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Acousence, Andiamo, Lake People, Lavry, StageTech ADC shootout
Old 10th March 2017
  #1
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Acousence, Andiamo, Lake People, Lavry, StageTech ADC shootout

Here is another shootout of 5 AD converters:

- Acousence arfi-adc2
- Direct Out Andiamo
- Lake People ADC RS04
- Lavry Gold 122-96MX
- StageTech Truematch

The 24/96 Files are ready for download here
http://www.acousence.de/Daten/Wandlertest.zip

The comparison was done by Ole Muth from Accelerando Musikproduktion and Harald Wittig who wrote a review about it in Studio Magazin issue 10/2016.

Enjoy listening and I´m curious what you will say.
Old 10th March 2017
  #2
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Should have mentioned the download size is about 1.3 GB. But this shouldn´t be a problem for most studios here ...
Old 11th March 2017
  #3
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Thanks for these, I'm quite curious to hear the Acousence.
Old 11th March 2017
  #4
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Hi Roland,

can you please provide some more information on the setup and how this comparison was performed?

Thanks!
Ulrich
Old 12th March 2017
  #5
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The recording was done with a Nagra analog tape recorder.

This tape was then used as a reproducible signal to feed the AD converters.

I have access to more details tomorrow when I´m back in the studio.
Old 13th March 2017
  #6
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Hi Ulrich,
here we go.

It was a NAGRA IVS with the use ofr the on board preamps.

The files with Piano were recorded with Schoeps MK21.
The guitar was recorded with Schoeps MK2s.

There are different approaches to make a comparison with AD converters. Every way has its own advantage and disadvantage.

You could do it with mic splitter and identical preamps to the converters
or
Mic to preamp to distribution amp to the converters
or
the way here with a analog tape feeding later the converter.

With each way the differences between converters are audible.

What is your favorit here?
Old 23rd March 2017
  #7
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Rumi's Avatar
Bump!
I would be interested in what differences people hear.
Old 23rd March 2017
  #8
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I listened extensively and I much prefer the Acousence converter. It is immediately apparent to me. I like how relaxed and "flowing" the sound is and the natural "best case" timbre of the piano is presented.

I first came across Acousence at the Tonmeistertagung.

How can I hear it in the USA?
Old 24th March 2017
  #9
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The Acousense has a very attractive sort of depth to it, both tonally and in perspective. Not sure if it is very true to the original signal though. But is sure wins on charming aspects. The Lavry Gold scored lowest on my preference list. A rather flattened dynamic, slightly choked. I would love to know what these converters would do when clocked by some great external clock. I have the big brother (F444-D) of the Lake People RS-04 converter (with a better power supply, linear, not switched as in this model and without the limiting hardware) and it reacts very well to a Grimm CC2 clock. It was a relatively cheap upgrade to another level in AD-conversion and so far I have not felt the need to go to an ADC three or four times the price.
Old 24th March 2017
  #10
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Thanks for the reminder. I read the report in the SM, but have not yet the chance to listen to the files yet.
Its just a first early morning impression:
I have to mention that I had a listen to some other testfiles from the Acousence before, but in this test its indeed the most attractive one. But it may be depend on the other testfiles I always have the feeling to hear its transformers; a quite pronounced attack in both, guitar and piano, but a bit lacking these very fine transients in the top end (but without loosing depth of field). But all in all I would call quite real, natural and organic sounding. What PS comes to use here, cant remember the test yet? The standard one or the premium version?
The truematch, often called the "reference converter" is a bit dissapointing in comparisson (but maybe just true to the [not so well sounding...] source); not very 3D and with a bit honky tone in my ears. The same tendecy to sound a bit shriveled over the stereo panorama (like many other quite popular converter designs out there. I would call it "it eats music").
The Lake People (which I own myself) is as expected; not so upfront sounding as most others, good open lowmids/bass, but quite smooth/soft with maybe the tendency to sound a bit flat dynamicwise.
The Lavry is a dissapointment here; just flat as as hell with the tendency to sound harsh in the piano attacks due to the reduced 3D (which maybe should be not that obvious with more pop/rock stuff, but... naaah...) and a bit wooly lowmids. I mean its really ****ing expensive... May it work better as an clipper than a pure converter...?
The Andiamo is even better than the Lavry here, but quite upfront, a bit flat. Just that bit to pushy to please the music.

Pricewise the LP with 1/10 of the price of the Lavry is a real winner here, I think. The Acousence is very good overall with a cool "analogue" sound and also still quite reasonable priced (around 2600,-? here in Germany with the simple PS option).

All in all; the idea of transparent ADDA convertion is a bit lost one for me. A converter just had to fit the chain to do some proper work.
Old 24th March 2017
  #11
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Rumi's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
I listened extensively and I much prefer the Acousence converter. It is immediately apparent to me. I like how relaxed and "flowing" the sound is and the natural "best case" timbre of the piano is presented.

