SOtM sDP-1000EX review part one



There is no holding back when it comes to digital audio. Many companies have entered the ever expanding market of DAC’s and digital products and we’re no longer bound to the lone offerings of high quality western products.

The 21st century brought globalization and the internet helped with the exploding impact of a vast array of digital products.

SOUL OF THE MUSIC


In the vast world of audio manufactures, SOtM succeeded in finding their spot on the market in just a few years with a wide array of ever expanding products.

SOtM™ was established with the goal of bringing the Soul Of the Music™ through cutting edge audio technology, hence the intriguing name that captures the essence of the brand.
Soul Of the Music…

“In modern society, music always exists around us regardless of our will. It is truly hard to imagine if our daily life will be just going around without music. Since we have heard music from our mother’s womb and will keep hearing music to the very last moment of our life, it means our life cannot be separated from music.


Music, being ever present around us, is not just physical vibration in air nor an object, but it exists in a sequence of rhythm arranged by melody and harmony. If such musical elements can reach us physically, we will definitely feel the Soul Of the Music™ and experience the entirety of the art. Otherwise, Music will be just a part of our imagination which can’t move our heart and our mind.

In the past, music could be delivered only by a musician’s physical performance. Thanks to the drastic and continuous development of technology, however, the great musician’s performance can come alive without any distortion and move our soul even who have disappeared into the time.”

MEET THE sDP-1000EX


SOtMsDP-1000EX is high-end D/A converter and comes with what is now the industry standard USB audio input, DSD playback ability, a high-performance clock circuit, a battery power supply, and most importantly, a high performance preamplifier.


A minimalist, contemporary design encapsulates many features and a wide array of both digital and analog input. A clean and easily readable OLED display project all the needed information and can be controlled by the remote or buttons located at the front panel.

USB audio uses an asynchronous mode to connect a digital audio source device such as a PC. It can play back a 32 bit/384KHz PCM signal (maximum) and DSD signal. In addition, the sound quality from the input source can be improved by the specially designed high performance clock and 32 bit up-sampler circuit.


sDP-1000EX is a fully balanced design including DAC and preamplifier. To take things further, there is no coupling capacitor in the signal path and a high quality power supplier uses tow battery packs. AS with Kronos and Stromtank, while one battery is actively used, the other one charges. The battery exchange operation is handled automatically when it reaches the needed plane.

Both high res and DSD file reply comes as mandatory these days and sDP-1000EX supports both 32bit/384KHz PCM and DSDx64, DSDx128 .


Interestingly, sDP-1000EX uses the digital controlled analog balanced volume, so the gain is handled in analog domain, which comes as a pleasant change and adds to both the value and sound.


Many might be interested in the sDP-1000EX’s up-sampling. These days many software players offers this feature, but it can take a hefty chunk of the computer processing power and even slow down or stop the playback.


sDP-1000EX’s up-sampling circuit up-samples audio data to 32bit PCM data using company’s own developed high performance audio clock module (same circuit as sCLK-XXXX). It changes sound to be more detailed and smooth. This is especially evident and worthy of experimenting with classical music.


And the other important thing is DSD. sDP-1000EX can playback both DSD x 64 DSD x128 by DOP & native interface.

As with any DAC that combines conversion with an internal preamplifier, the most crucial part is zero dB gain output that is not affected by the included preamplifier. SOtM states how the zero dB volume setting offers non-invasive sound for both PCM and DSD formats, thus acting in absence of the preamplifier output.

MUSIC


sDP-1000EX surely deserves a multitude of proper digital files being served. My usual arsenal of high resolution PCM and DSD files were used as well as the ever growing and popular streaming files.


With the latest Tidal Master addition to the popular “audiophile” streaming service, the source material is expanding at p. rate. There are many albums that are more than worthy of exploration and I started with the legendary Blue by Joni Mitchell. With my reference MSB Select DAC the difference was instantly noticeable. The decays, delays, and solidity of Joni’s voice was at much higher plane than the usual 44kHz/16bit version; sDP-1000EX followed the same path. While not on the same level, it revealed the “ground stones”, or attributes, that makes the higher resolution version better and more believable.

The same goes for the renowned Morten Lindberg 2L record label, where a contemporary recording technique really captures the magnitude of micro and macro details too often missed with even some of the most beloved classical recordings.

The sense of space portraying a believable atmosphere bloomed with sDP-1000EX in the role of a digital to analog converter. Modern DAC’s can and should excel in this direction and for pushing things further, I switched to the high-res audio download of Yotam Silberstein - The Village jazz & people and Johannes Moser & Andrei Korobeinikov - Rachmaninof. Yes, Tidal Masters gets you quite high into the digital heaven, but not as far as native digital files can.

Johannes Moser & Andrei Korobeinikov’s rendition of Rachmaninof opens up the different kind of heavenly audio gates. With high resolution files the “unreachable” analog domain is not such a closed universe anymore. Analog still hold the throne in some regards, but the contemporary digital, live/acoustical recordings are leading the way with a grand pace.

Paganini - 24 Caprices, Itzhak Perlman

Certainly one of the Itzhak Perlman highlights, these Paganini compositions are, by any task, not easy to convey. To get it right, both technique and tone must be spot on.

