• 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.

SONCOZ SGD1 Audio DAC Review

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
26,847
Likes
62,996
Location
Seattle Area
#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Soncoz SGD1 Audio DAC. It was kindly sent to me by its designer. You can be forgiven for not knowing this brand. It is a new company formed by our member @Ben1987 who had previously designed the super popular Khadas Tone Board DAC! He has left and designed this much higher tier DAC. The SGD1 costs US $469.99 plus shipping from Amazon.

The design is unique for a desktop DAC:

Soncoz USB DAC SGD1 Review.jpg

The volume control is a rotary encoder. The ring around it indicates volume level. I sort of expected a numerical display to the left of it. You can easily set the input and filter types by how long you push the encoder in, and then rotating it.

Lots of inputs and outputs are available:

Soncoz USB DAC SGD1 Back Panel Connectors Review.jpg

Nice to see Coax output and USB-C jack.

I don't see an external antenna but there is Bluetooth and one of the videos indicates Wifi capability!

DAC Audio Measurements
As usual we start with our dashboard measurements:
Soncoz USB DAC Audio Measurement.png


Wow. That is some distortion and noise performance! Highest level distortion product is under -130 dB meaning it is absolutely, positively inaudible. Noise must be low enough to push SINAD up to near 120 dB, placing the SGD1 almost at the top of the charts:
Best High-end Audio DAC.png


From here on, we have to keep our fingers crossed that the rest of the measurements follow the same way. First up is signal to noise ratio which we can already predict to be excellent:

Soncoz USB DAC Dynamic Range Audio Measurement.png


And excellent it is.

Linearity is nailed as perfect as can be indicating very precise output levels:
Soncoz USB DAC Linearity Audio Measurement.png


It just doesn't get flatter than this to 20 bits of resolution.

Jitter and noise is as clean as I have seen:
Soncoz USB DAC Jitter Audio Measurement.png


32-tone signal simulating "music" shows superbly low intermodulation distortion:
Soncoz USB DAC Multitone Audio Measurement.png


I almost don't have the hear to show you the next measurement, but I must:
Soncoz USB DAC IMD Audio Measurement.png


Darn it. Our dreaded ESS DAC chip IMD "hump" is there in full glory. It gets exaggerated ironically with lower noise floor that the SGD1 DAC has. Can't believe ESS has not solve this problem on their own and put it in their datasheets, leaving it to each designer to figure it out one by one.

EDIT: subsequent to this review, the IMD "hump" was resolved by the designer. He was also gracious to provide the fix for anyone to use!

Finally, here are the filter responses with the names on the front panel:
Soncoz USB DAC Filter Audio Measurement.png


I used the Bric one for my testing.

Thermal Stability
Recently we have discovered a couple of DACs whose performance changes after warm up (sometimes better, sometimes worse). So I thought I test for this before running any of the measurements. Here is distortion+noise as the unit went from cold to 15+ minutes of run time:
Soncoz DAC Warm-up Audio Measurement.png


There is essentially no change so I did not try to warm up the unit anymore. All the measurements were performed after this test/warm up.

Conclusions
Given the great design skills of Ben, I expected an exceptional DAC and that is almost what we got. There is great attention paid to keeping noise and interference to a minimum. All of this helps SGD1 beat over 200 DACs in SINAD (distortion plus noise)! Unfortunately, courtesy of design quirks in ESS DAC chip, we have rising intermodulation distortion in mid levels. A year ago this would not have mattered since all implementations suffered the same. But now, some companies have solved this or at least mitigated it to a great extent. I hope Ben takes another look at the circuit design and see if he can make the same fix.

Until then, I am going to recommend the Soncoz SGD1. Just not as highly as I could have had without the IMD issue.

