DAP talk (formerly best DAPs 2015)

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by zerodeefex, Oct 8, 2015.

  1. limesoft

    limesoft Facebook Friend

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    I though I'd revisit my ZX2 as it's been a bit sad on it's own. Turn it on, wait till startup is over, open settings > apps > kill and disable sound adjustments. Plug in Andromeda's -

    So - I'm gonna just step back a bit here, the ZX507 and the Fiio M11 Pro just don't get that lightning in a bottle synergy with Andro. if you want the ultimate (portable) sound it's still ZX2 + Andros.

    Killing sound adjustments unleashes the ZX2 to make sweet love to the Andros - the upper mids come forward a bit, the treble gets a touch subdued - i.e. it slots in the frequency dips and peaks like a lego set.. what you get now is superbly balanced Andro (with comply still a touch warmish), with a wide soundstage, less muddy mids, and explosive transients. I do find the ZX2 now is married to the Andro, my other IEMs don't gel so nicely - they sound better on my ZX507.

    Funny that; after spending so much time chasing the next best thing I'm back to where I started in a way
     
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    Last edited: Sep 24, 2020
  2. jafnvaegi

    jafnvaegi Friend

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    Story of my life haha. I hope to hear (or obtain) this combo one day, just never seemed to encounter both at the same time.
     
  3. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    Well, I let go of the M15 a while ago and got myself an A&Ultima SP1000. I just couldn't get past the interface.

    But if you're wondering how it compares against the M11 Pro, it's... markedly different. It's still a calmer and warmer sounding DAP overall than the M11 Pro.
     
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  4. Ash1412

    Ash1412 Friend

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    Have you tried 4.4mm Andro cables? The modern Sony DAPs are a decent amount better balanced, to the point where the designers say that you should really be using them balanced.
     
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  5. theveterans

    theveterans Acquaintance

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    Just want to add that AK probably tuned their Ultima DAP lineup as a shy warmer than neutral from my demo with both SP1000 & SP2000 though I can't compare their sound signature against Sony's 1Z and 1A as I haven't had a chance to do an extensive A/B with both. During my A/B with SP2000 and SP1000 with Andromeda in 3.5mm unbalanced that I prefer the better bass presence of the SP2000 without compromising attack/transients that are present with the SP1000.

    Pretty interesting that Sony's 4.4 out is that much better. I can't say the same with AK DAPs at least their flagship lineup. AK A&Ultima DAPs (both SP1000 and SP2000) when paired with Andromeda seem to sound more engaging in unabalanced to me. With AK SP2000, 2.5mm balanced made Andromeda have a "hole" in the soundstage/layering and the instruments seem distant sounding. Through 3.5mm, imaging is much more focused and soundstage feels like you sit closer to the front row while keeping the width a little less than balanced. Attacks and transients seem more explosive as well thus more engaging than balanced overall. Could also be that the 1.5 ohm OI from the unbalanced is a good sweet spot with the Andro.
     
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  6. limesoft

    limesoft Facebook Friend

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    I find with the Andros it's 70% about getting the OI right, and 30% for all other perks (including balanced). I've tried balanced out of 2 OI source (ZX507) but my cable (a FIio silver plated one) has very low OI, so that combination still gave overly warm sound.. It sounds much better with the standard Litz cable out of it's 3.5mm. ZX507's 3.5mm output is actually quite good this time.
     
  7. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    Yeah, if anyone was interested... I actually tried a lot of DAPs with Andromeda and Solaris and UE18+... here are my notes at the time:

    1. Andromeda really just likes to be mated with ZX2. It sounds the airiest with ZX2. It's the most dull/boring with SP1000, followed by WM1Z and then WM1A. SP2000 isn't bad but still far behind ZX2 when it comes to Andro.

    2. Solaris really just likes to be with AK120. Same situation as above. Anything that's not AK120 makes bass sound noticeably slower and wobbly to me. Pairing with Campfire IEMs is finicky as hell.

    3. UE18+ doesn't really care what DAP it's on. Sound differences aren't really night and day, and I can happily use anything. SP2000 seems best for this one.

