If you did read my review of the Neko D100 mk2, you will have noticed that I took issue with a $250 DAC (Dacport LX) doing anything better than a $1500 DAC. Well, how does the Concero HD stand up in such a test, again, using the LX as the standard (which I still think sounds darn good for $250)? Well, it doesn’t sound 3.6x as good, but I can safely say that everything the LX does well, the HD does better: more sparkle in the highs, more power in the bass, more detail across all frequencies, more depth and width in the sound stage.
As with the Concero HP, the HD can handle signals up to 352.8/24, and it can do DSD and DXD and all that stuff. It also has the same filters that take 44.1k and 48k and samples them up to 176.4k and 192k respectively. The logo will glow magenta when the filters are active and blue when they are not. The first filter is the IIR filter while the second is the Apodizing filter. The filters do seem to add a little space and air around the instruments as opposed to without. The differences are subtle, however, and with or without the up-sampling, the Concero HD sounds great.
The Concero HD also has the same great build quality as its DAC/amp counterpart. Its depth and width is less than that of a standard CD case, and feels built like a tank. It might be the heaviest pound I have ever felt. I was going to make a joke about it being a good makeshift throwing star, but remembered I made one in my previous review, so never mind that.
So, yes, I think this DAC is just the bee’s knees, but there are a few issues that I, as an honest reviewer, should point out. First, the Concero HP is able to use its volume knob as a way to cycle through the up-sampling filters. The HD has no such ability. In order to use the filters, you need to have an Apple IR Remote. Now, I believe that a DAC, especially one at the cost of $850 dollars, should come with everything needed utilize its features. That you have to buy a separate piece of gear to use these filters is a mistake. The HD can also function as a USB to S/PDIF bridge, but needs the remote for that as well. For an extra $50, they will bundle the Concero HD with the remote and a USB power module, but I still think it is wrong to charge extra just so you can use all of the options the DAC offers. So, I wish they had included the knob in front as a way to control the filters on the HD version as well.
I also still wish that the Concero HD and Concero HP were available as one unit. Even if it were a little bigger and cost a bit more, it would make it an even easier recommendation. You could buy the unit; use it as a DAC/amp, until you have saved up enough to buy a great amp worthy of being connected to this. And on days when you don’t feel like setting your whole system up, you would still have a great all-in-one unit at your disposal. Maybe I am just dreaming aloud, but I do think that would be wicked cool.
Anyway, what minor issues I have aside, this is absolutely the best DAC I have had the pleasure of listening to. I was also lucky to have this DAC for review at the same time as the G109 amp, as that wonderful amp made it easy to hear the many virtues of this DAC, and vice-verse. As I am now done with the review, I will be sending the Concero HD back. I offered them my first born in exchange, but they weren’t having it. This is a sad day for me, but I am glad to have gotten to spend time with the wonderful gear from Resonessence Labs. If you, like I, crave a neutral, yet wonderfully musical DAC, this is the one to jump at.
Once again, the cost of the Concero HD is $850 and it can be bought directly from Resonessence Labs at: http://resonessencelabs.com/