So I've had a chance to properly play around with this behemoth over the last couple of days. I am using Audirvana and to my ears, leaving upsampling and all filtering off sounds better than either PCM upsampling or DSD conversion. I also prefer oversampling to NOS mode, but with x2 enabled on the OS, and not x4 or x8, which sounds too sterile.
Using these settings and feeding it via my Aqua LinQ via AES, the sound is really incredible. A couple of observations:
- The level of detail is a step up from my Acuhorn /Soekris R2R dac. It is like "watching" the music through a window that was slightly hazy and which has been cleaned
- Instrument positioning is superior and the best I have heard. I can't put my finger on it, but I think it is because I can "see" the players in different vertical and horizontal planes between my speakers, which makes the performance seem so "real". It is quite an experience with 7-foot tall speakers I can tell you...
- Piano is easily the best I've heard. All keys sound very real with zero sheesh, and also the keys have a real weight. Upper piano is perfect, and that is a real litmus test for a quality dac IMO
- Bass detail is the best I have heard
- Midrange tone is also perfect for me, and I don't miss the 45 triode layer the Acohorn added because ultimately that dac wasn't as neutral and still sounded ever so slightly digital on piano, no amount of triode tube goodness could mask that
- Oddly I find I am listening to a lot of small-scale classical music through this dac
As you can tell I am totally blown away by how good this sucker is. It also makes me realise that I don't need to have triodes in every bloody component! I already have directly heated triodes (45) in my preamp and 48 DHTs in my power amps.
I actually appreciate the higher resolution that the solid state R7HE provides.
How I need to buy an expensive 10Mhz OCXO and then wait for the Mk3 R7HE to be released and try that!