Crane Song Solaris DAC Review - Stream of Consciousness

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

  1. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    I request the opportunity to measure / listen to the Solaris before it heads to the UK. 230V is not a problem; have step-up transformers in the lab.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2019
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  2. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    As a matter of taste, I have a JA approved Auralic Vega DAC in the lab. The funds spent on it would have been far better utilized on another Elux 251 mic. Vega to me is like going to a black tie function with starched shirt and shorts to hear an uninspiring rendition of a Mozart concerto by a quartet that doesn’t really ‘get’ Mozart. Convert-2 is more along the lines of attending a small group event performing in a pub where the musical emotion permeates the crowd and the event gets a little rowdy, in a good way.
     
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  3. Rthomas

    Rthomas Friend

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    Hi Marv,

    Thanks for the detailed reply. It's more of a curiosity to listen to what a TOTL Dac can do than any great dissatisfaction with my current system.

    I look forward to your thoughts on the DAC section of the RME ADI2.

    It's too much of a hassle to ship between the US and UK so I'll just borrow one from one of the Pro shops here.

    Thanks!
     
  4. damaged-goods

    damaged-goods Acquaintance

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    @purr1n

    How close is the "slightly bright" signature of the Solaris to the Bifrost Uber? You described the Bifrost as neutral tilting towards slightly lean and slightly bright I think.

    How has the Solaris settled down compared to the Convert 2 and the Gungnir Multibit, do you like it better now than 2 months before?

    I appreciate your reviews, it's realy usefull stuff!
     
  5. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    It's seems to have settled down, but it does remain more obviously airy and analytical (macro detail) than either Convert 2 or Gungnir MB. It works well with dark or rolled headphones/amps.

    If you are talking about early Bifrost multibit or Bifrost DS Uber? LOL, I don't even remember Bifrost Uber, so long ago.
     
  6. damaged-goods

    damaged-goods Acquaintance

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    Bifrost DS Uber, I have one in use right now and it sometimes is too bright and too lean. The Dangerous Source comes pretty close to my taste of neutral.
     
  7. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    I just got the Solaris and can confirm it is on the airy side.
    Not a bad bright, mind you, and certainly not caused by poor digital implementation (read : not harsh).

    This DAC is very technical, borderline “mechanical” in its presentation. You hear every little thing but they don’t really connect to make a whole.
    It’s digital done right (no nastiness) but the presentation isn’t for every one.
    Look elsewhere if you want warmth or a wet/organic sound.

    I bet this is great for music production / monitoring.
     
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  8. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    [​IMG]

    The loaner unit in the house.

    Yeah, agreed with all previous impressions. This is the most perfected akm sound -- also the best sounding "AIO" on the planet. As an ex-owner of rme adi, I'd say this is the most straight step-up from it. Huge departure in every sonic criterion.. enough to justify price delta. Also, this is the first akm 449x dac that I can "comfortably" say to be superior to Modi 3.

    Thinking of myself in one of the parallel universes.
    After rme, what if I sold everything but ether 2 and bought this? That must be one shape of possible End-games. No joke.
    I don't think BW is inferior to Solaris built-in amp. Never. But under this configuration (solaris-bw-ether2 vs solaris-ether2) the latter does several critical things better to my ears -- and of course bw does much more things better lol. Also like discussed, the internal amp addresses some of the inherent fuckeries of this dac so that I can ALMOST forget weaknesses.

    More impressions with details to come...
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2019
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  9. cskippy

    cskippy Creamy warmpoo

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    Sell me on Solaris please.
     
  10. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Your bedroom could be (even more) heaven with S. Also you can bring more headphones there. My bet is any zmf+S sound fantastic.

    PS. But really, I recommend you to join the loaner program even from now.
     
  11. skem

    skem Friend

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    Glad to see more Solaris love. It was my second favorite in the last DAC orgy. Very detailed, subtle, mostly neutral sound. Slightly suppressed dynamics were not, in the end, a problem. Needs a good source.
     
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  12. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Right? Fantastic as an AIO.

    Yes, departure from the Convert-2, X-Sabre Pro, etc. Rounder presentation and tipped up slightly.
     
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  13. Baten

    Baten Almost "Made"

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    I really wonder if something like the Solaris is as good as AKM can sound, or if the AKM next-gen will make a difference. Guess we'll find out the coming year(s)!
     
  14. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Loaner impression

    The sbaf loaner program is giving me a big pleasure for two weeks in a row. Last weekend was spent happily with X-Sabre Pro, and this weekend even more happily with Cranesong Solaris dac. It’s really better than I expected -- once I realized how to rock it with headphones.

    Associated gears
    • MrSpeakers Ether 2 headphones
    • Hifiman Arya headphones
    • Tekton Design Lore speakers
    • EC Black Widow headphone amp
    • (Randomly built) JLH integrated amp
    • Gustard DAC-X26 dac
    • Matrix X-SPDIF2 digital-digital converter
    • Radial ISO twins 1:1 transformer
    You can assume my statements came from E2(+Slrs as aio) unless specified.


    Appearance and usability

    My (honest) first impression on solaris’ appearance was “ugly”. Very utilitarian-looking front panel (with three green knobs) combined with suboptimal beauties from other sides easily discouraged me. I thought my x26 ugly. Solaris is uglier. Lol. However, there was no eye-threatening lamps that convert-2 had. To some extent I regret I should have gone to solaris instead of convert-2 for multiple reasons -- usability is one.

