By Kevin OBrien on June 15, 2022


*** UPDATED 10/01/2022 *** 

What's more exciting than an all-in-one source component that can take the place of your streamer, your DAC, and your preamp? Winning the lottery comes to mind, for example. But seriously, we cannot figure out why folks are choosing to integrate their components into a single box? That can potentially take away the ability to customize and tweak the sonic presentation (as audiophiles love to do). Well, keep an open mind here and remember you don't know how a component will sound until you can audition it in YOUR system. There must be something to this whole 'one-box-solution' trend as of late, right?


With the above introduction out of the way, here we go. This review literally knocked us on our butts! We had no idea what we were in for when we ordered our Meitner MA3 review sample from John McGurk of AudioShield. John is the new EMM Labs / Meitner US distributor. This is refreshing as we no longer need to pay extreme shipping costs from Canada to get EMM / Meitner products. YAY!  John calls New Jersey home which is convenient for those of us located on the East Coast. This also helps when our customers need a Meitner product ASAP, as we can now oblige.

We are all familiar with Ed Meitner's converters, and who isn't at this point? They utilize Delta Sigma technology with ZERO pre-ringing or post-ringing. That means what you hear from your stereo sounds like what you hear in real life. That's the idea anyway... We are big fans of the EMM Labs DV2 as well as the EMM Labs DA2, and those two converters are our reference DACs here at YFS. Specifically, the DV2 has been in our main rack for several years now. You might say we like to have on hand some of the best audio components available for prospective customers to audition. That's the point of being a dealer in the first place, right?

After hearing some initial buzz about the MA3, we decided it was time to get in on the action too. The black bead-blasted faceplate was to our liking and matched the rest of our YFS components perfectly. This should work out nicely. Although, the silver finish also caught our eye as the black volume knob and top cover contrasted well with the silver faceplate. Maybe we should just buy both? Yup, you guessed it. We dig the MA3 look and feel as the industrial design works wonderfully with the rest of the fit and quality craftsmanship from Meitner. It's great when a product exudes a sturdy feel and look to go along with its price tag ($10,500 MSRP in our case). We have experienced some converters in the past that lack the finish and overall aesthetic to go with their asking prices and there is no need to worry about that here.


The MA3 is the first converter from Ed Meitner that has everything we could ask for up front. The display is of the OLED variety and is clear and readable from over 15 feet away. We very much like this particular display and feel it is a step above the other EMM and Meitner products. The user can see the sample rate of the file currently playing along with the current volume level setpoint and source selection. The MA3 OLED display also shows when you are muted and pops up a small symbol under the volume setpoint when you invert polarity on your current track, if you choose to do so via the remote control. The volume knob easily moves up and down and feels sturdy when we roll it back and forth. I believe this is the same volume knob offered up with the DV2. The top cover is basic at best but works in this instance. It is important to note that we are absolutely pumped the MA3 comes in at such an affordable price. Adding fancy metalwork and engravings, such as with the DV2 and DA2, adds a considerable amount of money to the overall cost of the converter and we're glad these touches were omitted.

The same idea holds true in regards to the remote control. The DV2 / DA2 remote is heavy, thick, and machined from a solid block of aluminum. One word comes to mind: reference. I believe it also costs $750 MSRP if you need to replace it. OUCH!  While the MA3 remote is puny in comparison, it still has a great feel and look, seeing as it is actually made of machined aluminum and plastic. Nope, you don't get a tiny plastic remote here, which is great news. It's still small and lightweight but it's not the tiny credit card-looking all-plastic thingy you get with the Meitner MA1 of old. Also, new for the MA3, is the updated remote control sensor that is HUGE compared to that of the previous lineup. There should be no issues using the supplied remote control whatsoever, even if you don't point it DIRECTLY at the faceplate. VERY COOL!

Let's take a look at the rear panel and show our readers what we are working with around back. This is where some of our excitement started to bubble up. Notice the 'Network' and 'USB Media' inputs. The 'USB Media' input is where the user will place a USB stick full of digital files for playback. After plugging in the MA3 to your local network via the RJ45 jack on the rear panel (the 'Network' input), the MA3 can find your USB stick with the help of an app that is downloaded from the Google Play store or the Apple App Store, depending on which type of tablet (or phone) you intend to use for control. (We are using a 4th generation Apple iPad Air with no issues whatsoever). Qobuz, TIDAL, and other online subscription streaming content can be accessed via the MA3 as it is a certified ROON device. This is equivalent to the same streamer one can purchase from EMM Labs. The NS1 to be exact. This was our first chance at giving the EMM Labs NS1 equivalent a test drive. How exciting! 

The streamer built into the MA3 sounds incredible! We want to point this out right away as we are music server manufacturers. In fact, we put our latest YFS 2020 M1 Mac Mini up against the MA3 internal streamer and the MA3 beat it. It did not take long to notice the difference between the two when switching back and forth with our MA3 remote control. The YFS Mac Mini still sounded great but the MA3's internal streamer just pulled away. This really surprised us and we realized immediately that the MA3 was a very special piece of digital gear indeed.  This also prompted us to upgrade our current YFS HD.Ref-3 music server to Mk3 status. We added an AMD Ryzen 9 5950X 3.4 GHz 16-core processor, (2) M2 SSDs for OS and music storage, 64 GB of DDR4 RAM, and the latest Gigabyte X570S Aorus Master gaming motherboard. WOW! This was what our Ref-3 was missing all along. With things running literally twice as fast now, we were back in the driver's seat and now switching over to the MA3 'USB' input from the 'NET' streamer input we previously tried. Can the YFS HD.Ref-3 Mk3 hold up against the MA3 internal streamer?

The quick answer to the above question is yes. With our recent upgrades, our YFS HD.Ref-3 Mk3 was out in front. This wasn't a quick switch from the MA3 streamer over to our YFS server. We had to figure out which software suite to play back our digital files with. What would we use to play DSD and PCM? We ended up trying Audirvana Origin for Windows along with HySolid. Audirvana was implemented for DSD and HySolid for PCM. We wanted to use HySolid for both DSD and PCM but the MA3 ASIO Windows driver does not support native DSD playback with ASIO, only DSD over PCM v 1.1. This means there is no way to play back DSD files with HySolid and our MA3 using ASIO, which is a shame. HySolid is our preferred new favorite free playback software suite for the Windows environment.  HySolid turns your normal everyday computer into an audiophile streamer. Our YFS HD.Ref-3 Mk3 was now "streaming" digital music into the MA3 via USB. The improvements in sound quality were incredible from pre-upgrade to post-upgrade of our Ref-3 hardware and HySolid really accentuated the differences. Much more so than Foobar, Album Player, or JRiver. HySolid allows the user interface to run on your tablet (or phone) while your actual Windows machine is idling waiting for login. The HySolid app runs in the background even though you're not logged in to Windows. This allows your computer to ditch running unnecessary background programs except HySolid itself, freeing up all resources to use for music playback exclusively. Multi-tasking hurts audio performance. HySolid has that problem solved.

MConnect Control is the app you download on your phone or tablet to access the MA3 internal streamer per the product support literature. As you can see from the photos of the MConnect app for the MA3 (Pearl Jam album) and the HySolid app for the HD.Ref-3 (The Smile album), both programs are eerily similar in look, feel, and function. We actually prefer HySolid in regards to artwork as it finds the cover art in the album folders regardless of whether you are playing FLAC or WAV. This is great news. We are tired of having our artwork left behind with other programs because we choose to listen to WAV files instead of FLAC. The MConnect app will show artwork if your files are tagged correctly and in the FLAC format. The MConnect app did not find the artwork for our WAV files unfortunately. This is only a minor gripe but we wanted to mention it.

