Ideon Audio Ayazi DXD 384 DAC mk II (2018).
Digital to Analog Converter with USB and COAX inputs
the fantastic Greek DAC & the 3R USB-“Conditioner” gets better & better !
Do you remember the Greek myth of Pandora’s box? Taken from the Hesiod’s Works and Days. The box, mistranslated by the way, is now used as an idiom meaning “Any source of great and unexpected troubles”.
Well, you can forget about that idiom. The new box in town is called the AyaziMK2 DAC. Next to that DAC, another little metallic box which hides even more tricks than what anyone could imagine from something called the 3R.
I live in a country where Dolby Surround was born thousands of years ago, at theaters where a few nickels or a pin dropping could be heard far away. Despite a full theater where literally hundreds of meters away, in the 360˚ it covers, they could hear those minuscule sounds just mentioned. Sound waves were taken from a small source and multiplied to what we call amplification today. So, it should not come as a surprise that when DAC’s came about a Greek company would be the first in my book, to design and sell a DAC of such quality. This small size DAC offers most people of the high-end world what they could ever ask for. Until the Ayazi 3 comes along let’s say. To be frank I find it hard you will update the MKII Ayazi or your current DAC if it is on par with this, and allow the R3 take it into a totally new audio spectrum. The older the DAC, the more of a difference you will hear.
I know that is hard to swallow. It is even unbelievable to the owners and designer of the product. Yet, I believe in them, because in spirit and uncanny brilliance, they can do nothing less than their predecessors. Let us look at Ypsilon Electronics, for instance, yet another example of brilliance from such a small country!
The One Of Many Systems Tested…
In my reference system lies a DAC which also is an achiever of astonishing marks. It is the MSB Select. The benchmark of every audio enthusiast dreams to test, and believe me, probably wants to own. A spectacle of how technology and a company from 1987 can achieve so much for the love of music. I bow to them and their team.
I will not compare the two DAC’s, as the cost of one is 1.800,-€, and the other 110.000 euros,€ (!). What I can tell you though is that until the MSB came into my home, the Ayazi MK2 put out more music than every machine next to it up to 4 times the money. The point of cost here though, does not set providence, as much as the satisfaction of listening to the Ayazi MK2. Of course, the MSB is better, end of story.
There is a worthy review on The Absolute Sound (click here for review) which can explain what and how it can affect your system. So, without further ado, let us concentrate on the Ayazi MK2 DAC that will make your toes dance inside the tightest of shoes, (also meant metaphorically).
The easy setup, with Windows 10, is essentially a plug and play process, but in case things are not 100% on your PC, then you have a software download. That is for “just in case” scenarios. I just felt that worst case scenarios must be mentioned and not just the norm.
The box is made of quality metal, and when the DAC locks, it has the appropriate light wnhich tells you its ready to make your day.
Making the start-up of every session as uneventful and fast as you turning on the switch is taken for granted by many, but this writer believes it is not so (having seen many things not souser-friendly). In other words, being turned on and off 1000 times in the 6 months I had it connected to the various amplifiers, including the MSB amps which are currently in. We can include the various exquisite speakers that have been here during that time. Mentioning but a few, as the AudioSolution’s S Vantage, Quads, and now the 50.000 euro TAD Compact Reference, playing at the exact time I am writing these words. Cables are the extreme Synergistic Research Galileo, the famous TelluriumQ Silver Diamond series, and various PC’s used with many software abilities, as the known Foobar, or the not well known spectacle of Musichi Suite software, The Fidelizer pro, where you can find reviews of at hiendnews.gr. The rack is from Chameleon Audio, which holds everything in place and keeps things in proportion. Room correction as DSP was never used, and neither is there anything that looks like room treatment, other than the inconspicuous HFT’s and XL, again from SR.
As you can imagine, the cheapest product is the Ayazi v2 being examined for many months. I say this because when you have something for a very long time, you live it in every aspect. You hear it under the best and worst conditions and with a whole array of equipment that come by a testing area.
That is a lot of equipment, a lot of time and effort, and mostly meaningful,great ease in component matching. I find this to be an absolute imperative. I hate having machines that play well on one system and simply average on another. I love the ability to keep one thing stable and see if it plays with everything. This is the one point where the MKII Ayazi is invaluable. You may spend a lot more on a DAC, but that does not mean you will get the most out of it, unless you have the rest of the system to get the music out of. Ultimately, you can spend 10 times the money and still not hear a difference that would justify any price increase (it is like owning the best amp in the world but playing with a much lower quality speaker). Thus, you are better off starting with a DAC that plays extremely well for the money and then, if you see that your system is capable of more with another DAC, then by all means do acquire it or try out the Absolute DAC Hyperstream DSD, DXD DAC.
Just before you do though, I beg you to do yourself the favor and place one or two 3R’s on your PC, and maybe a good power supply, or even better its own Master Timer.Most likely than not, you will not be buying a new DAC after this experimentation. Ideon Audio has more sales, just from this fact, that we acknowledge that it is a success from this alone.
Now, let’s hear some tunes:
I started with my all-time favorites. Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, INXS, Simple Minds, Massive Attack, Bowie, Prince and the list goes on. Here though, I will only tell you about a few titles, other than those most commonly known.
