Crane Song Solaris DAC Review - Stream of Consciousness

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by purr1n, Nov 2, 2018.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Other impressions:

    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/sbaf-dac-talk-ii.6964/page-27#post-245633

    Please refer to this thread for some background information: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...c-convert-2-dac-stream-of-consciousness.7000/

    This is the second DAC in the series of DACs that will be compared against each other.

    Other links:

    Speaker setup:
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...ream-of-consciousness.7000/page-2#post-230216
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...ream-of-consciousness.7000/page-5#post-230902

    I'm going to start with headphones and computer audio first. Going to rotate among Elex, HD800, and Verite headphones. Will use the ECAF. I haven't grabbed the Verite yet, but I think it will be a good match for this DAC. The microdynamic and microdetail presentation of the Crane Song Solaris DAC is very similar to that of the Schiit DACs. Microdetail or retrieval of low-level information appears to match that of the Gungnir Multibit A2. I recall in the DM Convert-2 thread that "someone" said the CS Solaris had sweet mids. I'm not exactly sure what that means because I felt the Convert-2 had sweet mids! Namely because of the Convert-2's purity of timbre - sounds rendered so clearly and in such a zippy fashion. If anything, maybe the CS Solaris has sweet upper mids? Heh. So the Holo DAC has sweet lower treble, the DM Convert-2 has sweet mids, and the CS Solaris has sweet upper mids. Or maybe the Yggdrasil A2 has sweet mids too?

    The tonal balance of the CS Solaris is on the brighter side. It's not lean in the bass. It's mostly flat, but with an upward tip in the highs. Yggdrasil A2 and Convert-2 are very similar, flat down from the highs, but with a shelf up in the lows. Gungnir Multibit A2 to me sounds the most flat from the lows to the highs. I think there's an AKM 4490 chip in the CS Solaris? It would explain the resolution. Perhaps the funky upsampling to 211kHz (supposedly to max out the AKM chip) and the custom filter help it resolve and stage so well. The headstage seems fantastic so far. Pinpoint imaging, deep stage placement in front of my eyeballs (wow, on headphones!), stable images. This AKM4490 implementation actually reminds me more of the AKM4393 implementations I've heard. Sweet upper mids, but dry in the lows. THe AKM4396 and 99 were the ones that grew balls but lost some of that sweet magic. The Yggdrasil A2 / DM Convert-2, Gungnir A2 are all richer in the lows to the mids, in that order from most rich to least.

    I'm going to give this a few days to burn-in or warm-up or whatever, or I might try different headphones. The upward tilt in the highs is not a good match with the Elex. I'm already starting to get fatigue. Not that with the prior three DACs, I didn't get this effect with the Elex. One concerning issue is the sort of "lazy" transients and macrodynamics. I can agree that perhaps the Convert-2 is enhanced (which is not a bad thing in my book), but the Solaris while doing fine with smaller volume swings and transients, sort of gives up when asked to do more (reminds me of my kids when I challenge them on uphill sprints). I think the ultimate test will be on the speakers with the use of the CD transport. BTW, the Eitr does a better job than USB. USB is just slightly hazier with more smothered micro and macrodynamics. The Solaris is the least veiled and clearest sounding of all the DACs mentioned here, although there is shade of gray to the sound canvas, if that makes any sense.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2019
  2. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    Please do evaluate the headphone amp, too.
    This would be a perfect DAC for home, as it can be the source for my computer monitors and headphone rig.
    The Convert-2 would be for work. I wish it had 2 sets of outputs...
     
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    The built headphone amp is actually very good. Resolving with depth. A good tonal match for the DAC. Compared to the ECAF, the headamp gives the sound some warmth, mids are less dry, and there better integration between the highs and mids as opposed to the highs sticking out.
     
  4. jowls

    jowls Never shitposts (please) - Friend

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    I get what you mean here. It reminds me of those visual representations of dynamic range in camera reviews, with steps from black to white.

    [​IMG]

    Solaris delineates fine graduations really well, with a lot of ‘steps’, but it’s almost as if it doesn’t quite swing as far in either direction compared to other big boy DACs.
     