We really enjoyed the fact that when we did use the 'NET' input and implemented the internal MA3 streamer, the MA3 front panel showed the artist and track information of the current track, which was super helpful and very convenient. This is extra important when you have an external app controlling your front end. One note worth mentioning is that the MA3 front panel is set to dim automatically after a few minutes. It is set this way by default as the MA3 display will burn-in / malfunction if the user does not turn the display off at the end of the listening session.  It is of the utmost importance that the user realize this prior to listening as just one wrong move in regards to the display and your new MA3 will be ruined. The safest bet is to leave the MA3 display at the factory settings and move on. (We decided to set the display to stay on indefinitely but we always remember to turn it off when we are done listening).

Now, on to how the MA3 sounds... The most important section of our review. The Meitner MA3 sounds absolutely incredible to our ears and in fact, sounds better to us than our reference DV2!  What!?!?  What's going on here?  Our DV2 has more resolution and is more refined for sure. Unfortunately to our ears, this extra resolution and refinement gives us listening fatigue after about two hours of play. Therefore, we concluded the MA3 is our preferred sound signature in the current EMM Labs / Meitner lineup. That's right, we said it. We prefer the sound signature of the Meitner MA3 to that of the EMM Labs DV2. We have heard around the campfire that the MA3 circuit boards are implementing pure copper traces and we have to believe this is the case based on our ears and what we are hearing. The sounds coming from our MA3 are glorious!  Imaging and soundstage are on par with the best. Detail retrieval and low-level information are there too, albeit not quite like with the DV2, but there nonetheless. We don't miss the little bit of extra detail and resolution from the DV2, especially now that we can listen all day and night without fatigue.

With the addition of the NS1 streamer equivalent along with the volume control of the DV2, the Meitner MA3 is downright awesome!  The convenience alone, along with the striking sound quality and presentation of this DAC, make it the one to beat. The MA3 is our YFS digital component of the year for 2022. Yes, we like it that much. We strongly urge users to audition this piece as it is truly one of a kind. Since the streamer, the DAC, and the preamp share the same chassis, the MA3 represents one the greatest values in Hi-Fi right now. We cannot stress this enough: The Meitner MA3 has blown us away and we have to wonder how something this affordable (relatively speaking) can sound this good? 

Grab a Meitner MA3 for yourself and see what everyone is talking about. YFS is an authorized Meitner dealer. Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns. If you're looking for a place to grab yourself an MA3 at an amazing price, drop us a line. We are always more than happy to work with you. 

Thank you for spending your time with us.

Until next time...


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A recent firmware update has been released for the MA3. Specifically, a firmware update on September 20, 2022. This update now allows the MA3 to bypass its volume control completely! You can turn it on and ditch your preamp, or turn it off and keep your favorite linestage intact in your chain. This means the Meitner MA3 is now even more versatile and clearly places itslef among our top picks for any converter at any price.


The recent update also affects the playback of digital Hi-Res files (24bit / 176kHz and up) and has brought the MA3 to another level.

This is a perfect example of why you want to buy your Meinter and EMM Labs products from an authorized dealer, and NOT from a random user online. If you bought from a private seller on Audiogon or eBay, there's no way to update your gear. Now you have a large investment in gear and it is permanently stuck in its current state.


Here's a pic below of what your front panel should read if you have this latest update. Press and hold the input LED on the front panel to get the MA3 to display its current software version. If your MA3 shows a firmware version other than this, you have the original firmware. We will keep this article up-to-date as newer firmware versions are released. Check back as needed.



We have access to the updated MA3 user product manual. This shows you how to defeat the volume control and turn it back on again. If you need the updated manual download link or have ANY questions or concerns, reach out to us. We are more than happy to help.

THANKS for reading...



by Kevin OBrien on February 26, 2022


Is it possible to follow up the Sonnet Digital Morpheus with something more refined, yet fit in the same chassis and give the listener just that much more insight into their recordings? The answer is "yes". Cees Ruijtenberg has done it again. Did you expect anything less?

Enter the Pasithea DAC, Cees' latest creation. Choose a silver or black faceplate up front but be ready for complete fun between your speakers (or earphones). This converter is cut from the exact same cloth as the Morpheus, it's little brother. See our YFS review of the Morpheus here. The remote control remains unchanged for either model. This is good news as the Morpheus remote was more than adequate cut from a solid block of aluminum. We won't bore you with how the Pasithea menus and other peripherals work, as that's covered in our Morpheus review, as they are essentially identical in that regard. You probably guessed it by now, both DACs are of the same flavor, that being R2R "Ladder" DACs. This makes sense as Pasithea is simply the upgraded version of Morpheus.

More importantly, let's talk about how Pasithea differs from Morpheus. Pasithea packs a few important features that sets it apart. There are two separate input options for USB and I2S now. No need to decide which one you'll use for a single input. The all-important gain settings now live within the user menu accessible via the front panel and the 'source' / 'power' buttons (still set at -10dB). A crucial hardware difference is the beefed-up power supply and presence of even more powerful 3rd generation Sonnet Digital 'converter modules'. These modules have an operating temperature of ~120 degrees Fahrenheit. That's why the big brother has a slotted, vented top cover and the junior version does not. And for the question everyone is wondering about, "So how do they compare in sound quality?". And we're glad you asked because there's differences there too.

The first thing we noticed after setting the DAC up and letting it play for 24 hours (burn-in was performed for 3 weeks straight prior to the evaluation) was that Pasithea presented so much air and space between instruments and voices. WOW! Impressive. After spending more time with Pasithea, a sense of resolution could be heard every time we turned on our amplifiers to evaluate. It was difficult to put our finger on what we were hearing at first but the bass and midrange were all there, albeit slightly de-emphasized. It seemed the emphasis in the overall presentation was on the upper frequencies and upper midrange. The lower midrange and bass weight we were used to was somewhat slightly lacking. Not so with Morpheus. Nothing wrong with that. Proper 'final voicing' needs to happen in our system with cables and other finishing touches to top things off at the end of our setup. That's a piece of cake!

After making a few tweaks to our system, the global consensus was that we were hearing a very real, detailed, refined, wide, tall, and deep soundstage coming from Pasithea. Imaging placed us a little further back in the concert hall than compared to our previous converters. The image thrown behind the speakers was unlike anything we have experienced. This DAC scared us on a few occasions as it presented recordings with such dynamic swings and realism. This was an impressive machine to say the very least. Conclusion: If carefully paired with proper cables and surrounding equipment, this DAC could really sing!  

When you hear something as unique as this converter, it is possible to get spoiled quickly when switching back to lesser gear. There's just a certain refinement that you get with the Morpheus' bigger brother that you don't get with the younger sibling. It doesn't hit you in the face right off the bat but it only takes a day to settle in as you say it, "This is definitely a special piece". A big 'Thank You' goes out to Cees for being able to pull off sending this review sample in the middle of a Pandemic. The Pasithea may not be to everyone's tastes but it definitely checks the boxes for us here at YFS.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing this review, there is no way to get either a Morpheus DAC or a Pasithea DAC, as supply chain issues have wreaked havoc on the tech world. Hopefully things will settle down and the world will 'open up' again soon. We are crossing our fingers as more of these wonderful Sonnet converters need to land in US listening rooms.

Let us know how we can help.

Thanks to all of you for reading and spending your time with us.

Contact us with questions or comments.

Until next time...

- KOB 


by Kevin OBrien on February 27, 2020


We have finally taken delivery of the highly anticipated Sonnet Digital Audio Morpheus DAC. Sonnet Digital Audio was founded by Cees Ruijtenberg and Lion Kwaaijtaal out of the Netherlands. Cees is known for his work at Metrum Acoustics, which is now under different ownership, which produced some very fine converters for the money. Since selling Metrum, Cees has been very busy coming up with yet another affordable converter, but this time he's making waves.

