Soekris dac1421

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Vtory, Nov 1, 2018.

  1. soekris

    soekris MOT - Soekris Engineering

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    That would be the dac1321.... Or the dac1421, just ignore the headphone outputs.... I have mentioned it before, the dac1421/dac1541 use the same output buffers for both line and headphone outputs, so you don't really waste more than the connector and a couple of mos relays.... Or view it like you get the headphone outputs for free....
     
  2. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    Eh - I'm a moron!
     
  3. gandhisfist

    gandhisfist Aurorus Audio - MoT

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    @sheldaze comparisons are actually to the Gum-Beta and not to the Gungnir Multibit a2 i assume?
     
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  4. sheldaze

    sheldaze Friend

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    Yes sir, it's what came back from the factory. We will need to do some serious A/B/C at some point in the Next Year.
     
  5. gandhisfist

    gandhisfist Aurorus Audio - MoT

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    Very curious to hear your gugnir and see how it differs from the one at the mini meet.
     
  6. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Vegan Puss

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    Since I have the loaner Soekris dac 1421 on hand I'll give some quick impressions.

    (I have to say thank the Audio Gods for the loaner program and being able to check out quality gear. Like my signature says, a demo is worth 1,000 reviews.)

    Setup was a quick and relatively easy affair...at 1st there was a problem with my computer recognizing it, but I just closed out everything I was doing & unplugged/replugged the USB, and everything was fine again.

    My chain is JRiver or Foobar from my HP P/C > Soekris via USB (I have no coax, BNC or TOS) > ifi iCan Pro > HD650 (JAR mod) or ZMF Aeolus & occasionally the Massdrop/AKG 7xx.

    I'm finding much of what people of saying to be quite true...but now hearing/experiencing it for myself, it makes more sense.

    -The built in amp is limiting...not bad with lower impedance like the 7xx, but not optimal for the 650/ZMFs IMO. Sounds adequate in a pinch, but can sound strained. My impressions below are using the 1421 as a DAC only.
    Edit: I didn't hear much difference with the filters (maybe there'd be more of a difference if used as an AIO?) so I settled on the green 'Butterworth' filter.

    -The small footprint is most welcome on my crowded desk.

    -Pleasantly surprised how cool the 1421 runs...I can barely detect any heat at all.

    -I wasn't quite sure what people meant by 'dry', but I think I can hear it. The notes have a crispness to them, without sounding brittle or etched, whereas my Gungnir D/S the notes sound...heavier? The presentation may be different from my Schiit, but it's not objectionable. The more 'hot' recordings might be a bit more fatiguing, but not remarkably so.

    -Bass is definitely leaner, but not lean. Better definition for sure. Sub bass rumbles, and mid bass is present when called for, but not exaggerated at all. I like my bass, and I'm happy to say this doesn't really leave me wanting. I can only hope with all I've heard about the bass on the Gungnir M/B being less than the OG M/B, that it's not less than this. If so I can probably live with it if/when I upgrade (later this year).

    -Mids are nicely presented...maybe a bit more forward in the upper mids than my Gungnir, but again it seems cleaner. I'm thinking that is part of what M/B brings to the table.

    -Treble is well represented, not piercing and detailed...airy even.

    -Headstage seems on the intimate side, but not confining. Decent width & depth, okay height. I never felt drawn out of the music because of placement, and that's really all I care about.

    Overall I think Soekris did a great job here. I'm finding this to be a very enjoyable listen indeed.

    All I can say is kudos to those that do this sort of audio diagnostics all the time, it can really drive you bonkers trying to articulate sounds into language in a coherent/intelligible way.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2019
  7. Kernel Kurtz

    Kernel Kurtz Friend

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    So first off, thanks to SBAF for letting me in on this loaner tour. It's hard to audition much gear up here, we only have a couple hifi shops and their selection is limited. I wish I had known about this place a long time ago.

    Moving along, the DAC seems to be well made, and is a nice form factor. I've played with the 4 included filters, and they all have pluses and minuses. That could be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your individual preferences. I'll probably just choose one when I start the comparisons. Not sure just which one quite yet.

