My Video Review:
Delta-Sigma pulse modulation DACs (D/S from now on) are approaching its peak right now, challenging the best audio analyzers on the planet and our hearing abilities. Multi-thousand dollars DACs of the past are outperformed nowadays by units that are costing less than $1K. You don’t need to be a famous audio engineer to design a good measuring D/S DAC as every single month a better measuring DAC would come out and outperform the 1-month old champion. There are a lot of D/S DACs on the market that look almost identical on the inside as often times they carry the same off-the-shelf components. They could have the same commercial DAC chips, the same USB boards, clocks, FPGA silicon, capacitors and often times the only difference would be the PCB layout and power filtering. I do slightly get bored because of that and would rather test something more complex, that is more interesting, much harder to understand, develop and tune for long periods of time.
R-2R Resistor ladder DACs (R2R from now on) are such devices. I’m always fascinated about them, because when I open their cases, a world of unknown will always appear in front of me. Every manufacturer will design its R2R ladder network completely differently as opposed to D/S DACs. When I’m looking at an R2R circuit board, I will start following the signal path and I would always find different ideas and some clever decisions to counterbalance its flaws. With R2R, I can see different thinking and feel some powerful design philosophies. Some manufacturers will over-populate that board with hundreds of electrolytic caps (Denafrips), others will put an insane amount of importance to the output stage and power filtering (Audio-GD), others might develop their own resistors and challenge the best ones on the planet (Rockna, MSB Technologies), there are some that are looking much better on the inside than on the outside (Holo Audio), there are some that don’t like new technologies and are living in the past (Mojo-Audio) and there are some that are having a bit of everything and are priced accordingly, Musician-Audio is that kind of brand that I will be writing about today.
Generally speaking, designing an R2R ladder network is by orders of magnitude more difficult to make and balance its flaws compared to a D/S design and that will be always reflected in the size, weight and price of those units. You will need to have some exemplary engineering skills to create and perfect your own R2R ladder network and some good programming skills too, since developing a flawless code inside a FPGA silicon could take years of polish until perfection happens.
Musician-Audio is a very new team that is committed to R2R design by having a lot more freedom in designing their own sound signature without the boundaries put in place by off-the-shelf components. Musician-Audio is at its infancy, as the company was formed literally months ago in 2020. Their first product is the winged Pegasus DAC that I am honored to do a world first review.
Do note that a young team doesn’t mean they don’t have the knowledge or the experience in working and developing such devices as clearly, they do! With more than 20 years of research and development under their belts, they know how to create and design and after closely inspecting their first product, I felt that for myself. Did they develop some of the famous R2R DACs of the past? Most probably they did, but I will leave that mystery unsolved as Musician-Audio team wants to be known for their newest creations and not for their old bastard children.
Unboxing & Package Contents
Pegasus came in a fairly big box; I was already expecting a heavier unit and I personally don’t know any R2R ladder DAC that could be considered small and lightweight. Pegasus DAC is surrounded by an absurd amount of foam for extra protection, there are also 8 plastic pieces that are keeping the foam together like a sandwich. I am pretty sure Pegasus DAC can’t be damaged during shipping with such care put into its safety. Inside the box you will also find a power cable, a warranty card and a user manual. Since I’m probably testing the world’s first unit out of their newest factory, the user manual wasn’t ready at that time, but it can be easily downloaded from their website, together with the USB drivers if you need them. You should know that Pegasus is a pure DAC at heart and as such, it doesn’t come with a remote control and the unit doesn’t offer any preamp functionalities. I’m yet to test an R2R DAC with volume control; even that monstrous 15-kilo Audio-GD R7 didn’t have that.
Design and Build Quality
There are several things that I quite like about the Pegasus. Firstly, it uses thick metal plates on all sides, so it should protect the unit from all EMI or RFI interferences. Secondly, I appreciate putting high quality metal feet with silicon pads under them to absorb vibrations more effectively. The front plate has a thickness of about 1.5 cm and the overall structure feels solid and very well put together. My desktop headphone setup (where half of the music listening is happening) is staying near a powerful Wi-Fi router and I’m glad to report that Pegasus is not picking any wireless interference with its thick Faraday cage-like case.
