• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

Review and Measurements of Audeze Deckard DAC and Amp

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
20,583
Likes
25,367
Location
Seattle Area
#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of Audeze Deckard DAC and headphone amplifier. It is on kind loan from a member and seems to be discontinued. Seems to be a product of year 2016 with retail price of USD $699. Owner has bought it used for much less.

The unit has rather unusual hefty metal enclosure with super sharp extruded aluminum edges that can easily pierce your fingers:

Audeze Deckard Headphone Amplifier and DAC Review.jpg

Other than that, the volume control feels very nice. There are RCA outputs and inputs in the back. The RCA out is variable and seems to just be connected to the output of the headphone amplifier. I only tested the unit as a DAC+Amp combo. With the front toggle switch, seems like you can use it as just a headphone amp/pre-amp if you wanted.

Looking for information on it, I ran into a CNET review saying this:

1544216992924.png


Is Steve Guttenberg right? Let's find out!

Measurements
I adjusted the output to typical 2 volt output and tested the unit using its RCA output:
Audeze Deckard Headphone Amplifier and DAC Measurements.png


Stated spec is 0.0004% distortion. We are off by a big factor to 0.003%. I played around but could not get much better distortion metrics. This puts the unit in third tier of performance:

1544217247760.png


Note that DAC+headphone combos do worse in this test since they have the sum distortion of both subsystems. Still, there are a other combo units with much better performance.

Noise level is rather high as reflected in dynamic range:

Audeze Deckard Headphone Amplifier and DAC Dynamic Range Measurements.png


Intermodulation test shows the same:

Audeze Deckard Headphone Amplifier and DAC IMD Measurements.png


Jitter follows suit:
Audeze Deckard Headphone Amplifier and DAC jitter Measurements.png


Linearity is not bad though:
Audeze Deckard Headphone Amplifier and DAC Linearity Measurements.png


Found very odd results when testing THD distortion and noise versus frequency:
Audeze Deckard Headphone Amplifier and DAC THD vs Frequency Measurements.png


This is due to this test using much wider bandwidth than the dashboard (90 kHz versus 22.5 kHz). The ultrasonic response changes a lot causing variations in the THD. Why it is so correlated, I don't quite know but read below.

I had a heck of a time getting consistent results of THD versus power. Later listening tests revealed that the headphone jack is loose and if you push it all the way in, it causes buzz and hum. I re-ran the tests and kept the jack a hair proud and got much better results (no impact on Dashboard above):
Audeze Deckard Headphone Amplifier and DAC Power at 300 Ohm Measurements.png


Nearly half a watt at 300 ohm is really high amount of power. Alas, with it also comes a lot of noise as we see in the comparison to Topping DX3 Pro.

Similar outcome greets us with 33 ohm load:

Audeze Deckard Headphone Amplifier and DAC Power at 33 Ohm Measurements.png


As indicated, if you can, use this unit with minimum or medium gain. But if you need power, lots of it is available at 1.7 watts with high gain.

Output impedance is comfortably low:
Audeze Deckard Headphone Amplifier and DAC output impedance Measurements.png


Listening Tests
Before getting started, I wanted to check for audible noise. So I plugged in my AKG K92 into Deckard, set it to high gain and set the level to max with music paused. Buzz and hum was clearly audible. But then by chance I touched the headphone jack and this is when I realized it was loose and caused varying amount of noise depending on how you held it. I plan to open it up and see if I can fix it.

This caused me to stop the listening tests and go back back to re-measuring but not before hitting play in Roon by accident while wearing the AKG K92. What greeted me was so loud and so distorted that it loosened the wax in my ears, shot them through my nostrils and into my drink! OK, that is not what happened but this is the closest I have come to going deaf. I literally had to sit for a few seconds in silence to gather myself.

Plugging in the headphone so that the buzz was not there showed very nice subjective performance with the K92 which are very efficient and easy to drive.

Switching to the other extreme with Sennheiser HD-650, the Deckard seemingly did not care. It had enough power to drive them as loud as you ever wanted with authority.

The Hifiman HE-400i had no issues whatsoever. Fidelity was very good with little to complain about.

Conclusions
The Audeze Deckard doesn't seem to have benefited from proper engineering measurements and refinement. Its DAC performance is ordinary, likely degraded by the high noise floor of the amplifier. Fortunately it compensates for that with tons and tons of power, proving my point that you always want more power than you need. This is true whether you have a headphone amp or speaker amp. Amplifiers will most definitely distort when pushed to the limit even when you think you are not playing them loud enough.

If you have difficult to drive headphones and are on a budget, getting a used one at the bargain price the owner got the unit, it is a good option. At its original new price of $699, I can't recommend this unit seeing how you can get powerful amplifiers, with much lower noise and and distortion that you can pair with a DAC for much less money.

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

If you like this review, please consider donating funds to support these reviews using:
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/audiosciencereview)
or upgrading your membership here though Paypal (https://audiosciencereview.com/foru...eview-and-measurements.2164/page-3#post-59054).
 
Last edited:

flipflop

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 22, 2018
Messages
382
Likes
326
#2
I'm sorry to hear about your accident. I can only image how loud it would be :oops:
Hope it didn't damage your hearing or traumatized you.
 