The same goes for the reproduction. In order to evoke both Paganini and Perlman virtuosity, an extra touch is needed.

Op. 1: No. 4 in C Minor starts with subtle, harmonic tone overlays that simply fail to evoke proper emotional connection with many DAC’s. Here is where sDP-1000EX clearly shows its money’s worth and where transparency kicks in the best way.

All 24 caprices are tour de force, where both ultra fast articulated as well as more slow, mellow Perlman playing truly can shine. sDP-1000EX inspiringly offers musical insights, that were usually reserved for much higher priced DAC’s. Proper reproduction of Perlman’s speed is no easy task. “Nailing” macro/micro loupe nuances demands a step ahead of typical DAC sound orientation. Adding to the sweetness of the tone presented on this EMI records pushes things to a different complexity plane. Interestingly sDP-1000EX holds its balance across 24 caprices with daring and bold nature. Hats off!

SOtM sDP-1000EX encapsulated a massive portion of what DAC giants hold so dearly as their very own. Speed, articulation, and lighting fast attacks are no longer in the exclusive domain of the highly priced DAC’s. The difference is there and will stay, yet one can really explore the immersion into virtual reality of grand audio illusion.

SUM UP


SOtM sDP-1000EX comes as the 21st century digital hum that holds more positive attributes than is allowed to :). The exponential growth of digital audio surely creates a lot of if’s and what’s. For an audiophile on the quest for a DAC, there can be a lot of confusion. 


In the vast digital audio jungle, there are simply so much DAC’s that one really wonders where to look and which path to take.

SOtM takes a bold stand and is moving with impressive pace. Its not strange how well their products are received and why the steady digital audio crowd is following them with such eagerness.


At its given price point, the sDP-1000EX represents a true 21st century digital hub without being shy of features. For anyone looking towards the sDP-1000EX, the most important question along with the practicality and functionality is the sound!


sDP-1000EX follows the modern, open, transparent and dynamic sound orientation that points towards music as it is and locks with the acoustical anchor points, reflecting the reality for what it is. sDP-1000EX is not in the camp of forgiving devices nor comes with adjacent or saturated voicing. Audiophiles and music lovers in search of such an imprint ought to look elsewhere.

sDP-1000EX follows the path of transparency and translucency that is not embracing any ornaments. It aims for straight and focused digital to audio conversion that can reveal the source material and their origins.


Being fully balanced and with digitally controlled analog volume, the sDP-1000EX walks the much needed walk of a balanced audio component that offers more than just solid grounds to explore and enjoy the digital audio universe. With the RCA and balanced inputs, it opens up the door to a fully functional preamplifier that can cater to a phono preamplifier or other analog sources.

In this particular role, sDP-1000EX has proven to be more than just an addition. With +10dB at 0.5dB steps the gain structure allowed the music to be fluid and with enough dynamic impact. Most importantly, the sDP-1000EX gain lurked away from the clinical side and embraced the full, natural, and warm musical voicing.

I’m more happy to award SOtM sDP-1000EX with Mono & Stereo’s Best Buy Award for what it represents This is the first award to go out in 2017 and its more than well deserved for what this mighty box represents at its given price.

Stay tuned for part two of the review where sDP-1000EX will be joined by sMS-200 and dCBL-U2-C.

-Matej Isak


PRICE


$3,500.00

TECHNICAL


USB input
  USB specification 2.0 or higher
  USB audio class 2.0
  32bit/384KHz PCM & DSDx64, DSDx128 playback
  Native ASIO support
Optical, Coaxial, AES/EBU input
  Max bit-depth : 24bit
  Sampling rate : 32KHz, 44.1KHz, 48KHz, 88.2KHz, 96KHz, 176.4KHz, 192KHz
Impedance
  Coaxial, BNC : 75Ω
  AES/EBU : 110Ω
Balanced input
  Max input voltage : 4 Vrms
  Input impedance : > 10kΩ
  Frequency range : 20~20KHz @ ±0.1dB
Unbalanced input
  Max input voltage : 4 Vrms
  Input impedance : > 10kΩ
  Frequency range : 20~20KHz @ ±0.1dB
Balanced output
  Output voltage at 0dB : 3.8 Vrms ±5%
  Output impedance : 47Ω ±5%
  Frequency range : 20~20KHz @ ±0.1dB
  THD : < 0.003% @ 1KHz, 0dB
Unbalanced output
  Output voltage at 0dB : 3.8 Vrms ±5%
  Output impedance : 47Ω ±5%
  Frequency range : 20~20KHz @ ±0.1dB
  THD : < 0.003% @ 1KHz, 0dB
Volume control
  Setting range : -75 ~ +10dB, 0.5dB step
Charging power input
  Input voltage : 9Vdc ±1%
  Max input current : 3A
Operating environment
  Operating temperature : 10°C ~ 35°C
  Storage temperature : -10°C ~ 50°C
  Operating & storage humidity : 10% ~ 90%
Dimensions, Weight
360 x 68 245(mm), 4 Kg >

CONTACT


SOtM
202(Ssangyong-Dong), 84-9, Wolbong 4-ro, Seobuk-gu, Cheonan-si, Chungcheongnam-do, Korea (Postal code.31171)


Tel : +82-41-576-7663
Fax : +82-41-576-7664