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a short diary of some part of my life.

Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2 digital board

Wyred 4 Sound have built their reputation solely based on their superb products. I have had nothing but superb experiences with EJ Sarmento (the man behind Wyred 4 Sound). Unlike many others who run established brands, EJ is almost a complete opposite of those mostly arrogant personalities. He is very helpful, listen and interact directly to his customers on various forums and countless emails. I honestly do not know who else does this except Paul McGowan (CEO of PS Audio) and Jason Stoddard (Schiit). Speaking of PS Audio, Wyred 4 Sound had a direct connection with PS Audio. EJ, together with Rick Cullen of Cullen Circuits who was a manufacturer for PS Audio started Wyred 4 Sound.

Complete Solutions

Wyred 4 Sound now offer complete solutions to your hi-fi needs. They have two DACs, arguably the best preamps at any price, and various option of amps. They also offer good quality cables. They do not sell speakers, I do not think they will ever build speakers. Just FYI, EJ uses a pair of AV123 LS6 as his reference speakers at his home.

Now, let’s get to the main event.

The Usual Setup

  • I’m pairing the DAC-2 with the marvelously good W4S’s very own STI-500. The pair allows the flexibility to swap one of them with any amp or DAC with or without volume control. In essence, both of them are designed to be flexible.
  • The sources are MacBook Air – via USB, Apple TV – via optical, Squeezebox Touch – via coax, and Wyred 4 Sound uLINK – via BNC.

In this short review, I will not name the top-tier DACs that I pitted against the W4S DAC-2, they are some of the best performing DACs in the market today.

The Results:

  • immediate improvements in transparency, speed, and clarity. Especially if compared with non-discrete output DACs and over-built DACs. The DAC-2 simply throws everything that the song has. Some people suggest a hi-fi DAC tend to sound bright. A lot of them think bright means details, it’s not. As Tyll Hertsens of InnerFidelity.com put this, “Good parts have black backgrounds and sound smooth with depth but still not missing any of the details that are actually there.” There are plenty of characteristics, but there are very few DACs that have black backgrounds, sound smooth and at the same time, not missing any of the details. This is the traits of a great DAC.
  • superior soundstage. Some DACs are claimed to produce huge soundstage. I have auditioned many of them and all I can say about the DAC-2 is that the DAC-2 produces soundstage just ‘right’. It does not go over the top. One DAC that I auditioned produces rather boomy soundstage, it doesn’t sound right.

Any other improvements? Yes, those two are the major differentiators, the rest is probably too small to be mentioned one by one.

There is no point comparing well-engineered DACs because they almost sound pretty much the same. Inferior DACs may sound good for some people. I’m not going to argue with that as we all prefer many different things. My goal is to create the most enjoyable musical experience. And I believe I have achieved it with my current setup. So, thank you for EJ for making this superb sounding affordable gear. 🙂 😉

As a Pre-Amplifier

One of the main differences between DAC-1 and DAC-2 is the preamp feature in the DAC-2. It can also be operated via an IR remote which is pretty handy for lazy people like me, people who prefer to enjoy his or her music from a couch.

As a preamp, it performs great. When I had ModWright KWA 100, I used a preamp in between the DAC and the power amp. The level of grunge introduced from the preamp, versus driving the KWA 100 directly from DAC-2 is at astonishing level. The DAC-2 does the job better than a superb dedicated preamp. The digital volume control allows me to fine tune the volume level. And it’s always well balanced and linear.

Design & Build Quality

Don’t expect the level of spanking shiny precision chassis like amps from D’Agostino, formerly of Krell. W4S offerings are designed to be utilitarian. It probably does not look pretty for some people but to me, it looks sensible and no-frills. EJ could have designed it around beautifully milled chassis, but he didn’t, to keep the price reasonable.

Once the top cover is opened, the innards are assembled neatly. There is no excess solder, no cold solder, no resin mark anywhere on the boards. The PCBs are also well secured onto the chassis. All cables are tied and shielded safely, you won’t complain there will be safety risk. Connectors used are all high quality. It is a very well built electronic. Perhaps, the best I’ve seen.

Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2 discrete output stage analog board

Cons

There are weaknesses, right? Yes, there are two.

  • The top chassis is somewhat cumbersome to remove and reinstall. There are a few misaligned screw threads.
  • The USB input does not represent the true potential performance of the DAC. Luckily, W4S offer a dedicated USB to S/PDIF converter that is worlds better than DAC-2’s built-in USB input.

Customizations

You’ll probably wondering why I tape the gills on the side of the DAC-2. It’s to prevent dust from entering the unit. The unit barely gets warm, even in the summer.

The digital inputs on the backside is also a bit different than a regular DAC-2. On standard unit, there is no BNC jack and shutter type TOSLINK jack. BNC will allow true 75-ohm S/PDIF connection and shutter type TOSLINK will allow me to get away without the easily misplaced plug on the plug type TOSLINK jack.

This issue probably an afterthought for most buyers and most manufacturers tend to dismiss requests from customers to make these little changes. EJ was very accommodating. He’s open to little customization and he did not charge extra for them. I would imagine he had to pick one unit and opened it up. That changes although small would at least used his valuable time that he could use to do something else, like designing the new excellent mPRE. EJ Sarmento’s willingness to do it is a real testament how much he cares about his customers.

75-ohm BNC Jack

Shutter Type TOSLINK Jack

Plug Type TOSLINK Jack

Hi-Fi is NOT expensive and often times, HYPED!

Most audiophiles tend to think if a hi-fi product is priced at extraorbitant price or if the chassis is precisely milled from unobtainium materials, the sound must be good. The truth is there is little correlation between price and real world performance. It saddens me when I read the first thing a person wrote on a forum is a performance of a product based on its price. A famous local headphone site specifically make performance categories based on price. IMHO, that is just wrong. When I came by to their brick & mortar store, it turns out that they have little knowledge about hi-fi in general. Surprising, huh? I’m not saying I know more about hi-fi than them, I came to this hobby, not knowing anything, but I want to be a smart buyer, I want to play safe so I learnt and I am still learning. Just like when researching modification parts for my car and actually installing them by myself, I learnt a lot from those processes.

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  1. Ian #
    September 11, 2014

    It appear to me (and I could be wrong) that the female BNC socket at the back of the DAC-2 is a 50 Ohm version. A 75 Ohm BNC (according to manufacturer’s technical drawings readily available in PDF from the suppliers) has a thinner plastic shell around the centre tube.

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