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Article: APL Hi-Fi DSD-MR DAC and DNP-SR Streamer Full Review

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Hey Marcin,

 

I'm glad you posted because I owe you a very big public "thank you" for introducing me to Alex Peychev and APL.

 

Spending time with you and hearing APL's components were absolutely the highlights of my visit to the Warsaw Show.

 

Thanks again.

 

Joel

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3 minutes ago, joelha said:

Hey Marcin,

 

I'm glad you posted because I owe you a very big public "thank you" for introducing me to Alex Peychev and APL.

 

Spending time with you and hearing APL's components were absolutely the highlights of my visit to the Warsaw Show.

 

Thanks again.

 

Joel

 

Joel, always a pleasure

 

Marcin


JPLAY & JCAT Founder

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45 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

Thanks for the kind words and comments. Alex suggested I use DSD128 for better transients as well. It’s all about engineering trade offs. No DAC is perfect. Over all I like what DSD256 gave me more than what it may have taken away from a more perfect transient response. 

 

All good. What a product. I feel like I’ve been driving a Ferrari for the last couple months. 

I agree. I've done many comparisons and I always came back to DSD256 setting. 


JPLAY & JCAT Founder

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9 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

Yes, my preference using the APL DAC was DSD256.

 

There are already DACs that can do DSD512 & DSD1024 & much much cheaper.

 

Seems having DSD256 max is incredibly outdated for a 2019 $50,000 DAC

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On 3/29/2019 at 2:25 AM, The Computer Audiophile said:

Thanks for the kind words and comments. Alex suggested I use DSD128 for better transients as well. It’s all about engineering trade offs. No DAC is perfect. Over all I like what DSD256 gave me more than what it may have taken away from a more perfect transient response. 

 

All good. What a product. I feel like I’ve been driving a Ferrari for the last couple months. 

 

 

Hello Chris,

I don't at all doubt that it is  possibly in many ways one of the best dacs that money can buy.

 

It'd better be, at that price!

 

But  to me the absolutely  MOST  interesting paragraph in your review was where you mentioned how it handled the extremely  densely scored passages in  Britten's Passacaglia  from the Reference Recordings album.

To me it indicates two things. You obviously  have a very resolving system and  you know where a link fails to deliver the whole truth. 

As someone who listens almost exclusively not only to  acoustic music, but also

LARGE SCALE symphonic like  Britten, Stravinsky and  Bartok to mention a couple of composers whose music is good material to "sort the wheat from the chaff",  I have to conclude that this dac was possibly designed to sound euphonic? much like vinyl and analogue tape do?

 

But not necessarily as live music  ACTUALLY sounds?

 

But for me the ONLY  REFERENCE POINT there can be in  REAL HI FI terms, is HOW CLOSE any link in a reproduction chain dac or whatever else can reproduce acoustic music  to how it sounds LIVE in a real hall.

 

And  with the example you mention  to you there are already other dacs that sort out very complex symphonic music better than this dac does with this particular recording.

 

If I am not wrong that Reference Recording is a PCM recording recorded at 176.4 with the Pacific Microsonics chip used  by Mr Jonsson for many of his recordings which would have had to be converted to DSD by this Dac.

 

Some more recent recordings from the same label have been made at DSD 256. Do you have any of those as well to compare with other dacs?

 

You also say that it's been like driving a Ferrari.

 

Have you  also driven a Chord DAVE  with a Chord Hugo M Scaler yet?

 

I suspect that with this particular recording and possibly others of the same complexity and dynamic range it might be an even  smoother and possibly more REALISTIC drive than the dac  you have just reviewed.

 

 Nota bene,I am not saying this as a fact.

I am only guessing  from actually hearing the DAVE/HMS and using the HMS with a Qutest dac since three months on a daily basis.

 

I have yet to audition the dac you reviewed.

 

And the DAVE/HMS would play the  native 176.4 pcm file not a conversion of it.

 

On the other hand the DAVE/HMS and TT2/HMS would do the opposite with a native DSD file.

I would not rule out the possiblity that the  "Ferrari dac" is  one of the best DSD dacs around. But I guess DAVE/HMS would sound more realistic and closer to the real thing with NATIVE PCM material.

 

If you haven't yet  heard either the TT2/HMS or DAVE /HMS yet do  try to do so while you still have the dac under discussion in your home.

I would be very interested to hear your take on such a comparison with the MOST demanding material you have.

Cheers Christer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On 3/29/2019 at 2:25 AM, The Computer Audiophile said:

All good. What a product. I feel like I’ve been driving a Ferrari for the last couple months. 

 

Which DAC would be like driving a Koenigsegg Jesko?😎

 

Matt

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37 minutes ago, matthias said:

 

Which DAC would be like driving a Koenigsegg Jesko?😎

 

Matt

 

Those who drive Jesko would not care about DACs. To own a symphony orchestra or opera theater would be a better fit.

