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Article: exaSound e12 DAC Review


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Ted -

 

Great review. Thanks for your hard work. Your enthusiasm for this DAC is evident. Just to be clear: you think that properly setup it really is as good as the e22?

And a real challenger for other DACs in the $3500 and above category?

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Path: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Cayin iDAC6 MKII (tube mode) (XLR)>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: Ropieee (RPi3b+ with touchscreen) + Schiit Modi3E to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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I am very intrigued by this product and recently was in email conversation with George. The summary was that since I am serving my music with an Aries, George advised me the exaSound would not have the requisite front end computer based USB drivers, so in my case, not a good choice.

Seems like an ideal product otherwise.

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The Uptone Audio LPS is a JS-2, not a JPS-2. Please correct your article.

NUC7PJYH/AL --> Berkeley Alpha USB --> Jeff Rowland Aeris --> Jeff Rowland 625 S2 --> Focal Utopia 3 Diablos with 2 x Focal Electra SW 1000 BE subs

 

i7-6700K/Windows 10 Version 2004/HDPLEX 300W/HDPLEX 400W DC-ATX --> EVGA Nu Audio Card --> Focal CMS50's 

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Ted -

 

Great review. Thanks for your hard work. Your enthusiasm for this DAC is evident. Just to be clear: you think that properly setup it really is as good as the e22?

And a real challenger for other DACs in the $3500 and above category?

 

Yes, it is an e22 without display, XLR or that 7th level of power conditioning (which doesn't seem to matter as George figured a way to equal it in the 12). A challenger in the $3500+ category? Well, there are very good DACs up there, so you'd have to bring them inhouse. But this little e12 fights above its weight class, yes. Thanks for the nice words.

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Hi Ted. Fantastic review. However I am more than curious to hear comparision with Hugo which you so highly praised (an expected review has not been published).

 

Thanks. The e12 and the Hugo are somewhat dissimilar, from their markets to their strengths and weaknesses. Hugo's market is both the portable crowd and the PCM crowd. It does DSD nicely, but is not the direct raw native DSD processing ninja that the e12 is. The Hugo has UAC2 USB input so it is renderer friendly. The exaSound is purposely built around DSD64, DSD128 and DSD256 perfection, and George hand built an ASIO driver so it would give a direct unencumbered path to DSD files. Does it play PCM nicely? Of course, more than nicely. It is a great PCM playback engine (especially through HQPlayer or a well-tweaked pc running JRiver)....but the Hugo is slightly warmer and slightly more effortless at PCM playback (to my ears in my system). Realize, however, that I am splitting some fine hairs here, and reporting back on only this one aspect, all through my system. Their differences, though, are hardly anything greater than being a perfect match for one's system versus another's.

 

The Hugo requires adapters (USB to mini, interconnect cable adapters cuz most won't fit), doesn't do DSD256, doesn't do raw DSD (only DoP) and is 25% more money! It runs off the grid on a rechargeable battery. The exaSound e12 has only USB, no fancy lights, and benefits from better power (nice upgrade path, frankly).

 

These two DACs are like the low end of a luxury automobile line. You get great trickle-down features, a nice badge, and more horsepower than you'll ever need in daily or even weekend driving. One growls a little more and feels the road, one is quiet and smoothes out bumps. Both are quite a blast to drive.

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I'm a recent e22 buyer, and even my "all that stuff doesn't matter" wife has wildly embraced the sound. She NEVER played the digital system over the last four years, but she's now listening to music through the e22 all the time.

 

I vacillated for a week between getting an e12 instead of e22 - I don't listen direct to headphones, am less likely (not totally unlikely, but not a big deal) to plug multiple sources into the DAC, and find all those displays to be distracting. In the end, opted for the e22, and at the price have zero regrets. But I'm now thinking about getting an e12 for my studio's sound system.

 

I had a few email exchanges with George and was struck by his practicality. If you read the manuals for his DACs, he dismisses fancy USB cables, but not linear power supplies (other than to disavow warranty coverage if you experiment with that, a good decision because it's easy to imagine misbegotten power supply decisions). But, very focused on not just ASIO but on a specific version of ASIO. Seems to me to have thought through what ills his design have muted, and what ills may still be external to his control.

