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Oppo Sonica DAC – A Hidden GEM!

  • Written by Denom
  • Category: Reviews
  • Hits: 1591

 

Early in February 2017, Oppo launched the Sonica DAC, this being the second product in the Oppo stable to share the Sonica name. M/s. Jay Multimedia, the distributors for Oppo Digital in India kindly sent us a unit to review for which we are very grateful as the Sonica DAC on paper looked very impressive and hence we were itching to put one through its paces.

Unboxing:

The Sonica DAC comes very well packed in a high quality cardboard box with lot of protection in the form of styrofoam compartment that house the main unit and the power cable with user manual & fold out poster.

Appearance:

The Sonica DAC is a complete black affair and rests on nice chrome ringed feet. The Front panel from left to right consists of the power button, source selector knob, a fairly small display screen, below which on the right is a USB type A port and a largish volume knob. The sides are flat black and have no screws attached. The rear consists of Co-Axial, Optical & USB type B inputs below which are the XLR & RCA Pre-outs. Next we have in & out Triggers below which are the Aux-In RCA connectors. A lan port, USB Host Port & a Ground Screw followed by a voltage switch & the IEC Power Cord 3 Pin Connector. Quality of the components used are very good and overall fit and finish is as expected from Oppo. The brushed aluminum face plate does look good & the Sonica DAC is surprisingly heavy for its size, due thanks to a large power transformer.

Build Quality: 5 Stars

We paired the Sonica DAC with the following Gears:

Source(Transport): Marantz SACD7003, Oppo BDP103, Marantz CD5005, Yamaha CD1000

Amplifiers: Marantz CD6006, Synthesis Nimis LE, PS Audio GCC-100, Jadis Orchestra Reference, Naim Nait 5Si

Speakers: Amphion Helium 410, Heco Victa Prime 302, Totem Rain Maker, Heco Celan GT202, Nibbana Dvee, Cadence Arista, PMC DB1Gold, PMC Twenty.23

Cables: Nordost White Lightning Speaker Cables and Interconnects, Transparent the Link Interconnects & The Wave Speaker Cables Nordost Purple Flare USB Cable Nordost Blue Heaven Co-Axial Cable AudioQuest Forest Optical Cable

SPECIFICATIONS(From OPPO Website)

Designs and specifications are subject to change without notice.

General
Dimensions (W x H x D) 10.0 x 3.0 x 12.2 inches, 254 x 76 x 360 mm
Weight 10.4 lbs, 4.7 kg
Power Supply AC 110-120 V ~ / 220-240 V ~ 50/60 Hz
Power Consumption 30 W (operation), 0.5 W (standby)
Trigger Input 3.5 V - 15 V, 10 mA minimum
Trigger Output 12V, 100 mA maximum
Operating Temperature 41°F - 95°F, 5°C - 35°C
Operating Humidity 15% - 75% No condensation
USB Audio Input (USB B Type)
Input Format Stereo PCM, Stereo DSD (DoP v1.1 or native)
PCM Sampling Frequencies 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz, 192 kHz, 352.8 kHz, 384 kHz, 705.6 kHz, 768 kHz
PCM Word Length 16-bit, 24-bit, 32-bit
DSD Sampling Frequencies 2.8224 MHz (DSD64), 5.6448 MHz (DSD128), 11.2896 MHz (DSD256), 22.5792 MHz (DSD512, native mode only)
Profile USB 2.0, USB Audio 2.0
Coaxial and Optical Digital Audio Inputs
Input Format Stereo PCM, Stereo DSD (DoP v1.1 or native)
Sampling Frequencies 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz, 192 kHz
Word Length 16-bit, 24-bit
DSD Sampling Frequencies 2.8224 MHz (DSD64)
AUX Audio Input
Input Impedance 10k Ohm
Maximum Input Level 2 Vrms
USB Ports (Type A)
Profile USB 2.0, mass storage only
Audio Format Support AAC, AIF, AIFC, AIFF, APE, FLAC, M4A, M4A (Apple Lossless) ALAC, OGG, WAV, WMA, DSF, DFF
Maximum Sampling Rate PCM up to 192 kHz / 24-bit, DSD up to 2.8224 MHz (DSD64)
Wireless Standard
Wi-Fi 802.11.a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.1

