Life after Yggdrasil: Watering the Ash

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by Torq, Mar 1, 2017.

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  1. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    This is going to depend a great deal on dealer-good-will and/or someone wanting to loan me a DAVE for a week. In the former case, I would rather use said good-will to audition other units, so if it's going to be a limiting factor there then it is less likely to happen. I did have access to one that a friend owned recently, but he sold it and wound up buying a Spring DAC.

    My impression of DAVE is still positive - but over time, and some more time with the unit here and there, it's a bit less so than it was. There's more that I felt my original write-up made the differences sound larger and more significant than they actually are. There's really not much in it at all. When I post the updated impressions (based on original listening notes and recently having more time with the unit, as opposed to a whole new evaluation) I'll express things in a manner more accurately portraying the level of difference at work.

    Why?

    There are things about it that I have issues with, but it still performs well and while it doesn't shine quite as brightly as my first impressions read, it's still a very high performing unit. Also, that indicator can mean more than just "sounds fantastic". If it's doing something unusual, special, new, or that advances the state of the art, it could get the green marker for that as well.

    Says who?

    And were that the case, then DAVE would lose the (+) indicator as it is no longer the best thing I've heard, and it's not far ahead enough of Yggdrasil to offset it's price. That said, I may add an indicator for "does special stuff/is new" and separate out "superlative performance".

    Well, it's not going to make it less ugly, change my opinion that I prefer listening to it as just a DAC (using an external amp), that it's a bit of an ergonomic cluster, so those comments are going to remain regardless. And I doubt the macOS issues I have encountered with every Chord DAC have been resolved (unless there's been an "on the sly" update).

    I suppose it's possible I'll come to different sonic conclusions based on extended listening, which could result from simply being in a different state of mind when re-auditioning, but there's a reason I use a solid two-day list of music and listen, generally, over the course of a week.

    Anyway, that's a VERY long winded way of saying "we'll see, but don't hold your breath".
     
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  2. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    I don't see LampizatOr units making it on to the list unless I happen across one locally or someone wants to go through the rigmarole of getting me a demo unit.
     
  3. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Non Voting Friend

    Slaytanic Cliff Clavin
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    Lamp is joke: poorly-done Wolfson sound with tubez. Gives Poles a bad name.
     
  4. landroni

    landroni Friend

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    Careful, now, when those nuclear fingers get twitchy...
     
  5. Big D Design

    Big D Design I've got stereo junk in my trunk.

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    How long has Yiggy been out? Someone is telling me that they got theirs September 2015. Is that possible?

    Or could they mean September 2016
     
  6. PoochZag

    PoochZag The Shadow knows - Friend

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    It's possible. Gungnir Multibit was released after Yggdrasil and was out right at September 2015

    The all purpose advice thread may have been a better place to ask if unable to find a clear answer
     
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  7. crazychile

    crazychile Eastern Iowa's Spiciest Pepper

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    I believe the Yggdrasil first started shipping around April 2015
     
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  8. Big D Design

    Big D Design I've got stereo junk in my trunk.

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    Thanks
     
  9. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    Bricasti

    Now here’s a company that has fallen a long way from the high-regard in which I used to hold them – going from what I used to consider to be solid, engineering-focused, performance based production development and differentiation to indulging in audiophoolery.

    And then, they came out with this gaudy monstrosity. On its own, that’s fine … if you want to appeal to the “gold is best” crowd, or pander to the conspicuous consumption of the newly-wealthy-but-terminally-clueless, be my guest. But it’s when this sort of thing winds up in your product literature that my respect turns to questioning everything else you’ve ever said (emphasis, mine):

    “The Limited Gold Edition also has a unique sound due in part to the generous amount of gold that is plated on the chassis parts and feet.”

    Okay, so let’s assume, for a moment, that the gold-plating actually makes a difference to anything here. Well, if so … YOU MISSED A BIT! And when I say a “bit”, I mean the entirety of the huge top and bottom chassis plates. Somehow, despite this, gold-plating the fucking feet is supposed to make a difference?

    You know what the “unique sound” was I heard that was due to the “generous amount of gold”? The gurgling of your credibility swirling down the shitter.

