Best DACs comparison test result [[My Subjective Opinion]]

Nov 19, 2015
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ibelieveinhifi.com
#41
Kassandra II LE Sig is not imported in Korea yet.

Although I tested it, I think it is the world-best DAC.
While the listening conditions have not been ideal and I have yet to complete my full review until after the room is finished, it is as close to analog as I think you can get with today's technology

A Korean distributor tried to import Aries Cerat, but because Kassandra II LE Sig is too big and heavy, they gave up to import it.

They said Kassandra II LE Sig is too big to be impossible to install some audio-racks.

Is that true?


Partially. Best practice for LE is to use shelves 24x24 which many builders can accommodate for an upcharge. However, if you have a rack chances are it will not fit the unit(s). I don't find most rocking crazy isolation racks, but Stillpoints works as well as a few others. If you have less than a couple grand in your rack and are willing to shell out almost 100K for a LE DAC I think that isn't really a big deal. :)


I have the opportunity to hear few high end DAC , namely Dcs Vivaldi , MSB Select ( used to own it ) , Aeris Cerat Kassandra LE . Since it’s in a different syst , it’s just a subjective opinion .
To me , when it was paired with Audio note M10S , Kassandra LE really float my boat . It’s so analog sounding , I dare say that it’s as closest to vinyl as I have heard in my Audio journey & I am a die hard analog guy even though I have digital set up & R2R .
I have extensively tested the Kassandra Reference amongst the aforementioned Flagship DACs as well as many others. I feel very comfortable in saying that the Reference is more in line with these brands and the LE is just....well it is not fair.
 
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sbo6

Well-Known Member
May 19, 2014
935
80
85
Round Rock, TX
#42
Very fantastic indeed Esotar.

I’m burning in my XHD as we speak and with only 100 hours it already has me gobsmacked.
I’ve never heard digital sound this Analogue which pains me in a way being a 100% digital guy but the level of detail, soundstage presentation and tonality is magical.

I’ve taking advice from Ed (Eurodriver) and upsampling pcm to 705/768K and converting DSD to 705k in the SGMS2015 to get a baseline of what to expect before delving into bitrate/buffer settings and trying DSD direct.

The XHD outclasses the, stunning for the cost, T+A DAC8DSD in all aspects and for what it’s worth I thought the T+A (fed DSD) was better than the Terminator.

I’ll look to isolation footers, fuses and damping products after substantial burn in.

OAN, the optologic XHD now joins my optocoupled Java preamp. Sounds like synergy.

Cheers
Blue58
Can I ask how you can upgrade fuses? My Formula does not have external access to a fuse. Also, I'm curious to get your feedback on damping and isolation. I found Stillpoint minis to make a significant upgrade in sound stage width and low end articulation.
 

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 18, 2011
1,682
844
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Hong Kong
#43
Can I ask how you can upgrade fuses? My Formula does not have external access to a fuse. Also, I'm curious to get your feedback on damping and isolation. I found Stillpoint minis to make a significant upgrade in sound stage width and low end articulation.
There is one internal fuse on Formula xHD.
Forgot its exact value.
Pls ask your dealer or Aqua.
 

Blue58

Well-Known Member
Jan 20, 2013
539
219
130
London, UK
#44
3A6042E6-C7D1-44C2-BBD7-B21701862333.jpg Internal fuse is 1A slow blow 5x20mm. It’s users choice to stick with same value or uprate to 1.6A if going for audiophile fuse.
I will try to give my impressions after a few weeks burn in as my Sablon USB cable also requires some time on it.
Current footers are IsoAcoustic Orea Indigo but also have Rollerballs and BDR cones to try. My Mag-Lev feet are too small to use unfortunately as I often prefer those.
Two Herbies Audio Lab dBNeutralizer sheets rest on the top cover with a 4Kg ceramic tile as added ballast.

