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User Review: C 390DD Direct Digital Powered DAC Amplifier - Great Amp - Best In Price Range And Beyond.

May 2, 2012

Products: C 390DD Direct Digital Powered DAC Amplifier

This amp sounds neutral, neutral, and even more neutral. This is the most neutral DAC and amp combination I have heard - period - no SS steeliness, no valve warmth - all these adjectives simply do not apply. Its not as a fast as my Gainclone Patek which is very fast -but still pretty darn fast - but it does does not have that amps thinness and slight dryness either. How would I describe it - like a power version of the Metrum DAC is my best guess at this stage. Very resolving with great slam - not as resolving as my Patek and PDX or Playback Designs DAC which are the most resolving things I have heard to date in my system - but still really resolving. Another interesting feature that the specs do not make clear is it in fact has pre-outs so you can use it as a DAC and have an upgrade path. Connected my Off-Ramp USB to SPDIF converter working via AES/EBU and it indeed makes a difference - not as great as other DAC's I have tried it on such as Wyred For Sound or Metrum - but you most definitely can easily hear it over its internal USB. The bass is better, greater detail is apparent, a slight treble glare is removed you do not notice until you hear it removed and it sounds slightly faster. My view is it is meatier than the Patek, which has a thin ephemeral quality and a slight dry character but, yea, is extremely fast. The bass, especially via the Off-Ramp, is indeed better, and I personally rate it above the combination of my Metrum and Patek, but I do prefer the Patek and my much more expensive PDX or Playback Designs whose speed synergises with the Patek - however it is clear personal preferences will vary. Should you get an Off-Ramp with one of these? I personally would but it raises the price to $5K and you can get some pretty good DAC and amp combinations for that price so a comparison against stuff in that price range is definitely advised. But from previous experience with an Audiophilleo at only about $500.00-$600.00 it would almost certainly be well worthwhile. I tried the bass management in the NAD and can report it is excellent. I was able to integrate a subwoffer no problem and is a big plus for this amp. You can get two subwoffers and some small bookshelves for a system that easily gives all the bass you could want. The HDMI inputs are also excellent - I watched in two channel home theater mode and it was very enjoyable the extra meatiness over the Patek made the vocals more intelligible. Combined with the subwoffer integration this is pretty much the perfect device for two channel home theater. I have not heard a DAC amp combination at this price point that I would rate better - it could perhaps be the leader at this price point. The Metrum with an Audiophellio and Patek costs about that but I think this may have the edge. A must audition against any DAC amp combination you were thinking of getting at about the $3k price point.

Bill Hobba - Australia

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C 390DD Direct Digital Powered DAC Amplifier

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