Black Lion Audio Sparrow ADC MKII - Red by Chris Kress
I evaluated the Sparrow sound quality based primarily in comparison to the DB Technologies AD-122(a previous version of the Lavry Gold). Both of these converters use the same uncolored approach to conversion. No mojo on either, just the “facts”. Both very pleasant and excellent in sound.
I fully recommend the Black Lion Audio Sparrow MKII ADC White (Sparrow) as a punchy, focused and clear sounding AD converter. The Sparrow compared very well to the DB Technologies AD-122. This is particularly impressive since the AD-122 cost approximately three times as much when it was originally released. After using the AD-122 for a several years, I could easily transition to the Sparrow today without hesitation. It is far less expensive than the current Lavry alternative, and as a bonus its clock is good enough to use for your entire studio. Each unit has its own strengths, however:
Sparrow MKII White = Punch and definition. Precise crisp distinctness, better high and low-frequency transient response (crisp highs and punchy lows). Ever so slightly less wide stereo image, but better focused than the AD-122. Never unpleasant or shrill while listening as loud as I could go (see burn-in). It gently reminds of the Mitek 96k series converters(just a little bit in its "punchy-ness").
AD-122 = Magic width and delicate ambience: Smooth, soft highs and surreal stereo image, not as much low-end punch. Slightly “pillowy” with all transients actually. Lush in sound. Endless perfect reverb tails and perfect room ambience.
Long Answer: Much more detail
I like to listen to new equipment at the point of finishing a mix, when my ear is most sensitive to subtle changes in the balance and tone of the work I just labored over. I performed a listening test of a 40-channel live mix using the stereo output of my analog mixing console as the sound source.
I did my best to make an “apples to apples” comparison.
There was no practical way to isolate just one variable to change with my setup so I chose several real world clocking/converter configurations and wired them up. With so many ways to perform testing, I have provided as much detail of my configurations as possible.
I listened to the output of my live console mix, then compared it with recordings through the AD-122 and the Sparrow MKII White ADC. For playback of the recordings, I connected the audio output of the Lavry DA10 directly to the AMP to keep signal chain as clean as possible, and most similar to the output of my console. I used the Lavry DA10 internal clock and did not use a monitor controller.
Signal Chain Chart- Listening test through speakers:
Full level audio must flow in and out of your converters for many hours before the sound “normalizes.” BLA confirmed that they recommend a burn-in period, but did not specify an amount of time. After I performed the initial 8 hour burn-in (the results above), I burned in the Sparrow for an additional 12 hours and tested again. The high frequency transients were smoother, the low end became fuller and warmer, and the stereo soundstage became wider. Considering these improvements and that some converter manufacturers recommend 200 hours of burn-in, I would expect the Sparrow to continue to improve in sound with even longer burn-in time.
Measured with the RME HDSP mixer, the noise floor on both converters was incredibly low. Most converters do well to achieve -100db. On my system, the AD-122 read as low as -120; the Sparrow measured as low as -117. Both are amazing.
Some may want to know that the software I used for the test is SawStudio. Another interesting fact is that the BLA clock made a noticeable improvement on all of my other converters. For your reference, I am also including my other converter preferences below. Most of my testing is at 44/48k. Differences often become less pronounced at 88/96k.
My Other Converter Opinions - Chart
ALSO: Please PM me if the charts do not show up. They mysteriously disappeared recently.....