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Weiss DAC501 Streamer and DAC Review

Rate this DAC/Streamer

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 160 47.9%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 132 39.5%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 29 8.7%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 13 3.9%

  • Total voters
    334

Jimbob54

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2 pages in and thus far no new member has jumped in to claim Amir's testing and methodology is massively flawed etc etc

Maybe just a timing thing or maybe the industry and consumers are adjusting
 

DSJR

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The day companies producing cheap DACs will provide firmware just approaching the one provided here, comments on the price will become relevant. For the moment:
- since competent firmware developers are a rare breed, better pay them. Especially in Switzerland.
- when your product is alone fulfilling a market request, you can price it the way you like.
- heard about brand power?

Concerning the linearity behavior, @amirm are you sure that all side functions were disabled/bypassed? Because this really looks like interger rounding done by a DSP function.
Actually, I think I have to agree here as regards individual makers going it alone with buggy software. One of the major streamer makers in the UK has a dealer reputation for glitches and bugs in the software in older models and now, as these older streaming models don't seem to work with the updates over the years so well, they offered over the summer a trade in towards the latest models - only 10% or so, but a kind of token I suppose :(
 

AdrianusG

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So, as a DAC, we get the same measured performance as with below tested dongle DAC (except for the DSP functions which i dont need since i'm using the ones in Jriver),
TempoTec Sonata BHD Pro, and that at about 100 times the price. crazy!

Thanks Amir
 

JeremyFife

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So ... as far as I can see, this is technically flawed (broken perhaps, software faults or hidden settings perhaps?) and would otherwise be ok apart from headphone performance for trickier loads ... as tested it's flawed.

The issue I'm struggling with is value - which shouldn't really affect a technical review - because I'm human.

What sort of build quality and features could possibly justify this price? (serious question). I get that "brand value" is a valid factor and that for some people it's really worth paying extra for. Doesn't float my boat and I can't begin to quantify the value of owning a "Weiss". For me, that's not worth anything but I do get that it has value for some people. That's a very personal decision though

Should at least be technically correct though, which this isn't (unless it's broken and can be fixed). It will perform well enough I guess, so owners who want one should be happy with it.

Voted poor.
 

Purité Audio

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I suspect distributor and dealer margin accounts for two thirds of the price at least... (I mean, I'm horrified how Rega products all but double in price when sold in the US)
Daniel is old school and insists upon the traditional distributor model, he is a decent guy and never film flams just a manufacturer who has been overtaken by the modern world.
Retail has changed so much in just a few short years.
Keith
 

BR52

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Output saturation from a „analog specialist „ hmm. Hopefully they’re diskrete op-amps performing better.
 

JSmith

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Hopefully they’re diskrete op-amps performing better.
Looks like 4 x TI OPA1612's to me;

1696325577694.png



JSmith
 

AudioSceptic

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This is a review, listening tests and detailed measurements of the Weiss DAC501 balanced DAC, headphone amp and network renderer. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $9995.
View attachment 316239
The case is fine enough but not nearly so for what it costs. Stamped steal should have no place in this price range. The LCD is decent size but not very high resolution. It is touch sensitive but wasn't easy to navigate using that. It uses inverse scrolling in that to move the menus up, you rotate the knob to the left, not right. Fortunately a remote control is provided which allows quick random access to inputs and such. Back panel shows what you would expect as far as connectivity:
View attachment 316242

What distinguishes this streamer becomes visible once you connect to it using a web browser. In there, you see a suite of very useful signal processing components including parametric EQ, vinyl simulation, Room EQ (just a set of filters), etc. Here is the UI for the DSP:
View attachment 316247

The interface was easy to use and much nicer than screwing around with an app. Here is for example the parametric EQ for Room EQ (you program them manually):

View attachment 316248

For some odd reason though, when you select headphone out, you loose all that and only get a set of preprogrammed Audeze settings:
View attachment 316249

Fortunately the generic EQ remains with three filters:
View attachment 316250

You can create multiple presets and select them on demand using the remote.

There is a DAC502 which is the same but is wider and has balanced headphone out. Otherwise it is the same.

If you are not familiar with the tests that are about to follow, please watch my video on understanding DAC measurements.