Mozart – Violin Sonata No. 21, E Minor, K. 304 [Szeryng/Haebler] – Violins and cello’s being both airy and harsh when needed was the first thing that came to mind, no digital signature which I could hear, and a seamless integration of one note to another. The violins were like flowers dancing off of their strings, so gently touched and yet so powerful that it was almost hard to grasp that a bow could produce such eminence. There is a virtual connection between the speakers and my ears without any distortion or interference, but most importantly, not softened by the room or the speakers ability to make things come out sweeter or harsher than reality.
Next up is Clifford Brown – Oh, lady be good – Memories of you. A man that if it was not for him passing at 53, would have probably changed the jazz scene worldwide. An extremely talented performer which makes your brain boil because you cannot sleep at night remembering the feelings you had when listening to him play. This was reproduced from a normal 44.1k recording I was given from a friend to audition, tried the speed, and total annihilation of time and space. If the DAC could get through this, that would be enough for anyone to stop and say, “okay, this is about as hard as any soundtrack can get digitally”.
1933 Ray Noble – Love Locked Out [Al Bowlly, vocal] – A mono recording, two ballads were played, and despite the 1933 recording, it was unbelievably touching and close to impossible not to get goose bumps while listening. The trumpets were swaying from side to side, and changing volume as well as tempo, and despite it being a mono recording the snare drum seemed stereophonic to me. The entire album a caress, alive and unforgettable at the moment of listening. If there was a way to stop time and go back again and again to listen to that song, The second side of the album was more piano, with quicker movements, sharper innuendos were felt, giving emphasis not only on the score but the speed of its execution. This was poetry with charismatic notes playing at its best. I have this in vinyl and was surprised it could even get close to the density and energy, yet it did.
More mono recordings, such as Sonny Rollins, and after listening to Brown mentioned before, I could not expect better. Yet sooner than later, I was taken into another dimension, which did ultimately what everyone wants from a system, to take them back to the recording time, in this case 1957. It is like I was on a trip from 2018 to 57 in a large time capsule and it was hard to transcend back to the reality that I was not really there when the title finished. Almost like being in a trance for the time I am listening. The only thing I am remembering is the speed of the musician needing to play ”hand and foot together” and not make a single mistake, or breath before it had all finished. A solo that will probably be never played or replicated in life again.
There were fingers, fingers rolling on the strings rather than moving, but more like pirouetting, which was directly felt with the immediate response of the staccato movement on the guitar. It is more like a ballet of finger work than a masterpiece intended to sound profound. Listening tonally to this was like doing a jigsaw in 3 minutes. I have no idea how that was firstly played, and recorded so well, so that it could be conveyed so many years after for us. There is a God after all it seems!
Next was Chopin, where I immediately closed my eyes and started to imagine the piano on waves in the sea being played from one height to another. A floating butterfly on water, dense and intense instead of simply airy and quick, it had movement that was horizontal and vertical within milliseconds it seemed. I am struck by lightning again by the musicians ability to play in such a manner and that fact that again, this was recorded and played back with such life like precision.
I do adore a system where I do not care about the machines; and by that I mean, when everything disappears, other than me and my music.
If you do not have the chance to listen to this DAC and 3R combo, then please believe in every emotion I just mentioned. If you can, get to a store that has one and listen for yourself. If you find discrepancies between what I wrote and what you hear then please email Ideon directly and tell them how I didn’t make this product shine as much as it should, as you my lovers, undoubtedly will.
I doubt that anyone can confront any problems with this DAC, unless he or she plans on using it as a Frisbee.
Timbre: Faithful capacity to reproduce instruments. Articulation. Never seems to stress ears.
Dynamics: Micro (detail) and macro (absolute) extension ans speed of tranients.
Image: Transparent, material resolution, exemplary focus, between and on speaker placement.
Shades: Tending towards sweet, not cold or dark.
Emotion: Never goes out of control while keeping you on your toes with amazing involvement.
Differences from Versions 1 and 2
3R mk2 vs version 1
– New PCB layout ,
– New ultra low noise power supply
– New low ESR caps
– New, femto-clock oscillator ,
– Electrostatic input protection ,
– Has 2 expensive clocks instead of one, much improved performance
– Better power supply
– More advanced output stage with changes to the better
– Audiophile, expensive RCA connectors to the back panel
– Specially Ideon designed brass feet
– New improved design in face plate
Inputs: for the Ayazi S/PDIF input we settled on
a low-jitter re-clocking controller from Wolfson,
which offered us the best sound coupled with
convenience. The USB input is full class-2; to avoid
damage during playback we fortified the input with
our proprietary electrostatic protection, shielding
the Ayazi from electrostatic discharge.
Clock: to further refine the Ayazi’s sonic
performance we selected Crystek’s CCHD-957
HCMOS oscillator. This component sports -100dB/
Hz close-in phase and a noise floor of -169dB.
It matched our circuit design perfectly. Not
surprisingly, the oscillator was designed for audio
to begin with.
Conversion: Unlike many other sigma-delta
implementations, the converters we selected for
the Ayazi incorporate patented time-domain jitter
eliminator technology. This helps to deliver music
free from clock jitter common in digital audio
Power Supply: It took us a long time to design,
refine and tune the Ayazi power supply. As usual
in such devices, it is not only a matter of providing
power but, especially, of maintaining a very low
noise threshold as well.
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