A Smoother Listen
Getting stuck in using this as an all in one unit and it outputs a fairly meaty 1.68W into 32 ohms, 360mW into 150Z, 180mW into 300Z and 90mW into 600Z. It seems like we are generally getting more power with combo units and cheaper amps these days. I remember the days when finding something to output a Watt or more was a novelty. It is likely because of the rise in planar magnetic headphones even though they are more sensitive these days, especially with the cheaper models from Audeze and HiFiMAN. Consequently I found this very able to just get on and handle any headphone you may plug in.
Whether they would sound good or not is something else. I generally found this to have a smooth and forgiving sound, with a lack of explosive dynamics and a much easier treble than the glaring Sabre tonality of the last few DACs Yulong have released. The sound signature of this did cause it to be perhaps my favourite pairing for my rather polarising Ultrasone Edition 10s. The way it tamed the treble and softened the upper midrange actually made it a more rewarding listen than much more expensive systems (such as my COS D1 into Questyle CMA800R) showing the true power of synergy. On the flip side, while on paper you may expect it to enjoy the pairing with the HD800s, I found it a bit dull, even if it was well and truly refined. I found adding an external amp, even a cheap one like the tube based Elemental Watson really helped engage me in my experience.
I did find the sound of this to come across very comfortably. Nothing took me near the edge or out of my comfort zone. Everything was well calculated and this was very much why sometimes it could work great and other times just be a little lacking in engagement. Consequently it is the most natural sounding Yulong I have tried, not near the levels of something like COS’s H1 and not in a way to convince you this is actually an analog device. It just spares you from that upper midrange treble exaggeration often used to fool you into a greater sense of clarity and “detail”. A byproduct of this would be that it isn’t as clear sounding as the DA8 II.
I honestly found the sound signature to be similar when using this as both a DAC and an all in one unit. I just think when you let the unit do everything the bass gets softer and treble relaxes a bit, exaggerating the signature it already displays to a further degree. Now up until this point I have been talking about this DAC with its slow filter, which I do prefer. You can switch to a sharp filter, thinning out the sound a bit and adding some more bite to the higher frequencies but it doesn’t do so in a way that to me makes it more enjoyable, I think this is more at home doing an easier going sound in opposed to pushing its self forward.
As I have already said if you are to just use this as DAC it clearly is the same product but adding that Class A amplification certainly exaggerates the sound, so with a leaner or more neutral amp you won’t have any obvious colouring. That being said I did compare it to a couple of other DACs such as the aforementioned H1 and Exogal Comet, which are much pricier with similar feature sets. This was more for me to gain an understanding of the limitations that the cheaper price point may or may not bring. It did highlight that I think the ADA1 is a bit lacking in space and size and as I have already said, lacks dynamics. I also found that its bass pressure was similar in terms of decay to the Comet, which was more prominent than that of H1. I found low frequency passages to just sound a bit more monotonous with the ADA.
Inter Range Competition
With its new direction in sound this won’t fulfil your desires if you’ve been made up by previous Yulong offering but what it will do is compliment something like a DA8 II very well if you were to own both. That being said I know that people aren’t exactly in the market for a pair of DACs so I think Yulong have done something quite dangerous, offering too much in an enclosed price bracket which may end up causing confusion and insecurity as to what product to pick.
Beyond that I enjoyed the performance of this, especially wth my Edition 10s but extending from that I was not feeling the love. The user interface frustrated me, the WiFi input was nowhere near simple enough to be something often used and even the new aesthetic, while different just doesn’t appeal to me. With all this to remember, it has dropped in price recently and if the sound signature is appealing to you, it sonically may be worth a look in!