The Metrum converters, that most of us are now familiar with, used an R2R infrastructure that is also known as a "ladder DAC". The Morpheus applies the same principle as the successful Metrum Pavane DAC but now has double the ladders, a lossless volume control (that can be defeated), and a much smaller footprint due to less power demand from the FPGA technology Sonnet has recently developed. These are all good things when it comes to D to A conversion and rack space. It's great to see such a small form factor produce such a big, impactful presentation. The Morpheus measures 11" wide by 10" deep by 3" tall and weighs in at just over 7 lbs.



We paired the Morpheus with our YFS modified Mac Mini to feed it a data stream for burn-in via its USB input. We burned the unit in per Cees' recommendation at 3 weeks of continuous play. Yes, burn-in is real. Just to make sure, we listened to the Morpheus right out of the box to see what we were getting into. The tone was great and we immediately knew this was going to be a special piece. But fast forward to now and we noticed things sounded even better. So, yes, burn-in does in fact make a difference and every DAC manufacturer we've worked with has recommended at least two weeks of play before coming to any conclusions. The rule of thumb for digital gear is 500 hours of use prior to hearing what the final presentation will be and that rule applied to the Morpheus. 

We were impressed when we opened the shipping container and laid our eyes on the smooth machined black faceplate and black body. We've encountered much more impressive industrial designs in our tenure but the Morpheus has a proper fit and finish to dictate its price. We are of the stance that dollars should be put to use on the innards of gear, not on the external chassis. If you're just looking for 'audio eye candy', you may want to go elsewhere. If you want an affordable, well-executed piece of gear with a good look and amazing sound, this is it.



Let's quickly go over how to operate the Morpheus. Press the 'source' and 'power' buttons on the front panel simultaneously to access the Morpheus user menu. From here you can adjust display settings, you can turn the volume control on or off, and you can change volume settings for different sources. Here is a link to the Morpheus product manual which should help you get familiar with this feature-packed R2R converter.

A notable feature that impressed us right out of the gate was the sturdy remote control machined from a solid piece of aluminum. The remote felt hefty in our hands and was not an afterthought. After all, the remote is your connection to the gear and must work efficiently, accurately, and be well thought out. We never had an issue getting the Morpheus to react to our commands via remote control which is a welcomed change from some of the other gear we've used at audio shows.

The lossless, defeatable volume control was the main source of our interest in the Morpheus. Many DACs on the market offer an onboard volume control to allow the omission of a preamp. Yet, the volume control is one of the most important pieces in the audio chain. If not taken seriously, bad things can happen in your system. After defeating the volume control and then turning it back on, we couldn't tell a difference in sound quality. This is the idea behind Cees' lossless attenuation solution and it appears to work as intended. 



Another very convenient feature that makes life easier is the ability to set different inputs at various output levels so multiple sources can be gain-matched. This is key when A-B testing different sources in a review environment. The illuminated front panel indicator can also be set to turn off in increments from 60 seconds to 1 second or stay on indefinitely. We also liked this as front panel lights can become annoyingly bright when listening in a dark environment. The red power indicator light on the front panel only turns on when the DAC is in stand-by mode.

The Morpheus USB input is manufactured by Amanero. You can find drivers for Windows-based computers for the Morpheus USB input here. You should not need drivers when mating the Morpheus to a Mac or Linux computer. In our case, our YFS Mac Mini saw and recognized the Amanero Combo 384 input receiver without a hitch. We implemented our YFS Custom Ref Split USB cable along with our YFS PS-5 linear power supply to get the best results out of the Morpheus USB input.



We contacted Cees to iron out whether or not a separate linear power supply was needed to power the Amanero USB input. Cees relayed there is an ultra low-noise regulator integrated into the USB input which should allow listeners to use a standard 4-conductor USB cable when hooking up to a computer. This makes for easy pairing to various servers and computers via USB. This also means the Morpheus does not power the USB input with its internal power supply but the power it does get from your computer's USB bus should be regulated and 'cleaned up'. Again, we decided to start with audiophile-grade linear USB power and our Split USB cable to give the Amanero USB input receiver the least amount of work as possible. (Our YFS PS-5 also has an ultra low-noise regulator under the hood but we have much more filtering capacity than the Amanero USB input card).

Now let's talk about inputs and options within the DAC itself. The USB input did sound good but we noticed a lack of DSD support. This wasn't a deal-breaker by any means and is to be expected at this price-point. You do get MQA support however by purchasing a small module that can be plugged into the main DAC board (see the open slot in the pic below). Pricing comes in at just over $200 and can be user-installed. An I2S module can take the place of the USB input which gives you greater flexibility when linking up to certain music servers that incorporate that same I2S protocol. Here's a link to the Morpheus accessories that are currently available. The use of our YFS modified Mutec MC-3+USB SPDIF converter took the Morpheus to another level and we ended up listening to the AES/EBU input for the sound quality / presentation portion of our review.



As far as sound quality, well, I think this is the most important section of the review. We were impressed to say the least and it didn't take long for things to sink in after spending a few days with the Morpheus in our demo system. The tone coming out of this DAC is just right, not too bright but not too laid back either. The Morpheus just gives you a clear picture into your source material, which is good and bad. Play an average recording and you get an average presentation. We started hearing things in our recordings that were hidden previously. The Morpheus is squeezing every bit of detail out of the signals its fed, which is a sign of a great converter.

The volume control was implemented in our case and our tubed preamp was bypassed. This was the most exciting feature of the new Sonnet DAC. The overall presentation of the music was now clearer than ever before in our familiar YFS demo system. We couldn't believe what we were hearing at first. We had a difficult time accepting what was being presented in front of us as far as a complete picture of the recording with details and a natural flow of the music. But alas, this is what the Morpheus can do in a worthy system. We are now believers in integrated DAC volume controls. 24 bit accuracy is claimed by Cees and we have to say his claim seemed spot-on. 

Comparing the Morpheus to our EMM Labs reference, the DA2, was not really a fair fight. So, we put the Morpheus up against the DA2's little brother, the DAC2X V2. Except for the lack of DSD support, we'd say the Morpheus held its own nicely and we didn't really miss anything when using the Mutec MC-3+USB. The Mutec strips jitter from the digital source, our YFS Mac Mini, and then outputs an 'error-free' data stream to the Morpheus via TOSLINK, COAX, or AES/EBU.

Feed the Morpheus a great signal and it will impress. WOW! All we can say is you need to hear this DAC to really appreciate what it can do. The principle of 'garbage in, garbage out' certainly applies here. Feed the Morpheus a jitter-free good recording and be amazed at what you hear. Our listening room was filled from floor to ceiling and wall to wall with glorious music. The Morpheus exhibited a sound stage on par with some of the best converters we've heard. For the money, this is the most impressive converter we've heard.

Is the Morpheus a giant-killer? We think so! Contact us with any questions you may have. We now have one in-house for demo and we're not letting this tiny piece of digital gear out of our sight.

Thank you for reading. Until next time...

 - YFS Design Team 


by Kevin OBrien on October 10, 2018


The 2018 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest was hustling and bustling on Saturday set in the background of the Denver Tech Center. There was a slight chill to the air at 9 AM as the weather finally cleared from the previous night. The roads were dry and the sun was beginning to show itself from behind the now parting cloud cover. We were ready to check out some of our favorite HiFi gear on our home turf.