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Hi

Did you ask what was behind the decision not to have a volume control?


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12 hours ago, AnotherSpin said:

 

Those who drive Jesko would not care about DACs. To own a symphony orchestra or opera theater would be a better fit.

 

Certainly, but this was not my point.

According to Chris the DSD-MR is not perfect.

So is there a DAC which combines the virtues of the DSD-MR and some other top DACs?

 

Matt

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9 hours ago, kaka said:

Hi

Did you ask what was behind the decision not to have a volume control?

 

IMO, a volume control is not superior to a very good preamp.

So you pay for things you do not need.

 

Matt

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6 hours ago, matthias said:

 

Certainly, but this was not my point.

According to Chris the DSD-MR is not perfect.

So is there a DAC which combines the virtues of the DSD-MR and some other top DACs?

 

Matt

That is basically the same question I was asking and with a suggestion of a combo that might be more resolving and ultimately "better", than the "Ferrari dac".

 

According to the designer behind that combo ie Dave/HMS, DSD is a fundamenally flawed format with limitations that can not ever be solved.

According to him he used a format identical to today's  DSD 256  already in the 1990s but later  abandoned it  because of its too many limitations.

 

Personally I am only interested in  maximum transparency to the source.

I am not interested in dac solutions that  possibly only sound as good the best of  vinyl.

I already have a good LP player.

I want dacs that sound  clearly better and closer to real live acoustic music than even  the very best of vinyl!

 

 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, chrille said:

According to the designer behind that combo ie Dave/HMS, DSD is a fundamenally flawed format with limitations that can not ever be solved.

According to him he used a format identical to today's  DSD 256  already in the 1990s but later  abandoned it  because of its too many limitations.

 

I know what the mentioned designer thinks about DSD but the Chord products are not my cup of tea.

Further I would not regard DSD as a flawed format. Some excellent guys like @tailspn and @Miska are working with it.

I appreciate what Chris said about the emotional impact of the DSD-MR.

Maybe the mentioned issue can be solved in the next version of the DSD-MR.

 

Matt

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3 hours ago, matthias said:

 

I know what the mentioned designer thinks about DSD but the Chord products are not my cup of tea.

Further I would not regard DSD as a flawed format. Some excellent guys like @tailspn and @Miska are working with it.

I appreciate what Chris said about the emotional impact of the DSD-MR.

Maybe the mentioned issue can be solved in the next version of the DSD-MR.

 

Matt

Hello Matt,

I am personally not stating the above as facts, I am merely and hopefully this time, correctly, quoting Rob Watts.

 

 

 

I have quite a few DSD recordings especially from Channel Classics that I play often and like a lot.

I also sometimes wonder why Rob finds DSD so bad?

 

I am also aware of the fact that some companies still record in DSD64 in spite of the inevitable  noise problems involved in post processing DSD64 recordings.

 

I personally think that DSD64 raw and unedited can sound very transparent and in some ways more listenable than some pcm which still even in hi res, sometimes suffers from  hardening and digital ringing that can be painful to hear.

 

I sometimes prefer the slightly softer than live sound of DSD64 over hard ringing pcm.

 

And I would absolutely love to hear the complete DSD256 recorded version of for example Mahler's 3rd which Tailspn recorded with a  very simple five mic rig in parallel with Jared Sacks DSD64 Grimm multimic take already released.

 

In that particular case and long before I had an M Scaler it was quite clear to me that at least via my systems both headphone based and via electrostatic speakers, that both the DSD128 ,the DSD256 and DXD samples from the sessions sounded closer to how I have myself  heard that orchestra sound in that hall during the sessions for M5, than the slightly less resolved and softer but still very good DSD 64 version.

 

My personal guess is that neither DSD 256 nor DXD are quite  enough to capture a symphony orchestra in all its glory.

 

I suspect that maybe 32 or even 64 bits and a sampling rate of 768khz may be necessary to do it full justice.

But I also have reasons to suspect that Mr Watts actually knows what he is talking about very well and at least since first hearing his Dave/BLU2 and now Dave/HMS and Qutest /HMS, what I keep hearing  from my best masterfiles both DSD and PCM  tend to confirm  his claims.

 

It may unfortunately be a fact that the issue you hope can be solved in the next version of this dac is in fact an inherent nonsolvable issue of DSD as a format?

 

One thing Rob Watts keeps mentioning as a really major problem with DSD apart from the well known and undeniable noise  issue with DSD 64 in particular, is the softening and blurring of transients.

And to me it is an undeniable fact that music in fact is simply a series of transients.

Cheers Chris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 hours ago, chrille said:

I suspect that maybe 32 or even 64 bits and a sampling rate of 768khz may be necessary to do it full justice.

