Saturday , 25 March 2017
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DiDiT DAC 212 SE

I’ve owned at least 20 DACs in the last couple of years or so. When I first heard about the DiDiT I actually discounted it as it uses the ESS Sabre 9018 chip and they have a reputation for being detailed but dull and life’s too short for dull HiFi. What made me change my mind? I read a couple of reviews of the original DAC 212 by people who have similar tastes in sound/music to me and they were praising it a lot. It really sounded like it was something I’d like, so I paid my money (RRP EUR3995 at time of review) to Difference in Design Difference in Technology (DiDiT) via Bank transfer and waited to get my new toy from the Netherlands.

Unboxing/First Impressions 
In the quality cork packaging came the DAC, a solid remote that looks like a small light sabre and a solid pair of XLR to RCA adaptors.
The DAC is small (212x212x45mm), heavier than you think (2.7kg) and exceptionally well finished. The DAC contains the power supply, so no external boxes. There is a lip at the back of the DAC which prevents the use of big IEC connectors.

Features
Seven digital inputs (1 x AES, 2 x RCA SPDIF, 1 x TOSLINK SPDIF, 1 x USB B, 1 x I2S & 1 x Bluetooth)
Headphone socket
Balanced outputs
Remote control.
A button on the front for on/off and input selection.
A display.

That’s it! It looks really simple but it is quite flexible. You can access a setup menu using the remote that gives allows to adjust quite a lot.

The remote control is comfortable in the hand and has buttons for on/off, volume up and down, mute and input selector.

The display is easy to read from across the room.

The headphone socket has min/max volume settings independent of main output. You will need to spend a reasonable sum of money (say £500) on an external headphone amplifier to better the sound you get here. Plugging in headphones switches the main outputs off.

There are three output modes (DAC, Single and Multiple)
DAC
Fixed volume output as either balanced or unbalanced at reduced volume selectable through the setup menu.
Single
Variable volume. You can set min/max volume that applies to all inputs.
Multiple
Variable volume. You can set min/max volume setting for each input. I didn’t test this feature.

I did most of my listening in DAC mode using my Vitus SS-010 integrated amplifier and Graham Audio LS5/9 speakers or with a Trilogy 931 headphone amplifier and Audeze LCD-X headphones.

If the outside of the box is impressive, the inside is where the real magic happens. DiDiT have spent a lot of resources on developing power supplies and output stages. It doesn’t matter how good the ESS Sabre 9018 DAC chip is, it’s only a small part of the whole package.

How does it sound?
TDLR; It’s rhythmic, dynamic, delivers great vocals and has no digital nasties.

I listen to a vast range of music, some of it quite poorly recorded and/or mastered on CD and Spotify, and the DiDiT never fails to bring out the best in each piece. I just end up enjoying the music rather than trying to disect it. The DiDiT delivers lots of detail but doesn’t try to force it down your throat; it’s just delivered as part of a natural whole. It doesn’t sound like vinyl but I can see vinyl lovers falling for this DAC.

There are three aspects of the sound that I think are worth delving into further; bass, vocals and overall. The bass is robust, rhythmic, detailed and lends an air of purpose and foundation to a lot of music. This is the biggest failing in most DACs. Vocals have not only detail but also body and tone which many DACs seem to not be able to portray correctly. The overall sound is natural with none of the usual digital nasties. However, as Aristotle is reputed to have said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”.

So it’s perfect? Well no. I also own a Meitner MA 1 (RRP £7500) and this does everything the DiDiT does and a bit more. Instruments are easier to place in space, the treble is cleaner, it handles transients better and there is even more magic in the vocals. I’d say that the DiDiT offers at least 90% of the Meitner sound for half the cost. The differences are only obvious when you compare them directly. I can’t imagine anyone being even remotely dissappointed by the sound of the DiDiT.

Direct to Power Amp
To test the variable output of the DiDiT, I used it in Single mode to connect directly to my DIY Aleph 30 single-ended Class A solid-state power amp. I noticed no change in the quality of sound or the general tone and enjoyment the DiDiT offers as I changed the volume. If I didn’t have a turntable, I’d be very happy to use it like this.

Summary
The biggest compliment that I could give to the DiDiT is that if I’d been told it had been designed by the Danes, built by the Swiss and voiced by the British I’d have believed it. I really like the sounds that the DiDiT produces and will be interested to see what they come up with in the future.

If you’re in the market for a high-end DAC, you really should give the DiDiT DAC 212 SE a go.

Images courtesy of DiDiT High End (www.didit-highend.com)

Ian Russell

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