Weiss DAC501 DAC and Streamer Measurement
Let's adjust the volume control such that we get 4 volts and measure the output using USB input:
View attachment 316251
This is good performance but I am left wondering why there are so many distortion spikes. That seems to do with its output buffer stages as lowering the gain there, does improve things:
View attachment 316252
But as you see, you can no longer reach 4 volt output even at max volume. Using the higher value, the DAC501 lands in our "Excellent" category:
View attachment 316253
Zooming in:
View attachment 316254

We have under $100 DACs outperforming it. That said, distortion is at threshold of hearing so likely transparent to the source. Here is the RCA performance with 0 dB Trim:
View attachment 316256

Since output can go over 4 volts, I ran my sweep of distortion+noise relative to digital level:
View attachment 316260
As noted, the curve has those ups and downs which I have not seen before. Same thing happened when I ran this test but used the front panel volume control. We will circle back to this later.

Since I know one of you rascals would ask :), here is the vinyl emulation:
View attachment 316257
I got a kick out of having the noise floor artificially increased in addition to incredibly high amount of distortion.

I was impressed with the noise performance:
View attachment 316258

Somehow that didn't translate to better performance in IMD vs level:
View attachment 316259

I liked that multitone distortion was totally frequency independent:
View attachment 316261

There is no option to change the filter:
View attachment 316262
Attenuation is good enough to give us a good wideband THD+N vs frequency:
View attachment 316263
Usually in audio gear distortion increases with frequency but here is slightly backward. A bit strange.

I was surprised (again) that despite low noise floor, the jitter measurement did not reveal the low order bits of the J-test signal on the left:
View attachment 316264
We also have a series of spikes that should not be there in an audio product in this price level and from an engineering company.

Now check out the linearity measurement:
View attachment 316265

As Spock would say, "fascinating!" This test simply varies the digital input to the DAC, expecting corresponding change in analog level. A perfect level would produce a line at 0 dB. What we see is that at precise digital input levels, we have a 1 dB error! Cleary the low order bits of digital audio samples are getting corrupted. Yes, I have all effects disabled which should cause the unit to pass the PCM samples through but clearly it is stepping on them. It is likely a software bug that should have been caught during design verification.

Finally, for compatibility with Stereophile DAC measurements, here is the performance of 50 Hz tone into 600 ohm load:
View attachment 316267
It beats an MSB DAC by nearly 18 dB so not bad:
414MSBfig08.jpg


Weiss DAC501 Headphone Measurements
The dashboard once again shows competent performance but not where it should be relative to its class:
View attachment 316268View attachment 316269

I was disappointed in noise performance as it was not great in absolute and was worse in one channel:View attachment 316270

View attachment 316271

There are four trim levels. I tested three of them:

View attachment 316272
View attachment 316273

These are OK power levels but again, not befitting of the class.

Output impedance is zero which good but there is just not a lot of current available:
View attachment 316274

Volume control is digital so no need to run channel imbalance test. But recently people have been doubting this so here it is:
View attachment 316275

DAC501 Listening Tests
As usual I start with my closed back Dan Clark Stealth headphone. This is a low impedance headphone that requires fair bit of drive. The DAC501 could only get it to moderate levels above which bass notes got distorted. Push harder and distortion kept increasing. It is useable with this headphone for background listening but no kind of foot tapping will follow.

I then switched to Sennheiser HD650 which is high impedance and much easier to drive. Here, the DAC701 managed to produce quite high dynamics to levels that you don't want to listen to for more than a few seconds. I listened to few tracks and sound was quite enjoyable but I did not detect anything euphonic or special about the DAC501. For comparison, I plugged the HD650 into my everyday ADI-2 Pro headphone out and I was now able to play much louder with even more fidelity (strictly due to higher output level).

Conclusions
I did some initial testing of the DAC501 a week ago (basically the dashboard) and then looked at all the processing it provided. I was completely sold on it and was willing to ignore its price and give it very high mark. Today though, those hopes were dashed. There is no reason for a DAC to not do the basics of what it is asked to do: convert digital samples to corresponding analog samples at accurate levels. This test ignores all noise and distortion, and I only measure to 20 bits so a DAC needs to be able to nail it. As noted in the review, the DAC501 clearly has an implementation bug that a simple test would have caught. I am hopeful that the company will fix it with a firmware update. If not, the hardware should be recalled.

The other less than good news is the headphone output performance. While better than a checklist item, it is anemic when it comes to driving lower impedance headphones. It is also rather noisy with one channel being worse that the other.

Finally, going into the review somehow I thought this was a $2,000 DAC/streamer. Today I double checked and was shocked that it was $10,000! I don't mind paying that much if it came in a 20 pound case with machining that would make me drool. And a high resolution display akin to a mobile phone. None of that is provided so I don't see how that price was ever justified. We have higher performance streamers selling for less than $1000 with all of these features.

