Talk about quick shipping ! My order with Audio-Gd has been pending for quite some time now as I wanted some customised inputs done (gave up the USB input to convert to another coaxial input). It was shipped out on Saturday afternoon and arrived in Singapore at my doorstep on Monday evening.
The order process was hassle free and the unit was well packed and arrived in good shape.
The DAC19 is based on two Burr Brown PCM1704UK DAC chips paired with Audio-Gd's proprietary DSP filter. Audio-Gd's principal, Mr. He Qinghua has made an announcement that he is discontinuing his products based on the PCM1704UK due to difficulties in obtaining supply of the chip. That was enough reason for me to take the plunge.
You can refer to http://www.audio-gd.com/Pro/dac/DAC19/DAC19EN.htm for full technical details.
The DAC-19 in finished in a shoe-box sized case that is rather utilitarian. The case is decently finished and will not win any prizes for either fit or finish. Given its asking price and performance, this is acceptable to me. I can do without paying a lot more for a snazzier case that does nothing for performance. There is a little bit of free play on the front selector switch, but otherwise, the rest of the switches and jacks are functional and do the job.
It has been suggested elsewhere that the DAC-19 is not particularly sensitive to quality of transport, digital cables etc, or power cables, by reason of its powerful jitter reduction and power supply quality respectively. I believe that it is wrong to disregard those factors and use of the DAC-19 over the short time I have had it suggests that strong dividends may be reaped by paying careful attention.
Transport duties were handled by Slimdevices Squeezebox 3, linked with Oyaide's DB-510 digital cable. Out of the box, the DAC-19 sounds detailed and resolving in the midrange and high-frequencies, albeit sounding a bit bleached and light weight. Bass in particular is not deep or impactful and the overall balance is a bit dry. Things changes drastically after extended burn in, with vast differences heard past the 50 hour mark and 200 hour mark. New owners who suffer from buyer's remorse upon hearing the DAC-19 would be well served to persist in their burn-in duties and not give up !
Once well cooked, things become a bit interesting. Both the top and bottom end of the DAC-19 open up and you get tight tuneful bass, as well as extended and airy highs. What you do not get is any form of euphony or colour in its presentation.
Comparing the DAC-19 to my Lite DAC-50 was an academic lesson in extremes. First off, my Lite DAC-50 is quite extensively modded, with changes in the power supply as well as some circuit modifications in its tube output stage and coupling caps. Once modded, the Lite is rich, organic while sounding open and dynamic. It would be considered by most to be a musical sounding DAC. It also has a strong sonic signature and its richness of tone as well as its weighty and deep bass are obvious in all recordings.
The DAC-19 sounds neutral, rich or lean, depending on the recording. It seems truer to the recording than most, and as such will not help systems that are deficient in certain areas. As such, the DAC-19 would work best in systems that are already well-tuned for a neutral source. Paired with the Acrolink 4020-7N power cord, the DAC-19 sounded a bit bright and thin. Changing the power cord to Acrolink's factory terminated 4030 power cord fixed this..
Similarly, a bit of tuning was needed in respect of the footers supporting the DAC-19. A trio of Finite Element's Ceraballs made the sound too forward. Replacing that with Golden Sound's DH cones struck the best balance between cleaning up the sound and adding some weight to the presentation of the DAC-19.
Describing the DAC-19's sound is more difficult than most equipment, because it does not seem to have any intrinsic sonic signature of its own.However, after extended listening, the one striking quality of the DAC-19 is its ability to resolve and present instruments and voices in the most complex of mixes in a coherent, well placed and separated manner. The Lite DAC has a tendency to spotlight the main vocals and principal accompanying instrument, with the other instruments relatively obscured. The DAC-19 resolves both well, with a surprising amount of low level detail that is not immediately apparent on other equipment.
For it's asking price, resolution of this nature is class leading. I am quite sure that a DAC of this quality with a Western manufacturer badge and snazzier case could easy cost 3 times as much as the Audio-Gd. If you are looking for a DAC that digs deep into your recordings and presents a true picture of what's there, you would be well advised to check out the DAC-19.
My Audio-Gd recently started losing sound in one channel (December 2013) after 3 years of ownership. I loaned the unit to a friend and he was getting intermittent drop-outs that were almost impossible to recreate.
When I received the unit back, one channel was totally dead. I popped the hood and reseated the DSP board, and it works perfectly now. My guess is that despite being tightly screwed down, the pin connectors may develop contact issues over time. The movement during transport certainly didn't help. Worth a shot if you having problems with your unit.