I only ever used 1x station so this one is virtually new. I did a lot of research before purchasing these units and at the time they were the best.
I used it to power my Sennheiser HD800 headphones. And it did a great job. They are seen easily in the audio setup of your computer and connect via USB. Last 3 pics are mine from my system! Anyone who owns higher end audio gear knows (and hopefully is willing to admit) that it is not the best value.
We dont necessarily all agree on which products maximize the ratio but most people would likely agree with me when I say that my Matrix M-Stage amp is a better value than my Luxman P-1u, even though the Luxman is easily the better amp. The Luxman is geared towards someone who wants the absolute best they can get, and is actually a rather poor value relatively speaking. That being said, audio equipment manufacturers are constantly looking to blur the boundaries of what constitutes high end, and to work some value into the proposition. Note that Im not necessarily talking about cheap products either. Some of them are still out of reach for many buyers.
The point is that you can approach the absolute best available at a price that is still somewhat reasonable. The purpose of all this talking is to give context to my recent favorite new acquisition, the D100 from Yulong Audio. Yulong is not a name I was familiar with, having only heard of their DAH1 DAC from a few years back. My recollection was that it was a great value, sounded nice, but had some operational quirks and quality control issues. So I was not immediately drawn to the brand.
After talking to a friend overseas, the D100 was brought to my attention. I was in the market for an all in one unit and the specs looked intriguing, so I picked one up. The D100 is roughly 10 inches wide, 7 inches deep, and 2 inches high, and weights about 5 pounds. It has a built in switch for selecting 110/120v or 220/240v operation, so it works pretty much everywhere, and has a standard detachable IEC power cable.It accepts most types of digital signals including USB, optical, coaxial SPDIF, and AES/EBU. It accepts signals up to 24/192 over the AES/EBU, optical, and coaxial digital inputs, and accepts 24/96 over USB. Once the digital to analog conversion is complete, that signal can be sent out through a standard RCA output, or via balanced XLR output. It also has a built in headphone amp which features separate ¼ inch jacks; one for low impedance headphones and one for high impedance headphones. They dont specify the cutoff ranges, but overall the unit claims to handle headphones with impedances ranging from 16 to 600 ohms. They encourage you to try both jacks with your headphones and see for yourself which works best. It features a built in display with some useful info, and a simple front panel button that cycles through the various inputs.
There is a sound mode button that allows you to cycle between mode 1 and mode 2. Mode 1 is full range, and mode 2 is supposedly darker. With the help of a translator friend on this forum you know who you are, thanks again! I was able to find out that mode 2 has a minor reduction of 0-3dB between 15-20kHz range resulting in slightly darker highs.Sound mode only applicable for the headphone out. I wish this mode dug deeper, perhaps down to 10kHz, as that might have made it more noticeable. As it is I dont think I can reliably tell them apart in a blind test. Thus far most of my general description could be any old DAC/amp combo.
The magic here is in the design, in the combination of parts and implementation. Standard digital signals are accepted by a Cirrus Logic CS8416, and USB input is handled by a Texas Instruments TAS1020B. From there the signal is sent in I2S form to the Analog Devices AD1896 asynchronous sample rate converter, where it is processed to a 110kHz sample rate using a high precision system clock, and word lengths are padded to 24-bit.
That signal then goes to an AD1955 where the actual digital to analog conversion happens. I/V conversion, filtering, and buffering are then handled by the combo of AD4075 and OPA275. At that point the signal is ready to go when using the D100 as a DAC. When using it directly with headphones, the signal is sent through the headphone amp section which features an OPA2134.
The key portion of this design is the ASRC process. Im no expert, but Im told that ASRC can be tricky to do well, yet is also well worth it when properly implemented. The main enemy in the digital world is jitter, and it must be dealt with. There are other methods of reducing jitter, such as running in Asynchronous USB mode like Ayre and Wavelength, but those are considerably more expensive.
By using off the shelf solutions in a well designed circuit, the D100 is able to achieve excellent results in a manner similar to Benchmark with their DAC-1. Looking at the parts list above, many of the choices seem familiar. The AD1955 is used in the Berkeley Alpha DAC among others. The CS8416 is used in the PS Audio Digital Link III and the Grace Designs m902. The Lavry DA10 actually uses the same AD1955/AD1896 combo as the D100.
