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Oppo Sonica DAC coming Fall 2016

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The Sonica sounded much better after 24 hours of power on. I'm going to let it go for at least 100 before I do any more critical listening.

 

The Sonica DAC arrived yesterday morning and right out the box it bested the *PS Audio DirectStream ($5999.00) by a wide margin. The APP took me some time to learn and one or two features remain to familiarize myself with.

 

What I would like: 1) Pandora be added to the streaming choices (my 105D has Pandora) and 2) ROON ready. From what I see on the net is that these features will be available in future FW updates. OK, HDMI out to monitor would have been cool but that circuitry may degrade the magnificent SQ.

 

Happy that TIDAL is already installed.

 

*Look for the PS Audio DirectStream on Augiogon & US Audio Mart by this weekend.


Beach Life

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The Sonica DAC arrived yesterday morning and right out the box it bested the *PS Audio DirectStream ($5999.00) by a wide margin. The APP took me some time to learn and one or two features remain to familiarize myself with.

 

What I would like: 1) Pandora be added to the streaming choices (my 105D has Pandora) and 2) ROON ready. From what I see on the net is that these features will be available in future FW updates. OK, HDMI out to monitor would have been cool but that circuitry may degrade the magnificent SQ.

 

Happy that TIDAL is already installed.

 

*Look for the PS Audio DirectStream on Augiogon & US Audio Mart by this weekend.

 

Congratulations! I apparently missed the "sounds better than a Directstream" option when I ordered my Sonica.

 

Listened some more last night. It definitely has settled down quite a bit, but I think I'll hold on to that Yggy for now...

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The PS Audio DS: Strongest capability is PCM files - excellent

OPPO Sonica: Strength is DSD files - tightly controlled bass + transcending highs.

 

All this is partially dependent on speakers. I use latest run Martin Logan Summit X's.

 

We are Auralic Dealers and the OPPO Sonica DAC clearly out performs the much more expensive Vega/Aries combination. [Cape Fear Cable Company]

 

I suck at describing sound.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Computer Audiophile


Beach Life

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Ok, did some more listening last night. Now that the Sonica has settled down, I can say that it has more detail than stridency now. I still preferred the iDAC2 until I pumped DSD512 (with HQPlayer) into the Sonica. That made a difference. I've done quite a bit of testing with the iDSD Micro and DSD256/DSD512. On that unit, there wasn't much difference. Perhaps even DSD256 had a slight edge. But with the Sonica, DSD512 really made it shine. It's undoubtedly a different "presentation" compared to a multibit DAC, but I found it quite enjoyable.

 

With straight Redbook, I still find the performance kind of wanting, but it meets my expectations for an $800 DAC. I was hoping for "exceed", but I'll take "meets".

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Offering to mod the first Sonica for $100 plus my cost of parts plus return shipping. This is for any level of mod. I will have mods for $250 on up. This is a one time thing so one of you adventurers out there will get the ride of a lifetime.....he he.

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Chopped Liver with Spam trimmings.....also K-rations from 1952 Korea (aged in Communist warehouse).

 

I assume you are asking what mods I intend to do......well, the sky is the limit. Check out my website for possibilities. No tubes.....Modwright will do that for you, if you like. But fet zero feedback buffers, transformer outputs, super clocks, damping, shielding, WA quantum chips, better regs, better jacks, caps, resistors, diode bridges, isolating and damping the transformer, twisting wires, on and on into infinity.

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No doubt this is interesting, but perhaps you should take this off-line and put your URL in your profile instead?

 

Offering to mod the first Sonica for $100 plus my cost of parts plus return shipping. This is for any level of mod. I will have mods for $250 on up. This is a one time thing so one of you adventurers out there will get the ride of a lifetime.....he he.

Best Stereo System: Wired Sonos Connect -> AQ Cinammon Digital Coax -> Marantz SA-8005 -> AA Black Momba 2 interconnects -> Marantz PM-15S2 -> Kimber 8TC speaker Cables -> Zu Soul Superfly speakers.

 

Ingest> NAS> Distribution: Sony Vaio Laptop ripping via ITunes to Apple Lossless, manually synced to WD Mycloud NAS, Linksys 1900AC Router, Netgear Gig E switch, generic Ethernet cables, TPLinc ethernet power line extenders.

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Haha, lemmie get some of them Korea rations.

 

Seriously though, all of what you said is probably all well and good, but I do not have a technical background, so let me phrase it this way. How would your modifications affect the sound? I received my Sonica DAC on Tuesday and was immediately struck by the very analytical sound put out by the DAC. The top end sounded a little harsh to my ears and the midrange was also too forward in the mix. Overall the sound was not very cohesive, to put it in a word. Detailed, but not "musical". I am typically a vinyl guy, but I wanted something on the digital side that could handle DSD and also have network capabilities. So naturally, I favor a "warmer" sound to my digital library. About 4 days in to my break in period, I am definitely noticing the Sonica's sound to be much more palatable. The top end has seemed to smooth out a little and the overall sound has more cohesion. Can any of your mods achieve this "warmer" sound that I seek?

