Whether you call them ladder, R2R, multibit or just-plain old-school, these DACs have made a massive resurgence within the enthusiast HiFi space over the past few years. The Audio-Gd R2R-11 is one of the most affordable examples available – but does it live up to the hype?
While not new by any means, multibit equipped DA converters have indeed proved to be favoured among audiophiles for the past few years. When compared to their Delta-Sigma cousins, R2R DACs – so-called because they use resistor arrays (ladders) with values of R, and double that (2R) – are reputed to sound significantly more ‘musical’.
Audio-Gd is a Chinese manufacturer, led by the well-reputed Kingwa. Initially the firm made a name by producing DACs using Burr Brown’s PCM1704 chip, which is essentially a ladder array built onto a single IC. This chip is long discontinued, and stocks have dwindled, forcing Kingwa to make another plan – design his own R2R array – dubbed the DA-8.
The R2R-11 is an entry level DAC, with a built in preamp – an ALPS pot does attenuation duties – as well as headphone amplifier. There are asynchronous USB, coaxial, and Toslink inputs, and the output is switchable between high and low amplitude, to cater for the sensitivity of connected headphones.
Audio-Gd claims that the R2R-11 is compatible with PCM bitrates up to 384 kHz, DSD up to 256, and DXD. The little machine – it’s designed to be comfortable on a desktop or equipment rack – features a linear power supply, and is encased in black anodised aluminium. Not bad for a $350 unit (that will cost approximately R7 500 when imported to South Africa).
AVInside tested the Audio-Gd R2R-11 primarily as a standalone DAC. I can confirm that the preamp function works as expected, with minimal tracking error from the smooth feeling pot – however the lack of remote control was a pain – and the headphone output easily drove my HiFiMan cans.
So let’s get the most important thing out of the way – the little Audio-Gd sounds absolutely lovely. It has a sweet, layered sound, with a deep soundstage, warm bass presentation, and the high frequencies never offend. There is an internal jumper (which we did not mess with), and I must assume that it was set to ‘warm’ for the review sample.
‘Godspeed’ by James Blake sounds slightly recessed, the impact of the strike of the hammer on the piano strings is smoothed over, and Blake’s mix voice loses some of its chest. By contrast, the more commercially mic’ed and mixed ‘Tell her’ by the formidable Sara Bareilles is more textured and layered.
One would think that this ‘older tech’ would struggle with more modern 24-but recordings, and this was partially the case on this unit. ‘Good Morning’ by Norah Jones off her more recent ‘Little Broken Hearts’ album in 24/192kHz has a holographic reality, enhancing the R2R-11’s fluidity and sweetness, while adding depth to the presentation and much welcome texture to the notes.
However, switching between bitrates occasionally results in a slight switching ‘click’ from the Audio-Gd’s outputs. DSD performance could not be tested, either, since the review unit was not compatible with our DSD source (the Aurender N100h), with DSD64 tracks producing easily audible distortion, and any higher bit rate playing sporadically, or at a much reduced volume.
Overall, the Audi-Gd is fine little DAC. One can listen to it for extended periods, and simply enjoy the music. It never offends, but is so much more than just ‘inoffensive’. Yes, better DACs can easily be had – not least of which are larger Audio-Gd models such as the highly regarded R2R-R8 – but at the price this entry level machine is difficult to beat.
‘Jack of all trades’ feature set, layered, sweet sound quality, solid build.
Slight bitrate switching noise. Lack of remote control volume limits preamp functionality. Lack of DSD compatibility on review unit.
If ‘entry-level’ is this good, do you need to spend big bucks on a DAC?
Price as reviewed: Approximately R7 500 ($350 plus VAT, import duties and shipping)
For more information visit 睿志音响 (audio-gd.com)
The Audio-Gd R2R-11 was kindly loaned by a community member, and was reviewed as part of the AVInside reference system. Audio-Gd is available directly from the manufacturer in China, and no South African distributors are listed.
Headphone output : 10V RMS
Variable output : 5V Max
Fixed output: 2.5V RMS (High gain)
Fixed output: 1V RMS (Low gain)
(Only for headphone.)
|Output impedance||2 ohm / Headphone output|
2 ohm / DAC output
0.5 Vp-p(75 Ohms, Coaxial)
19 dBm (Optical)
The TV and game box may had not enough level for SPDIF inputs.
Support Operate Systems (USB)
|Support Sampling|| USB PCM model: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz , 192kHz, 352.8kHz,384kHz|
USB DSD native mode: DSD64 , DSD128, DSD 256 .
Coaxial model: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 192kHz
Optical model: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz
20Hz – 20KHz
220-240V OR 100-120ZV AC 50/60 Hz
|W180 X L220 X H55(MM, Fully aluminium，with feet )|
AC power cord X1
USB cable X1