Disclaimer: Resonessence sent us the Herus and Concero HP. L will be reviewing the mini Herus later, this review will cover the Resonessence Labs Concero HP.
Ok, let’s save the usual introductory stuff for later, and jump right to the question, “who should be considering the Concero HP DAC/amp by Resonessence Labs?” Well, are you in the market for a DAC/amp unit? If so, are you either A) looking for a DAC/amp unit to use as an endgame setup, or B) want a portable unit to use on the run, and cost isn’t an issue? If you are positive for either of those, I would highly suggest you check out the Concero HP without further delay. It is wonderful. There is one issue with it, not really a flaw, but a condition that prevents a complete recommendation without reservation.
It retails for $850, but doesn’t allow you to output the analogue signal to another amp. It is ONLY a DAC/amp. So, should you buy it and later decide you want to upgrade your amp, you are out of luck. At this price, I find that to be a little odd. It might just be me, but then I am the one writing this, so there it is.
I wanted to get that issue out of the way right off, because hot damn I love this little thing. I thought ALO’s Island was terrific, but I haven’t wanted to return to it since this came my way. The star of the Concero HP is definitely the DAC. It is a sound for sore ears. It uses the new 32bit ESS ES9018-2M to tremendous effect: it does 24/352.8kS/s! The image is very detailed, very energetic and has terrific depth. The top end has nice air. There is good body to the midrange and enough bass to make it count. It can be a little tricky to tell what belongs to the DAC and what belongs to the amp in this setup since you can’t separate the two, but there is no doubt that wonderful, addictive detail and depth are a part of the DAC’s sound. Oh, and that wonderful balance… It feels like my head is swimming in wonderful music. Classical, pop, rock, it nails them all. Resonessence Labs also sells a Concero HD, which is a standalone version of the DAC used in the HP. I would really love to be able to review the Concero HD some day and see just how awesome that external DAC can be (Resonessence Labs, if you are reading this, hint HINT HINT!). I have a G109 by the Lake People sitting here ready to make beautiful music.
The built-in amp is actually a bit of a surprise. It is pretty darn decent. They seem to be going the neutral route for the amp, and with a DAC like this, that is probably wise. It lets the strengths of the DAC shine through, while bringing a clean, relatively impactful sound to the table. It does a good job powering both the easy to drive Sennheiser HD202 and the more demanding HD650. It was pretty spectacular with the Mad Dogs. Here is the part where I thought I would be telling you about how it didn’t have the ability to drive the Hifiman HE-500 to adequate volume, but it drove the HE-500 with authority. That pairing might have actually had the best bass of any combination with the Concero HP. It obviously drove the HE-400 plenty fine, but the extra detail of the DAC is wasted on the 400, so if the HE-400 is your bag, I would just go with the Fiio e(7,9k) stack.
Comparing it to the ALO Island is a rather unfair. The Island is darker and a bit more distant sounding. It is also much less detailed. The Island is very nice for the price, but the HP sounds much higher end. It isn’t that the HP has a much larger sound stage than the Island, it is that the instruments and voice occupy a much more specific place in the sound scape. In comparison to the Matrix Mini-I Pro, the HP offers sharper detail still and the bass impact that was lacking in the other unit. As an all-in-one, the Concero HP is going to be hard to beat, for the price. Don’t forget, however, that the Matrix can be used as a standalone DAC.
Read more on the next page!