The subject of this article is the latest EMM Labs gear to be offered up from one of the most highly regarded digital masterminds, Ed Meitner. RMAF 2018 provided the perfect opportunity to see the new EMM Labs DV2 DSD DAC. This is the latest addition to the EMM Labs family of gear for 2019. The DV2 has some exciting new features to add to its already proven performance, which it shares exactly with its sibling, the DA2, EMM's current reference digital converter.

According to Ed Meitner, the DA2 is still their ultimate reference digital to analog converter when mated to their latest preamplifier, the PRE, EMM's current reference preamp. So all the DA2 owners can rest assured. If you pair your current DA2 with a state of the art preamp, you're still getting the exact same performance, if not better performance, out of your digital front end as you would if you ditched your DA2 / preamp combo and inserted the single DV2 into your rack.




As you might have guessed, the major difference between the DV2 and the DA2 is the added volume control (a hybrid design in both the analog and digital domain). This means Ed had to place more hardware inside the DA2 chassis (but not too much more) and add a volume knob to pull this off. The other added feature which sets the DV2 apart from the DA2 is the added MQA support. Yes, you read that correctly, the EMM Labs DV2 will have full MQA support. If your current source can play MQA files, the DV2 can decode your MQA data stream and convert it to an analog signal to pass to the rest of your chain. This is pretty exciting news. (Translation: if your playback software / streaming program supports MQA, ANY music server, YFS built or otherwise, can play MQA when paired with the DV2 using USB as your digital input).

Current DA2 owners have nothing to fear as Ed Meitner never leaves his current or past customers hanging. The DA2 will be given a moderately priced update to allow it to decode an MQA data stream as well. This will come some time in 2019.

The rest of the EMM Labs converters in the line up may not get MQA support. Once the DA2 gets the MQA update, Ed will begin working on an MQA update for the rest of his line of converters. There are no promises at this point since it's very early on but I have a feeling Ed will be able to work some magic. A change of hardware and software in the older models to bring them up to date should do the trick, just like with the recent V2 update available for the DAC2X and Meitner MA-1.




On another note, we found out that unfortunately the EMM Labs TX2 CD/ SACD transport is discontinued and completely sold out. If you missed your chance to grab Ed's last and final optical disc based transport, you'll have to link up to the DV2 with your own source player such as a streamer, computer, or legacy CD transport. 

Another exciting feature of the DV2 (currently in the works) is DSD256 support. The DV2 will not ship with DSD256 support but a firmware update in 2019 will add support for quad DSD for both the DV2 and the DA2. The estimated ship date for the DV2 is December 2018 / January 2019. These are exciting times for EMM Labs owners indeed.



After speaking to Amadeus Meitner, we found out the DV2 will retail for $30,000. Shahin Al Rashid, the head of sales for Meitner, made it very clear that the DA2 (MSRP of $25,000) combined with the PRE (MSRP of $25,000) solid state preamp is still the combination to beat as it ever so slightly beats out the single-box DV2 solution as far as sound quality goes. But, if you don't need multiple analog sources and you're strictly a digital listener without unlimited funds, the DV2 is the way to go as you can simplify your rack and clean things up. The DV2 fills a niche that the previous EMM Labs lineup was not able to do. Many listeners wanted a reference EMM Labs digital front end they could hook directly up to their power amplifiers and Ed Meitner has finally delivered with the DV2.

As you can see from the shot of the rear panel of the DV2 above (lighting was very scarce behind the rack), the only difference from DV2 rear panel to that of the DA2 is the gain switch located between the left and right analog outputs. This switch is used to match the gain of the DV2 with the rest of your gear. This is a nice option for those of us who may not need the extra gain in our preamp. It appears Ed Meitner has all the design options ironed out. The DV2 is ready for any system, not just an EMM Labs based system. As we here at YFS are also equipment designers, it's these little touches that keep us tipping our hats to EMM Labs.



The DV2 comes with a remote control cut from a solid block of aluminum, just like the rest of the EMM Labs line up. Unfortunately, we did not get a good close-up picture of the DV2 remote functions. We're still confident Ed hasn't left us wanting in this department either.

When we stepped back to listen to the EMM Labs room as a whole, we were hit with a seriously refined and detailed presentation. The power and effortlessness laid out in front of us was impressive as always. The EMM gear mated with the reference Focal transducers was one of Ed's best showings in the Rockies that we can recall.

Thanks for taking the time to read our DV2 preview. Drop us a line if you have any questions about anything we've touched on above. Contact us if you'd like to order your new DV2 in black or silver at a very competitive price as YFS is an authorized EMM Labs dealer. We guarantee we'll beat any advertised price from any US dealer. We're serious about getting our customers the best deal possible. Just give us the opportunity and we'll prove it to you.

Thank you and happy listening!


 - YFS Design Team


by Kevin OBrien on October 6th 2017


Mutec has recently released their new state of the art external 10 MHz master clock which has been talked about since last April at the AXPONA show in Chicago. We finally got our hands on our YFS demo unit and we want to share our thoughts on this latest piece of digital source gear. 

We got our first taste of an external clock when we purchased the M2Tech clock to add to our M2Tech EVO USB to SPDIF converter 4 years ago. It made an impact that was hard to describe unless you were in the room comparing the EVO with and without the external clock in place. We always hope for more of an 'in your face' result when auditioning review gear. However, everything did sound better with a more 'liquid' sound when the EVO clock was in place.

This is the same sound we're after when we listen to vinyl and we tend to call this a smoother, more 'analog' sound. Digital gets a bad reputation when it sounds bright and harsh. This is the main reason vinyl is so popular and remains the source of choice for many audiophiles.

Fast forward to 2017. The Ref 10 from Mutec is now the latest external clock we have been able to audition mated alongside our YFS modified Mutec MC-3+USB SPDIF converter. The Ref 10 is housed in an industrial chassis and has more of an 'audiophile look' to it based on the thicker more substantial CNC'd face plate. The unit measures 8" wide by just under 4" tall by 12" deep and weighs in at approximately 9 pounds. The larger chassis compared to the MC-3+USB is needed based on the fact that a beefy power supply and toroidal transformer sit inside the Ref 10. 

The Ref 10's rear panel consists of (2) 50 Ohm outputs and (6) 75 Ohm outputs which allows the user to mate the master clock to several devices in his or her rack. This is pretty slick. The blue light on the faceplate blinks for several minutes before the clock is ready for operation. This is the warm-up cycle the Ref 10 goes through every time it is power cycled. Another handy feature of the Mutec clock is the ability to turn off the outputs you're not using. We decided to use output #3 and turn the other outputs off for our review.

The most important aspect of the clock that we've all been patiently waiting to find out about is how does it sound? Is it worth adding to your existing Mutec MC-3 converter or other compatible digital device? We have to say the Ref 10 made a very noticeable difference when we placed it in our chain. The difference in sound quality was immediate when listening to hi-res material. This is the 'in your face' change to our system we like to hear. We didn't have to go back and forth more than once to hear the change as it was not subtle. The sound stage grew and enveloped the entire room. Without the clock the sound stage barely reached past either side of the speakers and lacked depth. The detail and overall presentation of the music was lifelike. Our music now sounded as if the musicians were almost playing in the room with us. The tone of the music changed slightly and we could hear very minute details in the background of our favorite tracks that were hidden deep in the background when the clock was removed.

When listening to red book material, the changes were more subdued and subtle but were still there. We tried to play our favorite DSD tracks through the Mutec pairing but our EMM Labs DA2 would not play nice with the Mutec stack unfortunately. Bob from Sonic Distributions told us some DACs will grab onto the incoming DSD data stream and some will not. It's just a matter of whether your DAC can handle the 0's and 1's or not. In our case, the DA2 DAC could not lock onto the DSD stream and instead converted it to PCM. This was our only complaint and it appears the DAC is the deciding factor not the Mutec gear as the MC-3+USB does indeed pass the DSD stream to components down the chain.