Blue58
 
#45
While the listening conditions have not been ideal and I have yet to complete my full review until after the room is finished, it is as close to analog as I think you can get with today's technology





Partially. Best practice for LE is to use shelves 24x24 which many builders can accommodate for an upcharge. However, if you have a rack chances are it will not fit the unit(s). I don't find most rocking crazy isolation racks, but Stillpoints works as well as a few others. If you have less than a couple grand in your rack and are willing to shell out almost 100K for a LE DAC I think that isn't really a big deal. :)




I have extensively tested the Kassandra Reference amongst the aforementioned Flagship DACs as well as many others. I feel very comfortable in saying that the Reference is more in line with these brands and the LE is just....well it is not fair.
Indeed, my findings as well, I demoed against:

1. Lampizator Golden Gate 2017 unit
2. MSB Platinum IV inc Signature Power base
3. Chord DAVE
4. CH Precision C1
5. Naim CD555 (used)
6. Audio Note (UK) DAC 5 (owned for 2 years)

The Kassandra Ref II was way ahead in dynamics and timbre, more realistic, very smooth yet tons of detail. I found myself abandoning the test in most cases, no contest. The Audio Note was my previous ideal, but I found I was missing so much on hearing the Kassandra. The Audio Note was asleep in comparison, a flatter monotone version.

The CH Precision was impressive. I had it all day at home, and I was fired up by it at first, lots of detail and a big soundstage. But after my usual tests on well recorded material (perfectly recorded) the wheels started to come off with less than stellar recordings. I heard some sibilance and treble harshness, acid test is Evanesance Fallen album, or the Cranberries Zombie. By the end of my demo I wanted them to take it away and had got bored with it.

The DAVE was very good, especially for the price. But it still sounded digital to me, I couldn't relax with it long term. It is difficult to explain.

The Lampizator was nice, romantic even. The tube roiling is interesting. On PCM it was behind the Kassandra IMO, it didn't float my boat.

The Naim was punchy and dynamic, typical of Naim (in a good way). But this didn't convince me either, the soundstage seemed small and there was a lack of focus, layering. It was good, but not at the level of many modern designs at this price point I thought.

The MSB was typical of what I expect from most modern DAC sound, it sounded digital to me. It is not the direction I wanted to go down.

YMMV but that is my brief summary. Basically after hearing the Kassandra, I forgot about examining it, it just sounded perfect to my ears, forget the gear and enjoy the music kind of presentation.
Mind it is hard to forget it as it is huge! I actually like the look of it, and the build quality, you don't realise until you see it in the flesh. The secret sauce in it I think, besides the amazing 16 chip AD1855 digital board, is the excellent gain stage and the huge (massive actually) power supply. The gain stage provides the superb dynamics and current to drive the next stage, and has a high 10v output at 55ohms impedance. My Audio Note has 1.6v at 300 ohms. it is all these things make a difference. Some DACs do some things right, but rarely all things together... get to hear it, you will see.

Highly recommended. PM me if anyone wants more ....:p
 

Alrainbow

Well-Known Member
Dec 12, 2013
1,258
209
135
NYC , USA
#46
Nice review and as this becomes in some ways subjective I do feel it’s a great effort.
A few points to make if you still have any lampi dacs.
They need a preamp active best this gives them more dynamics and while in some amp matches it maybe better than others.
Next a usb power cutter or usb cable that has this done also the shield of the usb needs to be cut at the usb cable side of the dac
most usb reclockers hurt a lampi don’t know why but have done enough testing to know it does.

Lastly some dacs do more inside to make the source less important
The msb sel dac is proof of this. I owned msb at one time
It clearly does much more to make a sub par source much better. But having said this jitter, noise in sub par sources still detract from best results in sound. A lampi needs a better source to shine as well as most on your list.
Your ranking of the bottom seems spot on lol. The Mytek hurt my brain and the ps audio while nice lacks presence and hamongizes sound leaving little change from track to track.
 
May 30, 2010
16,185
1,175
420
Portugal
#47
Indeed, my findings as well, I demoed against:

1. Lampizator Golden Gate 2017 unit
2. MSB Platinum IV inc Signature Power base
3. Chord DAVE
4. CH Precision C1
5. Naim CD555 (used)
6. Audio Note (UK) DAC 5 (owned for 2 years)

The Kassandra Ref II was way ahead in dynamics and timbre, more realistic, very smooth yet tons of detail. I found myself abandoning the test in most cases, no contest. The Audio Note was my previous ideal, but I found I was missing so much on hearing the Kassandra. The Audio Note was asleep in comparison, a flatter monotone version.

The CH Precision was impressive. I had it all day at home, and I was fired up by it at first, lots of detail and a big soundstage. But after my usual tests on well recorded material (perfectly recorded) the wheels started to come off with less than stellar recordings. I heard some sibilance and treble harshness, acid test is Evanesance Fallen album, or the Cranberries Zombie. By the end of my demo I wanted them to take it away and had got bored with it.

