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DiDiT DAC212 converter, preamp and headphone amp

30.06.2015..
DiDiT DAC212
..

 

Introduction

Just with a quick look at the page EQUIPMENT REVIEW posted on ReMusic, you can realize how good the period is for the DACs. The last Munich High End confirmed this trend. DACs of all price ranges. All similar. Is it possible to make a DAC different from the others? Yes, according to the Dutch brand DiDiT, alias “Different in Design Different in Technology”. Their first product, the DiDiT DAC212, keeps that promise.


Crystal Cable, Kharma, PrimaLuna and Siltech are some of the well-known Dutch brands in Italy. Others are famous all around the world. Do not forget the cross contribute by Hypex, known for the class D amplification modules.

In this crowded market niche of the Dutch High-End, the DiDiT team was created in 2007. Sebastiaan de Vries, Patrick Schoon, Roy van de Hulst and Rients Steenbeek have known each other for a long time. Sebastiaan and Patrick come from the Pro. They have developed the amplified studio monitors Focal SM9 and SM11. Here they are the technical managers. Roy is the designer and Rients the commercial manager.


Design

The website tells that the first DiDiT model comes after three years of wholehearted R&D work. The launch took place in 2014.

 

An important feature of this DAC is always working on a sample rate at 1.5625 MHz, independently from the chosen input and from the source clock. This way jitter will be maximally eliminated and is now dependent on the internal low jitter clock system. This is due to the ESS Technology Hyperstream™ DAC architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator. That means a mild action of the low-pass filters and the minimum phase error in the audio range.

 

The DAC212 can work directly as a preamp of a power amp or of an amplified pair of loudspeakers. The designers affirm that the 32 bits volume control removes the disadvantages of previous analogue potentiometers, without affecting the dynamic range. It keeps the signal as pure and transparent as possible with shorter signal flows and less components (hence less signal loss) than possible with an analogue volume control. The high current low impedance output stage will drive any cable and following input stage with ease.

 

This first system component will bring to its best integration with the future amp that DiDiT is developing.

 

Manufacture

The case looks like a mini Apple Mac. The aluminium chassis is of exquisite manufacture.

The display at 29x8 points recalls the solution adopted by some M2Tech devices.

The only switch at the front center of the device has a double function: by touching, it changes channel, by pushing, it has an on/off function. The other functions are reserved to the remote control: ON/OFF, input selection with output temporary soft mute to avoid excesses on your speakers, volume and mute buttons.

Finally, the location for the infra red remote control signals and the jack input.

 

In the rear panel we find the two RCA outputs, five digital inputs (2 coaxial, two TOSLINK and one USB), a CAN bus to link the future DiDiT AMP212 amp, a USB host for firmware updates and the IEC socket.

Inside only two cables are visible: a ribbon cable to connect the display and one to earth the case. Furthermore, there is also an aluminium block carved with a numeric control machine.

The cabinet is perfectly milled with separate hollows for the sections and channels of the board: supply, digital and analogue. As usual, such solid structure reduces resonances and all possible mechanical interferences. The board is solidly attached at the top case, which acts as a natural damper for any resonance in the interval of the audio frequencies. As well as an isolator, the three feet are in steel and Sorbothane rings, selected to absorb the resonance frequency of the device.

 

The compactness of the gear is part of the design itself. It has been made to get a shorter signal path.

 

The electronic design is strongly focused on the reduction of noise level in all parts of the circuit.

 

The power supply is unexpectedly switching. It has been chosen for its efficiency and velocity. Here it is buffered in high capacity capacitors so to avoid many problems related to the switching power supply. Each channel, each stage and the system clocks have twelve noiseless separate power supply regulators.

The supplier is a British PowerPax SMPS mountable on a printed circuit and with a strong filtering provided by the twelve noiseless tension regulators. Hence, the output stage shows the good S/N ratio at -135 dB a 1 kHz…

 

The circuitry is all on a CAD/CAM board, with one level completely dedicated to the earth, in order to get low inductance and diaphony. The amplification stages have a balanced layout and floating mass. This solution has been thought to have maximum separation between the channels and best dynamics. Furthermore, to avoid mass rings and get better isolation from the outside.

 

The chip is the ESS Sabre ES9018 Hyperstream™ at 32 bits. The ES9018 has four D/A converters in parallel for each channel, so to avoid noise and increase linearity. At DiDiT’s, they have prefer to privilege transparency than manipulation. The anti-jitter filter is on “neutral” but it can be configured by the user through the menu dedicated to the controls of the Sabre chip.

Schema blocchi Sabre32

 

The clock is a Crystek Femto. Other clocks of Japanese production are used for the USB output.

The OPA1612 follows the DAC chip for the current amplification. For the differential amplification, there are an OPA1611 and a LME49600.