DAC Performance Specifications

Specification XLR Output RCA Output
Output Level 4±0.4 Vrms 2±0.2 Vrms
Frequency Response 20 Hz - 160 kHz (+0/-2.4 dB)
20 Hz - 20 kHz (+0/-0.04 dB)
20 Hz - 160 kHz (+0/-2.4 dB)
20 Hz - 20 kHz (+0/-0.04 dB)
THD+N at 1 kHz (A Weight, 20 Hz- 20 kHz) < -115 dB < -115 dB
Channel Separation > 120 dB > 120 dB
Signal-to-Noise Ratio
(A Weight, 20 Hz- 20 kHz)
> 120 dB > 120 dB
Dynamic Range
(1 kHz -60 dBFS, A Weight, 20 Hz- 20 kHz)
> 120 dB > 120 dB

Performance:

We hooked up the Oppo Sonica DAC to a desk top computer, a laptop both via USB and optical inputs as well as CD Players which we used as a transport which we hooked up via Optical & Co-Axial. We also had a M2Tech Young DSD DAC which we used to compare in an A/B test. The Sonica DAC is controlled by the same app that was launched for the Sonica wireless speaker, so once we selected the DAC option, it was pretty much seamless from there on, with similar menu accessible as that of the wireless speaker. We never had any glitches using the app and were satisfied with its performance like before when we used for the wireless speaker. There is no option for a remote and neither is one provided with the DAC but then the app is meant to be used extensively which is why the absence of a dedicated remote isn’t felt at all. This though could be a deal breaker for some and so Oppo should think of providing a remote in future either bundled in with the Sonica DAC or as an option at additional cost. Using the display of the Sonica DAC, we weren’t too impressed by the rather basic resolution and black & white display as we feel that the display should be A) in colour and B) have higher resolution. This clearly appears to be done to cut costs but then once we hear the performance of the Sonica DAC, all is forgiven! The display can be dimmed but then the graphics and fonts get a little rough around the edges. Maybe a higher resolution screen in colour can be thought of in future models. Like the erstwhile BDP105, the Sonica DAC comes with a ESS Technology DAC Chipset, but with the current top of the line ES9038 PRO Sabre Chip. We applaud Oppo for choosing the top-of-the-line, audiophile-grade, ESS PRO Series Sabre chip, the ES9038PRO, which we are sure is likely to be more expensive being the flagship chip that ESS produces. A good feature to have is the bypass mode, which can be easily achieved for the AUX input or all inputs. Once the break-in took place, the Sonica DAC showcased its true colours. We were pleasantly surprised at how musical the Sonica DAC is keeping in mind the overall presentation across the frequency range. An area where the Sonica DAC truly excels is in the low frequency region where the bass is articulate, defined and extremely well represented. The Sonica DAC does justice to the midrange and mid bass particularly well. It also presents a more accurate soundstage in comparison to the M2Tech Young DSD DAC that we compared it with. I would not describe the Sonica DAC as especially revealing or clinical as the ESS Sabre32 Reference DAC chipset used in the BDP105, which is good as we actually preferred the much smoother and organic presentation of the Sonica DAC. In short, the Sonica DAC provides the resolution minus the overt digital and clinical detail.

Verdict:

The Sonica DAC, is the Oppo’s first dedicated stereo DAC/music streamer. The Sonica DAC can be used as a standalone DAC capable of decoding high-resolution sources up to PCM 32/768 and DSD512, a high resolution audio player capable upto 24/192 and DSD64 and or as a music streamer. The fact that the AUX input of Sonica DAC enables you to connect existing analog audio source to the Sonica multi-room network is another bonus. The Sonica DAC is truly a well thought out and superb sounding DAC, being adequately rich in features in the price segment it is competing in. We are sure that a lot of digital music enthusiasts will appreciate the Sonica DAC for what it offers. Also those who have been using the BDP105 as a stand alone DAC should seriously consider the Sonica DAC as an upgrade to the same. At Rs.79999/- we say it is pricy when one sees the US price but then we are to keep in mind the custom duties, allied taxes and logistics costs for a low volume product sold in India.

