My Video Review:
Browsing through my childhood memories, I remember recording tunes from local radio stations, I’ve learned about reliable and good sounding cassette brands. Soon after, I was exchanging records with my close friends. Then I went to high-school in a foreign country and suddenly, I understood that I can’t carry my entire music collection with me and this is where my first Walkman came to the rescue. A few years passed and I swapped my Walkman with a Sony Discman D-250 (that I still own and use time and time again), realizing that it sounds way better (Burr-Brown DAC chip) to no-name units that I had before. I was and still am a music lover at heart, but slowly I realized the importance of higher-grade electronics. In student years I’ve assembled my first DAC, I started experimenting with music playback on my PC. Exact Audio Copy (EAC) was already a thing and I started ditching mp3 files in favor of lossless ones stored on my PC (mostly WAV and FLAC files). At that time, audio playback via external USB DACs on Windows machines was at its infancy. My first DACs were limited to 16-bit 44 kHz files and I couldn’t bypass the Windows mixer that was heavily interfering. Asynchronous DACs weren’t invented yet, neither USB 2.0 protocol and it was quite a challenge putting everything together, without getting hiccups, random noises, BSODs and other surprises. Around ~2010, I was already checking out a bunch of R-2R and chip-based converters, stopping at quite a special sounding converter for the time. It was the MHDT Havana that used two Burr-Brown PCM56P mono chips, teamed up with a single GE5670 double-triode for a silky-smooth and overly saturated sound. Havana was (again) limited on its USB input, it didn’t have fancy digital boards, nor precise crystal clocks and this is where the first generation M2Tech HiFace Digital-to-Digital Converter (DDC for short) came to the rescue. Although it looked like an oversized USB flash drive with an USB Type-A port on one end and with an RCA jack on the other end, that little thing revolutionized everything I knew about USB DACs. Its main job wasn’t converting the USB signal into a Coaxial one, more importantly it was re-clocking the incoming signal, removing traces of noise, jitter and timing errors, with the help of its internal, higher quality clocks that were making a better handshake with the clocks inside my DAC.
M2Tech HiFace performed above my expectations. It felt like upgrading to a higher tiered DAC for just a fraction of the cost. The speed of sound improved to unrecognizable, transients weren’t only faster, but also more impactful sounding than ever before. Resolution went up for a few notches, transparency plunged higher and finally, there was a higher dynamic range in my tracks. As space and time were slowly expanding, so was my knowledge, as HiFace started a new chapter in my audiophile life. A year later, I was rocking an AD-Labs Mars and a higher-end Audiobyte Hydra X DDC. A few more years and I moved to a Hydra X+, then to a Hydra Z + ZPM linear and regulated power supply, then I tried a Matrix X-SPDIF, an X-SPDIF2 and around five more units passed through my hands.
Obviously, newly released DACs aren’t as limited as they were 15 years ago, they can finally bypass the sample rate converters of our computers, they can natively decode Hi-Res PCM and DSD files via USB, they are blessed with higher precision crystal clocks, with better digital receivers, making my old DDC converters less important. With all that said, if squeezing the last drop of performance from your beloved DAC and the last bit of information from your music are still important to you, then I believe top-grade wireless streamers or top-class DDCs will deliver you exactly that. Today I’m not going to review another DDC converter that may or may not improve your digital front end. Today I’m going to review one of the coolest DDCs that I’ve tried up to this point. I’m talking about galvanically isolated digital inputs with the help of high-speed silicon-dioxide isolators, about AC filters and protection circuits, about an oversized linear O-Core transformer, great filtering and voltage-regulation stages, oven controlled OCXO oscillators and about a thick aluminum case that should repel all wireless interference for good. Its name is Musician Phoenix and since it’s a proper DDC, it will cost you a whopping $1699. In the latest chapter of this review, I’ll be comparing it with a highly-regarded Singxer SU-6 DDC, but until that happens, let’s check what can be found in its package.
