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I've been on a bit of a dac and system change around over the past month or so. Firstly my twisted pear buffalo dac was shown the door as I was getting sick of the never ending what ifs of diy audiophilia nervosa. That was then replaced with a Benchmark Dac1 which was handily like for like functionality wise and plugged straight into the balanced inputs on my dpa power amp. I wasn't particularly impressed with the dac1, having that sinking feeling the moment it was plugged in and knew it wasn't going to hang around long. Our car then forced my hand, needing some unexpected work doing, which meant I had to sell the BM and the DPA to fund it. Bummer as I never expected to sell the DPA, but there you go. I nicked an integrated out of the tv system and a cheapie ebay dac out of the kids wii system to keep the music going. Luckily there was a bit of cash left over from the car to investigate a new dac.

After far too much time spent surfing the web, and Keith at Purite's handy offer, I decided to take a punt on the m2tech evo dac. Gromit had given it a good review on here so figured why not. Keith very generously let me borrow a hiface2 as well, to compare against the optical out of my maudio transit.

A day later the little dac arrived and was hastily unpacked. Annoyingly it ships with a euro plug on the wallwart so I had to nip out to the local tesco to pick up an adaptor.

Minor glitch over it was time to get down to some listening. First impressions were pretty good. It is incredibly detailed, dredging up details I'd not heard before in some recordings. It was however a little bit on the in your face side, sounding a bit bright. That may have been because I was used to the dull sounding tda1543. Comparing the two dacs side by side was quite tricky as the evo dac output level is much higher, but the cheapie dac was very quickly returned to the wii system. The first couple of days I couldn't get the feeling that things were a bit strident out of my head, and on a couple of occasions it nearly got boxed up and sent back to Keith. It's all about synergy at the end of the day though and I figured that in some regards my system was sounding better than ever and that maybe the evo isn't to blame and would shine with future upgrades, so I decided to stick with it.

A week later and I'm impressed, very impressed. Given that I'm running a pair of diy speakers which are by no means optimal yet, I can safely say that I've not heard recordings sound this good here. As mentioned above the detail resolution is immense - there's texture to voices, drums, guitar, wibbly electronic sounds that I've never heard before, and the sense of space in a recording is as I've not heard it before. There's a real sense of a 3D band playing. Drums sound like a drum kit, voices sound human and not some 2d representation of a person. Given the price that Keith is selling these at at the moment I'm very impressed indeed. The dac1 and buffalo have been well and truly beaten. In fact the car has been a blessing in disguise.

My only slight niggle is the dc power input being on the front, but it's no big deal really. It'd be really interesting to try some different psus with it, but for the moment I don't really feel inclined to tinker. It's time to spend some time playing with the speakers and build another pair I have planned.

As mentioned, Keith kindly included a hiface2 to play with. So I set up two laptops, both with foobar and using asio. Coax from hiface and optical from maudio transit. I have to admit, playing the same track on each laptop and switching between the inputs on the evo, I really can't tell the difference. I've listened really closely to tone, texture, reverb on hihats, that kind of thing and really can't tell them apart. The advantage the hiface does have is it will happily play 24/96 recordings without sodding around in driver software. The maudio is a sod in that regard, but I've only got one such recording, so it's no big deal. Again, at some point it'd be nice to try the i2s input on the evo, whether it be from the hiface evo or a diy usb>i2s jobbie. For the moment though things are sounding good enough not to worry about it.

The car just threw another wobbly this week and I had a horrible feeling the dac was going to have to be returned, but luckily the fix was pretty cheap, so it can stay.

So, very impressive little bit of kit. I'd be interested to compare it against the Young at some point. I've gone from dac/power amp combo costing at full rrp the best part of £2000 to a £250 dac and a rebuilt onix OA21 (costing less than £100) and it sounds better. I'm pretty chuffed.

Anyway, enough ramblings, a couple of photos:

evo2.jpg

evo1.jpg

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Great review James. Not spotted this till now. Might ask you to write some more if you are interested.

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