How is Chord Dave?

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by mtoc, Jun 9, 2016.

  1. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Non Voting Friend

    Slaytanic Cliff Clavin
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    I hear you on the Pavane; it was good but had a so soft NOS sound that I thought Pavane -> Magni 2U (yeah) -> stock HD 800 sounded fine but not super detailed with orchestral music.
     
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  2. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    You don't need to in order to decide you like DAVE over other DACs, no. But you made the comment that Rob's approach made the most sense to you technologically, and I was curious as to whether that was:
    • Simply taking his comments as gospel with little-to-no comprehension about what he's saying and the implications his statements carry (which is the majority approach, it seems - most people are not engineers or mathematicians).
    • Whether you understand the engineering aspects of FPGA usage, analog and digital electronics in general, and the mathematical principles behind the models and implementations in question (i.e. you could do something with that, e.g. propose possible limitations/opportunities in the filter, see pitfalls in the output "stage" and so on - which is very much an engineering-level discussion).
    • Or somewhere in between.
    Over time I've gotten to know who here can have a proper engineering/math-level discussion or can get into the nitty-gritty of the limitations of a specific filter type or circuit model and so on, and I was just curious as to where you fell into the scheme of things. Some very smart folks here, and their insights and experiences are worlds beyond what you'll generally find in, say, the DAVE thread over on HF.

    So, no "pitch", just curious as to whether it's a "quote/refer to incomplete references/information from someone else" or genuine comprehension/ability level discussion.
     
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  3. Lojay

    Lojay Friend

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    I own the Chord DAVE, the MSB Analog (without Quad USB) and the Schiit Yggdrasil. I am certainly not a Chord fanboy and I never liked their DACs (including the Hugo) as I found that they tend to sound off in terms of tonality and had a bit of a mechanical sound. I also find the 'gospel' spreading fanboyism on Head-fi in respect of Chord products quite distracting and at times annoying. I bought the DAVE after extensive PMs with Romaz on Head-fi, an intelligent, articulate and experienced audiophile whose views I respect even if I sometimes disagree with. Our exchanges and discussions in audio started when I found out that both of us became interested in the EC Studio for the same reasons: Romaz and I do share similar music preferences and desires in audio, namely a realistic and lifelike reproduction of live and classical music. (And no, I do not think he is a shill. I do not think someone with his intelligence needs to make a living out of writing reviews on the internet. Nor would a shill need to engage in thousand word long PM exchanges with me in private.)

    So far most of my comparisons have been with my DIYT2 - SR009 setup (with NOS Telefunken E88CC diamond base tubes and metal base Philips Holland made EL34 tubes). All of the DACs have at some point been connected to my computer via USB but at some stage I moved on to the Sonore Microrendu. Unfortunately I have yet to try the Yggdrasil with the Microrendu at the time of writing. Everything in my system is Shunyata power treated and connected to a dedicated 20A power line in my office. The following brief impressions are made with the benefit of this setup and acoustic and classical music (from live venues) instead of studio recordings. I have lived with the DAVE for months and the Analog and Yggdrasil for a couple of years.

    In my setup, there are immediate and noticeable differences between the DAVE, Analog and the Yggdrasil. The most apparent difference is that the soundscape takes up most of the surface of a headphone's driver, not just in terms of width but also height and depth. The effect is not so obvious on some headphones (such as the HD800) but it is sure as hell obvious on the SR009. Going back to the Yggdrasil and Analog, the soundstage sounds "flat" and congested in terms of stage depth and height in comparison. Because of this larger stage, instruments are pulled further apart. There is more space and air between instruments. The difference is similar to moving from the Apex Teton to the Eddie Current 4-45 with the HD800.

    Another very obvious difference is that instruments and vocals are also more clearly defined on the DAVE as compared to the Analog and Yggdrasil. If an instrument is far away, it sounds smaller and leaner and more 'pin-point'. If an instrument is close to the mic, it sounds full bodied and rich in tonality. Such contrasting of spatial cues is less evident or even absent on the Yggdrasil and the MSB Analog ( but the Yggdrasil is a tad better). I would say that the spatial cues are rendered much more accurately on the DAVE because of this. You may call this a gimmick or trick, but I like it. I close my eyes and the DAVE-T2-SR009 transports me to the music hall. Lifelike and real are the two words that I would describe live music as played through the DAVE.

