Yulong are one of them brands that just redefine how little you can pay for a feature set and in honesty, that along probably keeps them doing pretty well. The last product of theirs I checked out, the A28 Amplifier, was surely not the most technical of products but for the price that was never expected and neither was the crazy feature set it had, leaving it as a pretty easy recommendation. At £420 the D200 is similarly priced to the A28 but instead of being solely an amp, this is much more. Now at heart, this is very much a DAC but it also has a pre-amp and headphone amp thrown into it. Now at such a small price you’d be right to be a bit worried that they have added an amplifier section to the DAC, I originally had that fear as well, I would rather just a awesome DAC at the price, and prefer to use one of my separate amplifiers. Now Yulong actually had something to say about all this. They made a point of stating that is first and foremost a DAC but they see adding a pre-amp and headphone amp section broadens the market of this device fairly significantly, much more significantly then the effort and costs of adding the extra sections.
This all being they clearly haven’t scampered on the amp sections and it has its own unique properties. The coolest thing it does that I unfortunately haven’t been able to try is a fully balanced out. I haven’t tried because you have to have a headphone cable adapter made with dual 3 pin xlrs that are female in opposed to males that is standard. Hmmm…how to simplify this, right, I got it, your basically connecting your headphones to the DACs XLR outputs, that also double up as the pre-amp out, and you use the volume pot as volume control for the headphones. You can of course use the standard, single ended ¼ inch jack headphone output as well. This does get confusing with using this as a DAC only either as a little push of the volume pot changes the D200 from pre-amp mode to pure DAC mode, eliminating the volume control, just make sure you don’t do so with headphones connected! Even though I have only been able to use the ¼ inch output, I am very impressed, offering a less refined version of the A28s signature, it does a great job of powering most of my headphones, only really struggling with my HifiMAN HE-500s and it is likely that could well be better with the balanced outputs being used!
The DAC section is even more exciting to me although some of its focus points were much more of a big deal at is release that they are now, even though its only been a few months. I’m talking about the inclusion of it being able to decode DSD. Now a few months ago that was still a really rare feature and almost unheard of at such a low price but since then it just seems another buzzword DAC makers are ticking of their lists, which takes away a little bit of exclusivity this originally had. It still is impressive for the price, one of only a handful no doubt and probably the only full sized option so it is still a big deal. That is of course, if you care about DSD, which I personally think you should and that it does sound so organic, warm and epic, it just sucks that it is so hard to come by, SACD rips are the best way too go a the moment. The DAC is also as boastful when it comes to PCM and this can decode all file formats, all the way up to 24Bit 384KHZ and everything in between, so basically, whatever you’ve got, it can do it. This is of course all over USB and it does also have inputs for AES, Optical and Coaxial if that is more your thing but of course it can’t decode as much, coaxial being the best of the rest offering 24/192 at the most and no DSD!
Yulong selected the ESS Sabre ES9016 DAC chip to use in this, the same as what the much pricier and fantastic BMC PureDAC uses and although it is not the flagship chip from Sabre (the 9018 that the pricier Yulong DA8 uses), the PureDAC really shows off what it can do because that is one fantastic piece of equipment! The DAC puts a line level output through both single ended RCAs and balanced XLRs. The fun and games don’t stop there either, you also get a few tools for some sound shaping in the form of two switches, one for jitter reduction and also a PCM filter that that works a high frequency bypass. You can have both on, both off or use just one at a time and while they are not exactly dramatic in the changes they cause, they just allow a bit of your personality to show through and you can’t complain with that.
Pre-Amp and Headphone Mode
Pure DA Mode
Even though the price is similar, the build quality of the D200 seems inferior to that of the A28. Its not as deep or long even though it is as wide and instead of proper hifi equipment feet, it just has cheapy rubber stands, do the job but I doubt they are the most isolating or anything of that kind. The feet are my biggest annoyance though, the unit still looks pleasant enough, the screen is easy on the eyes and the volume pot is actually stepped this time around, which gives me a massive grin. The other pain I have is the placement of the power switch, which I am finding plain stupid. It is round the back next too the power cable input, so every time I want to power it up or down, it is an awkward fiddle round the back looking for the switch, what were Yulong thinking.
