Soekris DAC2541 Review And Measurements

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by purr1n, Nov 11, 2020.

  1. loadexfa

    loadexfa Friend

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    Ah yes I did see the clipping LED blink. Looks like a dumb mistake on my part then, thanks. :oops:
     
  2. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    My evaluation of the loaner DAC2541 focused on how it compared to Yggdrasil GS. I've also owned some other Schiit DAC's and generally recall how they sound, so I included them in the chart.

    [​IMG]

    Headphones: HD6XX, HD600, HD800SDR, LCD2.1
    Amps: Jotunheim 2, Mjolnir 2, DarkVoice 336SE
    MJ2 Tubes: EH 6922
    Darkvoice tubes: PSVane 6SN7UK, factory power tube
    DAC: SPDIF optical. (Jot2 Bal /MJ2 Bal, DV SE and with Jensen J-ISO XLR>RCA SE)

    General comments
    The DAC2541 is a modern sounding DAC that's engaging, mostly uncolored, and easy to listen to, but Yggdrasil's macrodynamics, bass, and additional wetness put it on a different level. Still, I really like the 2541.

    The 2541 is lightweight at 3.3 lbs, the form factor is small and fits nicely under a Jot 2, and the x-feed and filter options are appreciated small tweaks. The SE ouput is better than the Yggdrasil GS SE, with higher clarity. The native 2541 SE out is slightly drier than when I employed the J-ISO but both seemed to perform at roughly the same technical level. The headphone outputs on 2541 are listenable with useful power, but overall brittle and thin and more of a convenience feature, so I'd get a proper amp to pair with it. Both Jot 2 and MJ2 added much needed beef to the signal.

    In the subtleties department, sometimes the 2541 feels a bit brighter than the Yggdrasil GS, even though I don't think that's objectively the case. I did an unscientific 20hz-20khz frequency sweep on both DAC's using my iPhone and both came up with a basically identical FR, clearly within the margin of error given my primitive measurement tools. I think the 2541 is drier and thinner than Yggdrasil and this gives some impression of more treble energy. The effect is much more pronounced on the treble-tilted HD800SDR's than darker LCD2.1's and HD6XX's.

    One combo I was eager to try was HD600+Jot 2+2541 as every component when evaluated separately is often labeled neutral. Nah, it's too much of a good thing. You need at least one colorful character in the bunch or it's like an office party at an accounting firm.

    Overall, a good recommendation for people that want a fairly detailed modern sound with a bit of R2R tonal width and just enough engagement factor but aren't looking for extreme macrodynamic fireworks, musicality, or wetness. If you're pairing 2541 with Jot 2 and treble sensitive I'd probably lean toward a darker headphone (or perhaps EQ) because with something like HD800 or HD600 the combo will probably be slightly too much for the treble sensitive crowd.

    [​IMG]
     
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    Last edited: May 1, 2021
  3. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    I'm updating my evaluation of DAC 2541 in terms of the built-in head amp. Standing by the all assertions posted previously.

    All day listening with LCD-X (along with Clear Mg) started for a whim was shockingly good. With transducers with high inherent perfection (i.e., characterized by no tonal issue, high SPL efficiency, good start-stop behavior, and possibly subpar scaling with better gears), I found 2541 a decent AIO that I can live with seriously. Please note that I am coming from an AIO hater with a long documented history.

    I am emphasizing again that my argument only applies to headphones that don't benefit much from amplification and separate powers. I believe such drivers only benefit from amps in terms of attenuation and isolation, where simpler circuits don't have much slouch. Needless to say, built in amps have natural benefit of shorter/purer signal path. This is how I hypothesize 2541 might be a good AIO in some limited situations.

    With all of LCD-X, Clear Mg, and M-200 (V-moda), preliminary results were very promising. I could hear difference (over Erish or Jotunheim 2) not too difficultly, but even with all my effort, it was extremely challenging to associate the delta with negative directions.

    Particularly with LCD-X and Clear Mg, 2541's internal amp even made them sound subtly clearer on mids and thicker on lows, which eventually compensates a little leaner or drier presentation of 2541. Not too bad way of finishing.

    I also tried out Motu M4, which also has a good hp out imo. The purpose was to investigate if 2541's hp out was transparent and revealing enough to enjoy 2541's awesomeness as a dac. It was easy. I can't really say 2541's hp out is holding back -- at least not with headphones I explained above.

    To confirm myself, I tested HD650 again. Not too bad. But.. Nah. Not the sound I want to hear from a kilobuck dac.