    Clarity is excellent on the DAVE, I dare say obviously better than the Analog and Yggdrasil. This is a matter of preference, as well. The DAVE sounds slightly wet but is overall clearer than the Yggdrasil (and much clearer than the Analog). It is not presented in a sterile, clinical fashion (as with some earlier Chord DACs) but rather in a more organic fashion akin to the R2R DACs I own. That being said, this is a variable and depends on the recording. If strings sound rich and full-bodied on the recording the DAVE will present it in a beautifully rich fashion. If strings sound thin and strident (as they often do in real life), this will be apparent on the DAVE. If vocals sound distant and the air around voices sound thick (as in a recording in a large chapel), the DAVE will render the vocals with an appropriate blur. In contrast, the two R2R DACs I have will generally provide a wetter sound to any type of recording, which some may prefer. For this reason, the DAVE is also obviously the quicker DAC of the lot and renders transients remarkably well.

    Moving on to tonality, which I believe is one of the most important factors that contribute to audio realism (and a sustainable relationship with any DAC), I must say that all three DACs are natural sounding. The DAVE is slightly brighter overall than the Analog and Yggdrasil, but this is attributable to better treble extension. The Yggdrasil is in turn slightly brighter than the Analog (which can be described as warm or even too warm). But none of these DACs can be characterised as bright or tainted with delta-sigma like brightness or artificial tonality. I could describe all three DACs as natural sounding in tonality, and even pleasant, without doing injustice to such words.

    The DAVE is not without its weaknesses. I find it to be a refined and natural sounding DAC. Its bass does not hit as hard as the Analog (which slams harder than the Yggdrasil) and it is a bit less dynamic. The Analog has more ease to the sound and a blacker background. The DAVE can sound tense with some recordings and relaxed with others, as does the Yggdrasil (but never the Analog). That being said, in my experience this has a lot to do with one's source (I am at present upgrading my power supply for the Microrendu) so I am unwilling to pass a verdict on this yet.

    Finally, the headphone amp. It is a very transparent amp but I suspect most people on SBAF would prefer a more ballsy amp with more guts. I did not particularly like the HE6, HE1000, Abyss and HD800 (all of which I own) out of the DAVE, but I enjoy the Utopia out of the DAVE a lot. Despite the additional opamp driving the XLR outputs (there are, as I recall, no opamps in any other part of the signal whether to the RCA or headphone outputs), I find the electrostatic system overall better sounding and much more transparent.

    In conclusion, the DAVE is not a perfect DAC. It imparts a more gentle, precise and natural sound character and is eminently suitable for classical and live pieces. Unlike most other Chord DACs I have heard, it sounds very natural and realistic. If you are into the type of music I am, I suspect the DAVE would be a worthwhile audition. On this note, I see that there are a lot of ill-feelings here about Chord as a company and presumptions about how its products sound given the latest trend leading up to the Hugo. If any of you are in the market for the type of sound I described above I do hope that you could compare the DAVE with other TOTL DACs and post your impressions for our benefit. That would certainly help me, because my search for a DAC is hardly over.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2016
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  4. Madaboutaudio

    Madaboutaudio Friend

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    fact check:
    April 21, 2015
    http://schiit.com/news/news/schiit-introduces-yggdrasil-dac

    it's only about 1.5years since the yggdrasil is out. Unlikely for you to have lived with yggdrasil for a couple of years.
     
  5. Lojay

    Lojay Friend

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    Thanks, I was obviously not intending to be precise about the time when I received the Yggdrasil. My unit (order 30795) was shipped on 25 April 2015.
     
  6. landroni

    landroni Friend

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    You mean like your opinions on non-Chord approaches to digital audio (R2R and D/S, and nevermind that Chord's FPGA is a variation on the Delta-Sigma theme), or your opinions on non-Chord folks' intentions (or lack thereof) to reproduce the recorded waveforms with utmost fidelity? Well... dismissive opinions will earn you in turn dismissive opinions...
     
  7. jelt2359

    jelt2359 Friend

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    100% on this post. I owned the Yggdrasil for a year. When I got the Dave, the soundstaging was incredible, and the realism was really something else.... I ended up selling the Yggdrasil rather quickly after. Unlike some other owners, I prefer to run it out of an amp, because I find the headphone direct sound can be a bit too lean, but as a DAC to an external amp, it's really incredible.