    4. I have a custom e-stat IEM as well. It seems to like the warmer and smoother sound of the SP1000, but I could have also lived with WM1Z just fine.

    I still ended up with SP1000 because it's within my budget at the time, and also... it's got a more easy-going sound than SP2000, which tends to be a little too "happy", if not a slight V-shape. Other things like a decent UI, USB-C charging, the knob, etc... are nice as well. AK120 and ZX2 aren't amazing if I'm using UE18+ or my other IEMs, but they are amazing pairings with Solaris and Andromeda for whatever reason.

    UI-wise, the Astell DAPs are somewhat equivalent to the higher-end WM1Z and WM1A, and it comes down to "taste" mostly, but the AK120 and ZX2 are far behind.

    And I think Fiio M15 is just about slightly ahead of ZX2, but still behind the higher-end DAPs in UI. Sound-wise, it's somewhat a wash with the higher-end DAPs performing somewhat similar to one another but if I'm paying over $1000 for a device, I might as well not get a UI that makes me want to smash it... So the M15 wasn't bad when it came to sound (still not as refined as the top-end DAPs, though), but the overall experience is still not quite there. And that's considering the fact that the SP1000 and WM1A/Z are ancient history by now.
     
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  8. limesoft

    limesoft Facebook Friend

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    Has anyone seen the Cayin N3 Pro or played with one? I have tube + DAP fetish and my GAS is in overdrive at the moment.. https://en.cayin.cn/products_info?itemid=132

    I am a bit cautious with chifi, but I can't say that the Fiio M11 Pro has been a bad experience so far quality wise.
     
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  9. jafnvaegi

    jafnvaegi Friend

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    Yeah this seems up my alley, my only reservation is that they've stated it's 'not serviceable / tube module isn't accessible' without compromising warranty and to replace tubes you have to send it back to them. If this were a nutube like their other DAP that may be alright but with NOS tubes it could be a bit more hit or miss (I've worked with NOS subminiatures before). The pro there is that I know I like amps with these tubes already haha so it may be worth the effort. The reviews I've read while mostly favorable have noted some distortion in one channel for example...but I guess you can always exchange/repair it in that case. Tube life and all. The brand is mostly reputable and I've considered their other DAPs in the past so I wouldn't be too worried about that. I definitely want to try one out eventually though!
     
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  10. limesoft

    limesoft Facebook Friend

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    I will be posting impressions soon. I really hope I don't get the one channel tube issue posting it back for repairs internationally is a pain. It's 3.5mm output is apparently 0.7OI so not sure if it will be enough with the Andros..

    Non serviceable NOS tubes is not necessarily so bad as they have long lifespan, i think tens of thousands of hours - cayin runs them on low power as a tube buffer stage.. the warm glow is actually LEDs behind the tubes :D they don't emit enough light on their own due to low power
     
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  11. jafnvaegi

    jafnvaegi Friend

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    Yup I'd expect LEDs due to that and you're right on the lifespan so hopefully it's not an issue with your example out the box. Definitely looking forward to impressions, are you planning on pairing with anything else other than the Andros for testing?
     
  12. limesoft

    limesoft Facebook Friend

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    I'm testing it with Andros, JVCFDX1, Sony IERM7, Sony MDR7550 and HD650. Gonna let it burn in for a while first... but first impression + new toy syndrome is good. It definitely has the tube sound and on first listen its not overly warm, it has a bite and bounce to it. Most of my IEMs seem to take positively to this tube colouring, especially the dynamic drivers. The HD650 I'm not so sure yet, the amp doesn't have the grunt probably but will keep burning in.

    There are some quirks in the OS like not able to use EQ for files above 48khz
     
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  13. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    Last night, on impulse, and I may regret that, I ordered iBasso DX220, open box deal, free delivery to Canada, almost too good to be true. When I started with DAPs, it was iBasso DX80. I loved the sound it was just so hard to operate and I wanted streaming.
    But last night my Kann Cube repeatedly shut down and I could not restart it, six f..g weeks after the warranty expired, the battery expired as well.
    I depend on a good quality DAP, I wake up in the middle of the night and can go back to sleep after and hour of so of listening but with CA Vega and Kann Cube this is my best critical listening time.
    In the extreme case of nervosa I spent most of the night trouble shutting and then shopping for new DAP. The deal from headphones.com was too good to pass.
    I am interested in comparing the Cube and DX220, maybe DX220 will give me a better shot at CA Ara that, I heard, is hissing a bit with Kann Cube.

