SHEVA DAC is a reference class DAC of CLONES audio. ES9018 based D/A Converter with input source selection brings the widest PCM and DSD supports in a very compact and stylish enclosure.
As with previous Clones Audio products build quality is among the best I've seen from China and I do see those on a weekly base. It took Funjoe quite some time to find the right suppliers of the enclosures, but the extra trouble is worthy. The end result of new chassis design clearly reminds me of Soulution take on the design simplicity. That can be only a good and positive thing. Everything regarding SHEVA feels like refined and a step up from the current Clones Audio product line.
MEET THE SHEVA
I left Clones Audio Sheva for few days turned on the the music to let it break in. A trouble free and error free solid locking and performance. No glitches, no hiccups and no red marker notes needed. Thanks God :)! Setup it up was easy and straight forward as the outer aesthetics seems to speaks out.
Starting with my digital library and getting through first test songs proved an coherent playback across the genres. Very smooth and refined sound performance, without the usual quirks of entry level DAC's. My notes pointed towards detailed and fast sound performance with wide soundstage and very good air around the instruments. The dynamics set a great grip to the music and even with the complex material and crescendo passages everything remainder in the smooth forte.
There are no tubes under the SHEVA top panel, but interestingly the top-end felt very tube like. As with higher frequencies the midrange remained clear and with very good impact. The ability of the modern gear to bring the warmness and life-like feeling without the tubes culminate nicely with this Dac. It have the soul a very good in-depth look to the music.
It took sometime for SHEVA to start performing at it's best, but showed a highly promising performance out the box.
A STEP FURTHER
As mentioned above the build is very solid, with very good milling and nice silver aluminium eloxing. It speaks quality even with a quick eye glance. Despite the DAC small footprint it weights a hefty 7 kg. I love Clones Audio 25PM mono blocks sturdiness, but with SHEVA everything feels even more sturdy.
You'll find all the connection one would desire on the back side. Its also fully balanced from es9018.
On the back side there is a full array of digital Inputs: AES/EBU, S/PDIF, BNC,Toslink, I2S and USB. SHEVA supports both XLR one on RCA stereo analog outputs to meet you preamplifier demands for balanced or RCA inputs.
Moving to front panel. The red Dot Matrix display, that reminds me dearly on some of the upper echelon products display for displaying of sampling rate, input source, audio level and filter type. On the right side the 100steps rotary encoder with push switch, that serves for fine settings and digital volume control of the main output.
SHEVA entered the wagon of DSD with support DSD 64/128/256/512 and DXD (384KHz 24bit PCM) compatibility. Supporting sample rates operates via AES/EBU, COAX and OPTICAL inputs up to 192kHz.
SHEVA spots Ultra-Low Phase Noise Femto Master Clock and custom power supply that use a separate toroidal transformers for both analog and digital section.
Hooking up the SHEVA DAS with the Mac OS-X was painless and straight forward. On the other side with using windows 7 you only need to install the drivers from Amarro. Next things on the Windows site was connecting the Jriver to be used for DSD over Asio. Quit and easy task without problem.
As mentioned above letting the DAC burn in didn't took long. A week with a music on for 24/7 and I felt, that the DAC had settled in. But even before the burn in was completed I couldn't resist and took some time of to listen to it.
Starting with some simple PCM 16/44 from Hank Shizzoe Low Budget album. The DAC had a ease on itself. It had an instant like-ability. Its very simple to enjoy and fall for the SHEVA.
Despite using the albums, that was not the best show of the recording quality the Sheva served the music very life like with a good tonal balance and lots of details of the musical presentation. The best of all the music sounded like music should! With right pace and tonal correctness.
Going further to some of DSD recordings from Opus 3 revealed with the first notes strikes you really hear that Funjoe of Clones Audio tweaked the Sabre DAC chip very well. The soundstage was big. I mean huge! Details of musical information were flowing unaltered. Organs have had all the space and vibe compared to one of my reference DAC's that cost more than five times the cost of Sheva.
Now things started to get even more interesting. Usually I'm not being the biggest fan of Sabre chips. They can have a tendency to sound a bit tad, to warm and slowish. But with SHEVA Funjoe have done something magical with the 9018 chip. Its became darn good in the SHEVA. How can that be!?