    I also did a test with a friend's TotalDac d1 dual recently out of his speakers. He agreed instantly that the Dave was clearly better at separation and definition, especially on complex passages. On my part I could immediately hear the 3D holographic imaging and soundstage that I've come to love from the Dave. However, another guy at the audition preferred the 'warm and smooth' sound of the TotalDac- here is where preferences come into play, I guess, but I would never have gone for a ballsier DAC over the strengths that the Dave brought to the table. My Dave is back being serviced at this moment and I'm using a Hegel HD30. It's clean, precise, but in comparison that soundstage is flat. I can't wait for my Dave to return.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2016
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  8. Madaboutaudio

    Madaboutaudio Friend

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    Sorry guys, I hate to say this but seriously, solely Headphone based soundstage impressions alone don't cut it for me.

    I just don't think iems or headphones can image soundstaging as good as any type of horizontal standing speakers.(including lower priced PC multimedia speakers like swans, creative or logitech).

    Any impression of high end dacs should be both performed on headphones and speakers for me to trust the soundstage impressions.


    If you look at the system diagram for Chord Dave(source: Rob Watts), It has a cross feed function which I suspect could have digitally altered the sound output to make it sound more 3D/different on headphones versus other non-crossfeed stereo dacs.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossfeed
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/766517/chord-electronics-dave/3045#post_12596126
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2016
  9. Lojay

    Lojay Friend

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    In my experience (admittedly limited to headphones) good imaging capabilities (not merely soundstaging) of a DAC can be identified readily by headphones and is to some extent a good indicator of resolution and accuracy.

    The cross-feed function can be turned off and is unavailable to my electrostatic setup in any event. The cross-feed function is limited to the headphone single-ended output at the front of the DAVE unit, and not to the XLR outputs from which I connect the DIY T2.
     
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  10. jelt2359

    jelt2359 Friend

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    FWIW, so far I've found that compared to my (speaker only) friends, I seem to be a lot more sensitive to changes in imaging and soundstaging. Could just be a confounding variable, nothing to do with speakers vs headphones, but my point is similar to Jason's- I can definitely hear the difference.

    Also, I've never used the cross-feed, mainly because I prefer to use the Dave as a DAC-only, feeding a headphone amp. The cross-feed function is only available when the Dave is used as a headphone amp. No other configuration.
     
  11. EVOLVIST

    EVOLVIST Rob Watt's Fluffer

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    Well, no, I'm a writer by trade, where my brain just doesn't like to function within the realm of mathematics (though I do keep a mean accounts ledger) and engineering. However, I have made a very concerted efforts to understand the technology behind audio and its various schools of thought. I suppose enough to put two-and-two together, to where you see how the schools converge on certain topics, allowing the brain to connect the dots in its understanding. I mean, one reason that I joined this forum was to supplement my understanding. As a long time lurker I have picked up on quite a few things that has bolstered my knowledge, especially in the area of headphone measurements.

    Do I want to see the wizard behind the curtain? I don't know. You witness the magic trick and you wonder how its done, but you know that if you learn the secret it will lose its glamour. On the other hand, who wants to be a rube this year?

    A long time ago I used to be in sales, and I always maintained that the best customer was an educated one. My fellow salesmen thought that I was crazy, yet I always managed to kick their asses every quarter. Go figure, huh? Every time I feel myself under a hollow sales pitch, intuitively I pull myself out and reexamine the product.

    While it's true that everybody will tell you that their product is the latest and greatest (after all, you can get anybody to believe almost anything, otherwise I wouldn't have never gotten laid as much as I have in my life), in the case of someone like Rob Watts, who admits that he could be mistaken about this or that, either he's being truthful or a very special kind of liar.

    The point is, I'm so tight with my cash, I read up as much as I can (or as much as I can stand) about this audio world that no, I don't think I'm going in blind. We're all a little bit myopic, sure. We buy into to things; we can be impulsive, but I know that I've spent enough time and money into this hobby at this point to say I believe I've done my due diligence, philosophy or opinion be damned.


