This project was code-named “Project EvaD (Evaluation DAVE)” and was conducted over the course of a few weeks. I aimed to test the validity of some of the claims made about this revolutionary DAC. I plan to keep this a living document and update as I go.
This project focuses solely on sound quality. If you want to know more of the technical details or the design/engineering that went into the DAVE check out the Chord DAVE thread on Head-fi. Rob Watts is very active on that thread answering almost any question most people may have.
So how did all this madness begin? Well, many claim to have the proverbial “Golden Ears” but few are able to pass a blind test at a success rate much better than chance. At Big Sound 2015, Roy (Romaz on Head-fi) killed it.
This was a test where we were challenged to differentiate between a Bakoon HPA-21 current drive amplifier, Apex Teton tube amp and a Moon Neo 430HA solid state amp connected to an HE-1000 and HD800 while blinded. Only one track was played, a male Brazilian vocalist singing in Portuguese, and it looped continuously. It was a track none of us were familiar with and while it was a studio recording, it had ambience to it. While you would think this wouldn’t be a difficult series of tests, out of 30 tests, most participants, Tyll included, scored closer to about 50%. I scored 93% and answered incorrectly only twice (during the first trial when I wasn’t real familiar with the process and during the last trial when fatigue had set in). Tyll asked me what I was hearing that allowed me to tell the amps apart and I told him each amp portrayed a different amount of “air.” To my ears, it was the only difference I could lock in on. In all of my listening, I have become very tuned in to this quality and it’s the first thing I look for and the first thing that I notice is missing. – Romaz
In his post here, he conducted a blind test and drew a few conclusions that could potentially change the landscape of the audio world.
As it has become clear to me that what is connected before the DAVE has become less important, what is connected after the DAVE has become even more important. Because the output of the DAVE is so pure and rich and faithful to the recording, it would make sense to use the most transparent analog interconnects, headphone or speaker cables, and headphones or speakers you can afford. While expensive, I can vouch for the DHC Silver Spore4 if anyone is on the fence about this cable. The difference in sound quality is there and it is easily the finest headphone cable I have heard.
I’ve since became good friends with Roy. Although our taste in music vary a bit (I grew up with Hardcore Gangsta Rap and still bump it in my hood), I believe we’re aligned as far as sound quality is concerned. We both value transparency, rich tonal balance, and quality without compromise.
Roy has been one of the most helpful, empathetic, and patient members in this community. I’ve gained an enormous amount of knowledge on this endless passion of ours and I wouldn’t have gone this far without his help. If you were to go through a few of his posts on Head-fi, you’ll see he has this uncanny ability to convey concepts and impressions in a sensible way. He alone sparked my interest in the DAVE and the reason why I went on this ambitious endeavor to which I’ve named Project EvaD.
Does everything before the DAVE, including source, really become less important? It really sounds too good to be true so I wanted to find out for myself.
The questions this review aims to answer:
- Does a high-quality digital power cable and/or power regenerator/conditioner affect the sound of the DAVE?
- How does the DAVE stack against other state-of-the-art DACs?
- Does the DAVE require a headphone amp to sound better?
- What happens when the transparent DAVE outputs to a supposedly transparent amp like the Simaudio Moon Neo 430HAD or Wells Audio Headtrip Reference amplifier?
- Does the DAVE have enough power to drive headphones like the Abyss?
- Assuming a bit perfect stream, is the DAVE truly immune to source? This includes the use of USB regenerators/conditioners, linear power supplies, USB cables, etc.
- Doe the DAVE sound better/different when streamed from a TOTL streamer like the jitter-free Lumin S1 as opposed to a direct USB connection to a noisy laptop?
Let’s get started with digital power cords…