    Now, all that said, I’m not going to let this nonsense cloud my judgement of the M1 DAC itself; because a) it doesn’t need gold-plating to turn in an excellent performance and b) I value my integrity more than that.

    M1 DAC (Classic Edition) (-)

    While not so much of an issue for this round of "Life after Yggdrasil", where I'm not looking at these units as something I am going to place in my home (might happen, but that's not the specific intent of this cycle - I have more DACs than I need now), I have to say that I find the aesthetics of the M1 rather appealing; it’s reminiscent of the SimAudio’s Moon NEO range, the looks of which I also quite like.

    Inside the M1 you’ll find dual, stereo, AD 1955 DAC chips operated in mono-mode. In fact, the entire DAC is built in a dual-mono configuration, down to the power supplies. If you pull the top off you’ll see either side of the unit has matching power supplies on separate boards, two individual DAC/analog boards (made with a special material which helps with HF EMI), and then a separate power supply for the control and interface electronics, which also has its own board.

    Incidentally, you’ll find the same DAC chips, in the same configuration, in something like the Emotiva Stealth DC-1, which is a much more wallet-friendly $499. Though you’ll forego the trick filters, dual-mono construction, special materials and so on.

    Filters in the M1 are custom in-house jobs, and selectable. There’s a bunch of them, 15 I think, from what I recall. Actually I think there are some additional filters for DSD operation, but I didnottry it in that mode as I was already “off the DSD train” at that point. The filtersdomake a difference to the sound, and while some aren’t much different to others (to the point that I couldn’t tell some of them apart at all) I found myself consistently preferring the minimum phase filters. This has pretty much been the case with every DAC I’ve heard that offers selectable filters and apodizing/minimum phase options.

    Anyway, technical waffle over … how does it sound?

    Really very good, indeed.

    This shouldn’t really be surprising given the price of entry, though some of the other units in this evaluation have left me wondering!

    It didn’t, as with many other units I’ve listened to now, measure up to Yggdrasil in the reproduction of piano for me. It was able to render the soundstage at a level where I could still discern the left-to-right projection of which notes were being hit (likely due to the excellent stereo separation), but didn’t find it quite matched Schiit’s monster in terms of overall tone.

    Imaging was good, but not in the same league as the Chord DACs or Yggdrasil (it's worth nothing that, even a year on, the imaging that I get from units running either Mike's mega-combo-burrito filter or Rob's WTA filter remains convincingly top of the pile); placement and separation in 2D space was solid, but the image felt lacking in height (via speakers).

    I found the overall presentation to be quite fluid and organic, with a very even projection across the spectrum. Bass was tight, controlled, articulate, detailed and tuneful, perhaps slightly edging ahead of the Schiit unit with very fast bass work, although not quite delivering the same level of slam. Higher registers were portrayed with no sibilance or drama, even on challenging female vocals – to the degree that this might be the best rival to Yggdrasil in this regard – without feeling like it’s softening those vocals (which was something apparent with some DSD and D/S based converters). The mid-range was perhaps a little fuller than Yggdrasil tends to render.

    In fact, I might describe the overall sound of the Bricasti as slightly meatier overall than Yggdrasil. I wouldn’t describe Yggdrasil as having a lean sound … but it’s a shade leaner than the M1. I could listen to either, but find the signature of the Yggdrasil to be more to my liking with a greater portion of my listening material.

    Overall detail/resolution was excellent, but I felt the Yggdrasil was still ahead here (especially with another favorite evaluation … brushwork with cymbals). And instrumental separation would go to Yggdrasil as well, though again there’s really not much it and this was really only apparent with very complex passages or those with lots of subtle texture.

    Dynamics and transients often favored Yggdrasil, but this was not something that was apparent on every recording, and at times I felt the Bricasti was being a bit more honest here. This might be the difference in the leaner vs. meatier portrayal between the two, that was hard to pin down. Maybe Yggdrasil seems a bit more “exciting” as a result, but that’s only good if it’s supposed to be.

    I found the M1 to be very musical and pleasure to listen to. Involvement was good and it was quite able to bring out suitable emotional responses, much like Yggdrasil, but unlike a number of other DACs that I’ve gone through so far. As another comparison, I found it slightly less detailed than the Hugo TT and the Chord unit also imaged significantly better (so did the basic Hugo, now that I think about it), but the M1 had a more enjoyable presentation overall.