As all Musician units that came before it, Phoenix came double boxed and well protected from the outside world. Its packaging was filled to excess with soft foam, wrapping the unit like a cocoon and that’s a usual sight with high-end electronics. At first, it seemed that Musician sent their Aquarius DAC by mistake, but no, this was definitely their Phoenix DDC that has a very similar face plate and case dimensions. Its case isn’t as deep as that of the Aquarius, but it is definitely as weighty and impressive looking. Since I’m testing the world’s first unit, the user manual wasn’t ready yet and I didn’t receive it. However, you can download it from their website, including the latest USB drivers if you’ll be using it with a Windows machine. Musician Phoenix is a set and forget type of unit, just select a digital input, a digital output or a selection of digital outputs, as all outputs are working simultaneously. It isn’t coming with a remote control, but it doesn’t need to.
Design and Build Quality
Since we’re talking about a Musican Audio unit, it borrows form factor & design cues with the rest of its family. There’s a strong resemblance with their Pegasus and Aquarius DAC, both of which will be tested with the Phoenix. To my surprise, it’s a little taller and wider compared to Aquarius – which was already a massive unit on its own. As all their devices, Phoenix uses a similar CNC machined case, with thick aluminum plates on all sides that should stop all EMI and RFI wireless interference.
Musician equipped it with some of the best metal feet, padded with a layer of silicon absorption pads that should effectively absorb micro-vibrations. The front plate has a thickness of 1.5 cm and its overall structure feels solid and well put together. Half of my music listening is happening in my office via a TOTL headphone setup, where a powerful 8-antenna wireless router is located. Luckily, Phoenix didn’t pick any of that nasty wireless interference thanks to its impenetrable aluminum case.
All the screws were moved on its back for a cleaner and elegant look and the laser engraving seems precise and easy to read. On its front plate I’m spotting several low intensity LEDs that didn’t bother me in a dark environment. I’ve got the matte-black anodized version; but they’re also offering it in anodized silver if you please. They went with rounded edges, so maneuvering expensive audio equipment wouldn’t trigger my OCD. It uses flushed buttons, they have a decent amount of travel, without wobbling in their sockets.
Phoenix consumes around 20 Watts, meaning that heat dissipation wouldn’t be a concern long term, it got barely warm after a week of non-stop burn-in. You can put anything on top, even burning hot DACs, integrated or headphone amplifiers if you will.
Controls & Connectivity
First and foremost, Phoenix won’t tire you down with a complicated setup. After attaching a power cord, it will slowly power on and start cooking internal crystal clocks. There isn’t an On/Off button and for the best results, it’s recommended leaving it powered at all times. On its front plate you can spot six buttons, four will select your desired digital input and the other two should be used only if you have an I2S capable DAC. Considering that I2S wasn’t standardized yet and everybody does I2S slightly differently, Musician team added eight I2S presets that should work well with most of your DACs, regardless of the brand or working mode. After pressing setup, press the coax button and you can choose between eight presets by pressing the Ok button. Pick the right I2S configuration, press setup again and that’s pretty much it. If you won’t be using an I2S connection, you don’t need to follow these steps.
As for I/O, it can accept USB, AES, Optical, Coaxial and 49.152 MHz and 45.158 MHz Clock inputs. Musician still doesn’t have a DAC that can offer clock inputs…but I guess Phoenix is already teasing a higher-end DAC in the making. As for outputs, you have your Coaxial, Optical, I2S-C (via RJ45), I2S-A (via HDMI) and two AES digital outputs. The only output that is missing is BNC, but you can get a cheap RCA to BNC adapter if you intend on using it with Chord Electronics DACs.
Under the Hood of Musician Phoenix
I have no idea who runs their marketing department, but clearly, they need a helping hand. Its dedicated web-page tells little about its internal components and about everything that makes it so interesting. In no time an iFixit toolkit jumped onto my hands and I started disassembling the unit.
Let’s start with the IEC inlet and move slowly towards the signal path. For starters, there’s an audio-grade Furutech FI-06 Pure Copper IEC inlet, gold plated for a better contact and service life. An AC filter follows that includes several protection systems as overcurrent and overvoltage. A switching mode power supply from Meanwell will clean up the mess and send everything to an oversized O-Core linear transformer and I’m already getting excited. On the right side there’s a massive filtering stage consisting of tens of voltage regulators and Musician branded electrolytic capacitors. More than a half of its PCB is occupied by a massive power supply and filtering stage and that thought already makes me excited, as we already know how important a great power supply implementation really is, especially in the digital domain. All in all, we are dealing with a hybrid power supply (switching + linear transformers), exactly as Ferrum guys crafted their Hypsos PS and many other brands followed the same course of action.