The one thing this streamer has going for it is its signal processing. With a bit of modification (such as allowing Room EQ filters to be used for headphones), it could be a major advantage over its competitors at lower prices. But they need to fix the DAC before this matters.

I am very saddened as to not be able to recommend the Weiss DAC501.

-----------
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/
Amir, you said "Stamped steal should have no place", but "steal' is what is happening with the price of this. Weiss seems to have a high rep, but it looks some are taken in by the high price, not the performance. You can do much better for a few $100, which would include an RPi-based streamer, and for a bit more you can include an RME, which is still amazing value compared to this. It's sad that so much "high end" is high price but low or mediocre performance.

I meant to ask: does it at least have Wi-Fi?
 

jmtabernero

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At that price point, I'd consider buying a Mola Mola Tambaqui...

 
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AudioSceptic

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Actually, I think I have to agree here as regards individual makers going it alone with buggy software. One of the major streamer makers in the UK has a dealer reputation for glitches and bugs in the software in older models and now, as these older streaming models don't seem to work with the updates over the years so well, they offered over the summer a trade in towards the latest models - only 10% or so, but a kind of token I suppose :(
Would you like to spill the beans? I hope it's not one of the pricier ones!
 

Geert

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Is it fair to put them in the rankings with the mode that isn't able to reach 4v over XLR just because that performs better?

I would say yes since a manufacturer is free to chose the output sensitivity, unless he specifies a certain output level or specifies adherence to a certain standard (as common in pro audio).

According to the specs of the device it should be able to output 4V easily:
Screenshot_20231003_121514.jpg


Since in this case with 4V it's operated within spec, you can indeed question the need for giving it an advantage.
 

BR52

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I would say yes since a manufacturer is free to chose the output sensitivity, unless he specifies a certain output level or specifies adherence to a certain standard (as common in pro audio).

According to the specs of the device it should be able to output 4V easily:
View attachment 316325

Since in this case with 4V it's operated within spec, you can indeed question the need for giving it an advantage.
Would be interested to see what happened with 6.8V output.
 

Sokel

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Would be interested to see what happened with 6.8V output.
You can see it in Amir's graphs,the very first one is at this output attenuated to 4V and at the THD+N vs Level graph (the jagged one) which shows performance at all levels (where the 4V area seem to be it's worst high level area,does much better around 2-3V and over 5V)
 
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ocinn

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My takeaway is that there is absolutely zero reason to purchase this over a MiniDSP SHD.

Weiss actually makes solid products for the professional landscape. I have many highly respected acquaintances who use their gear for mastering use to the level of turning out multi-platinum records.

Their entrance into consumer gear seems to be poorly thought out. Simply not competitive with existing consumer products in both price and performance.

Reminds me of the previous Meyer monitor review, except without the excuse of extreme discounts due to massive orders, exclusivity relationships and tonality matching to other products.

Also… what is going on with that vinyl emulation…. I mean I guess it could be representative of the worst case of a club abused (8g tracking force with heavy backcueing wear) record but not at all what a new fresh record on a decent playback system should perform like.


Also - what is the point of raising the LF noise floor? That is not even a part of the so called “euphonics” of vinyl. I wonder if they also hurt the crosstalk in their emulation. Would be nice to see a measurement of that.
 

Matias

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I honestly was expecting a lot more from Weiss. To me they were among the best measuring converters in the market, not anymore. Features before performance is a bad decision imo.

Look at RME ADI-2 DAC, fully featured and still highest performance. This is how it should be. And still with made in Germany tax for a fraction of the price. Add a WiiM Pro through digital connection for its streaming features and there is no comparison.
 

Mnyb

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The software features are great and what all DAC's should have , but this mysterious rounding bug for this price is disheartening QC should be impeccable .

it's perfectly possible with todays CPU's to do all the DSP without any visible errors above the noise floor it should all be done in floating point 64bit math somewhere ?
 

Mulder

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I honestly was expecting a lot more from Weiss. To me they were among the best measuring converters in the market, not anymore. Features before performance is a bad decision imo.

Look at RME ADI-2 DAC, fully featured and still highest performance. This is how it should be. And still with made in Germany tax for a fraction of the price. Add a WiiM Pro through digital connection
Agree.. and for some time now there has also been an app for the ADI-2 that allows you to set the DSP from a computer or tablet, which dramatically improves the ease of use when setting up the various DSP functions. No problem setting separate PEQs for headphones vs speakers separately.
 
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