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

This is the third review I am posting today! If this doesn't get you to empty your wallet and give me all that is there, I don't know what will. ) If are so inclined, please use: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
Last edited:

Tks

Major Contributor
Joined
Apr 1, 2019
Messages
1,588
Likes
1,969
Location
NYC
#2
The design is unique for a desktop DAC:
Sure is, and we see.. if my eyes do not decieve me. USB C, are we slowly moving along in terms of I/O?

EDIT: ESS be like:

Oh state of the art DAC in all metrics? Not with our chip you ain't.

Seriously though, that IMD is exceptional at the lower end, and also at max power. Ignoring the hump, this thing has virtually the best metrics, does it not? And for that price, with that design and such..

Man are devices one-uping one another quickly these days.
 
Last edited:
OP
amirm

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
26,847
Likes
62,996
Location
Seattle Area
Thread Starter #3
USB C, are we slowly moving along in terms of I/O?
I have not seen a trend toward it. Just a handful of devices support it so far.
 

Tks

Major Contributor
Joined
Apr 1, 2019
Messages
1,588
Likes
1,969
Location
NYC
#6
I have not seen a trend toward it. Just a handful of devices support it so far.
Btw that new graph is killer. And for 15 minutes too boot. That should virtually all recent fears folks have. Unless someone makes a case as the heatsink (which in audio I feel like we don't have to worry about because not many from Sabaj even considers putting heatinks on actual chip parts much these days, let alone a case design that acts as a heatsink).

It's really amazing how well the other metrics turned out considering ESS's hibernating selves not peeping the slightest with news of the ESS hump nonsense being addressed on die hardware-wise.

Not that it matters considering it looks like the 4499 is due to obliterate them ESS hump or not.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
26,847
Likes
62,996
Location
Seattle Area
Thread Starter #7
Amir got a competitor here or a team mate? Well done to both either way, and the manufacturer!
We both have the same analyzer so the question becomes who is better looking. I vote for myself:



Recently shaved the chest hair though as I was getting too popular around here....
 

Xulonn

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 27, 2018
Messages
1,240
Likes
3,239
Location
Boquete, Chiriqui, Panama
#8
Even a nice little YouTube intro video - dated November 8, 2019...

 

Celty

Active Member
Joined
Nov 4, 2019
Messages
289
Likes
195
#9
Hammer down the ESS Hump, if it really has bluetooth AND wifi put an external antennae on it, and add a remote - and this thing would be killer.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
26,847
Likes
62,996
Location
Seattle Area
Thread Starter #10

McFly

Active Member
Joined
Mar 12, 2019
Messages
275
Likes
359
#11
What’s the point of the coax digital out? Because there is a streaming board in it? Is it post volume or (assuming digital) pre?
 

raif71

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 7, 2019
Messages
381
Likes
228
#13
What’s the point of the coax digital out? Because there is a streaming board in it? Is it post volume or (assuming digital) pre?
I would use it, so that I would have the option of connecting my phone or dap that has no coax out to a receiver that has coax in. This way, I would have digital music processed by the receiver. I'm thinking of getting Topping d10 for this purpose. :). Typical usage .... Phone/dap (via usb) -> dac/amp (coax out) -> receiver
 

McFly

Active Member
Joined
Mar 12, 2019
Messages
275
Likes
359
#18
I would use it, so that I would have the option of connecting my phone or dap that has no coax out to a receiver that has coax in. This way, I would have digital music processed by the receiver. I'm thinking of getting Topping d10 for this purpose. :). Typical usage .... Phone/dap (via usb) -> dac/amp (coax out) -> receiver
Aii, like a USB to spdif converter. But would it’s volume control still be in play ?
 

gvl

Major Contributor
Joined
Mar 16, 2018
Messages
1,832
Likes
1,556
Location
SoCal
#20
Knowing of it and knowing how to address it are separate things.
Yes, but we're now off to another 50 page thread about the hump, it hardly does any good for the product. One would think the issue had to be mitigated before the product was sent for scrutiny here, especially now that we know that the hump can be solved.
 

Similar threads

Top Bottom