Stylos SYS STYX USB DAC review


Within this era of digital revolution, it was about time that somebody started using serious computers as digital front-end sources. With increasing online digital distribution of music and easy archiving of numerous CDs from our favorite music collection, there is ongoing need for quality external DACs. There are already some well-established names on the market and many quite affordable solutions from China manufacturers. The Stylos STYX USB D/A converter is a high quality, digital to analog converter, made very robustly from one block of marble, which is specially shaped and with a unique signal processing algorithm.

The STYX USB DAC is based on the Texas Instruments USB receiver, which includes the 24bit/192Khz advance sampling converter (Delta – Sigma). The Converter can accept all digital files using 38, 44.1, 48 kHz sampling rates.

Components are top-notch from companies like Beysclag, and WIMA. The Digital USB (Type A connector) input works with USB 1.1 (12Mbps) standard, so even if you have an older computer this baby will still sings its best tunes. The USB 2.0 (480Mbps) standard is also compatible.

Designer Igor Jez explained in his notes that the USB digital connection holds many advantages over standard and mostly used S/PDIF. The USB protocol, communicates in both direction (to computer and back) and this should result in less errors than through the S/PDIF input. Problems with asynchronous communication become apparent with these types of devices that do not support that kind of two-way communication. The STYX is also powered from an outlet power supply to avoid any problems that could occur with powering the DAC from the computer universal serial bus.

So how does this 2010 black monolith behave? It is above expectations. I had three different converters at the time of testing. The STYX is surprisingly, naturally balanced and on the first notes of music I could recognize familiar richness of analogue playback. It is quite interesting how a digital device could have such a characteristic, but it is apparent. While I would not say that it is on the same level as a high-end analog source, it shares many of its best attributes. The STYX is somehow free of the typical digital harshness accompanied by most DAC’s.

Letting the Cure’s “Close to Me” flow through my rig was quite exhilarating; Well-balanced notes, that held all of the attack and musicality of the performance, brought a big smile between my ears. Albert King & Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Live session pumped the energy and playfulness of that one-of-a-kind performance through my headphones and it made me gasp at how in sync the two guitarists were with one another. Every blues fanatic should have this album. To test the bass and how well the STYX could control it, I used Alarm Will Sound’s amazing album, Acoustica. The ensemble performs some of the best songs from legendary electronic composer, Richard D. James AKA Aphex Twin.

I have to say that while listening for first few hours, I felt that some of the attack and gain was missing. However, after letting the device burning in, all those little details started to appear. The manufacturer informed me that the STYX requires more than 100 hours of break-in before really sounding its best. While I have never been a true believer in this, I did notice a dramatic change in the sound, so I consider this to have been a great learning experience.

Who should or would dream about this device? I think that any serious audiophile looking to use their computer as their primary digital platform should really consider it. The STYX is a rare little gizmo. It is made with love for music and esthetics. If you need a high end note in your home, connected to your laptop or PC, do not think twice. I used it with my Apple Mac book pro and this combination just screamed out luxury, design, quality, and top class sound. There are definitely some doors still to be opened to the higher ground, but that will require as usual, a lot more money. The STYX is a no-brainer from a purchase perspective. Find one and try it.

Matej Isak
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