 

It's so hard these days to really do a comparison, unless you've got the cash flow to bring a half dozen DACs into your home. The best high end audio places around me - and I live in the NY City area - have a couple of DACs, and all that any one shop has tend to be in the same price range, so it's hard to get a sense of the value of making a jump to the next cost step. Still, I went to quite a few places before ordering the e22. I think it sounds better on my middle of the road home system than some of the very costly DACs did on very high end systems.

 

And precise enough that I can tell each step from iTunes to red book to 24/48 to 24/96 and on and on. IMHO, it's an honest DAC. The better the information you feed it, the better it sounds, even with Marantz middle of the road pre/pro and amp, and Goldenear speakers. I'm eager to try it in my studio system (Krell integrated/Gradient Revolution speakers) because I'm sure it'll be even more exciting.

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Ok, I take that back. Just noticed this reply from Miska "It shouldn't be necessary to use DoP when using Amanero's ASIO driver as it supports ASIO raw DSD. Set "SDM Pack" to "none" to enable ASIO DSD and rates up to DSD512 (if the DAC supports it)..."

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Great review Ted! I wanted to confirm your redbook settings on HQ Player. You didn't turn on 'SDM' on HQPLayer when playing PCM. That should mean that PCM wasn't converted to DSD. Thats intended, right?

 

Thanks. Yes, I did both. I upconverted PCM to 384k and I upconverted PCM to DSD256. On most material I liked 384k PCM ever so slightly better...but on anything with piano (redbook rip of Jan Lundgren Trio - A Swinging Rendezvous - Two Little Pearls is a great example, upright bass and piano) I preferred the sound of PCM converted to DSD256. I simple menu pulldown of PCM to SDM accomplishes that.

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Ok, I take that back. Just noticed this reply from Miska "It shouldn't be necessary to use DoP when using Amanero's ASIO driver as it supports ASIO raw DSD. Set "SDM Pack" to "none" to enable ASIO DSD and rates up to DSD512 (if the DAC supports it)..."

 

 

That's simply the DAC's ASIO vs DoP setting; has nothing to do with format choices...like later upsampling PCM to whatever.

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Has to be said that HQ Player can't really be too interested in selling its product.

The web site, interface, and even the trial version is just useless to even a reasonably technical layman...I even ventured a joke (I thought funny, as a few more did) on the HQ thread and his response was that, simply, his product demands a certain level of technical expertise...like the Terminator... HELLO?.

If anyone has to use any of the available VNC apps to control their stereo then we are all spending far too much time at it and this only an indication of an immature (beta) program.

If Miska sincerely want to develop his program, I would suggest he employ someone who is not such an propellor-head to design a "human" inferface.

From all that I've read we would welcome a user friendly version.

WDW

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I'm finding the learning curve for HQplayer to be reasonable, and the sq quite worthwhile. Obviosuly, YMMV. Remote desktop is no big deal, but yes a nice JRemote-style app is what all of us would want. Who wouldn't.

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I'm finding the learning curve for HQplayer to be reasonable, and the sq quite worthwhile. Obviosuly, YMMV. Remote desktop is no big deal, but yes a nice JRemote-style app is what all of us would want. Who wouldn't.

 

Hi wdw,

 

To add to that. And even much bigger companies do not.....Amarra by Sonic Studio for example. It is incredible what Miska has done as a one man band. HQ Player is not bit perfect (on a Mac at least) so it is not something to use for standard playback anyway. It is a tweaker's tool which requires a bit of effort.

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Has to be said that HQ Player can't really be too interested in selling its product.

The web site, interface, and even the trial version is just useless to even a reasonably technical layman...I even ventured a joke (I thought funny, as a few more did) on the HQ thread and his response was that, simply, his product demands a certain level of technical expertise...like the Terminator... HELLO?.

If anyone has to use any of the available VNC apps to control their stereo then we are all spending far too much time at it and this only an indication of an immature (beta) program.

If Miska sincerely want to develop his program, I would suggest he employ someone who is not such an propellor-head to design a "human" inferface.

From all that I've read we would welcome a user friendly version.

WDW

 

Ted's news that Miska is developing APIs to allow others to hook in to the HQ Player filters is very encouraging. I love HQ Player's upsampling filters but hate the app.