Klipsch Powergate - Tiny Tot!

  • Written by Denom
  • Category: Reviews
  • Hits: 851

 

Klipsch, the famous Loudspeaker manufacturer has been evolving a lot than just being a loudspeaker manufacturer, getting into niche segments since the past 2-3 years. The powergate is one of these interesting new products which is a highly versatile product to say the least. It can be used as a traditional stereo amplifier, USB DAC, Headphone Amplifier, Wireless Streamer and used to play back form audio sources via network accessed in a room. We were pleasantly surprised to know that it has been launched recently in the Indian market. The Indian Distributor, M/s. Cinerama Pvt. Ltd.(Cinebels) very kindly sent us a unit to review and play with.

Unboxing:

The powergate came packed in a fancy printed plastic coated cardboard box which shows the powergate picture and shares quite a bit of the details on it on the box itself. The powergate comes packed in foam/plastic bags and is ensconced in an egg crate type paper mache cradle, with a compartment in the side having all the relevant cables as stated below. 1 post card sized leaflet which indicates how one can expand their wireless streaming experience with other klipsch products and a small instruction booklet with a warranty leaflet, safety instructions booklet and a spotify leaflet that is folded to the size of the instruction booklet, all packed together in a mini plastic bag. The quality of the packing indicates that they can be re-used for quite a number of times, which is good since one would like to carry it around keeping its small size form in mind.

Contents of the box were as follows:

Powergate Unit

Power Cords (3 pin & 2 pin)

3.5 Aux Cable

USB A to B Type Cable

Optical Cable

Remote Control with 2 AAA Batteries

Appearance:

We received our powergate in black color which is shiny at the front end and side edges, whilst the top and rear is a matt black finish. The front panel consists of a power button, a source selector button on the left side, a large volume/mute control/sub woofer gain dial in the centre and a 3.5mm head fone jack to the right. When powered ON, a red dot to the right of the volume dial which is essentially the stand by light goes off and the left side of the volume dial lights up in a white light with the blue tooth pairing light flashing continuously till the input is selected and a spotifiy connect icon lights up in white on the right side of the volume dial. One will find the following inputs light up once the relevant one is selected by pressing the input button(Wi-fi, Bluetooth, Aux, USB, Phono, Digital) The sides are lightly ribbed with perforations in between to ventilate the heat generated from within. We found the ventilation is rather inadequate as the power gate does get quite hot when in use for a couple of hours especially when the volume is over the half way mark. The rear end consists of (From left to right) Top Left to Right Ethernet Input, Ethernet Output, USB Service Port, USB Audio Input, Optical Input, WiFi Setup LED, WiFi Setup Button, Speaker Wire Binding Posts (L & R), Power Input Bottom Left to Right Phono/Line Input (L & R), Phono / Line Switch, Ground Screw Terminal, Auxillary Input, Analog Output (L & R), Subwoofer Output The remote is a nice slim one with all the buttons nicely spaced out and placed appropriately.

Build Quality: 4 stars

Specifications:

• 2 x 100 watt class D amplifier

• Wi-Fi connectivity for Klipsch Stream wireless multi-room audio integration 

• USB Audio (Type B Connection) 

• Bluetooth® wireless connectivity with AAC and apt-X decoding

• Phono pre-amp / RCA analog audio

• Optical (TOSLINK) 

• Remote control 

• 192kHz / 24-bit D/A Converter

• Headphone Output (3.5mm)

• Subwoofer Output

• Line level Pre-amp output (RCA analog)

Performance:

We tried a variety of gears along with the Klipsch PowerGate, namely:

Source:

Marantz CD6006

Marantz SA7003

Oppo Sonica DAC

Cocktail Audio N15

Marantz TT5005

Marantz TT15S1

Speakers:

Amphion Helium 410

Heco Victa Prime 202

Mission MX-3

Cadence Arista

Nibbana Dvee

Merlin TSM BME

Cables:

