Soekris "dac1541": DAC/Amp - Stream of Consciousness Impressions

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Torq, Jul 27, 2017.

  1. Luge

    Luge Acquaintance

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    Thanks Torq, that is just what I was asking for.
     
  2. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    Thoughts on dac1541 vs. Bifrost MB/Lyr 2/Jotunheim

    I decided to tackle this now, while at a convenient breaking point in my listening.

    Caveats … these comments are based on memory and reference to earlier listening notes and are NOT direct back-to-back comparisons. While I have lots of time with the Schiit units in question, I haven’t listened to any of them in anywhere between weeks and several months.

    DAC-parts first …

    Bifrost MB exhibits better micro-dynamics and a generally weightier, maybe fleshier, presentation than does the dac1541. I wouldn’t describe the dac1541 as lean-sounding, but it’s leaner than Bifrost MB. The dac1541 pulls ahead in terms of sense of clarity and seems to have an edge in resolution/detail. Flat FR plots notwithstanding, the Soekris unit sounds a little brighter (possibly a result of the obvious clarity) than I remember Bifrost MB being, but overall tonality is a wash between them.

    Historically, I have never felt that Bifrost MB was specifically analytical in nature, though I find it “drier” than, say, Gungnir MB and somewhat less “musical” than both Gungnir MB and Yggdrasil. dac1541 is still, for me, more of an analytical or perhaps, “technical”, presentation than the Schiit DAC. When listening for pleasure I gravitate more towards “musical”. Some of this is possibly down to the way Bifrost MB handles the low-end and the sense of foundation this provides for the rest of the rendering.

    Layering and separation go to the dac1541. These are, combined with the sense of clarity and apparent resolution, definite strong points and the most immediately obvious, for me, traits of the unit. The Soekris DAC has a somewhat greater sense of air to its top-end.

    Amplification/Driving Headphones …

    Output directly from the dac1541 treads right down the middle of the road when considering Lyr 2 (tubes and LISST) and Jotunheim. The Lyr 2, especially with tubes, is simply a more dynamic performer, with more slam and a more visceral delivery. Lyr 2 won’t match the dac1541 for resolution, is behind a little in transients, but it does do a usefully more convincing job, overall, when you’re wanting to drive more demanding cans (specifically thinking of the Abyss and LCD-4 here). LISST brings the Lyr 2 up a bit in terms of resolution and transient response, but I’m not sure it quite matches the “pristine” sound that the dac1541 delivers.

    Jotunheim is a closer match here, giving up some slam and losing out in terms of stage compared to Lyr 2, but certainly on par with the dac1541. Jotunheim has a more “steely” aspect to higher treble, particularly with discordant tones and harsh brass. The dac1541 is a bit more composed there, tending more towards sheen than steel. Resolution is comparable (to the extent that’s its possible to evaluate that for the dac1541 without the ability to drive the headphone output with another source, and going from memory on the Jotunheim).

    Jotunheim “wakes up” the HD650 (latest version, un-modded) rather nicely. The dac1541 is more than competent here, but doesn’t have the same effect that particular set of cans. Call it a “synergy” thing - or maybe it’s just something specifically aligned with my preferences.



    I could, and have, happily to listened to these units all day. This is, in fact, a part of how I audition units for the “LaY” thread - just listen for a while with no specific goal or evaluation in mind. With the dac1541 I find I currently stray into paying more attention to the details/recording than just relaxing into the music and “experieincing it as a whole”.

    --

    Again, remember these thoughts are based on memory and listening notes, not direct comparison.
     
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  3. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    I'm quite enjoying this little box. It does a lot right. Value seems solid if you're going to use it as a integrated unit (or use it's internal amp for headphones and the line-out to drive speakers). Would be a definite candidate for use on the boat, had I not already decided that headphone cables and and boats do not mix very well.

    I'm appreciating the ESS/Sabre-like detail levels that are delivered without the tiring, grating, over-sharpened character such DACs are, seemingly more often than not, saddled with. The openness of the sound works really well with very complex pieces. The counterpoint to which is that if you're a lover of things like the AKM 4490 "Velvet Sound" then you're probably not going to get on very well with it.

    Still preferring the soft-Butterworth filter setting (filter setting indicator "off") overall, though the other settings definitely have their uses, both with and without external amplification.

    Piano-focused sources are up next. Like "Carmen", these are often a significant differentiator for me. Most of the music here is my own - and while that doesn't provide an easy reference point for anyone else it is something I find extremely useful as I composed it, played it, recorded and "mastered" it.
     
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  4. NekoAudio

    NekoAudio Acquaintance

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    Just thought I'd chime in that I found the filter differences most audible when playing Cups from the Ultimate Pitch Perfect album, out of the few tracks I've tried the dac1541 with.
     
  5. Northwest

    Northwest Acquaintance

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    When you speak about solid value are you referring to the original price or the new readjusted price in the SoekrisEU store? I missed the sale period due to poor reading comprehension. If what I read was correct the original cost when Soekris had a US presence was 1,190 USD, and once the US store shut down it became 1,110Euro. Now at 1,290 Euro it's approximately $300 more than what it used to be a few months ago.
     
