Sonnet Digital Audio's Morpheus Reviews

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by sahmen, Mar 25, 2020.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    They are fundamentally different DACs. It’s like comparing a BMW 6 series coupe to a Camaro ZL1. Any decision would rest on primarily whether one would be accepting of NOS's limitations, one's personal preferences, and synergies with the rest of the component chain.

    USB seems to limit the Morpheus' potential. The AES/EBU from a good transport or Pi2AES sounds better. More resolving, more lively, more real. Heck, I think Eitr to SPDIF, which has it's own limitations, is better than the built-in USB.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2020
  2. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    Marv, what's your stream of consciousness on this?

    Fingers crossed the stock markets do well this week. Then incoming dac! And thank god I don't have airline stocks LOL
     
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Well, it's NOS. Let's get the "bad" stuff out of the way.

    Before anyone takes a foray into NOS, will they be willing to accept its limitations? I've been hearing headphones dudes bitch about needed a deep "soundstage" for 10 years now, so I don't want anymore coming back at me for not warning them. NOS won't do this deep soundstage thing or localize instruments with any depth. The localization of the instruments will be inside of one's head on the same plane as the ears. For speakers the soundstage will be more upfront, but each instrument will no have depth. They will all be located on the same plane depth-wise.

    The positive aspect is because the images are more upfront, the instruments are larger sized and have a bigger presence dimensionally - a larger individual instrument "sphere". The negative aspect is that I don't get the sense of the layout of the orchestra or tight and precise instrument images when listening to classical works. Specifically for the Morpheus, I've noted a tendency to space out instruments wider than they are usually. I wouldn't say it's a hole-in-the middle thing, as there is a center, it's just that a vocalist that is off-center an inch ends up a foot off-center. For example, on an LFF master of Levin's Mozart Requeim, it's very evident that the bass vocalist who starts out in Tuba Mirem is more to the left , and the tenor who is just slightly off-center on the right is way more right on the Morpheus, than say from a Modi-Multibit. This effect seems attributed to the lack of depth, in this case, the instrument depth seems to be translated to change width, with "closer" instruments having this effect more - again keeping in mind that everything is laid out immediately in front on a flat plane, like on a wide whiteboard sitting four feet in front of me.

    Additionally the images of the vocalists waver off-position ever so slightly depending upon pitch. If they are singing around the same notes, not an issue; but it's different from DACs like the Crane Song Solaris or those which use the Moffat filter where it's just spot-on and stable, XYZ stable. I also noticed that images tended toward the lower half on the up-down axis. I didn't get a sense of height. This could be because tweeters are on top, the NOS DACs roll-off early. However, I swear I heard this on various headphones too.

    And of course the roll-off. I would not call the Morpheus a darkly tilted DAC, in fact there's plenty of lower and mid-treble energy, but even my aging ears can tell there's some air missing, especially so when compared to modern DAC chips like the AKM449* series.

    I brought out the big guns for this one. SR1a (EQ'd) and Verite Open (with the in-between pads).
    IMG_20200503_112632.jpg

    To be continued.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2020
  4. wbass

    wbass Friend

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    @purr1n What's the amp to the right? EC something?
     
  5. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    If any of you guys have heard the old Metrum Hex, the Morpheus sounds like the ultimate expression of this. So it seems it would be a slight departure from the second and third series of Metrum DACs which I felt moved away from the Hex's rather I dare say dull and boring presentation. As such, I felt the Morpheus paired rather well with the SR1a and Jotunheim-R combination. I also get the sense that the XLR outputs are less laid-back than the SE outputs. I'll dig up the XLR to SE transformers to see if I can get different results.

    Anyway, take the Hex, refine it by ten times, increase its resolution by ten times, and I believe what we get is essentially the Morpheus. Tonal balance is even. Tone density of NOS or vintage R2R DAC is present. Maybe a little too bit much in the lows which may seem too dense to the point of murkiness (dense murky, not uncontrolled rubbery murky). This was evident of the Verite and later validated on the Verum (I wanted to check on something with more linear bass response). The slightly murky bass (and really I'm nitpicking) was not evident on the SR1a - however, it should be noted that the SR1a doesn't extend that well and rather has a hard time getting any kind of SPL in the lows. The super astute will notice in the picture above that I actually dropped 40Hz and under on the DEQ2496 EQ. This was for the SR1a - why make it do what it doesn't want to do?