Speaker:

Taga TAVC-14

Nordost White Lightning

Interconnects:

Nordost White Lightning

USB: Nordost Purple Flare

We threw the PowerGate straight into the deep end of the test by pairing it with a variety of partnering electronics, hoping that it will show us a weakness or 2. At the end of the day, we expect a product with the Klipsch name to be ready for taking abuse. That the PowerGate took the challenge well and performed admirably well in most situations, bears as testament to its abilities. The only negative we found with the PowerGate was that it heats up quite a bit! Surely being class D, that should not be the case but it does heat up a lot which makes us think otherwise. Having hardly any sort of ventilation built into its case makes matters worse and is surely not a good sign for the longevity of the product. We observed the heat issue getting aggravated when we pushed the volume up for sustained periods of time(3-4 hours at a stretch) which could indicate that the PowerGate does not like to be played at higher volumes for long periods of time. We brought up this issue with M/s. Cinebels who assured us that it could be an isolated case with the unit we received for reviewing as none of the other PowerGates they tested had heating issues. We sincerely hope that is the case as the PowerGate is a good product indeed.

Verdict:

The PowerGate is an extremely versatile product. It can be used as a traditional 2-channel stereo amplifier, having a phono stage, a USB DAC, Subwoofer out or as a Headphone Amplifier. It can also be integrated with the Klipsch Stream Wireless Multi-Room Audio system for playback of the audio sources via your network in your room. The small form factor and light weight also helps in one being able to carry it around and make the most use of it. At Rs.68000/-, it does seem to be a tad overpriced but the features it offers does make it a viable option for today’s requirements of wanting the features as desired.

Legacy Calibre – A New Calibre Of Reference Sound!

  • Written by pulastya
  • Category: Reviews
  • Hits: 1368

 

We were fortunate to hear the Legacy Audio Calibre, a new compact speaker from Legacy Audio, albeit very briefly when we visited the demo room of Legacy Audio’s India Distributor – M/s. Audio Excellence India. The purpose of the visit was something else but when we entered the demo room and saw the Legacy Calibre’s, it was a forgone conclusion that we had to hear them.

Since the configuration in the demo room was geared towards a home theatre environment, we requested Mr. Anil Srivastava, the owner of Audio Excellence India, to let us hear the Calibre’s none the less even though it was a compromised set-up with a home theatre processor & multichannel power amp availed to power them. The source used was an Oppo bluray player and cabling was bare basic run of the mill. Anil was quite apologetic and concerned for the partnering electronics and cables but since we were adamant to hear the Calibre’s, he relented and let us listen to them.

First couple of seconds into a familiar audiophile track and we knew that the Calibre’s are something special. Special to look, special to hear! I for one, was completely taken aback by how refined, clean and pure the Calibre’s sounded. All my preconceived notions of how legacy audio speakers sound went out of the room and with good reason to boot. The calibre’s have that special X factor about them as the sound they deliver is much larger than they size belies. Whether one is seated on or off axis, one gets a huge sound stage that also engages you to listen to music for as long as you can. So pure, effortless and benign that one cannot believe that the Calibre’s can deliver so well in an environment full of constraints, poor cabling and less than ideal partnering electronics. The AMT Ribbon Tweeter and the Mid Range Driver are so well partnered along with the trio of Woofers (2 of them are passive radiators) resulting in huge dynamics, attack and speed but all in a super refined manner. Truly, an eye opener. In jest, I advised Anil to remove the Legacy Audio Logo’s from the Calibre baffles as if one hears them without any branding, then one can never believe that these speakers are from Legacy Audio! Regrettably, the time was rather too short to really listen to the Calibre’s and so we look forward to listening to them for a longer duration in the near future, or maybe even have them over for a proper review. So much it seems are the possibilities with the Calibre’s, that one surely will need time to explore their capabilities to the fullest.

The calibre’s are offered in a variety of finishes, can be passive or active and their prices start at about Rs.500000/- 

The Calibre’s we heard were in a Black Pearl+Cabernet Finish, which retail at about Rs.600000/-

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