The USB receiver (TAS1020B) can also be found in products from Wavelength, Ayre, Empirical, and of course the Benchmark DAC1 USB. Some may scoff at the OPA2134, but it is used in the Matrix M-Stage (aka Lehmann Black Cube Linear) with excellent results, so again we see that good products are more than just the sum of their parts.
The point here is not just to list a pile of parts and somehow claim high quality. If that were the goal I think ASRC could be avoided in favor of more exotic capacitors and such. And we can even find a bit of proof for that: the original info stated that they had tested various frequencies and found that 256fs/132.3kHz was about as high as the AD1896 could run, and provided the best performance. The master clock ran at 33.8688MHz.
The AD1896 absolute max MCLK is 34MHz under specific conditions, so everything fit together. But somehow after the first 50 units were made, it was discovered that the lead-free AD1955 in the production version could not run reliably at 256fs/132.3kHz.
There were minor changes to the circuit for an end result of 110kHz resampling. The sound signature and technical measurement supposedly remains unchanged, with a claimed slightly better imaging for the 110kHz version. I cant verify this as my unit is serial number 92 and thus already has the redesign. But the point is there is some real engineering happening here, not just throwing things together and churning out an impressive spec sheet.
They could have gone with 192kHz upsampling, but claim that the 110kHz gives a distinct filter performance benefit (Benchmark makes the same claim). Much has been said of the benefits of Asynchronous USB mode versus Adaptive USB mode. You can read all day and not find a consensus on the issue. While it is true that Asynchronous mode (not to be confused with the ASRC process) seems to have more potential, it is also generally expensive, and in practice there are plenty of excellent options (like Wadia, and the above mentioned Lavry and Benchmark units) that utilize Isochronous Adaptive mode and achieve excellent results. Ultimately it is the sound that counts, not the method used to produce it.
The D100 arrived very quickly considering its international journey to my house. The box is fairly plain, but the packing inside was sturdy and did the job. Inside I found the D100 itself, a power cable, a USB cable, and a user manual.
Nothing too exciting but enough to get you started. The manual is particularly confusing, with multiple typos and odd wording. Most likely it was translated poorly from the original language. Theres not really much info in there anyway; it still talks about the 132kHz ASRC. I talked directly to Yulong to get the updated info above.
About the only interesting thing in the manual is a printout of a frequency response test, which looks nice but is too small and hard to read to be of much use. The D100 is very nice looking. It features a thick brushed aluminum silver faceplate, and even though the rest of the unit is black, it has a nice textured smooth feel to it.
The volume knob turns with tiny clicks that are felt but not heard, and the buttons on the front panel have a nice action to them. The LCD display lights up in a bluish color, and tells you a bit of useful info: which input you have selected, what the sample rate is of the incoming signal, and which sound mode you have selected. I found the sample rate info to be consistently accurate, which is helpful when dealing with a variety of signal types.
It allowed me to figure out that I needed to switch a setting on my Rotel player to output at 96kHz instead of downsampling to 48kHz. One thing I like is that it remembers which input you last used before you turned the unit off. Apparently the old Yulong DAH models had an issue with resetting to a certain input after every power down, and that has been fixed on this model.
Overall the unit looks and feels like a high end piece of gear, and I dont think anyone would be disappointed with it. One odd thing I noticed: when I first took some pictures for this review, I found that the flash made visible a slight haziness to the front panel finish. It was not something I could see directly, but only showed up with flash photography.Check my pictures for examples. In any case, if the front looks odd in the pictures, that is the explanation, and it is not a real issue to be concerned about. On the above pic, I had not yet taken off the little clea plastic sticker that covers the Yulong Audio logo. So that's why it looks like it has a border. The pic above that is correct. Sources: Rotel RDV-1092 player Dell Mini with Windows 7, 2GB RAM, 64GB SSD with Foobar2000 Kernel streaming QLS HiFi QA350 solid state transport Amps: Matrix M-Stage Fournier HTA-1 Luxman P-1u DarkVoice 337SE DACs: Musical Fidelity X-DAC v3 with X-PSU Sigtone Shek D1 NOS DAC Audinst HUD-mx1 AMB GAMMA2 Wavelength Audio Cosine Headphones: Sennheiser HD800 LiveWires Trips AKG K702 JH Audio JH13pro Audio Technica W2002 Kenwood KH-K1000 Monster Turbine Pro Copper Edition BeyerDynamic DT990 600ohm. As always I burned in the unit for at least 100 hours to make sure it was working properly (and so nobody would complain that I had not burned it in).