    Display is also kinda rough and crude (particularly compared to rme adi or lynx hilo). But it had all information really needed to listeners. Level meters in lcd screen is useful -- but I like convert-2’s level meter way better. Anyway, solaris is very usable with borderline acceptable beauty. If you look for eye-satisfying dacs, you should probably go elsewhere.

    USB was crappy. I’d categorize usb quality nearly with x26 and older schiits (up to gen 2 usb). Avoid usb if possible. My listening was mostly done with spdif fed by x-spdif2. Eitr could be good, too.


    Sound

    Those who went through convert-2 thread might remember that I repeatedly said cv2 was exaggerating dynamics. I couldn’t find any hint of such thing with solaris. Judging from dac-only, solaris is more believable pro dac that can be used in actual music productions. I strongly believe that music makers’ audio gears should NOT be TOO GOOD, because the produced result presumably tend to reflect “inverted” coloration and distortion. With this belief, I am worrying that any productions from convert-2 might be a bit compressed and less involving. Anyway, solaris (dac-only) sounds very honest in dynamics. Downside is that using it purely for audiophiling purpose, I think solaris is the most uninvolving among recent quality dacs I tested (convert-2, yggdrasil a2, x26, x-sabre pro).

    The problem of a little lacking energy is aggregated with transient character -- in short, under-damped-ish. This seems more like entire akm 449x’s problem (although 4493 -- and presumably 4495/4497 -- addressed this problem to some extent). Modi 3, ADI-2, and Solaris all have weaknesses in reproducing accurate attacks, compared to schiit multibits or well-implemented es9038 pro dacs. I’d emphasize solaris is way better in addressing this problem than other two mentioned products. But sadly it’s just still there.

    Tonality of solaris was a little tipped up at top octaves. Guessing this is an intentional tune. This tonality compensates uninvolvingness quite well. Also I believe this frequency character will probably be useful in checking small errors and potential harshness in music productions. Anyway the sum of these three characters make solaris’ weakness (as a listening dac) very ignorable. Also, it didn’t bother me much when used via speakers.

    Sound stage is fantastic. Even slightly better than (already superb) x-sabre pro. Layering, placements, and virtual distance are all top notch. And this greatness reduced a bit when used via headphones. Still better than any other dacs that I’ve heard. Maybe I need to check yggdrasil a2 again -- probably music will be the determining factor of preference between solaris and ygg2. If you prioritize holographic and immersive experience very highly in the audio reproductions, solaris SHOULD be in your short list imho. By comparison, X26 renders stages less deeper, and I am sitting much closer to virtual instruments, let alone X26’s artificiality.

    Timbre, micro-dynamics, and plankton are all very good. Good enough to safely categorize into top tier. Honestly, I don’t think dacs I recently like do not differ much in these criteria.

    And like I posted before, as aio, I can safely say that solaris is the best sounding aio on the planet. No doubt.

    I’ve always mildly disliked built in amps. They were at best listenable or tolerable. Sometimes they can’t contest even against budget/value amps like magni 3. Note that I am saying the same thing for all chord’s aios including dave, too.

    Solaris is the first exception that makes me to believe 1+1 can exceed 2. Built-in head amp was tuned very seriously -- to the extent that the major problem I described above is faked as non-issue. I had to double check whether I connected headphones to the right place. Lol. Anyway as an aio, solaris sounds “righter” in terms of transience and timing. I have no idea what the fucking magic worked inside the box. But I couldn’t poo poo any more. Also it goes well with both E2 and Arya. For arya’s fr character (peak at 10k), it’s a bit surprising. Note that solaris aio’s sound is far from being dull or dark.

    Compared to solaris+bw, solaris aio has more energetic and edgier in good ways. Also it could resolve microdynamics a bit better (difference is not large though) to my ears. Bass texture was slightly better nuanced. Less shady and veiled, too. BW still wins in cohesive and organic sounding as well as EC magics. But if I am a solaris owner, I will totally lose all motivation to buy expensive amps because using external amp would let me not only lose money but also give up great synergy between dac and builtin amp. This is why I thought this is one possible shape of end game in this hobby -- at least for me.

    Switching between solaris aio and my reference upstream chain (x26+bw) was interesting. The main difference is blacker background and warmth/meat with x26+bw. By comparison, solaris sounds a bit thinner and cooler. Rickie lee jones’s first debut album have been my reference testing tracks these days. And they (particularly the first track “Check E’s in love”) clearly point out how these two combinations may differ. With my reference system, I can be connected to her vocals more deeply. Deep and seductive tones along with lots of plankton were heard with good sense of proximity. It’s like I am standing as a serious fan in the live theater where she actually sings. With solaris, the tracks sound more objective and refined, as if I am sitting as a primary judge in America’s Got Talent. Hope this can give you some idea.

    Thanks for the loaner opportunity!
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2019 at 2:15 AM
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  15. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Just adding product dimension and weight from my measurements -- I have zero idea why companies like Crane song or Dangerous music did not specify such a basic physical info on their web as well as on the manual.

    -----

    Crane Song Solaris Dac

    Product dimension (WxHxD; inches) : 17 x 1.8 x 9 (real body), Front panel width = 19
    Weight (lbs) : 7.6
     
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  16. Dzerh

    Dzerh Friend

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    my guess would be that it may be because these DACs are rack-mounted, so "size 1U" says everything typical buyer needs to know.
     
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  17. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    I know a mastering engineer who is selling one of these at a good price (the guy pretty much only sells locally and hates online markets). If anyone's interested, let me know and I'll be the middleman. Condition is like new; he rotates through new gear faster than HFM releases new headphones. Shipping is from Canada, so keep that in mind.
     
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