Weiss DAC204 Review and Measurements

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by purr1n, Apr 25, 2024.

  1. Ziva

    Ziva Friend

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    Adding to the above earplug question, I stopped going to loud concerts for about 10 years. I tried to go back with earplugs last year, but it just destroyed the sound for me (not that blasting my eardrums was good sound but there’s visceral energy to it). Do the concert earplugs do a better job of attenuating all frequencies in a more tolerable way?
     
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  2. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    We getting off topic now but I used to have those. Unfortunately they didn’t fit in my ear canals very well and would usually end up falling out if I got moving or blocking out only parts of the sound due to poor fit / bad seal. Also were very uncomfortable for me due to the same poor fit issue.
     
  3. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    For amplified music that’s not mostly stage noise and with ill suited guitar/bass amps and their settings for the venue, yes you are entirely at their mercy. If you cannot hear anything or it’s as muddy as a ww1 trench, just leave. Acoustic sets, not through a pa, or only vocals through a pa, you’re entirely at the mercy of the venue and band. There are precious few artists that always sound great live.

    Also it’s often not the sound guys, who are often only getting 100 bucks + drinks, fault if he’s forced to use some junk with low headroom, bad filters, etc or the venue is horrible mess with poorly installed subwoofers and broken pas from djs. A lot of bigger clubs and arenas are just acoustically horrible.
     
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    ^ This.

    I did sound for bands in a prior life, travelled with them on weekend or even weekday gigs. Drinks + $100 (if any). Even semi-big acts like Bill Joel are not going to have semis and semis full of their own stuff like Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born. They are at the mercy of the venue. Some venues can be really good. Most are shit (not enough headroom with speakers and amps, plain shitty sounding stuff, or blown tweeters) and the audiences tend to already have their ears blown out making the problem worse (necessitating turning shit up to clipping). I may have mentioned this before, but I gotten told to "turn it up, turn it up" even when I knew if was gonna sound like shit (shrill highs, occasional clipping, etc.). Crowds get rowdy and noisy.

    There is a reason why this shit is called sound reinforcement.



     
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  5. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Tangent: Part of why I got really into personal audio as a teen was because live music for genres I was really into (Pinoy pop rock, besides the anime stuff cuz I was already a filthy weeb degenerate by then) was physically painful to get into.

    It wasnt until after I got neck-deep into all this weird crud that I started appreciating my grandpa's old jazz records and orchestral stuff.
     
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  6. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    The skilled FOH engineers know the difference between sound reinforcement and sound blast-em-out-of-the-room. Small to medium venue goers are often acclimated to the crap distortion. In fact, if they don't hear that distortion they are unhappy. Meyer and EAW equipped venues will sound "wrong" to them.
     
  7. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    Every time I see “Weiss” for any reason takes me back to childhood middle school when I traded baseball cards and the shortstop for the Oakland A’s was one Walt Weiss. He later went on to be a coach for the Colorado Rockies. But I digress…

    I guess the Weiss pro-audio company has gotten to the DAC world. Their DSP and EQ hardware are some of the TOL pro-audio gear used by mastering engineers. And as @ palms points out, those days are numbered to computer plugins as today’s computers are just more powerful and software is cheaper to make and easier to update. But I digress again…

    Yeah, the DAC204 is a older ESS DAC chip. No AES in (although AES out), and a project looking box with a cable wart SMPS, although we can improve this - more on this later. It does have balanced outputs, enough for many to say it’s “pro”, but we have covered this marketed to both the pro-audio community and the hi-fi community.

    I will just go on record and say I do agree with @purr1n that:
    • It is a peculiar box in shape size and build quality to be “pro”.
    • It is an ESS DAC that is free from digital nasties, harsh highs, smooth
    • It sounds good, albeit a bit too pricey.
    I do agree that there is a “wetness” or thicker sound presentation, but it is also kind of that ESS fake bass. It is just not to the level I have heard on other ESS DACs, but the lows don’t sound very refined, just “softly pushy.”. There is no uneasy super top end brightness, but it does seem brighter than even A2 Yggdrasil, especially in the high mids. It makes the A2 sound a little darker and even smoother on the highs. Going back to the DAC204, the high mids even sound somewhat harsh.

    The soundstage is also not particularly wide nor as deep. The expansive A2 outclassed the DAC204 in this regard. The stage is not dead flat, but it is not particularly deep either. Plankton is not bad and does have some fine details, just not quite as nuanced.

