Simaudio 650D vs Cary 306 Pro

LDA -- Fri, 10/28/2011 - 14:01

If you could share your opinions/experiences I would appreciate...
Best

Cam -- Sun, 12/04/2011 - 15:51

Haven't heard the Cary but have heard the 650D and 750D.  Both are very neutral sounding with excellent detail, pinpoint imaging and a huge soundstage -  which really leads to some amazing lifelike production of music!  The 650D is slightly less revealing and perhaps more forgiving in that regard, however neither unit is tough to listen to on bad recordings as they are very free of grain or harshness in the treble.
 
I was skeptical of computer audio until I plugged my Mac into the 750D - to me the 750D sounded better hooked up to my Mac than as a CD player!
 
There's a good review of the 650D in the November issue of Stereophile.  My experience was in line with the reviewers' experience.  One caveat, though.  That reviewer talked a lot about how good the bass from the 650D was.  True, the bass on my system is incredibly clear and deep but don't get the idea that the 650D accentuates the bass at all.  It does not.  But it certainly doesn't miss any of the bass either!  Very neutral player.

LDA -- Thu, 12/08/2011 - 11:32

Thank you for your reply Cam. It seems that there is not much people getting after buying a new digital source in this price category. I always wanted a complete player with SACD and high resolution capability but the only option seems to be Cary 306 pro under $10000. Other reference level players are much more expensive. So I thought that maybe I need to abandon the SACD option which is actually about to dissapear gradually. I have an eye on 650D for a long time and have been waiting for a detailed review which finally arrived. Pleased to hear that your experience was in line with theirs. As an anologue guy Fremer raved so much about it. And the good news is that they also upgraded the USB input whics has now asynchronous 24/192 capability.

Do you have other suggestions about CD players similar to Simaudio stuff?

Cam -- Wed, 12/07/2011 - 17:44

 I posted your exact question on these forums and got no replies!
 
Highly recommend you listen to the 650D before you buy if buying new.  It is very neutral and smooth but I'm not an analogue guy so I can't confirm whether or not it sounds like analogue. Also, if you read Fremer's review closely he keeps referring to the 650D as having an excellent "digital sound".  Obviously he really liked the unit but I wonder if there was a reason he kept inserting the word "digital" in the context of his comments.
 
The only other player/dac combo I had my eye on was the new Ayre DX-5 but it was a little pricey for me so I never tried it.  It got some great reviews, supposedly improving on the QB-9 dac performance and also great on CDs, however I remember reading the SACD performance wasn't state of the art sonically.
 
Other options I considered were dac only devices, keeping my cd player (Moon, Ayre, alpha dac, EAR, etc.) but with space for my equipment at a premium in my living room, I really wanted an all in one unit.  Apparently Moon is coming out with a new Evolution stand alone dac in the new year which will be less expensive than the 650D, which might be worth waiting for if you want to go that way.

LDA -- Wed, 12/28/2011 - 13:11

Cam; congratulations on your new digital source! Glad to hear that you ended up buying a 650d. Passionately wondering whether you have up to date information about the differences on the sound during the burn in process.
By the way, if I decide to go the same way it will probably be the upgraded version since the dealer does not have the old one. While it is a good thing since I'm planning to use a laptop as transport, the price will be higher.:(
Anyway, looking forward to reading your new experiences. Congrats again.
Best.

Cam -- Wed, 12/28/2011 - 17:54

Thanks LDA!
 
I really didn't listen to the 650D all that much for the first couple hundred hours of break in.  Consequently, I've not noticed huge differences in the sound once I started listening to a month or so in but there have been subtle improvments.  Do you know when you're listening to a familiar song and you have one of those "this sounds unbelievable!!  it's never sounded this good before!!" type moments?  I've been having those more frequently lately with the 650D in my system when listening to CDs.  Tough to describe what exactly has changed in the sound - the best I can describe it is that the sound is more "liquid" and "organic".  Not that it was at all harsh or digital sounding before but there seems to now be a more natural flow to the music overall, including a more natural attack and decay to the individual notes and better integration of all instruments into a very realistic "whole" to the music.  I know that's probably not very helpful - sorry, I'm not great at describing what I hear in technical terms.  Suffice to say the slight improvement I've heard, small as it may be, has lead to some real magical listening moments!
 
As a caveat, I should mention that all of the listening above has been with the CD input.  A few days ago I invested in a Sooloos MC200 music server.  While I'm very pleased with the interface, the sound I'm getting with AIFF and FLAC files played through the Sooloos and into the 650D's S/PDIF coax digital input is not on par with CD playback.  I'm hoping this will improve with burn in on the Sooloos and a better digital cable (on order now) but the 650D is not as spectacular with the Sooloos set up.  I also tried my MacBook Air playing AIFF files with iTunes via the non-updated USB input on the 650D.  The 650D's CD player now surpasses the MacBook Air as well. Interestingly, the MacBook Air via Cardas Clear USB sounds quite different than the Sooloos through the 650D. The Sooloos seems to have a richer mid-range and slightly rolled off highs while the MacBook Air is a little more detailed with more "air" and high frequency extension.  I guess what I learned is that the 650D is not "the great equalizer of all sources" that I thought it might be.  Source software/hardware still matters and, in my experience to date, significantly impacts the sound.  Which connection and related cable you use will also probably impact the sound. 
 
