Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2v2 SE

Device Type: Digital to Analog Converter
Input: Asynchronous USB Audio Class 2.0 (Up to 32-bit/384kHz; DSD 64, DSD 128, and DSD256), 2x Coaxial and 1x AES/EBU (32-bit/384kHz), 2x Optical (32/176.4 possible 192kHz under ideal conditions), I²S connections via HDMI (not standard HDMI) for only certain components that can output a balanced I²S output from the DAC-2v2 SE (32-bit/384kHz; DSD 64, DSD 128, and DSD256), DC Trigger Output and Input: DC Trigger output and input that is used for HT Bypass or Trigger feature
Output: single-ended RCA, balanced XLR
Dimensions (W x H x D): 4.125 inches X 8.5 inches X 13.5 inches
Weight: 14 pounds
Availability: On-Line Sales
Price: $3799.00
Website: wyred4sound.com

It's hard to believe that over three years has passed since I last reviewed a Wyred 4 Sound DAC. At that time, I found the DAC-2 DSDse to have "flawless function and performance that was a joy to experience." I now found myself very curious to see what E.J. Sarmento has come up with for today's computer audiophile. For those of you that aren't acquainted with E. J. Sarmento's California company, Wyred 4 Sound not only builds DACs, but offers power amps, preamps, integrated amps, music servers, along with cables and numerous accessories for the audiophile marketplace. The DAC-2v2 SE is Wyred 4 Sound's latest design that builds on their DAC-2v2 by adding many improvements to the basic design.

The Design

I asked E.J. Sarmento to list the features of the DAC-2v2 SE that he felt were special:

There are several features of the DAC-2v2 SE that make it both unique and special. Here are some that we feel are important:
  • W4S Proprietary Discrete Output Stage
  • USB Galvanic Isolation
  • Oversize Toroidal Transformer
  • Fully Balanced
  • Upgradable Digital, Output, and USB Boards
  • W4S Low ESR "Super-Cap" (same as used in the STP-SE)
  • Remote Control with Variable Outputs (can be used as a preamplifier)
  • Custom Vishay Naked Z-Foil Resistors
  • Femto-grade Clock
  • Ultra-low Noise Discrete Regulators
  • Ultra-fast Recovery Schottkey Diodes
  • Premium Grade Inductors
  • Upgraded Fuse
  • The unit also uses the ESS Sabre 9038PRO DAC Chip

I am impressed with the general appearance of Wyred 4 Sound products and the DAC-2v2 SE is no exception. The solid steel case is well made with front panel color accent options of black or anthracite metallic grey.

Setup

Setup of the DAC-2v2 SE is very easy with the front panel green OLED display. This display is an upgrade for the DAC-2v2 SE from the VFD display offered with the DAC-2v2. The OLED is less electrically noisy than the standard display. The OLED display shows sample rate, volume, input, and allows one to configure numerous settings for the DAC-2v2 SE. Volume settings and input are selectable from the front panel controls.

Many other functions are selectable from the front panel buttons. Volume bypass and filter selection are just two of the functions that can be adjusted. Both the defeatable 32-bit volume control and the bandwidth/IIR filter settings are functions of the ESS Sabre DAC chip. Filter selections include:

  • Slow rolloff, linear phase
  • Slow rolloff, minimum phase
  • Fast rolloff, linear phase
  • Fast rolloff, minimum phase
  • Apodizing fast rolloff, linear phase
  • Hybrid fast rolloff, minimum phase
  • Brickwall
A number of other setup functions can be reviewed in the DAC-2v2 SE manual.

The DAC-2v@ SE comes with a remote control allowing full functionality that is particularly useful for those of you driving an amp directly. Also, I had the best sonic results using the balanced outputs of the DAC-2v2 SE with my Ayre KX-R Twenty preamp.

Software and Components Used in the DAC-2v2 SE Evaluation

I decided to use a variety of computer sources to evaluate the DAC-2v2 SE to see just how they influenced the sound of this DAC. I employed my Asus G701VI laptop running Windows 10 Pro 64 (Version 1703) in a dual boot configuration with a standard Windows version on one partition and another partition with AudiophileOptimizer 2.20 beta 5. The Asus G701VI possesses an overclockable Intel Core i7 6820HK processor with 32 GB DDR4 2400Mhz SDRAM and a very fast PCIe Gen3 X4 NVMe SSD. This laptop has 3 USB 3.0 ports as well as a Thunderbolt port (USB type- C). An NVIDIA GeoForce GTX1080 with 8 GB VRAM processes video. This powerful video processor allows significant CUDA offload processing for the Signalyst HQPlayer. The Asus laptop was plugged into a Shunyata Research Hydra DPC-6 v2 distribution center to firewall the noise generated by this computer from contaminating my AC line.

