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Suncoast Audiophile Society Message Board Main discussion area (visible to non-members) › DAC's, DAC's, and DAC's

DAC's, DAC's, and DAC's

Alan N
user 13931748
Group Organizer
Tampa, FL
Post #: 381
Holy Moly! Yet another Sabre 9018 chip based DAC. However, this one has a twist... as it's the inaugural product from a new Canadian company... Resonessence... whose president (Mark Mallinson) was the former Operations Director for ESS Technology (designer of the Sabre DAC chip)! Along with the usual feature set, their Invicta DAC includes dual headphone outputs, an OLED display, and SD card input, along with fully balanced outputs, and remote. And, by the way, it oversamples to 50 MHz! Priced at $4000 (USD), it faces some steep competition, but Srajan Ebaen at 6moons waxes poetic over it... http://www.6moons.com...­

I wonder what tomorrows SOTA DAC-du-jour will be?
Alan N
user 13931748
Group Organizer
Tampa, FL
Post #: 383
Just found out that Resonessence offers a 30 day in-home trial for the Invicta DAC. If the sun, moon, and stars all fall into alignment, I might get one to audition at an upcoming meeting.
Alan N
user 13931748
Group Organizer
Tampa, FL
Post #: 384
Update. Spoke with Mark Mallinson of Resonessence Labs today, and I ordered the Invicta DAC on 30 day trial, aiming for delivery in first week of June, in time to demo at our June meeting. He reiterated (as stated in their FAQ's/specs) that the Invicta is designed primarily to feed directly into a power amp, and the XLR and/or RCA outputs might be a little too "hot" for my C-J preamp, thus might require some digital attenuation. He couldn't predict if that might have a deleterious effect on fidelity with my C-J preamp, suggesting only way to find out is to try. So we'll see.

The most compelling reason I decided to audition one is that Mark confirmed they intend to add DSD playback functionality via a future firmware update (? timeframe).

BTW, I asked him, being a new company, if they offered any special "introductory pricing" and unfortunately they do not (mainly to protect the international dealer network they are trying to build). They know they are swimming with the "big boys" at this price point, but feel they offer a lot more fidelity and features than the Weiss and Berkeley DAC's. Time will tell!
Alan N
user 13931748
Group Organizer
Tampa, FL
Post #: 392
Update. Got word the Invicta DAC shipped today, so I'll definitely have it in time for our June "DAC Shootout"!

Of note, the Fostex HP-A8C DAC/Headphone Amp (previously mentioned in this thread) is also now shipping, and includes DSD playback via SD card. It's got a lot more WAF than the Invicta, and I was surprised to see it retails for only $2000. If the Invicta doesn't live up to expectations, this might the one I audition next. More details here... http://www.fostexinte...­
Alan N
user 13931748
Group Organizer
Tampa, FL
Post #: 393
Invicta DAC arrived late yesterday. Won't have much time to "play" with it until next week, but initial impressions very favorable. Overall build quality is solid, but it includes a "cheesy" plastic remote with non-intuitive button labels. Soundwise, it blows away my Benchmark DAC, with a much deeper and wider soundstage, and more musical detail. As expected (given the same ESS Sabre 9018 chipset) the soundstage and overall tonality is very similar to my Oppo BDP-95, but the Invicta has a slightly more "analog" feel which is less fatiguing. The headphone output(s) are equally crisp via my AKG 271 studio monitor phones (thanks again Mike <g>).

The Invicta includes a 4 GB SDHC card with some sample tracks, coinicidentally including Livingston Taylors "Isn't She Lovely" which is one of my favorites! His introductory whistling is pristinely reproduced, as is his resonant voice.

Surprisingly, the Invictas RCA outputs have lower gain than the Benchmark, so I need to crank my C-J preamp an extra 5-6 dB. Fortunately, the background remains dead silent. I'm going to let it run 24/7 for a few days, before doing any extended listening. Haven't had a chance to run it direct to amp, but will try that next week as well.

Looking forward to a head-to-head comparison with Bel Canto 3.5, and others, at our June meeting!
Alan N
user 13931748
Group Organizer
Tampa, FL
Post #: 398
I just received the beta firmware for the Invicta enabling FLAC playback, but it's currently limited to 24/96. I don't want to risk messing up the current 24/192 WAV/AIFF capability right before tomorrow's "DAC shootout" so won't test it until after the meeting. Frankly, I'm more interested in their promise for future DSD file capability, but I suspect that is many months away.
Alan N
user 13931748
Group Organizer
Tampa, FL
Post #: 400
Following our DAC Shootout last weekend, "golden ears" member Jim McIntosh just posted an erudite review of the entire afternoon on Audiogon... http://forum.audiogon...­.
This is a MUST READ for all those who attended! IMHO, Jim should be writing reviews professionally!

