I would like to share with everybody my recent experiences with the new Empirical Audio Overdrive SE
I have played classical music since age 8 (chamber, solo, orchestra, professional training) and since 2006 I have been on a continuous mission to find and enjoy better and better reproduction. This has resulted in about 5 different systems that all are very high standard. For the purpose of this review I have the configuration:
Speakers: MEG Geithain 803k with stands from same manufacturer (filled with sand) Link: http://me-geithain.de/highend/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=57&Itemid=93&lang=en
Cables DAC-> MEG Geithain: Funk B-120 XLR cables from the extremely honest and skilled house of Thomas Funk, Berlin http://www.funk-tonstudiotechnik.de/B-120-Info.pdf
DAC: Empirical Audio Overdrive SE
PC: Windows 7 64bit
Player: Foobar (newest version)
Comparator DACs: Weiss DAC202 + Clock EmpiricalAudio Pacecar Ultraclock= reference, W4Sound DAC2=good, Benchmark= less so, Aqvox= less so
Current: PS Audio Powerplant10: Link: http://www.psaudio.com/products/power/pw-power-plants/p10-power-plant/
Cables and Power distributors : Furutech
The owner and brain of empirical audio Steve promised a lot on his website, a lot of words. We live in a jungle filled with pseudoscience, real science, facts, myths, figures and havent we read it all. Steve has a mission that is clear, but is it B.S. served to misguide needy audiophiles ? There is an army of suppliers who have this business strategy, yet they just reassemble standard components from the same basic manufacturers and add the superlatives, no more. So what is reality with Overdrive SE?
Listening is a compounded experience where my non-expert , yet experimental journey has resulted in the following optimization points that determine the overall experience in an audible fashion. many small changes = big experience.
a. Electricity (hence powerplant10 from PSaudio, which created firm, tight, crystal clear kind of sound waves, and you can see the distortion it eliminates on the panel from minute to minute, how cool) also the Furutech cables and distributors are important. ALL FROM ONE SOURCE ! everything powered by P10. Also: checked the phases , another important point, audible.
b. Conversion of digital to audio: here the Overdrive SE comes in
c. Decoupling of LS: Since the Geithain 803Ks have the amazing karitoid properties (see diagram at bottom: http://me-geithain.de/highend/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=57&Itemid=94&lang=en
) there is minimal need for back of LS dampening, bass control etc. but for example filling the sand into the stands from geithain meant a lot, all energy pouring down in the floor and hitting your ear way before the sound via airways hits you was a very audible improvement
d. Source: music will never be better than recording, resolution etc.
Having optimized the very good WeissDAC202 with the empirical audio Pacecar with Ultraclocks (now not produced anymore apparantly, but very good product) indicated that Steve is producing something the world needs. Steve describes his products to deliver a "smooth", "vinyl like" sound that in an non-upsampled fashion creates a wonderfull experience. For any product to improve the wonderfull DAC202 is an achievement , and the Pacecar clearly brought the sound in the direction of Steves words.
The Overdrive SE is the true embodyment of this direction. Bottom line is that EVERYTHING Steve promised has held true. After many many listening hours, alone and with audio knowledgable friends with deep roots in many camps (electronica, pop, rock, classic etc.) there is no doubt that the Overdrive SE trumps the Weiss DAC202 even with the addition of the pace car. For the technique focused people please see all the measurements of the 2 DACs on their websites, I also believe very much in measurements , in the placebo-effect of the audio field, and of all kinds of illusions and selfdeceptions. So how do I come to this conclusion: The overdrive SE makes Digital music into MUSIC. The difference between a synthesizer from the 80´s (not George Moroder , he is wonderfull artist) cannot be compared to the piano. The piano is an almost organic source of multiple impressions, not only the pure music, but also the sounds from pedals, the handling of the actual "keyboard" etc etc. When listening to the overdrive you simply abandon PLANET DIGITAL and arrive at PLANET MUSIC. I noticed how I simply kept listening , kept listening for so long time, no impatience to hear the next track, almost like you dont want to stop the artist playing, its rude - maybe the degree of reality connects to social reflect of conduct, I dont know, I am just passing this on as an observation, Jitter reduction ? I do not know. Other features that are remarkable: Dynamics, black background (partly helped by the P10 for sure), what Steve calls "Slam" and "Punch", the bass is remarkable "human" with character (think of the drums in hotel california (Eagles), or Love Songs (Diana Krall)). And yes it has this vinyl like quality , but I would say Vinyl Plus, as it has a very pleasant silky yet realistic sound, pretty much like live opera or chansons also have in my experience.
The looks of the overdrive SE in real life is actually very elegant as a piece of modern technology, the aesthetics also matter, so not only is it a small double device but it has the feel of the old Porsches, the silver one that James Dean died in (Link: http://bit.ly/QpoDna
) , in the tradition of Braun radios (Link: http://bit.ly/Tmqypq
) and so on, its very cool. (it also gets semihot on the top, but that doesnt matter) . The occasional crackle and click when the Overdrive SE changes bit-rate or whatever it does adds to the semi-mechanic industrial feel. I played almost all music on the option "Line Out" as any volume control will represent a resistance/distortion, and in this case it was a small improvement, but still (so the XLR cable goes direct into the Geithain 803K and the mechanical regulator for volume at the back of these active loudspeakers set the point. Very easily workable with foobar where you can regulate output levels pr software). Steves volume control is very good though, compared on par or very similar with Thomas Funks legendary MTX monitor (which also looks cool and has an outrageous remote control with cables, feels like something that can control a nucelar power plant or similar http://www.funk-tonstudiotechnik.de/MTX-MONITOR_V3b-1-Kurzinfo-2-Spaltig-englisch.pdf
). Basically a pre-amp should not be heard and only serve as volume regulator and amalgamation source from various inputs, otherwise avoid if possible.
Result: I have arrived. No more computeraudiophile.com (at least for a while) and all that. Will revisit the audiophile world once something truly new is more availible like DSD or RED.com reaches into audiophile. Now it is about listening, exploring the musical archives, remastering music files (with fun program like http://www.izotope.com/products/audio/rx/
) and not the least playing live music because: Music is Life.