In this case I probably did more like 200 because I was busy monkeying around with my new toy, a Hackintosh netbook. Turns out Im not a huge Mac fan so back to Windows 7 I went, and then started spending time with the D100. Right off the bat I could tell this was something special. Sometimes you hear a piece of gear and it grabs your attention with huge bass, or sweet mids, or some other coloration that you may or may not appreciate months down the road. Not so with the D100; what first grabbed me was the total lack of any unnatural enhancement to the sound.
It just translated the music as the source presented it, with nothing added or taken away. The tricky part about explaining highly transparent gear is that it doesnt really have a sound of its own, so you end up describing the sound of the other associated equipment instead. That would make for a short read, so Ill try my best to explain what I can.
I used the Rotel player to listen to Illinois by Sufjan Stevens, which is one of my favorite albums. Sufjans voice was carved from the mix with lifelike detail, and nuances in the recording were exceptionally easy to hear. The bass region was clean, tight, and very well controlled, proving the D100 has guts down low. From John Wayne Gacy, Jr to Casimir Pulaski Day, the D100 delivered every last drop of the smooth yet visceral emotion that Stevens is known for.Next I switched to the QLS QA350 and played one of my favorite albums, In the Ley Lines by Dengue Fever. This Bowers and Wilkins Society of Sound release is about as good as Ive ever heard 16-bit/44kHz audio sound, and I wondered what the D100 would do to it. I was pleased to hear that it didnt really do anything.. That is to say, it did not add any brightness, or unneeded sweetness, or any other help, but rather allowed it to sound unbelievably natural and real. Several of the tracks are live performances, and those sounded especially good, with each voice and instrument in the complex mix skillfully fleshed out. The soundstaging and imaging were superb, and the overall resolution outstanding. If I didnt know better, and I was told B&W had labeled this as a Hi Res release, I would absolutely believe that to be true, as it just sounds that good on the D100. Lesser recordings played through the QA350 didnt quite have the same magic, but still sounded quite good. The D100 is not the type of unit to polish a turd so to speak, but it does seem to bring out whatever goodness does exist in the recording with a very even hand. I found that even listening to older punk and grunge that is not really audiophile fare, I didnt find myself turned off by the sound. Instead I ended up just focusing on the music and looking past the flaws, which is usually something that a good NOS DAC can help you accomplish rather than a clear and detailed upsampling unit. I love my little Dell Mini netbook (which just happens to fit perfectly atop the D100, nearly identical in size) because it is completely silent. No fans, no moving parts, just pure audio goodness. Some people claim more RAM makes their sound improve, others claim Macbooks sound better than other laptops. Im not so sure I believe those to be tangible benefits, but I doubt anyone would argue the merit of a literally silent system. USB mode proved to be every bit as good as the other inputs, which is usually not the case with most multi-function units. I was able to play 24/96 tracks from Chesky, HDtracks, AIX records, 2L records, and others, and they all sounded squeaky clean. For recordings with sample rates higher than 96kHz, you have to adjust a setting in Foobar, just like with the Audinst unit. This only came up once in a while so it didnt bother me, but I wish they accepted higher rates just for convenience sake. Other than that the performance was flawless and the sound quality breathtaking. My Lexicon RT-20 is the only player I own that has an AES/EBU output and unfortunately I just sent it in for service so it wont be back for a while.
But testing the USB, coaxial, and optical inputs, I could not discern any difference. This is likely due to the ASRC processes acting as an equalizer to level the playing field, but it also points to a lack of compromise in the USB implementation. Thats about the best I can do to describe the utterly transparent sound that I seem to be getting from this unit. I apologize as it feels inadequate but what else can I do?Ill try some comparisons and see if that helps clear things up a bit for the reader. Note that I wont be doing an in depth comparison to each of my other DACs as most of them are not currently available on the market, but Ill summarize those comparisons anyway. Its very musical and engaging at the expense of some accuracy and detail. The D100 seems to somehow match all of the things I like about the Sigtone unit while simultaneously filling in all the weak spots. I really did not expect it to cover all the bases in such a way, but after much listening I have to admit it does.