The Asus was placed on a Synergistic Research Tranquility Base UEF grounded with the Synergistic Research High Definition Ground Cable / Grounding Block as was the computer. A G-Technology 20 TB G|RAID Thunderbolt 2 / USB 3 drive was connected to the Asus with an AudioQuest Coffee Thunderbolt cable. The G|RAID Thunderbolt drive was powered by an HDPlex 200w linear power supply plugged into a Shunyata Denali 6000T power conditioner. The G|RAID Thunderbolt drive and its HDPlex power supply were placed on a Synergistic Research Tranquility Base.

Music software used for each Windows drive was Roon Server.

The DAC-2v2 SE was placed on a Synergistic Research Tranquility Base UEF and plugged into a Shunyata Triton v3 with Shunyata Sigma NR and Alpha NR AC cords.

The DAC-2v2 SE was also listened to with an SOtM sMS-200ultra and tx-USBultra both powered by an sPS-500 that were all placed on a Synergistic Tranquility Base with the sPS-500 plugged into a Shunyata Research DPC-6 v2 with a Shunyata Alpha NR AC cord. The SOtM sPS-500 drove both the sMS-200ultra and the tx-USBultra with SOtM's 7N Silver Y DC cable. My Asus G701VI served as the Roon Core streaming to the sMS-200ultra.

USB cables used in this review were Wireworld Platinum Starlight 7 USB 2.0 cables.

The Sound

I first listened to the unmodified Windows 10 partition of my Asus G701VI to see just how well the DAC-2v2 SE functioned with a "straight" setup feeding the DAC with a Wireworld USB cable. I installed the drivers including the ASIO drivers for native DSD playback up to DSD256. Roon had no problem identifying the Wyred 4 Sound ASIO driver and all was up and running in minutes. Wyred 4 Sound recommends a 200-hour burn-in for optimum performance of their DAC.

The overall sound was quite impressive with a forward presence to the midrange. Bass, and particularly the mid bass, were well defined with no midrange bloat. High end definition was good with satisfactory microdynamic reproduction. The overall dynamic qualities of the DAC-2v2 SE were also impressive, no doubt, from a positive contribution made by Wyred 4 Sounds's attention to the analog circuit design. The soundstage was wide with good depth that contributed to my overall sonic satisfaction with this basic setup.

Playback was glitch-free with this "straight" Windows setup. All files presented to the DAC-2v2 SE played without dropouts including DXD and DSD256 files.

The overall sound of the DAC-2v2 SE tends to be slightly cool as opposed to warm with a prominent mid bass. The DAC seemed to have very low noise and extremely low overall coloration.

Did I notice any shortcomings to the sound of the DAC-2v2 SE with this Windows setup? I did observe a small amount of hardness to the sound at times with loud musical passages.

Sound with Modified Windows 10 running AudiophileOptimizer

I have previously reviewed AudiophileOptimzier and have found it to make a positive contribution to the over-all sound I obtained from a DAC using Windows 10 software. The modified Windows operating system sounded better with the DAC-2v2 SE than what I had obtained with a "straight" Windows 10 setup. The soundstage was larger with an overall relaxed sound to the midrange that removed the slight hardness I was experiencing. As good as the sound was with my general Windows setup, the AudiophileOptimizer setup really allowed the DAC-2v2 SE to bloom with a greater sense of three-dimensionality to the sound.

Sound with the SOtM sMS-200ultra / tx-USBultra / sPS-500 Power Supply

The SOtM sMS-200ultra is a purpose-built network computer that runs a modified Linux OS to limit computer function to just handle music files streamed to it from another computer or music source on the network. This results in less noise being presented to the USB DAC driven by it. The tx-USBultra is a USB enhancement device that regenerates the signal and improves what one hears from a USB DAC connected to it. I used the AudiophileOptimizer Windows 10 partition to run Roon Server and act as a Roon Core to stream to the sMS-200ultra.

The SOtM network computer with the tx-USBultra USB enhancement device allowed the DAC-2v2 SE to really shine in its overall sonic performance. Reproduction of instrumental textures and retrieval of low-level information were improved along with an even larger soundstage. The sonic presentation sounded more relaxed and engaging with these additional components.