As with most modern DACs, all the screws were moved on its backplate for a much cleaner and elegant look. On the front panel I am spotting low intensity LEDs that will not bother at all in a dark environment. I’ve got the silver anodized version; Musician team is also offering it in anodized black if you please. The laser engraving on the front and back panel is very precise and it is very easy to read.
I quite like that Musician Audio team went with rounded edges so maneuvering it around expensive audio equipment will not trigger my OCD. It uses flushed buttons on the front so you will not accidentally press them, they have a decent amount of travel and are not wobbling at all in their sockets
Pegasus uses a single shielded toroidal transformer so the heat dissipation is not that big, it gets barely warm even after 24 hours of non-stop music playback so you could put anything above it, even hot integrated amplifiers if you will.
Pegasus is quite big but not uncomfortable large and heavy as it was the case of Audio-GD R7 or Denafrips Venus. At about 4 kg or 8.8 lbs and at 280 x 250 x 50 mm, it has the right size for an elegant headphone setup and a minimalist look in the living room, working as the front end for your speaker setup. All in all, it feels like a sturdy and well-build device that should withstand the test of time.
Controls & Connectivity
Musician Pegasus is really simple and straightforward when it comes to controls. On the front panel you can spot only three buttons, in the middle you have the On/Off button, on the left is the digital input selector, you can choose from: Coaxial, Optical, AES, USB and I2S. On the right you can spot the NOS button that has two positions: LED On means NOS (Non-oversampling) mode is engaged and LED Off mean OS (oversampling) mode is engaged. I will test both positions and will report my findings.
On the back you can spot all those digital inputs I mentioned before and also two analog outputs as RCA and XLR. I’m told Pegasus uses stereo R2R modules, so the XLR output is a fully balanced one, some very good (sound)news indeed!
Under the hood of Pegasus
As I’ve mentioned in the prologue, you can hardly find two R2R DACs that are looking the same on the inside. Musician-Audio were inspired a bit by the looks of an R2R DAC, but taking a glance on its PCB layout and part selection, it is clear that this is where they unleashed their imagination at their fullest, having an unique layout and part selection compared to rest of the R2R brands that I tested around here.
First of all, I don’t know any R2R DAC manufacturer that made its own USB interface, usually it is a board from a third party like Amanero Technologies, M2Tech, but most of them are using an XMOS interface, from which XU-208 is the most popular and their newest XU-216 can be found in newer devices like Topping D90 MQA or in the Matrix Element X.
This is a first seeing a custom-made USB interface that uses all the bandwidth of the USB2.0 standard. Musician team wanted to make it as reliable and future-proof as possible so they developed a module that supports the highest possible sample rates as PCM 32-bit 1536 kHz and DSD1024! For a first attempt, this is quite impressive.
Since in an R2R DAC, the signal is being processed by the resistor ladder, it is very important to have the highest precision ones installed that will do all the hard work. This is exactly where Musician didn’t spare a dime and put the highest grade 0.005% precision resistors, the same ones you will find in the flagship Denafrips Terminator (~$4500) and Venus DACs (~$3000) and also in the uber-high-end Rockna Wavedream ($6600). Musician went with a slightly different approach and designed stereo modules instead of mono ones and having two of them inside, means that Pegasus is a fully balanced design input to output and that is really nice to have, especially at a price point of just $1100.
The R2R ladder network is being controlled by an ARM CPU and by an Altera Cyclone IV FPGA infused with their own custom code that was perfected for more than a year.
On the analog side, Pegasus is using some of the best low-loss tantalum capacitors (the orange ones) that are typically in found in very expensive designs. For example, Rockna Audio put them in their Wavedream ($6600) and Wavedream Signature ($16.000) DACs, so that is already telling me a (good) story. I’m also spotting quite a lot of audio-grade capacitors, accompanied by some Wima reds which are also adding a high-end flare to this unit.
Pegasus is using a single shielded toroidal transformer and multiple encapsulated voltage regulators (those are the best) to lower the AC to DC fluctuations as much as possible. They used a smaller quantity of electrolytic capacitors compared to other brands, meaning the transient response should be unaffected compared to say Denafrips offerings which are using hundreds of caps that are slowing down the signal path, hence the smoother and slower transient response of those units.
