IN 2018 SUCK. Because of this, most people are better off using the XMOS USB. I don't think many people realize that not all transports are built equally. They are not equal. You can't buy a random transport, say a random Oppo or Tascam, and get awesome results. There is at least a 50% chance you are going to get worse performance than USB. Careful matching is still necessary to get the best results, as with amp and headphone, or table and cart.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2018
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    10 reasons to avoid the Convert-2:
    1. You have a strong preference for classic "R2R" sound, PCM1702, PCM1704, UltraAnalog, most discrete ladder implementations, etc.
    2. You have a strong preference for DACs with slow early roll-off analog filters.
    3. You have a strong preference for dark sounding DACs.
    4. You have a strong preference for warmpoo, lush, organic, or romantic sounding DACs.
    5. 90% your recordings are brightly mastered modern junk. Adding insult to injury, they were also mixed using the analog outputs of Digidesign boxes.
    6. You want an easygoing or relaxed presentation.
    7. You are afraid of real life music and concerts because the attacks of percussion, roar of piano soundboards, and plucks of strings from two rows of violins scare you.
    8. You use bright headphones.
    9. You have consumer gear that only takes unbalanced connections or has fake balanced inputs that will explode from the hot outputs of the Convert-2. (These should be taken as very very serious considerations).
    10. You don't want to deal with the extra buttons, settings, and inputs and outputs on pro-audio gear, or are likely to plug something in wrong in the back, exploding something on the DAC.
    Bottom line is that the Source-2 will not be as forgiving in both sonic and hook-up terms as consumer gear.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2018
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  5. Xecuter

    Xecuter Brush and floss your amp twice a day

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    You can seek out good cd transports from the 90s, but they can be temperamental. And you're right there are very few good modern transports.

    The best modern cd transports I've heard was with the the Vmk-3.5-20s which you will find in the
    P1/k1/Vivaldi/p01 and k01x which are ridiculously priced.
    At least with the convert 2 you can bipass the clock of most shitty transports which alleviates most issues.
     
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Indeed. Setting the clock to master and manually selecting the sample rate to 44.1 with the Marantz CDP seemed to have alleviated the small issues I had with the highs while retaining the aforementioned positive traits / gains of the CDP. Will need more careful listening to confirm. It seems to improve these elements too with the XMOS USB, though the CDP is still superior.
     
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    1. I do wish the LED in master mode did not have to blink. Feels like a Terminator or Borg is about to kill me.
    2. The pot bypass (full counterclockwise position after a click) sounds just a little bit better. Less veil. These small things are important at this level of performance.
    3. I anyone is wondering, I am using the exact same recordings on the CDP and computer. I either ripped the files from CD or burned the CD from the files. The CDs are Eva by Heart, Daft Punk Random Access Memories, Paul Simon Graceland (original CD from 1984 or whatever, not that 25th anniversary remastered garbage that was crushed to shit).
    4. The level meter is awesome. "Loud" low dynamic range recordings are so obvious from a visual perspective (everything just stays in the red and yellow zone, LOL).
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2018
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  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Moving this to the living room tomorrow vs. Yggdrasil Analog 2. Spent too much time on it already today (and thoroughly enjoyed it).
     
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  9. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    I went through the manual here. The clock options and digital passthrough are interesting (and I can understand very useful in studio) and all in all it seems a solid set of capabilities with no frills.
     
  10. Koth Ganesh

    Koth Ganesh Friend

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    Marv,

    Will the Radial J-iso help in using consumer SE amps?
     
  11. Baten

    Baten Almost "Made"

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    This was an exciting read :) taking the "reasons to avoid" in consideration, I'd personally prefer R2R (I think, at least).

    The convert 2 seem solid, though. Good to see respectable performance at the asking price, which you really can't take for granted.
     
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  12. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    Same as @Baten I also fall in the no category from reading the list but oh my, what seems to be a truly good DAC at Yggdrasil prices, what a time to be alive!

    Vis-a-vis CDPs, I've basically given up on trying to get a hold of a good transport that's been reconditioned well, as they're all old enough they need to be recapped, let alone heavily modded like Marv's ... hopefully Mike's CDP he keeps muttering about comes to fruition.
     
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  13. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    @purr1n , doesn't your CDP have bricks ;) in it? Is it not a bit heavy to be just sitting on top of the Source since it's a rackmount piece?
     
  14. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    I’ve had both Eitr and Gen5 for quite a while (not long after they were launched) and use both, especially when evaluating gear (SPDIF from Eitr swaps faster than USB). I prefer Gen5 - Eitr is softer, rounder, and kills a bit of dynamics and sparkle.

    Also, what’s feeding these still matters: Gen5 / Eitr does not clean absolutely every bit of shit from a nasty PC USB output - quality USB transport is still needed. You can still hear the differences between different USB transports through both Eitr and Gen5.
     
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  15. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Pretty much, including some structural reinforcement of the disc / platter / laser mechanism and vibration dampening around the motor and crystal. I mostly went for mass loading rather than dampening. I also pulled the power from the unused analog and headout boards, put in a bigger transformer, and mounted the transformer on rubber washers.
     
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  16. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

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    This is BS and you know it. I did a million comparisons with gen 5 and I have been clear:

    Theta Data III > my modded LD player/lynx machine > eitr > most general systems. Most other solutions suck.

    Edit: Don't mean to be unclear - my point here is that no one said Eitr was the best ever. It's good, it's consistent (many, many solutions, including the Lynx, have different problems on different systems), and better than must of the shit out there. I am certain there are better USB implementations, though, but it's a good, cheap, standard.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2018
  17. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Friend

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    How is the soundstage in the Convert-2?

    A few impressions said it pushed the sounds to the sides, but at the expense of flattening the sound.

    I also seen impressions that the Convert-2 as a warm, loose & bass heavy, colored sounding DAC vs it sounding not as thick, lacking in midrange or not as musical as other comparable DACs. I got the impressions you don't hear any warm or overtly thick sounds from the DAC so far?
     
  18. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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    I don't have any issues with the sound stage. It's not as narrow as Yggdrasil A2, it's not as diffuse as Holo Spring but just as wide with better layering and depth. As I said above, it's almost eerie how the sound stage seems limitless, like it conforms to the recording.
     
  19. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    LOL, I remember you saying that now. Probably some other assholes who made Eitr out to be the bees knees. Don't get me wrong. The measurements on Eitr do pan out. The Eitr does seem to work well with Schiit gear. The Eitr is dirt cheap. But perhaps a more comprehensive of evaluation of the Eitr against slightly or way more expensive competition with a variety of DACs would have been warranted. I just think SBAF came off as Eitr is awesome for all, or 95% as good as anything, regardless of price, which is obviously not he case. Just mad at myself. I should have demanded "pictures" in the Eitr thread.
     
  20. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I'll get back to you on soundstage* (and timbre, and specifics on transients, micro-stuffs, and eventually final verdict). If you guys haven't noticed, I am taking a measured approach. The way I see it, it's like the America's Cup races. Last time winner (current reference and champion) gets all the advantages, picks the venue, makes most of the rules, etc. It's up for the challenger to usurp the champion under these conditions. There is a reason I don't change my gear every six months. It also doesn't help when the reference for comparative reviews changes too often.

    So in the meantime, I will tease you with more background information...

    *BTW, I did not evaluate "soundstage" on headphones with the Convert-2 because I DO NOT GIVE A RATS ASS ABOUT HEADSTAGE ON HEADPHONES. I can evaluate this, like I did with the Dangerous Music Source DAC, but it takes me too much effort and concentration. I am an old fart who grew up with speakers, thus my ears were never trained to hear headstage.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2018

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