  6. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    The normal "€1290" price.

    "Solid value" assumes you're using the unit as both a DAC and an amp (and/or feeding speakers with it). It's a more tenuous proposition if you just want a DAC and there are, at least at present (in my listening), other ways I'd be inclined to spend my own money if I was only needing a DAC at that price.

    Not sure how you're getting your current conversions ... the difference I see is $213, which is a LOT closer to $200 than it is to $300.
     
  7. Northwest

    Northwest Acquaintance

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    When I was looking for impressions I came across a little blurb. I wouldn't be surprised if the information was wrong.

    "soekris ENGINEERING from Denmark were showing their top of the line DAC 1541 retailing at USD 1190/EUR 1110."

    http://hifipig.com/axpona-2017-report/
     
  8. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    Exchange rates fluctuate. I always convert from what they're currently asking in their native currency via a reputable currency broker (which might just be the current rate my credit-cards are offering). No harm, no foul. But it's a much better deal at ~$1,200 than ~$1,500.

    You'd have to specifically WANT the integrated capability for it to still be "solid value" at ~$1,500. At least for my preferences and experiences. Not that I mean to imply it doesn't offer decent value anyway ... it does ... but in terms of raw capability, as a pure DAC, there are other options at somewhat lower prices, that I prefer. But I don't feel we're staring down the maw of a giant killer in terms of value.
     
  9. Collusion

    Collusion Friend

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  10. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    Details and nuances will follow in the full "Life after Yggdrasil" post, but for now ... my piano-specific evaluations have things as:

    Yggdrasil >= DAVE > Spring DAC KTE = Gungnir MB >= DirectStream (Huron) > dac1541 ...​

    Attack and decay are very impressive with the dac1541. Comparable across the board, but not quite as convincing all-in. Not that you'd notice outside of audition-level listening, I suspect.

    Going further ... in the same vein ...

    dac1541 > Hugo | MHDT Stockholm V2 | Auralic Vega
    Bit more listening to do here, but this is where things currently point.
     
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  11. Collusion

    Collusion Friend

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    Does this include overall resolution / sound stage / instrument separation?
     
  12. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    There's not really any "instrument separation" in my piano-centric tests. Since there's only one instrument (piano), and only one of those, for most of it.

    Otherwise, it depends on specifically which DAC comparison you're addressing.

    For Yggdrasil, or DAVE (from notes/memory), a simple "yes" applies.

    For Spring DAC KTE, its stage is unnaturally wide (can't test depth anymore due the nature of my speaker current rig), but is otherwise ahead.

    The rest is a bit of a quagmire at the moment. Hence not being quite done. Huron is an improvement over Torreys, but interestingly not quite at Gungnir MB's level overall.
     
  13. Nanekiu

    Nanekiu Rando

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    Just wondering but what inputs did you use when listening to dac1541. Where you using plain USB or would you recommend using S/PDIF with a converter?
     
  14. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    Covered earlier in the thread. TL;DR it's AES.
     
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  15. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    As @GoodEnoughGear says, I used it primarily with AES.

    Would I recommend using an S/PDIF interface via a converter with the dac1541? Generally no.

    If you already have one, go for it, but otherwise I don't feel the difference here is big enough to offset the cost. Adding another $200 to the cost of this particular unit, unless you were using it solely in all-in-one form, unbalances the value equation to the point where I'd be looking at other options instead of fiddling with tweaks to the dac1541.

    Other USB-to-USB de-crapifiers made no discernible difference.
     
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  16. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    I've finished my listening cycle for the dac1541. It's been quite an enjoyable process (not always the case). I'm very grateful to Soren for making this unit available for audition and comparison.

    Next steps:

    It'll go to @atomicbob next for measurement/listening. The Denafrips Pontus is in line ahead of it, so depending on his schedule it might sit in limbo for a bit. I'll let him chime in on whether that's close enough to just keep the unit here and do a local hand off, or whether there will be a long enough gap that it might make sense to send it elsewhere on the tour first (makes no difference to me - but I have to swap other DACs with him anyway).

    I shall attempt to get the full "Life after Yggdrasil" (DAC-specific) write-up done in the next couple of days.

    Since I do still have the unit hooked up I can answer (or try to at least) any specific questions in the interim, though please don't ask things that are already addressed in this thread.
     
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  17. Nanekiu

    Nanekiu Rando

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    Hmm okay that's good too know, i would probably still use my intona as i have a low level ground loop hum without it currently, and extra surge protection is always nice too have.
     
  18. Collusion

    Collusion Friend

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    Between Ayre Codex and this, which one would you choose?
     
  19. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    That's easy - I'd go with the dac1541, no question.
     
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  20. Collusion

    Collusion Friend

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    Earlier you commented that dac1541 is more on the analytical side. Does this mean same as clinical or unmusical?
     

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