    EDIT: A lesson for Kan Cube current or potential owners from my problems: use high quality 9V at least 2A charger , preferably with A&K cable or the battery indicator will not work properly, I found from one of the support Q&A. . I was "charging" it from old battery charger every night and with battery indicator at 70% KC would last like 20 sec. Even connected to my shitty charger. After charging it properly it lasted 7 hours on high gain, with wi-fi on, driving really hard to drive HD560 Ovation at 80%. DX220 is coming but after comparing those two I will probably let one of them go.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2020
  14. limesoft

    limesoft Facebook Friend

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    Initial sound impressions of the Cayin N3 pro after few days burn in (3.5mm only)

    Seems well built and attractive looking, especially with the glowing tubes and green leather case (matches my Andros - very important factor that improves audio quality!).

    The DAC section is not as sophisticated/clean as Fiio M11 Pro or the ZX507 when running SS lineout - it's a bit more congested but it's OK.

    Tube mode triode warms up treble and puts more focus on mids - adds some density and space in the mids. Doesn't really accentuate bass too much just makes it bit more woolly.
    Tube mode ultralinear is like loudness being applied - more bass more treble, sounds wider/larger.. HD650 likes this.

    Generally with tube on, there's bit more romance going on - Fiio M11 Pro and ZX507 sound a bit robotic in comparison, even if they are cleaner - SS technically superior but not as arousing.. n3 Pro doesn't have a boring/soft tube sound I'm glad to say, it's still warmish but can also be aggressive as it adds density in upper mids where there's some bite.

    This upper mids focus actually awakens the Andros as they like some bite there, even will low 0.7 OI, they are lively and can boogie in ultralinear mode, in fact they sound more alive than through the F11 Pro out which has higher OI?! go figure.. not bad at all. Still, + few more OI would have been even better

    3.5mm doesn't really drive HD650 optimally, but with tube it does add a taste of the good stuff, and in ultralinear mode it can awaken it a bit. Not bad. It's not a Woo WA8 however.

    Tubes are not very noisy - overall I can't detect any obvious nasties, a bit of hiss here and there... I guess Cayin knows their tubes.

    All other non audio stuff is fine - haven't found anything obvious to complain about.... apart from EQ not working above 48khz.

    I'd say - if you're an old fart from another era when hifi was analogue only, speakers had massive cones and producers didn't care so much about loudness, then this little DAP can bring bring back some of those memories. Take this with a pinch of salt, new toy syndrome and all.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 2, 2020
  15. jafnvaegi

    jafnvaegi Friend

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    Very intriguing, yeah it definitely sounds like something I'd like to try out. When you get a chance, I'd be interested in your thoughts with the JVC and Sony IEMs too.
     
  16. limesoft

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    It's certainly a unique DAP. It is engaging and makes me forget about analysing sound quality..

    JVC FDX1 + thicker filters - goodish combination: bass might be bit too much but in ultralinear mode it also gets extra treble energy.. To be honest I prefer the JVC through leaner sources because their bass boost.. the N3Pro tube out is not lean, so if you can take the extra bazz warmth you will be awarded with lifelike vivid mids and natural DD tone.

    IERM7 is a very good combination - it's springs to life a bit more and gains some more density in mids which serve it well. Also good bass oomph. In general i find the IERM7 an nicely balanced and v competitive IEM, they just have one smallish peak at 12khz that I need to eq sometimes - so I recommend tip rolling or bit of eq (I use tips with filters that shelve the treble a touch), and thanks to tube triode mode the treble is a bit softer which suits it well. IERM7 pairs extremely well with ZX507, I'd say that n3pro pairing is also in a similar ballpark. It's my goto combination at the moment.
     
