August 7, 2012

Polished Deck, The Rega DAC.

The matching Rega Apollo-R(left) feeding signal to the Rega DAC(right).

My last review left you with Daivd's CD player, Rega's kill all Apollo-R. Now that you've got the tiny but mighty David, how do you go top it?

The Rega DAC is the off the shelf answer. Coming from the same shoe box design concept as the Apollo-R, The Rega DAC visually matches and if put along side, by side forms a full size equipment physically. Like the matching Apollo-R, the front face plate is very simply laid out with three buttons, a power ON/OFF switch on the left, a filter slope selector switch, and lastly an input selector switch. As usual the REGA logo glows amber when power is switched ON. There's 2 Toslink input and 2 co-ax input plus a USB input, and one output each. An un-common club shaped power input receptacle is provided so no after market power cord tweaks allowed here! Thank fully, the power cord supplied by Rega is of high enough quality.

I connected the Apollo-R CD player to the DAC via 1 meter of industrial standard Belden co-axial cable, and it's analog out put to my pre-amp via a pair of The Chord Company Crimson Plus RCA interconnect for consistency sake, as a follow-up to the CD player review.

I plug in the power cord, turn power ON and and started spinning a CD on the Apollo-R as a CD transport, then select input till the LOCK indicator lights up on the DAC. The DAC also automatically senses the in-coming signal sampling rate and lights up the respective indicator. I turn up the music volume and music sweet, music flow in to my room. I then proceeded to play around with the filter mode settings and the default filter 1 setting sounded just fine. I found filter 2 rolled off the high highs just a bit more, followed by filter 3, which does the same but more aggressively and filter 4 bordering on too laid back a tonal presentation. I settled on filter 1 setting, which I felt gave the most even handed tonal pallete. The sound description of this review is based entirely on filter 1 setting.
I've always loved Kenny G, for all the brick bats hurled at him, he had brought me in to Jazz as a musical genre.

I started my listening session again with Phil Collins Hits! CD. Easy Lover is easily the hardest rocking track on the CD which is a duet with Philip Bailey, and where with the Apollo-R as a stand alone player started to lose it's composure even if just ever so slightly, the out put via the DAC seemed rock solid, and could carry the tune with continued confidence. Yes, that's the word, confidence! With confidence the high hats and crash cymbals on the track seems more tidy and self assured, and less all over the place. There's also thin layer of ozone, notice able around each instrument too. Phil's voice is less shouty, and lyrics sounded just that bit more tangible. The whole track is somewhat less jarring. Bass is no less punchy but only slightly more articulate in the note to note transfer.

Playing The Essential Kenny G, yes I am a fan of the man who made elevator music pay big time! Some of the tracks on this double CD compilation can sound rather harsh, due to recording or mastering techniques deployed, but thank fully, none of that bothered me too much, thanks to the smoothness and refinement in presentation of the Rega DAC. In fact playing this Kenny G CD on this Rega combo was rather enjoyable, as I repeated my favorite tracks over and over again, including that duet with Hong Kong superstar, Andy Lau!

I would've liked to try linking up my Bryston BDP-1 digital media player to the Rega DAC to test the unit with hi-res music files, but that was not to be, due to the broken co-axial connector on my BDP-1 unit. It was still waiting for spares as this review came and went by. Too bad then, I can only evaluate with what I have in hand, but that I believe, has already showed me what the DAC is capable of.
The back panel input/output connections of the Rega DAC, note the club shaped power cord receptacle.

The sonic merits of adding The Rega DAC to the Apollo-R is not considered much, but for those with more matured, confident and refined preference for audio performance, it can be very tangible and persuasive, due to it's not inconsiderately low retail price of RM$2,621.00/unit.

For those who are happy with the giant slaying Apollo-R as a stand alone CD player, the DAC can offer a step up in audio performance without breaking the bank.

Rega is sold by Asia Sound Equipment, contact Eddie Tan at 03-79552091.

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