 

The output is two volts at zero dB FS. If you need more, you can set two internal jumpers, one for channel, for an extra gain of six dB. You can hence reach 4,2 volt RMS at zero dB FS out. This setting is required also for low efficiency high impedance headphones like my Sennheiser HD 800. The output impedance is 1,6 ohms at 1 kHz.

 

 

DiDiT DAC212

 

The 32 bits Sabre allows the use of the last 8 bits for a partial volume control. When in use, the last volume setting is memorized, independently for the line and headphone outputs. When you turn the device on, the volume sets on -40 dB to avoid damages to your loudspeakers or ears. Also this value can be set by the user.

 

The mute is progressive, not immediate, both in attenuation of the volume and reactivation.

 

In PCM mode you can listen to everything, from 44,1 to 384,0 Khz. Also the second-rate MP3 resampled standards – horror! The DSD and DSX files are performed from DSD64 to DSD512 and DXD352,8.

 

DiDiT DAC212

 

For the PC connection, you can download the drivers from the DiDiT website, both 32 bits ASIO and 64 bits Windows. The Apple Macs with OSX operating system are seen as a simple peripheral device, to select on the System Preferences.

 

To come back to the core of the apparatus, the board has well-finished technical refinements, with a common mass point given by a TL031 operational amplifier in DC, differential configuration between positive and negative of the balanced tracks, no capacitor on the signal path, relays downloaded when the gear is on, and something more.

Listening test

The DiDiT is a device full of resources, although not all completely known by the Hi-Fi world and hard for me to embrace completely.

Generally speaking, the DACs have become lately the potential new preamps. I mean, they are the meeting and crossing points between digital and analogue, sources and amplification. A crucial point or a potential and harmful way of the cross of the signal. Luckily, since the start of our webzine, we have declared ourselves in favor of the technicalities and, even more, of their effect at the listening.

 

That is the point. I have liked the DiDiT since the first listening test, instinctively. The same have all ReMusic’s collaborators

The tested exemplar is a demo. So, the burn-in has been moderated, few days of pink noise at full volume.

With the usual mixed CDs and high resolution files made available by Lothar Kerestedjian by HighResAudio, I tested it in several occasions and setups. In brief, it has become a reference for my system.

The tests have been made with Mac operating system, but soon we will do an additional test for Windows.

 

No color, no own musical tone, no sensation of artificiality in the sound, no listening fatigue: just music that flows natural and spontaneous.

Detailed, balanced, fulfilling without exaggerations that are, otherwise, easy to find in other realizations.

Saying that it is noiseless is a euphemism.

 

So far, it seems a love story with easy happy ending. But the device has to be understood and, immodestly, I have.

 

The downside is the comparison with other more “traditional” DACs. Sometimes I felt between surprised and disappointed. Less dynamics, less involving sound, bass and high range slightly in the background. Maybe the two volts in output are not enough?

This kind of output is like a short blanket. It is like: “I have refinement but not enthusiasm”. Well, sometimes it is like that. As I said, through the jumpers on the board, you can get a +6 dB gain and the question moves to the music. How it is reproduced in the reality by unamplified instruments.

 

For the right suspense read the Maybe section. About the daily use, I suggest the two volts in output when used as a source and with a preamp with a good sensitivity. If you use it as a preamp or to drive a low sensitive input, I suggest increasing the gain.

 

Pros

Listening fatigue and distortion are not existent.

The volume is very progressive without jerks and the resolution is of 80 steps, each one correspondent to 1 dB.

Currently the Dac is an all in one device, user friendly and plug and play. It does not require boring or further apps. But the apps are a must and are the future, so the company is getting ready for them.

 

Cons

The IEC audiophile grade sockets, those big ones like the Oyaide, cannot be used and also the RCAs are very close, therefore not suitable for line cables with big section. Besides, the RCA OUT are reversed in the position, like in the pro: I personally prefer the classical consumer position, where the RCA DX is on the right, if you look the device from the front.

The protrusion behind the DAC, designed to reduce the visual impact of cables and connections, makes impossible to access the connection “by memory”.

The service menu, that you can downloaded here, is not easy and intuitive.

The device is packed in a cork box, beautiful but useless. Since I come from a wine-producing region, I consider the cork a resource too precious for such things. Of course, there is a certain effect….

On the demo model, the balance output is missing. Anyway, the future 2.0 mother board is provided with that.

 

Maybe

I have tested the 212 through a full immersion of natural music, with unamplified acoustical instruments. A comeback to the origins of music, without any artifice, that normally in our setups we are getting used to. Something that not happens with the DAC212: with the same dB in the room it seemed to play less loud, while the other DACs seemed more “screamed”, even not already tiring.

 

In my opinion, the perceptions of dynamics, distortion and silence of the system have to be redesigned starting from the DAC212. Its contribute is subtle. As I said, it has to be understood. But, when you do, it creates a positive addiction.

 

Addicted to music

 

Quick metaphors and final recap

We are speaking of an ambitious product that, to be definitively valued, will need to be tested also with its own amp: the design itself asks for it.