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I dunno. I'm getting concerned about the easygoing sound. Not my preference. I've been tweaking foobar and audio settings. Every time I think I've made progress, I realize that I'm either plugged into Convert-2 or Gungnir Multibit A2. If I wanted this kind of sound, I would have just gotten Modi 3 and settled for less resolution and less precise stage for $1800 less.
     
  6. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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    Use Y-Splitters like I do. Plenty of voltage to split without any issues for me.
     
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I'll let this thing bake overnight and see what happens. These things are supposed to be left on for long periods of time.
     
  8. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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    What's the third DAC in the comparison? Burl?
     
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Trying to locate a Forrssell. Likely more immune to hype. The MADA / MDACs have been around a while and gone through a few upgrades.
     
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  10. taisserroots

    taisserroots Friend

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    Try the fixed output 2 or something with a 2 on it.
    I know Dave (crane song one) has recommended it in the past, although I'm not sure why.
     
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  11. Baten

    Baten Almost "Made"

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    Really just wondering, but can you describe why the sound is so easygoing? At the start you also described this DAC as fatiguing so that's why I'm asking :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018
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  12. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    I believe both are covered here:
    Tipped up treble (fatiguing), but sluggish transients (lazy sounding, aka "easy going").
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018
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  13. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    So it begins:

    download.jpg

    LOL, every time I think the CS Solaris "isn't that bad" (in terms of bite, attack, dynamics)*, I realize that one of the other DACs is playing. Easy to get confused which is the DAC being used in a showdown like this. BTW, using pot bypass on Convert-2 and fixed outs on Solaris. Both are set to +18dBu on ouptuts. Marked on the volume knob to adjust for Gungnir Multibit's lower output.

    *We are even talking about little things, like finger snaps, the occasional off-beat hits on the snares and metal percussion, etc.
     
  14. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    CS Solaris soundstage is fantastic. We are in row 20-25. The stage is deep. Great front to back layering of instruments on the stage. Imaging is stable, not just a little bit behind Gungnir in terms of localization precision. Overall, the CS Solaris wins in terms on soundstage, quite easily I must say.

    I dislike the Convert-2 soundstage, it's too different compared to most other DACs. Too U-shaped with the sides coming in to closer than the center and what seems to be an excess separation from center of instruments placed off-center. I also dislike the Convert-2 headstage. I dislike wide wraparound headstages and stage sizes that lack depth. Being a mostly a speaker listener, I much prefer a headstage width appropriate to the depth. The Convert-2 is simply too wide and" wrap-around" despite its decent moderately deep stage placement. Fortunately none of these are a show-breaker. Soundstage and especially headstage are last priority for me, and in any case, I could stick in a DEQ2496 processor (AES in, AES out) to reduce the stereo width of the Convert-2. Computer audiophilescan also do this in their software players.
     
  15. Lyer25

    Lyer25 Too sensitive for SBAF

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    Pardon the aside, I notice that I've never really gotten this on headphones, and thought it was just my being weird until I read some lit corroborating how placement is almost always higher than eye level on headphones (which was a relief). Any other DACs in memory that manage this as well? If not, then this might be a standout for the Solaris.
     
  16. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Audio-GD Master 7 (mine was tricked with with i2s, Off-Ramp 5, etc.) had one of the deeper placed stages I've heard. Unfortunately, the images are on pasted on a plane as flat as a supermodel's chest.

    EAR DACute (or whatever) and SFD-1 have amazingly deeply placed stages. The downside is they are kind of diffuse, and instrument depth and to a lesser extent width localization, is kind of "faked" with the toobelery and maybe capacitorelery.
     
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  17. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    This is getting harder than I expected. I am probably tired from listening fatigue (Verite, Nips, x5 DACs, CF Solaris IEM, etc.)