    All my impressions to follow will be based on 16/44.1 (a PC/USB source implementation is on my to do list but not in time for this review). I've currently set up my CDP with RCA into my Gungnir and using Toslink into the Soekris. After a few days I will flip those around to be fair. Changing cables all the time is tedious. Obviously the 1421 is SE and the Gungnir is balanced. I probably won't connect the Gungnir SE, so any A/B comparisons will be constrained by the above.

    I had time to listen to a few CDs last night. No A/B, just listening to the Soekris and getting a feel for it. My initial impression in a nutshell - I like this DAC. When I was looking to replace my Modi MB, I narrowed my choices (based solely on reading on the interwebs) down to Gungnir MB, and Soekris 1421/1541. If I had chosen this DAC instead, I would not be disappointed. It has the capability to make me smile with some of those passages that make you go "wow!" Not sure what more you can ask from any system.

    I only let it warm up for about 6 hours. I would not be surprised if it sounds better after I have had it for a while. A minor quibble but just for me is that I leave my Gungnir powered on all the time. It only has one little light I cover with some tape. The Soekris has a lot of lights. Leaving it powered on all the time in a bedroom system the tape mod would be less than ideal. For now I've fashioned a little cardboard cover for the front so I can sleep. A standby mode or a dimmer would be a welcome addition in my particular setup.

    I'll post some A/B comparisons, attempting to use the proper audiophile terminology, after I have had a few days to listen, but so far so good.
     
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  8. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    Source: Desktop w/ JRiver using USB to both

    Amp: MCTH (Amperex orange globe) + LPS. Volume tended to be in the noon – 2-ish’o’clock range

    Phone: HD650 stock (eq’d in Sonarworks V3).

    RCA Switcher is from Maple Tree Audio


    Once I received the 1421, I let it warm up out of box after being in the outdoor freezer that is Canada, and later plugged in with music running through it for 1.5 days or so. I did my best to volume-match these dacs using Sonarworks gain. Occasionally volume delta would change between the two dacs, depending on the album. Some were ~-4db, some ~-6db, very weird but all the sudden I thought 1421 was bringing out way more detail, when in fact it was just louder.

    I really enjoyed the orange filter cross-feed and the ‘off’ filter (soft minimum phase). But for comparisons, I turned both filters “off”. Build quality is very solid and professionally done, zero quibbles. Looks tiny compared to DSJ which makes it all more impressive given how it sounds.


    1421
    • Overall very clean, neutral, dead quiet background noise
    • Voices and strings are a bit more “steely” compare to DSJ
    • Snappier
    • Bit more forward
    • Tends to push details more forward to an even plane. On headphones, I actually like this more as instruments in the back are more obvious – essentially you get a nice ‘picture’ of everything. Conversely, DSJ they can be in weird-seeming places and feel too distant. However with DSJ in the 2-channel, my preferences are reversed where the 1421 can be a bit flat/2D whereas the DSJ has depth/3D.

    DSJ
    • More relaxed feeling, less forward
    • Timbre is pretty damn close to 1421, feels a touch richer/hefter with DSJ
    • More U-shaped, more noticeable with voices (ex. High pitched voices, screeches etc)
    • Soundstage more enveloping, extends wider
    • Voices seem more natural, 1421 can sound a bit artificial at times, almost too accentuated
    • Reverb length is longer on DSJ. To me this ends up coming across as overall airier
    • Bass extends a bit further but quantity is very slightly greater on 1421. Detail and texture is quite similar

    In a nutshell, the 1421 packs incredible value considering just the dac itself, nevermind the host of tweaks and headphone amp to boot. It is very impression just how fucking good the 1421 is. My initial impressions were enjoying the more forward nature of the 1421, demanding you to pay attention and I did enjoy it -- something different than I’m used to. On the other hand, I found it all too easy to just kick-back and listen to jams with DSJ. I definitely don’t fall into the “critical listener” category, so while I hate missing out on detail due to smoothed over shit, attention-grabbing/forward attributes are a cool change but not a long-term solution. For my fellow photo-nerds, I view the DSJ has having the contrast turned up a bit more while the 1421 has sharpening turned up instead.

