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Home Theater Shack Fall 2015 DAC Evaluation Event Reporting and Discussion Thread

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Home Theater Shack Fall 2015 Digital-to-Analog Converter DAC Evaluation Event Reporting and Discussion Thread


The Event

The Home Theater Shack DAC Evaluation Event is under way. We will be evaluating a number of DACs ranging in price from $3,000 to $20. The evaluations will include sighted and blind ABX testing.

Coming to you from southern Alabama, the Home Theater Shack Evaluation Team has assembled at Sonnie Parker's Cedar Creek Cinema for the 2015 High-End Amplifier Evaluation Event. We have DACs, we have speakers, we have tunes, we have great eats, and it is sure to be a very fine time for all!

Event Sponsors

Our sincere thanks goes out to the kind, generous contributors without whom this event would not be possible. Please visit their web sites and consider sending some business their way.


Oppo Digital


Vapor Audio

Linkwitz Labs


The Details

The Event
  • Date: Thursday evening, November 12th through Saturday evening, November 14th.
  • Place: Cedar Creek Cinema, Luverne, Alabama.
  • Evaluation Panel: Leonard Caillouet (lcaillo), Louie Stevens (Lumen), Sonnie Parker (Sonnie), Wayne Myers (AudiocRaver).

The DACs
  • PS Audio PWD Perfect Wave DAC ($3,000)
  • Oppo HA-1 Headphone DAC / Amp ($1,200)
  • Headroom Desktop Headphone DAC / Amp ($800)
  • AudioEngine D1 24-bit DAC ($179)
  • Fiio E7 DAC / Amp ($79)
  • Fiio D3 DAC / Amp ($29)

Other key equipment special for the event:
  • Denon X5200 AVR
  • Parasound HALO A31
  • Van Alstine ABX Switch Box, recently updated version (February 2015)
  • miniDSP 4x10 HD
  • OPPO BDP-105

The Speakers
  • Oppo PM-1 Headphones - planar magnetic, super detailed and revealing
  • Vapor Audio Arcus - 2-way, time aligned design with horn-loaded Beyma AMT tweeter.
  • Linkwitz Labs LXmini- 2-way, time aligned design, set up with optional subwoofer support
  • MartinLogan EM-ESL - 2-way hybrid electrostatic design

Our Hosts

As mentioned, our deepest appreciation goes to Sonnie, Angie, and Gracie Parker, our hosts, for welcoming us into their home.
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I mysteriously ended up with another DAC out of the deal!

Heh heh, actually, Lumen had to run home from Davenport, where I dropped him at his car, and in his haste left one behind, a Headroom Headphone DAC/amp . I will try to fit in some comparing with it and see it it adds any interesting data to that we already have, as we were not able to get to it at Sonnie's.
Hey Wayne! Sorry to hear about your rental car troubles. Extremely glad you're okay. When you get around to the DAC, you might want to run it under battery power so there's no chance of contaminating the output with AC noise! Guaranteed to win, hands down (haha):devil:
Hey Wayne! Sorry to hear about your rental car troubles. Extremely glad you're okay. When you get around to the DAC, you might want to run it under battery power so there's no chance of contaminating the output with AC noise! Guaranteed to win, hands down (haha):devil:
Will do.
+1 on Budget, went on vacation to the Keys last month. Rented a midsize SUV, they upgraded me to an full size, fully loaded, Expedition, no charge. What a great ride. And it was a good thing cause that thing was packed to the gills! Wife really likes to shop!!!:spend:
Sorry for the delay in posting more details. Needed a recovery day after two days of driving back to Nebraska, and was so busy while still at Sonnie's that I could never get to it.

As a side note, the power steering went out on our rented Ford Explorer about two hours from home Monday night. It was such a nice vehicle up until that point, even driving in heavy rain (as long as I could SEE), but without power steering and traction control became and absolute BEAST to drive. Luckily it was late enough that traffic was pretty dead through Omaha and Lincoln and I was able to get it to my doorstep without incident and get it unloaded. Whew!!!!! The Budget Car Rental folks sent a tow truck for it next morning. They were very nice to deal with at both ends of the rental, and knocked a day off my rental fee and waived the final gas refill for my trouble. I give them a blatant plug here out of appreciation for their excellent customer service!

Will get into posting reviews and results shortly! Lots to talk about!
They did the right thing and deserve a plug. Not their fault that the car had a failure but they at least made an attempt at compensating you for the hassle. That bumps them up into consideration in my next rental. I generally find that Enterprise has the best customer service and start with them but when I hear this kind of story Budget will certainly get my consideration as well.

I am glad it was nothing more serious and you made it home OK.
Home Theater Shack Fall 2015 DAC Evaluation Event Reporting and Discussion Th...

Wayne certainly made the long trek seem shorter with enlightening and entertaining conversation. We discussed many HT related topics and shared some personal experiences as well. Leonard was far from distant, and contributed his share of chuckles, too. His command and understanding of the experimental method was nothing less than outstanding. I wish I could have soaked-up much more of their expertise. And Sonnie? He had charisma and an incredible sense of humor. He definitely put my gullibility through some enjoyable paces.

Now after that ego-inflating intro - they're actually a respectably modest bunch - let me equally praise Sonnie's Cedar Creek Cinema. Experiencing Jurassic World over those dual SVS subs and Martin Logan speakers was simply mesmerizing. The projector's amazing visual presentation on his big screen might of had something to do with it, too! Never once did I strain to understand dialog. Bass was enormous, yet didn't call attention to itself. Soundtrack and special effects also top-notch.

Music served-up over this system was nothing short of engaging and delightful. It didn't embellish or veil the source material even though it was forgiving of source material quality. Never once did I cringe or become fatigued, even at loud levels. And loud it would play indeed. No sense of strain. I gave up before it did. Staging and imaging (I think, courtesy of Wayne's reflective back wave panels) were truly holographic. No need to close your eyes just to later say, "Yeah, I think I heard that." You just sit there with a big grin on your face while you reach for your favorite band member (during playback of suitably high quality material, of course)!

So if the system had a limiting factor that prevented us from conducting a fair DAC shootout, I'm at an extreme loss to know what it was. Very revealing, enjoyable, and a system/room to aspire to! :)

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Very cool Lumen, it sounds like y'all had a great time.
I forgot to mention that regardless of my opinion, the SQ at CCC is a constant - in my opinion, of course.

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I might not have done a good job keeping the tone on the joking side. Are you planning on comparing the Headroom's SQ under battery vs. AC power? Maybe it's just marketing but I had the impression there's a group of people who believe battery powered components sound better (though they are pretty scarce). I never compared, so don't know if I could tell a difference. And even if I could, I don't think they'd be audible in my common, noisy listening environments.

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I doubt it will make a difference, but I will try with and without AC. Actually, the $80 DAC we did our testing with could have run battery, also, but I did not think of but at the time, will give that a listen, too.
Sounds like a fun and productive weekend. Looking forward to the write up, guys.
I'll be working on sorting out the statistics and writing up something this week. Sorry I have not gotten to it but I have been busy making some changes at work and travelling last week.
Did the results write up turn out to be problematic?
We actually came up with some very interesting results. I need to apologize for being very distractible since then, & I have simply not gotten around to it, but a couple of recent discussions have reignited my interest in doing that now.
Just checking again, if this is a dead thread maybe it could be locked.
I am working on posting results. See the first posts of this thread.
Another section has been added, see the first posts.
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