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DAC - Audio GD DAC-19 with the AMANERO USB board

A SMALL BUT VERY GOOD CHINESE DAC

 

I-INTRODUCTION.

All the devices manufactured by AUDIOGD are supervised by the Manager: Mr He Qinghua, who won the 1st place of the National Semiconductor (USA) Audio Design Contest.

The AUDIOGD products line includes a lot of DACs (this one is probably the most regarded) and few preamplifiers and amplifiers. They are all extremely well built and seriously designed.

The DACs line can be split in 2 families: the first uses the Burr Brown 1704 conversion chip, and the second one uses the ES-9018. Obviously the respective manufacturers are well known and respected in the audio world.

The DAC that we review here is equipped with the famous AMANERO asynchronous USB board, a limited serie, and it is highly appreciated amongst the current DACs.The USB AMANERO card usage is another point of interest for THRESHOLD LOVERS, because we currently conduct various tests related to the devices compliant with the dematerialized music.

In addition, this DAC uses the Burr Brown 1704 dac chip, one of our preferred chip, here in the "K" version, meaning that AUDIOGD uses the best 1704 chips manufactured by Burr Brown.

Its technical specifications are very good, but the DACs improve quickly, and the competitors are therefore at a similar level of performance and ready to challenge the DAC-19...

 

 

II-THE AUDIGD DAC-19.

 

Here is the front view:

audiogd19_front.jpg

and here is the back view:

audiogd19_back.jpg

 

The set of connectors is beyond the average:

  • RCA and mini-XLR outputs
  • RCA, BNC and TOSLINK optical inputs: see comment below related to the optical input
  • and of course a USB input feeding the USB AMANERO board

Unfortunately, the optical input uses the CRAPPY Toslink standard ! Shame on AUDIOGD for using this horrible Toslink standard. It would have been much more cleaver to use the ST optical standard and remove the mini-XLR outputs: it is obvious that the best result will be achieved by a [ ST input + RCA output ] rather than a [ Toslink optical input + mini-XLR output ] !! Even if the Toslink standard is unfortunately very popular on the mass market products, it is not welcome on an audiophile product.

THESHOLD LOVERS continues this " blame section" by blaming WADIA for their last DACs: they are equipped with the Toslink standard, and that is unacceptable for so costly products, particularly for the firm that hopefully enforced the ST standard in audio a few decades ago when Mr Wadia HOSES was the boss of Wadia !

The fact that a lot of other well known brands also use the crappy Toslink standard for cost reasons is not an excuse: when so stupid choices are made, the entire high fidelity market loses its  credibility... as we have all been seeing this for the last 20 years.

The AuDIOGD is very well built, weights 4kg meaning that the manufacturing quality is good.

We regret the use of CMS parts, meaning that the maintenance or upgrade are quite impossible, but the quality is above the average.

 

III-LISTENING CONFIGURATION.

As always, the configuration remains the same in order to provide you with a stable base for the comparing the products that THRESHOLD LOVERS reviews.

reference2config.jpg

 

 

IV-LISTENING SESSIONS.

We have reviewed the DAC in 2 steps: firstly in our Reference system #7 and secondly in our Reference System #2.

The other DACs available in our Reference System #7 for comparisons with the AUDIOGD DAC-19 were: the excellent CHORD 2Qute and the unbeatable WADIA 9 fully upgraded. Be aware that the review of the CHORD 2Qute is about to be issued on THRESHOLD LOVERS, and it is an outstanding DAC...We recommend to our readers to wait for this review if they plan to buy a DAC around 1,000€...

In our Reference System #2, the DAC-19 has been compared with the FOSTEX HPA8C, the wonderful THETA Gen V-a fully restored and the marvelous MARK LEVINSON ML-35.

We have to point out that the THETA / MARK LEVINSON / WADIA are obviously not in the same league from a price standpoint...: the AUDIOGD is the least expensive of all the DACs it has been compared to in this review.

 

The 1st thing to know is that the DAC-19 is very sensitive to the phase orientation : you have to find the correct orientation of the AC plug before going further.

Our preferred settings are :

  • internal jumper NOS: activated,
  • internal PLL jumper: OFF
  • and the front selector "Phase 180°" engaged.

The other options available through the other internal jumpers, such as oversampling (x2, x4, x8) and/or dither did not provide good results in our systems.

 

This DAC-19 is a very good product, and as a 100% Chinese product, this must be mentioned. The manufacturer has a lot of expertise in  digital: it uses the right parts in the right place.

We have deeply compared the SPDIF and USB inputs, and we expected to get the same results than most of the time, meaning that we expected to get the best results from the SPDIF input. But we hae got exactly the opposite: the USB input is better than the SPDIF one (the USB AMANERO board is truly excellent), meaning that this DAC-19 is a good choice for those interested by the dematerialized music. But please wait for our upcoming review of the CHORD 2Qute if you plan to buy a DAC in this price range.

Be also aware that the quality of the USB cable is of the highest importance, whatever the DAC is. There is no exception to this rule. Our tests have been done using the excellent WIREWORLD Platinium Starlight.

This DAC has no weak point. It provides a very presentation of the music: deep soundstage, a lot of detail, a good termination of the notes, etc...

It improves after a heat period: it has required 48 hours to reach its best !... so we recommend you to let it ON permanently.

On the various audio Forums, it is considered as a reference, and we agree that in this price range (<900€) it is a reference, the best below 900€. We have lessonned to a lot of more expensive DACs, and unless exception, the price difference is absolutely NOT justified (by " exception " we refer here to the CHORD 2Qute that we are about to issue the review).

 

Nevertheless, you should not expect as much from this DAC than from a THETA, MARK LEVINSON or WADIA: these DACs belongs to the cream and do not belong to the same category.

 

V-.CONCLUSION:

 

This DAC is an excellent DAC, probably the best under the 900€. Its manufacturer knows about digital, making it a excellent choice for those interested by the dematerialized music: thank you to the excellent USB AMANERO board.

With a price below 900€, there is nothing bad to mention about this DAC (except the Toslink optical standard).

Mr He Qinghua, we congratulate you for this achievement !

 

Pros:

  • build quality
  • excellent price / quality ratio
  • various setting through the internal jumpers
  • excellent dac chip: the BB-1704 it their best "K" version
  • excellent USB AMANERO board
  • homogeneity of the musical results
  • the best DAC under 900€

 

Cons:

  • sensitivity to the AC plug orientation
  • Level of detail could be better in some systems (Ref. System #2 only)
  • Crappy Toslink optical standard
  • Requires 48h before reaching its best (but you just have to let it ON permanently)
  • A slight touch of aidity in the highs (Ref. System #2 only)

 

TL_4.jpg

 

Nounours, who has reviewed it in his Reference system #7, believes that it merits a 4.5 stars ranking, but we currently have only 4 or 5 stars awards...

 

Article written by Florent - December 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Creation date : 31/12/2016 @ 17:24
Last update : 15/01/2017 @ 12:37
Category : DAC
Page read 139 times


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