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This is not the place to talk shop. Please contact me directly through my website: tweakaudio.com or through my regular email: [email protected] or via phone: 831-420-8819. Cannot remember anyone not liking what I do. And this is from modding for over 35 years.

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I assume you are asking what mods I intend to do......well, the sky is the limit. Check out my website for possibilities. No tubes.....Modwright will do that for you, if you like. But fet zero feedback buffers, transformer outputs, super clocks, damping, shielding, WA quantum chips, better regs, better jacks, caps, resistors, diode bridges, isolating and damping the transformer, twisting wires, on and on into infinity.

 

Ric: earlier in this same thread you opined that even with mods the Oppo would never sound as good as a Gustard Pro. Would you care to elaborate why?


Synology NAS>i7-6700/32GB/NVIDIA QUADRO P4000 Win10>Qobuz+Tidal>Roon>HQPlayer>DSD512> Fiber Switch>Ultrarendu (NAA)>SMSL M500 DAC> Bryston SP3 pre>Levinson No. 432 amps>Magnepan (MG20.1x2, CCR and MMC2x6)

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This is just a guess. Many feel that upsampling via HQplayer to DSD512 gives the best sound available. Also many feel that using a usb to I2S converter (with mods, of course) that can pass DSD512 would be better than just using usb only. The Gustard has an I2S port that will accept DSD512.....the Oppo does not. Lots of posts already by people who have bought the Singxer usb to I2S converter and are saying that they are getting much better sound than the built in usb board in the Gustard......and this is with various sampling frequencies. By having a super low jitter converter off DAC running on its own power supply and then sending I2S into the DAC you have a serious thang.

 

The Gustard has 2 50 watt trannies and the Oppo has maybe a 25 watter and then a switching supply for digital (noise issues?). The Gustard is aluminum.....the Oppo is more than likely steel (magnetic). Everything you do makes a difference. I never have any cover on anything....sounds better nude.....he he.....she looks better too!

 

Also the Oppo currently has no access to the 7 built in digital filters that ESS has inside the DAC.....the Gustard lets you choose (they do sound different). Hopefully, Oppo will address this issue in a firmware release. I am going to email them about this issue.

 

Until I do serious mods to the Oppo and compare to the modded Gustard this is all conjecture. For sure, both will sound out of this world great....when modded, obviously. Until you do the surgery you really can only guess. Everything has its limitations.....you don't know what they are until you explore and compare.

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Well, actually the Sonica has extruded aluminum top, aluminum front, plastic sides, and steel bottom & back. The wifi and bluetooth antennas are near the plastic side panel.

 

I'm finding the Sonica harsh too. With the Gustard DAC, modifying from generic to Fred ultra-soft recovery bridge rectifier diodes made it a whole lot more musical and listenable. I'm not going to touch my Sonica until I decide to keep it or not. The streaming etc. features over a pure dac like the Gustard X20pro compensate for sonic shortcomings making the decision harder.

 

What the Gustard Pro has that Sonica does not are: 1. Independant low noise voltage regulators for each stereo channel; Sonica shares +/- 12v 3 terminal regulators for both channels; 2. Discrete buffered outputs; 3. 8 paralleled dac channels for each stereo output channel (2x ES9028pro chips)- Sonica splits 8 dac channels (one ES9038pro chip) between L balanced, R balanced, L single-ended, and R single-ended outputs, I guess like they did in the BD-205 - you will probably find that Sonica's balanced outs sound better due to how dac channels were allocated.

 

The ESS reference design for outputs is a balanced design with differential to single-ended outs derived by going through an extra op amp. Oppo instead uses up separate DAC outputs for the single ended RCA outputs.

 

Fixed 3-terminal regulators are easily fixed in the Sonica by replacement with (~$40 ea.) very low noise discrete ones from (ie) Sparkos, but they will still be shared by both channels. The DAC channel allocation might be fixable by Oppo in software by letting a customer choose have balanced OR RCA outputs via menu.

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Well, actually the Sonica has extruded aluminum top, aluminum front, plastic sides, and steel bottom & back. The wifi and bluetooth antennas are near the plastic side panel.

 

I'm finding the Sonica harsh too. With the Gustard DAC, modifying from generic to Fred ultra-soft recovery bridge rectifier diodes made it a whole lot more musical and listenable. I'm not going to touch my Sonica until I decide to keep it or not. The streaming etc. features over a pure dac like the Gustard X20pro compensate for sonic shortcomings making the decision harder.

