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Parasound 4 DAX Review (8-channel DAC)

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Parasound 4 DAX, 8-channel DAC and crossover. It was kindly purchased by a member and drop shipped to me. Its retail price is US $999 but I see it on sale for $499.

The 4 DAX comes in a nice looking, rack mountable "1RU" chassis:

Parasound 4 DAX Review Multizone  Coax Input 8 channel DAC.jpg


It is an unusual produce with four independent DACs in one box:

Parasound 4 DAX Review Multizone back panel trigger Coax Input 8 channel DAC.jpg


Each has its own digital inputs (Coax and Toslink), low and high pass filters and trigger output. Looking at the marketing video dating back to 2016 introduction, it is aimed at system integrators to manage four centralized SONOS players. It adds crossover and trigger functionality to said players. I think the owner is using it as an 8-channel crossover.

Parasound 4 DAX Measurements
As usual, we start with our dashboard:

Parasound 4 DAX Measurements Coax Input 8 channel DAC.png


As noted, this is the first channel output with levels adjusted for 2 volts out. Max is 3 volts which you can see in the output of the second channel:
Parasound 4 DAX Measurements Ch 2 Coax Input 8 channel DAC.png


Both sadly have a bad channel with 6 dB worse harmonic distortion. At our standard 2 volt output, the 4 DAX would rate "poor" compared to all the other DACs we have tested.

Fortunately signal to noise ratio is decent:

Parasound 4 DAX Measurements DNR Coax Input 8 channel DAC.png


Then again intermodulation distortion is not:

Parasound 4 DAX Measurements IMD Coax Input 8 channel DAC.png


Same repeats with high levels of jitter:


Parasound 4 DAX Measurements Jitter Coax Input 8 channel DAC.png


Linearity is not great either:

Parasound 4 DAX Measurements Linearity Coax Input 8 channel DAC.png


The filter is typical of default one in chip DACs with too slow of a roll off:

Parasound 4 DAX Measurements Filter Coax Input 8 channel DAC.png


THD+N versus frequency is disappointing:

Parasound 4 DAX Measurements THD+N vs Frequency Coax Input 8 channel DAC.png


Worst news was the frequency response though when using internal crossovers:

Parasound 4 DAX Measurements Crossover Coax Input 8 channel DAC.png


I don't understand why there is such peaking in the high pass one. It is clearly a bug/implementation error that is going to result in brighter sound.

Conclusions
The 4 DAX is clearly not marketed toward us with functionality that is more important than absolute fidelity. Still, it would have been nice if it had performed. Even for its intended market, I think the high-pass filter is bad and should be fixed.

I can't recommend the Parasound 4 DAX unless you badly need its functionality.

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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/
 

Madjalapeno

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Does this work with a single input?
 

Kal Rubinson

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Interesting but, technically, I do not think that it is proper to call it an "8-channel DAC." Each digital input supports 2 channels and Parasound describes it as consisting of "Four Independent DACs."
 

H-713

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Certainly not measurement grade, but it would probably still sound pretty good in most applications.
 

PeteL

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Certainly not measurement grade, but it would probably still sound pretty good in most applications.
I could do with every other metrics, but 1dB sharp at 10k an steep upward from there, don’t know. Think it’s quite a stretch to think it’d sound good.
 

wwenze

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So this is a "Panther drinking from a mug while on a mug" Panther...

Reminded me of these kind of attachments that can be put on a cup

ho0__C4LtP0RQLMA2PkBYDCElLGGsf3o8INyd3jfvnf6fXy_hcgBIL4BghHMrNN-BWlxbdLfin5wsiexFGT_W8UDFtI1EK8Cf40hie9OY7NUzy5IdpKsJVjEEzux2YjLHMSlzSs4z4lfbXuFWZLC


Never understood why or their use case
 

musicforcities

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Its retail price is US $999 but I see it on sale for $499.
For $499 or a bit more you could buy 4 stellar small form factor dacs (smsl Sanskrit the fourteenth or whatever), a mini dsp for crossover and maybe even an av rack self to put them on.
 

GWolfman

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First I've seen like this before (4-in-1).
 

abdo123

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Amir either liked the concept or was on really good mood today for saying 105 S/N is 'very good for the class' instead of ripping them a new one as usual :D .
 

Chrispy

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Interesting but, technically, I do not think that it is proper to call it an "8-channel DAC." Each digital input supports 2 channels and Parasound describes it as consisting of "Four Independent DACs."
If it were 8ch then tests of all 8 ch would be nice.
 

restorer-john

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For $499 or a bit more you could buy 4 stellar small form factor dacs (smsl Sanskrit the fourteenth or whatever), a mini dsp for crossover and maybe even an av rack self to put them on.

Good luck keeping all those separate D/A converters in sync for more than a few minutes. You'd have all sorts of trouble.

This Parasound is likely (hopefully) to have a master clock that each D/A uses and is synced to.
 

abdo123

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Good luck keeping all those separate D/A converters in sync for more than a few minutes. You'd have all sorts of trouble.

This Parasound is likely (hopefully) to have a master clock that each D/A uses and is synced to.

Is it possible for a SPDIF sink to be the master? I always assumed that the interface (USB -> SPDIF) would always be the master clock.
 

jtatknox

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I'm the owner of this DAC and am very grateful to Amir for reviewing this unusual product. I'm engaging w/ the discussion now to shed some light on how I was thinking of using this DAC, to get suggestions from others, and ask some additional questions.

Part 1: The Purpose

3 months ago I moved into a new apartment with 4 different listening environments: dedicated listening area, outdoor patio, sun room, living room. My source is an NAD CI580 4-zone/8 channel BluOS streamer. One zone feeds a MiniDSP SHD in my dedicated listening area via SPDIF. For the other zones, CI 580 analog outputs feed a multichannel amp. Everything is rack mount.

I realized that what is missing for me in all the other listening areas is decent EQ (BluOS only has bass and treble shelf with secret EQ curves) or even Dirac. I also am experimenting with building coaxial speakers with active crossovers.

Part 2: The Solution?

I thought about 3 options.

1) Just get a rack mount MiniDSP DDRC-88A, deal with the fact it has AD-Dirac-DA that is "almost broken" and be done with it since I have the SHD in my reference setup.
2) Collect a few MiniDSP 2x4 HD units and figure a way to rack mount them.
3) Buy this Parasound product for $343 plus tax, which would let me use the all-digital path of the MiniDSP DDRC-88D for 8 channels of Dirac assignable to 3 zones. For this to work, it would require that the full range outputs of the DACs are at least as good as the NAD CI580 – i.e. not reference quality but not bad either. I had no intention of using the passive crossovers.

Part 3: What I think I have learned

I think I've learned that the full range DAC is probably not audibly bad, but that the high pass output is basically broken. Could the full range output be considered at least on par with a Chromecast?

Part 4: What next?

For my intended use case, which is basically to allow a MiniDSP DDRC-88D in the loop without A->D conversion that would be required with the DDRC-88A, would this 4 DAX work or do we think it will be audible?

I am ESPECIALLY interested in the discussion around whether there is a master clock or independent clocks that require syncing, as that would make using this with a coaxial speaker basically impossible and would push me back toward using MiniDSP 2x4 HDs. Any way to determine this?
 
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