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Audio Alchemy DDP-1 and Ayre Codex Side by Side


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I recently auditioned the Audio Alachemy DDP-1 with a pair of Devore Orangutang speakers over the weekend. The Orangutang's were both beautifully crafted and beautiful sounding speakers. I heard enough to bring the DDP-1 and PS-5 home. My system is more modest. I also auditioned an Ayre Codex for a side by side. I plugged the DDP-1 with PS-5 and Codex (back and forth at different times) into an Emotiva XPA-200 using balanced outs. I used a PC running JRiver with USB direct to each device. My speakers are B&W 803 Diamonds. I have had two methods for listening to my digital collection; through a Marantz AV7701 or an Oppo BDP-103. After recently getting back into vinyl I realized what I had been missing for many years. My turntable is a Pro-ject RPM3 with Simaudio Moon 110LP which I also tested through the DDP-1. More on that later.

 

The Marantz AV7701 uses anAKM AK4358VQ DAC while the BDP-103 uses a Cirrus Logic CS4382A 8ch, 24/192 DAC. I had already determined that to my ears the AKM sounded better (clearer, more defined, spatial). So this is what I used to compare the DDP-1 (AKM 4439) and Codex (ESS 9018K2M chip, same as in the Pono?). I have not previously compared DACs on my system other than between the Oppo and Marantz which I have owned a couple different models. I used three different songs with different bit depth and sample rates. So What from Kind of Blue at 192/24, Heart is a Drum from Morning Phase at 96/24 and House of Cards (and a little of Jigsaw Falling Into Place) from In Rainbows at 44/16.

 

I first listened to the DDP-1. Immediately I was stunned. There were mids and bass I had never heard digitally before. I also own these albums on vinyl and will be doing a side by side comparison soon. The detail was very good, but what blew me away was the fullness and richness of the sound. Digital music can often sound shallow in these frequencies. It's one of the reasons vinyl is more enjoyable to my ears. The DDP-1 has taken digital media closer to that analog vinyl space with a full clean sound. I then listened to the same tracks with the Codex. I was immediately disappointed. I had read some good things about this DAC, but it just sounded shallow and empty compared to the DDP-1. I then went back to the AV7701 for a comparison and the Codex was much closer in sound to that device. The Codex was slightly warmer with more detail, but not much. I did this back and forth testing between the three devices and three songs many more times for hours. I then asked my wife to listen. I didn't tell her anything about what I had already heard. A caveat about my wife, she doesn't share a musical passion as I do and would be just as happy listening to an mp3. I gave her a side by side between the three devices as well as the same three songs. We even listened to a little Nora Jones. She immediately heard the difference as well. Same conclusion as me without my input. That's good because A. my opinion was validated and B. I won't get grief for buying the DDP-1.

 

I then plugged my RPM3 through Moon 110LP into the DDP-1 via RCA. I honestly couldn't hear much of a difference between the DDP-1 and my AV7701. Keep in mind I use the AV7701 in Pure Direct mode so the sound should be unmolested and only influenced by the Moon. This may not always be the case, but it seemed to be here. I will be giving the DDP-1 a final test with a vinyl - digital side by side and update this post with my opinions.

 

I also have an Oppo BDP-105D on the way so will compare that, but it uses the ESS 9018 DAC as well as the Codex so expect similar results. This will be an interesting comparison to the Codex, a 2 channel device and the 105D, a multi-channel device. Although the 105D does have a dedicated ESS 9018 for its 2 channel and a dedicated DAC for multi-channel.

 

One final note and feature that I really like about the DDP-1. It has balanced ins and outs. This will allow me to place it after my AV7701 running its audio through the DDP-1 if I'd like. Provided it doesn't cause any issues when I play multi-channel music or watch movies in surround this will be a very convenient feature. Audio Alchemy also has plans to integrate MQA with the DDP-1 which could be a good thing.

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I couldn't find any model named DSP-1 at the Audio Alchemy website.

Do you mean DDP-1 Digital Decoding Preamp / DAC / Headphone Amp?

