Although the Wyred 4 Sound DAC2v2SE 10th Anniversary has passed, Howard Milstein has had some prolonged time to fully and scrupulously disseminate this DAC!
One of the first products I reviewed in The Sound Advocate was proprietor and designer, E.JSarmento’s Wyred 4 Sound’s mINT integrated amplifier, and what a supreme integrated amplifier this is, utilizing the latest generation of ICE power technology which from my subjective testing, E.J has perfected to its ultimate in sound quality.
Wyred 4 Sound currently hosts a plethora of exciting and wonderful sounding audiophile digital electronics ranging from power amps, preamps, streaming servers, and of course, their DAC2v2SE DAC which has been highly praised for some years now. When you add to this the superb pricing of their products, it is easy to see why this company has become as popular among audiophiles as it currently is!
The product under review here is their special edition, 10th Anniversary DAC, which has been upgraded from their regular, top of the line DAC2v2SE DAC and was originally released approximately 2 years ago. While its structure and chassis are unchanged, it has received a beautiful champagne silver finish and some aluminum footers for support.
However, the meat and potatoes of E, J .Sarmento’s Anniversary DAC has been redesigned. Its boards contain completely new parts: power regulators, caps, output transistors, and the USB interface. What may be the most important aspect of this new unit is its hand-matched components; all of them!
As anyone here will acknowledge, this is quite a tedious process and only a limited amount of these units were produced. The idea, having been many years in the making, naturally, was to get the utmost performance from the DAC2v2SE as he could. Sometimes, projects like this can inadvertently turn for the worse; and other times, we get a product that oversteps its projected hopes by leaps and bounds.
This is the first DAC I have evaluated from Wyred 4 Sound and while many of you have had experience with the standard DAC2v2SE, I cannot directly compare the special edition unit here with its younger sibling. I can, however, bring forth some highlights that were improved upon.
The 10th Anniversary includes a step up from their 9028 Pro DAC chip to a current flagship, 9038 Pro chipset as well as a Femto clock, (a super-accurate clock. It’s the abbreviated term for femtosecond, which is one quadrillionth of a second. If used properly in a circuit design it can greatly reduce or virtually eliminate periodic errors in interpreting a digital signal (aka ‘jitter‘).
More updates include premium inductors and resistors as well as Wyred4Sound’s proprietary ultra-low noise regulators. These parts are probably the bulk of the increase in cost this DAC has over the standard, along with a jump in price from the basic DAC which is available at approximately $3,000 to the Anniversary which retails for $4500.
NOS vs OS (no oversampling vs oversampling)
Wyred 4 Sound Dac’s conventionally have Automatic signal upsampling and is performed internally to reduce jitter and to keep the output filtering to a minimum. There has been an abundant amount of articles, discussion, and disagreement as to the effects of a DAC’s design regarding non-oversampling vs. oversampling and to its effects in terms of overall sound quality and performance. Many of the most monumental DAC’s currently lauded by audiophiles currently, and to an unusual degree, use upsampling (oversampling). From a technical standpoint, these terms are largely synonymous. Both involve multi-rate (differing input to output sample rate) digital filtering techniques.
Contrarily, there are a few of the highest quality CD player/ DAC’s that use no oversampling, and thus consider the basic 44.1 kHz Redbook CD replay to be the most accurate and most similar to a pure analog signal design technique currently available.
Having employed and compared both of the aforementioned designed DAC’s for a year or so, I believe that the best sound quality results will, in the final analysis, come down to one basic idea: How well and professionally unmanipulated a recording, particularly a live event, was engineered; at any given sampling rate!
Below are a few technical highlighted features in Wyred 4 Sounds 10th Anniversary edition DAC:
ESS Sabre 9038PRO DAC chip ● Hand-matched custom Vishay Z-Foil resistors (0.1% tolerance and a +/-0.5ppm/°C)
Femto Grade Clock (82 fSec phase jitter) ● An Oversized toroidal transformer for solid and noise-free power
Fully balanced design with balanced and unbalanced outputs ● Coaxial, Toslink, AES/EBU, and I²S inputs
Galvanically isolated, asynchronous USB input ● Up to 384kHz PCM and DSD 256 ﬁle support via USB or I²S
Remote control with excellent ergonomics.
USING THE 10th ANNIVERSARY DAC
Setting up this small but exemplary looking DAC was, for the most part, a simple exercise as the learning curve was well sorted out in the manual. The only area that was sometimes a little troublesome was the actual functionality of the DAC’s settings method of operation. If you do not hold down the 3 buttons to adjust the menu, using its hit/hold operation with 3 fingers, solidly, things could take a bit more time than anticipated. However, in practice, this was only of slight concern.
Wyred 4 Sound recommends using their default setting which would be a ‘Slow roll-off at linear phase. Other options include: Slow roll-off, minimum phase ● Fast roll-off, linear phase ● Fast roll-off, minimum phase ● Apodizing fast roll-off, linear phase ● Hybrid fast roll-off, minimum phase ● Brickwall.
Consequently, after playing around with these settings for a short while, I did find that the 10th Anniversaries ‘default’ setting was ideal for my listening circumstances.
