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Danny Kaey

Article: LessLoss Echo’s End Reference DAC Full Review

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56 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

 

Sure digital goes in and analog comes out. But I believe this DAC is very unique. 

 

Think of all the things people may value when it comes to a product of any kind. I’m not saying I value all of these, just that this DAC has differences from others with respect to these as a whole. 

 

Craftsmanship

Are you saying the Soekris has none.

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Materials

The case okay, otherwise I'm not wowed by what is in there. 

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Component selection

Well they did select the Soekris multi-bit to base it upon. 

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Hand made 

I don't think I see anything hand made other than the point to point wiring.  Someone assembled it. 

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Made in Europe

Soekris' designer is Danish.  He lives in Europe.  One of his factories is in California, but I'm not sure on his DACs.  I think they are European. 

 

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Plus, is there another DAC with these? Not saying I value all of them, but I know some are unique to this DAC. 

 

Echo's End Reference

Solid Panzerholz enclosure (it does the same thing for sensitive gear that it does for natural sound used for speakers).

Grounded custom hand made carbon fiber transformer shroud (really lowers the noise floor down to incredible stability at very high frequencies, important for Jitter reduction).

Cryogenically treated, solid copper, gold plated power inlet (Sound is smooth and dynamic as a result.)

Most precise resistors available (we only ever use the very best ones with the very best specs available).

Dual power supplies, dual Soekris boards, reprogrammed by LessLoss for dual mono configuration (this provides amazing stereo separation and a whole lot of nuance in terms of spacial presentation. Everything becomes more 3D and liquid. It is really nice when compared to a single board in normal stereo mode.)

XLR output derived from four mono channels of resistor ladders (output buffering schematics completely bypassed. This is possible because one board's Right channel converts the signal in phase and the Left channel converts the same digital signal out-of-phase. The phase reversal is done still in the digital realm, so the balanced signal is digitally perfect, without noise from an output buffer. This provides amazing clarity, transparency; a holographic sound and a super low noise floor.)

LessLoss special custom S/PDIF - I2S conversion schematic (developed and manufactured by LessLoss, it is much better than Soekris onboard solution).

LessLoss controlled automatic digital input selection (Soekris boards receive only I2S from LessLoss board)

LessLoss unique 3.3V generation for internal I2S (The USB 5V supply is discarded; and the 3.3V is made with our own power stabilizer and Firewall 64X technology. It is super smooth and stable. Makes you forget you are listening to a computer USB source!)

All floating bolts point-to-point star grounded (you can see this in the picture as silver looking wires coming from bolt to bolt throughout). This lowers the internal noise reflections and makes it dead silent inside.

New integrated Firewall 64X technology (6 units implemented here. This is brand new technology, the best we ever made.)

C-MARC™ internal hook-up wire (All power and analogue signal leads are C-MARC™. This takes a lot of labor to prepare but we feel the results are so organic and natural with great speed but never getting tiring to the ear. Well worth the extra effort.

DSD (2x) ready over USB.

Plays up to 192 kHz sampling rate PCM data.

Hand polished 100% natural beeswax impregnated (Looks very beautiful in real life, even smells really good, too, though never overpowering.)

Will have a precision engraved brass placard on the front of the unit, with model name engraved by laser on top.

Ships in a LessLoss branded water-tight flight case

Looks like they pay the ad copy guy a good salary.  I don't think he missed any of the buzzwords that sound nice and say little.  Other than its great just ask us.   My two favorites are the Firewall 64x tech, and the phase reversal done digitally.  We probably do get the latter in some Alie Express DACs.  

 

As you just copied their marketing spiel verbatim I have a question.  

 

When did you hire on with them Chris?


To paraphrase Rick James, "sighted listening is a helluva drug".

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7 minutes ago, BrokeLinuxPhile said:

 

This statement confuses me, what are they trying to say?  I don't get why you need an acoustically dead material here.  Speakers makes sense but not a DAC.  Thick metal would shield better.