I first came across Acousence at the Tonmeistertagung.

How can I hear it in the USA?
Great to read such a positive statement about the Acousence from you, Plush!
It corresponds to what I hear. There is a musicality to it that I haven't heard in another converter yet (the Burl B2 comes somewhat close, but is more colored, and a little less open and relaxed sounding).

As far as I know, there are no dealers in the US yet who carry Acousence.
Old 25th March 2017
  #12
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I'm also curious about the Acousence - looking online I see it's available for either 2600 Euro or 3300 (I guess this would include the PSU).

Their AD would be my top pick here, at least from the audio examples provided. There is something like a slight softening I hear from the upper midrange (maybe 'relaxed' describes it) but overall it's very natural and real sounding. Convincing depth and dynamics. This one reminded me of the impressions I had listening to the QES Labs PAD demos, which I suppose isn't surprising if they're both using the same PCM4220 chip and minimal, passive front end design, well thought-out power, etc. Hearing those two side by side would be interesting.

The Gold sounds the least suitable, as expected, but that kind of slightly compressed and forward/sheen enhanced sound could help in other situations.

The Andiamo did something interesting with the lower mids - kind of spreading them out and bringing them forward to provide an enhanced sense of width.

The Lake People surprised me the most. I've only recently come to know this brand, and it has no problem playing in the same league as these much more expensive offerings.

The StageTech didn't really do anything for me - just feel neutral about it, and it seems to sacrifice some front to back depth.
Old 25th March 2017
  #13
Gear Head
 

Was Nagra master used as the EQ on the iv-s?
Old 25th March 2017
  #14
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I have just recalled the test report and it seems they used the Acounsence with the premium PSU. So pricewise it will be more in the 3500,- range, I think (may Roland can give us some no. here?)
Old 25th March 2017
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JP__ View Post
I have just recalled the test report and it seems they used the Acounsence with the premium PSU. So pricewise it will be more in the 3500,- range, I think (may Roland can give us some no. here?)
The price for the arfi-adc2 including the arfi-psu is 2787 excl. VAT. This is now the only package how it is deliverd. The simple the simple wall-wart psu was just for testing in the early days.

the arfi-psu has 4 outlets to support more units like the DA converter or the Afi and Afis (a matrix with 4 digital INs and 1 AES Out).

Cheers,
Roland

Last edited by Adebar; 25th March 2017 at 03:48 PM..
Old 25th March 2017
  #16
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2800 Euro feels very reasonable then with the PSU. Are there definitely plans to do a rackmount version?

Any pictures of the interior or more information available about the design?
And is there any distribution in progress or only direct orders for now?
Old 25th March 2017
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by B Elgin View Post
2800 Euro feels very reasonable then with the PSU. Are there definitely plans to do a rackmount version?

Any pictures of the interior or more information available about the design?
And is there any distribution in progress or only direct orders for now?
There are concrete plans for a rackmount version, but it's not released yet.

For any pictures of the inside or more details about the design, it's best to ask Acousence directly. There is also quite some information on the artistic fidelity by Acousence website.

So far, distributions are in the EU (Adebar, run by Roland) and in Switzerland (Pilgrim Studio Distribution, run by me).

Last edited by Rumi; 25th March 2017 at 11:21 PM..
Old 25th March 2017
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by B Elgin View Post
The Lake People surprised me the most. I've only recently come to know this brand, and it has no problem playing in the same league as these much more expensive offerings.
When you're looking for high end conversion for the lowest possible cost I can highly recommend the Lake People F444. It will give you four channels for 1550 euros. The Grimm CC2 clock will push this converter into the premier league, for just 740 euros. So four channels of stellar conversion will cost you 2290 euros, while adding four more channels (clocked to the CC2 as well) will make a total of 3840 euros for eight superb channels of AD conversion. That's less than 500 euros per channel! The F444 with CC2 is extremely effortless and natural sounding. Its very wide input level control allows for best matching with preamps, or best leveling with a mix/master chain. Setting the level high on the F444 gives the best results, because its analog stage will be least attenuated and the chain before it can be gain staged at very moderate levels, allowing for the most unstrained and easy sound at the source.
Old 29th March 2017
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
I listened extensively and I much prefer the Acousence converter. It is immediately apparent to me. I like how relaxed and "flowing" the sound is and the natural "best case" timbre of the piano is presented.

I first came across Acousence at the Tonmeistertagung.

How can I hear it in the USA?
In a direct comparison with Burl B2 AD, recording voice and acoustic guitar at 96 kHz, "relaxed" and "flowing" were definitely words that came to mind.

Where the Burl has a little weight that's great for all things rock - more pushy signals - on a floating picked guitar that weight was a bit like a lid on top of the notes, compared with the Acousence where they seemed to shimmer and indeed flow naturally. Yet not 'lost in space' - more a vivid but well-defined presence?