    I will examine 2541's hp out again with the incoming ETA's products (ESX900, Gen P, Gen G) as the first two were claimed to shine when paired with not so great amps. Indeed either didn't seem to violate my hypothesis.. so maybe high chance there. Will report back with my findings later.

    PS. All the evaluation was done with 4p XLR out. I still hear some degradation out of trs out.

    PS2. Listening mostly done with -41 to -43 db attenuation on 2541. The filter was fixed to black (can't go back to anything else..) with music files pre-processed with the 2x upconverter if original sampling rates were 48khz or below.
     
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    Last edited: May 1, 2021
  4. Justin S

    Justin S Rando

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    I've had the Soekris 2541 in my two-channel setup for about a month now.

    My 2 channel chain:

    W10 Roon Server/HQPlayer > LAN > PI2AES w SoTM SPS-500 PSU > AES > Soekris 2541 > HEED Obelisk SI MK3 > Harbeth P3ESRXDs + REL T7i

    As reported elsewhere in this thread, the 2541 is a very pleasing DAC.

    I have been running a Bifrost 2 for the last year-and-a-bit. I initially had a lot of difficulties with it. I used it across various speakers: some cheap B&W 606s, Dynaudio M20s, Harbeth C7ES3s, and finally, the P3XDs (decidedly not pipe-and-slipper Harbeths). In all cases, I had issues with treble pain when using the BF2. I had no such problem with an RME ADI-2 I had at the same time. In the end, I figured it out - the BF2 seems to be more source sensitive than other DACs I've had in my system (Holo Spring, Gungnir Multibit A2, the RME...). I picked up the excellent PI2AES (+ an SPS-500) and never looked back.

    The BF2 has been a treat since . After reading the many great reviews of the 2541 here, though, I got the itch and thought I would give it a try.

    Instead of repeating the many well-reported impressions made in this thread, I'll do a short list of how the 2541 compares to the BF2 in my system. I'll follow up with the new information I can offer, which is how the 2541 responds to upressed material through HQPlayer and how this affects its performance.

    ;TLDR Where the BF2 is a powerful, visceral rock and roll machine, the 2541 is a refined, natural sounding, dextrous DAC that renders a lot of detailed texture in the bass and treble regions. This is not to say the Soekris does not rock - it does - just differently. In my 2 channel system, the RED Linear Phase filter gives me the best results with more precise staging and better treble response. As @Vtory highlighted in his posts, high-resolution material and upressing take the 2541 a notch or two past its performance with Redbook material - though with some tradeoffs.

    Impressions:

    A sample of the music I listened to in the comparison

    Scout Niblet - IBD
    Radiohead - Indentikit
    Floating Points - Silhouettes 1-2-3
    Brian Blade - Landmarks
    Jimi Hendrix - Little Wing
    James Blake - Life Round Here
    The Kills - Future Starts Slow
    Van Morrison Snow in San Anselmo
    The Swingle Singers - Largo (yup...it's true)
    Thom York - Atoms for Peace

    Here is an abbreviated list of my impressions of the 2541 as it compared to the BF2 in my system:

    - The BF2 really focuses the image in the centre
    - The 2541 has a more open sense of stage. I perceived this as less precise initially, but it is not. It is just not laser-locked to the center. I even get the sense that there is sound coming from behind me from time to time, which is not rear wall reflection given my seating arrangement.
    - BF2 is closer sounding than the 2541.
    - the Soekris puts clear space between things - this is even more pronounced with hi-res or upressed material.
    - refection and room sound are crazy good on the 2541. For example, with the stripped down Scout Niblet IBD track I feel like I'm on the floor listening to her and her amp cabinet. (Oh Steve Albini)
    - The BF2 rocks harder - the strong centre combined with the visceral bass slam and mid-range weight draws you in. The weight of the sound is involving.
    - The 2541 also has a generous amount of slam, but it is not grab-you-by-the-face rocking - it's a different kind of involvement with more texture and detail in the mids and bass. The transients are very legible and refined. I hear a lot of stuff I have not heard before.
    - The 2541 has less treble sparkle and air than the BF2. This is not the case with high resolution or upressed material.
    - The effortless low-level detail and texture on the Soekris are not in-your-face, but are a feature of the 2541

    Upsampling

    I am a fan of HQPlayer and the options it offers for filtering. When I had a Holo Spring and the RME ADI-2, upressing to DSD was an indispensable part of the chain. There is no NOS mode or filter bypass on the Soekris, though. I reached out to Jussi (AKA Miska - the developer of HQPlayer) on another board to ask him what best filter to use on the Soekris combined with uppressed material. He said that the Linear Phase Brickwall filter (Red) on the 2541 would best maintain the characteristics of the HQPlayer upressed material.

