Chapter 5: I-devices DAC: ADL X1, Centrance M8, Venture Craft
Furutech ADL X1
The market is now crowded with DACs for I-devices, a market first started by CypherLabs. The first one I auditioned is the new i-Device DAC/Amp from ADL Furutech called the X1. It comes with a 24/192 DAC that you can hook up to a computer via USB in addition to serving as an i-Device DAC. Wrapped in a first class typical Japanese build quality, the X1 is the smallest unit around compared to the offerings from Fostex, Centrance, VentureCraft, and Sony.
Sound quality of the X1 is good, going toward the similar direction as the Fostex and Venture Craft devices. They all tend to go after the “clarity” factor, with the downside being quite thin in the bass, not really my style of music listening. The X1 is smoother in sound and less bright than the Venture Craft devices and is definitely my choice over the VCs. Overall, among this “clarity-first” camp, I still feel that the Fostex HP-P1 reigns king with its significantly superior soundstage depth and a very smooth and refined sound character of Fostex’s line up of DAC/Amp.
I really wanted to bring one ADL X1 home but they didn’t have any for sale in the festival. Price is supposed to be around 40,000 Yen.
Next is the Centrance M8 which will be available in three different output choices: 2×3 pin XLRs (combo Jack with TRS built in), 4 pin XLR, and finally a plain vanilla 1/4″ TRS.
The M8 had a well balanced sound that’s relatively flat from top to bottom. The sound was moderately darker than the Japanese i-Dacs though not as warm and as full bodied as the Cypher Labs Solo. Tonality is darker than all of the current Centrance devices including the Dacport CX and LX, as well as the Dacmini CX and PX. However it’s also quite grainy just like I find the Dacpot CX to be. The sound was pretty good but I wasn’t really wowed by it especially after listening to the ADL X1. Sound quality is definitely not as smooth and clean as the ADL X1 and the Fostex HP-P1, and I thought that the CypherLabs devices are warmer and more musical sounding. Just for the record the Headfonia Store is a dealer for Fostex and Centrance, but we don’t sell CypherLabs, ADL, and Venture Craft.
Venture Craft GoDap DD, SoundDroid
VentureCraft is the most impressive of the bunch in terms of product design and build. Although the M8 and the ADL X1 are all extremely well built (they all easily rival Fostex HP-P1’s build and are significantly better than Cyper Labs’), I still think that the addition of a bracket that fits an Iphone perfectly puts the VC devices one step ahead the competitor in terms of design. Please check out the photos I took as it’s easier to explain what the bracket does.
In terms of sound quality, I wasn’t too thrilled with VentureCraft. From the first encounter with the GoDap 4.0, I’ve yet to come across one VC device that I can really recommend. The latest batch of the Venture Craft iDACs continue to produce sound quality that’s hardly inspiring to my ears, even the one with the special op-amp. Though the DAC-only version is significantly more spacious and less congested than the DAC-amp version, overall I still find the sound to be bright and harsh, dry and lacking mid and bass body.
Continue to the next page: Audiophile DAPs…