The output stage is a very strong one, it is a bit unusual seeing such a high number of 8 output transistors, but that is a must if you are into fast energetic music.
Even at this point, without listening to a single track, I have already a very clear picture how it should sound and perform in a high-quality setup.
There are some technical qualities that are much easier to spot with top-of-the-line headphones, like detail, transparency, frequency response and slam and there are other qualities that are easier to identify in a speaker-based setup as soundstage size, depth and pin-location (imaging) and that is exactly why Pegasus DAC was used in two very distinct setups.
- In the desktop setup, Pegasus was connected to the Bechmark HPA4 and to the Flux Lab Acoustics FCN-10 and then to some Audeze LCD-4, Hifiman Arya and Erzetich Phobos, first ones for the sublime sub-bass performances and midrange presence and later ones for great detail-retrieval and treble extension. FCN-10 was used only in headphone amp mode mostly to check if the transient response and slam were unaffected by a source of this caliber.
- In the speaker setup, Pegasus was connected to the Benchmark HPA4 working as a preamp, followed by a KECES S125 power amp, driving a pair on Buchardt S400 loudspeakers. Everything worked in balanced mode only, as I like the lower cross-talk of all these devices that can be achieved only via XLR connection.
OK everybody, my ears are begging for some music, so let’s hit some ear-drums!
I. Preliminary Impressions & Tonality
Musician-Audio team already left clear signs and foot-prints which I followed with curiosity, I knew they were on the right path by choosing the best low-loss tantalum capacitors, I knew it was a great idea utilizing a bigger amount of output transistors and encapsulated voltage regulators, as usually you can spot all of this in multi-thousand converters that are unreachable to most of us.
I started my listening session in full-force putting some energetic and hard-hitting music. When you test the limits of a new car, you start with acceleration and speed and this is exactly what I did with Pegasus. All cars can go slow, but not all of them can go really fast, this analogy can also be applied in the realm of digital to analog converters.
After listening to some energetic music that is full of wild dynamic swings, I felt a serious thump in the chest, a larger than usual soundscape, a great detail retrieval that even great measuring D/S DACs would envy and an amazing diaphragm control for the S400 loudspeakers. After experiencing all that, I knew I am onto something special.
While listening to the winged Pegasus, it left an impression of an effortless presentation, of a sound that has no boundaries and no borders, that flies in all directions, that fills the room to its maximum capacity, that increases the mood level of the listener and that caters not only to acoustic music as it usually happens with R2R DACs, but to modern music as well, thanks to that impressive kick into the chest with speakers and to that amazing slam into eardrums with headphones.
I raised an eyebrow; I poured a glass of red wine and added a lot more music to the playlist knowing that it will be a longer night than usual. From classical to electronic and metal, everything with be tested and re-tested with this one. Could it be possible, that an R2R design could deliver subtleties on the micro-scale, some goose-bump inducing dynamics on a macro scale with some naturalness put here and there into the mix? Let’s find out.
II. Background Noise
When it comes to background noise, I will always move my listening spot to the desktop setup, I would engage that Benchmark HPA4 that works as a magnifying glass for any digital source. To this day, it wasn’t outperformed by any DAC in terms of Signal-To-Noise ratio as it usually happens with analog amplifiers. With HPA4, I am confident that I am listening to the best that source could possibly offer.
During my time with entry level R2R designs, I’ve experienced grey background that was adding a thin veil over my music, blurring the overall picture and sharpness, luckily that is not happening at all with the Pegasus. Those encapsulated voltage regulators are surely adding a bit of magic in here. I’ve attached the most sensitive IEMs to HPA4 and I wasn’t surprised to hear a breathing type of sound that is transparent to its core and free of any grain or noise whatsoever. Even listening to very low intensity passages on Pink Martini and Leonard Cohen, I felt their voices very clear surrounded by a black void of nothingness.
If there would be any audible noise, HPA4 would amplify that and show it in the most honest and brutal way, even past my comfortable listening volume of 90 dB, I am not spotting any hissing, humming or any disturbing noises and when it comes to super sensitive stuff as In-Ear-Monitors, Pegasus performed admirable even with such high-sensitivity loads. To achieve a noiseless background, you don’t really need multiple toroidal transformers, but some clever tinkering after them and this is exactly what Musician audio did on this unit.