    Thanks for the opportunity to test this out, I really enjoyed it.
    -M
     

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    Last edited: Feb 15, 2019
  9. The Mule

    The Mule Rando

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    I just got a D30 based on the reviews at ASR, but listening to it tells me there's something missing. (I also have an original ODAC & an AMB/MrX y(gamma)2.) I've developed a jonesing for a 1321, but I'm just waiting for one at the right price to pop up.
     
  10. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    Hopefully that atught you not to buy gear based on the advice of someone who is a) deaf and b) intentionally doctors measurements.
     
  11. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Get a Modi Multibit instead of the 1321. I don’t think it’s competitive. The 1541 is solid if it suits your tastes, so I’m not putting down Soekris in general.

    The Gamma 2 is legit. Try removing the upsampling filter, which brings every incoming signal to 96KHz IIRC. I thought it sounded excellent that way with the linear phase, limited ringing filter.

    Toss a Magni 3 in the mix if you want a good, cheap amp too but prefer to err on the side of good measuring solid state.
     
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  12. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    @The Mule

    This is a dedicated thread for soekris 1421.. so your post isn't appropriate (I am guessing your post was disliked for this reason). You'd better posting it in other threads -- here are some of (better) alternative places I can think of now:
    Choose wherever based on your purpose (sharing negative impressions vs asking advice vs etc..)
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2019
  13. Kernel Kurtz

    Kernel Kurtz Friend

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    So it's been busy lately, sorry for the slowness. I've been trying to distill my thoughts from my messy notes on the 1421 in my own listening chain, but most of it is probably just needlessly verbose so I'm just going to keep it short. It's not like I have an acumen of DAC reviews to reference. Long story short is the 1421 seems to slot in nicely between my former Modi Multibit and my current Gungnir Multibit SQ wise (and not surprisingly price wise as well). Bass extension is good, better than the Modi but not as tight and defined as the GMB. Likewise with the detail, which I found better than Modi, but somewhat more veiled than GMB. 1421 has a nice wide soundstage, and no notable sibilance. Build quality is excellent. Filters made a significant difference in my system. In the end I did most of my listening with the green (Butterworth) filter, but they all had their particular strengths and weaknesses. The brickwall filter rendered horns most realistically for instance, but at the expense of high end cleanliness. It was a useful demonstration to see the differences that firmware can make to the exact same hardware. Makes me appreciate (without actually having heard) the sort of differences that are likely between different iterations of other manufacturers DACs. In the end, it certainly makes me curious to at some point hear a discrete resistor ladder DAC higher up the price scale to see how it compares to IC based ones in the same range.

    [​IMG]

    On a somewhat related tangent, I mentioned I had this loaner to a friend and former co-worker, and he wanted to give it a listen so I dropped by for an (unfortunately too) short session. Now I'm strictly a speaker guy, and he uses headphones, so I'm not going to do any DAC comparisons based on this, but I did try out the built in headphone output and it sounded pretty good to my ears. I would certainly consider one of these as an all-in-one should I decide to buy some headphones in the future. It does not compare to my buddies amp, but still seems like a good value proposition. Subjectively, the differences between the filters seemed a lot less noticeable though the HPs than in my speaker system. OTOH the crossfeed actually made the transition from soundstage to headstage a bit less jolting for a newbie like myself and seems like a worthwhile addition. I know my friend reads this site now and then so I will encourage him to post his own impressions of the Soekris in his system.

    [​IMG]

    All in all I was quite impressed with this DAC and would certainly have no problem recommending it to someone looking for something in this price range. Cheers!
     
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  14. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Impressions from the loaner unit.

    I received it and plugged it in on a Monday morning. I listened on and off for the first couple of days but didn’t really start seriously until 2.5 days after power-up, to give it a chance to warm properly and me a chance to get over my cold.

    Context:
    My use-case for a stand-alone DAC, currently a Modi Multibit (purchased used in mid-2017 and therefore undoubtedly an ‘old’ one) is different from most here: it sits in the living room away from the PC in the main 2-channel/headphone system, taking input from a wireless stream via an RPi & digital audio HAT or from a CD player. I therefore wanted to compare the dac1421 and the MM using their S/PDIF inputs - not USB. So if your interest is mainly/only in USB input, you can stop reading now; but if you’re using S/PDIF I hope these impressions will be useful (but read the disclaimers).