Should you buy the Ref 10? Is it worth the asking price of $3400 USD? In our case, we're keeping the Ref 10 along with our YFS modified MC-3+USB SPDIF converter. You cannot pry them out of our hands and we're not going to listen without the pairing from this point forward. The Ref 10 was a very welcome addition to our system and it could very well transform your rig as well. 

Contact us with any questions or concerns.

Thank you for reading and happy listening.

- YFS Review Team


Associated Equipment for this Review:

  • YFS Computer Music Server - HD-Ref-3
  • EMM Labs DA2 DSD DAC
  • JPlay Digital Playback Suite with Bit-perfect Volume Control for Preamp
  • McIntosh MC202 Monoblocks (1 Pair)
  • Von Schweikert Unifield II Mk2 Speakers
  • REL 528 SE Limited Edition Subwoofer
  • YFS Custom Room Treatment
  • YFS Custom Interconnects and Cables


by Kevin OBrien on March 20, 2016

EMM LABS DA2 DSD DAC REVIEW                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       


We have taken delivery of our new EMM Labs DA2 DSD DAC. This is one very special piece of gear which has been slated to be an instant 'game-changer' by the lucky few who have been able to get one into their rack for audition. We feel truly blessed to have made it on the roster of the first production run.

According to Meitner, the DA2 needs 150 hours of continuous play for its output stage to reach a 'steady state' condition and that's when the DA2 really sings. We made sure to 'burn-in' our unit for 3 weeks straight before writing this review. The AES/ EBU input as well as the USB input were played for a week and a half each as part of our 'burn-in' process. There is no doubt at this point whether or not what we're hearing is what this piece can do. After reaching out to Shahin at the Meitner factory and confirming our run-in time, we are now certain we are dealing with the absolute best digital reproduction Meitner currently has to offer.

Our YFS HD.Ref-3 / Mutec MC-3+USB music server combo as well as our YFS Mac Mini music server performed source duties. The Mac Mini was equipped with Audirvana Plus (latest edition with current updates) and our Ref-3 was implementing Album Player (Windows-Only playback suite without DSD capability).

One thing that struck us immediately when first auditioning the DA2 is that its presentation was the most natural, analog, life-like sounding piece of digital gear we've ever heard. This piece will surely give any high quality vinyl playback system a serious run for its money, if not flat out beat it. The DA2 is using the U8 version of the XMOS USB input chip which allows for playback of all formats except DSD256. This includes DXD at 32/384! Also, we do not know of any current source location online or otherwise for DSD256 files. It's hard enough to find titles in DSD64 and DSD128, let alone DSD256 so we're going give Meitner a pass on this one. 

After serving up Dire Strait's 'Brothers in Arms' in DSD64 via our YFS Mac Mini, our jaws dropped. We have never heard this album sound so real, so lifelike, and with so much detail. It sounded like Mark Knopfler was in our listening room. I won't use all the cliche audiophile terms here to describe what we heard but all of them apply, especially PRaT, which was delivered in spades. We then cued up Miles Davis' 'Kind of Blue' in DSD128 and more of the same emanated from the DA2. The piano, which is one of the most difficult instruments to render correctly, sounded exactly like it should. The body of the piano and the strings could be heard as well as the overall tone of the Bill Evans' playing, which is a tough feat in and of itself.

Now that we've touched upon the sound of the DA2, let's talk about the overall look of this DSD DAC. The metalwork is second to none and really gives you a feeling of looking at top notch artisan crafted kit. Everything is meticulously machined and looks absolutely gorgeous in person which pictures cannot do justice. One has to see this piece of gear in person to truly appreciate what Meitner has accomplished here.

Now on to the technical features such as what exactly this unique piece is actually doing when you feed it a digital signal. The DA2 DSD DAC takes any signal, whether it be from the TOSLink, COAX, AES, USB, or EMMLink inputs, and upsamples it to 16X DSD resolution. That's something no other piece of digital gear on the market can do right now. Ed Meitner's genius as far as digital prowess and ingenuity is showing itself once again manifested in the DA2. Just as with the MA-1, the DAC2X, and now the DA2, this is the only DAC that we know of that can provide a Delta Sigma DAC design with absolutely NO pre or post ringing whatsoever. This is an amazing feat just on its own. One listen to this unit and you'll know what we're talking about.

The DA2 rear panel has the exact same layout as that of the MA-1 (minus the EMMLink input) and the DAC2X. When the DA2 was in its infant design stages, plans were made to make firmware updates available over the Internet. That is not possible as an Ethernet port was not integrated into the DA2 to keep costs down. A separate chassis for the power supply was also in the works in early design stages but was scrapped to keep costs down as well. As far as we're concerned, the price tag for the DA2 is high enough at $25,000 MSRP so none of these features will be missed by us.

As usual, there are always one or two things to nitpick about any product and there is at least one issue we came across when auditioning the DA2 DAC. When switching between different digital file sample rates on the fly (using the shuffle function within our playback suite), we noticed a small "blip" sound emitting from the outputs. This was made very apparent when switching between 44.1 files to DSD128 files. This is a small price to pay for the amazing sound quality and presentation the DA2 gives us so we're not going to complain too much. When playing back an entire album start to finish, this will not come into play at all obviously.

Our overall conclusion regarding the DA2 is that Meitner has a clear winner on their hands and has yet again raised the bar another notch above the competition. Sure, you could pay 6 figures for a dCS or MSB DAC but why would you? We've heard these pieces at shows across the country and the DA2 can hang with any digital product any manufacturer has on the shelves at this point. Of course, this is just our opinion but we feel we have plenty of experience with high end digital gear and we've never heard anything quite like this, especially in our personal system. Ed Meitner deserves the highest of praises for his work in the field of digital playback and he has another wonderful product on his hands yet again. If you're willing to pay the price of admission, you'll be kindly rewarded for it. You won't be disappointed, that's for sure.

Thanks for reading and we hope to get you more in-depth reviews of cutting edge digital gear in the future.

 - YFS Design Team


by Kevin OBrien on February 21, 2013


We've been hearing a lot of buzz about DSD. It's been around for a while now. I think since the early 2000's but recently it's making a serious comeback as far as computer audio is concerned. When I was first introduced to DSD in 2001, I remember purchasing the Miles Davis 'Kind Of Blue' SACD. I popped it into my 5.1 compatible Sony SACD player and I was listening to my first hi-res recording at home!                                                                                                                                    

Fast forward to this past year's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 11 years later. We were introduced to a little DAC called the Mytek Stereo 192 DSD-DAC. Quite a few folks at the show were talking about how good this fairly affordable (~$1,600) DSD-capable DAC sounds. Upon making our return to Rochester we began digging up more info on this little guy. Turns out from what we could dig up online and on other forums, the Mytek was fabulous for DSD playback but lacked the same quality playback for standard WAV and FLAC playback. We weren't willing to give up WAV and FLAC playback performance to get into DSD.

A lot of folks are wondering what all the fuss is about as far as DSD digital files are concerned. We wanted to know too. We found out that you can rip your standard SACD discs that you purchased a while back but you'll need a Sony Playstation 3 with a specific firmware to do it. The files you can extract from your SACD discs are playable within Foobar 2000 after downloading the .DFF Plugin. There are two main file types when it comes to DSD. There is the DFF file extension as well as the DSF file extension. The only difference between the two as far as we can tell is concerning metadata. DSF files can handle metadata better than DFF files. DFF files play back natively at 24/88.2 when ripped from a SACD. Files with this resolution are referred to as "64fs" or "DSD64". Files that have a resolution of 24/176.4 are referred to as "128fs" or "DSD128". These files can be downloaded from just a few sites at this point. The available DSD128 titles are few and far between right now. That's another reason to hold off on DSD for a little while longer. The native sample rate of a DSD file is 2.8 Mhz at 1 bit. This is compared to 16 bit /44.1 kHz for Redbook CD. This is why folks are getting so excited about DSD. That's a sampling rate of 64 times that of a 44.1 kHz CD!!!

