Finding ways to make it work: DNA, Weiss, Musician, ZMF

Discussion in 'General Audio Discussion' started by purr1n, Apr 13, 2024.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    As many of you are aware, I've been emphasizing the importance of system synergy over individual component better-er-ness for some time now. I recently got a ton of stuff in to review. This only confirmed the need for components to play with each well. Of course this doesn't mean bad gear can be made good. But it does mean that gear that doesn't sound all that great in one setup, can sound quite excellent in another with different components.

    These are the pieces that I got in:
    public.jpeg
    The Sonic Frontiers is there as a reference from where I can calibrate from. It's been upgraded by PartsConexxion, and with the Telefunken 6DJ8 types, is tonally neutral. The ET-3 will serve as the CD transport and digital source for all of the DACs. The JAR600 is there as my neutral headphone reference.

    What I figure I will do is discuss a bit about switching things around, tweaks, combinations that worked (or didn't work) before I split off into individual product reviews and measurements. BTW, the DACs have been sitting around for a few days, left on.
     
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    Last edited: Apr 13, 2024
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Weiss DAC204

    I had first dropped in into my bedroom rig that consisted of the Schiit Mjolnir 3 and Yggdrasil MIB DAC (in NOS mode) and the ZMF Atrium closed. I found this arrangement too thick and congested. I know - it's hard to believe for an ESS based DAC, but this is how Weiss has voiced the DAC204. I put the MIB DAC into OS mode and things were slightly better. To be honest, I wasn't impressed. Stuff just sounded congested. However, I thought I heard potential and this is when I decided to line up all the stuff above so I could plug and play to my heart's content to find combinations that would work.

    Lo and behold, the Weiss DAC204 with the JAR600 from the DNA Supernaut (Tube Amp Doctor tubes all around) was really darn good. A little bit of rasp in the highs, but otherwise very expressive. Hardly anything like the sterile clinical (or worse) implementations that we typically get from no-name Chinese manufacturer implementations of ESS. But we already knew this. There's only a handful of ESS Whisperers around, and Weiss is one of them.

    DNA Supernaut

    Dang. With the Tube Amp Doctor rectifier and KT66s (not sure the driver tube), the DNA is a departure from other DNA amps. It's not as wet. It's not warm. It's neutral. But it's still DNA. Hard to explain. Can you read more here: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...audio-supernaut-review-and-impressions.14040/

    I can definitely see the potential with vintage KT66s and a good ability to change the tone rolling the 6CG7. Any advice here from DNA owners would be appreciated.

    Musician Draco R2R DAC

    OS mode is horrible. The headstage is wide but behind my ears in OS (oversampling) mode. And it's flat. Truly, WTF. I don't know why Chinese R2R manufacturers cannot make a decent OS R2R DAC. NOS mode is better and has that NOS dimensionality around the specific instruments in the headstage. Still I am finding the Draco murky in the lows. There's this murky feeling. Slow and boring. A bit of harshness in the highs. It reminds me of the Denafrips Terminator (which I was not impressed by either), but a cut-rate version that has less dynamics. Maybe I need a few more days of warm-up. Maybe I need to try the XLR outputs (I plan on pulling out the Cinemags) because the SE outputs are gimped. I dunno. I haven't found a combination that sounds good yet, but I am not giving up. The price isn't bad at $750. The construction is hefty too.
     
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  3. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Seen the Draco going for cheaper on sale, was $680 about a month ago on Amazon, and from someone else's impressions the SE outs are indeed less fun. Pretty curious what out there is even a fair comparison to it in terms of it being an R-2R design that costs under 1k. This is a bit of a deep cut and I've never actually heard one, but with retrospection and dumb circumstances to temper evaluations, how's this compare to that Massdrop/Airist thing, as far as your recall goes?

    Really does feel like, based off the higher BoM involved in making a discrete ladder design, entry-level stuff and intermediate (IMO) models like the Draco are invariably going to be games of compromise. Thinking of the Cayin RU6 and the really polarising response that got (there's a new RU7 out that some really like, not sure if that's worth consideration given other possible items of interest).
     
  4. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    IIRC Musician is made up of former Denafrips guys and the word is they are just re-shelling Denafrips DACs,probably swapping in some lower quality components where they can, and offering it at lower prices with no after purchase support.
     
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  5. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    @purr1n Marv, did you roll in a rectifier from Tube Amp Doctor or did it come with the amp from Donald?
     
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    It's the one from TAD.
     
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    LOL, no wonder the Musician Draco reminded me of a downsized Denafrips Terminator!

    From what I am hearing the Massdrop/Airist R2R is a better DAC. Both SE and BAL outputs. Roughly on par in plankton, but the Massdrop/Airist exhibited better microdynamics and engagement factor. https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/massdrop-rdac-airist-audio-r2-r-dac.6415/

    It's too bad about the all-mostly Asian Ivy league - Harvard team of Airist, who it appears turned out to have scammed some random DIYer in China for the design. This was a really great DAC for the money. I imagine with an @atomicbob noise nuke, it would have achieved even higher performance. https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/massdrop-rdac-airist-audio-r2-r-dac.6415/

    Makes me sad. Maybe @CEE TEE can bring an iteration, a new creation of this back?

    Not quite as bad. The RU6 was truly a piece of shit, both from my personal subjective standpoint and measurement standpoint: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...e-review-and-measurements-shit-happens.12671/

    I am struggling a bit with both outputs. The SE are pretty bad. Slow as molasses, murky, boring, like being stuck in the mid. The XLR outputs clear up things quite a bit. Like a lot. You know how people bitch about the Analogs Devices chip DACs from Schiit sounding worse from the SE outputs than the balanced. Well, the difference here is more even more stark!