    What I do like about the Morpheus is how it renders contrast. It's a rounder presentation like the Yggdrasil and is iopposite to the vivid mode of the Convert-2 and Samsung TVs at Best Buy (assault on the eyes). Now if the X-Sabre is just slightly tilted to the square side, then the Morpheus is perhaps tilted to the rounder side. In other words, maybe that TV screen needs a bit more pop. Hence, I'm often left grasping, where are those sharp sibilants in Alanis' vocals when I know they are there, and where's that bite that makes my hairs on my back stand up when Louis Armstrong suddenly lays out an fff trumpet blare? Reticent.

    In essence, the car is so refined that I can't feel the bumps on the road. It's like BMW steering after the E46.

    That being said, I do feel the Morpheus is quite spectacular in doing what the designer set to achieve; and as such, deserves the highest recommendation for those who desire this sort of sound.

    It's a custom amp. 2x45 per channel with transformers that I picked out. It's kinda of DIY / hack-job deal. Maybe one day I'll ask Craig to redo it and put in a nicer chassis. If I do, maybe will do a short run of 3 of more and see who wants to buy. The amp is neutral, a bit of inherent tube warmth, with sweet unattenuated highs. Think of the 45 as the opposite of the 300B. With a proper pairing, it will slay Slayer or rage against Rage Against the Machine.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2020
  6. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    From its description, I’m guessing it will pair well with a bright and sibilant setup like HD800?
     
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Not necessarily so. It's highs aren't muted, only the top octave is. It's the dynamics, the attacks, which are more more polite and forgiving. There is also headstage, which any NOS DAC will not be able to take advantage of what the HD800 can do.
     
  8. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Synthesizing @neogeosnk and @purr1n 's impressions, this Morpheus dac basically seems Pavane Jr and might be a good value for those who couldn't pay $5k when Pavy was not OOP.

    @purr1n : I am reading your post as "if you are obsessive regarding transient and depth-axis staging, for this budget range, yggdrasil 2 is still the way to go". Right?
     
  9. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    Low value post here but happy to finally see some more impressions (after some initial feedback in the pre-covid CO meet up post) about this DAC pretty much anywhere online. Surprisingly the internet has been pretty quiet about this until pretty recently.

    @purr1n + those who have heard it:

    So there's a pretty front row presentation and rounded-ness to the sound, but does it also have the incisiveness (or relatively at least) of the newer Yggdrasils? Being row 1, round sound, and being incisive all at once seems like it may not synergize well with a lot of gear - but if it's just a nitpick then I'm guessing it's kind of like nitpicking anything else out there? Still my top contender for a new DAC later this year or next, but I'm wondering if I should just find a used Onyx later (which, while not as technically adept as Yggdrasil IMO, I know the Onxy sounds good and complements Yggdrasil with my gear).

    Or is it hard to compare and I should just think of it like you say in the analogy - the modern 6 series (I assume the discontinued in 2018 F06/F13, not it's successor) - great car - big (sounding in this case) for what it is, comfy, smooth, drives and handles well though despite the above + being too heavy, still powerful enough, and still connects you to the road in a way it's competitors can't (MB CLS and Audi A7 come to mind) but yet is still a little too artificial in some ways compared to even a good "ordinary" car like the modern Miata (which I guess would be the Modi MB in this case)?
     
  10. neogeosnk

    neogeosnk Friend

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    It's the other way around for me. The Morpheus for me is a step up from the Pavane and Adiago, has better over clarity and resolution to both. I did try out the Pavane for about 2 weeks and found it too dark for my taste. Like @purrin said though it is NOS. Yggdrasil 2 is great and very musical with a lot of slam, but the grey is still there and resolves lower to the Morpheus.. pretty damn close though. Ended up replacing the Yggdrasil with another Morpheus, just sounded better for the speaker setup. The Yggdrasil is still a top recommendation and should be endgame for most folks though.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2020
  11. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Can't quite put my finger on it. Not totally the incisiveness thing. The attacks and transients are plenty fast. It's not slow or syrupy sounding. I think it's more a combination of micro and macro dynamics. I traded notes with @Hands with he mentioned the Pavane was bolder and more lively. Heck, even the Modi Multibit had more slam.

    Again, on the polite and forgiving side, lacks explosiveness. Not the DAC you want if you want something to slay Slayer as @Psalmanazar would say.

    The Yggdrasil has its own issues of course, although I'm not exactly sure if I hear the Morpheus has having this supreme blackground. It wasn't any blacker than the Modi Multibit, and didn't have any of that inky jet black background of those DACs noteable for it such as the Convert-2, Holo Spring 3, Wavedream.