 

The Marantz AV7701 uses anAKM AK4358VQ DAC while the BDP-103 uses a Cirrus Logic CS4382A 8ch, 24/192 DAC. I had already determined that to my ears the AKM sounded better (clearer, more defined, spatial). So this is what I used to compare the DSP-1 (AKM 4439) and Codex (ESS 9018K2M chip, same as in the Pono?). I have not previously compared DACs on my system other than between the Oppo and Marantz which I have owned a couple different models. I used three different songs with different bit depth and sample rates. So What from Kind of Blue at 192/24, Heart is a Drum from Morning Phase at 96/24 and House of Cards (and a little of Jigsaw Falling Into Place) from In Rainbows at 44/16.

 

Since the Marantz, the Oppo, the Audio Alchemy and the Ayre all have different analog output stages, power supplies, grounding topologies, etc. there's a fair chance that your conclusions regarding D/A-chip sound are not really significant or representative of each component's performance.

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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I couldn't find any model named DSP-1 at the Audio Alchemy website.

Do you mean DDP-1 Digital Decoding Preamp / DAC / Headphone Amp?

 

The DDP-1, correct. Apologies for the confusion.

 

Since the Marantz, the Oppo, the Audio Alchemy and the Ayre all have different analog output stages, power supplies, grounding topologies, etc. there's a fair chance that your conclusions regarding D/A-chip sound are not really significant or representative of each component's performance.

 

 

You have a point when considering the DAC as a stand alone chip. I think the only way you could get a true side by side comparison of the DAC as an isolated component is if different DACs are housed in the same device, however there would still be other engineering considerations. I think a better way to look at my comparison is as component based while taking into consideration the DAC used.

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My first DAC was an Audio Alchemy DDE v1.0 back in the day, which was later partnered with the DDS2 transport and the DTI jitter filter.

This was my CD playback system for several years.

 

It would be interesting to hear what they are doing now...

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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One other feature worth noting is the digital filters on both the DDP-1 and Codex. The Codex has a minimum phase digital filter which doesn't appear to be able to be toggled on or off. The DDP-1 has 4 filter options which can be turned off; Linear phase fast roll-off, Linear phase slow roll-off, Minimum phase fast roll-off and Minimum phase slow roll-off (apodizing). I had done my testing with no filter applied to the DDP-1 but am giving all filters a listen now.

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That doesn't make sense. If you want to do a side by side comparison between the dac's, then you need to use them as intended. If you bypass the dac's analog stage, it defeats the purpose of the comparison. Or maybe I just didn't understand your post.

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That doesn't make sense. If you want to do a side by side comparison between the dac's, then you need to use them as intended. If you bypass the dac's analog stage, it defeats the purpose of the comparison. Or maybe I just didn't understand your post.

Not sure what you mean by bypassing the DACs analog stage. Both DACs were connected directly to the Emotiva XPA amp with balanced outs. Each were essentially used as a preamp. The music was fed via USB direct from a PC running JRiver. The latest drivers for each DAC were used. I did use the WASAPI and not ASIO drivers. No DSP was used in JRiver and none of the files were up sampled. Music played through the Marantz was via DLNA playing the same files.

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As I mentioned in the other thread (shouldn't we have stuck to one?), I compared it to my BDP-95, which is often considered better than the 105 (is there any change in audio to the 105D beyond DSD? I stopped keeping up) and the Codex blew it out of the water. So that's surprising. The same goes for the W4S DAC-2 (including the DSDse model), which is also a ESS 9018 DAC. For all the attention the 9018 has received over the years, I'd and been waiting for something to outperform it and the Codex did that handily. I found the ESS 9018 lacking in resolution and clarity while also having a distinct digital feel, being less musical. I'll also add that I auditioned the Ayre QB-9DSD (ESS 9016) and found it to be of marginally better quality than the DAC-2, but not enough to lay down the cash.

 

I did have one Codex which had problems out of the box (a faint clicking sound), so perhaps your unit has some kind of problem.

 

I have also generally found vinyl to outperform digital, but when paired with Moode Audio running on a Raspberry Pi, I finally had to admit that my Codex defeated at least the selection of records that I played on my turntable. Details on my system below.