    Made a few adjustments:
    1. Using AES in on CS Solaris instead of SPDIF - seems to have better dynamics, possibly placebo.
    2. Going REFERENCE VOLUME LEVELS. 100db at peaks. Cleanly too. 15" woofers for the win. The SPL meter hit higher than that, but my phone was too slow.
    IMG_20181103_124627.jpg
    IMG_20181103_123401.jpg

    The CS Solaris does not seem so limp dick as before. The soundstage is to die for! The big drum hits have just as much impact and heft as the other two DACs (Gungnir Multibit A2 and DM Convert-2). After repeated comparisons, I can confidently say that the brass doesn't have quite the same bite as the other two, but it's not that far off. Not quite there, but hardly easygoing or lazy. Tipped up highs work well most with naturally mic'd classical recordings such as this; but even then, I feel they are a tad too much, or perhaps their rendering is a bit off. (With pop recordings, I almost want to rip out my super-tweeters, but we'll get to that later). The Solaris' resolving capabilities compliment this recording well, rendering all instrument textures and overtones; however the Gungnir MB A2 does it better in a less dry, less grainy, less stat icky way. It was the CS Solaris that made me say the Convert-2 actually sounds just a tiny bit veiled. Although the sound canvas (the background, the blank sheet of which sounds on written on) of the Solaris is very slightly grey. To put things into perspective, it is a shade darker than the Gungnir MB A2, and a shade lighter than Convert-2's blackground. Did I say the soundstage is to die for?

    The Convert-2 has the blackest canvas, but with the slightest of veil in front of the sounds. (The difference is the what is in the back and what is in the front). This is really super nitpicking here. All of it ("blackound" / veil) is very close among the three DACs. (BTW, I am starting to think that the Gungnir MB might be the overall superior DAC to the Yggdrasil depending upon preferences and associated gear, but that is another story). The super blank canvas allows the Convert-2 to render sounds without any extraneous blur, mud, or surface imperfection. The transients have super fast acceleration and the velocity of sounds is insane; this is done without unnatural or strange edges. The Convert-2 keeps one on their toes. Unfortunately with this recording, the Convert-2's ultimate lack of resolution and inability to convey the textures and overtones of the say the violins and the woodwinds, is almost a show stopper. Finally, the soundstage is odd (see post above for my comments on imaging concerning the Convert-2). Let's just say I will pretend I didn't notice - and soundstage isn't a priority of mine anyway. However much I enjoy the qualities of the Convert-2, I would prefer the other two DACs for this particular recording.

    The Gungnir MB A2 might actually hold an edge in resolution over the highly resolving Solaris, but it's not huge. The best part about the Gungnir is how it takes those instruments and overtones heard on the CS Solaris, and makes them sound more normal, less chopped up into tiny pieces, more whole. The Gungnir MB A2 is just a tick more muddied than the other DACs in the lows, but does offer more realistic attacks than the CS Solaris. Convert-2 still wins in transients. The stage is upfront. Not really where I'd like to sit listening at a classical concert, but at least the sides of the stage and location of instruments depth-wise are palpable.

    The best DAC here for this recording is a DAC that combines the soundstage and clarity of the Crane Song Solaris, the resolution and natural overtones of the Schiit Gungnir Multibit A2, and the transients and purity of the Convert-2. HA HA.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018
  18. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    I also find the Gungnir Multibit A2 really great in the highs, and Yggdrasil A2 a bit too tipped up. The GA2 actually doesn’t seem quite as extended as YA2, but I’m ok with that, it’s less fatiguing and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything in terms of timbre or sparkle.

    I love me some soundstage. This DAC is sounding interesting to me, although the highs might not pair well with my ATCs.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018
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  19. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Am I the only one to take Marv's hidden message (throughout this series of dac impressions) as "Hey dudes, you don't need to spend 2k or much. Gungnir Multibit A2 is already awesome and comparable with totl pro dacs, unless you are studio people or sound engineers"
     
  20. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Well, I'm not done yet. From my experience so far, popular music, which I listen to at least 55% of the time, seems to do best from the Convert-2

    If there is one "secret" message, it might be that most people are not going to have the downstream components to take advantage of Yggdrasil's slightly better precision, resolution, and slam. And that Gungnir A2 is less grey, less soft, less muddy than Yggdrasil A2. I do see one good reason to go Yggdrasil A2: it's more organic presentation. I most listeners would prefer that. Tone seems to be the most immediate and important thing to most other people.

    The other message is that no piece of gear does everything right. We need to pick and choose what we can live with and live without. $1000 to $1500 more isn't that much for a piece of gear happens to have special unique qualities to compliment a system that might be $6000 or more.
     
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