Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2 DSDse DAC
Great resolution and dynamic range without the old DAC decoding artifacts.
Review By Rick LaFaver
A longstanding battle
existed in the era of round shiny discs. Which player could play all of them and
do them all quite well. This battle caused an era of "Jack-of-all-trades masters-of-none" until the Oppo BDP-95 came out just in
time for digital media to practically take over the audiophile world. Now with
digital media there are five times as many types of "round shiny disks" when one
all of the bit rates, bit depths, and sampling frequencies the iterations are
endless... 16, 24, 32, and now 64 and 128 bit DSD files, with sample rates of up
to 384 kHz make for infinite possibilities. It takes a very resilient device that
is overly engineered and backed by a great software suite to be able to
reproduce all of these files into music and do it well.
Wyred 4 Sound was among the first to take up the
challenge, and with the DAC-2 DSDse DAC it delivers. The DSDse DAC is capable
of bit depths of up to 128 bit (DSD only) with sample rates of up to 384kHz.
This is an impressive feat in itself, considering we are only a few years removed
from most DACs being capped at 96kHz/24-bit PCM via USB. With the design goals
achieved, the true test was putting it through its paces and seeing if the SE
DAC could really deliver all of these files with the refinement and ease that
one would expect from a high quality DAC with a low enough noise floor to truly
appreciate the differences between the different formats.
Putting The DSD SE In Action
With Various File Formats
installing the included firmware and properly configuring Foobar to bitstream
the files bit perfect to the DAC as an external audio device, I queued up the
most obscure files I could find. Self-recorded 96kHz/24-bit PCM ISOs I had
recorded direct from virgin vinyl. Also used DSD 64 and DSD 128 tracks plus all bitrates and
sampling frequencies I could find. If it were in front of a real firing squad,
the DAC would have been James Bond being fired at by a baddie, ye come away untouched. The
DSDse does a great job of decoding all formats after a little tweaking with the
different components in Foobar, there wasn’t a single track that flummoxed the
SE. Not only did it perform well, but the front readout was always accurate and
there wasn’t the usual delay and hiccup in the playback that usually occurs.
playback started immediately. This implementation of the ESS reference chip is
one of the best I have been able to use. It is very resilient and very user friendly.
The only difficult part is configuring your windows based system to just leave
the files alone and trust that the Wyred 4 Sound DAC would handle everything.
After delving deep for challenging content through my library of music to challenge the DAC, I am confident it decodes almost every format I can think of,
and does a good job doing so.
But How Does It Sound?
the DAC-2 DSDse is capable of decoding everything, it does manage to sound as if
it specialized in almost all of them. This is particularly true with high resolution PCM and 64 bit
DSD. All of the formats sounded good and there was certainly differentiation
between the formats, but these two sounded by far and away the best. The
currently considered high resolution PCM 48kHz/24-bit and above were amazing,
with great resolution, dynamic range and low noise floor. All this yet without any of the
decoding artifacts that could sometime be heard on older DACs. As good as top
quality PCM sounds, the DSD recordings I listened to were even better! Some of
the higher resolution DSD (DSD128) didn’t sound quite as clean, but I would
attribute this more to the maturity of the file format more so than the
capabilities of the DAC. I listened to some high resolution DSD files
after being down converted to PCM, yet some of the noise and digititus remained.
The DSDse allows you to hear the music without particularly introducing any real
sonic signature of its own. It allows a track that normally images well to really
shine, and poor recordings sound as poorly as they should. The amazingly high >115dB S/N ratio and >98dB of channel separation, along with a resolving
set of speakers, really allows you to differentiate between high quality
recordings in the various formats.
the Wyred 4 Sound with specific sonic characteristics is difficult, as the best a
DAC can do is completely remove itself from the sonic experience. On most tracks
the DSDse does just that, completely removes itself from the sonic experience.
The soundstage is vast and uncolored and the leading and trailing edges of notes
have great attack and sustain. Particularly, cymbals on orchestral music. Horns and strings in small ensemble are a tremendous step up from the Eastern
Electric MiniMax that is my everyday DAC. Comparing the DSDse to something in
DAC category, like the Empirical Audio Overdrive, the DSDse is slightly lacking
in the analog character that the Overdrive squeezes out of recordings. Then
again it should at nearly three times the price,. Even so, the Wyred 4
supports a far greater breadth of formats and is very close in channel
separation and S/N. In its price range, the DAC-2 DSDse gives up very
little if anything to its pricier competitors in sonic performance.
Pros: Bulletproof across all formats I could
find. Great remote with a comprehensive menu, multiple inputs and outputs with
impedance matching using gain controls plus it is easily upgradeable should Wyred 4 Sound come
out with any further feature sets. You also get a very low noise floor and five year warranty.
For me it is styling, plus for newbies it may take a certain degree of technical
knowledge to enable DSD64 and DSD128 playback.
Type: Solid-state 384kHz/32-bit / DSD DAC
Chipset: ESS Reference audio (ES9018) 32 bit DAC
FR (20 Hz to 20 kHz
Crosstalk: - > 98dB
Output Impedance: 100 Ohms
Inputs: Two S/PDIF coax, two optical TosLink, AES/EBU and balanced I2S input via HDMI cable
W4S proprietary discrete output stages
Internal Parts: Custom Vishay Z-Foil resistors, ultra-low noise discrete regulators,
ultra-fast recovery Schottkey diodes, Premium grade inductors, and rhodium plated Furutech
ESS Time Domain Jitter Eliminator
Asynchronous USB input supports 32-bit 384kHz and DSD64 + DSD128
Fully balanced design with balanced and unbalanced outputs
Upgradeable Digital, Output, and USB boards (designed for future improvements)
Power Supply: Oversized toroidal transformer for solid and noise-free power and
88,000uF of filtering with W4S low ESR "super-cap"
Green OLED display for input, sample rate, volume control, and configuration
Remote control with features such as balance control and phase inversion
Defeatable 32 bit volume control
HT Bypass inputs (selectable via DC trigger)
Dimensions: 8.5" x 4.125" x 13.5" (WxHxD)
Weight: 14 lbs.
Warranty: Five years
Wyred 4 Sound
4235 Traffic Way
Atascadero, CA 93422
Voice: (805) 466-9973
Fax: (805) 462-8962