Monday, 8 November 2010

ProAc Response D18

Hi all,

This is my review of a 2 days old ProAc D18 speakers.

The dealer arrived precisely at 4 pm on Saturday as promised. Two person had to carry the 25 kg/speaker unit up to my music room on the 3rd floor (I did provide ice cold lemonade). The first 10 minutes were spent explaining to them my set up so they dont get confused on the speaker cable connections from my EPOS and MF biamping.

Then again get their confirmation that this demo is free and no commitment of purchase if I dont like it before they start unpacking this UK sealed speakers.When I say UK sealed it means that was written on the inner packaging (plastic covers of the speakers). Do not purchase the speakers if the packaging have been compromised.

I had to dismount my EPOS as they will not be responsible for any damage of my speakers.

It took them about 30 minutes to set up the speakers. As the unit is heavy, they used my footers underneath the ProAc spikes (or more like a dome spike) to avoid damaging the wooden floor panel.

First into the CDP was Andrea Bocelli's Time to Say Goodbye. Vocals were transparent and uplifting but I still dont get the low frequency as I expected. It sounded quite similar to my EPOS. Maybe because I was spending a good 3 hours before this session listening to my EPOS.

Next in was Metallica S&M Nothing Else Matters and Enter Sandman. The bass drums from Enter Sandman was a bit harsh and I could not feel much vibration from the downfire ports. The guitars from Nothing Else Matter was clear though with a touch liveliness (well it was a concert). At this point, start to feel a little bit let down by the speakers.

However, I do agree that these speakers are quite easy to drive. I was listening at my usually level between 9 to 10 o'clock on the MFXA1 and it was giving me a louder sound than my EPOS.

Its now already running for 30 mins. Next in was Mariah Carey - Hero. Now it starts too sound different. The soundstaging was a little bit off, so the dealer played arpund with speakers toe in from zero degrees to about 15 degrees. That helped in soundstaging. The bass was starting to sound a bit loose but still not to my expectation. The high frequency was doing great but still have not acquired that overall balanced sound.

For the ultimate bass test, I slipped in NAS - Street Dreams and also Bone Thugs and Harmony. Now that really shakes things up. A bit worried that the bass ports and woofers will get damaged. But the dealer said just to leave the volume at that. The speakers will start getting used to it. Sure enough, after another 30 mins of massive bass from these songs, the bass starts to become more controlled (or maybe its just my ears getting used to the sound)

So after 2.5 hours of demoing, I discussed with the dealer. I cannot make a decision because the speakers are not at thier full potential and the agreement was for him to bring a show room unit that has been run in plus this new speakers for immediate purchase.

Based on this he let me keep the speakers till Monday for me to decide.

So I had the system run in the speakers for 18 hours (till Sunday noon) with Mariah Carey on repeat. By Sunday noon, the sound just became better. More balanced tone, feel refreshing when I put on Andrea's and clarity is more defined. Spent an hour listening to the speakers with various CDs and also test it with MD and also songs from my iPhone and laptop via M1 DAC.

Had to go out for Sunday lunch.

Came back 5 hours later (roughly already 24 hrs run in) and thinsg are getting so much better. I can start to feel the vibration in the bass ports. Put on Eagles Hotel California and Gypsy Kings Bambaleo. WOW! very very satisfying overall presentation. It can really keep up with the pace on the several guitars playing on Bambaleo and other Gypsy Kings songs.

And this Monday morning after 36 hours of run in, I put on Bon Jovi (Livin on a Prayer and also prayed that the Mrs will be OK with the speakers)just before going to work. Yes, even on old'ish' rock music, it sounds pretty good.

So am I buying it? I have another 4 hours to decide before I call the dealer on my decision.

Last but not least, pictures.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Arcam rDAC vs MF M1 DAC

Could not wait till weekend and since I am still jetlagged from the trip. Here goes my review of 1 hour listening to janet seidl, celine dion and metallica black on rdac after running in for 24 hrs.

Set up used:

1. MF xray v3 to rdac via coaxial
2. Marantz CD6000 to rdac via coaxial
3. Sony MD player to rdac via optical

Repeated the above with M1 DAC.

Coaxial and optical cable used - QED
IC used from dac to amp - QED

So the only variable in any set up above is the dac itself.

First 10 minutes with celine dion - Big contender to M1

Spacious and airy soundstage. Detailed stereo imaging with defined bass but a bit harsh on the high pitch vocals.

Switched to metallica enter sandman. Solid bass. Very convincing guitar riffs can be heard.

Overall, it can match M1 in terms of soundstaging but unbalanced with treble or high pitched vocals.

Swicthed to MD via optical. Used Gypsy Kings version of Hotel California. Unfortunately, rDac is no match to the M1. maybe because of the upsampling done by M1. The rdac produced a muffled sound. Only listened for 3 mins.

Now the more unfortunate review. The rdac is giving me a cracking sound on my right speakers in between songs when the CDP is changing track. I have changed the IC, coax and even tried it on optical but the cracking sound is still there. Very dissapointed on this. Even tried changing the input from aux 1 to aux 2.

Build wise, of course the M1 has a better and solid finish. Even power supply is much better. The input switch on the rdac is also a bit noisy compared to M1 silent unit. However it does cost 100 pounds more than rdac.

So there you go. 1 hr review of rdac unit. Given the head on challenge with M1, i must say M1 has the better edge.

I will however try the rdac with airport express this weekend.
As I am still curious on why the cracking sound, I brought down the rdac and marantz player downstairs and connect it to my yamaha av amp. Same thing. I let it run for 24 hours. Still producing the cracking sound. The sound is more evident when I physically change the track compared to letting the cd progresses to the next track on its own.

I then switched off the rdac for 24 hrs, and voila today the sound dissapeared. Very odd. Will hook up airport express tomorrow.
Spent the whole sunday streaming music via airport express into rdac and feed through my yamaha av amp. Didn bother to hook it up to my main system. Using target optical cable.
First few songs by foo fighters sounded heavy on bass. Then tried vocals with sarah brightman and andrea bocelli. Wow that was sweet and uplifting experience. Vocals were bold and the rdac brought out the atmospshere of being upfront. Point to note, no effects were run on the yamaha and treble and bass settings were on flat.

All sources above were apple lossless files.

Running cd quality mp3 files, not much different can be heard compared to the above.

Overall I would still say rdac is a fine buy but will restrict it for airport express and marantz cd player on the 2nd system.