Resonessence Labs HERUS: The Canadian HERO

I immediately fell in love with the sound of the Herus. The ESS chip delivers a very clear and (micro)detailed sound with a wide and deep sound stage. The DAC is neutral but not in an analytical way, it just shows you everything there is in your source files and it does that without going to the over-analyzing side. It stays musical and delivers the music with a superb air and with the right amount of space between the instruments. I’m very impressed and I honestly can’t say one bad word about the DAC part, this is how a DAC is supposed to sound for me. I have heard a lot of bigger and more expensive DACs that didn’t get to this level of sound reproduction, call me a fan.

The Herus also plays DSD/DXD and after I configured my Foobar2000 accordingly, I listened to some DSD64 files from The Dire Straits, Pink Floyd and Michael Jackson (DSD and PCM). Overall you get a smoother more relaxed sound with even more micro details and great resolution. Unlike Dave, I’m convinced of the DSD sound quality but I won’t be switching my whole collection to DSD immediately.

Back to the unit. So like I said, I wasn’t too impressed with the Sennheiser HD650 straight out of the Herus but hearing how good it sounded as a DAC it just had to sound better than what I was hearing. I took it home with me and locked myself up in my listening room for a few hours where I actually tried every single headphone in my collection from the IEMS to the LCD-2, straight from the headphone jack itself. Long story short, I find the Herus to sound great with the majority of headphones and even the planar technology ones. What a surprise! The problem for me lays with the higher impedance headphones like the 300Ohm Sennheisers and the 250Ohm Beyerdynamics. For some reason they in my opinion just don’t seem to get what they need to sound the way they are supposed to. All the other headphones sounded really great though, from the portable HD25 and T51p to the mid class Beyerdynamic COP and DT770. Even the high class Hifiman HE-500 and Audez’e LCD-2 sounded very convincing and enjoyable; I did not see that coming when I first plugged in the Sennheiser HD650. Unfortunately I had to send the Hifiman HE-560 sample back before I got a chance to try it with the Herus. Hifiman is working hard to get the improved samples out and I hope to try it soon with this device. I did try it briefly with my custom IEMs but I have 2 (minor) issues with it. First of all it plays loud so you have to set the volume extremely low to be able to listen to it. Second, there is a bit of noise audible when volume is at 0%, my IEMs slightly hiss but fortunately you can only hear it when the music is off and when there are silent passages in the song.

I would describe the general sound as linear, there is no focus on bass or treble. Maybe vocals just are a bit more forward but you get a nice detailed and airy sound with just the right amount of everything. A true high level sound.

The Other Players

There are a lot of competitors on the market when it comes to portable USB powered DAC/Amp boxes and it is impossible to cover them all. The Fiio E10, an old fav of the site, is more or less the same size but the E10 is getting “old” and technically the Herus easily beats it. It sounds a lot better too. Same goes for the tiny Stoner Accoustics DAC and all the other devices. I would put the Herus closer to the level of the CypherLabs Theorem for the DAC level (Amp wise it can’t compete just yet). It’s that good.

A success

In the end this Resonessence Labs device is an absolute winner. It’s well made, looks good and sounds fabulous. It’s so small you can take it with you anywhere and as it is USB powered you can use it at all time. It works with your iDevices and Android phones and it is upgradeable. High impedance headphones however aren’t the best match when using the internal amp. When using the Herus at home I would certainly use it in combination with one of my desktop amps but on the go just use the internal amp and enjoy! Resonessence did an excellent job and I’m secretly jealous that Dave is getting their Concero HD for review.

The Herus is available directly from Resonessence Labs or via their dealer network and it costs $350 USD.

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

41 Comments

  • Reply May 20, 2014

    Dave Ulrich

    Nice review L. It is good to know there is someone else who can share my love.

    • Reply May 20, 2014

      L.

      Thank you Dave. I love listening to it. Have you received the HD already? How is it?

      • Reply May 20, 2014

        Dave Ulrich

        It is a lightning powered DAC. The polar opposite of the Neko. It’s energy is out of this world.