 

That would be comparable to DSD512 or DSD1024 and in this case I would prefer DSD.

 

Matt

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On 3/28/2019 at 9:16 PM, mevdinc said:

Chris,
Thanks for such a great review, I really enjoyed reading it. Well done.
I wish you'd stated the price at the beginning though, so the shock would have been less perhaps. :)

It maybe well be worth the asking price but one thing I find unacceptable is the lack of a volume control. I personally refuse to buy a DAC without a volume control and at this price level I would certainly expect one.

Most of your description of the APL DAC sounds very similar to my Lindemann Musicbook DSD 20, which is also claimed to sound very analog like. It also upsamples everything to DSD 128 or DSD 256 with a preamp and a builtin streamer. Apparently there's an upgrade coming soon too in the form of both hardware and software.
I was wondering you had heard the Lindemann DAC and or might be interested in checking out the upcoming version as a comparison.

Again thanks for the great write up.
Best.
Mev

 

The Lindemann Music Book series are wonderful but not comparable to the APL DSD-MR in terms of ultimate sound quality.

 

/ Marcus, www.perfect-sense.se


 

PERFECT SENSE

www.perfect-sense.se

 

Showroom in Stockholm, Sweden | [email protected] | 08 518 368 00 | Follow us on Facebook

 

 

 

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On 3/29/2019 at 5:42 AM, ThenewGearPPK said:

 

There are already DACs that can do DSD512 & DSD1024 & much much cheaper.

 

Seems having DSD256 max is incredibly outdated for a 2019 $50,000 DAC

 

Extreme sampling rates might be considered a nice bonus, where sound quality will be the result of many other and more important factors.

 

/ Marcus, www.perfect-sense.se


 

PERFECT SENSE

www.perfect-sense.se

 

Showroom in Stockholm, Sweden | [email protected] | 08 518 368 00 | Follow us on Facebook

 

 

 

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15 minutes ago, Perfect sense said:

 

The Lindemann Music Book series are wonderful but not comparable to the APL DSD-MR in terms of ultimate sound quality.

 

/ Marcus, www.perfect-sense.se

Thanks for that.

I was more referring to the similarity in the digital is the new analog claim rather than comparing the two, the APL is 10 times more expensive for that reason alone it should sound so much better.
I'm looking forward to hearing the upcoming Lindemann update before I start considering a new DAC.


Audirvana+3.0 / TIDAL HiFi / Mac Mini (256GB SSD - 16GB RAM)

Lindemann Musicbook: 20 DSD, ATC EL 150ASL

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3 hours ago, Perfect sense said:

Extreme sampling rates might be considered a nice bonus, where sound quality will be the result of many other and more important factors.

 

/ Marcus, www.perfect-sense.se

 

Such as the DSD-MR DAC's Class A tube output stage (without volume control)? o.O


Current system: MacMini/PC  >> Schiit Eitr (with Uptone Audio LPS-1, for 5V USB power) >>  RME ADI-2 DAC (with Zerozone 12V linear power supply) >>  Xkitz Electronics XOVER-2, 100Hz active crossover (with Zerozone 17.5V linear power supply + LDOVR LT3045-A, ultra-low noise 15V voltage regulator) >> Schiit Vidar stereo power amp to KEF LS50 speakers + Sunfire HRS12/HRS8 active subwoofer. Cables used: Canare star quad speaker cables; AQ Cinnamon USB; AQ Big Sur & Schiit Pyst RCA; Supra CAT8 ethernet cable (with JSSG) for low voltage DC power; unknown coaxial cables; standard mains power cables (with Airlink BPS1502EU, 1500VA, balanced, mains isolation transformer).

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14 hours ago, Abtr said:

 

Such as the DSD-MR DAC's Class A tube output stage (without volume control)? o.O

 

There are design considerations involved here to obtain maximum sound quality basically.

 

The technical explanation in short:

 

The DSD-MR processes DSD in its native domain by using a balanced FIR filter, followed by analog filtering stage and balanced tube output stage. Since Lundahl transformers with OFC windings are used for the post-FIR filter analog filtration and I/V conversion, those audio transformers effectively ground the grids of the vacuum tubes in the output stage. This said, introducing a volume control will only deteriorate the audio quality of the DSD-MR. 

 

You could debate if driving a power amp directly is superior to having a dedicate preamp in your system. Based on experience (my own and others), a well built pre amp on a similar level will most often be beneficial adding to the overall performance of the system. A higher end integrated will of course be an option as well, where there are more options available than ever.

 

/ Marcus, www.perfect-sense.se

 


 

PERFECT SENSE

www.perfect-sense.se

 

Showroom in Stockholm, Sweden | [email protected] | 08 518 368 00 | Follow us on Facebook

 

 

 

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