Im hearing background coughs, sheet music pages turning, and metronomes quietly clicking away but remaining undistracted by those imperfections in the recording. It is rare that a DAC can achieve such a balance. Musical Fidelity X-DAC v3 with X-PSU.The differences are fairly easy to hear using the Matrix M-Stage amps dual inputs to switch between the DACs in real time. The X-DAC initially seems nice, with good detail retrieval and solid bass performance. But when you flip the switch to the Yulong, the soundstage seems to really open up, and the highs become both more detailed and less harsh. Switching back to the X-DAC, the soundstage collapses and the treble grain seems very obvious. Its odd how satisfied you can be with a sound until you have a comparison to expose all the flaws.
If I went back to listening with the X-DAC exclusively for a while, I would probably be content. That is, until I heard the Yulong again. My Cosine is one of the older models that only accept 16-bit/44.1kHz signals, but it still sounds excellent. This is an interesting unit as it has no oversampling, no upsampling, and no filtering of any kind. It was quite expensive about 12 years ago, and is still the best NOS DAC Ive ever heard at any price.It has very analog-like sound and is great for all music, from audiophile quality to low budget demos by local bands. The Yulong D100 sounds very similar in many ways. Both have exceptional tonal accuracy. Both have exceedingly clear and controlled bass. Both are well balanced and exhibit no easily discernable weaknesses. The main difference I noticed was that the Cosine seems to have a slightly sweeter midrange followed by a delicately rolled off upper register. When I saw sweeter, I dont necessarily mean louder, but there seems to be more energy there.
Both male and female voices more priority in the mix, as do acoustic guitars. The top end doesnt seem to lose much detail but also isnt quite the last word in resolution. In contrast, the Yulong has more of a flat response, which makes it likely the more correct sound but ultimately not as pleasing to listen to. This was one of the only times I ever felt hampered by the flat nature of the D100. With the Wavelength limited to standard resolution signals (at least in my unit), the D100 ends up being more versatile of a performer, but Ill be keeping the Wavelength around for a long time.
My Gamma2 is of the type E configuration which means it does not have USB; just optical and coaxial SPDIF. There are several configuration options available; mine uses the Wolfson WM8740 DAC chip and the TI SRC4192 for ASRC. The step up from the Audinst to the Gamma2 is fairly small, but the step up from there to the D100 is slightly bigger.
In comparison, the Gamma2 sounds a bit dry and dull, even if it is slightly brighter. The brightness ends up coming across as a poor attempt to add detail, and it is not quite convincing to me. In comparison, the D100 maintains a smooth detailed sound signature from top to bottom, and nothing sticks out as being artificial. This sounds as if I dislike my Gamma2, which is not the case at all. It has many good traits such as excellent soundstage and nice smooth upper mids that really pop.But the D100 just seems to be in another class overall, especially in terms of timbre and detail retrieval. I never thought the Gamma2 would be so thoroughly beaten by a competitor in this price range until many years down the road. Other Gamma2 configurations may very well perform better than mine, so I cant make a blanket statement; Im just pointing out what I hear with my particular unit. Obviously if the D100 beats the Gamma2, it also beats the mx-1.
The Yulong is superior in pretty much every category. I still feel that the mx-1 is an excellent value for its particular price point, and it is still one of the best USB to SPDIF converters I have ever heard. I also love how small and portable the mx-1 is; Id take it travelling along with my netbook and it wouldnt add much bulk at all.
Thus far everything said about the Yulong D100 has been in reference to its DAC capabilities. I consider this (and indeed any all-in-one unit) to be primarily a DAC with the added benefit of an amp if you need it. Many devices that integrate both features seem to treat the amp section as a bit of an afterthought, especially in budget products, and there is almost always improvement to be had by upgrading to even a modest dedicated amp.
