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Review Weiss DAC501 converter – streamer – preamp

Pros

  • Very versatile
  • Beautifully made
  • Neutral, calm sound

Cons

  • Volume control not lossless
  • Filters not needed in our opinion
  • Price: € 7999

    Build quality
    Usability
    Sound
    Price
    Weiss DAC501

    The Sound

    Contents

    The Weiss DAC501 is an extremely neutral, almost modest converter / streamer / pre-amp. The sound is very clear, balanced and rich in detail. We were able to compare the Sonnet Morpheus with the Pavane (via the XP-12) during our multitest stream. And both creations of Cees Ruijtenberg play bigger and a bit warmer than the Weiss. The Sonnet gives the biggest picture and in our opinion also the highest resolution.

    Now bigger and warmer seems better. But is it? Because if you’re looking for the fairest reproduction, for example for studio work, you’re not always looking for a ‘nice’ sound. They want precision and neutrality. And you have to be able to listen to it for a long time. With which your editor does not mean that Sonnet or Metrum does not play neutrally. Or is tiring to listen to. Cees’s NOS creations do play very well and very honestly. Vocal work always get’s to you very clean and emotional via a Metrum or Sonnet. A force not all dacs possess.

    However, we have the feeling that the Weiss ‘nailed’ each track flawlessly when it comes to interpretation. Time after time we get the feeling it’s just right. Time after time we think: ‘oh yes…this way… yes…’. It plays with the conviction that it just knows how to do it. Every part of the track is easy to follow. Partly because of the absolute tranquillity that the dac radiates. It’s very difficult to put into words exactly what that’s all about. You should really just hear it. One way to do that is by hooking into the Live Stream reviews that we – if all goes well – are going to do on a monthly basis.

    Filters

    Then there are the filters. Which we see more as a a fun addition. Think Vinyl emulation. Which, by the way, really sounds like vinyl… oddly enough. Then the de-esser that very effectively removes sharpness without sacrificing resolution. Again very nice. The equalizer idem: it will work fine in rooms where there are some annoying room-modes. Do measure before you start working with the EQ. Otherwise you will never get good results. In any case, that is our experience.

    Finally, there is cross-talk cancellation. That filter should eliminate crosstalk in binaural recordings via a normal speaker system. By entering the distance of the speakers and the width of the head, the dac calculates what it needs to do to maintain the binaural effect through an ordinary stereo system. Cool, but again; just a nice addition, but not really needed in our opinion.

    After testing the filters we especially enjoyed the excellent dac qualities. Roon works flawlessly, UPnP idem (we couldn’t hear any difference) and also when we connect the Ambre to the Weiss we hear a more than excellent reproduction of music.

    Volume

    Now there’s one thing we’ve noticed: if we adjust the volume via the Weiss, we see in Roon that it’s no longer lossless. We’ve asked Daniel about that:

    Alpha: I noticed that ROON mentions that the signal path is not lossless, because of the volume control. Is that true?

    Daniel Weiss: This is correct. If you rise the volume to 0.0dB then it changes to lossless. Anything else than 0.0dB changes the bits.

    Not bit-perfect. But changing bits doesn’t have to mean throwing bits away. We don’t hear any compression or artifacts when we lower the volume. There must be a smart algorithm behind this scheme. Still, the implementation of Sonnet / Cees Ruijtenberg is nicer. It simply adjusts the reference voltage of the dac. Smart. And 100% lossless.

    3 Comments

    1. Hello Jaap

      Thank you very much for the nice review!

      I would like to give some more information on the filters we added (and keep adding) to the unit. I.e. the DSP algorithms. The idea behind those algorithms is to encourage the users to optimize his/her system (including the listening room) for better performance or to change the sonics for particular tracks for a nicer reproduction.
      I know, in earlier times the audiophiles had the philosophy to not change anything with the recordings. Not even a simple tone control was allowed. In my opinion this is not the right approach. One never will get the same reproduction the sound engineer in the studio had when producing the tracks. All systems at homes will change the sound and thus the user is well advised to optimize the playback for his/her system at hand. This is what we try to achieve with the DSP algorithms – to give the user some tools to enhance the acoustics, the tracks, the experience when listening.
      So I think the algorithms are a valuable addition.

      Regarding digital level control – I did a white paper some time ago. It includes tracks to demo certain effects happening with quantization:
      https://www.weiss.ch/assets/content/41/white-paper-on-digital-level-control.pdf

      Best Regards, Daniel

      1. Hi Daniel,

        Thank you for your reply and sharing your vision upon my comment about the filters. It is always good to have a choice. I am curious what new filters will be added.

        It’s an interesting piece about volume control. I have seen many versions of digital control. Some upsample to 32 bit / *** kHz, others use a hybrid-version, and some just ‘cut off’ bits. How does the 501 approach it?

        1. Regarding volume control in the DAC501 we use standard dithering, not noise shaped. With a 24 bit wordlength after requantization there isn’t anything to be gained with noiseshaping dither because the dither noise is extremely low in amplitude. The 8 Bit examples in my white paper on the other hand can be enhanced a lot by shaping the dither noise.

          As for the filters here is a list:

          Currently implemented: Room EQ, Creative EQ, Vinyl Simulation, Crosstalk Cancelling, Dynamics Reduction, De-Essing.

          Soon to be released: Crossfeed (for headphones), Loudness EQ.

          Planned: Simple tone control, headphone sepcific EQ, …

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