Tuesday 20 December 2022

As We Hear It: Yet Another Christmas Playlist (2022) - Guest post by Allan Folz

Greetings and Merry Christmas Archimago and readers. For new readers, the Christmas playlist is a recent tradition (2020, 2021) at Archimago Musings that had as its genesis recognition that great dynamic range makes for great music, even if you didn't necessarily know it or weren't even looking for it.

It started way back in the 90's. I accumulated a small collection of Christmas CD's which sounded great. My wife and I never tired of listening to them between Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. Several years later I happened across this humble blog and learned about dynamic range, among a great many other things. When I started measuring some of the albums in my CD collection I noticed that all my favorites had pretty high dynamic ranges. Additionally, the albums I bought, only to be disappointed in them after I got them home and had a few listens had pretty low dynamic ranges. One year as Christmas approached I thought I'd test the theory against my Christmas albums. To my pleasant non-surprise I saw that they all scored respectably well on dynamic range. A couple years later it occurred to me to share my epiphany (heh) with Arch and the blog in a guest post. It was well received, so the next year I did another playlist, again with nod to dynamic range.

This year, I am going to break slightly with tradition and won't be overtly covering dynamic range. I trust that's been proven to everyone's satisfaction. Plus, these are albums I discovered from streaming services, and I don't actually know the dynamic ranges. Not to mention, streaming services today often fudge around with albums' loudness since the number one complaint from streaming listeners is loud songs coming after relatively quiet ones when they are listening to mix playlists. The dynamic range of the song you stream is often probably not the same as on the CD you would buy. [Ed: Indeed. Much depends on which mastering is on the streaming service!]

Saturday 17 December 2022

MUSINGS: On audio gear appearance and design. (A case of the HiFi Rose RA180 and Audio Jewelry.)

As work calms down into the holiday season, I thought it would be fun today to talk about what's obviously a subjective matter... Appearance.

Clearly, aesthetics are matters to be adjudicated "in the eye of the beholder". Although in these pages, I'm more curious about sound quality and using objective means to test and demonstrate the resolution of devices, appearances certainly do matter even if for me that's not the highest priority. Of course a good looking sound system is pleasing to the eye, improves the ambiance of one's room, might impress other audio friends, and there's always that "wife/spouse/partner acceptance factor" (let's just call this the traditional WAF). For marital harmony, it is only fair to receive feedback about one's system occupying a shared space. Whenever possible, I would highly recommend a dedicated room as the only way to go if you're desiring to be a hardcore, freedom-loving audiophile beyond "head-fi". ;-)

Sunday 11 December 2022

REVIEW: E1DA #9038D6K Dongle DAC / Headphone Amp (Part II): Headphone Amp Power, DSD, Subjective Impressions, AMPT & Perfectionistic Tweaking!

A great sounding music listening station! (Samsung Galaxy Tablet, Drop+HiFiMan HE-4XX, classic Jacky Cheung cantopop.)

Okay friends, today we continue with Part II of the discussion on E1DA's #9038D6K portable DAC/headphone amp. Please refer to Part I last time for the general overview of DAC performance which already tells us about the PCM resolution of the device. The data from last time shows that for the price and size, this unassuming dongle is one heck of an accurate, high-fidelity, high-resolution digital-analogue converter.

This time, let's move forward with exploring other areas not yet discussed. Specifically, let's focus on resolution when under headphone-like loads, look at DSD performance characteristics, have a listen to the DAC, and given that E1DA is known to be tweaker/DIY-friendly (including making devices like the Cosmos line), let's also talk about what I would consider more "extreme" tweaking for the perfectionist audiophiles!

Tuesday 6 December 2022

REVIEW: E1DA #9038D6K Dongle DAC / Headphone Amp (Part I) - PCM DAC performance. And (potentially) higher dynamic range in Spatial Audio 2-channel fold-downs.

Little E1DA DAC to Sennheiser HD800 headphones via 1/4" adaptor... Looks ridiculous if walking around in public with this! But sounds great. ;-)

A few weeks back, I received a package from Ivan Khlyupin (IVX) of E1DA containing both the Cosmos Scaler and the device we'll be looking at today - the E1DA #9038D6K DAC / headphone amplifier.

This is the latest iteration of the #9038D models which feature 3.5mm single-ended output, to be distinguished from the #9038S models which are balanced devices with 2.5mm output jacks. And the "6K" refers to 6000μF (!) of power rail filtering (original #9038D has 4000μF).

As the name implies, internally, these DACs are based on the ESS ES9038Q2M low-power chips. They are capable of playing back PCM to 32/384 as well as up to DSD256. Over the last year or two, we've seen a proliferation of DACs based on this component and I would say that overall, the performance on these devices have in general been very good. Thanks to the low power consumption, we can now have mobile converters that perform at least to the resolution of many desktop DACs while being fully USB-powered.

To generate the amplified headphone output, op-amps used include the OPA1622 and OPA1602 based on the E1DA specs. To achieve very high resolution, internal components are advertised to be quality Susumu resistors, Murata C0G caps, Kyocera AVX tantalum caps, and connectors from Taiwan. In my discussions with Ivan, I know in the last while it has been slow for him to source some of these components and at times difficult to avoid fake parts out there!