I should mention that Wyred 4 Sound makes a very good USB enhancement device called the Recovery USB reclocker that I have reviewed and found to be quite effective in improving the sound of USB DACs. Wyred 4 Sound now offers a power supply called the PS-1 Modular Linear Power Supply to power devices like the Recovery and the sMS-200ultra that can be optimized for use of these devices.

Is it really necessary to use a more complicated Windows setup or add additional components in front of the DAC-2v2 SE to fully enjoy reproduction of one's music files? The answer to this question is positively no! But the DAC-2v2 SE is capable of some pretty impressive playback that can be enhanced with a better computer source.

Some of you are going to feel that a good DAC's USB input should be totally immune to the degrading effects of a computer connection. Wyred 4 Sound states that "the DAC-2v2 SE's USB connection utilizes galvanic isolation to eliminate computer noise from the audio signal completely." I have yet to find a USB DAC that is totally immune to computer noise from the output signal; this includes my reference DAC, the Ayre QX-5 Twenty.

The Music

The overall clarity of the DAC-2v2 SE's midrange was exemplified by Diana Krall's new album Turn Up the Quiet (DSD128). Diana's voice had wonderful focus and presence when heard through the DAC-2v2 SE. I detected vanishingly low noise with wonderful realism and immediacy to the instruments backing the vocals. This DSD128 album displayed a relaxed presentation that was quite engaging.

The new release from David Benoit and Marc Antoine So Nice! (24/44.1) brought together Benoit's smooth jazz piano with Antoine's Brazilian guitar to create a wonderfully musical album that the DAC-2v2 SE reproduced beautifully. There was a life-like sense of instrumental body and weight from the DAC-2v2 SE that had minimal coloration with tonal naturalness. The general sound was very linear and precise with fine reproduction of microdynamic nuances and rhythmic drive.

The DAC-2v2 SE handled orchestral music quite well as I listened to Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing Bruckner Symphony No. 9 (24/96). The orchestra heard through the DAC-2v2 SE was harmonically rich with great body and solidity. I also perceived dynamically expressive sound through a soundstage that was richly layered.

Wyred 4 Sound Upgrades Their DACs

One additional feature of the DAC-2v2 SE is Wyred 4 Sound's policy of making upgrades available for their products when new models are released. The digital, output, and USB boards are upgradable in their design. I am very impressed with Wyred 4 Sounds upgrade policy that makes their products a good investment for today as well as tomorrow.

Comparison

How does the DAC-2v2 SE compare sonically to my reference DAC the Ayre QX-5 Twenty? I found it quite interesting that these two DACs sound very different from each other. The Ayre has a more laid-back sound compared to the upfront presence of the DAC-2v2 SE. The Ayre excels at soundstage size and high-end detail retrieval. The Ayre also seems more dynamic than the DAC-2v2 SE. Given that the Ayre QX-5 Twenty sells for $8950.00, this was not exactly a fair comparison of equals. Wyred 4 Sound does have a DAC-2v2 SE 10 Anniversary Limited Edition DAC offering at $4499.00 that just might approach the performance of the Ayre DAC.

Conclusion

I found the Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2v2 SE to be a solid performer with flawless PCM and DSD playback when used with a variety of computer sources. The future upgradability of the DAC is another positive feature that computer audiophiles will, no doubt, appreciate. The Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2v2 SE offers well thought out design and engineering that deserves to be auditioned by computer audiophile enthusiasts.


Associated Equipment

COMMENTS
bmoura's picture

Where is Diana Krall's Turn Up The Quiet album available as a DSD 128 download?

I see that Acoustic Sounds has it as a DSD 64 download from 24 bit originals provided by session recording engineer and mixer Al Schmitt. But they don't show the DSD 128 edition mentioned in this review.

http://store.acousticsounds.com/d/126125/Diana_Krall-Turn_Up_The_Quiet-D...

Steven Plaskin's picture

I purchased the title from Acoustics Sound. I also thought I was purchasing DSD64 files, but they turned out to be DSD128 - at least for my download.

bmoura's picture

Interesting. I'll have to give that a try.

Reminds me of some of the DSD Downloads at the eOnkyo Music Japan downloads store. Rather than offer both DSD64 and DSD128, at eOnkyo Music Japan they offer some albums recorded at DSD128 at that bit rate along - but not DSD64.

Perhaps that is the story here. The Super HiRez DSD Download of Turn Up The Volume was created at DSD 128 and no DSD 64 version exists.

X