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Re: Canada Loaner Program (Round 2)

PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2012 5:35 pm
by NekoAudio
mcky's review is up at Head-Fi. :)

Re: Canada Loaner Program (Round 2)

PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2012 11:37 pm
by elnero
After an extended delay and a few failed attempts at writing these, here are my impressions of the Neko D100 MKII I had for a couple of weeks thanks to the generous loaner program Wes set up. First off I'd like to thank Wes for the opportunity to audition the D100 MKII and apologize for talking so long to get my thoughts posted. Loaner programs like this are a wonderful way for people to experience something they otherwise might not have an opportunity to hear.

When I auditioned the Neko D100 MKII my system consisted of a HeadAmp Pico DAC and a vintage Harman Kardon 730 receiver driving Audeze LCD-2 Rev.2's. I've owned or heard a few DAC's in the under a grand category but while some have been technically better than the Pico I've kept coming back to the Pico because, on a budget and paired with the right amp, it's seemed to offer the best balance of conveying the music in a natural manner and technical performance for my preferences.

The first thing I noticed when I started listening with the Neko was a sense that something was missing, it only took a few songs for me to realize that a layer of grain had been removed. This lack of grain gave the music a smoother yet more realistic portrayal. I felt this was most noticable through the upper mids and treble which, while more upfront than my Pico, sounded more natural.

It's been awhile since I had the Neko I here, I have my notes and recollections of my feelings but it's lasting impression is of it's wider, deeper, taller, more believable sense of scale. Not only was the stage larger with more layering but instruments themselves were bigger with more room around them which allowed them to breathe and occupy their own space better. This really became notable on live recordings where I became more aware of the recorded space, it's dimensions, where the musicians were placed and how other auditory clues from the audience helped feed the illusion of "being there". Overall, and not just with live recordings, this increased scale made for an overall more immersive experience. Going back to the Pico after listening with the Neko made the music feel like it was being flattened and compressed into too small of a space.

That brings me to another significant difference I noticed between the Neko and the Pico. Music just flowed from the Neko, when I went back to the Pico the music had an almost forced feeling, like it was being thrust at me. I don't know how to explain this further, I think in part at least, it was the smaller space which the music lived in when played through the Pico but there was more to it that I think given more time I could get a better grasp on.

As I'm writing this I've become aware that I'm not talking about the typical things like, frequency balance, textures, detail retrieval, etc. The Neko most definitely signficantly outperformed other DAC's I've heard in all these areas, yet somehow these differences don't seem quite as noteworthy. I don't want to make it seem like the differences were insignificant, they weren't, I think it's because all of these traits meshed into a whole picture, the wonderful textures and detail, a balance where nothing seemed hyped or missing, all came together as a very natural, realistic sounding whole as opposed to having a spotlight shone on them.

I find it very hard to find much to fault with the Neko. If I had to nitpick I could say that on some recordings the Pico's bit of extra midbass made for a bit more fun and in a few other cases the darker nature of the Pico took the edge off, but these are more flaws with the recordings than faults of the source. Maybe given more time and experience I would be able to distinguish more shortcomings but from where I sit now the D100 MKII is so much better than anything I've heard previously I'd gladly sacrifice the listenability of a few recordings for everything else the Neko brings to the table.

As I mentioned earlier, I came into this audition having no real experience with higher-end, $1000 + sources. I have owned or auditioned a few well regarded under $1000 DAC's like the CEntrance DACmini and the Headroom Ultra Micro DAC. All have been enjoyable in one way or another and where I found they all differed from one another with each having their own strengths and weaknesses, none stood head and shoulders above the others. I've always considered myself a source first kind of guy but lately I've wondered if digital had got to the point where differences, while noticeable, weren't overly dramatic and more a matter of flavor. While there may be some truth to that, especially in the under $1000 category, the Neko D100 MKII is without a doubt head and shoulders above the other DAC's I've heard to date and the difference wasn't subtle. While finances don't allow for me to buy one at this point the D100 MKII has reaffirmed my faith in the source first mantra and given me something to strive for. My hat goes off to Wes not only for designing such a brilliant sounding DAC but for being such a great person to deal with.

Re: Canada Loaner Program (Round 2)

PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2012 3:16 pm
by claude
claude Wrote:I bought the Neko D100 MK2 !!! It has me more to impress that the Bel canto dac3, the wyred 4 sound dac 2 and the PS audio cullen 4. This dac is a pure pleasure to listen to.I waited for a long time before buying a dac but I could not failure this opportunity.

One year later, yes!!! I have well choose. :roll:

Re: Canada Loaner Program (Round 2)

PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2012 7:02 pm
by NekoAudio
Congratulations, Claude! Enjoy and Happy Holidays! :D