    Chains:
    UPnP over wifi -> RPi3-HiFiBerry Digi+ -> Toslink -> DAC or Marantz CD63 MkII -> coax -> DAC
    DAC -> Rotel RA971 MkII -> Dynaudio 52SE or DAC -> Rotel -> preamp out -> MCTH -> HD6XX

    The HiFiBerry and Marantz each have coax and Toslink outputs but because I want the best signal to come from the CD player, I fed the DACs exclusively via coax from that and via Toslink from the HAT. I was however interested to see if there were significant differences in relative quality between coax and Toslink inputs between the DACs.

    To keep cable nervosa at bay and because I have two pairs, analogue output cables were of the same type and length. Digital input cables were identical (swapped from DAC to DAC).

    Listening was to CDs I’m familiar with, mostly post-rock, lounge, and downbeat electronica along with some guitar-driven stuff; and to FLACs ripped from those same CDs. All source material was therefore 16/44, and streaming via UPnP shouldn’t have done any extra processing on the signal (i.e., streaming was bit-perfect).

    Disclaimers:
    • Not the most resolving chains
    • Not the most resolving ears: their HF limits are below 14k, and who knows what else they might be missing
    • Little experience as a critical listener
    • Little experience with modern/competent DACs (and amps, for that matter)
    • Uncertainty as to whether I’m putting what I do hear into the right terms.
    Mrsdegraded’s better ears and less-likely unconscious expectation-bias provided reality checks during speaker listening (and gave me some confidence I’m not entirely deaf or completely deluded). @Brause also dropped in briefly, and some of his comments are included below; I hope he’ll correct or extend if necessary.

    Usage notes:
    • Line-out vol was left at 0 dB, which if I read the spec sheet right corresponds to 2.0V, the same as the spec for the MM. It seemed (subjectively) that the two units were giving the same volume at that setting, although bass made the MM sound louder on some tracks. The ‘clipping’ light did flick on twice during one of my test tracks and once during another so I probably should have done like @Vtory and dropped a few dB but then I’d have had to fool with levels as well as swapping cables…
    • In line with others’ preferences, I spent most time, and compared to the other DAC, with the soft minimum-phase filter (LED off). I did listen a bit to the linear-phase filter (LED red); notes below.
    • Evaluation was as a DAC only. I listened to the headphone output briefly but didn’t try to compare it to the other solid-state amp I have here (Magni 2U) or to the MC tube hybrid.
    Filters – soft minimum phase (off) vs linear phase (red):
    Attack & decay, particularly on cymbals, were more obvious with the soft minimum phase filter. Cymbal transients seemed truncated at both edges, particularly the trailing, and bass more “rounded”, with the linear phase. Piano notes also sounded longer and more appealing with the min phase. The linear phase added a slightly hard edge to vocals and guitars. On the other hand some percussion, notably tomtoms (don’t judge), had a more visceral ‘smack’ and note-to-note transitions on horns were more abrupt (realistic?) – I can see where @Kernel Kurtz is coming from here.

    dac1421 (soft min. phase filter) cf. Modi Multibit, both coax in:
    Note price difference: dac1421 is almost 4x MM. Not the most appropriate comparison but all I have.

    dac1421 apparently has better extension at both ends. Mid-bass is a bit subdued compared to the MM (which comes off as exaggerated there) and in general MM seems ‘darker’ throughout. dac1421’s treble is more present, but cymbals are not ‘hashy’ as they are from the DAC in my CD player; it has the extension but preserves the detail. dac1421 is somewhat ‘drier’ than MM but without the MM’s hard edge, which is particularly noticeable on vocals and guitars.

    Microdynamics come across much better on the dac1421, as do transients. It has both sharper attacks and gentler (more realistic?) decays; the components of each note are more audible. Together these factors give a much better sense of instrument separation. Macrodynamics are also there. With female vocals we know well (Mrsdegraded’s daughter), the nuances when she’s trying to keep the strength of her voice in tight control vs the big ups & downs when she lets it go, and the differences in depth of her quick breaths during those passages, were clearly audible, whereas on the MM all seemed truncated. Also, even the subtlest of her tonal shifts were more prominently delineated on the dac1421.