    So there are a few things here that, for me, slightly edge out Yggdrasil, but certainly not across the board, and some were music, mood or signature preference dependent. Musicality and involvement was, despite that,at a very similar leveland actually perhaps ahead of the PS Audio units, at least prior to the latest software update I put on them.

    This is definitely worth an audition … but it’s hard to consider it much of a competitor to Yggdrasil on the basis that it’s fully four times the Schiit DAC’s price. Particularly where for me it did a bit less impressively with the music I tend to favor, and my signature preferences, than my existing reference. As a result, as good as it is, I just don’t think it’s worth the asking price for me – given what I already have and what’s out there. I could have another Yggdrasil, and a PS Audio DirectStream and still have change for the Network Bridge, or another Yggdrasil and the Metrum Pavane (which I also liked better overall).

    That’s a tough reality …
     
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  10. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    Bryston

    BDA-3 (-)

    In terms of the usual array of claims made for audiophile DACs, the Bryston BDA-3 is pretty basic. This is not necessarily uncommon for Bryston who, as far as I'm aware, have focused on high-quality builds and bullet-proof engineering rather than hyperbole. That's certainly been my experience with their amplifier products. While Bryston do talk up the sound quality here, there's little unique or interesting to call attention to in terms of the technology or engineering behind it.

    A low noise power supply? Check.

    Discrete, class-A, output stages? Check.

    User-selectable up-sampling? Check.

    Fancy clocks? Che … wait … what? No … none of that here, it seems.

    Other than a wider than typical array of inputs, HDMI being the major one of note, and the up-sampling toggle, this is a pretty simple device, employing a pair of AKM 4490s in mono-mode. This is a chip I was, at the time I wrote my original impressions, generally finding to quite agreeable sonically*, even if I felt (and feel) it’s a bit out of place in a device at this price level – at least with with no other “special” treatments going on. After all, this chip now also features in Schiit’s $99 Modi 2 …

    Okay, so there’s only one of them in Modi 2.

    Maybe Schiit should offer monobloc DACS … you could buy about 35 of them for the price of the Bryston! Add a super-low-noise PSU (maybe the iFI 1uV wall-wart) and that would drive up the cost to the point where you could only buy 23 of them …

    I digress …

    Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the overall implementation of a DAC is at least as important as the choice of converter IC, and the results are really what matters regardless of other concerns, so we best get to that.

    And, in short, I don’t feel this is in the same league as Yggdrasil at all. Or really any other DAC I’ve auditioned at its price level for that matter. Sure it’s competent enough, with good detail, it’s quite dynamic, for the most part it’s transparent – though there was some bloom, and maybe some blurring (poorer articulation) in the lower registers*. At the opposite end of the spectrum there wasn’t a particularly vivid sense of air and brass seemed to lose a bit of its edge or bite. Tone was generally good otherwise. PRaT was fine. But it lacked the ability to convey emotion and draw me into the music.

    Presentation was otherwise clean and not really analytical at all, and yet was less dry than would normally be the case for me to make those two statements, but again, it was lacking involvement for me. There was no sense of excitement, drama, passion, or any emotion at all listening to this thing and, at best, I could describe it as being vanilla. It’s not that it is bad by any means … it just isn’t that interesting to listen to.

    This didn’t change with, or without, up-sampling engaged – though things got a bit smoother with up-sampling enabled.

    The BDA-3 needs something else to make it interesting for me. I’m not sure what. A soul maybe. Or maybe something more reasonable … perhaps the ability to select from the DAC chip’s built in filter types. As it is, I don’t recall a filter setting called “forgettable” in the data-sheet. And I don’t know if that would help anyway.

    So my impression here is that you have a perfectly competent, but not especially engaging or interesting, DAC, that, compared to the competition, is enormously hard to justify the $3,495 price tag for. In fact, I’m going to go further and say that, unless the licensing rigmarole for HDMI is responsible for the massive price disparity between this thing and sonically comparable converters costing a fraction of the sticker here, then the price tag here is a bit of a piss-take.

