Halide Design Cable DACs: Devilsound and DAC HD

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Sound Impressions: DAC HD

The DAC HD is a bigger sounding DAC than the devilsound. It takes the basic devilsound sound and improves it in several areas. The soundstage is bigger and more spacious, possessing both a wider and deeper space. The bass is fuller than the devilsound’s, and with a better texture. It’s not the most technical, articulate bass (for instance you can a more technically proficient bass from the KingRex UD384 or Centrance’s Dacmini), but it’s one of the most musical bass I’ve listened to from a source below the $1,000 tag. Midrange has been improved and is more detailed and is sweeter sounding than the devilsound’s too. And last of all, the treble is more lively than the devilsound’s, though without going too hot. Soundstage three dimensionality, still remains to be inferior to the likes of the Dacport LX or the HRT Music Streamer II+, but overall I the DAC HD is the more musically satisfying DAC.

I was talking on Headfonia’s Facebook (www.facebook.com/headfonia) a few weeks back on the DAC HD, and I wrote that it’s a fun sounding DAC. Some people didn’t accept that very well, as I imagined that they were expecting a more technical-oriented review outlining the technical aspects of the DACs as I usually do. I don’t think that always has to be the case while doing reviews, and naturally I would focus on the things that a particular product shine at, rather than gloating over its weaknesses.

I think the same argument can be applied to amplifiers and headphones as well. Some amps and headphones have very strong technicalities, and it’s natural that we talk about those aspects that they do very well at. On the other hand, we can talk about headphones like the Sennheiser HD650 and the B&W P5 that don’t have much technicalities to boast, even compared to similarly priced headphones like Beyerdynamic DT880′s, but people continue to enjoy headphones like the HD650 and the P5 because they are very musical and are fun.

Likewise with the DAC HD. I won’t present it as a master of technicalities because there are other DACs that do better technicalities for similar prices. The first time I listened to the DAC HD, I was not that impressed as I’ve been listening mostly to the technically superior KingRex UD384. But over time, I began to really appreciate the sound of the DAC HD and lately I’ve been listening to the DAC HD far more often as to the KingRex. It’s a lot of fun to listen to, and it’s a highly musical DAC and I enjoy it a great deal. Its advantage may sound very subjective on a review than say the black background sound of the KingRex, but at the end of the day I think most of us look for musical enjoyment far more than a perfect, technical sound.

I have both the KingRex and the DAC HD plugged in to the RSA Dark Star amp for the past few months. It’s my main desktop set up, and I enjoy having the choice between the KingRex and the DAC HD and the ability to switch between a more technical or a more musical sound simply by selecting a different input channel on the Dark Star amplifier. I enjoy the superb technicalities of the KingRex for those times that I want to hear my music better and clearer, especially as the KingRex’s strong technicalities are not accompanied with any nasty sterile or dry sound. But there are times that I want to enjoy my music more than hearing the details, and that’s when I would go for the DAC HD.

It’s true that technical DACs tend to dominate audio-gear discussions as people don’t really need to have a listen to understand statements such as “I can hear better detail on this DAC than on that one”. I don’t want to give the impression that the KingRex is a dry sounding DAC (not one person I know who’s heard the KingRex has made that comment), but the DAC HD is simply more fun and musical to my ears, better than many DACs I’ve heard in the $500 price range. The added simplicity of the cable set up is just a big bonus.

 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/negakinu Erik Wijnands

    Really nice review Mike. I particularly like the way you address reviewing DACs  in general in the last few paragraphs. Great job! A DAC cable is such a convenient tool for a transportable rig. It’s also an awesome addition to an Android tablet (with USB HOST capability) or iPad.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I’m relieved to hear your approval Erik. :)

  • http://www.audioexcursions.com/ Austin Morrow

    Mike, does the HD800 sound decent with the Halide Design DAC HD hooked up to some of your top end gear like the Dark Star? I keep hearing that the HD800 needs a 2K DAC or it doesn’t sound good, and I beg to differ on that regard. Your thoughts, please?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I think it’s sufficient. It’s not going to be as resolving as a $2K DAC, but it’s a set up that I can definitely enjoy.