The DAVE was very good, especially for the price. But it still sounded digital to me, I couldn't relax with it long term. It is difficult to explain.

The Lampizator was nice, romantic even. The tube roiling is interesting. On PCM it was behind the Kassandra IMO, it didn't float my boat.

The Naim was punchy and dynamic, typical of Naim (in a good way). But this didn't convince me either, the soundstage seemed small and there was a lack of focus, layering. It was good, but not at the level of many modern designs at this price point I thought.

The MSB was typical of what I expect from most modern DAC sound, it sounded digital to me. It is not the direction I wanted to go down.

YMMV but that is my brief summary. Basically after hearing the Kassandra, I forgot about examining it, it just sounded perfect to my ears, forget the gear and enjoy the music kind of presentation.
Mind it is hard to forget it as it is huge! I actually like the look of it, and the build quality, you don't realise until you see it in the flesh. The secret sauce in it I think, besides the amazing 16 chip AD1855 digital board, is the excellent gain stage and the huge (massive actually) power supply. The gain stage provides the superb dynamics and current to drive the next stage, and has a high 10v output at 55ohms impedance. My Audio Note has 1.6v at 300 ohms. it is all these things make a difference. Some DACs do some things right, but rarely all things together... get to hear it, you will see.

Highly recommended. PM me if anyone wants more ....:p
IMHO you are mainly testing the ability of driving a passive connected to a solid state class AB Plinius amplifier driving horn speakers, your results fully agree with what I could expect without listening. It is interesting to know for those wanting minimalist systems, many excellent DACs will sound poor in these conditions.

BTW, can I ask what is the retail price of the Kassandra?
 

Alrainbow

Well-Known Member
Dec 12, 2013
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209
135
NYC , USA
#49
A short story
In my setup I had a MSB dac fully loaded with both SE and BAL inputs and outputs to be used as preamp.
The preamp section is both passive and active. Passive from -60 DB to 0Db then active past that
The passive sounded better then the active. It was used as a preamp for my SE lampi dacs and others.
It was used with both short and long BAL interconnects to my active cross overs
I was told by a few to try a real preamp but felt at the msb price point it should not be needed
As I was upgrading my amps I added on a real preamp
To say the uptic in sound in every way was good is an understatement
My take away is this. As a preamp is the heart of a good system it must be chosen and heard in your system. The amount of time needed to design and make is high. What many or most all dacs do is use an op amp for the preamp not discret circuits. Short runs yield better results then long but a real preamp is needed in what I feel is in all systems.
As I heard the msb s2 a few times it’s a fine dac but at its price point might have a pre section that is closer to real preamps making it edge the rest. As for the rest of the list Mytek pre is actually not horrible it’s the dac section that is lol.
 
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Esotar

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Mar 28, 2016
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www.digitusupremo.com
#50
For 2 Months, I had added DAC comparison test.

So, my subjective DACs ranking list is various.

The way of comparison test is that I visit Korean distributor's HI FI room with my Trinity DAC, Formula xHD, and Terminator, and compare best DACs.

My new DACs Ranking List is include Aries Cerat flagship model.

Kassandra flagship model's score is made by users' reviews.

Here is my [Subjective] Best DACs Ranking List (only PCM comparison) :




Famous DACs Quality Ranking List



1st : Select DAC II Full Option - 100%


2nd : Kassandra MKII Sig LE - 96%


3nd : Trinity DAC - 91%


4th : d1-Twelve - 90%


5th : Atlantis DAC - 89%


6th : Reference DAC Full Option - 87%


7th : Vivaldi 4 Stacks / Vivaldi One - 87%


8th : Pacific DAC - 86%


8th : C1 + X1 + T1 - 86%


10th : d1-Seven - 82%


11th : Golden Gate 2 - 81%


12th : Formula xHD - 78%


13th : d1-Six - 76.5%


14th : Golden Gate - 75.5%


15th : Terminator - 73%


16th : d1-tube-mk II - 72%


17th : La Scala MK II Optologic - 70%


18th : Golden Atlantic - 67%


19th : Venus - 61%


19th : HD DAC - 61%


21th : QX-5 Twenty - 59%


21th : C8 - 59%


23th : MPD-5 - 56%


24th : DA 2 - 55%


25th : Dave - 53%


26th : Manhattan II - 51%


27th : DirectStream - 50%


28th : Spring DAC LV. 3 KTE - 45.5%


29th : DAC 8 DSD - 44%


30th : Yggdrasil - 40%


31th : BDA-3 - 38.5%


32th : Brooklyn + - 35%



This is just my subjective list.