The Wyred 4 Sound DAC2v2SE limited edition was used in a variety of formats and associated equipment and compared compulsively with 2 other units, one of which will be detailed down further. The DAC was used in its full form, with its variable volume control (as a preamplifier), and then with 2 other separate preamplifiers in a ‘fixed’ volume output mode. The source component, (CD/DAC player), amplification (3), and 3 different pairs of loudspeakers were used for this assessement.
I had written to E.J about the use of a separate preamplifier with the Wyred 4 Sound DAC and he acknowledged that at times, somewhat better results could be attained if the preamplifier in question is of a very high standard. As it turned out, and after a week or so of switching in and out 2 preamps into the chain, there was no doubt in my mind that I preferred using the 10th Anniversary DAC with a preamplifier preceding it!
What’s more, the DAC needed at least—a minimum break-in period of approximately 30 hours to come to full fruition. However, after that time, and with a separate preamp in the chain, the audio reproduction proceeded to break loose with the DAC2v2SE special edition!
A RIGOROUS SOUND EVALUATION
Quite commonly, our ear/brains have a superb ability to adapt to our environment and permit us to recognize sounds and their sources in nature even if they aren’t genuine. This is human nature.
When evaluating a new audio component, and playing music source material we know well, it is natural to sometimes, immediately identify differences (for better or worse) in sound reproduction from the new addition. In many instances, components that were once so perfect may now seem somewhat flawed and exposed to some failings.
But once again, it must be mandated that with audio sound reproduction in our homes, this may be very subjective as to the listener’s subjective “abilities”, room acoustics, and associated components as to what is “natural” or correct to him personally! After the initial break-in time, and with a good preamplifier before it, things started to settle in with this DAC quite authoritatively. With more auditioning behind me, the sustaining impression I received when listening to Wyred’s 10th Anniversary DAC revealed a piece of gear that is astonishingly natural-sounding, completely dynamic and occasionally quite dramatic; synergistically exceptional, and overwhelmingly truthful in its musicality, tonality, and overall sound balance.
However, even with its break-in listening period, using it as a DAC/preamp and directly connected to my PS Audio M700 monoblocks, the sound quality was a touch more sterile and a bit sharper tonally in its mid and high-frequency response, although midbass and bass were strong, firm, highly pronounced and tight.
Once the Wyred 4 Sound broke into prime time and was used with either a Levinson 5805 or my faithful Peachtree 300 preamp section, things started to become animated and exciting! Its sound was exceptionally faithful on just about every piece of program material I used it with— including my stored music files (16 bit or high resolution), Redbook CD’s and streamed music. All of them were overtly convincing in their sound tenacity and musical reproduction.
This 10th Anniversary DAC was now displaying all the attributes of a first-class, high-definition audiophile product, much as I had expected it would. The physically small yet opulent sounding converter displayed excellent orchestral and vocal stereo locational placement, huge depth perspectives, and a wide soundscape while still maintaining that profound “stereo image focus” to its maximum. The DAC’s bass response was perceived to be equal to or better than most DAC’s I have listened to.
The midrange of the Anniversary DAC as compared to my reference unit (Audio Note’s CD3.1×2 – some comparisons below) could be described as a “hint” cleaner or maybe a touch less ‘warm’ would be the proper word to use in this case. Which is more natural, or neutral as far as the program material it was fed would be a matter of personal taste.
As my preferred program sources are mostly acoustically recorded CD’s and/or rips of live stream classical concerts or streamed classical and folk/pop music, the Wyred 4 Sound was immensely impressive with its reproduction of ambience and fundamental tonal accuracy with a naturally wide, extremely lush and satisfying sound stage. The DAC2v2SE set forth a pristine example of harmonic instrumental tonality and the fast decay times of all orchestral instruments with just about every one of these types of recordings.
My favorite musical instrument testing is piano and string intonations; and in those respects, they were exquisitely genuine and authentic. The DAC comprised an intrinsic sound field that was perfectly distanced from the loudspeaker planes and beyond to way back into the auditorium or acoustic setting the performance originated. I would describe its overall musicality as quite thrilling indeed!
Individual string tone as well as massed strings were superbly and “decisively” reproduced and maybe, on certain program sources, were a ‘speck’ more pronounced (in a good way) when some well mastered CD’s of folk and pop music disks were played. Be it Pop, Jazz, Classical, or even Opera recordings were immersed in their natural acoustic, and surprisingly, when mid-bass frequencies and particularly deep bass drums were present, you felt them—while they blended quite evenly and naturally with the rest of the frequency range!
