Resonessence Concero HP: The Canadian DAC/AMP

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!

Resonessence Concero HP: The Canadian DAC/AMP
4.4 (88%) 5 votes

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35 Comments

  • Reply April 30, 2014

    L.

    Great review Dave. Very good read.

    I can fully understand why you like its sound, I’m loving the DAC inside the Herus too!

    • Reply April 30, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      Sounds like the Concero HP maybe has a better amp section?

      • Reply April 30, 2014

        L.

        Sounds like it from your review, yes

        • Reply April 30, 2014

          K.

          Indeed a great review, a bit of “pressure” for you L.! (if I may write so). Apparently the Herus can be used with devices running iOS 7 and Android, and also with another amp. If so, I would be keen to know with which amp you have paired it. (I have a couple of ALO amps in my bag…). Cheers, K.

          • Reply April 30, 2014

            L.

            Only big desktop amps. Ss and tubes. haven’t tried portable amps yet

            • Reply April 30, 2014

              K.

              All I can say is that I (like probably many others!) am looking forward to your review. Resonessence’s products really look exciting. Cheers, K.

              • Reply April 30, 2014

                Dave Ulrich

                I really hope I get to do a review on the Concero HD, if that wasn’t clear from my review.

                • Reply April 30, 2014

                  L.

                  Very much so, I think we have a shot 😉

  • Reply April 30, 2014

    Anthony Kimball

    Seems to me that, given the price range etc., a good comparison would be with something from Cypher Labs…sounds like a great unit though. Thanks for the review!

    • Reply April 30, 2014

      L.

      The CL are portable though, these aren’t that much meant for portable rigs. the Herus which I am reviewing is more for portable setups. And thanks!

      • Reply April 30, 2014

        Dave Ulrich

        I mean, the HP is transportable, but it is a bit big to port around.

      • Reply April 30, 2014

        Anthony Kimball

        Got it!

        Guess I misunderstood “or B) want a portable unit to use on the run, and cost isn’t an issue?”. Looking forward to the Herus review!
        Thanks again!

        • Reply April 30, 2014

          L.

          Top quality portable? Check out the Cypherlabs Theorem. Or the CLAS -dB and Duet if you also use IEMs. Can’t get much better

  • Reply May 1, 2014

    Vincent Eu

    Good write up on the Concero HP. I was on the search for a desktop dac and was introduced to Yulong 8A, Benchmark Mark 2 etc. and the Chord Hudo came along. Did my usual auditioning but felt that while these were very good dacs, somehow they were a little overkill for me. As I was looking for was a dac that was portable (ok transportation) for me carry in my backpack and used with my laptop (together with my portable harddisk that has my audio files). I didn’t want a permanent desktop or tabletop set up. The Chord Hugo fitted the bill but the price is something else. Then I was introduced to the Concero HP. Yes it had only one connection option and it was the only one i needed. It was well built and very sturdy. It was advanced in that it would handle DSD files. It was upgradeable. But the deal breaker was its audio quality. This really blown me over and its amp section was equally up to the task when used with my LCD2.2, Hope 6, K701 and ATHW1000X. Yes, there are lighter and smaller options using the similar Sabre chipset out there but I found the implementation by Resonessence Labs to be what best suited my needs and my audio preference.

    • Reply May 1, 2014

      George Lai

      Now on to the next “search”.

    • Reply May 1, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      I just found it, above all else, supremely musical.

    • Reply May 1, 2014

      L.

      Thanks for posting Vincent. glad you like it!

  • Reply May 1, 2014

    ghost2031 S23

    Nice Review Dave, really enjoyed it.
    But would it be a worthwile update to the Audiolab M-Dac?

    • Reply May 1, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      I have not heard the m-dac unfortunately, so I can’t comment. Sorry

  • Reply May 3, 2014

    disqus_VAcp0ievmN

    Nice review. Tried Herus once with my android phone and loved the first impression, but this concerto seems to be even better if the sound quality is the top concern.

    • Reply May 3, 2014

      L.

      Thank you. It does look like the amp section of the HP is higher than the Herus indeed. But the Herus is so small and the dac is unbelievably good

      • Reply May 4, 2014

        Dave Ulrich

        I believe it!

  • Reply July 8, 2014

    Nickjan Glas

    Just read the concero hp review after the herus review (both great and exciting) and with all these new products I really need some more listening sessions to compare with what I have now….so many options and choices.
    My next idea is to buy a macbook air, with jriver and combined with a good portable dac.amp make it dedicated for music only instead of the iPad. (another option would be surface pro 3) As an addition I want to upgrade the sound on my iPod touch5 for on the go. With the ME explorer unable to perform the function for the iPod, (requires external power) I am really curious how listening will match the ME against these new products. As the description of the sound places it in the same ballpark. Financially I would hope that the ME can at least challenge the likes of the HP (quality for price that is) I really hope they are auditionable on canjam (or do you/someone happen to know where they sell this in NL?)

    • Reply July 8, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      • Reply July 9, 2014

        Nickjan Glas

        Thanks, checked it out, the one near Brussels seems the closest. Maybe I ll try that after canjam

        • Reply July 9, 2014

          L.

          I can bring the Herus to Canjam

          • Reply July 10, 2014

            Nickjan Glas

            That would be great,Thx. As it looks now I ll be there on sunday, as I ve your description from an earlier conversation I ll keep a look out.

          • Reply September 17, 2014

            Nickjan Glas

            As Canjam is coming up and I am gathering all my stuff (all three items of them), I was thinking I can take the explorer with me as well and you can get an impression of it, if you like. I ll definitely ll be there only on Sunday unfortunately.

    • Reply July 8, 2014

      L.

      Are you talking about the Meredian Explorer? I just received it in a big brown box

      • Reply July 9, 2014

        Nickjan Glas

        Yes thats the one, I chose it over the audioquest dragonfly, found it more detailed and little less bassy, which I like. Didnt get to compare it with other yet, but after these reviews I am curious.

      • Reply July 10, 2014

        Nickjan Glas

        The meridian prime also caught my attention when viewing their website. Haven’t read any reviews yet, but beside the explorer paired with my laptop, I do not have any dedicated headphone amplifier yet; still relying on Marantz pm7004. So I ll be curious how you’ll view this unit, especially because it also has an usb (so I assume dac part) on it. For me it would be a competitor with musical fidelity M1HPAP. Since it is over twice as expensive and a lot newer, I do have high expectations.

  • Reply May 31, 2016

    lysingur

    Would this Amp/DAC combo work well with AKG K812? I’m seriously considering getting one.

    • Reply June 1, 2016

      Dave Ulrich

      This guy is pretty awesome, but I can’t claim to have heard the K812. The HP is very clean, impactful and balanced, but if you are looking for the HP to make up for any issues with the K812 like strident highs or lack of bass, it wouldn’t be your amp.

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