I can whole-heartedly recommend the 650D on its CD playback capabilities alone.  However, you should probably see if you can demo the 650D with your laptop and related software before you buy it to help manage your expectations.  Personally, I'm now on a quest to see how I can tweek the Sooloos (which has what I think has the best user interface and music management software today) to get it to sound as close as possible to CD play through the 650D.  If I'm successful, that would pretty much be audio nirvana!
 
Cheers,
 
Cam

Cam -- Wed, 12/28/2011 - 20:01

Just an update...tried wav files instead of aiff on the Sooloos and I think I've found my audio nirvana.  On one quick listen, the sound through the Sooloos via coax S/PDIF to the 650D is pretty much identical to cds through the 650D with all the functionality of the Sooloos - wow!!!
 
Only problem to work out now is a pesky bit of white noise at the end of each WAV file - probably can fix it via the settings on dbpoweramp...

Cam -- Sat, 12/31/2011 - 10:24

 See my comments in the "best sounding file format on Sooloos" thread.  I've found a combination that leads to better sound than standard cd playback through the 650D using the S/PDIF digital input, my Sooloos MC200 and wave files ripped through Exact Audio Copy.  Spectacular sound - the best I've heard on my system to date!

LDA -- Sat, 02/25/2012 - 13:15

Cam; sorry for the extremely delayed response. Glad to hear that you finally found your sonic nirvana. But still it seems strange to me that you did not like the sound of the flac files. The raving review by Fremer was also performed with a Sooloos system and using flac files if I am not wrong. Another review that I found also mention that the 650d is better performing as a stand alone DAC compared to the sound through its transport. Do you think the reason that the wave files lead better sound than flac files arises from the Sooloos system or the 650D?. (By the way do the wave files fully compatible with the file tagging like flac files? I guess yes.)

Actually, if I buy the 650D I dont plan to use it along with a music server like yours in the near future. I will use my laptop as transport and connect it to the unit via USB. Maybe later on I can buy a Mac mini and Amarra but what is important for me is that the high resolution file performance of the unit through the new USB port which will be most prabably used for a long time.

LDA -- Sat, 02/25/2012 - 13:23

BTW "liquid and organic" sound is exactly what I am looking for from a digital source. If I will be able to get this with 650D by using its USB input and high-res flac files I can directly get on with it with my eyes closed.

Cam -- Sat, 02/25/2012 - 13:40

 I think the issue was with the ripping software I used.  Im now hard pressed to hear a difference between FLAC files ripped through the Sooloos interface (which uses a version of Exact Audio Copy) and Wave files ripped through exact Audio Copy. If it is not that then I don't know why I heard a difference before. The biggest issue I had was with AIFF files through the Sooloos - they were noticably rolled off in the high frequencies. 
 
Since my initial listening, my Kimber D-60 digital cable arrived ( I was previously using an entry level Audioquest).  The sound changed with the digital cable in the same way changing out analogue interconnects can change the sound.  I find the D-60 a little too etheral sounding for me (which I guess is in line with my experience with Kimber analogue interconnects) so now I'm looking for a different interconnect. I might try fuller sounding cable brands like Cardas, XLO or MIT.
 
That is the one thing that I feel Fremer did not adequately capture in his review - that the 650D is sensitive to the source.  Reading all the anti -jitter technology in in the 650D literature, you would think it is the great equalizer and will make all sources sound the same. This is not so. Don't get me wrong, it sounds very good with all the sources I tried, including CDs, but does benefit from high quality source elements like accurately ripped files and digital cables that align with your subjective preferences.

Cam -- Sat, 02/25/2012 - 13:46

 I get great sound through the 650D with my MacBook Air playing aiff files via iTunes and a Cardas Clear USB cable.  Aiff, ripped with iTunes with error correction on, seemed to work well in this setup, without any of the high frequency roll off I heard with aiff ripped by dBpoweramp and played through my Sooloos. 

LDA -- Sat, 02/25/2012 - 16:31

Cam; that is great news.! I am so relieved! I totally appreciate the source dependence of the unit. I think that is not a big deal for me.
So, could you please summarise your last opinions?
1) Comparison between CD, flac through Sooloos, wav through Sooloos, aiff  through Mac and perhaps flac through Mac (not supported I guess)
2) Any chance of comparing high-resolution downloads? Such as flac vs wav.
Above comparisons would be much appreciated. 
 