 

I wonder if to some degree this has something to do with the different characteristics of the varying systems involved.

Software: Roon [depricated: Moode Audio (http://moodeaudio.org), Audirvana Plus+]

Digital: Ayre Codex [upgrading to Ayre QX-5 Twenty]; Oppo UDP-205; [depricated: Raspberry Pi 2 with Hifiberry Digi+];  Synology Diskstation 412+ NAS;  Tidal

Preamplification: Ayre KX-5 Twenty;  Amplification: Ayre VX-5 Twenty; Speakers: Vandersteen 5A 

Analog: Clearaudio Performance DC, Concept tonearm, Artist v2 ebony cartridge, Ayre P-5xe, Nakamichi 630 (Tuner… just for fun)

Cables: Audioquest Aspen for speakers, otherwise Anti-cables throughout (except Audioquest running from P-5xe to K-5xeMP) 

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As I mentioned in the other thread (shouldn't we have stuck to one?)

 

My post was about a side by side between the DDP-1 and Codex.

 

 

I compared it to my BDP-95, which is often considered better than the 105 (is there any change in audio to the 105D beyond DSD? I stopped keeping up) and the Codex blew it out of the water. So that's surprising.

 

If you don't have a 105 or 105D then I don't think you can speak definitively on whether it sounds better than the Codex. I also own a 95 which I can compare.

 

The differences between the 105 and 105D from what I know:

 

~the Darbee Visual Presence video processor

~the Silicon Image VRS ClearView video processor

~updated USB DAC interface to support DSD64 and DSD128

~the ability to send DSD over HDMI on the HDMI-1 output (this was only possible on the HDMI-2 output of the BDP-105)

~the USB DAC can also allow acceptance of stereo LPCM at rates up to 384KHz 24-bit. Rates above 192KHz are only available for output on the Analog outputs. (192KHz limit on the 105.)

 

 

The same goes for the W4S DAC-2 (including the DSDse model), which is also a ESS 9018 DAC. For all the attention the 9018 has received over the years, I'd and been waiting for something to outperform it and the Codex did that handily. I found the ESS 9018 lacking in resolution and clarity while also having a distinct digital feel, being less musical. I'll also add that I auditioned the Ayre QB-9DSD (ESS 9016) and found it to be of marginally better quality than the DAC-2, but not enough to lay down the cash.

 

I hadn't intended for this to be a Codex vs. BDP-105D comparison, or Codex vs ESS 9018 but since I made the comparison statement already I'll add something to it. I think the 105D has decent mid and low end, but I think it's highs are crisp to the point of almost piercing at times. I think this lends to what you stated of it having a more digital feel. I do think it has more resonance or depth than the Codex. The Codex just sounded empty in the middle frequency.

 

 

I did have one Codex which had problems out of the box (a faint clicking sound), so perhaps your unit has some kind of problem.

 

I don't think so. The Codex I used was on loan from Audio Consultants who uses it as their floor demo model. If there was an issue with it they would have known.

 

I have also generally found vinyl to outperform digital, but when paired with Moode Audio running on a Raspberry Pi, I finally had to admit that my Codex defeated at least the selection of records that I played on my turntable. Details on my system below.

 

I wonder if to some degree this has something to do with the different characteristics of the varying systems involved.

 

I haven't done a full vinyl side by side yet. I've only listened to one song on the 105D, then DDP-1, then on vinyl. The vinyl was warmer and smoother on the vinyl than the 105D but not the DDP-1. The DDP-1 exhibited the warmth or smoothness of vinyl but at the same time provided much better clarity and detail.

 

I see that you're heavily invested in Ayre products and if that works for you then great. If you haven't auditioned a DDP-1 in your own listening environment yet I highly recommend you do. Forget about the Oppo and those comparisons. I hear things in songs when listening through the DDP-1 that I haven't heard before. I'll hear something and think, wow I hadn't noticed that and it totally makes sense in how it fits in with the song. Because it's always been there, but so discrete that I hadn't noticed it before. It's the subtleties in songs that are lost that have more presence through that device. Top that level of detail off with the fullness of the midrange and low end which gives vinyl the best run I've heard.

