Sunday, 14 March 2021

Cary Audio DMS700 - Brings Out The Life in Audio Streaming


I have been streaming music since 2007. Managed to kill off 3 laptops in that process :). At that time, CAS seems to be the only option I had. Even that it was more streaming from NAS and not online streaming. I also explored Apple iTunes as they had a cloud system. Then came TIDAL and Spotify. While Spotify was so much easier to use and more widely accepted by most hifi and AV designers, TIDAL remains to be the chosen streaming platform for most audiophiles. Yes, there are debates on the merit of MQA but most would still say TIDAL gives a better sound quality compared to Spotify. Given the niche status of TIDAL, for many years, only the higher end equipment would be able to provide the proper experience of TIDAL. However, things has changed and TIDAL user can enjoy their subscription using various equipment in the market.

I started to subscribe to TIDAL in 2018. Even that, the complicated process to unfold MQA made it less desirable for me to spend a lot on equipment. So, I bought an ARCAM CDS50 SACD/Streamer that can stream TIDAL, a SONY DAP and also ensure my next car purchase in 2019, had TIDAL in its ICE. Somehow, during Malaysia MCO in 2020, a series of more affordable equipment came into the market. One being iFi ZEN DAC which I reviewed a few moons ago. 2021, then became the year I explored the possibility to have a streamer that can complement my SONY HAP Z1 ES.

First came into the picture is this Cary Audio DMS700 streamer, fresh out of manufacturing last month. Thank you Issac Ho of Audio Perfectionist for loaning me this unit.



BUILD AND SPECIFICATION

Issac, being his usual helpful and passionate self, delivered the unit and help to set it up. The unit is relatively heavy for a streamer. At about 28 lbs and measuring 3.75" H x 17.25" W x 16.25" D, this is definitely a streamer that means business. It comes with a full functioning remote control but if you are a streamer, a mobile app is something that you would use more often.

This unit has abundant of inputs and outputs:
  • 2 coaxial, 1 optical, 1 AES/EBU digital inputs
  • 1 coaxial, 1 optical digital outputs
  • 3 USB inputs (2 in the rear, 1 in front)
  • 1 SD card slot
  • 1 AptX(R)HD Bluetooth 
  • A pair of fully balanced XLR output
  • A pair of RCA output
The unit is capable for ethernet connection and wifi (2 antennas). I am however a bit surprised that it does not have a USB DAC input. Most probably because it can already stream whatever you want through this unit.

For the full specs, please click here. 






THE CONNECTIVITY

The main highlight is of course TIDAL and the capability to fully unfold MQA. However, the DMS700 comes with other typical capabilities which are Spotify Connect, Qobuz, vTuner and streaming from NAS or computer. The unit can easily detect my SONY HAP Z1 ES as a NAS and can playback the files on the HDD.

At the point of this review, the DMS700 is still pending of the Roon certification in which Cary Audio will release a firmware once it gets fully certified.

Setting up of the unit was quite straight forward. A dedicated app Cary Streamer 2.0 needs to be downloaded (mine is on Android). Upon launching the app, it detected the unit within 5 to 10 seconds. Once connected, you can browse through the different features that the unit can offer.

Both Spotify and TIDAL can be logged in using this app directly. While Spotify was quite straight forward, I had issue with my TIDAL log in. After a few attempts, it was evident that there was an issue with my home network. As a temporary solution, Issac set up my account in Audio Perfectionist shop on the same day using the shop internet network. I can then start using TIDAL in my set up.

 THE LISTENING SESSION

First up was Japanese Roots by Takedake on TIDAL. Percussion on this track sounded really good with a great punchy signature. Nearly perfect in my book when it comes to low frequency delivery through my PMC speakers. This particular track really needs a streamer that can really belt out the not only the percussion but at the same time, create that airy ambient for the wind instrument. Lo and behold, I have always felt that streaming (either over the net or even NAS) can make the music sound less livelier. Not in this case. The DMS 700 is definitely a streamer that can inject that liveliness into a system. 


Japanese Roots

Second track was Take Five by Dave Brubeck. Another remarkable musical presentation from the DMS 700. Somehow, the 'lifeless' I usually hear from an online streaming platform has been injected with life through this unit. Saxophone sounded airy but very engaging. The snare sound sharp and the bass hits hard. Minimal sign of this was coming from online streaming. I do have this preference that digital music is still more enjoyable when being playback from a hard disk like the HAP Z1 ES. This was indeed a different experience altogether. The overall musical presentation flows naturally and full of energy.



Take Five

Now, I was curious about how this streamer would sound in another set up. So, I went to visit Audio Perfectionist to hear this same track Japanese Root on their show room set up. My my my, it made my set up sounded small. Nevertheless, the same traits that I heard at home were present here as well. Punchy percussion, sweet highs were all there. 


Japanese Roots in Audio Perfectionist show room

THE CONCLUSION

The Cary Audio DMS700 is one capable streamer with the emphasis on delivering a lively presentation even from an online streaming platform. I would sum it up as a unit that focuses on seamless flow of musicality. At times, I was not sure whether I was playing a CD from my SACD player or from this streamer. The main strength for this streamer leans more towards a good level of transparency and dynamics. I also tried to play lower quality digital files and with the upsampling that can be done by the DMS 700, it sounded quite acceptable. If you do have a good digital files collection of high quality recordings, you will be in a for a treat. I still prefer it if is played off a hard disk compared to NAS. But I guess that is based on your own preference.

If you are looking for a streamer that can give you more excitement in your digital quest, do go and listen for this unit in Audio Perfectionist. 



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