III. Transient Response
Transient response is one of the most important qualities I’m a seeking in a source, be it digital or analog. All digital sources can sound slow, mellow and relaxing but not all of them know how to land a perfect punch and move the biggest amounts of air in an instant. This is exactly where the output stage is showing off all its power and dexterity.
From all my past experiences with R2R ladder DACs, only a single unit was capable of delivering the highest amount of SPL and the best dynamics, pace, rhythm and timing. After carefully researching why that happened, I came to the conclusion that a powerful output stage driven by multiple output transistors will always outperform a weaker one, especially when it comes to fast executed notes.
In simpler words, Pegasus DAC knows how to impress a transient addict like myself. Besides groovy jazz and smooth classical pieces, I’m also into underground psy-trance, progressive, industrial and almost all type of electronic, rock and metal music and for that an immaculate pace, rhythm and timing is needed, plus a spectral decay that is on the hurry. The $3000 Matrix Audio Element X is outperforming it in terms of speed and leading edge of a note, but when it comes to slam – the air that is hitting your eardrums, the Pegasus together with Audio-GD R7 are the ones that impressed me the most.
Pegasus is not all about the speed, but more about the kick that follows, it doesn’t strike fast and light like a stealthy assassin, but more like a bearded Viking armed with a two-handed sledgehammer. It may be a bit slower in its delivery, but when it delivers a note, you will feel that not only with your ears but with all your body as well.
It carries a heavier tonality and an amazing presence in the bass and midrange not only with electronica or rock, I am easily spotting that even with zen-funk where double-bass makes its appearance with lots of fanfare, attracting lots of attention to it.
With Pegasus, you can have a relaxing evening while listening to some smooth songs, but you can also feel its nerves with some faster paced music and I’m very glad Pegasus can offer me that. In this area it already outperformed first two R2R DACs that I have reviewed around here and that is kind of impressive considering the price point of this unit.
IV. Resolution & Transparency
Normally if are hunting for an R2R ladder DAC, you want it for its natural and honest approach to music reproduction, you want it to sound as close to the real thing as possible, you want it for that Non-Oversampling (NOS) working principle.
In the NOS mode, Pegasus sounds mighty fine, I’ve felt the microdetails, I’ve heard the mastering errors and those tiny sounds that shouldn’t be there. However, it never pointed its fingers at those sounds. I’ve heard them only because I knew where to look; I knew where to focus my attention and that is precisely why I’ve heard them loud and clear.
In the NOS mode the leading edge of all notes is not that sharp and super-defined to a point of being fake sounding, bright and uncomfortable as it usually happens with D/S DACs. Pegasus doesn’t have any of that; it feels a bit less sharp and less contoured in the process. If you into acoustic or any instrumental music, NOS mode will work a whole lot better with your music.
With all that said, if you need an extra punch in terms of leading edge and sharpness, simply press the NOS button again (LED turned Off) and Pegasus will start emulating the oversampling mode of the D/S DACs.
You are basically having two choices:
- Going for the cleanest possible signal without any DSP enhancements (NOS mode) that translates in the most natural and life-like sound
- Or going for a slightly more processed sound (OS mode) that will highlight leading edges and contours of all notes a little bit more, making the overall performances sharper sounding
The difference between both settings is not that big, as it happened for example on that Audio-GD R7 unit, where every filter sounded very distinct. On Pegasus the difference is subtle, but clear and perceptible with the right ears, music and gear.
I’m reminding you that Musician team went with the highest precision resistors (0.005%) that translates into a higher accuracy, resolution and transparency and I can vouch for that. If you are into details and resolution, then Pegasus plays it at the same level with the best R2R units that I have tested until this moment and that is some praise for a first attempt of the Musician-Audio team.
V. Soundstage & Depth
This is another chapter, where Pegasus feels at home by offering an enormous soundscape on all axes, pushing that depth to the deepest pits. I moved my listening spot in the living room and started listening to some normal (read non-audiophile stuff) music like indie rock and grunge. I was genuinely impressed by it throwing a wider than usual soundstage, even normal records sounded decompressed, bigger than life, taller and wider even compared to my reference DAC.