The Yulong thankfully breaks this cycle of mediocrity by offering a truly excellent sounding headphone amp. Im not exactly sure how they have achieved this feat, as it certainly isnt anything amazing to look at inside the case. But somehow they have managed to pack in a very high performance amp, suitable to drive any headphone you can throw at it.
The amp section is dead silent. This is tied for the quietest amp I own, along with the Luxman P-1u. I tried my most sensitive IEMs and heard no hum, buzz, or hiss whatsoever. It continues the tradition set by the DAC section by offering an amazingly transparent sound without any noticeable boosts or dips to speak of.At the same time, it doesnt bore you by sounding flat or analytical. I know that sounds like a contradiction but thats how it is.
It actually ends up sounding nearly identical to the Matrix M-Stage. I was the first around here to have an M-Stage, and probably have more listening hours on mine than most people, and Im genuinely shocked that the D100 sounds so similar. I tried and tried to find a difference between the built in amp and the M-Stage, but for the longest time I could not. I tried it with the best IEMs and full size cans I have.
Finally I was able to find 2 examples where the M-Stage outperformed the D100 built in amp, by a small but noticeable margin. The first of these was with the Sennheiser HD800, which seems to be the virtual soul-mate of the M-Stage, as I mentioned in my review of that amp. At low to medium volumes, the 2 sound identical. But when volume rises a bit higher, the M-Stage pulls ahead with more clarity and control. This is most noticeable in the bass impact and decay, as well as the highs which are notoriously troublesome with the HD800; the D100 by itself seems to sharpen the highs too much, which upsets the overall tonal balance of these otherwise excellent cans.
Not that the D100 becomes terrible, but it stops being excellent and merely settles for great. The other area where the M-Stage pulled ahead was when powering my Beyerdynamic DT990s. I have the 600ohm version, which I find to be very fun with their big (but not too big) bass impact and smooth detailed highs. Again at lower volumes things were the same but as volume rose, the M-Stage maintained complete linearity while the D100 became somewhat unbalanced. The highs were still quite admirable but the bass got a little loose and flabby sounding.
It never ruined the listening experience, and if you didnt have a reference comparison you might not even notice, but objectively it was definitely a step down in performance. Aside from those 2 experiences, the D100 amp is every bit as good as the Matrix M-Stage. If it was a stand alone product, I would rate it higher than some of my old favorites like the Graham Slee Solo, the Eddie Current ECSS, and Musical fidelity X-Can v8. To find this type of performance hiding in the case of a DAC is truly impressive; to find it at this price is almost unbelievable. At some point over the years Ive owned a Benchmark DAC1 (older non USB model), a Lavry DA10, and a Grace m902.These 3, and their siblings like DA11 and the newer DAC1 variations, represent the top of the line in mainstream all in one DAC units. Most people would consider them reference quality, and the prices are significantly higher than the Yulong D100. So how does it compare?
I had mixed feelings about the m902. On one hand, I was just a tad underwhelmed by the DAC section. Not that it was bad by any means, but it didnt quite live up to the hype I had heard about it.I especially felt the USB input was the weakest link. On the other hand, the amp section was extremely good, as in one of the best amps I have ever heard. The fact that it had analog inputs allowed me to get maximum use out of it, often pairing it to a DVD-A or SACD player since those wont usually allow a digital bitstream output for Hi-Res material.
I also liked the Xfeed option which I used when I was in the mood. I felt that the overall sound on this unit was a bit colored, but with excellent taste. It seemed to be more punchy and full than the DAC1, which could be good or bad depending on your preferences.
In comparison, the D100 is sort of the opposite. It has a very high quality DAC section, approaching or perhaps even equaling the m902, but the headphone amp section is not as good.Again we are talking about the difference between great (D100) and exceptional (m902) so it is really not a huge mark against the Yulong. I do wish Yulong had added analog inputs like the Grace, again for SACD or DVD-A listening. On the other hand, I believe the D100 to be superior when used in USB mode. The D100 is closer to the DAC1 sound, slightly less lush and warm than the Grace unit.
