Crane Song Solaris DAC Review - Stream of Consciousness

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

  1. sidq

    sidq Rando

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    The crane song unit is actually really well priced in Australia compared to the other options and with a good headamp to boot. Im not really in the market right now but if you find yourself with some more time Marv would you mind doing a little bit more of a review on the integrated headamp side of things vs. using a standalone?
     
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I don't think I will do a comprehensive review of the headamp; but as I indicated, the headamp seems extremely synergistic with the sound of the DAC. I can with good certainty say that the headamp is probably better than most of the garbage amps out. Basically 90% of the shit talked up on HF. The headamp doesn't sound like an add-one. It seems like the designer (who likely had downstream components that worked well with the DAC) was serious about it.

    People are going to get better results from the built-in headamp than plugging in a Taurus, CMA800, or almost anything recently talked up on Headphoneya.com, headphones.com, etc.

    If I had to describe the headamp, it's like a warmer more full-bodied (need for synergy with DAC), just slightly almost imperceptibly less clear, but deeper staging version of the Magni 3.

    Headstage bitches should strongly consider the CS Solaris as an AIO if a good price can be obtained.

    P.S. The headphone volume stepper starts at -49db. I'm between -30db to -20db on modded HD800s. Figured I should leave this information here because the attenuation might be digital. Don't want too many lost bits. Modded HD800s sound great.

    Also I get the feeling the CS Solaris needs to be kept on for at least a few days. I can see / hear where the sound is going.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018
  3. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Non Voting Friend

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    The other thing is getting something that works for you that you can live with. I can’t see myself living with any of the AK4490 based stuff based on what I’ve tried (Schiit ones, Grace, RME, Teac, Tascam, Audiofuse) and the impressions of the Crane Song. The RME was the most normal one yet still veiled and too polite.

    The veil became aggravating as hell after owning the Grace m900 for a couple months. it impressed me a ton compared to the horrific ZDS and Bifrosts and my previous mediocre headphone setups, reminding me sort of Apogee’s sound sig but not as good as old Apogee. When the WOW factor wore off and I could hear the “sound” of it (fat bass, warm, overly wide, veiled, and compressed punch and treble attack that gave a false sense of detail and clarity to the sound), I was tweaking endlessly. That meant it had to go.

    Gear is like girls. Some are attractive and initially tolerable but after a while become insufferable. Then they must be shown the door.
     
  4. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Friend

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    Ever try running the headphones directly off the XLR of the Yggdrasil & Gungnir?
    I tried it with a few DACs & it worked fine. Volume is usually loud enough, depending on the DAC & the sensitivity of the headphones. I control the volume via foobar.

    I have an adapter, if you want to test it out.
     
  5. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Next up. Blind tests with @julie. Level matched. Levels might have been off a +/-0.2db since that's about my the limits of my ability to line up volume knobs and marked spots. As an aside, telling DACs apart is MUCH EASIER when volume matched.

    Using this classic audiophile test CD that goes back to the 90s.
    IMG_20181103_143729 (1).jpg

    @julie's succinct comments:

    DAC C: Gets on my nerves
    DAC D: Deeper tone, I like this
    DAC E: More seductive - I can hear the reverb on microphone

    DAC E and DAC D are close. I like DAC E best.
     
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  6. jowls

    jowls Never shitposts (please) - Friend

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    Solaris makes most sense in the context of its intended purpose; as a mastering DAC with headphone output and monitor control. As an AIO. In Australia, it costs around the same as a Gungnir Multibit. Much less is you are prepared to buy second hand and clean the beer and pubic hair off the PCB.

    The sum really is greater than the parts. Dave Hill has taken 4490 further than I presumed it could go. Nothing seems hyped, resolution and transparency are great (not hearing much/any ‘veil’), moderate amount of plankton, staging is spherical with great depth and layering, timbre of instruments is well rendered. The headamp doesn’t suck (in fact, I find it to be quite good with HD6x0) and the variable monitor output doesn’t seem to throw much away (at least on my current modest monitors).

    Downsides; it doesn’t slam as hard as some other DACs and doesn’t render ‘the room’ as well as the big Schiit Multibits.
     