After a week of burn-in, I simply sat and listened to music without the intention of writing anything and those are usually the moments that will show all the pros and the cons of a DAC. It was incredible experiencing a bigger stage compared to my Element X that I am usually listening to; I was impressed by how much more air was hidden there somewhere in those regular songs. The soundscape was not only bigger in size but it was fuller and denser sounding too thanks for some exemplary bass and mid tones that were felt meatier sounding and a lot more defined.
Listening to crowded music and overpopulated passages you don’t feel how all those layers are crashing one on another, the music will simply unfold more naturally carrying bigger void spaces between every instruments. Even listening to cozy jazz and zen-funk, I felt it well spread, layered and separated to a point that I’m much more comfortable listening to such music with headphones, not only with loudspeakers as it usually happens.
Soundstage size is important in a speaker setup but even more important is the control of the drivers with such picky loudspeakers as Buchardt S400. As I have mentioned in their separate review, S400 is very picky when it comes to matching, it prefers tighter sounding sources and amplifiers and I consider that the pairing with HPA4 followed by Keces S125, using the Pegasus DAC as the front end was a successful match that squeezes the best S400 could offer.
Pegasus delivers a great punch into the chest, by redirecting big amounts of air to the listening spot and that doesn’t come as a surprise as most of the R2R designs are quite impressive when it comes to stage size and pin point location of all the notes. I will go as far and say that from all the digital sources I’ve tested so far, Pegasus is easily in the top 3 when it comes air moving in the room, it simply sounds decompressed, wide and tall, extended and really airy.
VI. Frequency Response
I already left traces and small impressions of how Pegasus performs in the frequency response. Pegasus is all about being effortless sounding, powerful, carrying lots of air, sounding big and imposing and landing some impressive body hits when it comes to transients.
There is no other way in saying it that Pegasus simply excels in the bass area, starting with sub-bass and finishing with the upper-treble. It will impress a bass addict; it will slam hard and it will go the Mariana Trench levels of sub-bass if needed. Yes, I’ve felt the 20 to 25 Hz tones multiple times, I felt those shimmers and goose bumps with electronic music and in this regard, Pegasus is one of the few DACs that works incredibly well not only with instrumental/acoustic music, but with electronic music as well. Pegasus has an incredible acceleration and sustain, so bass notes are delivered fast and will stay awhile if the music is asking for it. Pegasus is a quite a big departure from all the Denafrips offerings that were good in here, but not exemplary. I feel that the powerful output stage and the wide bandwidth of the USB implementation said its last word in here.
Besides a super robust and powerful low-end delivery, Pegasus knows how to impress a midrange addict by adding a bit of contrast, boosting its color, adding a bit more presence and weight in this department. Music is all about midrange presence, emotions and vibrations are happening exactly here, string instruments and voices are shaping-up in this region. Midrange is the spot where you don’t want to make mistakes as it represents 90% of the sounds we are hearing in the real life. Musician-Audio team went all-in and delivered a soul-grabbing experience that increases my mood and puts me into nirvana. As much as I hate to say it, Pegasus outperforms my own reference DAC (Matrix Element X) in terms of midrange presence, in term of how believable everything sounds, in terms of texture and contour. Pegasus is full-bodied and heavier in tonality; it knows how to envelop the listener with its magical midrange. When it comes to midrange density and presence, Pegasus is one of the nicer ones, it simply excels in this area and others should take notes on how to deliver and render it correctly.
The transition to the higher registers is done flawlessly without any drops or rises. There aren’t signs of roll-offs and it sounds clear and detailed even past 16 kHz. Treble is extended and sparkly but also unoffensive and quite gentle if you would listen for a couple of albums. The cymbal crashes have the right pitch, bells are ringing nicely and are decaying at the right moment, snares drums are sounding clean and defined. Pegasus is doing all this without any sings of brightness. I want to add that its treble performance has nothing to do with the treble extension because it is clearly on a high level, the real reason of its like-like approach of rendering higher registers is tied to the way R2R DACs are converting digital into analog. By enabling the OS mode, you can add a bit more sharpness if you will, but in my experience, I would stay in the NOS mode most of the time.
