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Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC Review

Rate this DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 79 54.1%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 58 39.7%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 8 5.5%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 1 0.7%

  • Total voters
    146

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $1,999.
Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC Pro review.jpg


EDIT: while there is one seller for this product, it appears to be a very old model that is discontinued.

This is kind of an old school look which is probably fine for it target market of professionals. I guess lack of USB connection goes along the same lines:
Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC Pro back panel AES review.jpg


I appreciated the built-in AC power supply.

Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC Measurements
I started my testing with S/PDIF connection:

Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC Measurements.png


Very surprised to see such a jungle of spikes around our main tone which likely indicates jitter. There is also power supply noise which may be the source of said jitter (or some of it). I should note that on power up, one channel had much more distortion which pulled SINAD down to 90 dB but it climbed up after 1 minute of warm up.

Make sure ground loops and such were not responsible, I switched to AES digital for the rest of the tests:

Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC Measurements AES.png


I didn't expect distortion to improve but strangely it did a bit. Using this value we get a bit above average ranking for all DACs tested:
Best pro dac reviewed.png


Lowering the output did result in slightly better performance:

Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC Measurements THD vs level.png


Company raves about dynamic range and their claim passes my test:
Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC Measurements Dynamic range AES.png


This is a very quiet DAC but unfortunately it is held back by distortion:
Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC Measurements IMD.png


What a shame. Linearity is perfect:

Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC Measurements Linearity AES.png


But jitter is not as we predicted:
Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC Measurements Jitter AES.png


DAC filter is slow which will cause some problems with the test after it:

Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC Measurements Filter.png


Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC Measurements THD vs freq.png


But why is there a rise in distortion at lower frequencies???

Sparrow Headphone Output Measurement
I set its output level to max and got this strange result at 300 ohm:

Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC HP 300 ohm Measurements.png


What on earth is going on here??? The one channel is just broken.

Fortunately at lower impedance it performs much better:
Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC HP 32 ohm Measurements.png


Conclusions
What a mixed bag here. We have a very quiet DAC but distortion that is all over the place. Rarely, if ever, have I seen an ultra low noise DAC with high distortion. Needless to say, we can get desktop DACs at much lower prices that run circles around it.

I can't recommend the Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC. You can do so much better for less even though there are some redeeming qualities in there.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
Last edited:
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amirm

amirm

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Why initially test SINAD at >6.5Vrms?
I don't know why they pick that. It does not have adjustable output. I ran the sweep then to show performance at other levels using digital attenuation.
 

anphex

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It looks a lot like DIY.

And almost 7 Vrms output... isn't this far beyond average? There will be amps that complain about this input level right?
 

staticV3

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Why is this DAC listed in the SINAD rankings with its 6.7Vrms performance?
Shouldn't all DACs be listed at the standard 2/4Vrms?
See for example the SMSL M400 review.
It does 123dB SINAD at 5.4Vrms, but is listed in the SINAD rankings with its 4.0Vrms performance of 121dB.

Edit: ah, I see. Apparently only DACs with hardware volume control will have their output rectified for the rankings and I'm guessing the knob on this one only affects the headphone out, not the line out.

Also, why is on this graph written "4 volt @ 104 dB SINAD" when the graph itself shows 4 volt @ 107dB SINAD?
Black Lion Audio White Sparrow DAC Measurements THD vs level.png
 
Last edited:
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amirm

amirm

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Also, why is on this graph written "4 volt @ 104 dB SINAD" when the graph itself shows 4 volt @ 107dB SINAD?
Ah, that is a typo. Will fix tomorrow after I wake up.
 

Rja4000

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I don't know why they pick that. It does not have adjustable output. I ran the sweep then to show performance at other levels using digital attenuation.
I guess they wanted to make sure to cover EBU pro standard level (+18dB at full scale = 6.15Vrms) ?
 

Blumlein 88

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I wish someone would send you a Burl Bomber or Cranesong Solaris to test.

The Bomber isn't that much more money than the White Sparrow, and lots prettier. The Cranesong is the same price and similar styling.
B2-DAC-FRONT-200107.png



proxy-image
 

voodooless

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Won't run over AES because it doesn't support 192 Khz sampling.
Specs seem to say it does.

Besides, why not make a multitone running at 48 kHz as well, or is that just not supported by the AP? We've seen several times that 192 kHz is not supported, but would still be nice to see the multitone. Maybe via an external ASRC one could also get it done. Something like this should be transparent enough.
 
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nyxnyxnyx

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does anybody know what year did this DAC come from? It looks 2000s to me.
 
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