Also the words "pristine" and "transparent", often used to describe 'digital sound', finally made sense. In a highly musical way! For classical and all kinds of acoustic music these things must be a dream come true, but i have no doubt they will excel with everything played well because they give a realistic yet "organic" representation of the source that just sounds right and sweetly alive.

Ps, to be fair, Burl at 192 kHz and -12 settings can sound quite a bit more freeflowing and transparent, so this is not to judge one over the other. What i can say is that apart from B2 and 2192 this is the first converter that sounds truly musical to me. Good to know!
Old 29th March 2017
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cracker satchmo View Post
In a direct comparison with Burl B2 AD, recording voice and acoustic guitar at 96 kHz, "relaxed" and "flowing" were definitely words that came to mind.

Where the Burl has a little weight that's great for all things rock - more pushy signals - on a floating picked guitar that weight was a bit like a lid on top of the notes, compared with the Acousence where they seemed to shimmer and indeed flow naturally. Yet not 'lost in space' - more a vivid but well-defined presence?

Also the words "pristine" and "transparent", often used to describe 'digital sound', finally made sense. In a highly musical way! For classical and all kinds of acoustic music these things must be a dream come true, but i have no doubt they will excel with everything played well because they give a realistic yet "organic" representation of the source that just sounds right and sweetly alive.

Ps, to be fair, Burl at 192 kHz and -12 settings can sound quite a bit more freeflowing and transparent, so this is not to judge one over the other. What i can say is that apart from B2 and 2192 this is the first converter that sounds truly musical to me. Good to know!
Thank you for your review, Mr. Cherry Blossom! It's always educational to hear about how other people hear, especially when they have ears as good as yours.

Let's have another comparison session, and include 192kHz this time.

I found that the 2192 was inferior, compared to the other two in our tests.
Old 30th March 2017
  #21
Hey Rumi, that was fun - i pass the compliments to your monitoring system that makes it easy to hear what is and what is not.

Since you plan to temporarily kidnap some stuff here anyway we could combine that with a B2 and Acousence 192 kHz comparison (your Gefell bottle and my V672 'Brick' should be a match in heaven...).

And yes i have to grudgingly admit the venerable 2192 sounded less dimensional than the other two - perhaps an indication of how good converters can be today... i mean we're talking about something that Bruce Swedien in 2006 still found "It sounds so good it makes me want to hurt myself!" and i would presume converted plenty of sonics to platinum!
Attached Thumbnails
Acousence, Andiamo, Lake People, Lavry, StageTech ADC shootout-bruce-swedien-2192.jpg  
Old 30th March 2017
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cracker satchmo View Post
Hey Rumi, that was fun - i pass the compliments to your monitoring system that makes it easy to hear what is and what is not.

Since you plan to temporarily kidnap some stuff here anyway we could combine that with a B2 and Acousence 192 kHz comparison (your Gefell bottle and my V672 'Brick' should be a match in heaven...).

And yes i have to grudgingly admit the venerable 2192 sounded less dimensional than the other two - perhaps an indication of how good converters can be today... i mean we're talking about something that Bruce Swedien in 2006 still found "It sounds so good it makes me want to hurt myself!" and i would presume converted plenty of sonics to platinum!
Let's hope that Bruce Swedien never hears of those new converters, then. We don't need him badly hurt.
Old 30th March 2017
  #23
Hi ho! But is it a coincidence that Rich Williams went on to do his own (Burl) thing while the next generation of the big company's converters basically swapped two channels of excellence for x channels of convenience? The best (and most unattainable) UAD plugin would be the one that makes an Apollo sound like a 2192... Fresh minds/smaller companies devoted to quality vs profit to the fore galore?

Should the Negus of Nagras:) be reading this one day - may i ask how what you've heard from Acousence compared (roughly, from your memory) to the sound of a Nagra 7? (And - is it true that these sound similar to the portable Nagra reel-to-reels such as 4.2? I'd love that...).

Thank you!
Old 30th March 2017
  #24
ps, can't seem to find the quote where someone said Nagra 7 or 6 sounded like Nagra tape... but one of your posts called it a more analog sound Plush so maybe i subconsciously expanded from that... sorry if not exactly on topic...

"I heard the Nagra to portray a slightly softer (less delineated) rounder sound (to me more analog sound) than the Sound Devices. One can hear this on the drum beats between 6 seconds and 13 seconds. It is a very good demonstration of the difference between the two machines.

Sound Devices mic pre-amp and a/d combination holds its own when heard without comparison. During comparison I adjudge it to be less elegant than the consciously and painstakingly engineered Nagra.