Above the A28
On the DAC it has 32bit 384kHz DSD DAC. So what’s that all about? Well they are both formats of music, 32/384 is high resolution PCM, the highest know sampling rate for files to actually exist in, although very few do and while I have heard a few, I don’t own any of them. DSD is a bit more mainstream and I love it. When I say it is more mainstream that is still a huge exaggeration. See DSD does the digital to analogue process a little differently, with much higher sampling rates, starting at 2.8mHz and going upwards (doubling each time) but it has a bit depth of 1 instead. It was originally developed for the use in SACDs but you can also find some sites that let you download tracks in it, so I have a collection of downloads and SACD rips.
(Top to Bottom) Cocktail Audio X10. D200, A28, Questyle CMA800R
So DSD is a main focus and too right, if you haven’t experienced it, you really should because it is the most analogue sounding digital format, it’s so full, so warm and so detailed, oh boy I love it. That being said this is actually quite contraire to that being more digital sounding, lean in bass and a little bit chilly. The sound is impressive in ways such as being very controlled, detailed and even having a spacious and accurate soundstage but at the same time, it is emotionless, a little to clean, a little to careful. Music does have flaws and that shouldn’t try to be hidden, as sometimes I find that with this DAC.
The bass on this device is careful and steady but also it feels a little bit scared and insecure. This isn’t always a criticism, sometimes its fine, more than fine even. It contains the bass ever getting out of hand or trying to take over and keeps things snappy and tight. Sometimes though it just don’t have that power, that force, the smack round the face that connects you too the music on a physical level. The decay is also on the short time, leaving a far from organic timbre and it leaves the sound feeling truly digital.
The midrange has a similar vibe, still very cautious but also linear and detailed. Its biggest problem comes in the form of a lack of emotion, it doesn’t connect you too the music, it doesn’t engage you, oh it gives you the music but it doesn’t make you want too get up and dance, it doesn’t move you or bring a tear too your eye. That being said it is smooth and effortless and presents everything in a clear and expansive manner. Vocals are fresh and forward and the timbre is quick and pacey. As I have already said the transparency isn’t the last say and does seem to smooth out the finer movements in the music, be them positive or negative.
Treble is the must certain and fearless frequency range. That’s not too say it takes risks or throws its self around in a carefree manner, oh no we still have control, but we also have extension, clarity and zippy timbre.
One of the biggest difference that comes to mind when comparing to more expensive DACs like the Teac UD-501 or Antelope Zodiac has too be the feel and depth of the soundstage. While this is certainly and an airy DAC, it just doesn’t have the depth or a true sense of a fully three dimensional sound. It is not congested or claustrophobic at all, the sound is very well spread in width and has a great centre image to compliment that, it just doesn’t have thee depth, maybe I have just been spoilt by much more expensive DACs!
Pair this DAC with a powerful amp like my Questyle CMA800R and a warm and organic sounding headphone like an Audeze or the Fostex TH900 and things will certainly work out well, the headphones cover the drawbacks of the DAC and they are headphones that actually perform really well with the control offered by the D200. Pairings with something a bit colder and clinical like my HD800s and you get a bit more of an off pairing and I don’t feel like they get near there best. It is a digital sounding DAC, yes, but that doesn’t make it a bad one, that’s because it isn’t a bad one, it just chooses a more calm and collected sound signature and with the right equipment it really does work a treat.
In terms of price, Yulong have seriously gone and done it again, this thing has everything and for the price it sounds better than I have made out, that’s me being honest. If you’ve just got a pair of headphones and want too move them into a desktop set up, then this is THE place to start. Grab it and use as a DAC and headphone amplifier and then you can update were and when you feel best, be it a new headphone or an external headphone amplifier, even a different source or to get a XLR cable to use it fully balanced, because it has that many options. Yes you can get a lot better DACs, the sound difference between this and say, the £3000 Antelope Audio Zodiac Gold with Voltikus PSU is dramatic but if your on a budget and want more than just a DAC, then you have no excuse to go somewhere else.