An individual was given the task to come up with a way to make all this happen and his name is Ed Meitner. Meitner started EMM Labs which developed DSD for Sony. We decided to contact Ed and see what his latest DAC was all about in hopes he would be able to loan us a unit for review. After contacting Ed, all we can say is he is a true gentleman! THANKS Ed!

Mr. Meitner sent us his latest EMM Labs DAC2X which we were so excited to put through its paces! Let's talk about this wonderful piece of digital gear we were so lucky to receive for demo/ review. The DAC2X is one of a handful of DAC's in the world that can be fed a pure DSD audio stream via USB without converting DSD to PCM. I believe this process is called "DoP v1.0". VERY COOL! When your DAC isn't compatible with DSD, your digital player (Foobar, JRiver, etc) converts DSD to PCM before it streams the data output via USB. We've tried the latter and we could not hear a big difference between the 24/176.4 WAV and DSD128 files we played. Now that we finally had a DSD-capable DAC we could play all those DSD files we had gathered over the past few months the way they were meant to be played.

The first thing we noticed was how heavy the unit was boxed up. It came in at 34 lbs in its standard double box. Upon opening the package we noticed a super-beefy CNC'd aluminum remote control. The DAC itself was protected with a nice soft cloth sock. This was a nice touch to make sure the unit stayed pristine before it found its way into the equipment rack.

Holding the DAC2X in our hands gave us a feeling of impeccable build-quality and a sense of audio luxury. The DAC2X just looks great with its silver brushed aluminum CNC'd chassis. The DAC2X is also available in black. Just as all EMM Labs components, you can choose between a silver or black finish. We personally like the silver finish but some folks will want to match the DAC2X up to their current equipment. It's nice to have options.

The silver front fascia lights up with blue LED's to indicate whether it's locked onto an incoming digital signal. The only downfall here was the fact that the LED's only indicated a multiple of a sample rate of 44.1kHz or 48kHz. This was good but it's nice to know exactly which sample rate your files are playing at for review purposes. Again, not a deal-breaker what so ever! The other set of LED's showed which source was currently selected as well as Polarity, Mute, and ALT. The feet mounted to the base of the DAC chassis appeared to be made of some type of special rubber compound to help absorb vibrations. Overall, the DAC2X looked like a force to be reckoned with sitting in our rack!

Now we're going to run through setting up the DAC2X with our Ref-3 Windows 7-based server. We must say right out of the gate that the DAC2X was by far the EASIEST DAC we've ever had the pleasure of setting up. The Windows-based Thesycon USB drivers for the XMOS USB input chip were installed after hooking up our YFS Ref USB cable from the Ref-3 to the DAC2X. The install went smoothly and we were off to the races!  MAKE SURE TO UNINSTALL 'ASIO4ALL' PRIOR TO INSTALLING ANY THESYCON USB DRIVER!

Something to note here, the Thesycon drivers were the latest version of the drivers I've seen to date. I believe they were up to version 1.62, which is several iterations past most of the competition. We selected the STREAMING BUFFER SIZE at "Extra Safe' and then selected the longest corresponding ASIO BUFFER SIZE for that setting within the "TUSB Control Panel". The control panel is accessed by double-clicking the little red "T" in the bottom right-hand corner of the desktop. The shot below shows this control panel. The shot above shows where the little red "T" is located...(next to the clock that shows the time in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen)

The user must select these buffer options before moving on any further (not the exact options shown above - the pic above is just an example). Once these settings were selected, we made the proper adjustments to the Album Player preferences so the ASIO buffer settings matched the Thesycon settings and we were good to go.

We played the DAC2X for several days straight before we got into any serious listening and evaluating. This wasn't due to "burn-in" but instead based on our findings from past reviews. (The DAC was pre burned-in before we received it) The errors we've been hearing do not always surface within a few hours or even a day of playback. These USB data errors can show themselves after several days of playing digital files so this is how we evaluate all USB DAC's from this point forward. In other words, you cannot just hook up your new USB DAC, listen for a few hours, and then assume you will be free from pops because your quick audition went well. It can take days for errors to surface and show up as blips and drop-outs. Just a heads up...

We wanted to let our readers know that the DAC2X did not stutter at all with ANY files we fed it including DSD128 files! This is the very first DAC we've auditioned to play perfectly for the entire time we had it in our rack. WOW!!! Impressive work EMM Labs! In this situation, you get what you pay for... Roughly $16,000 MSRP!  

One VERY small gripe we had with the DAC2X, and it's pretty much the only one besides the LED indicators on the front panel, is the delay in locking onto incoming digital signals. We first hooked up the DAC2X in unison with our April Music Stello U3 SPDIF converter utilizing our custom YFS AES/ EBU digital cable. It took the DAC2X between 1 and 2 seconds to lock onto the digital signal from the U3. So, when the bit rate of the digital files we were playing changed, we'd experience a drop out until the DAC2X locked onto the new files' resolution. Again, this was a small complaint but we had to include it in our findings. Alternatively, the DAC2X locked onto the incoming USB data stream with absolutely no problem and playing various bit rates had no ill-effects on computer audio playback via straight USB.

Another note to bring to our readers' attention is the fact that Album Player is not compatible with DSD yet. We ended up using Foobar 2000 with the DFF plugin installed to audition our DSD128 and DSD64 digital files. We spoke with Peter, the AP software developer, and he has no plans in the immediate future to implement a DSD plugin so we're stuck with JRiver and Foobar2K for now. We were a little bummed out by this but I'm sure if DSD catches on, Peter will be able to update AP with very little effort. It looks like plenty of folks are waiting to get into DSD until the standard irons itself out. Let's hope this happens sooner than later.

So how does the DAC2X sound? All we could say was, "WOW!" The DAC2X is the most impressive DAC we've heard to date and that's not exaggerating one bit. We've heard some seriously nice DAC's but the EMM Labs took the cake. Sound staging and image palpability were second to none. I have to agree with Chris Connaker of Computer Audiophile when he said the DAC2X basically sounded more realistic and intimate than any other DAC he's heard. We feel this statement is right on. Nice job Chris!!! This DAC will get you as close to the performance as any other DAC out there that's comparable in price. One way to know how a review component sounds in your system is to take it away and then listen to your original component and see if you feel like you're missing something. I replaced the DAC2X with my reference EE Minimax PLUS DAC with Dexa Discrete Op Amps and I immediately knew the DAC2X was something special! Don't audition this DAC unless you plan on buying it. It's that good!

Now that we'd established how great the DAC2X was, we decided to take the DAC2X to the next level by implementing our YFS 'Split' Ref USB cable and our YFS PS-5 power supply. We separated the data from the power leads so we could use an external linear power supply to power the XMOS USB chip inside the DAC2X. One Type A head plugs into the rear of our YFS PS-5 power supply and the other Type A head plugs into our Ref-3 server. The Type B connector plugs into the DAC as per usual. This configuration gave us the most realistic, analog sounding music we've heard from any server/ DAC combo as of yet!