I hope you read for fun~!
 
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Likes: MPS

Esotar

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#52
What a shocker!! Whats DAC is in 5th and 8th position?
Atlantis DAC is made by WADAX.

Very fantastic DAC~!

Audio Exotics members said Atlantis DAC is world best.


Don't you know LampizatOr new flagship Pacific DAC?

You will know that.

^^
 
#53
Good starter for ten, but not really a reference list if you haven't heard all of them in a controlled situation. But respect for throwing it out there. I can see it may cause some responses... (hard hats required).

I question the Atlantis above the Pacific have you heard both? (doubt it).

And the C1 being so high, and the DAVE so low. I was not so excited with the C!, though it was on it's own, no X1. But 'fully loaded' the price gets really crazy, I would question if it is that much better than what I heard. The DAVE however is as good and for less than 1/2 the price. The Kassandra Ref II beat the DAVE and C1 easily to my ears.

The Yggdrasil so low, oh my, it has legendary status over on head-fi. Not heard it mind so can't say. Spring DAC is good for the money.

The La Scala, not so sure, my buddy had it and sold it to buy back my old Audio Note DAC 5, told me it was not as good at all.

The MSB Select, maybe, but I heard the Reference and it was not to my liking at all. Though as has bern said it was at Munich show with some speakers many didn't seem to like. Bad choice for MSB then.

Trinity, you still rate that as high? It seems to have gone off the threads a bit over the last 2 years. Not that that means anything in the 'new box a month' world of DACs.

I personally am done, the Kassandra sounds so right to my ears. Finally 30 years of semi hating what digital does and......
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
11,082
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#55
Great ranking and thanks for taking the time!
 

Blue58

Well-Known Member
Jan 20, 2013
539
219
130
London, UK
#56
Hello Esotar,
Can you remind us all of the source used at the dealers and if all were tested with the same tracks and sample rate.
It would be mind boggling to try each Dac at their optimum setting and rank them accordingly.
Well done however and I hope you enjoyed the task.
Cheers
Blue58
 
Nov 19, 2015
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171
130
Hutto TX
ibelieveinhifi.com
#57
Thanks for sharing your list Esotar. Hope to see a Korean distribution added for Aries Cerat one day
 

Esotar

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Mar 28, 2016
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#58

Esotar

VIP/Donor
Mar 28, 2016
288
154
163
South Korea
www.digitusupremo.com
#59
Hello Esotar,
Can you remind us all of the source used at the dealers and if all were tested with the same tracks and sample rate.
It would be mind boggling to try each Dac at their optimum setting and rank them accordingly.
Well done however and I hope you enjoyed the task.
Cheers
Blue58
The comparison tests are always proceeded by same track and sample rate. (wave files)

But I didn't have DSD comparison tests, only PCM.

^^
 
#60
Hello Esotar,
Can you remind us all of the source used at the dealers and if all were tested with the same tracks and sample rate.
It would be mind boggling to try each Dac at their optimum setting and rank them accordingly.
Well done however and I hope you enjoyed the task.
Cheers
Blue58
Indeed, and i doubt it was that controlled. This hobby is a puzzle, and we rely on many posts from various members who have their own personal demo's. But as I admit in my own journey, that is difficult to do on anything like this level of control. To me it is more rungs up a ladder, finding a DAC that beats the one 'in the house'. Then keep going. I follow head-fi forum as well, and there is a wealth of sub 5K DACs fighting it out for the top spot. Each one has an enthusiastic owner banging on about how great it is. Any who generally get very upset to suggest otherwise.

For me, I read a posts on here with more weight, as there is basically more budgets in 2 channel (on the whole) so more experience with DACs in the 10K plus bracket. And in many cases, PMs with an owner can be very informative. Some may hold back in public posts maybe?

This subject is big, we can talk all day about it.

IMO bear in mind system synergy. Ignoring the fantasy of flat frequency response and wire with gain arguments, a DAC that comes out in any given system as the best may not fit as well in another. And this is a big deal. The DAC on it's own is part of the whole image..... it can contribute in the right system, or be 'lost' in another. My view obviously and YMMV.
 

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