K.T.N
1265
Sep 9, 2017
A great, informative write up from Michael Grace. Thanks so much for that.
I'm very intrigued by this DAC. However, I have both the ODAC Rev B/O2 amp combo, and a straight up O2 amp, both from previou drops here on Massdrop.
To be perfectly honest, I'm not a fan of how they sound. While the numbers and measurements are good, and it is a competent performer, I find it sounds somewhat clinical and mechanical. I find it lacks a sense of soul.
That's my personal feeling on the performance. Others do find satisfaction from the ODAC and O2, so it's not for me, that's all.
I'm curious if this amp is essentially a remake of the ODAC design. Important to know, because I would personally rather not purchase one if the sonic performance is similar to the ODAC.
Any reviews we can reference to get an idea of the personality of this DAC? That would be most helpful.
Thanks.
tessierpg
Sep 9, 2017
It is not the same design as the ODAC. For a start, the SDAC uses a completely different DAC, the AKM AK4452, which is also used in some stereo receivers such as the TX-8160 from Onkyo. And if you read Mr. Grace's explicit comment above, you will see that the DAC alone is not the only important component in the SDAC. I infer from his comments that the SDAC is a completely new design. Moreover, I'm quoting here his comments: "The SDAC contains mostly new circuitry for us and there was not much we could reuse from previous products we have built in the past."
ODAC and SDAC are both budget DACs, and 79.99$ is not a big amount at risk here to try it out. Some early reviewers says it sounds better than the Modi and the ODAC. I guess we will only know when it is released to the consumers that have ordered it on this drop. I also matches the looks of the O2 that I bought a few weeks ago from Massdrop. Enough said to take a 79.99$ chance on this item...
kltp567
60
Sep 9, 2017
Lmao. Decent DACs all produce the same balanced frequency response. I do not think you will get a different tonal balance with such a comparable DAC. You should more aim to buy a new amplifier to change your tonal balance. Tube amps would permits to change it in any way tubes permit. For example, you can get a very warm sound or, if you change the tubes, you can get a more mid sound. Heaphones do demonstrate different sound signatures. In the end, if you want to change your sound production, go see on the amp and headphone side, not the dac.
K.T.N
1265
Sep 9, 2017
Thanks for the insight, kltp567.
While I definitely agree with you about changing the overall system sound via amp and headphone choice, I respectfully disagree with thought that all decent DACs sound the same (you had specifically mentioned tonal balance, but I believe that's the gist of what you said).
In my experience, I have noticed clear differences in musical presentation among DACs. Among those I have used are the ODAC, Modi, Teac UD501 and UD503, Denon DA-300 USB, Grace mXX, SMSL M8, amongst others. I do hear differences in presentation. This is all in the context of the same supporting system.
I don't know if there's any difference in frequency response. The differences lie more in things like sense of space in the soundscape and around instruments, the naturalness of the textures of the instrumental and vocal sounds, the naturalness, speed, and depth of note decay, the complexity and richness of the harmonics, the musical flow and sense of rhythm in the song or piece, etc. Things like that.
I don't know too much about the technology of digital playback. I just plug in the DAC, maybe play around with the filters and settings, and listen to music.
I found, particularly, that the ODAC did not bring me the enjoyment that I found in some of the other DACs I own.
On my computer, I had a hard time discerning the difference between the Modi and an original Audioquest Dragonfly, so I won't say I hear a difference all the time. But most of the time the differences led me to prefer one DAC over another for long term listening.
That's my experience, anyway.
tessierpg
Sep 9, 2017
Anyway, the SDAC uses a 32 bit Delta Sigma DAC from AKM, the AK4452, used with the UBS controller XMOS XU208-128-TQ64. The ODAC revision B uses a Burr Brown (now Texas Instruments)32 bit Delta Sigma PCM5102A DAC Using USB controller SA9023. The original ODAC used the ESS ES9023 24 bit DAC with USB controller TE 7022L. And the OL-DAC from JDSLabs uses the AKM4490 32 bit Delta Sigma DAC, apprently that uses a similar architecture than the AK4452 used in the SDAC.
I did not enumerate the other different components used by each DAC, like the Op Amps, which are probably all different in each aforementioned DAC model. In the case of the SDAC, the op amp is a Burr Brown OPA1652.
In other words, all of these DACs are different, using different components. So your dislike the ODAC (Original or revisionB, I don't know which you tried) that doesn't mean that you will dislike the SDAC in the same way. For 79.99$, you should give it a try. That is what I'm doing, I have ordered the standalone SDAC.
By the way, the original Dragonfly uses the same DAC as the original ODAC, the ESS ES9023 24 bit Sabre DAC with Delta Sigma architecture and Texas Instruments USB controller TAS1020B. Current Dragonflys use the ESS ES9010 32 bit DAC (Dragonfly Black) and ESS ES9016 32 bit DAC/AMP chip (Dragonfly Red) with USB controller Microchip PIC32MX. All different configurations...
kltp567
60
Sep 10, 2017
Thank you for the insight, K.T.N.
dannymcs
15
Sep 13, 2017
Didn't like it so much you bought two, eh?
K.T.N
1265
Sep 13, 2017
Impulse buys. And too busy to give a critical listen to the stand alone amp before the combo unit dropped not long after. I went ahead and bought the second one before I had a full opinion on how I liked the first.
Live and learn, I guess.
tessierpg
Sep 21, 2017
I cancelled my SDAC order and went ahead with the Massdrop O2/SDAC combo. It’s only 70$ more, it includes a good little amp with the SDAC, and the RCA in/out makes it possible to use the SDAC with another amp or use the O2 amp alone or with another external DAC. Well worth the upgrade, although I already have a standard gain Massdrop O2 standalone Amo which I use with my stereo r criver’s internal DAC, also an AKM4452 for a coincidence...
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