Last month in 2011 I just listened to 2 or 3 CD's, with 3 DAC in turns. For critical listening I listened to the following CD's :
Herbie Hancock , Possibilities. This is a cool jazz - kind of progressive jazz rock mix with famous singer on each track. There is a movie version as well. I listened tracks with Christina Aguilera here (yup..WOW...that Christina..), now you know why I like her..:). Also the Sister Moon with Sting here. Highly recommended if you bored with the usual mainstream jazz. Believe me, this is a very good CD both music content and sound quality, not to mention the swingin' , and some kick in the *ss quality..
The second CD is very old classical promo CD, by Teldec 1991, the title is Jonge Mensen op het Concert Podium. free translation : Young people in concert podium...and what a young people they were and are today !
I listened to tracks of the (then very young) celloist Matt Haimovitz on Max Bruch's Kol. Nidrei, op.47, and the barely (then) teenager violist Midori on Frederic Chopin, Nocturne, op. Posth. in cis.
See the Midori video here , too bad I can't find the exact video of Matt. Both player's were passionately deep in playing their instruments, that can be heard !, bristles of Matt's vest against the cello and his gasp for air were repeatedly heard. While the tiny Midori accompanied with piano and several noises and coughs from the audience really wonderful, and then that applause!.... You know these music can make you cry...so little fingers so beautiful music...
Here are the cheapo but very good sounding CD :
To me, the above tracks and Herbie's album and a few more are my "eargasm" ticket after a long hard day..
My system is as usual, Sony CDP950-digital out, Aikido tube pre-amp, Aleph J clone and the gentle giant ScanSpeaks Elan.
After some quick evaluation, the Vout AD1865 / 74HC02 is not very good, it's noisy and I'm not using any filter on the output (120uH and 0.01uF ?) so I changed analog out to SE JFET, sound better but the noise stays. AD1865 / 74HC04 sounds very good indeed, no noises but tiny bit lacking attack & speed compared with TDA1541 and AD1865 / HC02.
In term of speed, attack and timbre the verdict is TDA1541 followed by the noisy AD1865/HC02 and the calm AD1865/HC04.
On staging, details, separation : AD1865/HC04-gracefully wide, then TDA1541 and AD1865/HC02, maybe this is why most of DIY DAC pcb's with AD1865/HC02 always using SPDIF pulse trafo and output filtering.
On foot tapping and musical involvement, this is my get into the music quality and personally I rate this highly above details, staging and separation : TDA1541A, then AD1865/HC04 and last AD1865/HC02
By no means one or all the DAC were sounds bad, they are the legend!, only my power supply is right out mediocre :) told you that in Part 1, and these King DAC does not deserve it at all.
I did measure the contenders, here are they and with surprises ha ha..some predicted and some not :).
The Silence (of the lamb...he he..) : both channel measured
here, I'm surprised, strangely it's quite ok sounding, specially with frantic and very fast details on Herbie/Sting Sister Moon...already went to some haziness I admit.
Conclusion , this confirms my suspicion, AD1865 gives better performance with mediocre power supply, while TDA1541 ask a lot more to get in par.
The square 1kHz signal, I can't see any particulars, all DAC's are multibit's, very little pre and post ringing and fast!, maybe we can see the rise time difference ? from what I've listened AD1865/ HC04 is a tad slower than the rest, so the square flank should be less vertical.
My favorite, 500Hz 0dB, now the results were predictable, especially that noise of AD1865/74HC02
I'm now listening to Christina & Herbies A Song for You on TDA1541A..that vocal quality of TDA1541A is really hard to beat, but in my case here, AD1865-N-K with single logic gate 74HC04 is the clear winner!
Thanks for reading & have fun..