All in all, Musician Pegasus offered an extended frequency response on both ends, with gobs of bass notes and midrange presence and it was capable of balancing the treble adding the right dose of technicalities, decay and naturalness to that region. Pegasus sounded complete in terms of FR and I have nothing to reproach in this area.
Testing D/S DACs and comparing 2 or 3 units is not that simple as it seems to be, as I am doing that with my eyes closed, using reference recordings where I could better feel the difference between them, especially when it comes to timbre, frequency response and detail retrieval. Believe it or not, all D/S DACs are more alike than different most of the times, so extra time will be needed for some conclusive and clear results.
With R2R DACs, this task becomes so much easier and so much less stressful, because the engineers have an absolute freedom of expression, there aren’t as many similarities between two units, so the audible difference between R2R DACs becomes so obvious, that reference recordings are not needed anymore, so I’m way more relaxed while I’m doing this kind of comparisons.
Since Denafrips Venus is still on loan, the only device I could compare it to is the Audio-GD R7.
Musician Pegasus ($1100) VS Audio-GD R7 2020 Version (~$2700)
In terms of build quality and looks, there is no contest as Pegasus looks much simpler and it feels much better put together. It has a very precise build quality and looks quite expensive. It has all the key ingredients of how a high-performance DAC should look and feel. R7 looks raw and unfinished by comparison, the metal work is not as precise and some screws are not sitting perfectly. Audio-GD are putting a lot of soul into the internals of their units, but not much in terms of aesthetics – this is where they should focus their attention the most. I find its user menu complicated and hard to understand, it is very unfriendly with newcomers and can be tiresome even for people like me. Another problem for R7 is its size and weight, it simply occupies 1/3 of the desktop space, it weights 15 kg and dissipates a lot of heat too…maybe I’m criticizing it too much. In terms of I/O, both support all the latest digital inputs, R7 is slightly better as it has an additional input (BNC). Both are pure DACs at heart, without any preamp functionalities, they both don’t have remotes, bells and whistles. All in all, in terms of build quality, ease of use and I/O, Pegasus is ahead of its competitor.
Before doing any critical listening, I needed to volume match both of them since R7 is outputting a much hotter signal of 5V compared to 4.4V on the Pegasus. MiniDSP E.A.R.S. recorded a difference of about 1.4 dB which was quite obvious in favor of the R7. If I would not volume match both sources, R7 would appear as the clear winner since a more powerful signal always appears more appealing especially in terms of dynamics.
Benchmark HPA4 has 4 analog inputs, from which 2 are balanced and each input can be adjusted, I was able to adjust both units to sound absolutely the same, 85 dB was the listening volume of choice and I commenced a long listening session.
R7 is having lots of digital filters to play with, to make them both as close as possible I put them in NOS mode and I disabled any DSP on the R7.
With faster paced music, R7 came out as sounding more visceral and having a better kick into the chest. R7 sounded warmer and more colorful compared to the Pegasus. It enhanced the bass and midrange to a point of attracting most of my attention to this region. R7 is always bold, ballsy and mean sounding no matter the music is being played. To this day, R7 is still the undefeated champion when it comes to slam and punch a DAC could provide and it still holds that title. R7 is also one of the best digital sources when it comes to big airy soundstage, it was simply throwing it farther away into the abyss, it sounds simply limitless and that is very impressive to hear with some particular music.
Pegasus by comparison had a more natural frequency response, it also had an amazing bass and midrange performance but it was not calling for a lot of my attention, it was warm sounding as well, but not that obvious, it wasn’t as wet and liquid. It would somehow preserve more technical aspects compared to R7. The more I listened to Pegasus, the more it impresses me with its technicalities, it is considerably more linear top to bottom and more honest sounding as well. It doesn’t want to beautify your music; it will render the way it was intended to sound and will just infuse a small dose of that R2R medicine into the mix. It is hard to pick a winner and a loser in the frequency response. From a linear point of view, Pegasus is a better unit and if you want a lot of that R2R goodness then R7 is that source. I consider it a tie.