    I haven't lined up a direct comparison to Yggdrasil 2 yet, so I'm curious.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2020
  12. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    In the notes I exchanged with @purr1n, I likened the Morpheus to when you send a limited range RGB signal to a display set for a full range RGB signal. Obviously an exaggeration for the sake of comparison, nor to say it does nothing well.

    This was when (briefly) compared directly to the Pavane L1, both on SE outs with an A/B switcher, and matching digital sources to feed them. SE outs are going to be a limitation on both, no doubt, and the Pavane is certainly influenced with the transformer coupled SE output. I tend to think the transformers are beneficial in this case, but that's more an opinion than a rule.

    Of course, the Pavane is not easily obtainable, is huge, is more expensive (MSRP at least), and has no built-in preamp capability.
     
  13. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    Reading this thread and elsewhere, this is not the consensus I gather. Adagio and Morpheus trade a couple points here and there, relatively different presentation when compared directly to each other, overall still very NOS Metrum housesound compared to the rest of the dac world. @MisterRogers @zach915m Is that a fair assessment at a high level?

    What's tricky is that very few people will be able to compare the Pavane L2/3 or Adagio to Morpheus. A majority of Pavane owners on this forum (which is actually quite a short list) tended to have L1.
     
  14. Baten

    Baten Friend

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    I'm missing my holo spring 2 a lot. Would be very interesting to see some comparison between Morpheus and any of the Spring DACs if at all possible. I'm not sure which one would be the better (re-)buy nowadays.
     
  15. Magnetostatic_Tubephile

    Magnetostatic_Tubephile Friend

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    Surprising to hear. Despite me finding differences among DACs rather small and not always worth talking about, Metrum Onyx offered quite significantly cleaner and blacker sonic background when compared to my former Modi Multibit. The two DACs were subjectively closer to each other than expected (given the price delta) but the sense of better overall blackness was something immediately noticed with Onyx, even without any "warm up" time.

    Soo... have you actually found the DAC to be potent for the price, or not? I think many would be interested in anything more you have to say, given all the work youve done in the past to introduce NOS DACs to larger audiences.;)
     
  16. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I can only say what I heard during that brief listening comparison at the mini meet. Not near enough time, and none in-house, to say anything else beyond that. Once others have had their fun with this Morpheus unit, I might give it a whirl at home to dive in.

    My gut feeling based on my first alone, though, is that I'd rather have a Pavane...But that's not particularly helpful advice for people looking for DACs now.

    I haven't heard the Spring 2 DAC itself, but based on what I've heard of the Morpheus and original Spring, I think you'll find they have very different presentations.

    Spring will have that sort of inky, oil-painted, bold sound to it. Very forward. Maybe lacking some of the smallest nuances.

    Morpheus is going to sound like it has lower contrast, but maybe a bit more refined, airier, more nuanced, less forward, maybe less engaging.

    Just some educated guess work. Not based on direct listening comparisons by any means.
     
  17. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    MM with the new firmware right? The comparison I have right now is with the MM being fed SPDIF and the Morpheus being fed AES from the pi2AES. MM with USB was hazy. I'll go back and check. Either way, Oynx isn't Morpheus, and Morpheus never jumped out at me has having this "blackness. It's entirely possible that we may be taking about slightly different things, the MM does seem noisier and more grainy though, the Morpheus significantly more refined and liquid.

    The great blackground DACs to me were the PWD2, Wavedream, Bricasti, Convert-2, and Holo 3. The list is pretty limited. Some stuff like the X-Sabre Pro, maybe AMD Gamma 2 get an honorable mention.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2020
  18. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    The DAC TWO-based stuff from Metrum I'd give an honorable mention, mostly if considering the higher end stuff and with balanced outs.

    Wolfson stuff, if done right, could be surprisingly good at this, hence your mention of the Gamma 2. I'd agree there.

    Bifrost 2 I felt quite good in this regard as well, though it did not have the bold, inky sort of sound like the Gamma 2, Spring, etc.

    I think that's why I made the analogy of feeding a limited range RGB signal to a full range RGB display. Even if you match full range to full range, you still have to consider variables like contrast, maximum brightness, black levels, bleed, uniformity, and so on. Morpheus was a bit reserved in this regard.
     