    See my quote below. I don't see that as being dismissive at all, even commenting how good I think the Yggdrasil is. Quite the opposite of dismissive. Dissenting? Sure. Dismissive, no. Eventually all technologies hit a brickwall, and technologies either diverge and/or amalgamate into something else, or they fade away altogether. I do not dismiss the old in favor of the new, because we've seen newer technologies fuck shit up before. Truthfully, when talking FPGA I'm more excited to see how they can be used in advanced medical applications and safer automotives.

     
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  12. Hekeli

    Hekeli Almost "Made"

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    edit: actually fuhgeddaboutit. who cares. someone can delete this post.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2016
  13. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Non Voting Friend

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    Yeah, the truth is why even bother when almost every integrated circuit, off the shelf sigma-delta DAC chip is going to outperform them technically? Given that these things sound good (really "acceptable") due to the power, filtering, and analog stage voicing it makes you wonder how much better they would be if they just put all the effort around a better performing, and cheaper mass produced DAC chip as it's not like these are the fucking TotalDAC. For a similarly priced product, they would have a much higher budget to go overboard. I wonder the same about all the ESS Sabres (really any "good" Sabre) with custom filters that "soften" the glare. Why didn't they just voice it around a chip that doesn't produce as much HF noise and not have such power vulnerabilities? The answer is always "WE'RE SPECIAL AND UNIQUE AND FEATURES: 512DSD WITH ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANT BOUTIQUE STAFF INFECTION!" to market it to audiophools when chances are the music they're listening to was mastered using some audio interface or pro DAC with opamps that has a typical decent to well implemented AK, AD, Cirrus, TI, or ESS sound.
     
  14. JWahl

    JWahl Acquaintance

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    "FPGA" dac is a bit of a misnomer for this category of DACs. Technically speaking, the Chord DACs, even down to the Mojo, are discrete DACs. I believe the PS Audio Directstream is also similar. So more similar to the Total DAC in that regard, yet on a far smaller scale. The FPGA is just used for filter implementation, and replacing function of other dedicated ASICs. They are not however, R2R, of course. They are essentially discrete delta sigma DACs. Filtering can be done with DSP ASICs as well ala Schiit with the SHARC DSP. But the FPGAs, as I've mentioned, give you flexibility to eliminate certain control related chips, and implement them directly in the FPGA.

    I really do think there is some design philosophy merit to the FPGA/discrete delta sigma design. Versus the cost of matching resistors for a discrete R2R ladder, you could pick tightly spec'd and high quality discrete components in a 1 bit (or multi level) delta sigma, and noise shape it into oblivion.

    I respect Rob's design philosophy, just like I respect Mike's from Schiit. Different strokes for different folks. I do wish the higher end Chord stuff wasn't outrageously overpriced. 90% of production cost is probably just in the chassis. The Spartan 6 LX75 in the Dave isn't cheap per se, but far less expensive than four of the DAC chips in the Yggdrasil. I can only hope one day, Rob pulls a Mike, and goes off to form a new high value company with a new partner.
     
  15. Madaboutaudio

    Madaboutaudio Friend

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    Sigma Delta still has this DC offset problem / Idle tone which ESS claimed* they have solved in the youtube video.

    *But evidently alot of notable SBAF member can still hear some things that are wrong(digitus/inaccuracy/strange noise/non-authenticity) with Sabre or almost all other sigma delta based dacs except for a very few. Well implemented R2R is tried, tested and true technology.

    http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1204407

     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2016
  16. Valolilol

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    Although I do share your opinion regarding the "we are special and so we use FPGA which, by the way, sounds way to cool to throw in a sentence", I also see it slightly differently from an electronic engineer's point of view. When you buy a chip like an integrated DAC, you buy the package and the few tuning points that it provides. You can chose for instamce between several filters, or you can decide to use a third order delta-sigma instead of a second order. But all of this relies on the manufacturer's will to provide interesting features or... not providing them. When you use a FPGA, you get rid of that. When you implement onto a FPGA, if chosen correctly, you can implement almost whatever you want. It also provides room for upgrades if you find something. Just keep in mind that you can change the cabling of your gates in a FPGA (it may be hard though), which you cannot do with a dedicated chip.

