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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.

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