You are overthinking this.  If its good for speakers we need it in DACs.  Acoustically dead.  So airborne sound waves don't resonate the bits.  But shielding of electrical fields that might really move the bits....that idea doesn't sell like some glitzy odd looking super plywood.  They could have of course maybe used some silver foil inside for some shielding, but that is more buzz words and next thing you know the price hits $25k.  They aren't using child labor you know. 


To paraphrase Rick James, "sighted listening is a helluva drug".

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4 hours ago, Danny Kaey said:

 

That’s a great question and I don’t know the answer to it, nor do I frankly care. The DAC is fabulous and LL Implantation of the final product is terrific.

That is all true and so are the subsequent posts defending the DAC. 

Still, the question remains if you could get just as good sounding a DAC based on this module at a much lower price point. Chances are you could. It would be interesting to see if any other "premium" DAC is being marketed based on this board. My experience with audiophile components of every type is that "bargains" do exist - equal SQ for much less money. What you may give up is cosmetics (very important to some and expensive to add to any component); personal service from these small companies; and sometimes a bit of convenience/features in the operation.  As Anthony Michaelson of MF once remarked, the cost of the cosmetics can be as much as 70% of the retail price of a high end component. 

Value of the case and engineering/modules by LL is subjective. I'm not familiar with them so can't judge. You like their products so it is obviously worth it to you. No argument with that. Not being cynical (really) this DAC is probably aimed mostly at their existing customers who already like their tech and are willing to spend on a DAC with their tech and made by them. 


Main listening (small home office):

Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>CAPS IV Pipeline Server + Sonore 12V PS >SOtM Lan Isolator>Bricasti M5 Network Player >Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.
 

Secondary Listening: CAPS Pipeline>IFi iOne DAC>Schiit Freya>Kii Three . Also an SBT and a RB Pi 3B+ running piCorePlayer as an SBT emulator. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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5 hours ago, AudioDoctor said:

$314.89 x2 = $629.78 for the two DAC boards

 

$19,628.00 - $629.78 = $18,998.22 left over for the rest of the parts and the engineering, custom programming they say they did, etc...

 

Basically, 19K for the rest of it. Is it worth that much?

 

Only a true audiophile with style can answer DAC dat. 

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6 minutes ago, Axial said:

 

It's not made in China? 

Neither is the Soekris it is based upon.  Neither are Schiit.  There are plenty of such.  Nothing special in that. 


To paraphrase Rick James, "sighted listening is a helluva drug".

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52 minutes ago, esldude said:

Neither is the Soekris it is based upon.  Neither are Schiit.  There are plenty of such.  Nothing special in that. 

 

The DAC reviewed here is made in Europe. 

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5 minutes ago, Axial said:

 

The DAC reviewed here is made in Europe. 

Soekris is Danish. 


To paraphrase Rick James, "sighted listening is a helluva drug".

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11 hours ago, AudioDoctor said:

I love the wood enclosure, the build quality of the internals looks outstanding as well. I was glad to see they had a unit at 1/4th the price as well.  That's more my style!

 

And, they also have a higher end style one for $34,000

 

* I like your use of the word "style". 

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11 hours ago, Ralf11 said:

He's got 2 stmts. in that sentence, and stmt 2 seems to preclude making stmt. 1...

Thank you for the discussion. I will explain this statement from our website:

 

We always know that sonic performance has primarily to do with Jitter reduction, and that Jitter is always going to be contended, since it is impossible to measure with authority. We work by ear where the lab equipment can’t follow. 

 

Jitter content in digital streams is reliably measurable only in approximate amounts. Even while it is being measured, it fluctuates in real time. As a general rule, approximately 100 pS amounts are the steps which can be meaningfully measured. It is impossible using any available lab equipment to make authoritative statements about jitter content smaller than this, repeatable from lab to lab by independent researchers. Anything you may have read published in smaller amounts is only marketing hype and nothing else. 