  • Reply May 20, 2014

    Rexxar

    Fantastic review!
    Pair a Herus with an iDevice and HF Player and you have HiRes playback on the go!

    I had a great time with Herus; unfortunately my recently purchased Shure SE846 picks up unacceptable amount of hiss from it.
    Since their products are great, I am now considering the Concero HP.
    Do you have experience listening to Shure SE846 with the Concero HP?

    • Reply May 20, 2014

      L.

      Thank you Rexxar. No we do not, sorry

    • Reply May 22, 2014

      Alex Acemyan

      I recently purchased a Concero HP and own a set of Shure SE846 IEMs. Overall I find the combination to be extremely good and non fatiguing. Adding the DAC has quite a large impact on the depth / layering of music compared to directly from my iPhone 5S.

      As for hiss, there is a very minor amount of hiss when volume is at ‘0’ and no music is playing. The instant music is on, you don’t notice any hiss at all. hope this helps.

      • Reply May 22, 2014

        L.

        Thanks alex!

      • Reply May 23, 2014

        Rexxar

        Thank you for your insight! I will definitely try it out when I have a chance.

  • Reply May 20, 2014

    disqus_VAcp0ievmN

    Nice review, L. Have you tried it with Sennheiser HD600, I was wondering? I still can’t decide between Concero HD, HP, and Herus …

    • Reply May 20, 2014

      L.

      Thank you. I do no longer own the HD600 as I liked the HD650 more, but based on the also 300Ohm and the fact that the 600 already sounds “brighter” than the 650, I do not think the Herus would be the best match. I would look into the HP or HD for sure

      • Reply November 25, 2014

        digitldlnkwnt

        A couple notes on the Herus from my experience over the past few weeks:

        The Herus and the HD600 don’t sound bad together, but of my SennAmperior w/Apollonian Cable, HD600 w/Cardas cable and ZMF with Zapex rewire/Bass tune – it’s my least favorite. Plugged into JDS Labs custom 02 with RCA input and getting the power it needs, the sound fills out a bit better.
        In either case I would pause to label it as “bright” – “anemic” is a better term with appropriate imagery to go with it.

        I have also plugged Herus into my WA7 w/SS PSU and that actually sounds nice and thick, very vinyl-like presentation with any of my headphones. If you thought the built-in DAC was maybe a touch cold – the Herus is like a warm blanket.

        Herus vs DX90 – 1 vs 2 ESS DAC – the DX90 is more spacious and a bit brighter in it’s resolution. No question, across all of my ‘phone/monitors. Sometimes i prefer the sound of 1 DAC v 2 – especially with older recordings that are not the best to begin with. The dual DAC design is less forgiving v the Herus single DAC.

        I hope i didn’t go to left-field on you guys but i thought some would like perspective.

    • Reply May 20, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      If you have a good separate amp, go for the HD.

  • Reply May 20, 2014

    Marc

    It’s always refreshing to read reviews from the different authors of Headfonia. There’s always a certain character and feel to reviews here which I don’t normally see. Great work as always, L.

    You mentioned in your review that the Herus’s DAC portion is close to the Theorem DAC. Would you consider the Herus and the CLAS -dB to be comparable sonically? How would the cheaper DAC fare? By extension, how is the pairing of the Herus and the Duet?

    It seems to me that the (trans)portable DAC market is stepping up their game from the AQ Dragonfly, Meridian Explorer, HRT Microstreamer, and the like into supposedly higher functioning DACs like the Herus, Geek Out, iDSD Nano, and ALO “the Key.” I’m hoping to see more reviews of the latter DACs.

    Cheers,
    Marc

    • Reply May 20, 2014

      L.

      Thank you Marc.

      I do feel the dac levels are close, yet the Herus sound is quite different from the Cypherlabs sound. Both are great, are at a high level and I love both. I do find the CL product easier to use on the go because they are easier to stack. Both brands have a desktop quality sound. The cheaper Herus is really good as a DAC but when compared as a DAC/AMP to the Theorem or -dB/Duet combo, it just isn’t at their level in total

      I’ve been trying to get a Geek, but didn’t get a reply

      • Reply May 21, 2014

        Dave Ulrich

        I think the Concero HP/Theorem would be the better comparison. Send your Theorem my way and I would be glad to test them 😉

        • Reply May 21, 2014

          L.

          yes that. Ooooor….

