DACs

Wyred4Sound DAC-2 AND STI-500 Integrated Stereo Amplifier

ARTICLE INDEX

Setup

The DAC-2 contains a surprising number of options for a DAC. Previous units that I've seen or used had very little you could adjust, but with the DAC-2 I needed to have the manual handy for the initial setup. Volume for each input can be set to fixed or variable, depending on how you want to have the DAC-2 configured in your system. Additionally you can configured the I2S type (I didn't have an I2S component, so I skipped over this), PCM roll off, enable or disable the remote control and 12V triggers, enable the home theater bypass mode, and dim the display.

The variable volume control allows you to run the DAC-2 straight to an amplifier, with no preamp stage in between, removing one extra layer of components. The 12V trigger lets you have an amp be automatically triggered to turn on when the DAC-2 is turned on as well, and the 12V input lets you automatically turn the DAC-2 on into HT Bypass mode. In this way, you can place the DAC-2 between your home theater receiver or processor and your amplifier, allowing you to run a two channel digital system with your home theater system. This might be a feature that many people won't use, but for me it allowed me to bypass my receiver, which was introducing extra noise into the signal, and get the best sound quality possible out of the DAC-2. I also used the HT Bypass for an analog input with the Squeezebox Touch, allowing me to quickly change between inputs and compare the sound from its internal DAC's to those in the DAC-2 without any other equipment possibly influencing the sound.

For the majority of my home listening, the DAC-2 was feeding a Wyred4Sound STI-500 integrated amp or an Onkyo receiver that was connected to an Emotiva UPA-5 amplifier. My primary digital source was a Squeezebox Touch over Coaxial, but I also tested an Oppo BDP-83 over Coaxial and Optical, and a Sony SACD changer over Optical. For computer listening, audio was provided over USB through Foobar using WASAPI exclusive mode control in Windows 7, with all files ripped losslessly to FLAC. The DAC-2 was connected in all possible ways in the main system, testing both 12V triggers and the digital volume control with a direct amplifier connection, as well as in fixed mode.

For the STI-500, I ran the left and right preouts from the Onkyo into Input 5 on the STI, and then used the STI to power the front channel speakers. Since the Onkyo lacks a 12V trigger, I had to program my Logitech Harmony to turn the STI off and on, and set it to the correct input. Later on I had a Pioneer VSX-32 receiver in place of the Onkyo, which has a pair of 12V outputs and made using the STI much easier. I could have the Pioneer trigger the 12V outputs, which would turn on the STI and set it to the HT Bypass input automatically. When the Pioneer was turned off, the STI was turned off automatically and it was as simple as a setup could be. I would usually connect the DAC-2 by XLR inputs to the STI, but also ran the RCA outputs to make sure to test it in all possible configurations.