It will be an interesting compare for you, no doubt. Please post your thoughts afterwards. Quite a teaser, that distributor!
I've spent a few days listening and here are thoughts:
It is quite outstanding! Superlative even. The most remarkable improvement I've ever heard one piece of the chain provide. I had thought that in the context of a relatively modest system (the Horizon's price is close to 50% of the total value of the system), the Horizon's virtues would be hindered by the other components and the investment would thus be significant overkill to be given any serious consideration for actual purchase. But it doesn’t feel remotely like that; it feels like, funds permitting, its inclusion would be an easy decision. I’d even go as far as to say that its virtues are such that it benefits more modest systems, and certainly smaller rooms, more than perhaps it does higher end and bigger roomed installations. I base this on my experience in my small room/modest system, compared to the improvement it made to my friend HeiHei’s considerably larger and more costly system. But that could just be because I’m closer to my system than to his.
The most incredulous improvements come in two areas. First is bass response, which is extraordinary. For perspective, at the same time as having the DAC, I also have a pair of Concert Fidelity CF 120 solid state mono bloc amps on demo. These are £20k amps with 120 watts of class AB output, but heavily biassed towards Class A. Playing into my 95db Horns FP10s, they sound like they are operating in pure class A but compared to my 20w SETs, they clearly show their powerful underpinnings with a bass response that is not like anything I’ve heard from these speakers before. These amps give bass slam and drive.
And that is exactly what the Horizon does, BUT, it does that through the 20w SET amps. It’s like someone just connected a kilowatt of solid state power to the bass units but this is coming from the DAC, not from the amps! It’s quite a remarkable thing to hear and provides fascinating insight into other ways you can achieve a wonderfully full sonic response from an otherwise low powered/highly efficient speaker combination. The FP10s are only rated down to 50Hz +/- 6bd, but in a small room, the room plays a part. Obviously I’m not talking bowel moving levels of bass here, but then these speakers are still just stand mounts (albeit fairly large ones with a 10” driver).
The second incredulous improvement is to the sound stage. The SETs (as compared with the solid state CFs) already do the ‘sound stage into the adjacent properties’ thing pretty well. But the Horizon takes the sound stage into the next bloody county; the walls of the room simply fall away and you’re enveloped in this vast, glorious and liquidly transcendent soundstage. It’s utterly incredible; both width and depth are exploded like a cosmically inflating bubble. Truly wondrous stuff.
Of course, the raft of improvements goes beyond this - clarity, timbre and resolution are all improved by a significant margin. You hear this most notably in the way it resolves fast, complex musical passages. Where the GG struggles to separate the leading edge of notes played close to each other and in rapid succession, the Horizon resolves them and creates huge spaces between these notes whilst also maintaining perfect timing. It’s quite a paradox to hear notes played so fast and yet with so much separation that it feels like each notes hangs in its own temporal time warp. The best example of this is the lyrical moment in ‘A Night in Tunisia’ where Charlie Parker somehow managers to squeeze enough notes for a two hour opera into the space of less than a few seconds. It’s also redolent in ‘Holy Devil’, Sophie Solomon’s opening track on the brilliant album ‘Poison Sweet Maderia’.
It was listening to that album in particular that also highlighted the way music decays with this DAC is another key strength; the notes melt away like fine wine washing over your palette like a refreshing spring, or how the taste of a rich French roast coffee lingers after its coated the inside of your mouth with velvety goodness.
There are so many ways that this DAC brings goodness to a system that it’s hard to know where to place the biggest emphasis, although in my room and system, it really is the soundstage and the bass response that standout. One other variable to consider. The volume control on the DAC is good enough, when compared against my Concert Fidelity CF080 and also HeiHei’s Audionet Stern preamps (which retail for around £18k and £25k respectively), to easily make them redundant. If you’re building for the first time, or simply want to net off the cost of the DAC (which, let’s face it, is preposterous for most people), then the economic options start to look a little less otherworldly.