Resonessence Concero HP: The Canadian DAC/AMP

I was rather surprised how heavy the Concero HP is. It doesn’t look like much in pictures, but it has some heft to it. . It is about the size of a hand and weighs a good pound. One pound may not sound like much, but next to the Island’s 4 ounces, it feels heavy. If in a pinch, it could double as a fairly effective throwing star. I also greatly enjoy its simple, elegant look. The front of the unit contains the ¼ inch headphone jack and the volume control knob. The back has a USB input and a spdif hookup that can be used as both an input and an output should you want to use the HP as a USB to spdif converter. Just fyi if you plan on using the HP as a spdif DAC, it only runs off USB power, so you will still need to have it plugged into a USB port.

When connected to a computer, the Concero HP takes over your music player’s volume control. This allows you to use the player’s volume slider to adjust the volume of the amp, or you could just use the knob on the HP. Also worth taking a look at is the “R” logo on the front of the unit. If the HP is connected to a USB port, but no signal is going through it, the logo lights up red. If it is taking a signal, it lights up blue. If you push in the volume knob, you can switch through two different up-sampling filters. They upsample 44.1k and 48k to 176.4k and 192k respectively. The first mode applies an Infinate Impulse Response (IIR) filter and the second applies an apodizing filter. If you are looking for a world of difference here, you aren’t going to find it. At least my ears didn’t. I might detect the apodizing giving me a slightly larger sound stage with classical, but if it is there, it is a small change. The truth is, every time I sat down to try and really nitpick between the modes, I would get swept up in the Tchaikovsky, the Mahler, the Garbage, the Lady Gaga (I’m sorry. A guilty pleasure). Maybe that is a terrible thing for a critic to admit, but I refuse to feel guilty for enjoying my music. When the filters are active, the logo will glow magenta. The Resonessence Concero HP also supports USB PCM data rates up to 352.8kS/s. It also does DSD and DXD decoding, if that’s your bag. It isn’t mine.

The Resonessence products are technically advanced and very well developed, you can check out all the specs here.

Now, to end at the beginning, Resonessence Labs is a Canadian company. Its founder is Mark Mallinson, who is the former Operations Director of ESS Technology. So, if anyone could get the most out of an ESS Sabre DAC, it’s this guy, and Judas Rockin’ Priest has he succeeded. If you are in need of a DAC/AMP unit and $850 is a doable price, for the love of all that is holy, give the Concero HP a spin. This is a wonderfully balanced, wonderful sounding unit. It plays great with a wide variety of headphones (and IEMs as well). It is easy to use (and yes PC uses do have to download a driver), and I found the customer service at Resonessence Labs to be first rate. You can buy through their website here: http://resonessencelabs.com/ or use their list of retailers. Anyway you go about it; you owe it to yourself to hear this unit. Now if I could just get to review the standalone DAC…

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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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