My guess is that Funjoe had to do something crazy with the power supply and the filtering of the DAC chip. The way SHEVA lets you look in to the music is usually only heard in the very expensive models of DAC's. The width and depth of the soundstage with SHEVA is enormous, kinda borderless, but still with very accurate detailing of the space perception and layering of the sounds. Its very analytic, but in a good way. Not being bright and harsh either and not warm or dull. But something in between on the organic more life-like side of musical reproduction. It never lost the focus and kept the music flow with an iron like grip.
I could call it a show off in some ways, that it deals with the music, but man does the SHEVA loves to show off the music with pace and flow that makes me smile repeatedly.
Going further it was time stress the SHEVA ability of digital reproduction with 40 cellos. The London cello sound, track The Swan is a huge task for any DAC out there. Surprisingly SHEVA got it right! Spot on, the sound was big and appealing. You could really felt the cello´s. Despite the mass of 40 bows I was able to pick up very easily the rows apart. WOW! This deserves a second big WOW. Didn't expect that.
Further more it let me to see the church without loosing the grip of the cello´s. Try that with most DAC's and the soundstage will collapse almost instantly.
Having a chance to parred it up with the latest Acoustic Plan Sitar MKII this was truly a very special duo. These two seem like a match made in heaven. The tube pre stage really lets the details and dynamics from the SHEVA pass through with great impact. I could quit easy live with that setup for the rest of my days with a digital collection. And it doesn't hurt at all that the SHEVA share a very similar design as the Acoustic Plan regarding the size. Small footprints but BIG SOUND!
I can't help wondering. What If clones Audio were to make the same DAC with a tube I/V!? This DAC has a very big potential to be among the best out there. Funjoe did the job with sabre 9018 better than any one else I've heard so far. Despite he's using the Opamps in the analog stage it didn't limited sound usually connected with DAC's or preamps with the Opamps stages.
Clones Audio SHEVA got it right despite using an Opamps and I'm generally not a fan of Opamps based gear. This is quite an achievement. But my mind was imagining the Funjoe expertise in exploring the discrete analog stage or even better and tube based stage. Who know's he might turn at this path someday :).
Back on track! :)
Young MC old school hip hop brings back memories. I know, I know, not exactly the audiophile level stuff but who cares? Tapping the adrenaline flow really packs a punch. Pace and dynamics on this album is worth trying if you like some old school rhythm. Bass is deep and solid. And SHEVA being ready and up for it. Actually I loved the young Mc, that I know dearly even more through the Sheva. Immediate foot is tapping to the rhythm. This is FUN. Some times you just need to let go and have fun. The beats are flowing so is the time...
With the Sheva in house one can easily let it go with music and forget all about the time. A perfect sign for any personal audio book.
With SHEVA Funjoe took a boldly step with the creation of something, that put him away from the current Clones Audio products with creating something of a solitude grand standing.
There are numerous DAC's using the same Sabre chip currently floating in the market and I've heard quite few of them. They all approach the sound in a different way and with the different preferences.
I love the Funjoe take on the "voicing". As with his current products, he aims for the musicality and non reserved performance. Exemplary, when used in right setup Clones Audio 25p and 25pm amps perform like a F1 race car. Without constrains and with the raw energy transfer, that connects you directly with the music. I find the traces of the same DNA with the new Clones Audio SHEVA DAC. It's a bit harder to "tune" the DAC in the same way as the amplifiers, but you can make the right choices and succeed with a strong connection to the original wanted roots.
SHEVA stayed through to the company DNA, but with an introduction of higher electronically complexity. This doesn't necessary means a step forward, but Funjoe managed to introduce a new level of product following the strong home grounds of his preamplifiers and amplifiers.
This is serious, mature and high performing DAC, that lock you to the music with the same grip that previous Clones Audio did, but with the clear introduction of Funjoe expertise in taming the electronics to the sound that he prefer. Hats off!
• Available in silver or black finish
• Digital Inputs: AES/EBU, S/PDIF, BNC,Toslink, I2S and USB
• 2 stereo analog outputs, one on XLR one on RCA
• 100steps fine setting via rotary encoder (digital domain) control main output
• Dot Matrix display for display of sampling rate, input source, audio level, filter type
• Rotary encoder with push switch
• DSD 64/128 and DXD (384KHz 24bit PCM) compatible
• Ultra-Low Phase Noise Femto Master Clock
• Remarkable power supply has separate torroidal transformers for Analog and Digital section.
• AES/EBU, COAX, OPT up to 192kHz
• USB/I2S: PCM 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384kHz; DSD64, DSD128
* 3 year warranty