    Between this, and the pricing pitch of things like the BDP-Л, which seems to take the BoM-cost to MSRP equation to new limits**, I’m having a hard time taking Bryston seriously in the modern digital world. Sure, they have excellent warranty support, a solid dealer network, and they do build things extremely well … but still … this is hard to swallow.

    I’m digressing again …

    Gungnir would crucify this from a musicality and involvement perspective, and I mean the standard D/S version. Yggdrasil would make it carry the cross, dig the hole to erect it in, and then hand it the hammer and nails and make it bang them through its PCBs itself.

    Perhaps this comes alive with DSD … I didn’t test that – I was done with my interest in DSD by that point. Or maybe it’s ability to take an HDMI feed from an SACD player is its saving grace. Now, I didn’t try that either (I lack the necessary SACD player or discs), but still … it’s stretching my credulity to the extreme - at least in terms of overall performance and, especially, value.

    --

    *The more I’ve listened to 4490-based DACs the more I’ve come to find that their lower-end is a bit bloomy, exaggerated and, generally, is a bit too warm. I think a lot of people will like that, especially if they’re lacking in bass or slam in their existing systems, but it’s been taken a bit too far with this “Velvet Sound” thing AKM are doing in my opinion. As such, I’m rather less enamored with 4490-based designs of late (e.g. preferring the 4399-based Bifrost Uber over the newer 4490 – despite that position being reversed originally).

    **I’m not the most price-conscious chap in the world, but given that I am working on a device that is not dissimilar to the BDP-Л, and that I expect will surface at no more than a third the Bryston’s asking price, with a more functionality and connectivity to boot, it just looks like this stuff is trading-on-ones-name than anything I can personally see reasonable value in.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2017
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  11. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    I added an additional indicator to the 2nd post to show when the various impressions posts have been updated vs. their original version in the original thread.

    I've also added the Bricasti and Bryston impressions.
     
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  12. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    I've read postings from their PR guy James Tanner that the HDMI hoop jumping is in fact a huge/dominant reason for the price hike over the BDA-2. I can't remember exact figures, but yearly licensing is into 5 digits plus you have to give them some portion per product, but this is the minor part. There's a whole battery of different testing required, each of which is mucho moolah on top if you want to have any "official" hdmi labeling on your products. I believe there were extra hoops to jump through as a Canadian manufacturer as well (moreso from a power supply/emi something something certification), because everyone wants to get their fingers into the pie.

    If you ask Bryston about which dac to get, usually the response is that if you don't need HDMI, stick with the BDA-2.
     
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  13. Chris F

    Chris F Boyz 4 Now Fanatic - Friend

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    Hey Torq have you considered auditioning the Playback Designs Merlot? Looks like pretty interesting tech.
     
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  14. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    The adagio would be wonderful to get some real-life impressions of. The Hegel HD30 would be another if at all possible.
     
  15. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    I don't think I'd heard of this one. I'll add it to the list and we'll see about whether it's possible to get an audition unit.
     
  16. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    Did you read the 2nd and 3rd posts?

    The Adagio is already on the list, although I would expect you'll see a proper review from @Hands well before I get my hands on one.

    The Hegel HD30 is something I already auditioned. I haven't posted the updated version of the impressions, which will be a bit more extensive than my initial ones - and those are already posted in the original, linked, thread.
     
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  17. insidious meme

    insidious meme Ambivalent Kumquat

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    I think you'll get some tl;dr types on here as well.

    Pro tip: use browser search for key words on the initial posts to make sure you don't get called out. Torq's got a lot of DAC's to cover on here.
     
  18. landroni

    landroni Friend

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    I'm not sure if this was a wink, an oversight or perhaps some variation on a Freudian slip, but I imagine that here you didn't mean to use the Cyrillic letter Л (equivalent of L in Latin and λ in Greek) and instead you wanted to use the Greek π (equivalent of P in Latin or П in Cyrillic). Not that this matters one single bit...


    And here I thought this (†) was a RIP indicator... Silly me!
     
  19. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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  20. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I posted a blurb on it in my NOS DAC comparison thread. I don't think I need to say a whole lot more about it.
     

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