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Idea for a AS review - Topping, Matrix, ProJect...

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22 hours ago, firedog said:

 

The Topping D70 has 2 AKM chips, AFAIR, and lists for $499, although it's regularly sold for about $75 less. I think one or two of the other Topping units also have AKM chips.

One of those SMSL's runs closer to $1000 than $500, and some  of the praised Gustards are over $1000. 
I wouldn't call those bargain bin.  

I have a D70, very very low background noise and nice tone-ality, but in my system presented little dynamics... using the USB input, elements like piano and snares seem anemic, not realistic at all. Vocals seem to be originating from vapor, not from a grounded body.

This can be helped a little by using a Gustard U16 DDC via i2s, which also adds some overall weight...

 

I tried some different preamps; Lightspeed SE passive, another SE passive, Balanced passive, SE active and Balanced active tube (also tried the D70 digital volume control).. Balanced active worked best, the XRL output seems better overall sound quality than the SE RCA output. Also seems best to use one output at a time as I noticed a little degradation on the XLR's when using the RCA's for subs.

 

D70 has a pretty good remote, can switch through the filters (but the differences between the various filters presentation is somewhat limited), also can switch output modes which I think may be handy.

 

The default filter #3 seems the most solid and balanced, but maybe a little compressed/grainy in the highs during peaks.. this gets a lot better with the U16 at i2s input (using a cheap M10 clock also on the U16). Filter #2 is a bit smoother than 3 and would be my preferred if I was using the native USB input. 

 

I am building a second system (actually an alternative source) and an audiophile friend suggested the AK4497 chip, the D70 seems to have pretty good specs and that low noise floor is a nice attribute. I will need to keep looking (I am looking for something rather dry and clean as an alternative to my other DAC which is 4xPCM1704UK per side with NOS processing.. ) but I guess for the money the D70 could fit into some systems in this budget range. One final thing I may try with the D70 is a balanced SS preamp, but I do not currently have one of those, that may bring a little extra life to percussion..

 

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12 hours ago, guiltyboxswapper said:

 

 

 

Wonder if the D70 got time to break in?

Certainly 300+ hours playing time on the D70...

D70 dynamics (to me) are similar to what you get when strapping a clean soft-knee compressor across the outputs...

I forget the album title, but a couple days ago I tried the song "Themes" from Yes, starts with some synth stuff then an interesting (single notes) piano part.. the lack of dynamics was very very noticeable on the piano part... 

I am thinking maybe some of the new ES9038Pro implementations may be better in dynamics  - I am a little gun-shy about trying another AK in this price range unless some good reviews which address dynamics (pretty important attribute for music imho...). The older dual 9028 versions may be a bargain also if well implemented.

 

I been checking the past few days and agree maybe 700-850 USD FOB is a more realistic minimal target range for something with balanced output and without obvious concessions. For myself, I also value i2s input as i have couple good i2s DDC's..

 

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3 hours ago, Miska said:

I have to say that especially the EVGA NU Audio card running at DSD256 (from my EC modulators) certainly doesn't lack in dynamics, bordering aggressive...

 

This card looks really cool... Have you tried or tested with the SE line outs? I did not see a voltage spec,  so was wondering if the line-out quality is on-par with the headphone out (seems to be pretty focused on headphone users, or powered computer monitors).

I was thinking a 1M run to a preamp (passive if possible but not necessary), then another 0.5 or 1M to the amp...

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4 hours ago, guiltyboxswapper said:

Goes to show how little "thd+n" can tell you about a DAC in reality.  D70 measures up well too.  I don't believe its a feature of the AKM DACs themselves either (lack of dynamics) as I've heard superb AK4490 implementations that don't lack there.

Thanks for the comments..

 

For balanced with i2s option, the GUSTARD A20H Dual AK4497 DAC/Pre would perhaps qualify as a value piece. Gustard appears to be building a good reputation in both the DAC and amp sectors. This has an analog class A balanced head/pre amp, so maybe consider the value at 450 for the DAC and 300 for the pre (but save some money and clutter in interconnects and extra power cord)

https://shenzhenaudio.com/products/gustard-a20h-dual-ak4497-xmos-usb-pcm-dsd-dop-dac-decoder-and-class-a-full-balanced-amplifier

 

I am waiting to see if any comprehensive, valid, comparative reviews for the new Schiit Bifrost 2 ($699, but includes obvious benefits for USA based customers). I have been following/buying DDC's for a few years and Schiit seem to have previously hit a home run with their Eitr USB/SPDIF convertor, so have built some street-cred in my view for upgrading their USB implementation. They are very confident in their new Unison USB™ card, but seem to have had a couple bumps in the model launch which have already been identified and corrected iiuc... I think USB source isolation has some value (think of all the ISO Regens and Intonas sold), so maybe there is reduced need for USB fixers with this card, again offering extra value. 

https://www.schiit.com/products/bifrost-1

 

A single ended option that has been pretty successful is the Audio-GD R2R 11 (2019 Version) Single Ended Discrete Ladder Headphone amp / DAC (DSD native / DXD / PCM) ... 350 USD. It has been out for a couple years now and has had a few revisions so the current version is fairly mature.... there is a HF thread with more info.

http://www.audio-gd.com/R2R/R2R11/R2R11EN.htm   

 

Also SE, I have a Topping D50 DAC I was using for subs. I gave it a brief listen when I first got it and sounded surprisingly good, but for the power supply I was using a mains-regeneration fed LPS with LDOVR LT3045 5V regulator box and some decent Ghent cables.. I will try to put that back in the system and give a short report... Since I would think some here may have an extra decent 5V LPS lying around, this may be a particularly good bargain..

https://shenzhenaudio.com/products/topping-d50-hifi-audio-dac-es9038q2m-2-xmos-xu208-dsd512-usb-32bit-768khz-dsd512-decoder

 

 

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On 10/4/2019 at 4:10 PM, guiltyboxswapper said:

Goes to show how little "thd+n" can tell you about a DAC in reality.  D70 measures up well too.  I don't believe its a feature of the AKM DACs themselves either (lack of dynamics) as I've heard superb AK4490 implementations that don't lack there.

 

I have been checking alternatives and, while researching the Gustard A20H (also AK4497 x 2) , ran across a user at ASR that tried a D70 and compared directly to the Gustard A20H, his comments regarding the D70 were "The lack of punch was obvious compared to the A20H.."

 

So, as you mentioned, this AK chip is looking promising. I need figure out how to dump the D70 without the SO catching on.. good thing it is dual voltage, makes for a bigger market ...😀

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