 

What the Gustard Pro has that Sonica does not are: 1. Independant low noise voltage regulators for each stereo channel; Sonica shares +/- 12v 3 terminal regulators for both channels; 2. Discrete buffered outputs; 3. 8 paralleled dac channels for each stereo output channel (2x ES9028pro chips)- Sonica splits 8 dac channels (one ES9038pro chip) between L balanced, R balanced, L single-ended, and R single-ended outputs, I guess like they did in the BD-205 - you will probably find that Sonica's balanced outs sound better due to how dac channels were allocated.

 

The ESS reference design for outputs is a balanced design with differential to single-ended outs derived by going through an extra op amp. Oppo instead uses up separate DAC outputs for the single ended RCA outputs.

 

Fixed 3-terminal regulators are easily fixed in the Sonica by replacement with (~$40 ea.) very low noise discrete ones from (ie) Sparkos, but they will still be shared by both channels. The DAC channel allocation might be fixable by Oppo in software by letting a customer choose have balanced OR RCA outputs via menu.

 

Mark,

1. There is a single discrete regulator for each voltage for both channels in the Gustard. There are no separate regulators for each channel. Please recheck.

 

2. Discrete buffers are not needed....in fact, buffers of any kind are not needed. They just add more distortion.

 

3. Supposedly the 9038 is a bunch of DACs in parallel already on each output. That is why it has better specs. I have a call in to ESS to talk to them about this next week. So, little, if no advantage to Gustard there.

 

The Oppo also uses an extra op amp on the RCA outs to sum the phases. This is normal practice. However, balanced to single ended converters just add the sound of another op amp. I use just a single IV converter on each phase and no summing.....for best sound. On the balanced outs Oppo uses a balanced amplifier to filter and buffer after the IV converters.

 

I don't think there is a way for Oppo to re allocate the DAC outputs. I think there are only two modes......stereo out and 8 channel out. If the DACs in the 9038 are already paralleled then the way they do it is not such a loss. However, You can simply tie all the outputs together and use them all in parallel (you just jumper them). You can just remove two of the IV converter dual op amps and jumper the outputs from those pads over to the other two IV converters......pretty easy, really.

 

There are a million things in something that effect the sound. The only way to know what something can do is to mod it all out. Guessing as to what does what is just a guessing game. Both the Sonica and Gustard modded to the hilt will blow your mind.

 

Most people reading this and in general will never go for mods. So, lets hear more from those that have these things stock and how they compare to whatever things. A DIY tutorial is not what interests most here: I mean...how many people reading this are going to try their own mods? very, very few. When there are people with seriously modded units then we can start another thread.

 

Another words.....all these words by Mark and myself mean nothing to most everyone here. I am bowing out here......will only chime in if I can be really helpful. Design possibilities belong elsewhere. What most people want to know is how this thing performs stock. You can always check my website for info on mods to both DACs as development continues if you have the modding desire.

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Does this thing have a remote for the analog volume control? Cant see any reference to one in reviews or the product website.

 

Sounds as you will have remote volume control only with your smart phone iOs or Android!

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Sounds as you will have remote volume control only with your smart phone iOs or Android!

 

The Sonica is virtually totally controlled via APP. I suppose there are functions you can use/setup at the the unit but I doubt anyone does that.

 

I miss the 105D remote ease and the HDMI out to a monitor.

 

I am also hoping for ROON and Pandora to be added via FW update to the Sonica DAC. The 105D has Pandora but the Sonica DAC only offers Spotify & TIDAL. I do have a subscription to TIDAL (love it!) but not Spotify. I have a Pandora One subscription - we use it during beach parties as a jukebox. Soon, Pandora One will be offering High-Rez.

 

I wrote OPPO asking for the 2 updates. Apparently there have been many such requests.


Beach Life

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Oppo Sonica DAC (an affordable ES9038PRO Sabre DAC) - Page 9

 

The Sonica is virtually totally controlled via APP. I suppose there are functions you can use/setup at the the unit but I doubt anyone does that.

 

I miss the 105D remote ease and the HDMI out to a monitor.

 

I am also hoping for ROON and Pandora to be added via FW update to the Sonica DAC. The 105D has Pandora but the Sonica DAC only offers Spotify & TIDAL. I do have a subscription to TIDAL (love it!) but not Spotify. I have a Pandora One subscription - we use it during beach parties as a jukebox. Soon, Pandora One will be offering High-Rez.

 

I wrote OPPO asking for the 2 updates. Apparently there have been many such requests.

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In my experience so far with the Sonica, all of the streaming services are handled through the mobile app. There are no "built in" streaming services in the Sonica.

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