 

Cam -- Sat, 02/25/2012 - 18:11

Before I installed my new Kimber D-60 digital coax cable, I thought wav through the Sooloos was as good as and sometimes a little better (deeper soundstage and subtly more detailed) than CD playback.  With the D-60 in place, I'm now preferring CD playback as I find that while the D-60 makes the music sound more spacious and deepens the soundstage further, it robs the music of some body, "tone color" and bass extension. 
 
AIFF through the Mac and Cardas Clear USB is very appealing and musical, with strong bass weight, extended highs and good body.  However, it's not quite as refined and misses out on the last bit of inner detail in the music vs. the CD and Sooloos input.  However, I don't think you'd complain at all unless you did some back to back comparisons.  On some CDs, the additional bass weight and extension via the Mac/Cardas input is quite welcome!  Kind of a preference and source material dependent.
 
I've tried some high-res downloads (96/24) from HDtracks in flac format.  I honestly can't say that I notice much of an improvement in sound vs. CD's ripped in wav via EAC.  And, as I mentioned, now I'm not even hearing much of a difference between wav and flac.  I think ultimately the sound is recording dependant and a lot of the high def stuff out there is limited by the original recording.  That said, I've not tried anything higher than 96/24 - those better file formats via computer/usb and something like Amarra or JRiver could potentially give you even better sound than I'm getting with the Sooloos and 96/24!

Cam -- Sun, 02/26/2012 - 10:31

 I should also mention my impressions of computer/USB input are based on the first generation 650D. I'm sure you'll get improved results with the updated asynchronous USB input.

Cam -- Sun, 02/26/2012 - 10:41

 This is off topic but I just visited my local Dealer who just got the new Arcam FMJ D33 dac in.  He went to another dealer's place one night recently and they  compared the new Arcam dac to the Ayre DX-5.  He said it was very quickly clear that the Arcam was better than the Ayre - they thought it had a more open, spacious soundstage than the more expensive, very well reviewed Ayre dac.  The Arcam is only a dac with no cd player, though, and I have no idea how either compares to the Simaudio stuff.

LDA -- Mon, 02/27/2012 - 10:13

Cam; thank you for the explanations. I think 650d is a good choice for me. I have not been in my country for a few months. This is why I could not audition it. When I go back I will insist on a home demo. 
Im not sure whether or not we have an Arcam dealer. But anyway my first consideration will be 650d for sure. Still, thanks for the recommendation.
 
Regards

Cam -- Mon, 02/27/2012 - 12:27

Good luck LDA!

LDA -- Sun, 03/11/2012 - 17:38

Cam; hope you are very happy with your recent purchases.

Lately I started to consider including stand-alone DACs in my research. Now I think that if the device does not include a SACD transport it may not necessarily include a CD transport neither. At the end of the day, CDs can be converted to digital files, can't they?... Accordingly beside the 650D, Weiss DAC202, Playback Designs MPD-3, Esoteric D-05 come to my mind as attractive options.

Have you had any experience with any of the above (or similar) DACs?.

Cam -- Sun, 03/11/2012 - 18:17

Hi LDA,

I haven't gone down that road so I don't have a lot of experience. I was auditioning some digital cable the other day and the system I was listening to was leveraging an Esoteric transport and a Berkeley Audio Alpha Dac 2 and the sound was fantastic!! Mind you, he was leveraging a fancy tube amp (not sure which one), pricey Siltech cables and even pricier Avalon speakers...but I've read some great reviews for the Alpha Dac so it's worth checking out. I think he said the Alpha Dac 2 was about $5,000, which is likely in your price range if you were considering the Simaudio 650D.

I asked my Simaudio dealer about Esoteric and he said it's very good but a different "flavour" of sound vs. Simaudio - he said Esoteric is more known for a detailed, "etheral" type sound vs. Simaudio's focus on bass and body. His favourite DAC is the EAR 192 DACute, which he says has a rich analogue sound.

Another one of my dealers just compared the new Arcam D33 DAC (I think about $5,000) to the Ayre DX-5 (closer to $10,000) and said he and a couple other dealers unanimously though the Arcam was better (bigger soundstage, more open, better imaging). I trust his judgement (he wasn't trying to sell me anything) so the Arcam D33 is definitely worth an audition.

Let me know how your comparisons go - I'm very curious!

Cam -- Wed, 03/14/2012 - 16:25

 Another review endorsing the 650D, this one from SoundStage who awarded it a Reviewer's Choice Award.  What is interesting about this review is that they got to the bottom of the 650D's decidedly analogue sound.  Apparently it's analogue output stage was deliberately designed to slightly sweeten the high frequencies to make the overall presentation a little less "digital" sounding.  In this way the 650D was purposefully designed to be a sonic alternative to the 750D, which is designed to simply reveal every last bit of information in the recording as it is.

See the review under equipment reviews at www.soundstagehifi.com

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