 

Let me give you a visual example. In the lab, when you set up a sensitive jitter test, and you do nothing more than wave your hand around the digital cable, the scope shows wild fluctuations of the data readout. But when you listen to a sound system, and you have somebody wave their hand around the digital cable, you don't honestly say you can hear wild fluctuations in the sound quality. 

This goes to show how this particular measurement is far from the end of the story. 

 

Having said that, it is easy to show the correlation of jitter reduction to sonic quality when you use extreme amounts. Comparing 1000 pS to 100 pS jitter content in digital streams is easily measured, shown repeatably on scopes, and easily heard by your average audiophile on any half-decent system. But even this large difference in jitter content can be masked by horrible ambient listening conditions, for example when the floor is made of ceramic tiles or the room has cement walls. 

Now let us suppose you have a good listening room, a carefully tweaked system, and "authoritative" listening talent. Let's say you've been at this for years. For such a listener, far smaller jitter content differences will have proportionately more and more meaning, until you get to the point where two fanatically determined audiophiles will heatedly argue unto the wee hours about even the smallest changes in jitter content, far smaller than those that are meaningfully and repeatably measurable. 

 

When we developed another of our creations, the Laminar Streamer, we tried all manner of oscillators. Here's a picture of a portion of those we critically tested:

 

oscillators2.jpg.b37050ca1117c81ef5ef14ce7ce2aff9.jpg

 

One of the things we learned from these crucial tests was that Jitter numbers don't say anything about the actual Jitter spectrum, and each Jitter spectrum will produce upon conversion to analogue some sort of sound coloration of its own. This completely apart from the Jitter amount as expressed in pS. So now we have two parameters: Jitter amount and Jitter spectrum. And when listening to all these different clocks under the same conditions in the circuitry, the subjective listening experience again does not seem to correlate with the data. Yes, you can "like" the sound of one spectrum of Jitter more than you "like" the sound of another. This will go all the way deep down the  system synergy rabbit hole. These are extremely fine distinctions.

Therefore, it is useless and deceitful to publish tiny jitter numbers as some sort of "proof" that your digital solution is better than any other one. It is only useful as a general tool to make sure you are not making any blatant design mistakes. But in the end, it is the ear that decides which solution is ultimately preferred and therefore, hopefully now, the statement that "we work by ear where the lab equipment can’t follow" makes sense. If you ever see Jitter numbers published smaller than 100 pS beware of shameless marketing. At these levels, three labs can give you three different numbers, and a single lab can and most likely will give you three different numbers on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

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8 hours ago, AudioDoctor said:

Wow...

 

The DIY part linked above lists that it is capable of 24/384 and Native DSD. The LessLoss Website says the DAC is capable of 24/192 and DSD.

 

The S/PDIF standard only goes up to 192 kHz sampling rate, and that is the limit we published on our website. The USB input, however, does play 384 kHz sampling rate files, not that any truly exist. 

This type of talk about sampling rates has absolutely no correlation with sound quality. One can easily devise ways to create lower sampling rate files which sound obviously superior to their higher sampling rate counterpart. All you need to do is tweak the upsampling/downsampling algorithms in order to do this, and the market is chock full of available algorithms. Each has its own sound.  The unsuspecting listener often never knows, nor even takes the time to try to inquire, what the originally recorded sampling rate was in the first place. The general mentality and experience in this regard is so narrow and fragile that it is an embarrassment to the entire art of audiophile culture that this topic ever exploded the way it has. Remember the scandalous sampling rate hacks on HDTracks? The publishers would upsample to a higher rate and charge more for the downloads just because somebody passed the file through an upsampling algorithm, something that most any DAC today does in real time anyway, including Soekris. 

These days, most people listen to conversion being carried out at 384 kHz without their even knowing it. They play what they think are different sampling rate files (not knowing the original recording's sampling rate in the first place, nor having any way of finding out), then listen as their DAC upsamples in real time to 384 kHz, without even knowing it. 

 

Those who are quickly excited about sampling rates very quickly get turned off by the math and engineering behind it. It is ironic. 

