You are here

Log in or register to post comments
rrstesiak
rrstesiak's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 2 months ago
Joined: Mar 22 2015 - 5:38am
UPDATED Sept 2015: FINAL REVIEW OF Creek Ruby

All:
PLEASE SEE LATEST POST FOR UDATES AT END OF THIS THREAD....
I will be reviewing the Creek Ruby DAC as soon as it gets delivered...could take a week or so (hopefully arriving by June 26th at the latest)...It is an internal circuit board that fits Creek Evolution series Integrated Amplifiers.
It is not only a DAC based on a 192/24 Wolfson, but also a digital tuner module which elegantly feeds into the DAC...an excellent engineering task. The only thing its missing that I like to see in DACs are XLR connectors....... .....wait! I don't *need* connectors. cool! And, the documentation states it is in fact a balanced signal feed to the pre-amp section of my Creek. Pretty good so far....my only skepticism is actually the price... at $599 it's a little cheap actually. I hope it's at least as good as the PS Audio NuWave.. I can Audiogon it and reduce my clutter!

If my Electrical Engineering knowledge is correct, the DAC will tap into the analogue circuitry already present in the pre-amp and amp sections of the Creek... so it's sort of possible to keep price down as roughly half the electronics are already present in the Creek Integrated.

Anyone have experience with this DAC?

Image hosted by servimg.com
And here it is as installed in a Creek Integrated..alot of ports crammed into a tiny space; including FM and bluetooth Antennae! The twin optical inputs are barely visible above the digital coax inputs..there is no more real estate left in the back of this slimline amp!
Image hosted by servimg.com
Here are the tech specs from the Creek site; pretty impressive:

DIGITAL INPUTS 2 x TOSLINK Optical, 24 Bit 192 kHz
2 x SPDIF Co-Ax, 24 Bit 192 kHz
USB Class 1 audio 24 Bit 96 kHz max
Bluetooth, based on CSR Bluecore technology
No additional software drivers are needed.
DAC TYPE One Wolfson WM8742 capable of 24 bit 192 kHz.
SNR > 125dB (A weighted stereo at 48 kHz)
THD < 0.001% at 48 kHz sample rate

FM TUNER PERFORMANCE:
FM FREQUENCY RANGE 76 – 108 MHz, dependent on region.
Region selectable via Menu
NUMBER OF PRE-SET STATIONS 100
FM SENSITIVITY -3.5 dBuV
FREQUENCY RESPONSE 30 Hz- 16 kHz -1dB
THD < 0.05%
STEREO SEPARATION > 40dB
SIGNAL TO NOISE > 70dB (Full limiting) Stereo

Best Regards,

Ron

ps. The stereo separation doesn't seem all that great, but keep in mind it is for FM STEREO; not an amplifier...so that is actually pretty typical.

rrstesiak
rrstesiak's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 2 months ago
Joined: Mar 22 2015 - 5:38am
First Review: Creek Ruby DAC

All:

I first would like to state to date there are no professional reviews of this DAC, so I hope my basic review is of some use to anyone interested in this particular unit or considering getting a DAC in general and just want to hear a review of a slightly unusual and rare one. I say that because this unit is designed to be added and integrated directly into the Creek Evolution 50 and 100 Integrated Amplifiers and become part of the electronics vs. the much more widely available external units.

I have now dedicated some time with the Creek Ruby Dac I installed a few days ago.. I have compared it to the PS Audio NuWave DAC, Vinyl, and the NAD 516BEE CD player.

I think it will be easiest to communicate my perceptions by splitting major notes I've made into positive and negative categories. Of worth noting, some of the observations are very trivial, while others are quite serious regarding the pure sound...which is what counts most, but I am including some trivial information which separates this unit from most others. Of further significance, I purchase the PS Audio unit pre-owned, so it was already most likely broken in; while the Creek is brand new and may indeed improve over time further.

POSITIVES
- Displays sampling rate on amp’s screen…very cool and unexpected feature. It’s just cooler to me than a simple light blinking above a printed out number on a chassis; or in some DACs, no indication of sampling rate at all! I find this feature severely useful for computer audio playback to ensure the DAC is decoding the signal correctly.
- Unit is now integrated into the chassis - one less component, one less interconnect.
- Better instrument resolution/separation
- Best system synergy… my system's digital chain from top to bottom; for better or worse, is 100% British (English & Scottish).
- Same soundstage as PS Audio NuWave (Very good)
- excellent detail in music…individual instruments are easily distinguished even in busy rock passages.
- I also gained an outstanding FM receiver which the engineers at Creek cleverly added into the design of this capable DAC.The FM receiver circuitry includes RDS: when a song is on the radio, the little Creek faithfully displays the radio station as well as artist and song information.

NEGATIVES
- only accepts 96KHz via USB?!
- noticeable reduction of deep bass on certain tracks
- there is slight background noise when volume is turned up when I am standing near speakers which oddly wasn’t there with the external NuWave. I am guessing in this case an isolated, external chassis is better because that served as a shield against the other components in the amplifier.
- very annoying skips or drop outs intermittently occurring over WIFI streaming.. I am further looking into this to see if it is not my other components and computer network. I truly hope that is the case..but it needs mentioned as a negative. And, it was never present in the previous PS Audio NuWave DAC.