    With this in mind, I set out to try out a range of HQPlayer rates and filters with the Soekris. Overall, the 2541 is a bit of a different beast with upressed material:

    - 192KHz vs 96KHz PCM are very similar sounding. The 96KHz is a hair, a touch, a smidge "rounder" sounding.
    - the treble extension improves. More sparkle, more air.
    - the imaging and staging become very precise
    - the stage depth increases, as does the 3D qualities of the individual performers.
    - transient response becomes even quicker
    - midrange presence is a little less "natural" sounding.
    - depending on the filter, the sound becomes more clear and snappy. It can cross over into dry and technical depending on the filter.
    - Of the range of filters that I tried, my favourites were Poly-Sinc LP and, as always, Poly-Sinc XTR LP
    - I find I am paying a bit more attention to the mid-upper range of the music with upressing.
    - Without upressing, I am listening more to the mid-lower range.
    - With both modes, the treble is always pleasing.
    - With upressing, the 2541 renders all the details of complex passages in the music - there is no confusion here.
    - The sound is a touch more "natural" without the upressing. I will need to experiment a bit more with dithers and even bit depth to see if I can improve this.
    - With upressing, you lose a bit of micro-subtlety in the mids and bass.
    - Ultimately, upressing would be a situation and mood-based choice for me.

    Conclusion

    It would be hard to choose between these two dacs. They are both really fun to listen to. They are both very engaging in different ways. I think that my ideal DAC would be a marriage of the two - the power and midrange presence of the Bifrost 2 with the detail, dexterity and space of the Soekris. As I have had the BF2 for a while now, I am going to make the change to the 2541 and wait on the next-gen Gungnir Multibit or bite the bullet on the Yggdrasil at a later date.
     
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    Last edited: May 12, 2021
  5. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    It is called Rockna Wavelight and costs >2.5x the price both DACs combined :p
     
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  6. Justin S

    Justin S Rando

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    I know, I know. Y'know. By the sounds of it, the Rockna is my ideal. If I could only encourage the 2541 and BF2 to have some babies...
     
  7. Metro

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    (off topic) So rare to see someone with Heed. My chain is remarkably similar to yours:

    Mac Roon > (wifi) Pi2AES > (AES) Soekris 1541 > Heed Obelisk ps > Harbeth P3ESR-XD + REL T7i.

    I use the Soekris preouts to Obelisk ps (power amp), and a DSPeaker AntiMode 8033 with the REL to smooth out the room bass response.
     
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  8. Justin S

    Justin S Rando

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    That is crazy similarity. I had the P3 standards for years with the Heed and then went on a walkabout for a bit, only to return to the P3XDs (small monitor sealed box bass + sealed sub is my preference, I learned from my walkabout). I have been toying with trying an Aegir with the preout of the 2541. I have heard other members preferred going directly from the 2541 to a power amp. I don't know if I can part with the Heed, though.

    Can you use the 8033 with the high level input on the Rel?


    I just followed the link. I will investigate further. I have it pretty dialed in, but there is always room for improvement.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2021
  9. Metro

    Metro Friend

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    I'm using line level input on the 8033, but they sell an adapter cable for high level. It's pretty interesting when it runs sweeps during its auto calibration and hearing the bass go through peaks and valleys. There are other and more versatile ways to do it (like miniDSP), but I wanted something simple and automatic.

    I've tried a Vidar with the P3XD and it is a good match, able to produce deeper bass from the P3XD than my Heed. However, I want to listen to more amps before settling on one. Haven't tried an Aegir.
     
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  10. Baten

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    Small update. Now using the soekris 2541 with a Singxer SA-1 amp. Supposedly it is like a Chinese Jotunheim 2 competitor. Less maximum power, but similar performance and discrete implementation. Mostly running in Class A bias, up until you go over 3 o'clock/~75% position.

    So far it's a really great amp. I was going to send it back from the out of the box performance initially. But letting it warm a bit, switching it in high gain and using lower knob range works super well actually. Smashing low-end, plus overall warm unfatiguing sound. Matches well with the soekris' detailed sound. This combo has a nice head-stage, too. Happy camper.
     
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    Last edited: Jun 11, 2021
  11. Hands

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    Quick impressions of the DAC2541.


    Good stuff:

    - Sounds pretty good and balanced. Doesn't draw a lot of attention to itself, mostly in a good way.
    - Overall neutral tone with a subtle midrange emphasis.
    - Volume is a super handy feature. Seems to work well.
    - Selectable filters, while all very similar sounding, are nice to have.
    - Good range of inputs and outputs.
    - Seems technically proficient. I wasn't able to do much critical listening in this regard.