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
20,583
Likes
25,367
Location
Seattle Area
#4
I'm sorry to hear about your accident. I can only image how loud it would be :oops:
Hope it didn't damage your hearing or traumatized you.
No worries. It is standard occupational hazard. Reminds me of getting shocked with mains voltages when repairing electronics.
 

graz_lag

Major Contributor
Joined
Oct 13, 2018
Messages
1,096
Likes
977
Location
Le Mans, France
#5
It looks they hire their engineers basing their selections on the ear square surfaces and sensibilities rather than solid engineering ... ;)
"Within-the-standard-measured" results are often a consequence when black magic replaces @amirm 's science ... :)
 
Last edited:

JJB70

Major Contributor
Patreon Donor
Joined
Aug 17, 2018
Messages
1,463
Likes
2,714
Location
Milton Keynes, England
#8
What is it with audiophile brands and sharp edges? It's not rocket science to figure why such sharp edges is not the best idea nor is it rocket science to reduce such sharp edges. For some reason this annoys me as it just speaks of lazy design.
 

graz_lag

Major Contributor
Joined
Oct 13, 2018
Messages
1,096
Likes
977
Location
Le Mans, France
#9
Had this amplifier for a while and really liked it at the time. I guess if the issues are all inaudible then the rest of the picture can be filled in by my powerful placebo imagination :).
Here we talk my friend !!! :D
One has - first and foremost, get pleasure out of the material (gears) he has !!! There is always something better out there, no matter how much you pay for - or how much high-end, your gear is ... :p
 
Joined
Oct 31, 2018
Messages
13
Likes
15
#10
What is it with audiophile brands and sharp edges? It's not rocket science to figure why such sharp edges is not the best idea nor is it rocket science to reduce such sharp edges. For some reason this annoys me as it just speaks of lazy design.
Indeed I had to handle it very carefully during my ownership of the amp. Since I stacked it on top of another amp I also had to be very careful when moving things around to avoid leaving a permanent scar on some of my equipment.

That is my only experience with sharp edged audiophile equipment though.

Here we talk my friend !!! :D
One has - first and foremost, get pleasure out of the material (gears) he has !!! There is always something better out there, no matter how much you pay for - or how much high-end, your gear is ... :p
I got the Yggdrasil some time ago thinking that my search for audio equipment would end once I've reached my maximum acceptable price tag. It's also so highly praised on SBAF, what could go wrong?

Well, everything. Now I have the RME ADI-2 DAC on my desk. With @amirm identifying the transparent gear for us, I no longer have to trust my ears which are susceptible to the placebo bug. I honestly think I'm less enthusiastic about audio gear now that I know I can't trust 99% of the subjective reviews out there, but at least my wallet is happy. This does look like true end-game to me for my desktop headphone system :).
 

restorer-john

Major Contributor
Joined
Mar 1, 2018
Messages
2,358
Likes
3,749
Location
Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
#11
It is standard occupational hazard. Reminds me of getting shocked with mains voltages when repairing electronics.
Put down the soldering iron and slowly walk away from the live gear.... :)
 

graz_lag

Major Contributor
Joined
Oct 13, 2018
Messages
1,096
Likes
977
Location
Le Mans, France
#12
... Now I have the RME ADI-2 DAC on my desk. ... This does look like true end-game to me for my desktop headphone system :).
Your signature's list of desktop gears is quite impressive, indeed ...
 
Last edited:

Johnb

Active Member
Joined
Oct 12, 2018
Messages
114
Likes
63
#13
Doesn't your graph show 2.9W at 33 ohms, rather than 1.7? That figure seems closer to the mid gain
 

Jimster480

Major Contributor
Patreon Donor
Joined
Jan 26, 2018
Messages
1,083
Likes
576
Location
Miami
#17
What is it with audiophile brands and sharp edges? It's not rocket science to figure why such sharp edges is not the best idea nor is it rocket science to reduce such sharp edges. For some reason this annoys me as it just speaks of lazy design.
Look at the engineering and how lazy it is, why would the case be any different?
Had this amplifier for a while and really liked it at the time. I guess if the issues are all inaudible then the rest of the picture can be filled in by my powerful placebo imagination :).
In theory it wouldn't all be inaudible at only 91 SINAD.
 

Kyle / MrHeeHo

Active Member
Joined
Mar 30, 2018
Messages
106
Likes
84
#19
It looks they hire their engineers basing their selections on the ear square surfaces and sensibilities rather than solid engineering ... ;)
"Within-the-standard-measured" results are often a consequence when black magic replaces @amirm 's science ... :)
Audeze's expertize is in headphones. There have been rumors this amp is an OEM rebrand but I haven't seen any evidence one way or the other.

I guess now we know why it's been off the market for two years
 

derp1n

Senior Member
Joined
May 28, 2018
Messages
481
Likes
581
#20
There have been rumors this amp is an OEM rebrand but I haven't seen any evidence one way or the other.
There are pictures of the internals of this and the Matrix HPA-3U on Head-Fi which look very similar layout-wise, except for the DAC daughterboard.
 

Similar threads

Top Bottom