    One side note regarding the Delta-Sigma, I think Schiit did understood that Delta-Sigma is a very powerful, versatile and open technical solution but what they did got in my opinion is that Delta-Sigma alone is good coupled with some higher order solution named the "multibit" delta-sigma. When you catch this and you implement it, I think you got the ultimate sense of the Delta-Sigma. I am not a saying that Schiit makes THE BEST DAC ever, I just want to mention that they caught the concept, in my humble opinion (+years of experience of course), very well.
     
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  17. Priidik

    Priidik Friend

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    Agreed. 100%
    A lot of crappy soundstaging qualities won't distract with speakers, yet some awesome qualities won't show with headphones. There is no substitute to actual space and natural crossfeed of stereo speakers, period.
    The somewhat flat-wide stage of Yggdrasil while evident in comparison to some other good dacs never bothered me with headphones, but it did left me seriously wanting with speakers.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2016
  18. Madaboutaudio

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    @Priidik

    My experiences with the Yggdrasil's soundstage is contrary to your experience. My Yggdrasil based audio system is able to portrait what I would call accurate/realistic(3D like) sound-stage with all the depth, width and even height auditory cues that must be inherent from the source recording(i.e. if the recording don't have height detail, it won't be present). If I used headphones/iem on my system, I don't get to experience this 3D soundstage in full(only partial, missing height and depth).

    However I must emphasis that my setup isn't typical stock Yggdrasil native gen3 USB experience.

    My equipment setup is very complex with additional upstream Decraptifier equipment(power conditioner,dedicated pci-e usb card,wyrd,mutec>AES, audio-tweaked windows pc) before data gets sent to the DAC and also a fully balanced XLR preamp + balanced XLR input studio monitor. Thus YMMV.
     
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  19. Priidik

    Priidik Friend

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    I suppose a top TT rig be what sources should be measured against. I have not heard such uber rigs, but the ones (under 10k$) I have heard have more depth or front to back dimensionality than most dacs.

    I felt like SFD-1 (with cd-transport) beats Yggdrasil in depth. Even more so tricked out Soekris dam. To my ears through speakers Yggdrasil's soundstage has
    (front + back) 2+1 m of depth, 8 m of width. While Soekris Dam has 5+3 m of depth and 6 m of width. This was listening in outside, no room reflections.
    In extension in different accoustics if I can transfer the ratios SFD-1 would have 3+2 m of depth and 10 m of width. By that same metric a typical s-d dac has 0.1 + 0.01 m depth and 4 m of width.

    I have little exp with defuckifiers and I hope I will not have to. I have tried Mutec, Raspy and linux based servers. I think for Yggdrasil the Raspy made a positive 2% difference, at best. The SFD-1 I think only competes with it's accompanying cd-player.

    The sources I have tried thus far with a lot of depth have felt realistic. Some amplifiers have artificial depth, like for instance Apex Pinnacle, which I was not big fan of in the end.
    I have heard Yggdrasil balanced only with Jotunheim. I didn't feel like Jot lost any significant portion of its performance with SE in. Jot is probably not enough to squeeze every bit out of Yggdrasil anyways.
    I am beginning to think that my 2A3 amp makes soundstage at least 10% bigger than it should be. Maybe everything else is lacking 10%, I have to explore some more to know for sure.
     
  20. Madaboutaudio

    Madaboutaudio Friend

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    @Priidik, You are right on with your depth range estimates, Typical S/D dacs are horrible by all accounts.

    The most depth I have ever heard from a digital system was a Zanden Philips Double Crown NOS DAC + $15K Horn Speakers. The room was pretty big though. 12metresx12metres or abouts there.

    My experience with Depth Perception is something which other equipment in chain along with gremlins(jitter/rf noise/oxidation/asio,directsound etc) can have varying effects on how much depth you get. Also your mental state of mind(how tired or stressed or drunk you are) also can have big effect on depth perception.(There are some very tired days where I can't notice depth but some days where I am well rested, I can notice more stuff).

    Maybe the Jot is too fast(no decay?) which could result in less than ideal depth rendition. I have never heard the Jot, so let that be just a wild guess.

    The biggest factor I feel for depth perception(outside of dac with good depth reproduction) is speaker type and positioning along with room size. Large Horns speakers are very good at showing depth(accurate/realistic or not is another question).

    But that being said, the worst offender of depth reduction is bad recordings(bad microphone position) and modern "Pro tools mastering"(use of computer generated/commerically purchased instrument samples instead of actual recordings).
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2016

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