Here is the story. I wanted to increase sound quality of my existing setup once again, with limited budget. And I choose to do it by perfecting digital source this time. Of course, my setup worked just fine even without DDC. Aurender streamer can go straight to Moon DAC. But USB input on Moon 380D DAC is not the best sounding input (in my opinion AES/EBU is the best) and Aurender has USB only output. Hence, I needed DDC to convert USB to AES/EBU. I have already tested adding cheap DDC (Matrix Audio X-Spdif 2), which resulted in small improvement, so I knew this way works. So, I was looking for high end DDC, which is versatile and future proof at the same time.
When I discovered Denafrips Gaia, the search for my new DDC was done.
Built quality of Gaia is first rate. Aluminum housing is very solid and nicely finished with no sharp edges and minimum visible screws. Front plate buttons have accurate, firm tactile feel. Even three conus shaped footers are decent quality, because there are small elastomer tips on each footer, which helps to reduce vibrations. Number of inputs and outputs is unparalleled to any other DDC I know. Lots of outputs is very useful for testing purpose as well (I can test sound difference between several Gaia outputs just by switching inputs on my DAC, which is very convenient).
Sound quality (compared to direct streamer to DAC path):
Sound benefit of Gaia was apparent right after first hour of listening. Sound is more relaxed, soundstage is wider, space around instruments has more natural feel. Overall sound character is smoother and airier, but without suppressing dynamics or any other noticeably negative effects. I felt as if I had replaced the model of my streamer with a higher model. And I must mention that my unit is not completely burned in yet…
Gaia’s built quality, clever internal design and versatility was winner combination for me. Gaia has elevated sound quality of my setup to another level. And all that for very reasonable price.
Power filter: Isotek Aquarius, Torus TOT Max
Streamer: Aurender N100H
DDC: Denafrips Gaia
DAC: Simaudio Moon 380D DSD
Integrated amp: Simaudio Moon 600i
Speakers: Diapason Adamantes III 25th
Analog and digital cables: Siltech Classic Anniversary
Credit: Radoslav K, Slovakia.
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