When it comes to transients and heft, there is again a clear difference between both units. Pegasus is quite straightforward when you open it up, it is much simpler on the inside and that translates into an impressive speed of delivery. It is keeping-up with the fastest electronic music and by comparison R7 sometimes feels less speedy, skipping a few beats in the process. If R7 loses in terms of speed, it gains momentum in terms of heft and slam, because when it delivers a note, it delivers it raw, crude and blunt. R7 is again numero uno when it comes to slam and punch and I believe it has to do with its extremely powerful output stage. So here you have it again, Pegasus is nimbler, faster and tighter sounding and R7 is slower but harder hitting. We again have a tie.
When it comes to details and transparency, Pegasus by a very small margin felt cleaner and more transparent. I know that both manufacturers are using the same precision resistors (0.005%) and most probably the difference comes from the simplicity of Pegasus, as it has a shorter signal path compared to the overpopulated Audio-GD R7. They both excel when it comes to transparency and detail, but if I would pick a winner that would be the Pegasus, which felt cleaner sounding and was able to show more of everything on the micro-scale.
Both are amazing sounding DACs with very little to nitpick. The transition from a D/S DAC to an R2R DAC would be much easier to swallow with Pegasus, as R7 can sound too warm and too vivid at times and that can spoil the overall balance of the system.
Considering that R7 costs more than two times the price of Pegasus, I cannot go without praising the value of the Pegasus. It really punches way above its price point and when it comes to R2R designs, this will be the unit I will be recommending the most.
Pegasus is a very appealing unit from multiple points of view. Its unique working principle, that simple yet effective part selection and PCB layout paid off big time. From the first second it sounded complete, honest and very extended at both ends. It carries a natural tone, it possesses a very good balance between sharpness, detail and naturalness and that is the hardest thing to balance in a digital source. Musician team proved they can design a beautiful unit that should withstand the test of time and that can impress a DAC addict like myself. It was able to create music and emotions and that is actually the sole reason I’m behind my schedule with this review. I’ve listened to a lot more music instead of writing impressions about it and that tells a lot about its soul-grabbing performance. It kept me at the edge of my seat for more than a week and all this time I was wondering how Musician Audio team was able to create all this wizardry with only $1100.
This is their first attempt; their proof of concept and it left a powerful first impression on me. I have a premonition that this team worked in the past on different projects, also in the realm of R2R, but that is history at this point as Musician team is only getting warmed up with their winged Pegasus DAC.
Oh, before you ask me, it beats the hell out of Denafrips Ares!
- A very solid device with an impressive build quality
- Has the perfect size to be used in a desktop setup or in the living room
- One of the best part selection I’ve seen in a while, considering the price point
- An incredibly wide soundstage and that is deep sounding too
- Precise pin point imaging, having a real 3D holography
- Linear frequency response and super extended on both ends
- One of nicest bass and midrange performance I’ve heard in a while
- Impressive levels of transparency and resolution
- Good slam and kick into the best
- Black as night background, no distortion whatsoever
- Life-like and full-bodied sounding
- Wide selection of digital inputs
- An unbeatable price for an amazing R2R DAC
- The lack of a volume control and of a remote
- DACs: Musician Audio Pegasus, Audio-GD R7 (2020 version), Matrix Audio Element X, Burson Conductor 3X Performance, Flux Labs Acoustics FCN-10
- Headphone Amps: Benchmark HPA4, SparkoS Labs Aries, xDuoo TA-30, Topping A90
- Preamps: Benchmark HPA4, Topping A90
- Integrated Amps: Hegel H190, Keces E40
- Power Amp: Keces S125
- IEMs: FiiO FH7, FA9
- Full-sized headphones: Audeze LCD-4, Erzetich Phobos, Hifiman Arya, Quad ERA-1, Kennerton Magni, Kennerton Gjallarhorn
- Loudspeakers: Buchardt S400, KEF LS50W
- Interconnects: QED Reference XLR (x2), Aune AL3 XLR
- Speaker cables: Kimber PR8, Audioquest Type4
- Power Cables: Isotek EVO3 Premier (x2)
- Balanced Isolation Power Conditioner: PLiXiR Elite BAC400