  19. zach915m

    zach915m MOT: ZMF Headphones

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    It's hard for me to do a direct comparison with Adagio or Pavane L3 which I had both of - but my thoughts are generally this based on being able to compare the Onyx and the Morpheus through my ECP 3F:

    Onyx VS Pavane L3: Pavane has more space and nuance, more detail and a little more air. Pavane more weight and substance. Onyx has more frontal and euphonic mids and maybe a touch more lush qualities in a nice way.

    Onyx VS Morpheus: Morpheus has more space than the Onyx, and much more width, weight and impact and dynamic response is greater on Morpheus, Onyx midrange is nice for those who want lushness. Morpheus seems accentuated in transients compared to Onyx, going to detail over musicality, Onyx seems to go for musicality over detail. Remember I'm using a 3F here with amorphous transformers. personally I'd probably prefer Nickel transformers with Morpheus due to my tastes.

    What I can surmise based on owning the Pavane for a long time but not doing a true A/B - is that the Morpheus doesn't quite have the same space as the Pavane L3, and morpheus is a touch less syrupy - but that it is faster, more transient and a little more dynamic. A lot of the other characteristics are very similar with the added benefit of the pre-amp.

    They both are excellent DAC's if looking for that NOS sound that's not thick. Which for me means pairing with solid state amps, or my tube amps that aren't wet sounding. I still have Yggdrasil A2 which I really like with amps like Glenn 300b, Ampsandsound Mogwai etc etc
     
  20. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    @purr1n Anything totally boring and dynamically dead is massive uninspiring. Anything deader than idk a Lynx Aurora 1 or RME ADI 2 Pro (the mediocre converter section only) can go shove it. I had the Grace and was trying to tweak it endlessly to get some life out of it but it was still wider and phatter than much of this stuff.

    Much of this stuff is deader than that. Cheap chifi can shove it. A Modi is 100 dollars isn’t veiled on top but a little boring below and small. MM switches the veil from bottom to top and adds tons of goo. The SSLs and MOTUs that run off usb bus power are slightly better but cost double and are more boring, deader, less detailed versions of their great workmanlike current gear that cost 200 bucks. Yet basic computer setup and podcast core guys refuse to buy any of these. They are literal retards who would rather buy 5000 dollar headphones and use a shitty sibilant chinese condenser mic reflecting off drywall than use a cardioid SM7B into the current SSL pre or much better for anything with multiple voices, SM7B into a Daking. Daking is pretty much cleaner Trident with better, modern transformers. Literal retards.

    The rare used Bifrost Uber also costs in this price range. People don’t sell those.

    For 400-500 bucks, you can used SPL or Dangerous unit that doesn’t hang with the best for detail but sounds great. All of them sound great. New a Focusrite claret is okay but by no means good. I’ve heard good things about the Project DAC from the Czech turntable dudes. Still used better stuff is more reliable.

    500-600 bucks gets you into new legitimately good stuff with a real power supply from Apogee or MOTU. Used, you can get 16 channels of 10-20 year old awesome conversion from pre Apple Store Apogee without dongle and fans. It’s warm but murders budget shit.

    more than that but under 1k you get into used Gungnir Multibit and Lavry. A lot of this other stuff jsut isn’t sold used because it’s too bang for buck.

    there’s just no excuse for shitty gear in 2020. I’m not even interesting in trying boring shitty gear. I can get 16 channels of super reliable, inoffensive, boring like a blank canvas in a good way but not sterile at all conversion for 500-1500 bucks depending on what I want. Megabucks gets ridiculous clean shit (lynx, metric halo, dad) or ridiculous color shit (jcf, burl, shit that is actually expensive to make). 2 channel needs to be like Dangerous or Prism or Bricasti or Lavry cool and awesome and huge. X Sabre Less punchy than a Hilo can be recycled for parts.

    Edit: anything with modern akm can shove it too. Burl shits on it with ak4399. Modern akm tries to universalize the sound when 99% of the converter is implementation. They wanted to negate the implementation for shitty Asian conglomerate hifi manufacturing that can’t design good conversion because they’re group thinkers and won’t pay an outside consultant what he deserves. AKM literally warmed over and veiled the sound of the DA chips because Teac asked them to. The new DA and AD chips now have a radically different timbre. This is why you see AKM AD with other brand DA all the time in the same box. My favorite akm, spl Madison, uses the best 2 channel codec chips. The current spl hifi conversion that measures better isn’t as good as the reclocked older stuff. It is subject to the veil and SPL isn’t trying for hyper detail anyway. The specsmanship doesnt matter with Warm dark, hyper reactive gear.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2020

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