    The main issue I have with this DAC sound wise is that it has a particularly “hard” or stuffy sound. It does have some push in the mids that made this kind of fatiguing for me. Now yes, I am coming from multibit DACs which are much more relaxed, but this one had a push in the mids that pushed the vocals and kind of takes away from the musicality of it. Maybe because it just has a flatter soundstage or maybe just sounding more strained or strident on the upper mids of things...liquidy low end, more constrained upper end I guess. It’s like the pants don’t match the shirt.

    The top end is smooth enough and the overall presentation is probably more leaning in the “warm” category, albeit with a slight bit of pushed mids, like someone left the multi-band limiter on just the mid-band. It may have similarities in tone to the LiM, but not quite the overall depth and expansiveness.

    (Side note - I actually have been listening to a modded PS Directstream DAC, and I was commenting to others that it seems like it is missing mids or almost U-shaped.)

    Power supply

    The stock power supply is a joke. Small cable wart with IEC termination and DC barrel. For such a pricey device, this thing deserves something better. I think the guys at Weiss are relying too much on the robust LT regulators on the inside. Maybe just to sell the upgraded PSU? I have Noise Nuke and it made VAST improvements.

    Without the Noise Nuke, the sound is
    • More flat staging\
    • More piercing
    • More bass shy
    • Lacking in macrodynamics
    With the Noise Nuke
    • More clarity
    • More definition and impact on the low end
    • More overall macrodynamics
    • More instrument separation

    Most of this review is done with the Noise Nuke plugged in.

    A note on output

    This is a HOT output DAC. I quickly noticed how much louder it was against my A2. It has three gain settings with two switches. It has a 10 db reduction switch, a 20 db reduction switch, and when both are engaged it is 30 db reduction. I ran my o’l 0 dbfs 1k file through to see what kind of output we got, and here are the results (unbalanced. For balanced, double these numbers):
    • Full out: 3.88V
    • -10db : 1.23V
    • -20db: 0.38V
    • -30db: 0.12V
    I found that -10db was about the most pleasant setting, even if it was below normal 2V output. It really turned the personality of this DAC from something that was hard and stiff to slightly more loose and organic. In this mode, the sound is closer to the PS Directstream. It gave it a much more relaxed sound and opened up the overall dynamics to not sound quite as stuffy. It still had some of those characteristics, albeit, not as much.

    I also found it interesting that Weiss advertises a headphone cable using the direct outs (an L and R three pin XLR cables to one 4-pin XLR). I mean, I guess with that kind of output, I am sure it would power many headphones, but you would need some way of digital volume control. I did not try this because I don’t have the right cabling.

    Conclusion

    I think two improvements over when Marv had this DAC…1) the power supply vastly improved the sound to something less harsh and less hazy. 2) the -10db switch made this much more relaxed sound and much more up front. Yes, the build quality for such a high priced “pro” item is sus. It still has an up front and anxiousness to the sound. So, it is a smooth DS DAC that is a decent ESS implementation.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2024 at 7:09 AM
  8. Cellist88

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    A2 bested the 204, further bested by A2? I guess Sabre will always be Sabre
     
  9. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    Thanks for catching that. Lol. I was going to compare it to the staging of this modded PS Audio Directstream DAC that I have here, until I realized that not many people have heard this DAC, especially modded, and would make no sense. So I changed it to the A2 without fixing the rest of it.

    Hopefully I will do a writeup on this modded PS DS very soon.
     
  10. Inoculator

    Inoculator Friend

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    I was to echo what @Azimuth suggested about engaging the 10db trim. I realized I had been using it that way on my Whammerdyne+LS3/5a setup but had been using full gain since moving it to my Enleum+Klipsch setup. I gave it a go today and while the improvements are relatively subtle, it was pretty easy to pick out that it:
    • Tightened up my bass and made it punchier
    • Stage/layering delineation is better
    • Felt more balanced across the full frequency spectrum and a tad smoother
    • Vocals are more forward
    The first and last points were especially helpful to me as I recently made a speaker cable swap from Neotech NES 3004 MK2 to Triode Wire Labs American and was finding that it made the low end fuller than I was accustomed to and vocals felt a tad buried, everything kind of snapped into place with this change.

    My one disclaimer would be that the Enleum actually measures (and theoretically performs) better when fed below 2V, which based on @Azimuth measurements meant the 10db trim was helping me get into its better performance range. Not saying there is not some secret sauce to using the gain trims on the Weiss, but could be setup dependent.

    @Azimuth and I have been chatting about this and the transformer-modded PS Audio Directsream MK1 quite a bit offline as I currently have a Signature Series DS MK1 on hand right now as well. I have not tried the DS MK1 in my Enleum+Klipsch setup yet but I am going to spend some time in the coming days putting it head-to-head with the Weiss so will also be sharing some thoughts soon.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2024 at 11:50 AM

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