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    No thanks. 75 ohms out per leg. That 150 ohms from balanced ohms output Z. Limited current into headphones and bit decimation from software. I'm not into the sound of distortion, slurry transients, and reduced bitdepth, even though it might sound pleasurable.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018
  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Agreed. I do feel the presentation is a bit on the strong side in respect to "macro" detail; in other words, it sounds more like an analytical mixing / mastering DAC rather than listening DAC. Probably why it got on Julie's nerves.
     
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  9. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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    Guessing:
    DAC C: Solaris
    DAC D: Convert 2
    DAC E: Gungnir Multibit A2
     
  10. jowls

    jowls Never shitposts (please) - Friend

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    I haven’t heard Convert, but I’m guessing E is Gungnir. The Schiit DACs just do spatial nuance and room effects far better than any other DACs I have heard.
     
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  11. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    What... what are you guys doing with your dacs down under in the land of down under??
     
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  12. murray

    murray Friend

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    “Down under”, LOL, I see what you did there.
     
  13. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Correct. The big problem with E is maximizing its performance in regards to unbalanced consumer gear. As mentioned earlier, the unbalanced outputs of E decreases performance in all sonic attributes across the board. The readily available 4:1 iso-boxes only offer different rather than better. There is also no need to step-down voltage from E's balanced outputs. The best sounding approach, the 1:1 transformer solution, requires a little bit of DIY.

    I'm curious if XLR to RCA converter cables can be used with the 1:1 XLR to XLR isobox that @atomicbob recently tested. In theory, they should. But the application guide for the Jensen parts say that another wire or two from the actual transformer part should be grounded to signal ground. This won't be done with simple XLR to RCA cable. It needs to be done via rewiring inside the box.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018
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  14. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    Almost the same here in S.A.. Convert-2 is R50k odd, Solaris is R35k odd. But bringing in a Gungnir MB would run about R25k. Yggdrasil A2 R45k. Gungnir MB is looking like the value king, barring local support not being available.
     
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  15. Rthomas

    Rthomas Friend

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    @purr1n

    Hey Marv, I'm wondering what would be the best bang for buck upgrade to my current rig based on the two pro dacs that you've heard over the last 3 months.

    I've never owned an SBAF approved TOTL Dac and I want to hear what the fuss is about without spending 5K....

    Current rig

    Tidal Desktop> USB> RME ADI 2 DAC>THX789> HD800S Equalized to Harman Target (my only headphone)

    Option 1: Sell RME and 789 and get the Solaris to use as an AIO
    Option 2: Sell RME and get the Convert 2

    In the UK the Convert 2 is $1120 more than the Solaris and based on your comments I'm not sure if it is worth it.

    I care about the last 2 or 3 percent but don't care about the last 0.5% if you know what I mean :)

    Thanks!
     
  16. taisserroots

    taisserroots Friend

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    This bang for the buck mentality is kind of weird, figure out the sound you like and go for the compromises untill you reach what you want at the end of all of it.
    Your taste will mature as you use certain gear and you realise that some characteristics are just something you notice easily but don't care about when it comes to your standard listening.

    Realistically music won't sound the same as a live performance even unmastered because you've got two speakers and then you also have the different mics etc. So it's ultimately about creating a reproduction you enjoy, which makes you engaged with the music.

    Now that's been said, kmr audio stock both the Solaris and convert 2. If you want to try them I would give them a ring and book an appointment mentioning what you want to hear. You could listen to some active speakers and the split phonitor too.

    Sxpro have a try before you buy programme, but that doesn't include those two, you can phone in and ask if you could demo.

    Realistically I wouldn't go and jump the gun based on someone else's opinion online if you don't have a good grasp of their taste and how they describe stuff. I have been following Marv for a good few years and find that i don't have a good grasp on what he describes, but can draw parallels to my own impressions quite frequently.
    It leads to bad habits and a gear acquisition syndrome to keep on top, which basically mrans you waste a lot of money chasing different gear for the sake of it.
    Chill and listen to music, take your time to try a few things out, come back and try it again at your own pace. Remember this is your hobby, not an assignment at work.
    You've got your life to do this.
    Going out with friends, getting on the property ladder, going on holiday and even discovering music or learning how to play it usually comes before an odd obsession with how different systems sound.
     
  17. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    ^^^ This is very wise advice to all.
     
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  18. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    That's a tough call. Seeing that you are serious, had you lived in the states, I would have made it a priority to get this gear to you.

    May I ask you why you want to move up? What would you like improved from your current setup?