We'd like to chime in on the WAV and FLAC vs. DSD argument as well. Yes, DSD files sound smoother and more analog but in general, we still feel WAV and FLAC files are more than adequate for most listening. A good analogy is comparing vinyl to CD. You're getting essentially the same material but presented in a slightly different manner. In fact, in some cases, we preferred WAV's to DSD files especially when listening to very dynamic music such as rock or fusion. It all boils down to personal preference. Don't get us wrong here, DSD sounds amazing but not so different that it warrants ditching your current DAC to upgrade to a DSD-capable DAC. Just our two cents but take it for what it's worth.

To tie things all together, if you can afford the DAC2X, go ahead and give it a shot. You won't be disappointed! I GUARANTEE you'll be happy with it. If you're willing to shell out even more cash, maybe the Stahl-Tek, MSB Diamond, Viola Crescendo or Light Harmonic DAC's are on your radar. No matter which one of these DAC's you go with, you'll be listening to one of the top tier DAC's in the world, period! We wanted to give a shout out to Shahin Al Rashid, the Director of Sales at EMM Labs, for all his help and support and allowing us to report on DAC2X. THANKS for reading and we hope we've shed a little light on DSD and how it compares to WAV and FLAC. Until next time...

- YFS Design Team


Associated Equipment:

  • YFS HD Ref-3 SE Music Server Transport
  • EE Minimax PLUS USB DAC w Dexa Discrete Opamps
  • Quicksilver12AX7 Preamp
  • Quicksilver S60 Monoblocks
  • Von Schweikert Unifield II Speakers
  • PS Audio Power Plant P-300 for source gear
  • PS Audio Duet Power Center for amps
  • YFS Cabling and Interconnects


by Kevin OBrien on April 12, 2013


Schiit. We didn't believe it at first but it's true... Schiit Audio has something here. With all the buzz going around concerning the Schiit Gungnir USB DAC, we couldn't resist getting our hands on one and finally put the madness to rest. Looks like we're really knee-deep now... No turning back!

Yes, that's their name and they're out of California. Right outside of Santa Clarita to be exact. All their products are made in the USA and carry a 15 day in-home trial period and a 5 year warranty. We first got wind of them when their little USB DAC, the Bifrost, hit the market. Everybody was raving about the sound for the money and it caught our attention briefly until we looked at the price. We weren't going to bother with a $450 USB DAC, right? Well, maybe...

About 6 months ago Schiit came out with their latest achievement, the Gungnir USB DAC, which caught our attention once again but this time for good. It appears they have been up to no good and have a little surprise in the form of a USB DAC for about twice what the little Bifrost goes for. Hmmm? This could be interesting.

The real story lies in what Jason and Mike of Schiit have termed the "Statement DAC". This DAC, still in its design stages, should be an all-out assault on the high-end DAC market according to Jason. Unfortunately, this piece of special gear won't be available for a while. Not at least until closer to the end of 2013. This is the DAC we've been waiting for that should handily out perform ANYTHING anywhere near $1700. You may ask yourself, why would someone take another person's word for anything these days? Not a bad point. We wouldn't be saying all this if we hadn't heard the Gungnir USB DAC. Can you tell where we're going with this?

Well, we heard the Gungnir USB DAC and we felt impelled to write about it. The unit itself weighs in at ~10 pounds and has a brushed aluminum faceplate and chassis in a silver/ gray finish. We really dig the way it looks. It's fairly compact too with a faceplate measuring just over 2". The unit employs the C-Media CM6631 USB input chip which is completely original to us. We're familiar with the USB input chips from the likes of XMOS, Tenor as well as OEM input boards from M2Tech but we've never heard of C-Media. The Windows 7 driver is downloadable from Schiit's website here. (Win 7 as well as XP, Vista, Win 8, and MAC OS are supported) The crucial part is that ASIO drivers are embedded in the C-Media USB drivers similar in fashion to the XMOS Thesycon USB drivers. This is very handy when setting up the DAC with Album Player and makes achieving bit-perfect playback a breeze.

Any drivers needed are packaged together in one compressed folder on Schiit's website. Double-click the "setup.exe" file within the unzipped folder after download to automatically let the installer choose your correct drivers. This all happens after you plug the Gungnir into your server via USB. Your server will want to "see" the device before proceeding with the driver install.

If you're intent on using a SPDIF converter instead of a USB input directly on the DAC, don't worry. You can order the Gungnir without the USB input for $100 less. Schiit sells the USB version of the Gungnir internet-direct at $850 and the non-USB version at $750. Not bad at all considering the Gungnir's performance which we will get to momentarily.

The Gungnir employs two AKM4399 DAC chips which handle the actual digital to analog converting duties. The really cool part is that the analog output stage is all discrete! That's right. You won't find a single opamp in the output stage, period. This type of design is VERY unusual for a DAC at this price point. There is no remote or volume control and there shouldn't be for this price. A volume control is always tricky and could degrade the signal if not implemented properly anyway. This unique piece of gear has four digital inputs on the rear panel along with the on/off switch and IEC power connector. USB, BNC, COAX and Toslink make up your digital input options. We love the fact Mike and Jason included the BNC input! The Coax input brings jitter along with it and we've noticed BNC provides a much better transfer method for digital signals. We hooked the Gungnir up to our April Music Stello U3 to test out the digital inputs with digital signals ranging from 16/44.1 all the way up to 24/192 with no issues whatsoever. Nice work guys!

We did install the C-Media software for the USB digital input and we wanted to share with our readers what the ASIO control panel and the C-Media USB device look like within Foobar. The shot below shows the C-Media device within Foobar under "Preferences" -> "Playback" -> "Output" menu. Make sure to select "ASIO: ASIO for C-Media USB Device" as your output sound device in whichever software you decide to use. Foobar 2000 is shown below. Notice the "TUSBAudio ASIO Driver" in the menu as well. This is the device we select when we want to use our Stello U3 SPDIF converter as our USB interface between our YFS HD.Ref-3 SE server instead of the Gungnir DAC. Schiit made a design decision to implement the 5 volt USB power bus to power the C-Media CM6631 input chip. We think this was a great decision because it allows us to use our YFS 'Split' Ref USB cable and our YFS PS-5 power supply to boost the Gungnir's performance just like we do with the XMOS chip. Let's hope they keep this exact same scenario for the USB input on the Statement DAC. Hint, hint guys...  

We have attached a shot of the ASIO Control Panel below. The ASIO 2.2 drivers come embedded within the C-Media USB Windows drivers. This is a VERY CONVENIENT way to get bit-perfect playback with ANY server or computer as your transport!!! To get to the screen shot shown below go to "Preferences" -> "Playback" -> "Output" -> "ASIO" menu. Double-click on the "ASIO for C-Media USB Device" heading shown below in the "ASIO drivers" box. The ASIO Control Panel will appear as shown below. Choose your appropriate settings such as 'Bit Depth' and 'Latency'. We went with '32/24 Bits' and '50 ms' for our bit depth and buffer respectively. This is the maximum buffer setting for the C-Media chip. After the above mentioned steps are completed the music should stream to your Gungnir with no issues. If you do not have the most current version of the C-Media USB input module, 24/176.4 files may not work. The other digital inputs will pass 24/176.4 files just fine so no worries there. The 24/176.4 issue was ONLY concerning the C-Media USB input chip and NOT a function of the AKM4399 DAC chips themselves!!! Send Jason an email if your USB input module doesn't pass 24/176.4 files and he'll exchange your module for an updated one. After speaking with Jason we found out an "Official Update" to the USB input module is in the works so it looks like an upgraded USB board will make its debut soon. Look for more information in the VERY near future from Schiit.

Customer service is a TOP priority for Schiit and it shows.