I hadn't had time to post my own shootout impressions, but think he pretty much NAILED IT, so I don't have much more to offer. I fully agree the Bel Canto and Meitner were overall the most musical of the bunch, adding the caveat with that particular setup. The Bel Canto also (arguably) bested the Invicta in a brief comparison the preceding week with George's Pass/Summit X setup.

That being the case, some of you might be surprised to hear that, despite all that, I've decided to keep the Invicta DAC. The reasons being...

  • It sounds pretty damn musical in my system, and I can live happily with it for years to come, even knowing that another $1000+ could take me from 95% to 99% of what's possible with digital playback
  • It has a great headphone amp section, which I really need.
  • It's more future-proof than the others, due to it's multiple programmable input/output options, including BNC coax, TOSLINK, HDMI (in or out), USB 2.0, SDHC card (future SDXC capability), and the promise of future DSD playback capability, which I also want.


IMHO, the only area it really lacks is low-end "slam", but I'm thinking it might actually be the more accurate of the three top DAC's we heard. It certainly doesn't give up anything from the standpoint of overall tonality and soundstaging (albeit less "in your face" than the others). I don't listen to a lot of hard rock, and IMHO, the exquisite low-level detail and pinpoint imaging I'm getting with my typical jazz, vocals, and classical listening, suits me just fine. Ideally, I would have liked to compare it to the Bel Canto in MY setup, but today was the last day of my 30 day trial, and a decision had to be made.

The clincher was that I installed the newest beta firmware today, and it clearly added a bit more "punch" to the presentation. That improvement reassures me the design is in no way "underpowered" (as more than one of us surmised after the meeting). I suspect the Invicta engineers are still "tweaking" the two digital filters to yield the optimal "PRAT", and will continue to do so, based upon user/reviewer feedback. I've also been privately PM'ing an (overseas) Invicta owner who compared it to the upper echelon of European-designed DAC's (Weiss 202, Lampizator, others) and who concluded it outperforms those in head-to-head comparisons. Also, based on user feedback, they are reportedly coming out with a better remote.

It's still a "cr*p shoot" to be investing on a "startup" company, at this price point, but my gut feeling is that I'll be quite happy in the end.

Time will tell!
Alan N
user 13931748
Group Organizer
Tampa, FL
Post #: 401
Update. Mark Mallinson (Resonessence Labs CEO) was kind enough to EXTEND my audition period as a beta tester for the forthcoming apodizing digital filter, to see if that resolves the somewhat "lean" presentation of the Invicta. In the meantime, I'll try to coerce one of our Bel Canto owners to let me compare the two face to face in my setup!
A former member
Post #: 16
I don't think I have the balls to carry back my new Zodiac Gold + Voltikus combo in December, but I'd love to hear some of these DACs head to head.

When my new EL34 Decware amp gets here I'll be running the Gold direct.

The apodizing digital filter sounds promising Alan.
Alan N
user 13931748
Group Organizer
Tampa, FL
Post #: 404
This weekend I got to compare the Invicta to Jon's Audionote 4.1 DAC (kit) in his setup, and then Charles Bel Canto 3.5Vb in my setup this afternoon.

Jon's Audionote, with it's tubed output stage, yielded a warmer, more "organic" soundstage vs. the Invicta, but slightly muted bass and highs. Overall, though, the Audionote was quite musical and non-fatiguing.

Hearing the Bel Canto in my setup was quite interesting. We volume matched the two DAC's, and simultaneously streamed tracks via TOSLINK and S/PDIF to both the Bel Canto and Invicta, instantaneously switching via my preamp. The difference in dynamics was not nearly as great as that noted during our DAC shootout. This might have been a result of careful volume matching, lesser dynamics of my ML stats vs. Bart's Jamo Ref 909's, or perhaps using a tubed C-J preamp and C-J amp, vs. Bart's SS NAD processor and Bel Canto monoblocks. Regardless, we really couldn't appreciate much difference until we played some particularly dynamic tracks with lots of low level detail. With those tracks, the Bel Canto provided a little more "heft" and "attack," and arguably a little more "air" with vocals. If I were to assign the Bel Canto a 100 score as a reference, the Invicta would score a 97 on sonics, but would get "bonus points" for it's other features.

My takeaway lesson from all this (as expected), is that we should not "rush to judgement" when auditioning gear in somebody else's system (or audio show, or local retailer). Whenever possible, do some extended listening in your own setup and room, and eliminate as many variables as possible when doing a head-to-head comparison. I would equate our DAC Shootout to a "speed dating" exercise... where you meet a lot of new faces, but don't really get to know the true character and personality of each candidate.

I'll keep you all posted if/when one of the DAC's and I get engaged!

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Founded Feb 3, 2011

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Alan N, Edward Matura, Ernie Kautzmann, francis endryck, Richard Setera
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