 

Meanwhile, we and like-minded audiophiles are still discovering deeper and deeper depths in good 'ol 44.1. The whole question of sonic discovery in digital always was and always will remain the further and further reduction of jitter. It is just that simple.

 

The whole numbers race in digital audio can be traced back to the analogous numbers race in the competitive field of computer processing. The big difference is that the concept of audio quality is strictly a real-time process, whereas computer processing is always a break-neck speed of churning out of crunched numbers with error correction algorithms with no recourse to perfect timing in real time. Like, why do I have to wait for my cursor on my screen to show me the word I typed half a second ago? I think you get the picture. Latency and multi-tasked resource allocation vs. the smooth flow of real time. The prior easily marketable with faster and faster speeds. The latter boring as hell from a marketing perspective. 

 

This is why the higher sampling rate numbers are so much more attractive to those in the selling business.   

 

 

 

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8 minutes ago, Louis Motek - LessLoss said:

These days, most people listen to conversion being carried out at 384 kHz without their even knowing it.

 

Hi Louis - I picked one small phrase from your last post in order to hint at you apparently not being informed well about audiophilia on forums. My sincere advice: sit back and get yourself informed about what "most people" here think they listen to. I suppose in Best Buy shops your talk will work. But not over here. Not the way you attempt it.

Well meant - Peter


Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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The reason we choose the Soekris was because it had the potential through our critical listening tests to outperform our earlier favorite, the legendary Burr-Brown PCM 1704. The Burr-Brown came in selected batches and we always used the best ones. The Soekris also comes in different levels of resistor precision and we only ever use the most precise ones. 

 

As for the better sound we are now achieving from the Soekris as opposed to the PCM 1704, I am convinced that much of this has to do not with oversampling algorithms, not with digital filter choices, nor even the exact oscillator chosen. The real reason for the great sound potential comes from the fact that the current and voltage at the actual conversion process, and the trace thicknesses and resistor sizes, are much larger than in a microscopic laser-etched silicon IC scenario. Compounding this, the small signal strength which comes out of the 1704 requires the use of subsequent current/voltage conversion and this means more parts, more powered parts, and thus less purity and more noise. 

 

When you listen to the signal coming out of the Echo's End, you are getting direct access to the converted signal. You don't get this from any chip-based converter anywhere.

 

 

 

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2 minutes ago, Louis Motek - LessLoss said:

Compounding this, the small signal strength which comes out of the 1704 requires the use of subsequent current/voltage conversion and this means more parts, more powered parts, and thus less purity and more noise. 

 

You are really overdoing it now.


Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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17 minutes ago, Louis Motek - LessLoss said:
47 minutes ago, PeterSt said:

 

You are really overdoing it now.

Yes, we like to take our every concept to the extreme. That's how we understand the art. Some call it purist. Some call it ridiculous.

 

Sadly that is not how I intended it. I meant: You are going to far with explanations which have no fundament. Or ... show some measurements. Noise line. THD. IMD (I'll free you of jitter - haha).

But maybe it is better to stop ?


Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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2 hours ago, Louis Motek - LessLoss said:

The USB input, however, does play 384 kHz sampling rate files, not that any truly exist.

What is that supposed to mean?

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8 hours ago, BrokeLinuxPhile said:

 

This statement confuses me, what are they trying to say?  I don't get why you need an acoustically dead material here.  Speakers makes sense but not a DAC.  Thick metal would shield better.

Just copied from the LL site. I’m sure they can better answer your question. 


Founder of Audiophile Style and Superphonica

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Can’t say I am a big fan of where the replies to this review have gone so I will try to steer it back to the sound of the DAC as described by Danny. I am more concerned by the description that the DAC has a sonic signature. I guess that all DACs do to some extent but when I see this type of language used I think that it means that it makes different recordings sound similar in tone. I have heard some DACs do this. You listen to wildly divergent recordings and hear a similar sound with each that shouldn’t be there. It is usually a softness to the top end. I won’t mention any names though so don’t ask. I hope this is not the case with this DAC, especially at this price point. 

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