So, how does it sound? We set up a comparison of the Gungnir and the Minimax Plus to see how this Schiit held up against another internet-direct USB DAC.  We used the Stello U3 SPDIF converter and ran a YFS XLR digital cable from the U3 to the Minimax Plus. We then ran a Veloce Silverstar 75 BNC digital cable from the U3 to the Gungnir. Both DAC's were hooked up to our Quicksilver 12AX7 preamp via our YFS analog interconnects. This way we could quickly switch back and forth between DAC's with a simple switch of the inputs on the Quicksilver preamp. After comparing the units to one another for several hours we decided the Gungnir was a real winner...

Our Minimax Plus wasn't a run-of-the-mill Minimax either. We decked our Minimax Plus out with four Dexa Discrete Opamps to give us an edge over the stock unit. Our Minimax's output stage was totally discrete now too! We pulled the input tube from the rear of the Minimax and placed it in solid state mode. We wanted the least amount of distortion, the most resolution and the most revealing sound we could get out of the Minimax Plus and this scenario has worked very well for us.

Specifically, how did the two DAC's compare? The Minimax Plus gave us a little more pronounced snare hit and a little more air in the top end of the frequency response compared to the Gungnir. The Schiit DAC had a SLIGHTLY darker, more laid back presentation than the Minimax Plus. The Gungnir still gave us essentially all the detail of the Minimax which was incredible for a DAC in this price class. I'd call the Gungnir's overall sonic signature neutral. The DAC was very responsive to changes in playback software as well as changes in software settings. Foobar 2000 sounded a little more forward and lean with the buffer set over 25000 ms. Album Player as usual sounded more analog than Foobar. The real icing on the cake was the fact that we couldn't tell which DAC we were listening to once we listened for more than a minute or two without looking at our input selector. That's when we stopped the comparison and just started enjoying the Gungnir...

We're not really sure how to put this any more clearly than saying the Schiit Gungnir is the new King of Affordable DAC's!!! There's nothing that can give you all the features and sound quality of the Gungnir for the price! So go out and give this USB DAC a shot and keep in mind the real mind-blowing Schiit has yet to take its full form as the Statement DAC. We'll all have to wait and see what the future holds as far as new Schiit is concerned. Keep on listening and we'll catch up with you all next time.

 -YFS Design Team


Associated Equipment:

  • YFS HD Ref-3 SE Music Server Transport
  • EE Minimax PLUS USB DAC w Dexa Discrete Opamps
  • Quicksilver12AX7 Preamp
  • Quicksilver S60 Monoblocks
  • Von Schweikert Unifield II Speakers
  • PS Audio Power Plant P-300 for source gear
  • PS Audio Duet Power Center for amps
  • YFS Cabling and Interconnects


by Kevin OBrien on December 21, 2012


***UPDATE 03/22/2013***

  ***v1.61 Thesycon USB Drivers & Updated Firmware Available Now!!!***


***Click here to download!!!!***


Install Instructions:

1.) Download and Extract Software Installer

2.) Update Firmware via TUSB Control Panel

3.) Uninstall v1.22 Thesycon USB Drivers

4.) Install NEW v1.61 Thesycon USB Drivers


***This update should fix the main issues we've experienced with the Stello U3's performance such as drop-outs, etc... This install should eliminate these problems!!! We will report back after our testing is complete which is currently in progress...*** 


We got a hold of an April Music Stello U3 USB to SPDIF converter and we ran it through the paces. Turns out, it's a nice little unit and it sounds good too. We're here to tell you that if you can get it dialed in, you'll be rewarded with a great sounding SPDIF converter that's really convenient to use.

April Music is out of Korea and they are the makers of the popular Eximus DP1 USB DAC/ Headphone Amp/ Preamp that everyone is raving about. We were able to hear the Eximus DP1 at this year's RMAF 2012 and we were impressed. We heard about the little Stello U3 from 6Moons and other online forums so we were pretty excited to audition the little black box everybody's talking about.

The Stello U3 utilizes the XMOS input chip and uses the 5V from the USB cable to power itself. There is no power supply or wall wart to plug into which makes it convenient to use but also degrades its performance in our eyes. A cool project would be to add an external power supply to the Stello U3 and take it to the next level. Maybe we'll tackle the challenge in the next few months.

UPDATE: We did end up coming up with a solution to the USB bus power problem. The answer is here. We developed a dual-headed USB cable with a data head and a power head. The data head plugs into our server and the power head plugs into our YFS 5V DC power supply. It's the perfect USB power solution and a great way to boost your DAC's performance.

You get a Coax and an XLR digital output and your standard USB input on the rear of the U3.  We could not discern a real difference between Coax and the XLR digital output but some folks are convinced that the XLR provides a better connection. As far as jitter goes, we agree so that's what we ended up using.

We installed the drivers from the manufacturer's website and the unit was recognized by our Windows 7 based HD.Ref-3 server with no problems. The U3 uses the Thesycon drivers that all other XMOS units use. We like the Thesycon USB drivers as they have ASIO drivers embedded within them which makes setup a breeze in most cases. The Stello U3 proved to be one of the exceptions to the rule. We were unable to get our U3 to play without at least some very tiny hiccups. We experienced a pop or blip every now and again with no way to alleviate the issue no matter what settings we played with. We did upgrade the firmware with the latest version on April Music's website and still no help. We've heard April Music is coming out with another driver version with updated firmware so this may allow the U3 to behave somewhat better in the near future. We're sure hoping so because if we could get this sucker to play nice, we'd definitely be game for adding a power supply to the unit.

The sound we got after 3 weeks of break-in was really nice. The Stello U3 falls between the M2Tech EVO and the Berkeley Audio Alpha USB. In general, the U3 has great resolution and great bass. We noticed the EVO, which was hooked up to our custom 9V DC linear power supply, had more laid back highs but more mid range and bass punch than the Stello U3. The Stello U3 had very similar highs to the Alpha USB but the Alpha had more punch in the bass region. As you're probably noticing all these units sound great, just a little different from one another. Depending on your system, you may prefer one unit to another.

More importantly, we wanted to let our readers know that we had a little trouble getting the U3 to behave with the SOtM USB card in our Ref-3 SE server. We haven't been able to completely get rid of pops but we've been able to keep them at a minimum. We're not sure why we cannot get the unit to work perfectly? Our other SPDIF converters work fine so we can't figure out why the Stello U3 doesn't want to play nice. And yes, we used JRiver, Foobar 2000, as well as Album Player and they all had similar issues with playback.

We're fairly positive these issues mentioned above will be ironed out but for now, we're still scratching our heads on this one.

UPDATE: We played the Stello U3 for 3 days straight with the updated firmware and the new v1.61 Thesycon drivers and most of our problems went away. The data streams smoothly no matter which bit-rate we're playing. The real bonus is that it streams 24.192 data to our EE Minimax DAC Plus now without a hitch! We will continue to test the Stello U3 and make more observations in the future if necessary. We've heard one "pop" so far and that's 4 days into our testing. Finally, now this U3 device is a real winner. :-)

If you're wondering if you can keep your favorite DAC and still use your computer as a transport, the answer is yes. Give a few SPDIF converters a shot and see which units are best for your personal system. As we've stated before, we've found no ill effects by adding a USB to SPDIF converter to the chain of source components in our system, just a small change in overall balance and presentation which is why we love this hobby!

 -YFS Design Team


Associated Equipment:

  • YFS HD Ref-3 SE Music Server Transport
  • YFS Custom Ca-60 Preamp
  • Bricasti Design M1 USB DAC
  • McIntosh MC275 MkV Amplifiers (in mono configuration)
  • Von Schweikert VR-44 Aktive Speakers
  • PS Audio Power Plant Premier (one for each monoblock)
  • Equitech 1.5Q Balanced Power Isolation Transformer (used for source components)
  • YFS Cabling and Interconnects



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