Just above the Meanwell transformer, you can see a proprietary STM32F446 USB interface that supports the highest PCM sample rates natively, including DSD512 files. Exactly in the middle of the board or just below the BNC inputs, you can spot several high-speed isolators that are galvanically isolating the board. These isolators will block remaining noise from one part of board to the other and it doesn’t matter if you’ll be using expensive power cables or not, as Phoenix will perform equally impressive. An Altera chip follows that works as an FPGA (field-programmable-gate-array) providing a FIFO Buffer, monitoring the performance of the clocks, re-clocking the signal and lowering the incoming jitter as much as possible.
Lastly, you can see a Musician branded shiny metal box that houses two oven-controlled femto-second OCXO crystal oscillators. The metal housing works as a shield against remaining wireless interference, but also as a thermostat, controlling the temperature of the quartz crystals, for an optimum performance at all times.
Musician Phoenix weights more than the biggest majority of DACs that are passing through my hands. At 5.5 kilos or a little over 12 pounds, it will immediately impress with its sheer size, weight and massive footprint. It consumes less than 20 Watts and for a better performance in the long run, it’s recommended leaving it powered at all times. You can turn it off, but on the next day you’ll observe a noticeable improvement after about ~2-3 hours of use.
I. What is a DDC and do you really need one?
A Digital-To-Digital Converter will convert a digital signal into a different one. Smaller DDCs will offer a single digital input like USB for example and bigger ones will offer multiple digital inputs and outputs. Phoenix is equipped with every digital input you can think of, you can hook it up to almost any digital transport. You can put it in between your wireless streamer and DAC (best-case scenario), in between your PC and DAC (that’s my case), in between your CD transport / network player / media player and your DAC and there are many other uses.
However, the biggest reason you might invest in such a unit, is for a better listening experience, by unlocking the maximum potential of your DAC. When the USB standard was introduced in 1996, its main purpose was connecting peripheral devices to your computer as mice, keyboards and printers, never as a real-time data transfer without losing bits of information. In time, USB DACs became smarter, their designers started adding hardware buffers counterbalancing the issues of the USB data transmission. Nowadays even software players are solving that issue by using a portion of your RAM memory, loading the file into the memory, before sending it to your DAC. The USB ports are powered by a switching mode power supply inside your PC or laptop, meaning that electric & electromagnetic noise including current & voltage spikes could flow through USB ports, downgrading the performance of your D/A converter. Several high-performance DACs are almost immune to these issues, but never problem free. Another issue of USB data transmission is that the internal clock of your PC/Laptop will do a handshake with the clock located in your DAC, both sides can directly impact the timing of the music and ultimately the dynamic range. Sender’s clocks are less important to the ones inside your DAC, but those are still crucial, as they need to be at least as precise as the ones sitting inside your DAC.
With a DDC converter at your side, you are bypassing all the issues I just mentioned and a few more, depending on the quality of the DDC. With Phoenix, Musician crafted a statement DDC, putting the highest precision clocks they had on their hands, a fully isolated digital input board is also in place, a 2-in-1 FIFO buffer and re-clocker and a hybrid power supply that will remove traces of noise withing its circuit or from external sources. From tens of DACs that I’ve tried around here, I believe only two units were trying to impress me with their digital boards, by adding hardware buffers, higher precision clocks and fully isolated digital boards and those were the Gustard X26 PRO and Singxer SDA-6 PRO. If you’re using an R-2R ladder DAC, then the quality of the digital board is even more important. Resistor ladders by nature are making small timing errors and that’s why modern R-2R ladder DACs are equipped with powerful FPGAs that will solve said errors. If you take a look at the latest Musician and Rockna DACs, you can spot such FPGAs that will be helping them tremendously in reconstructing the timing of the DAC. In spite of that, these digital creatures (R-2R ladder DACs) are more sensitive to noise and timing errors coming from the digital transport. Feed them a clearer signal and they will sound way clearer and transparent, compared to chip-based converters that won’t benefit as much.