      • Reply May 27, 2014

        David

        Pricewise, the JDSLabs C5D seems to be a closer comparison than the Theorem. I haven’t been able to find any comparisons between the two. How would you compare the Herus with the C5D?

        • Reply May 27, 2014

          L.

          The Dac part of the Herus is a lot better than the C5D, and you don’t need a CCK to connect it. The Herus amp is more neutral while the C5D amp is darker and warmer, has more weight and bass boost but has less detail

  • Reply May 20, 2014

    dalethorn

    I was just measuring my Microstreamer, which is the same length and width, but the Herus is twice as thick. So basically it should have much better electronics. Would be nice to get a side-by-side comparison

    • Reply May 20, 2014

      L.

      It is filled with awesomeness!
      Send me your microstreamer and I will compare them 😉

  • Reply May 21, 2014

    ghost2031 S23

    A lot of interesting and diverse Reviews lately.
    Looking forward to the concero hd dac review which i bought this week.

    • Reply May 22, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      You have to let us know what you think when you get it.

      • Reply May 22, 2014

        ghost2031 S23

        Sure, a few thoughts about it can’t hurt, i’ll try to do it.

    • Reply May 22, 2014

      L.

      Thanks!
      I’m looking forward to it too, I’m thinking it will be published around mid June

  • Reply July 7, 2014

    Nickjan Glas

    Another candidate for my iPod 5 next to the c5d (although its 100 dollar more expensive). as I understand you dont need an external power source with this one and no cck (its Mfi certified then?)?
    As the ME explorer was rated better than the microstreamer (other reviews) and this one is rated above the microstremaer also; can I assume that the level is equal to the ME explorer?

    • Reply July 7, 2014

      L.

      No external power, you will need a cck. This DAC is way ahead of the C5D DAC; but the C5Ds amp section has a gain setting and bass boost. Don’t know about the explorer

      • Reply July 7, 2014

        Nickjan Glas

        gain and bass is not that important to me personally. Another I hope to see/try on canjam then. Just bought the cck; unfortunately I cant test the ME either with it as they dont sell powered usb where I am at the moment (argh). thanks for the clarification.

  • Reply September 17, 2014

    Nickjan Glas

    Reading all the reviews I might be ‘rocking the boat’ by saying this, but partly based on ‘http://www.kenrockwell.com/apple/ipod-touch-5g/audio-quality.htm’ I bought the iPod touch 5, with the golden ears app, for a portable music player. Although it isn’t a dedicated mp, I was planning on adding maybe the herus to it, as I mentioned in my previous comment. Re-reading this review and several others, I again noticed the reference to Idevices here, which I generally don’t encounter unless it is with the iPod classic or the ipod5g review. Am I totally off track with my decision, or is it a good middle way as I actually use the multiple functionalities?
    thanks

  • Reply November 16, 2014

    digitldlnkwnt

    I just pick up one of these to use with a JDS O2 Amp Custom, Power/RCA input in the back, 1/4 inch up front. I also picked up a Forza Y cable 1/8inch to RCA, their least expensive version, .5m length.

  • Reply January 18, 2015

    Richard Gordon

    hello there, how would you compare this against the centrance dacport LX? thank you!

  • Reply June 29, 2015

    Peter

    So in order to use this with my audeze and v200 violectric I need an adapter and USB cord. Which cable would I need to connect the herus to the v200? Also I see you mentioned the lcd 2 was good enough on the herus and the new el 8 are more efficient so this shouldn’t be any problem with the herus?

  • Reply September 5, 2017

    Julien

    Hello,

    I have a herus+ connected to a liquid carbon. Sounds great!
    I have an opportunity to get a chord hugo 1, would it be a significant step up as a DAC and worth the +1000usd investment? I use a ether flow and hd800s in balanced. Thanks!!

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