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Article: Review | Crane Song Solaris & Forssell MDAC-2a


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Great read, @JoshM  I had a Forssell dac in my home back in 2010, and remember it's sound as wonderful and musical.  I think I was put off by its limited inputs (for residential, of course), but don't remember that much from its visit 10 yrs ago.  I assume Fred and co has gotten even more of the music captured now.

 

BTW, DSD is not an "off-the beaten-path" format.  😀

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Yes sir, pro audio hardware is a wonderful sounding, often ignored  bargain in high end. Think about it,, the recordings you are listening to are created, mixed, mastered, using these devices. How can they make excellent sounding recordings if the hardware can't keep up. I've used various models over the past 10 years or so, switching more just to try something different than being displeased with any. Many (most?) pro audio interfaces have built in analog to digital too if you want to digitize your Vinyl. A few I can recommend in no particular order

 

Linx Hilo

Apogee Symphony

RME various models

 

and my current favorite.. Antelope Eclipse 384. Why

 

-inputs and outputs up to 384K over USB, 192K other digital ins/outs

-Accepts a 10 MHz reference clock

-has very high quality clocks built in, something Antelope is known for

-high quality relay controlled step attenuators for volume control on line level outputs so also a high quality preamp

-same volume configuration on dual headphone amps with a low enough output impedance (.3 ohms) and a few watts of power that will drive my horns directly = no power amp needed

-being a DIY guy .. it also has separate power supplies for digital and  analog that I replaced with high quality external linear DC supplies, but sounds great with stock supply.

-sounds FANTASTIC

 

This was an $8K unit when new but last years model so goes for around a third of that. A real bargain,,, no DSD if that is important to you , or convert to PCM in software like HQplayer

 

 

 

 

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Thanks Josh, great review. Comparison with a well known favourite like the Yggdrasil is highly informative. Too bad you won't be able to do so in the future.

 

I looked at the Solaris when I was shopping for a DAC recently but I needed both XLR and RCA outputs. 

 

You should fix this sentence:

> Those horns also sound slightly deeper (yet flatter) on the Crane Song and slightly closer (yet more 3D) on the Solaris. 

“The best sounding audio product is the one that exhibits the least audible flaws.”

 Dr. Floyd Toole

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On 9/30/2020 at 4:44 PM, billg said:

After teaching modern politics I'd need 2 cats too.

 

Given my stress level these days, I could use a few dozen more.

 

On 10/1/2020 at 12:51 AM, bbosler said:

Yes sir, pro audio hardware is a wonderful sounding, often ignored  bargain in high end. Think about it,, the recordings you are listening to are created, mixed, mastered, using these devices. How can they make excellent sounding recordings if the hardware can't keep up. I've used various models over the past 10 years or so, switching more just to try something different than being displeased with any. Many (most?) pro audio interfaces have built in analog to digital too if you want to digitize your Vinyl. A few I can recommend in no particular order

 

Linx Hilo

Apogee Symphony

RME various models

 

and my current favorite.. Antelope Eclipse 384. Why

 

-inputs and outputs up to 384K over USB, 192K other digital ins/outs

-Accepts a 10 MHz reference clock

-has very high quality clocks built in, something Antelope is known for

-high quality relay controlled step attenuators for volume control on line level outputs so also a high quality preamp

-same volume configuration on dual headphone amps with a low enough output impedance (.3 ohms) and a few watts of power that will drive my horns directly = no power amp needed

-being a DIY guy .. it also has separate power supplies for digital and  analog that I replaced with high quality external linear DC supplies, but sounds great with stock supply.

-sounds FANTASTIC

 

This was an $8K unit when new but last years model so goes for around a third of that. A real bargain,,, no DSD if that is important to you , or convert to PCM in software like HQplayer

 

 

 

 

 

The Hilo will be an upcoming review!

 

7 hours ago, audiobomber said:

Thanks Josh, great review. Comparison with a well known favourite like the Yggdrasil is highly informative. Too bad you won't be able to do so in the future.

 

I looked at the Solaris when I was shopping for a DAC recently but I needed both XLR and RCA outputs. 