S/PDIF connections (Coaxial/BNC, Optical, AES) are limited by design, they can’t send or receive sample rates higher than 24-bit 192 kHz and they can’t do natively DSD. On top of that, a dedicated digital receiver chip needs to be placed inside your DAC in order to receive such data. In the case of an I2S connection, you are no longer limited to 24-bit 192 kHz files and your DAC no longer needs a digital receiver chip, as an I2S signal goes directly to the DAC chip, shortening the signal path, bypassing an additional conversion stage, while delivering a purer signal. This is precisely why, the absolute best wireless streamers and DDCs will be offering a single or multiple I2S outputs.
After playing around with Optical, Coaxial, AES and I2S, I definitely prefer the sound of the I2S connection and let’s check how Musician Phoenix performed with their best DAC yet.
II. Musician Phoenix + Musician Aquarius via I2S
For starters, I’m reminding you that Phoenix uses top-grade oven-controlled OXCO femto-second crystal oscillators. These are becoming (true) femto-second clocks only after leaving them warm up for a few hours. Phoenix doesn’t consume a lot of power (around 15-20W) and for the best results, it is recommended leaving it on at all times. If you’ll be turning it on and off multiple times a day, at least two hours are needed until the oven reaches a stable temperature.
I went to bed with Aquarius and Phoenix powered on and in the morning, I’ve connected some of the cleanest headphone amplifiers I know and some of the highest resolution headphones, since I wanted to bypass room acoustics of my stereo and Hifiman Susvara ($6000) is still, a little clearer sounding to my KEF Reference 3 ($15.000) loudspeakers. Switching between the USB and I2S input of the Aquarius was seamless, my beloved helped me with that and I started a blind listening session.
The audible difference wasn’t only immediate and apparent as it was with a Singxer SU-6, the difference was actually bigger to my expectancy levels. On its own, Aquarius is a mighty fine sounding DAC, certainly up there with some of the nicest R-2R DACs I’ve tried to this point, but when locking the signal via I2S from the Phoenix, there was a serious jump in resolution and ultimately, dynamic range. I would never call the Aquarius as muddy, grainy or soft sounding via USB, but it felt that way when I started my comparisons. When Mule by Kenny Burell (Qobuz / Tidal) started playing, I was surprised by how clearer the cymbals appeared to me and finally, I could trace their slow shimmer and decay, especially in the latest seconds of the song. With Hifiman Susvara, I always knew where sound inception points are located around my head, but after adding the Phoenix into the chain, the sounds started coming from a higher altitude, like my head was put in a bigger bubble filled with sounds. Resolution plunged higher and while I’ve heard a similar soundstage size, a better timing of the Aquarius, made me focus easier on low-level information and on decay of the notes.
With Phoenix, I could follow a single note easier from inception to decay, even if additional notes were playing louder on the foreground. Aquarius became tighter and more focused and even if it wasn’t faster sounding by any stretch of my imagination, it felt quicker when shifting its pace.
When I moved to Vivaldi Storm by 2Cellos (Qobuz / Tidal) the vibration of the strings felt right from the get go. Something changed the timing that made the whole experience so real and natural and an invisible smoothness and liquidity covered the song, that wasn’t present before. I always knew Aquarius could be a hard puncher with the right selection of music and components and with the Phoenix in place, it started throwing punches left and right, delivering higher dynamic swings in the process. It wasn’t going faster per say, but it felt nimbler when shifting gears and dynamics from low to high. In the current setup, crescendo moments would reach their peaks in a nano-seconds, something that wasn’t happening via USB input.
Aquarius is a noiseless sounding unit on its own, regardless of the digital input and I’ve already covered plenty of that in its dedicated review, but with Phoenix in place, there were bigger void spaces in between passages. If there was silence via USB, there was a haunting silence via I2S, as if the unit wasn’t powered on. The distance from the lowest intensity notes to the highest intensity ones felt higher with the Phoenix in place. You’ll definitely hear more sub-bass definition, a longer natural decay of the cello and heavier piano notes with every key stroke. The top-end felt more impressive and I’m not only about sharper contour of the notes, but mostly about the right pitch, vibration and natural decay.