NOTES: On the whole "no interconnect and one less component" thought… There are tradeoffs..I must say I am pretty certain the human ear would be hard pressed to A/B blind test this device if it were in an external chassis connected via my previous AudioQuest XLR cables. More importantly, I think an additional chassis with its shielding and isolation from the rest of the circuitry of the amplifier is a superior sonic design.

To expound further on the bass…There is this very noticeable loss of deep, powerful "analogue" bass, but gain of punchiness, timing, and accuracy. Oddly, I truly miss that deep bass…but I think this is the British sound.. and I would further hazard to guess superior. My untrained ears have just been programmed since youth to equate chest thumping bass with good quality. That is certainly not always the case..or is it? I am still learning here..

OVERALL GRADE AND COMPARISON TO PS AUDIO NUWAVE:

Creek Ruby Dac: 8/10
PS Audio NuWave: 9/10

Overall, I must confess to MY ears, the PS Audio NuWave is a superior DAC. However, in my particular case, I am going to keep the Creek unit in that it does provide me the addition of an FM receiver, and I am gambling on the fact my ears are just programmed to equate deep thudding bass with quality and that is not the case as previously mentioned. However, I do believe the very significant analog power supply in the PS Audio unit did in fact improve the signal in especially the bass department and that very very subtle but distinguishable "live" or "analog" sound that the Creek just does not have. But I have read and heard this is the "British" sound.. and that the "American" sound does in fact have more bass... I still do not again know which is "Better"..and am always learning. Plus, I have NOT experimented with changing tone controls, speaker position, or any other tweaks or room treatments to re-enhance bass as I did not want to skew the review.

Of final merit which did tip the scales in favour of keeping the Creek product: to my ears, it seems like it is literally pulling more *information* from the recorded tracks. This is a very difficult and perhaps psychological placebo effect though; as I did not mention it in the POSITIVE attributes.

Some songs played to evaluate were: The Beatles: Sun King, Supertramp: Brother Where You Bound, Miles Davis: So What, Led Zeppelin: Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (and many other songs from them), Deadmau5: My Pet Coelacanth, Peter Gabriel : entire So album, 2PAC : Keep Ya Head Up & Changes, Eminem/Rihanna: Love the Way You Lie, and many other songs.. but these were the most critically compared for their level of sonic breadth and depth of bass, midrange, treble, and in some of the songs extra effects. Oddly and regrettably I have not had the chance to play many other genres of music.

Reviewed Equipment:
Creek Evolution 50A Integrated Amplifier, Creek Ruby DAC, Epos Epic 2 Speakers, Epos ST15 speaker stands, AudioQuest Rocket 33 speaker cabling, 2014 MacBook Air, Apple Airport Express.

My Best,

Ron

rrstesiak
rrstesiak's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 2 months ago
Joined: Mar 22 2015 - 5:38am
Sound Improved!??!

All:

I had previously experienced a slight increase of dB with the Creek DAC... which is not uncommon; however, noticeable levels of subtle to not so subtle distortion could be heard at high volume where with other DACs these artifacts of distraction were little or not present. Also, the lower bass just didn't seem to hit the lowest notes as described in my review as compared to other DACs I've evaluated. Finally, if music was not playing and I turned the volume up, I could hear an electronic hum of sorts when close to the speakers I also do not remember with other equipment.

Much to my happiness and now true contentment with the Creek Ruby, after taking a cue from Michael on past tweaks, I thought to open the case to see if there were any wires in the way or anything... sure enough, there were TWO bundles of signal wires no doubt coming from the pre-amp logic board and passing through the Ruby DAC module....so I undid them... and passed one grouping on TOP of the DAC; exterior to it, but still room to cover with the case, and I left the other strand to pass through the module; but this time there was much more "breathing room".

Every single issue mentioned is now resolved. And, I truly notice a significant enough difference where I am now truly happy with this engineering marvel. I say marvel because at the price point of $599 US, they also managed to fit in an FM tuner, from which they pass its analog signal into the DAC as well; utilizing a Wolfson DAC.

Just good news -

Ron

sjme
sjme's picture
Offline
Last seen: 7 years 2 months ago
Joined: Jul 16 2015 - 5:32am
Hi Ron,

Hi Ron,

i'm also considering buying Creek Ruby DAC for my CE50A. I see that your overall grade is 8/10 in comparison to PS Audio NuWave DAC. After listening for some time to the DAC how would you grade it only in terms of it's sound to PS Audio NuWave DAC.

thank you,
simon

rrstesiak
rrstesiak's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 2 months ago
Joined: Mar 22 2015 - 5:38am
Reply to Simon

Simon:

If you are just needing the DAC capability and do not need or care about the FM radio feature, I would rate it just a 6.5-7 as compared to the PS Audio NuWave. The NuWave is a clearly audibly better product with low end oomph just not present in the Creek Dac.

If; on the other hand, you also desire the FM radio capability and the other pluses mentioned above, just due to these additional features makes the comparison much closer.