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  17. Tchoupitoulas

    Tchoupitoulas Friend

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    Many, many thanks to @limesoft for your great recommendations a couple of weeks ago - I thought you might like to hear that your advice wasn’t in vain, I picked up a ZX2 to go with my Andromeda 2020 and am delighted with it. Thanks to @Bill-P and @purr1n, among others, for also recommending the pairing.

    To add something of substance: my initial reluctance to buy a ZX2 had to do with its battery, given its age; I wanted something that could get me through 10-12 hours between charges. From reading around the forums after receiving limesoft’s reply, ZX2 owners seem to be pleased with the longevity of their batteries. For anyone similarly concerned about this, I’m happy to report that mine performs nicely: the battery went from 85% to just 75% after four hours of playing only local files continuously, not using wifi (and with minimal screen use), which is how I intend to use the DAP. My experience is in line with the previous owner, who had been kind enough to test the battery for me before selling it and found that, in five hours of playback, the battery went from 100% only down to 85%. These are pretty impressive figures for a five-year-old DAP.

    Originally, I’d wanted to invest in a DAP that would have a decent lifespan and could serve me well for a decade, given the current prices of AK’s new, entry-level DAPs and Sony’s subsequent models. Second-hand prices for the ZX2, though, are now low enough to make the risk worth taking, at least for me. If I can keep mine going for 5 years, I’ll be coming out on top, especially given the ZX2's great sound quality. It’s early days but I’ll just say that I’ve upgraded from an AK Jr. and am thrilled to find that the ZX2 not only fixes the things I disliked about the AK Jr with the Andro 2020 - it had been a bit too warm, rolled-off, and soft, lacking slam and macrodynamics - but the Sony also brings out so much more of the Andro’s speed and resolution. Thanks again everyone.

    I also looked into the possibility of getting Sony to replace the battery. Alas, the Sony store here in NYC has shuttered. But Sony’s website for out of warranty repair support (see here) directs customers to United Radio Customer Electronics, based in East Syracuse, NY.
     
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  18. jafnvaegi

    jafnvaegi Friend

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    Yes, kudos to @limesoft for the recent insights. I'm not actively in the market for a DAP but will likely pick up something in the coming months and the initial reviews and this description of how the N3 Pro performs has it at the top of my list currently. I appreciate the additional perspective on the FD_1 since that is what I primarily use, plus with the IER-M7 as I'm looking to acquire a pair of those around that time as well.

    One of these days I'll try the legendary Andro + ZX2 combo...the used market prices are very tempting for both of them!

    Good info, noted! That could be one worry with a secondhand Sony DAP.
     
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  19. limesoft

    limesoft Facebook Friend

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    Further to my DAP investigations.. I've discovered that bluetooth audio from ZX507 to my WF1000XM3 sounds fantastic!

    Normally I don' rate the wf1000xm3 very highly as I find them a bit dirty/digital sounding from my iPhone, but there you go - from the ZX507 it's really nice, clean and relaxed sounding (which I typically attribute to a good clean digital stream).. also latest fw on the sony dap allows for the global eq to be applied for bluetooth, so I can tame the slight high treble peak on these buds = rather smooth/neutral sounding, similar to my IERM7?! even if not so technical, but they sound correct which I can't really say for 90% of IEMs (wired or wireless) at 5 times the cost.

    Not sure if the DAP is doing some additional eq for these buds in the background to make them more neutral, or if it's just very clean/decrapified bluetooth stream (probably this as also airpods pro sound "improved")..

    I can't believe it but the difference is rather stark vs my iPhone - like 30% better or something along those lines, and both are using AAC code. I never thought bluetooth audio can show such differences.

    I haven't really tested my other DAP's bluetooth, I'm a lazy fart at the moment.
     
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  20. limesoft

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    You did good to get this classic combination. Ensure you kill the audio dsp processas soon as you start the DAP - just follow the instructions earlier on this thread.. you got to do it right to get that synergy with Andros (lowers treble peak, brings up upper mids).

    Sony batteries are the best I've used . My PSP GO still has about 80% charge after almost 6 years of use.. My ZX2 can last for weeks after 4 years of hammering. It's their secret dark proton molecule technology, learned through ancient scriptures from another planet.
     
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