Getting cymbals right is a complicated task, but with the Phoenix in place I’ve heard one of the most believable cymbals on an R-2R converter. Detail retrieval and treble information went up for several notches, that I couldn’t recognize the Aquarius anymore. From this point onward, I didn’t see the point in continuing my blind tests, as the differences were too obvious to be ignored.
III. Musician Phoenix + Musician Pegasus via I2S
Everything I’ve mentioned about the Aquarius moved over to the Pegasus, but its usual smooth and relaxing character became a lot more muscular and bolder sounding. After adding a Trafomatic Primavera, I’ve felt that Susvara replaced my eardrums with punching bags. Everything felt snappier, nimbler and more visceral sounding than ever before. Hard as a Rock by AC/DC (Qobuz / Tidal) felt so raw and impactful, that unwillingly I started tapping my feet. Pegasus felt so energized and refined at the same time. Via the Singxer SU-6 DDC I was getting a highly technical version of the Pegasus, but this time around I’ve heard a dopamine inducing Pegasus, as it became refined and engaging sounding. I felt my whole body bombarded with hundreds of sounds, even if headphones were still attached to my head. A longer vibration and decay, somehow made the whole experience heavier and fuller bodied than before.
It’s quite incredible how everything improved versus a common USB connection. Modern tunes felt rejuvenated with a better kick down low and with a better control of the drivers. Pegasus was already impressive sounding in the bass, but at this point it felt bottomless and highly energetic.
Sympathique 20th Anniversary Edition by Pink Martini (Qobuz / Tidal) felt well spread around my ears, so airy, full-bodied and natural sounding. Even if piano and guitar players were placed behind a mesmerizing voice of China Forbes, I was still zooming on their performance with a nonchalant ease, as if I could see them performing before my eyes. Hey Eugene! (Qobuz / Tidal) sounded richer and more impactful, yet smoother, slowly pouring music inside my ears. China’s voice felt sweet, warm and inviting and the rest of the sounds were gently tickling my ears, putting me into a relaxed state of mind. Guitars and violins masterfully reached their mark and I had additional words to describe the final outcome.
Besides transforming the Pegasus into an uber version of itself, improving cleanness, noise suppression and detail retrieval at both ends of the spectrum, Pegasus slowly became livelier and more natural sounding, all thanks to a better timing. While the top octave felt energized and sparklier sounding than ever before, it was also brightness free, never straining my ears in long listening sessions. It felt as ditching PCM recordings, in favor of DSD recordings that are binging the notes with thicker silk threads.
IV. Musician Phoenix + Chord Electronics Dave (via Coaxial/BNC)
I’m a little sad that Audiobyte’s HydraVox didn’t work with the Phoenix via I2S, as I was curios the most about this particular combo and that’s why I’ve moved to a slightly better FPGA DAC. Chord Dave is obviously a world-class unit in all regards, but lacking an I2S input makes it less appealing to me. Dave is a mighty impressive unit and you probably won’t find a clearer and a more impactful sounding DAC at the same price point. The only thing I would improve on the Dave is liquidity and flow. By default, Dave sounds overly-excited, dynamics are jumping at you and it always puts goose bumps all over your body with that kind of presentation, especially with modern tunes. However, when putting it on half-century old recordings, Dave loses its mojo as it cannot slow down, add smoothness and relaxation into the mix. Weirdly enough, Phoenix added exactly what was missing on this highly regarded DAC. With Singxer SU-6, Dave sounded only clearer and sharper, without altering its character, where Phoenix felt exactly as clean, but considerably smoother and refined with the right selection of music. Dave sounded as if I added a Chord MScaller into the chain that usually adds a considerable amount of liquidity. Phoenix borrows a few skills from a much pricier MScaller, delivering the most natural presentation I’ve heard from the Dave. Besides binding musical notes with invisible silk threads, there were (again) bigger spaces in between the notes and I could easier follow a note from inception to decay. At times, it felt like somebody swapped my stereo with binaural recordings, as everything went circling around my head, having just the right amount of texture, leading edge and weight.
Since Dave is already a world-class DAC, the improvements weren’t as massive and drastic as it was the case with the Aquarius and Pegasus. It seems that a slightly better USB implementation of the Dave didn’t plunge its performance sky high as it was the case with above mentioned units. Dave improved by around 10 and 15% - which seemed decent enough for me.