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Not sure what you mean by bypassing the DACs analog stage. Both DACs were connected directly to the Emotiva XPA amp with balanced outs. Each were essentially used as a preamp. The music was fed via USB direct from a PC running JRiver. The latest drivers for each DAC were used. I did use the WASAPI and not ASIO drivers. No DSP was used in JRiver and none of the files were up sampled. Music played through the Marantz was via DLNA playing the same files.

 

I didn't understand your post. This clears it up.

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As I mentioned in the other thread (shouldn't we have stuck to one?), I compared it to my BDP-95, which is often considered better than the 105 (is there any change in audio to the 105D beyond DSD? I stopped keeping up) and the Codex blew it out of the water. So that's surprising. The same goes for the W4S DAC-2 (including the DSDse model), which is also a ESS 9018 DAC. For all the attention the 9018 has received over the years, I'd and been waiting for something to outperform it and the Codex did that handily. I found the ESS 9018 lacking in resolution and clarity while also having a distinct digital feel, being less musical. I'll also add that I auditioned the Ayre QB-9DSD (ESS 9016) and found it to be of marginally better quality than the DAC-2, but not enough to lay down the cash.

 

I did have one Codex which had problems out of the box (a faint clicking sound), so perhaps your unit has some kind of problem.

 

I have also generally found vinyl to outperform digital, but when paired with Moode Audio running on a Raspberry Pi, I finally had to admit that my Codex defeated at least the selection of records that I played on my turntable. Details on my system below.

 

I wonder if to some degree this has something to do with the different characteristics of the varying systems involved.

Thanks for the insights, what cable do you use between Pi and Codex? TIA

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  • 7 months later...

just wondering if level matching was done when comparing the DDP-1 and Codex?

Dedicated 20A>>MacBook PRO Core i7>Decibel>Metric Halo LIO8(firewire) or Exasound e28(usb)>RedCo Mogami Multi Channel Snake Balanced Interconnect Cables via DB25 Neutrik Balanced Connectors 3 pin Male XLR-Blk/Gold or BJC RCA Cables

Dedicated 20A>>Dual APC LineVoltageRegulators 1200Wx2>>McCormack DNA 1 DLX mono blocks>Mogami W3104 bi-wire>Aerial 10T v2 Mounted to SoundAnchor Stands+Spikes

Separate 20A>>Dual HSU Research 10 inch Subwoofers

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  • 2 months later...
A PC into a DAC via USB is far from optimal for a low noise source and no conclusions should be made.

It doesn't matter whether it's a PC into a DAC for two reasons. Any noise which may or may not be introduced by the PC would be present for both DACs as the only devices to change in the comparison are the DACs. Also, the end opinions of the listeners can hear no discernible "noise" from the PC. Comparisons like this are always subjective to the listener's hearing, equipment and software configuration. Dismissing someone's opinion because it doesn't meet what you consider "optimal" is poorly founded.

 

Stating that no conclusions should be made because a PC sends the music to the DAC via USB is a presumptuous, unfounded statement based on conjecture. What should the source be for a valid conclusion? If there's a power noise filter like the Wyrd or Regen in line does that make it valid? Is there a list of valid music servers allowing for a conclusion to be made?

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If the objective is to determine which DAC from a selected set sounds best with your PC then your test is valid. However, if the objective is to compare a set of DACs a PC introduces too much noise, compared to other sources (microRendu, Bryston, and other purpose built sources), to reach any conclusions. I have been there with an Acer netbook without and with a Regen into an Ayre Codex trying to compare to a modified Oppo BDP-95. Nothing, needed a better source.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

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If the objective is to determine which DAC from a selected set sounds best with your PC then your test is valid. However, if the objective is to compare a set of DACs a PC introduces too much noise, compared to other sources (microRendu, Bryston, and other purpose built sources), to reach any conclusions. I have been there with an Acer netbook without and with a Regen into an Ayre Codex trying to compare to a modified Oppo BDP-95. Nothing, needed a better source.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

 

I'd like to hear your opinion of how a microrendu is a better source considering the data fed to it must be from another source such as a PC. My understanding is that the mrendu is nothing but a few filters between an RJ45 input and a USB output. How is that any better than a Regen? Furthermore, a PC can be a purpose built source. Would you consider the CAPS Server a purpose built source? That's essentially what I've built. You should give the DDP-1 a listen, or even better a side by side in your own environment.

