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Mr Underhill

R2R NOS DAC and DDC Mini-Bakeoff

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Introduction

Would love to have opened this up, but I only have a small living room.

Visited by Metatron and George47 yesterday, together with George's AudioNote (AN) 2.1, an AN4.1 he is currently sheltering and the Matrix SPDIF 2 that he recently reviewed.

I bought a Schiit Eitr and so we had a three way comparison between my current DDC, the SingXer F1, the Matrix and the Eitr.

The main aim was to repeat the get together a couple of weeks ago where we compared the AN2.1 and Border Patrol (BP) DACs in Metatron's system, but in mine.

My system (briefly):

USB Storage/StarTech/Raspberry Pi 3 powered by R-Core Chinese LPSU via LT3045
Sonore ultraRendu powered by R-Core Chinese LPSU via LT3045
DDC
DAC
EAR868/EAR534
Focal 1008be II

One thing I have been wrestling with for months is edge. I think there are a number of reasons for this and present in different, although similar, ways. I have made progress but this was again bothering me, especially as I thought I had more or less put it to bed a few weeks ago - this was a driving force behind trying the different DDCs. They made NO DIFFERENCE on the edge front, but something else did, which I will return to later.

We made up a review music list, which was modified over the day: See Appendix A.

The DDCs

Metatron was delayed so George and I initially compared the DDCs. My view:

F1
https://www.shenzhenaudio.com/singxer-f-1-xmos-usb-digital-interface-board-xu208-chip-high-end-u8-upgraded-version.html
Detailed.

Eitr
http://www.schiit.com/products/eitr
Detailed. Bit more weight to the intruments. Bass perhaps a touch better defined.

Matrix
http://www.matrix-digi.com/en/products/158/index.html
Wow. Detailed. Weighty presentation. Warmer. Excellent sound stage. More below.

The DAC comparisons were therefore done with the Matrix.

The DACs
The DAC comparison was obviously very straightforward: 4.1 > 2.1 > BP. Actually ......no.

I bought the Border Patrol having done long comparisons with the Bel Canto DAC 3.5vb, Schiit Yggdrasil and the Lampizator L4G5. All are good DACs but their presentations will suit different tastes and systems. For me the BP wasn't as detailed as the Yggy, or as euphonic as the Lampizator, but it communicated music in a joy filled and enthusiastic fashion that I find extends any music listening session.

Listening to the AN2.1 at Metatron's was very similar to the BP, but added: a bit more bass weight; detail; and spacial positioning. It repeated this in my system.

The AN4.1 is a bigger and MUCH heavier beast. I believe this IS probably the best of the DACs .....but NOT in my system; system synergy. The 4.1 extracted more detail and nuance but just lacked the boogie factor of the 2.1 and BP.

Intellectually I believe the order of the DACs in terms of detail and presentation is 4.1 > 2.1 > BP; in the right system.
However, in my system the order for me was: 2.1 > (4.1 = BP), where the detail and nuance of the 4.1 was equaled by the BP's boogie.

We ended the day playing Streetwalker and Billie Jean via the 2.1, what a blast.

Edge
While trying the 4.1 we useed the SE inputs, but decided to try the balanced, this failed for some reason (I suspect my cables). I realised that I had plugged the balanced cables into my Oppo 105D a few weeks ago. Removing these cables appeared to reduce the edge we were hearing. I will be testing this again today.

Matrix
I am very impressed by this small box of tricks. It is not simply that I am hearing added detail from very familier tracks it warmth and instrumental weight makes me listen to whole albums where before I might have been inclined to listen to certain tracks.


Conclusion
I suspect I will be buying the Matrix.
I am very happy with the BP DAC, which I think is an absolute bargain. However, if an AN2.1 comes up at the right price I suspect I will find it very hard to resist.


Thanks to George & Metatron.

Appendix A - Music Playlist
---------------------------------------------
Let Me Touch You Fir a While
Alison Krauss & Union Station Live (Qobuz)
Track includes some high notes that can be hot on my system

Columbus
Mary Black
Live at Oympia (DVD rip > 16/44)
My favourite recorded version of this artist and song.

Keith Don't Go
Nils Lofgren
Acoustic Live
Virtuoso Guitar

Son of Man
Phil Collins
Tarzan Soundtrack (CD rip)
Can be far too hot on my system

Happy
Martin Sexton
Seeds (CD rip)
Sharp Recording

Crucify (2015 remaster)
Tori Amos
Little Earthquakes (Qobuz)

Come Together
Brian Bromberg
Wood  (Qobuz)
Big fat bass!

Unfinished Sympathy (2006 remaster)
Massive Attack
Collected  (Qobuz)

Hella Bar Talk / Enterprising Young Man
The Music of Star Trek
The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra  (Qobuz)
Powerful stuff.

Jungle
Tash Sultana
Notion  (Qobuz)

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Super Wammer

Great write up Mr U. 

Thanks.

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