As a preamp it has the 90% of the positive characteristics of a passive attenuator – immediacy and transparency – and the 90% of the advantages of an active preamp – drivability and control.

As a DAC of concrete music, even if on the paper limited by the standard16 bit/44,1 kHz, it gives new impulse to the listening of the classic CDs. As DAC for streaming music, it digests everything. From my Mac it has “hooked” any file without hesitation. Exalting has been the new listening frontier of the DSD files.

As a headphone amplifier, it becomes “the added system”, that allows you to postpone the purchase of amp and loudspeakers or only amplified loudspeakers.

 

It has to be added, though, that it is a strongly revelator component.

When I tested it with high resolution files via Audirvana Plus, I have heard a lot….the Audirvana player, which has been defines as “tubey”, therefore warm and amber, if not soft and veiled.

By listening files and CDs via ITunes, it has confirmed its great immediacy, together with its “grain” and light roughness if compared with a CD.

By using only the 212 with the transport of the CD player, I have found out a lot on its sound character, made of transparency, fantastic immediacy, fluidity, easiness, ongoing pleasantness: it is a DAC that never gets you tired.

 

I have experienced with it a music closer to the natural event, closer to the unamplified one.

 

Who it's for

The DAC212 is fore exigent tastes. If you consider is promotional launch price, that the new version with the 2.0 board is coming out soon, that the sale is through the manufacturer, that the system is “open” to implementations and software improvements, that people at DiDiT’s are very helpful and close to the customer, well, for me is a deal if you can afford it.

 

Currently you can assemble a system around the 212. It would be a reasonable choice with a very good quality/price ratio. A versatile and effective preamp, transparent and not invasive. A cutting edge DAC open to the future.

 

Most of all, if you want to listen to music for many days, without saying “enough”, the DiDiT DAC212 could be the keystone of a modern High-End system.

 

 

SCHEME SUMMARY

Timbric | frequency extension, ability of reproducing faithfully the instrument and its harmonious build up

Realistic, articulated, expressive. Balanced and natural. The less Hi-Fi I ever heard.

Dynamics | micro (detail) and macro (absolute) extension and rate of the transients

Charming micro-dynamics. Macro-dynamics without unrealistic effects. Transients that are never tiring. You always want to pump up the volume. Personally, I would prefer more presence on the bass range.

Image | ambiance, transparency, scene, soundstages, virtual stage, sense of presence, resolution

An absolute example that varies depending on the files and/or on their resolution.

Tonality | general setting of the device, if present or characteristic: for instance warm, cold, toned, amber, shiny, opaque...

Not available. About that, we will wait the next review with the filter controls.

Emotion | emotional involvement, strongly depending from the matches, an absolutely anarchic and personal parameter

The weak point. This device asks to be understood in the long period. I think is a winning bet.

Manufacture and Packaging |The first is exemplary, effective, precious and of prestige. The second is more to look at and appreciate, than to use.

Price/quality ratio| Optimum. Under all points of view. You should buy three different devices to get more and, maybe, spend three times more.

 

 

Official technical specifications

DIDIT DAC212 SPECIFICATIONS V2.12 I/O Connectivity

Digital Inputs: IEC320 AC Inlet Mains (90-250VAC), 2x Toslink, 2x Coax, 1x USB Audio

DiDiT Link Outputs: 2x RCA

DIDIT DAC212 SPECIFICATIONS V2.12

Interface Buttons: 1x Capacitive Touch

Remote control: Yes, Volume UP/DOWN, Standby, Mute, Source

Display Matrix

Product Description

2 CH Stereo D/A converter/Pre-amp with remote control

Supported formats: PCB, DSD

Sample Rates: 44.1kHz to 384kHz

Technical Specifications

Supported Sample rate: 44.1-kHz > 96-kHz/24Bit S/PDIF 44.1kHz > 384kHz USB

Output Voltage: 0dBFS = 1.9Vrms

THD+N: 0.00035% at 100kOhm.

S/N Ratio: S/N Ratio: -122dB (A weighted)

Output noise voltage residue: 1.5uV.

Crosstalk: 1kHz = -130dB 10kHz = -123dB

Frequency Response: +/-0.1dB DC to 50kHz

Dynamic Range: AES17124dB

Linearity:0.5dB at -115dBFS

Total Jitter measured at output: 48 Picoseconds RMS

Output: DC Coupled

Output Impedance: 0.5 Ohm

DC Offset: +/- 0.1mV

Power Consumption: N/A

Dimensions: WxHxD: 212mm x 45mm x 212mm

Weight: 2.7 KG.

Quickmanual: download here

 

Official Italian dealer: to DiDiT High-End website

Official launch price in Italy: 2,995.00 EUR

Associated equipment: to my system

 

 

Just like that. A gold bar with a high sound value
Just like that. A gold bar with a high sound value
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