 

You should fix this sentence:

> Those horns also sound slightly deeper (yet flatter) on the Crane Song and slightly closer (yet more 3D) on the Solaris. 

 

Thank you. I just fixed that sentence. 

 

Getting rid of the Yggy was a tough call. I'm debating picking up one of the "GS" Yggys at some point, particularly if I can find a used one. I suspect the A1 analog stage with the updated A2 firmware might be the best sounding model. 


But there are logical and financial limits to DAC hoarding. Haha.

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@JoshM

Thanks for the review.

 

The Solaris wrung more detail out of the recordings than the Yggy but lacked its slam. The Forssell was even smoother than the Yggy but didn’t have its front-to-back depth.

 

Sorry , but it is not clear to me in which points the Yggdrasil lacked in comparison to both. Can you please shed some more light on this?

And was your Yggdrasil equipped with Unison?

Thanks

 

Matt

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16 hours ago, matthias said:

@JoshM

Thanks for the review.

 

The Solaris wrung more detail out of the recordings than the Yggy but lacked its slam. The Forssell was even smoother than the Yggy but didn’t have its front-to-back depth.

 

Sorry , but it is not clear to me in which points the Yggdrasil lacked in comparison to both. Can you please shed some more light on this?

And was your Yggdrasil equipped with Unison?

Thanks

 

Matt


Hi Matt,

 

My Yggy had the Gen5 USB, though I often used it with various USB to SPDIF converters. 
 

The Yggy did front-to-back depth better than either DAC. Likewise with bass slam, though its edge over the Crane Song was relatively slight. However, I think both the Crane Song and Forssell out-resolved the Yggy, the former by a bigger margin. Being perhaps the most “analog”-like DAC I’ve heard, the Forssell is smoother than the Yggy. The Forssell also had a wider soundstage than the Yggy, though not by a lot. 
 

To be clear, each of those three DACs are excellent. I could be happy with any one of them as my only DAC. Comparing the Crane Song and Forssell to the Yggy was meant to convey just how good they are, in that I still preferred the Yggy to the previous DS DACs I reviewed. It wasn’t meant to be a criticism of the Yggdrasil. 
 

I’d never tell someone to throw out their Yggy in the expectation of the Crane Song or Forssell being a knockout upgrade. Differences between good DACs just aren’t that big. However, for someone shopping for a DAC, I’d advise checking out the Solaris and MDAC-2a, and I’d personally take either over the previous DACs I’ve reviewed here, such as the RME ADI-2 DAC, which I found to be substantially worse than either the Crane Song or Forssell.

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15 hours ago, JoshM said:

My Yggy had the Gen5 USB, though I often used it with various USB to SPDIF converters. 

 

In the case you use an USB source I can imagine that an Yggy with Unison might play on par with both DACs under review.

 

Matt

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Hi @JoshM - I really enjoyed this review. Up until this point, I had never heard of Crane Song and, since reading your piece, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. In particular, I'm intrigued with Dave's focus on Jitter. Reading a review of another made-for-studio DAC (Weiss DAC 501 from Hi-Fi News): 

 

Quote

There's a note buried in Weiss's technical white paper alluding to the DAC50x's use of an asymmetric/off-centre re-clocking frequency (195kHz) – a technique also employed by Hegel. In this instance the suppression of correlated jitter is also state-of-the-art at <10psec over all CD-192kHz sample rates, although a trace of some noise-like/uncorrelated jitter remains [see Graph 2]. PM

 

Similarly, the Crane Song Manual says: 

 

Quote

The jitter measured for the clock, between our auditory spectrum of 10Hz - 20kHz, is typically around 0.045ps (44fs, femtoseconds)!

 

Assuming these jitter figures are apples-to-apples (who knows! jitter is a spectrum, after all), it would seem the Crane Song's attenuation of Jitter is FAR better than that provided by the Weiss. I feel like the upsampling to 211khz and implementation of ASRC for Crane Song vs. the 195khz for Weiss may have something to do with this. 

 

I know our forum isn't measurement focused, but I'd love any perspective you have on Dave's approach to Jitter versus others if you have them. Regardless, thanks for opening my eyes up to the potential value provided by professional gear! 

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