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Review and Measurements of MARCH audio dac1

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amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the new MARCH audio dac1 dac. It is the brainchild of our member @March Audio and is on loan to me. It retails for USD $449 but has an introductory price of $380 as of this writing. The company is located in Australia which should be an advantage for people living there with respect to purchasing this unit.

Alan's approach to audio hardware is highly minimalistic from features to design ID. It comes in machined block of aluminum which gives a nice impression of quality:
MARCH Audio dac1 Review.png.jpg

As you can tell there is only one indicator in the front in the form of a red LED indicating the unit is on. There is no power switch and the unit is powered by the same USB-c cable that feeds it. A pair of high-quality RCA jacks complete the unit. Alan's philosophy is emphasis on computer for control and management so you don't find volume control, etc. on the unit. It does what software cannot do which is convert digital samples to analog and that is it.

Let's get into measurements and see if it delivers.

Measurements
As usual we start with our dashboard of a 1 kHz tone:

MARCH Audio dac1 Measurements.png


Everything is right on the money. We have our 2 volt RMS output which is what I like to see., Distortion is quite minimal and mostly due to second harmonic with zero hint of power supply noise/mains leakage. SINAD (signal over noise and distortion) is excellent especially in Channel 2, placing the unit in the top tier of DACs tested:

1545191979728.png


Intermodulation distortion and noise is very good sans the typical rise we see in many ESS DAC chip implementations:
MARCH Audio dac1 IMD Measurements.png


Jitter is excellent with no spurious response above -140 dB:
MARCH Audio dac1 jitter Measurements.png


Linearity is likewise exemplary:
MARCH Audio dac1 Linearity Measurements.png


All of this translates into very little garbage at the bottom troughs of our 32-tone test signal simulating music/more complex waveform:
MARCH Audio dac1 multitone Measurements.png


Reconstruction filter shows flat response to 20 kHz as required and then dropping > 75 dB at 22.05 kHz Nyquist limit:
MARCH Audio dac1 filter Measurements.png


And here is square wave response for you audio measurement nerds out there:
MARCH Audio dac1 Square Wave Measurements.png


Conclusions
The MARCH audio dac1 delivers solid performance in an attractive packaging that you are not likely to find in more budget priced DACs. Yes, it is more money than many other budget DACs but there is a luxury feel to this product that you won't find there. For those of you in Australia, you can source this product without the excess shipping and import duties.

Given the performance of the unit, I don't have any hesitation to recommend the MARCH audio dac1.

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

If you like this review, or even if you don't but wish for me to ride first class in my upcoming holiday flight, please consider donating 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).
 

RayDunzl

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#3
Can you take a look at the hump...

It occurs during a range of specific levels, like -20 to -40dB.

I'm thinking to look at tone pairs at a level that excites it, vs a level that doesn't?

Maybe the multitone at different levels?

Basically, where is it seen (and what is seen) other than the hump graph?
 

amirm

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#4
You don't actually need twin tones. I am now able to reproduce it easily with THD measurements as long as I exclude noise from it:

1545194390028.png
 

gvl

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#5
In the spirit of objectivity can I suggest a new metric: SnPR or normalized SINAD to price ratio, normalization constant is up for discussion but 96dB would be a reasonable starting point.

SnPR=SINAD/(96 * Price in USD)

Would need to categorize units into categories by functional equivalency, e.g DAC, DAC+amp, etc.
 

restorer-john

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#6
Amir, can you post a picture of the rear panel and terminals?

And for people considering driving power amplifiers directly from the DAC, maybe an output impedance measurement?

Very impressive performance (not just because Alan is a fellow Aussie)
 

derp1n

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#7
Where's the $350 in value of this over the Khadas Tone Board? Seems like an awfully expensive case.

Why so secret about the internals? Strange lack of transparency there.

Hard to be excited about yet another ESS DAC with the IMD hump.
 

amirm

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gvl

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#9
Where's the $350 in value of this over the Khadas Tone Board? Seems like an awfully expensive case.

Why so secret about the internals? Strange lack of transparency there.

Hard to be excited about yet another ESS DAC with the IMD hump.
I agree, its SnPR is nothing to write home about.
 

restorer-john

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#12
Why so secret about the internals? Strange lack of transparency there.
Not all all. As far as I see it, the designer only has a short time before some 'enterprising' (read- thieving) off-shore copying house takes the fruits of his hard work and shamelessly duplicates it. Why put it on the internet for all to see before even the first batch is sold?

If it were me, I'd pot the entire thing in black epoxy, board and all and make it that much harder.

The design is his IP, likely hundreds of hours of board layout, tweaking and prototypes.
 

amirm

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#14
And for people considering driving power amplifiers directly from the DAC, maybe an output impedance measurement?
It is 100 ohms from 20 Hz to 20 kHz.
 

RayDunzl

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#15
Are the outputs labeled correctly?

1545198696231.png

With horizontal placement LEFT would often be on the right, and RIGHT on the left, looking at the rear...

1545198834929.png


I can work with "That's the way it is" as an answer.
 

stunta

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restorer-john

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#19
With horizontal placement LEFT would often be on the right, and RIGHT on the left, looking at the rear...
That is true. That said, I have all combinations in HiFi gear. Some have right on top of left, most the other way around. And then there was the old colour schemes of red for left and green for right (port/starboard). Many turntables in the late 60s and early 70s had red/green L/R cables. Why it became white/red L/R I don't know.

At the end of the day, clear, plain English markings are all I need, not cryptic symbols or black on black raised printing you can't see without a torch and a mirror. :)
 

Headphonaholic

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#20
Thank you for the review Amir! These are fine results.

I'm not entirely sure why some people are so up in arms over the cost? It's not astronomically priced. More importantly if you don't like the price don't buy it? You can support an honest man trying to make a well engineered product, or not.
 
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