    Overall, the dac1421 comes across significantly more ‘textured’; and I think this is a result of both resolution (on the time axis, if I’m reading the dictionary right) and dynamics (amplitude axis).

    I’m not sure I detected differences in staging beyond improved perception of left/right placement consistent with the better separation/imaging. My test material and equipment set likely aren’t the greatest for judging it. I can’t say anything about stage depth or perceived position in the audience.

    My notes of @Brause ‘s comments:
    • Bass: notable decay difference (more abrupt on MM); relative mid-bass hump and ‘boominess’ from MM, integrates better with the rest of the range from dac1421.
    • Vocals: ‘blunter’, shoutier from MM
    • Strings: less harsh, less intrusive from dac1421
    • Better instrument separation & sense of space from dac1421
    • Overall signature more balanced, timbre more natural, texture ‘creamier’ from dac1421.
    CD via coax vs streamer via Toslink:
    I won’t spend much space on this as it’s more likely to be about the signal and the transport than about the optical implementation in each DAC.

    dac1421:
    Sharper attacks and more realistic decays, with cymbals and rimshots in particular, were discernible via coax. The difference was pretty subtle and made me happier about my streamer than I thought I’d be.

    Modi Multibit:
    High and upper mid harshness was slightly softened, and I thought improved, via Toslink. However I think some dynamics and resolution were also lost. The difference was small and I should really spend more time to confirm it, but again it didn’t make me hate my streamer; and it didn’t make me think there was a massive difference between the coax vs optical inputs to each DAC. If there was a relative difference, I thought it greater on the MM.

    Conclusion:
    I struggle with how to summarize the dac1421 in absolutes because I have so few reference points from which to build a frame, so my impressions should really only be viewed as relative to the Modi Multibit – which is not really appropriate given the price difference and the 1421’s filter-swapping flexibility. While most of the comments appear negative towards the MM, it required only a brief comparison with the analogue-outs of my CD player to show that the MM was superior in all aspects mentioned above.

    Mrsdegraded now wants a dac1421, and not just (she says) because it made her daughter sound good. Given the price difference, that I don’t need the dac1421’s amp, and that @Joshvar didn’t detect much between them, I’d probably go for the dac1321 instead. Really I need to hear more DACs, DS as well as multibit, but I’m not sure I want to bring a much more expensive one home (and in my system, there other places where such money might be better spent). But maybe I won’t need to, as A Measurer and (purportedly) Independent Reviewer found “no audible difference” between this very dac1421 and an SMSL SU-8 ($250 DS) o_O

    Thanks to SBAF for the loaner program and @Vansen for its administration, to @msommers and @purr1n for the flexibility that enabled me to parachute into this one, and of course to @soekris for making the unit available.
     
  15. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Vegan Puss

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    I can definitely understand the desire to keep things inexpensive, but if that isn't a large problem, I'd keep in mind that the more experienced ears have found the 1421 a clear step up from the 1321...some prefer the Modi Multibit to the 1321.

    I had both on loaner, and enjoyed both tremendously, but I also concur that the 1421 is a step above. As Soekris stated, the amp is an added benefit, not the focus.

    Either way, good luck!
     
  16. Brause

    Brause Almost "Made"

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    The dac1421 definitely produced a more balanced image than the Schiit Modi. It was first not that obvious but became more obvious with time. The fact that it was easier on the ear than the Modi was even evident during inattentive listening, that is during conversation.

    And it looked darn good: like a 1970s Blaupunkt car stereo.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2019
  17. adeadcrab

    adeadcrab Acquaintance

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    Love this DAC; can't say much else that hasn't already been said - it's clean, precise, detailed. It has that 'microscope' effect compared to the Topping D50 (I know, I know.. I'll shut up)

    [​IMG]

    Many thanks to SBAF for bringing this quality piece of engineering to my attention. I hope many others think the same!
     
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