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rrstesiak's picture
Last seen: 3 years 1 week ago
Joined: Mar 22 2015 - 5:38am
A Tale of Three DACs


Yesterday I pulled out my three different copies of Miles Davis: Kind of Blue; Vinyl, FLAC, and now CD.

Realizing I was without my main DAC, PS Audio NuWave, I had to improvise….I realized there is a DAC actually inside of the Apple Airport Express adapter!? I had always used an optical cable…but remembered it does in fact support analogue out…so into the Creek Integrated it went!

I also took my portable rig; specifically the AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, and compared it as well.

So, lo and behold, I was not DAC-less…but actually had TWO just laying around and capable of playing through my stereo. Like professional reviewers, I have a good memory of the sonic signature of my main DAC (PS Audio NuWave) and so was able to compare all three. The results were very typical; and I would overall rank them as follows:

1. NuWave DAC
2. AudioQuest Dragonfly
3. Apple Airport Express DAC

Some interesting characteristics and notes did come forward as my listening sessions and A/B/C comparisons progressed…

The Apple product consistently lagged very far behind the other two…though Apple, to be fair, has never advertised the unit as audiophile-grade, and it was the least expensive at $99. I was surprised at sometimes how good the Apple was at sound stage imaging and instrument separation. At times, each instrument was easily discernible from one another and I could place them easily. I attribute this largely perhaps due to the Creek doing the heavy lifting here. Though the Apple did image well, it suffered at tonal loss… the sound was almost muffled in signature and far less dynamic than the other DACs.

On a more positive note, I was very surprised at the Dragonfly. It did an overall very good job at all aspects of music rendering: Sonic range, Bass, upper highs, sibilance, tonality, and sound staging. Largely where the PS Audio trumped it was in the deep Bass as well as overall “analogue” and “live” feel to the music. The PS Audio also has a slight ability to place “air” around the instruments which the Dragonfly lacked.

Overall; however, the Dragonfly emerged in a far higher ranking than I thought it would in comparison to the PS Audio and it impressed me. I think my hearing as well as thinking when evaluating music has definitely increased in ability since I began critically listening to music roughly 7 short months ago.

If anyone has any other tales of DACs and how they sounded and any experiences, please by all means share!

Kind Regards,


Images of the three DACs:

Apple Airport Express
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AudioQuest Dragonfly
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PS Audio NuWave Internal
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