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I'd like to hear your opinion of how a microrendu is a better source considering the data fed to it must be from another source such as a PC. My understanding is that the mrendu is nothing but a few filters between an RJ45 input and a USB output. How is that any better than a Regen? Furthermore, a PC can be a purpose built source. Would you consider the CAPS Server a purpose built source? That's essentially what I've built. You should give the DDP-1 a listen, or even better a side by side in your own environment.

 

A Regen will regenerate a USB signal to reduce the noise being carried by the cable. A microRendu is a board with processor built for low noise output on the USB cable (it has a builtin Regen function) . It works better to generate less noise than to reduce noise from a noiser source. The microRendu will run software to implement a renderer, eg mpd/dlna, squeezelite, roon endpoint. To get the best sound with a microRendu how it is powered and optical isolation with attention to the downstream FMC power is very important. I am wishing for a future DAC that has a builtin microRendu function with optical ethernet input.

 

I have not heard a CAPS server outputting USB so cannot comment but if it can do ethernet output then there is another path to try.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

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A Regen will regenerate a USB signal to reduce the noise being carried by the cable. A microRendu is a board with processor built for low noise output on the USB cable (it has a builtin Regen function) . It works better to generate less noise than to reduce noise from a noiser source. The microRendu will run software to implement a renderer, eg mpd/dlna, squeezelite, roon endpoint. To get the best sound with a microRendu how it is powered and optical isolation with attention to the downstream FMC power is very important. I am wishing for a future DAC that has a builtin microRendu function with optical ethernet input.

 

I have not heard a CAPS server outputting USB so cannot comment but if it can do ethernet output then there is another path to try.

I was discussing this in another thread, but maybe you can help clarify it as well. Once the song selection is made with the PC or Mac running Roon core is there a complete handoff of the data coming from the NAS to the mrendu? Meaning the song file stored on the NAS never gets processed by the Roon core, and the data packets never travel through the PC/Mac host.

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I was discussing this in another thread, but maybe you can help clarify it as well. Once the song selection is made with the PC or Mac running Roon core is there a complete handoff of the data coming from the NAS to the mrendu? Meaning the song file stored on the NAS never gets processed by the Roon core, and the data packets never travel through the PC/Mac host.

 

I do not have any information regarding Roon data flow other than provided at https://roonlabs.com/howroonworks.html

but the diagrams there indicate that all data passes through Roon core. That is where EQ and DSP will be done if configured. If you are looking at using ethernet to a roon endpoint then optical isolation right before the renderer (attention to power for the downstream FMC) will drop any noise from the wired ethernet and only introduce some noise from the FMC circuit.

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I do not have any information regarding Roon data flow other than provided at https://roonlabs.com/howroonworks.html

but the diagrams there indicate that all data passes through Roon core. That is where EQ and DSP will be done if configured. If you are looking at using ethernet to a roon endpoint then optical isolation right before the renderer (attention to power for the downstream FMC) will drop any noise from the wired ethernet and only introduce some noise from the FMC circuit.

So that's why you use fiber with media converters, to drop any noise picked up on the cable. Then you're only dealing with the noise created by the converter and the mrendu. Is that about as good as it gets in removing upstream garbage?

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So that's why you use fiber with media converters, to drop any noise picked up on the cable. Then you're only dealing with the noise created by the converter and the mrendu. Is that about as good as it gets in removing upstream garbage?

 

I think FMCs with something like an LPS-1 to power the downstream FMC are doing the best job. Some people also like non-active filters but not all that tried them do. Also, ethernet receivers running at 100mbps generate less noise than receivers at 1Gb so use, for example, an MC100CM. There is discussion on CA regarding the regularor chips in an FMC and the noise generated. Some are experimenting with linear regulators on the circuit board. Problem here is the heat generated and I am not sure if it helped much.

 

Another thing I found makes digital sound better is a better preamp.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

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