V. A Comparison
Musician Phoenix ($1699) VS Singxer SU-6 ($750)
For this test, I went back to the Aquarius, since it will show the biggest performance gains. I’ve used the same USB and HDMI cables and the rest of the chain remained unchanged.
When it comes to looks and build quality, Phoenix stood out with thicker aluminum plates all around, having a bolder stance altogether. When I’m grabbing them, I could see where the money went with the Phoenix, as it’s built like a tank, it uses higher-quality connectors and AC inlet and it just smells Hi-Fi from a mile away. SU-6 on the other hand is smaller (could be a big plus for some), it has sharper edges, making it look raw and unpolished.
When it comes to features, SU-6 has just a single digital input and that is USB. Phoenix adds AES/EBU, Optical, Coaxial and two Clock inputs, increasing its usability & compatibility with digital transports of all sorts. Although SU-6 uses a galvanically isolated USB input as Phoenix does, it uses a less impressive switching mode power supply and filtering stage. A super capacitor follows that provides clean power to the rest of the circuitry and in theory it should perform equally impressive to a linear and regulated power supply. Musician team went with a state-of-the-art hybrid power supply implementation and there’s an impressive filtering stage that isn’t present on the SU-6. Singxer added a metal cage around its Crystek clocks, that will shield them from electronic and electromagnetic interference, something that can be spotted on the Phoenix as well. The later uses higher precision OXCO clocks, that in the right conditions (stable temperature) will outperform any Crystek clocks ever made. Singxer’s SU-6 is a mighty impressive DDC below the $1K mark, I’m using one for quite some time and I can’t recommend it enough. However, Musician’s Phoenix offers more features, a wider selection of inputs and outputs and better components all around.
After warming them up for an entire day and after a cold coffee in the morning, I started comparing them with my eyes closed shut. Singxer’s SU-6 made the background blacker and smaller details started popping everywhere in my tunes and if your sole purpose is improving detail retrieval without messing with your DAC’s tonality, then SU-6 seems like your best option right now. Aquarius picked up a few notes that were previously muted on the USB input, dynamic range went higher by a notch and there’s finally more low-level information traveling around my tunes. Aquarius didn’t change its hide, as the rest of the technicalities remained unchanged, including its pace, rhythm and timing.
When Phoenix replaced it, I have felt a massive intake of fresh air, like I opened windows towards my music. Micro-details hopped on board and I could better see the contour of the notes compared to the SU-6. Leading edges appeared by a tiny bit sharper and I could easier follow their trail from inception to decay. With Phoenix, the key word was focus, as it was moving the spotlights towards the smallest nuances and what was already impressive on SU-6, felt by a hair clearer on the Phoenix.
The second thought that hit me was timing. If you ever tried a high refresh rate monitor (120 Hz and up), then it was like looking at my music through such a display. My electronica collection became tighter sounding, improving bass quality to a certain degree. I’ve got less rumble, but a tighter overall performance, trading a small portion of it in favor of a higher quality bass. With relaxing and smooth sounding tracks, I’ve got a different picture, as Phoenix started gelling together the sounds, adding some liquidity compared to the SU-6. Older albums that were firstly recorded on tape or vinyl and then digitalized, felt easier going on the Phoenix, like I was listening to original master tapes. With SU-6, I knew that I was listening to a digital representation of my music and with Phoenix, it felt like going back in time, listening to cassettes and vinyl records once again. While SU-6 didn’t mess with DAC’s personality and frequency response, Phoenix did alter that formula a little bit, getting a fuller-bodied representation of my music. Phoenix was boosting the colors, it added more saturation, midrange presence and a higher quality bass. It was nicely binding musical on older tunes and it was snappier with newer ones, like it knew what I was going to play. Phoenix impressed a little more with its alter-ego, changing pace depending on the music, adding a bit of fun and engagement and elevating dynamics to a higher degree versus SU-6.
Overall, Phoenix didn’t destroy the SU-6, as I found them equally impressive, especially when improving the resolution of a DAC, while removing remaining traces of noise. Phoenix felt like a better goose bump generator, adding life and fun even in half-century old recordings. In my view, Phoenix outperformed the SU-6 on most aspects, except for I2S compatibility. Phoenix provides eight I2S presets that should cover most digital-to-analog converters, but not all of them. I couldn’t connect an Audiobyte HydraVox to it and a few more units could be added into that short list. On the other hand, SU-6 offers a bigger freedom with 10 pins that can have an On or Off position.