    The issue is that the Convert-2 and CS Solaris are almost opposite sounding DACs in presentation: tone, stage, and attack. I should have an RME incoming soon, so I can tell you more about what I hear between the RME and Convert-2. However, before we go any further, I do feel that the THX789 has limits. Here are some thoughts:
    • The contrasty and highly dynamic sound of the Convert-2 might not 100% make it to the headphone using the THX789. I'm also concerned about the higher output levels of the Convert-2 requiring the use of lower gain settings, knowing the THX789 sounds slightly different depending upon the gain.
    • Both the Convert-2 and Crane Song Solaris do an excellent job of conveying microdynamics, the small changes in volume, the high granularity between small ranges of volumes. The THX789 is a bit flat sounding, and won't take advantage of this.
    • I've been listening to the Crane Song Solaris through the AIO and I'm beginning to really like it. I don't know if it's brain burn in or gear burn-in / warm-up; but one guy at another site did mention the Solaris needed a good amount of time to settle in. I find the tonal balance good with the Elex, Verum, modded HD800, etc. From the AIO, the Solaris has more "grunt" than the THX789 fed from almost any DAC. There is a reason why I have been too lazy to ship this out (well, I've been slammed with RL work too) on the loaner.
    • The nature of the Solaris is mellow and relaxed with an extended, maybe even emphasized top octave. Soundstage and headstage are deep with very good imaging precision. Bass is just as deep but not as hefty as the Convert-2.
    • The Convert-2 has a wrap around stage with imaging that pushes stuff to the edges. Again, highly dynamic, but with good nuance. Some of the low-level information does get crushed. More than 0.5%, but less than 5%, so it's in that territory where the decision could be difficult.
    • The CS Solaris USB kind of sucked - to the point that I wouldn't even use it in a pinch. I either relied on a CD transport or Eitr.
    Finally, what @taisserroots said: try it out. This is the good thing about pro gear.

    P.S.

    Another possibility is me shipping the Crane Song to the UK and EU (only a few people in the US have expressed interest in the loaner). The unit is actually 230V.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2019
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  19. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Friend

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    So you're still considering putting the Crane Song & Convert-2 on a loaner tour?
     
  20. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Non Voting Friend

    Slaytanic Cliff Clavin
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    I gotta agree with Taisserroots, Purrin, and atomicbob; you must try this stuff yourself and you will have differences in what you like and put up with. I despise veil, excessive compression and wraparound, Wolfson-like staging. But then I thought the Prism stuff sounded cool and others went WTF? Taste is taste.

    Functionality (it has to actually work in your setup and do what you want it to do) > sound > price for this stuff. None of these boxes are ridiculousy priced like the DCS, MSB, or TotalDACs.

    All of this stuff mostly sounds different than better once you do away with dialed in euphony, get a good treble timbre, and that good enough clock/low jitter decently spacious staging. Buy what you like. Keep in mind that truly high-fidelity, revealing DACs will vary greatly across recordings in treble timbre, treble attack, bass timbre, bass punch, low bass slam, panning, and depth.

    Some things are mixed to be not behind the speaker at all and pop out; pushing them back 25 feet is not accurate. Some stuff sounds like the guitarists are 20 feet behind the upfront vocalist or the guitars are right upfront but the levels are totally off. There is no standard for recordings. You can mic and mix a fat sounding irl full stack guitar amp to sound like a cat scratching a wall, snares to sound like coffee cans, Violins to sound like nails on a chalkboard, etc. Just because something on a recording played through a particular piece of good kit doesn’t sound right at all, doesn’t mean the gear is lowfi; it’s far more likely that the recording isn’t great or the artist and engineers made some questionable production choices.

    Many common audiophile recordings are actually pretty terrible: obvious solid state clipping on drums, excessive tape saturation, ridiculous canned reverb, insipidly performed digidesign pro tools modern classical, overuse of extremely colored compressors (Fairchild or 1176 on everything!), or worse: rototoms! Unlike what Stevehoffman forum and reddit thinks, the dr meter and waveforms or how warm a master is eqed will not tell you the quality of that recording, mix, or master. All of these flaws should be evident on good gear. Try it out yourself with lossless files or CDs you listen to. If you listen to K/J-Pop, anime soundtracks, or iTunes/Spotify/Tidal/Youtube, then there really is zero point in buying any of this for listening purposes.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2019
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