This is more evident in the amp section than with the DAC. The Benchmark is an excellent unit that sometimes doesnt get the credit it deserves. I think the problem is that it is the most mainstream of these units, thus not being exclusive or rare enough for some people. It had such clarity and precision that I knew it would be around for a long time, and I was right. If I had to choose a weak point, it would be that the built in headphone amp was not quite up to the same level as the DAC section.
As hard as it is to believe, I think the Yulong is in the same league with the DAC1. They are actually very similar. If anything, the DAC1 might have the edge in DAC performance, and the D100 might take the lead in headphone performance, but they are very close in both respects. The Benchmark might be slightly more flat sounding (again up to you if that is a benefit or a drawback), but Id have to have one in front of me to double check.To me, the Lavry DA10 sort of splits the difference between the Benchmark and the Grace units. It is equally competent as both DAC and amp.
It is extremely accurate, but also has just a touch of warmth and smoothness added to help ease the experience of listening to a bad recording. If the DAC1 is on the one side being completely neutral, and the m902 is on the opposite side being colored, the DA10 is in the middle. The D100 ends up falling somewhere between the DA10 and the DAC1.
Once again it has its own character but is not blown away by the more costly competitor. If anything the D100 looks like it should cost more than the DA10, and has a better build quality, but with less options for tweaking the sound. The only other thing to consider is that the Yulong does not have volume control for the RCA or XLR outputs, so it cant be used as a preamp in a system the way these other units can. It has to be paired with a preamp of some type, or used with as a standalone unit with headphones.
That was never a limitation for me but for some people it might matter, so I mention it. Lastly, I regret that I have never owned a Cambridge Audio DacMagic, so I cant do much of a comparison with it. I have heard it a few times and felt that it seemed somewhat bright and overall pretty nice, but it didnt knock my socks off. This is about as far as I can go on the subject though as I havent spent enough time with it to really get to know it.
It seems like an obvious competitor and is well reviewed, so definitely consider it if you are looking for something in that price range. The Yulong D100 is surprisingly good.
I know that is an old review cliché, but in this case I have named the specific competitors with which it keeps up, so I dont feel bad about saying it. The DAC section is excellent, and the headphone amp is not far behind. It works well with almost any headphone you try, and is absolutely silent. It doesnt seem to be very source dependant, so you dont need a megabuck player to get good sound from it.I know there are plenty of excellent products out there for good prices, and Ive not heard them all, so Im not saying this is the absolute best deal around. But it certainly must be up there near the top. I look forward to seeing if this was just a fluke or if Yulong has more outstanding products like this in the works. Shows up as "YULONG Audio" , no device drivers needed. I got it to work on Windows 7, vista, and Snow Leopard with no issues. I tried to capture the finish of the black metal case. It's got a nice brushed texture to it, sort of an understated classy look. In comparison, the Matrix M-Stage is also built like a tank but is not as refined, with rough surfaces everywhere but the front panel. Under the hood, parts are of high quality, the toroid fairly large, and the layout seems well thought out to minimize signal paths.
Kind of hard to see, but here are some of the main guts: CS8416 in the middle, AD1896 on the left, and TAS1020B on the right. The item "YULONG AUDIO D100 PC compatible DA converter USB Power Amplifier for Headphones" is in sale since Thursday, December 13, 2018. This item is in the category "Consumer Electronics\TV, Video & Home Audio\Home Audio\Receivers & Amplifiers\Amplifiers & Preamps".
The seller is "feeding-my-babies" and is located in Las Vegas, Nevada. This item can be shipped to United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Denmark, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Czech republic, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Estonia, Australia, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus, Slovenia, Japan, Sweden, South Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan, South africa, Belgium, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Bahamas, Israel, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Switzerland, Norway, Saudi arabia, Ukraine, United arab emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Croatia, Malaysia, Chile, Colombia, Costa rica, Panama, Trinidad and tobago, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Antigua and barbuda, Aruba, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Saint kitts and nevis, Saint lucia, Montserrat, Turks and caicos islands, Barbados, Bangladesh, Bermuda, Brunei darussalam, Bolivia, Egypt, French guiana, Guernsey, Gibraltar, Guadeloupe, Iceland, Jersey, Jordan, Cambodia, Cayman islands, Liechtenstein, Sri lanka, Luxembourg, Monaco, Macao, Martinique, Maldives, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Reunion, Uruguay.