With such an exceptional performance, it was only natural to do a few comparisons to my Audio Note CD3.1×2 player DAC. For this intimate comparison, I used a handful or more of the finest source material I could get my hands on. These included:
Perahia/Haitink Beethoven piano concerto 4 as well as a live PCM audio rip at the BBC proms ● Beethoven piano sonatas O’Conner (exceptionally recorded) ● Yuja Wang– Beethoven Piano Concerto 1 – Charles Dutoit/ Sydney Opera HouseYuja Wang & Beethoven Piano Concerto 2 live in Helsinki/pianist and conductor Mahler Chamber Orchestra Concert Hall ● Mstislav Rostropovich DECCA Classics Haydn Cello Concerto in C (truly superb Decca/Kingsway Hall recording ● “I Know Him So Well” (Single) Amanda Holden 44.1 kHz / 24-bit ● Sinatra And Swingin’ Brass Frank Sinatra, Neil Hefti ● The 70’s Studio Album Collection Linda Ronstadt 192 kHz / 24-bit, 96 kHz EAGLES – 40th Anniversary LIVE .
One must remember that the Audio Note is actually a full CD player (DAC) and will always truncate everything here down to 18bits, whereas the Wyred 4 Sound produced the replica of the sampling format of each of the individual music albums. Either way, it is a tribute to the Wyred 4 Sound to exhibit such authoritative quality- either on high-resolution files and discs or standard 16bit resolution.
I would say that on many of the above recordings, generally speaking, the classical repertoire showed the Wyred 4 Sound to have a barely noticeable more “upfront” presentation of the complete sound stage while the Audio Note was a “tad” more laid back so to speak. Otherwise, particularly on the Rostropovich Haydn Cello Concerto’s from the Decca sixties recording, the stereo placement of the cellist was totally and gratifyingly perfectly centered with the Wyred 4 Sound while strings were genuinely truthful with an ideal orchestral tonal reverberance set forth. The Audio Note may have had a cinch softer or “subtle” amount of “ambience” to the overall presentation, but both were truly outstanding and realistic in this respect. Your system and loudspeakers will determine which (if either) of the units may be preferable to you. .
The Perahia/Beethoven pieces, conveyed by both units were quite superb in their overall musical presentation and respective tonality for the piano and orchestra. Here, the Wyred 4 Sound appeared a bit more robust in string tone, whereas the Audio Note exhibited a slightly “softer” though vigourous presentation that some may find more attractive. For me on this recording, they were both terrific overall.
Sinatra and Swingin Brass was fantastically re-recorded from his 1960’s repertoire and the Wyred 4 Sound showed this up quite formatively, particularly with this excellently produced Reprise re-issue. Both DAC’s here were masterful in just about every way conceivable. Sinatra was centrally placed in the mix and the whole orchestra was encompassed around him in this ideal studio setting. Again, barely noticeable differences emerged, however, I did enjoy a minuscule amount more of stage ambience this time with the Wyred 4 Sound.
Individual preferences aside, audio enthusiasts and music lovers will find auditioning and selectively discerning the qualities of any high definition audio component can be an enduring task, particularly so if you do not have access to a dealer who will give you a lengthy home audition. When one can get a home audition from a respected dealer or in this case manufacturer, it will give him an undeniable advantage when making a ‘sound’ purchase.
Taking into account that the Wyred 4 Sound is a standalone DAC, while in this case, the Audio Note is a full CD player, I must acknowledge the exemplary design and performance attributes of the 10th Anniversary DAC at its extremely competitive price point. As most people may already have a transport, upgrading with Wyred 4 Sound is an obvious virtue.
Besides this, all Wyred 4 Sound company products always offer a trial program for some of their popular offerings; thereby allowing you to have the opportunity to listen to a component that interests you in your system for minimal financial risk.
In summation, with the Wyred 4 Sound’s DAC2v2SE 10th Anniversary Digital Audio Converter, there is no doubt in my mind that it is a product of reference status that will satisfy the most discriminating and demanding audiophile and music lover. It’s quality build, reliability, cosmetics, ergonomics, and most of all, beautifully engaging sound attributes compares or outclasses many DAC’s that cost twice as much money! (current price being $4,200 USD).
As owner and designer of Wyred 4 Sound and of this DAC, particularly, Mr. E.J Sarmento should be rightly proud and commended, not only for the 10th Anniversary DAC itself but the combination of his admirable musical ability and engineering skills, thereby bringing us the pleasure this converter can offer to the most ‘cultivated’ and artistic audio enthusiast. An exceptional product and value!
REVIEW SYSTEM: Digital ~~ Audio Note (UK) CD3.1×2 player / Amplification ● Peachtree Audio Nova 300 (2019 (preamp) / PS Audio Stellar M700 monoblock amplifiers / CIA Audio 100S stereo amplifier ● Loudspeakers ~ Spendor BC1/, Sterling LS3/6 BBC monitors/ Quad ESL 63-USA ● Cables Conditioners: Mad Scientist “Black Magic” USB cable/ Inakustik AC-3500p, LS-4004 speaker cables, AC-2404 reference Air Power Cord/ Silversmith Audio ‘Fidelium’ loudspeaker cables/ Audio Note (UK) Lexus bi-wired speaker cables / Wireworld Eclipse 8 interconnects & Electra 7 power cords/ Audio Art 1 e” AC Power Cord.
Wyred 4 Sound DAC2v2SE 10th Anniversary DAC $4200.00
Wyred4Sound website: https://wyred4sound.com/ contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org Mr. E.J. Sarmento
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