The company has sent me this device, the Arylic UP2STREAM HD DAC and the S50+ Pro Pre-amp / Streamer / DAC in return for giving it a thorough and honest review. With the HD DAC board I received a remote control and the Arylic acrylic case option (no pun intended). I was asked to publish the review this week, starting yesterday, and the company was aware of my findings.
I’ve produced a set of pictures that you’ll find in the galleries, a work which may underline my serious enthusiasm to review these type of products. I treat them with respect, thus with this DAC board I’ve tested most of the functions thoroughly and was trying to troubleshoot the things that doesn’t work at the first flight. The same I did with the S50 Pro+, which got its review here.
As a result, I am perfectly happy with the A50 pro+, however the HD DAC and me, we won’t be close friends for a long time coming, I’d assume. Not having seen many real reviews of this device throughout the net, I may assume there is something wrong with the batch they have send out for reviews. I’ve noted that other reviewer, who may have had the same review samples like me, did concentrate on the S50 pro+ and usually only posted specs and pics from the HD DAC. Which imho is open to interpretation.
Caution: Please excuse my sometimes harsh commenting on the findings. I may have retired this review if the company had asked me ... and yes the device has obviously offended my reviewer personality, it's a bit like disappointed love affair ... and somehow sad .... And the reason why I write about it in my blog. This should be a wake up call !
In fact, the Arylic Up2stream HD DAC DIY board is a relatively unique type of device, combining the Up2stream platform with the powerful Linkplay A97 Wi-Fi module and the ESS9038q2m DAC chip, whose flawless implementation occurs nowadays as an open book for most chi-fi manufacturers.The up2stream platform is prepared for additional analog and digital in & outputs via IO pins, as well as offering extension for IIS-Out, a rotary encoder and a display panel. Here’s an overview and a comparison to other Up2stream devices from Arylic.
The device allows connection from/to Wi-Fi, BT and Ethernet, however, it neither offers a browser based GUI as many other devices made by Arylic and the Up2Stream platform, nor a toggle switch on the device or in the control app for changing the connection. That leaves you with the only option to connect the 10/100 LAN port to a router and see if it is detected and available for setup (on the 4stream app only, for the reasons pointed out above). Unfortunately, even this task was too much for the HD DAC in-house for review.
Rather than connect quickly to the app, the Ethernet input killed the existing 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi connection, and the device was simply out of control.
Dissolving it from the Ethernet brought it back to the wireless network, but nothing else than local content from the controlling device could be streamed to HD DAC via 4Stream app.
Ok, kind of untrue, as I left the 4stream App aside, bc it really sucked to wait for it to proceed. Alternatively, I used the formidable Linkplay WIIM app, and it just worked smoothly looking for local content on the phones SD card folder to play. Which is a nice find, but didn’t help a lot …
What we have on the HD DAC module is a plethora of possible connections - for which you may need to have a reason to use - and some money to buy the fitting interfaces/connectors.
Analog in and out, Digital Spdif in, I2S out + volume control and Display
on the backplane:
- You have an USB C input, which is solely for powering the device.
- You’ll find an Ethernet port that has no real functionality
- RCA analog output
- Coax and Toslink digital output
- and a Wi-Fi card that doesn’t allow DLNA/UPNP over your network.
- You have an app that is effing slow for anything to proceed, and that doesn’t have the means to control the individual characteristics of the device. No 4Stream app update since last year, the WIIM app i.E. just updated today again ..
- You have a firmware from another LINKPLAY based device, the Muzo Cobblestone, which did not update for the last 6-month period or more. Here are some Firmware and APP related screenshots
Anyway, someone may have had this very likable idea to pair the excellent A97 chipset of Linkplay with the well regarded ESS9038q2m DAC chip a year ago to,likeable because it’s still today a quite promising yet uncommon combination on the market (note: Audiophonics went that same direction just this month with the Hypex/ESS/WIIM combo – my thoughts about that in one of the next blog entries).
Looking on all the hours I spent on the device to make sure it is not the Human Interface who provides the problem, I need to express the verdict:
In relation to all the chances that came up with this design through such a low quality execution in my view is poorest garbage.
I did send my findings to ARYLIC, however the only reaction I’ve noticed during the first 2 weeks’ notice period had been an information on Instagram that the company does sell that device now with a 15% reduction for 211,65 $. Fair business decision.
Upon further requests I came to understand there are no engineering resources to respond to my catalogue of questions. This mirrors voices from the Arylic forum (attached at the end) , that the product cycle won’t be prolonged by firmware updates.
Here , by chance, is the link to the device's manual - a download from this site
When it works (local content from the controlling device via WIIM app), it sounds pretty good and clear, perhaps not as good as the Allo Revolution DAC implementation of the same ESS chip, but imho in a different league compared to the WIIM analog output (TA PCM5121) or the Arylic S50+ pro (ESS9023), which both uses lesser quality DAC chips. This experience make me believe, that it could have been a winner device, if it wouldn't perform so bad ... However, if you prefer to use an even better suited DAC, the device allows you use optical or coaxial SPDIF outputs for the digital signal transfer. This is done in real “hi-res” up to 24/192, but without any control/selection for the output bitrate through the app.
I got a shimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, when I reconnected the device to the 5Ghz network, which allowed me finally to access local content through the app from my android phone, but not on IOS. I would be careful with that option, because in my experience it cuts you out of using a 2.4Ghz network, even after reset or through Ethernet setup, because the 4stream app lacks the function for toggling between these 2 network qualities.
What does work when connected to Wi-Fi – only analog output tested (pictures in gallery)
- Playing through the WIIM App local content from the phone
- Playing through the WIIM App QOBUZ streaming content through the phone
- Playing through BubbleUPnP QOBUZ streaming content through the phone
- Playing through BubbleUPnP local content streaming content through the phone
- Airplay of local content or streaming apps did works as well
Not available for success:
- Streaming local content through IOS app
- Streaming local or streaming content via DNLA/UPNP through BubbleUPnP or JRIVER DLNA or FB2K UPnP.
- Streaming network content (NAS or other server) through any related Linkplay or Arylic related APP
I verified that the connections was working well and the content was available through the other Arylic device S50 Pro+ which was also available in my network. The S50 pro+ didn’t fail a single time with these tasks.
As a result of the dual testing scenario I can now state that the UPNP/DLNA function of the HD DAC is severly flawed with no means to fix it for the user through the app or existing firmware updates/resets. My dozen+ attempts to reset the device did not get me any further.
There is an opportunity that something is broken (rather in the firmware section?), but given the lack of response / suggestions of the Arylic support I can’t smell any interest for solutions.
Unless the company will be able to fix the UNPN/DLNA problem via firmware update (let’s face it the Linkplay A97 is perfectly capable to work in that environment as I have shown with WIIM mini) I can’t see a great usability for the device, unless you are a masochist DIY enthusiast. Thus, without firmware update that device just doesn't have a (bright) future ... This verdict is a result of the hours I spend trying to troubleshoot the device ... absolutely awesome (not).
The Up2Stream HD DAC is available here and costs 249 $.
The Arylic user forum inhabitants´, real people who own the device, can’t really show their enthusiasm about their support experience, neither, right now.