 

When we can use his filters with an easier player app, like JRiver, will be the day that his excellent filters really hit the market! :)

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Ted's news that Miska is developing APIs to allow others to hook in to the HQ Player filters is very encouraging. I love HQ Player's upsampling filters but hate the app.

 

When we can use his filters with an easier player app, like JRiver, will be the day that his excellent filters really hit the market! :)

 

I agree completely

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HQP filters in an app of my choice? This I like.

Roon client on iPad/MacBookPro

Roon Server & HQPlayer on Mac Mini 2.0 GHz i7 with JS-2

LPS-1 & ultraRendu → Lampizator Atlantic → Bent Audio TAP-X → Atma-sphere M60 → Zero autoformers → Harbeth Compact 7 ES-3

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But he does already have things like the new hqp-control program in 3.71 that lets Geoff's Tidal integration project pass playlists back and forth, for example. Exits forp layback control is on his agenda.

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Ted's news that Miska is developing APIs to allow others to hook in to the HQ Player filters is very encouraging. I love HQ Player's upsampling filters but hate the app.

 

When we can use his filters with an easier player app, like JRiver, will be the day that his excellent filters really hit the market! :)

 

Geez I hope it doesn't end in the same debacle as Jplay/Jriver. If Miska is watching, the filtering selection is quite complex dependent on the kind of music and how it was recorded. What I would like to see apart from a purely manual setting at the moment, to have filters based on 'ancient', '70's EQ', '80's EQ', 'High Class Jazz', 'legacy jazz' etc. recordings, perhaps even pick this info up from the tags...? Or an Auto 1, 2, 3, 4 setting like some DACs. For those who want to venture deeper, they can, for most of us a BFE, 'beginner filter experience' is maybe all we need to get the 'right' sound.

AS Profile Equipment List        Say NO to MQA

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Ted's news that Miska is developing APIs to allow others to hook in to the HQ Player filters is very encouraging. I love HQ Player's upsampling filters but hate the app.

 

When we can use his filters with an easier player app, like JRiver, will be the day that his excellent filters really hit the market! :)

 

I also enjoyed Ted's review and the prospect for using the great HQplayer filters with other players is encouraging. But... Please remember that the software you put in front of HQplayer can make a difference also. There is no free lunch.

 

Although not the prettiest HQplayer's interface works well does what it was designed for... Playing music. :)

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Has to be said that HQ Player can't really be too interested in selling its product.

The web site, interface, and even the trial version is just useless to even a reasonably technical layman...I even ventured a joke (I thought funny, as a few more did) on the HQ thread and his response was that, simply, his product demands a certain level of technical expertise...like the Terminator... HELLO?.

If anyone has to use any of the available VNC apps to control their stereo then we are all spending far too much time at it and this only an indication of an immature (beta) program.

If Miska sincerely want to develop his program, I would suggest he employ someone who is not such an propellor-head to design a "human" inferface.

From all that I've read we would welcome a user friendly version.

WDW

 

For any product you have to pick your market. Jussi chose NOT to pick idiots and "1 button automatic" iPhone users who instantly think they are rocket scientists because they can use a handful of the 100s of Apps they show off on their iPhones. I, personally, salute Jussi for his choice. Too many Apps are comprised, functionally, for the sake of the herd being able to even use let alone comprehend how to truly max their potential. Even if he added 1 button magic tricks the increase in sales might be a handful more of you. And I expect those sales would precipitate more customer service issues than the sale was worth.

 

On a general area of your comment... We are lucky to have access to the actual creators and developers of this bleeding edge of the audio world. They DO listen to advice and input from users and even help noobs with thorough explanations to the most basic questions. Our input gets incorporated if it fits technically and philosophically with THEIR product. They don't ignore users. Just because it doesn't fit to include YOUR wish list is absolutely NO reason to whine and call names as you did in this post. Ease up! (And maybe mature a little bit - sorry for my own harshness but you get what you give).

 

Don't like it, don't use it! Go buy a Core or CAPS or YFS music server and be done. Computer Audiophile is the name of the website. That would imply that you know more than where the "ON" button is located about both, and are willing to put forth some effort to get some gain in your listening pleasure.

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