If you’re one of those folks who are still using a USB connection in between your PC and DAC, then a well-made DDC should solve most issues associated with a poor USB data transmission, ultimately improving your listening experience. If you’re rocking entry to mid-level DACs, then Singxer SU-6 looks like a better deal below one kilo buck. However, if you’re hunting for one of the best DDCs that wouldn’t compromise your DAC in any way, then Musician’s Phoenix will stop your adventures for good. Phoenix isn’t limited to an USB input as SU-6 does and thanks to all possible digital inputs and outputs, you can revitalize your old CD transports, plunge your network players and wireless streamers to new heights.
In my case, Phoenix changed the fate of three high-performance DACs, some were only marginally improved, while others felt like listening to higher tiered versions of themselves. Besides repelling all types of noise and improving the pace, rhythm and timing, Musician Pegasus became highly energetic, Chord Dave a lot smoother and relaxed than ever before and Aquarius a lot clearer and 3D sounding. I’m sure it will improve the sound of many other D/A converters that weren’t tested around here and if you really like the sound of your DAC, but still want a little bit more, then I don’t think you can go wrong with the Phoenix.
Musician Phoenix was kindly provided by their sole world-wide distributor Aoshida-Audio and you can get it from their web-store right here. If you get one, please come back and leave a comment below, I’m curious to know how it performs in your setup.
- A beautifully crafted unit, solid as a brick
- Rock-solid build quality
- Impressive part selection down to the smallest details
- Will remove traces of noise
- Will improve the timing of your DAC
- Will improve the dynamic range and resolution of your DAC
- Adds control and a higher focus where there is none
- Adds some smoothness and liquidity, completely removing brightness
- Improves the quality of the low-end
- Adds organic matter, will transform a linear sounding DAC into a fuller-bodied version of the same unit
- Highly engaging sounding
- Offers all possible digital inputs and outputs
- Highly versatile
- Unlocks the full potential of Musician R-2R ladder DACs
- Quite expensive
- I2S connection won’t work with all DACs (only 8 presets are present)
- DACs: Musician Aquarius, Musician Pegasus, Audiobyte HydraVox & HydraZap, Chord Electronics Dave, Gold Note DS-10 Plus & PSU-10 Evo, Topping DX7 PRO+
- DDCs: Musician Phoenix, Singxer SU-6
- DAPs: FiiO M17, M11 Plus ESS, Shanling M8, M7, Hiby RS6
- Headphone Amps: Trafomatic Primavera, Trafomatic Head 2, Enleum AMP-23R, Burson Soloist 3X GT, Ferrum OOR + Hypsos, Flux Lab Acoustics Volot
- Preamps: Musician Monoceros
- Power Amps: Benchmark AHB2 (x2), Burson Timekeeper 3i
- Loudspeakers: KEF Reference 3, Natural Sound NS-17, Sound of Eden Crescendo UNO
- IEMs: FiiO FH9, FA9, FH7, Meze Rai Penta, Rai Solo, LittleDot Cu KIS, Hiby Crystal 6, 7Hz Timeless, Kinera Skuld & others
- Full-sized headphones: Hifiman Susvara, Hifiman HE1000SE, Sennheiser HD800S, Audeze LCD-5, LCD-4, Erzetich Phobos V2021, Phobos V2018, Erzetich Mania, Kennerton Rognir, Vali, Apos Caspian, Sendy Peacock, Apollo & others
- Interconnects: QED Reference (x2), Topping TCX1 (x2)
- USB Cables: Supra USB Excalibur (x2), Chord C-USB, Matrix Hi-Fi USB
- HDMI Cables: Supra 8K HDMI 2.1 (x2)
- Speaker cables: Kimber PR8, Audioquest Type4
- Power Cables: Isotek EVO3 Premier (x3), iFi Audio SupaNova (x2)
- Balanced Isolation Power Conditioners: PLiXiR Elite BAC1500 (stereo setup), Elite BAC400 (headphone setup)