But note for note, the PS Audio trumps the Creek Ruby on pure musicality.

Hope that helps -

Best Regards,

Ron

rrstesiak
rrstesiak's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 2 months ago
Joined: Mar 22 2015 - 5:38am
CONCLUSION

All:

In spite of the sonic shortcomings of the Creek Ruby DAC, I have decided to keep it; for all of the positive qualities it exhibits for owners of compatible Creek amplifiers.

My logic is as follows:

1. DACS are ever evolving at a frantic pace, and I plan on actually upgrading next year anyway.

2. Perhaps more compelling: I have a very good analogue chain, and I own vinyl versions of all of my reference recordings which eclipse even the PS Audio DAC.

3. I thoroughly enjoy the integrated FM Ambit Tuner literally everyday.

Best Regards,

Ron

rrstesiak
rrstesiak's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 2 months ago
Joined: Mar 22 2015 - 5:38am
UPDATE: September 2015

All:

I performed my initial reviews on the Creek Ruby DAC with only using the USB input..which is also limited to 96/24 resolution.

I recently ran optical SPDIF out from my music server to the Ruby which is capable of 192/24 and have noticed a significant improvement vs the USB interface.

Image hosted by servimg.com

Very long story short, after performing reference listening sessions with the same songs as before, but this time via optical and 192 capable, this DAC performs ever so nearly as well as the Bryston BDA-1!!??

Perhaps my comparatively modest Creek amplifier isn't up to the task of resolving all of the capabilities of the Bryston, but suffice it to say there is a huge improvement to the Ruby DAC's sound in every way... High frequency...bass extension ... Rhythm...timing...clarity...separation of instruments... Soundstage.. Of equal importance, the Ruby is dead SILENT on quiet passages. The problem of hum was fixed as noted in an earlier post.

Also of importance, the increase in performance is not limited to 192/24 files, but seems to be of benefit across all digital resolutions. I am assuming it's a simple matter of a better implementation of SPDIF vs. USB...as is now appearing to be much the case among DACs below $3,000.

To my novice ears anyway, I can't tell a difference now between the Ruby and the Bryston in 98% roughly of listening. A main area where the Bryston edges out the Ruby is in brass instruments on jazz recordings. The Bryston places more air around the instruments and makes them sound a little more organic...leading to less or no fatigue. By contrast, the Ruby is a little too bright..and I would imagine leading to fatigue over long listening sessions. But I am really at the upper limits of my experience here and these differences are severely subtle. They are differences never the less and are perceivable.

I only wish I still had the PS Audio NuWave to compare it as well.

Needless to say, I am increasing the judged overall performance of the Ruby from a 9/10 to a 10/10 with the caveat one needs to use the SPDIF INTERFACE as opposed to the USB to gain full sonic potential...which is a minor inconvenience at best for most audiophiles merely involving the purchase of an SPDIF cable if they don't already likely have one.

I am also raising my pure musical sound review to a 9/10... While it does appear to nearly match the Bryston on my amplifier and speakers.. I think there is room for improvement in the slam of the Bass and sibilance of vocals, as well as the mentioned rendering of brass instruments. However, this is now into nit-picking territory. Without the benefit of A/B testing against a Bryston, many an audiophile would be very pleased with the Creek setup and not left wishing for more.

I look forward to many more listening sessions and really analyzing the performance...most importantly, I need to do some critical headphone referencing before my official review is finalized, but things are looking very good.

If the Ruby continues to perform as expected, I can only conclude I have reached the sonic limits of my current remaining equipment to further distinguish the technically more capable dual-differential Bryston with the single Wolfson Ruby. Therefore, I will then have the decision of: sell off the now redundant Bryston...or upgrade the Integrated to a more resolving and revealing amplifier!??

In short, the engineers at Creek have a real hidden "gem" here..,and the value at $599 is tremendous.

For those unfamiliar with this DAC, it requires a Creek Evolution 50A or 100A integrated; as it is installed inside the chassis.

Best Regards,

Ron

Bangkok Bob
Bangkok Bob's picture
Offline
Last seen: 6 years 1 month ago
Joined: Aug 18 2016 - 7:43am
Wi-fi / Bluetooth on Creek RUBY DAC

Has the issue with the bluetooth cleared up? My Ruby drops the bluetooth constantly; so bad I sent the unit back to Creek and told no issue. But got it back, still drops - very frustrating. I do agree the FM tuner is great - bettering even stand alone units. But the Bluetooth would prevent me from recommending this. I'm now looking at an Audioengine B1 to supplement the Ruby.

Bangkok Bob
Bangkok Bob's picture
Offline
Last seen: 6 years 1 month ago
Joined: Aug 18 2016 - 7:43am
Wi-fi / Bluetooth on Creek RUBY DAC

Has the issue with the bluetooth cleared up? My Ruby drops the bluetooth constantly; so bad I sent the unit back to Creek and told no issue. But got it back, still drops - very frustrating. I do agree the FM tuner is great - bettering even stand alone units. But the Bluetooth would prevent me from recommending this. I'm now looking at an Audioengine B1 to supplement the Ruby.

  • X