Philosophy of the NVI design was to concentrate on offering a very pleasant (non digital sounding) and a very expensive sound from the microphone pre-amps and the a/d."
Old 31st March 2017
  #25
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Just wanted to add that I have the impression that the LP brings the lowest distortion from all converters here, together with the truematch maybe. While the others add more obvious low level distortion in my ears (good to hear with the piano recording), the Lavry more in a obtrusive way than the much more elegant sounding arfi-adc. After all the Acousence still offers a great musical perspective towards the instrument playing in the room, but this could be coming from some transformer unlinearities (I think we all know that good transformers can add that kind of sheen and depth) also. Would be interesting to know if its capable to offer a cleaner tone depending on the input level as well? Or how the LP would sound more comparable with a transformer coupled mic pre here (ADT or the LP pre comes to my mind here)?
Never underestimate the power of distortion, when it goes with the music...

Last edited by JP__; 31st March 2017 at 10:36 AM..
Old 1st April 2017
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JP__ View Post
Just wanted to add that I have the impression that the LP brings the lowest distortion from all converters here, together with the truematch maybe. .... Or how the LP would sound more comparable with a transformer coupled mic pre here (ADT or the LP pre comes to my mind here)?
Never underestimate the power of distortion, when it goes with the music...
The LP F444 ADC follows every type of preamp exactly. I have both ADT (TM101, Haufe input transformers) and LP (F355, transformerless, class A input stage) preamps and the minutest differences become apparent. Much more than with many other AD-converters I have tested. Before I used the LP converters it could be difficult sometimes to show the differences between preamps to musicians that I had to record. Since the LP ADC they have no difficulty at all hearing what the exact differences are, even between preamps all in the clean/colorless camp. One player recently even commented: "I never knew the differences between preamps were so apparent". So yes, whenever you feed whatever "euphonic" signal to the LP, it will convert it very true to life. I've found the LP with Grimm clock to be sounding extremely "analog" in the sense that it just sounds like real sound. It probably has very low distortion. (And on its own it is already very good too, just a tad less effortless than with the external clock. Now that LP is making a femto clock (DAT RS 05 - violectric.de), I do expect to see this built into their ADC offerings too in the future.)
Old 1st April 2017
  #27
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I have the made the same experience with the LP ADC regarding my mastering chain, the "personality" of each piece of gear comes through in a very obvious way. For the good or for the bad.

My RS06 is external clocked by a mutec clock, but the diff to internal clocking is really rather small, much smaller than with all my other converters.

My point regarding the post above was; its a fine line between what we want to call "transparency" and a euphoric touch and we never could be sure whats more correct. In the end we should let our ear and taste decide. But I strongly question the typical approach to just compare a single piece of gear, instead of its interaction in the complete chain. A single ADC unit is mostly useless when it comes down to recording music...
Old 1st April 2017
  #28
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I preferred the Andiamo MC to all of the other options. I'm not sure exactly what the difference is with Andiamo "Referenz" test was but I thought the Andiamo MC had the best balance of depth, clarity, and imaging/presentation. The Acousence was a little thin and clinical for me, although very good sounding. The Lake People was a little blah sounding, the Lavry Gold sounds a little crusty (as it often does, especially on instruments) and the Truematch was very overly rounded off sounding with poor fidelity.

So if the Andiamo is the version with the Mic Preamps, were those engaged but at zero on this test? Or are the preamps being bypassed? It seems like a great value and a stellar convertor to me!
Old 1st April 2017
  #29
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The "reference" is the parallel digital recording done beside the one with the nagra (diff mics, no splitter), afaik.
The Andiamo has indeed preamps, but not bypassable, 32 ch. So great bang for the buck for sure.

I even prefer the Lavry over the Andiamo which I see at latest position, I think. Taste seems to differ quite a lot here . It reminds me at RME somehow. Very upfront, somewhat aggresive, but without a proper depth of field, maybe cool for pop/rock, but for me quite unnatural sounding.
Old 1st April 2017
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Earcatcher View Post
The Acousense has a very attractive sort of depth to it, both tonally and in perspective. Not sure if it is very true to the original signal though. But is sure wins on charming aspects. The Lavry Gold scored lowest on my preference list. A rather flattened dynamic, slightly choked. I would love to know what these converters would do when clocked by some great external clock. I have the big brother (F444-D) of the Lake People RS-04 converter (with a better power supply, linear, not switched as in this model and without the limiting hardware) and it reacts very well to a Grimm CC2 clock. It was a relatively cheap upgrade to another level in AD-conversion and so far I have not felt the need to go to an ADC three or four times the price.
Yes, a good clock often improves converters. I had the Grimm CC1 (the big brother of CC2) and since i use the Acousence I sold the CC1. The Acousence clock is better in my setup.

It would be interesting if the LP improves clocked by the Acusence in your setup as well.
If you like to test that we would be glad to arrange a demo.

After there were several inquiries for a 19" version we are happy to tell that now there is also a 19" version of the arfi-adc2.
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