    Balanced output from the Draco is clearer with only a hit of molasses in the lowest registers. The high bass and mids are cleaned up. It's more resolving. However, the timbre changes. The highs get even more strident! To the point where the Supernaut (with the JAR600 and ZMF Atrium Closed) is slightly annoying in the highs. By this, I mean a sharp "chh chh chh" that is worse than upgraded car speakers with Kenwood or Infinity. And I mean this is bad because the Shanling ET3 transport is smooth, stately, and damped sounding.

    I really want to like the Draco, say it's a fantastical deal at $750, but I just can't right now. I may put this on the bench, the APx555, to figure out what is going on.
     
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  8. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    I remember that the Massrdrop/Airist thing that ripped @sosolar 's design off was very well-received by you, Hands, and Torq, but I had no idea it was quite that good! @CEE TEE please :D

    The disparity in impressions between you and someone else about the Draco is interesting, rather curious to see what the 555 shows, yep. Wondering if it's a system synergy thing or music library thing? Definitely curious, more interested in learning more about the DAC now than before (though less inclined to try and get ears on one myself, funnily enough).

    Also, rather curious to hear how the Atrium Closed fares against the others in the lineup-- I was merely whelmed by the open Atrium, but I blame the store I was demoing at for plugging the damn things into a FiiO M17. Strange decision, that.
     
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    So I switched back to the Weiss and I am almost feeling you if want the sort of the sound that the Draco has, better off with the Weiss. Much more resolving, warm lows, but bass is taut. Greater dynamics, more expressive. As I said a bit raspy, but none of the Draco's "chh chh chh". Of course different price points. R2R is nice, but sometimes I don't understand the point of R2R for the sake of R2R.
     
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  10. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    @purr1n , your feeding it 1x PCM to it's internal upsampling & NOS modes correct? Have you tried upsampling in software (i.e. Roon, JRiver, etc. - 2X or above) feeding it in NOS mode, or maybe sending it 96 or > content from Qobuz/Tidal (again in NOS mode)? Just wondering if that would do anything for the "chh chh" and maybe tighten up the lows some.
     
  11. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF's Mr. Bean

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    When I had the Draco, I did experience the first two for sure going to balanced, but for me the highs were less annoying; it still had a semblance of the chh chh (I think it has not insignificant ringing) but not enough to piss me off. Overall improvement to the point where I wouldn't even recommend the Draco if one had to use the SE out.

    I was using AES from the Pi2AES and I do have a Freya S in the chain (both to sum balanced inputs and to serve as a convenience so I don't have to muck around with cables to switch amps), wonder how that may have affected the results. @crenca I was not upsampling my music at all.

    Edit: I too was using NOS mode and found the oversampling mode to be downright awful.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2024
  12. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    When it comes to R2R ladder DAC design, there is only one person in China that understands how to do it correctly, Jeff Zhu, Holo Audio. Disposable and semi-disposable Chi-Fi need not apply.
     
  13. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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  14. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    @ChaChaRealSmooth and @Lyander

    I found DC offset on SE outputs. SE output may very well be YMMV deal. Balanced outputs are fine (sort of)

    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/musician-draco-r2r-dac.14378/#post-428441

    Hate to say this because I sound like Amir the armchair QB, but the DC offset on the SE outputs to where once we get a -50dbFS signal, the entire waveform is in negative voltage territory - this isn't acceptable.

    @ChaChaRealSmooth: Where I can bury this in CCTX and announce on Head-Fi the treasure hunt for a free DAC? (Hey, the balanced outputs aren't that bad).

    Ugh. From what I have seen on Golden's site (with their "connect-the-dots" NOS filter) I am not sure this is a good thing.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2024
  15. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    You're measurements of the Draco indicate the SE outputs aren't just gimped, they are PFU.
     
  16. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    I wonder what Holo is doing different (manufacturing quality, etc.), as they are obviously getting significantly different results for not that much more $.
     
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  17. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    The difference is Holo Audio has a designer that has design knowledge that far exceeds the typical cookie-cutter designs of disposable and near disposable Chi-Fi.

    See an example here
     
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  18. goodvibes

    goodvibes Facebook Friend

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    I just heard a Questyle CMA Eighteen Master. :) If anyone offers one for you to test, grab it. I believe it's using a single ES3039PRO DAC chip and there's much cheaper things like the S.M.S.L that looks to be doing a similar thing with a pair of the same DAC chips but I can't imagine them being this good. I mention it because I'm familiar with the SF and Weiss.

    Loved the Weiss Firewire interfaces that used the TC Electronic Dice II interface chip.
     
  19. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Yeah, Weiss is getting some damn good sound from the ancient ESS 9018. The current gen ESS stuff seems easier to work with by the run-of-the-mill or noname Chinese manufacturers, but still, some treble F'kery that remains.

    I've heard better ancient 901x/2x implementations from the bonafide ESS Whisperers to the run-of-the-mill or noname Chinese outputs using the latest and greatest highest-spec ESS chips.

    Stand by for formal Weiss DAC204 review and some measurements. I just wrapped up the Musician Draco.
     
  20. goodvibes

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    I forgot to mention that on the Questyle eighteen master, that it's best with fixed out in high bias mode. Wierd because High bias should have no effect on line out and fixed out also likely measures the same as variable. I like these new ESS chips. They've lost the IM bump for the most part and bridge the R2R gap for me. i like the Apodizing filter when on the successful examples I've heard.

    Audioo_O
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2024

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