    Neutral:

    - Crossfeed is pretty cool with headphones. Wish it worked with line outs, but I don't believe it does? Depending on what I was listening to, it could be surprisingly effective at making headphones sound more speaker-like in a natural way. Sometimes it sounded weird. Always takes an adjustment period. But once adjusted, turning it off is similarly disorienting, in a wall-of-sound sort of way.

    - Headphone out is nice in a pinch. Lacks a sense of richness, power, and refinement, but is usable if needed.

    - Slightly laid-back sounding, both in dynamics, transients, and staging.


    Things I'd change:

    - My main nitpick is that it is a little soft with dynamics. Could punch a little harder. Note that you might not pick this up without A/B comparisons, and that the DAC2541 doesn't sound boring, flat, or thin. Just needs a tad bit more richness and drive.

    - See note on allowing crossfeed on line outs above.


    Overall, it's a well-rounded DAC/pre-amp with a good selection of inputs, outputs, and digital filters. I think it stands on its own for these points alone. The headphone out, as mentioned, doesn't hurt, but isn't what I'd call a selling point.

    It sounds more akin to a non-fucked delta-sigma DAC than anything else. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It's a balanced, refined, straight-shooter. I'd prefer it be slightly more rich and aggressive myself, and I do mean slightly, but it overall makes for a solid, agreeable, and enjoyable listening experience.


    Who is this for? If you meet some of these criteria, it's worth considering:

    - Someone that wants volume control built into their DAC.
    - Someone who wants multibit, without being voiced like Schiit or old school R2R DACs. Again, think good, neutral delta-sigma.
    - Someone who just really, really needs headphone crossfeed above all else, and is willing to sacrifice in other areas for it.
    - Someone who flip-flops on digital filter choices depending on the time of day.
    - Someone who likes to use all-in-one products on occasion, but primarily uses them as a DAC only in most situations.
    - Someone with limited desk/shelf space.
     
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  12. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    Curious what filter you used? I find linear (red), despite not being the most popular here, is my favorite. There's more definition/structure/density to it.
     
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  13. Hands

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    Mixture of that and the slow filter (no light).
     
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  14. Josh Schor

    Josh Schor Friend

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    An old timers first review. I am new to the headphone world and have been in 2 channel hi end world for many years.
    Current system, PC laptop (using Fidelizer software on PC, really good stuff. It shuts off all unnecessary things on the laptop making a big improvement with the sound) chord mojo, lyr3, hd600 and fostex t50 rp moddied. I found the 2541, very detailed but lacking in depth in its presentation of instruments. Violins sounded flat, great attack but could not tell if they were wood. I did not find it overly bright just lacking an "organic tone". I kept thinking to myself "this is very thin and presents the instruments flatly". Good separation of instruments, sounded very good on chamber music, everything else was hit and miss. It could be the synergy with the lyr and the hd600, I do not know enough to say.
    When compared to the Mojo, the mojo was slightly veiled with less information, I heard things on the 2541 I did hear on the Mojo. Tone wise the mojo for me was much richer. piano had depth and a woody quality when lower octave's were played, drums had depth and great tone and the bass was better defined and faster on the Mojo. I tried the filters and ended up not using any of them, I did not try the headphone amp as I would not ever use it.
    I grew up in audio with R-2R dacs , burr browns and I still love that sound. I am grateful that I could here the dac and have ordered a Bitfrost-2 from Schiit.
    best,
    Josh
     
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  15. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    Hey Josh, were you on the DAC25451 headphone out, or through Lyr3?
     
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  16. Josh Schor

    Josh Schor Friend

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    I only used the lyr 3
     
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  17. dubharmonic

    dubharmonic Friend

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    [​IMG]

    First impressions: The built-in amp doesn’t show the DAC’s potential. After switching to XLR the dac2541 is neutral, clean, non-fatiguing. Not nearly as intense as an A2 Yggdrasil. Not as organic as a Spring 2.

    After listening for many hours over several days, I didn’t notice any red flags. The dac2541 kept pulling me back into listening to more and more albums. Even after warmup, there’s a very slight constraint to the presentation. It’s not nearly as noticeable as a THX amp, and I probably wouldn’t notice at all unless I’d had so much time with DACs that cost over twice as much. Overall, very impressive, especially at this price point!
     
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  18. Beefy

    Beefy Almost "Made"

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    It's just insane how compact it is for a discrete ladder DAC. Give up the old school linear power supplies, huge trafos, stupid-large capacitor banks, and audio devices really can be quite simple.
     
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