RT AUDIO DESIGN HI-RES USB ORPHEUS DAC REVIEW


We have already covered RT Audio Design's products at Mono and Stereo in the past. Both Orpheus Asynchronous USB DAC and Orpheus Pure DSD DAC have proven to offer great value for the money. Although they're approaching the conversion a bit differently, the sonic outcome of both DACs was beyond ordinary. 

As you can read on the same goes for the latest RT Audio Design's Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC being reviewed here.


RT Audio belongs to the small circle of boutique high-end audio brands, that are passionately following their quests for greater sound. After only a few of the songs in the play, it's obvious that RT Audio design products are made by people who love music for all its varieties.   

HI-RES USB ORPHEUS DAC


From the ground, the RT Audio Design Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC was designed as an audiophile-grade PCM (24bit/192kHz) DAC. After numerous internal listening sessions and with a help of Bulgarian audiophile the RT Audio Design team has chosen Burr-Brown PCM 1794A audio DAC chip with current differential output. 


RT Audio Design strongly believes that non-active, passive I/V conversion output stage delivers the best sonic quality as they deliver don't introduce distortions, phase shift, and operate with output noise. 

Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC's passive output is made of the precision resistor and step-up transformer with a 1:4 ratio. It's connected in the differential mode without a common ground point.

Either Lundahl LL1674 or Sowter 4383 transformers are being used. The review sample came with Sowter 4383.


The transformer plays a role simultaneously amplifier and LPF, with a very low phase shift and a very wide frequency range. For the best sound, we use a battery power supply with Li-Ion rechargeable batteries. 

All passive components (resistors, capacitors) are high quality, greatly specced with low manufacture tolerance and RT Audio Design uses ultra-low noise LDO stabilizers from Linear Technology (Analog Devices).


Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC uses a new Xmos dedicated module with the latest firmware. 

RT Audio Design Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC. DAC is available with an optional SE and EX modification. 

OPERATIONAL


Everything is as simple and straightforward with RT Audio Design Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC. 


What separates the Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC from similar devices is the battery power supply with Li-Ion rechargeable batteries. This ensures around six hours of playback and off the grid. RT Audio Design is very proud of this particular feature and as proven throughout the music evaluations, they did something very right in this regard...


The standard (reviewed version) comes with USB and SPDIF digital inputs, while SE and EX version adds AES/EBU as well as  XLR inputs. The standard version comes with RCA, unbalanced outputs. 

THE MUSIC


Every DAC manufacturer strives to create a genre-less converter, that can serve all of the music in the most involving and unaltered way. 

RT Audio Design Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC doesn't prioritize rock, jazz, classical, instrumental or purely vocal-based music. The same goes for electronic music...

The sweet, seductive and timeless electro masterpiece Lifestyles of the Laptop Café by The Other People Place belongs to my desert disc collection. This gem by sadly too early passed James Stinson was released in 2001 by Warp. Only a year later the album was confirmed officially to be written by the other half of the Drexciya, the legendary obscure American electronic music duo from Detroit.

Drexciya was always surrounded by the mystique, but most importantly their music offers something organically beautiful. And organic is perhaps the most convenient word to be associated with the sonic description of the RT Audio Design Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC. 

"Giorgio by Moroder" Daft Punk, Giorgio Moroder from the album Random Access Memories is an interesting track, that a casual listener might not even be considering to come with the reference qualities. First of all, it's produced, mixed and mastered exceptionally good. On the properly set and balanced system, it will quickly show shortcomings. The same rules apply for the digital front end. 

RT Audio Design Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC's ability to hold together demanding "Giorgio by Moroder" was certainly not expected. The bottom end was presented with more than enough foundation. The studio's scope expanse might not be on the level of the DAC of the upper echelon, but we're talking about 1k device. Still, the Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC provided the stable drive, that easily illustrated subtle rhythmic groove. 

Many more affordable DACs are painting the sonic canvas with the encaustic appeal. Even within the contemporary DACs were are dealing with different permutations and mix of aural traits. Regardless of the price, the DAC can easily be associated with some sort of contrasting labeling. Either of the territories, brittle or saturated are still consideringly predominant despite the so-called path of pursuing the purity is being so highly promoted.   


The open nature transparency and dynamic ability of the DAC can Reference Recordings' albums. Arnold Overtures - Malcolm Arnold/London Philharmonic (RR-48) is one of the albums that gives more than a good run to the converter in action. There are many challenges and norms to be met by any DAC that strives to embrace high-end designation, but the capability of rendering the real sense of believable dynamic impact surely belongs to the prior tasking.  

The way that RT Audio Design Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC can handle dynamic shifts, crescendos, fast attacks and projecting of the atmospheric density is something 

The battery power does bring certain advantages, and blacker background is the topmost attribute. On the ultimate level, theoretically, it can be argued about the slight loss of dynamic capacity. I wouldn't exactly associate this peculiarity with Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC. Compared to the similar priced DAC with normal power supply, the RT Audio DAC didn't smear the vigorousity. While it couldn't compete with the bigger boys, that are priced a few times the Orpheus given price, it surely didn't lack the in transient speed and instantly locking ability. This is clearly a matter of using the output transformers, that can (when wisely chosen) add a grander drama if and when needed. Of course with the proper implementation. 


RT Audio Design's DAC the design concept has proven to be greater than a sum of its parts. It shows that the voicing of the DAC was an important part of the design process and how listing evaluations played an important part. 

The sonic variety of the "Dead Man's Hill" by Indigo Girls from the album Swamp Ophelia is no slouch to replay convincingly. "Dead Man's Hill" is all about mood and rawness, expertly capturing the very essence of Amy Ray. 

RT Audio Design Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC quite unexpectedly delivers the sonic variance that is more as a rule reserved for the bigger boys. The dynamic contour, being so expertly and lyrical projected with captivating rawness was of enough captivity to create the needed drama. Orpheus DAC escaped the shimmering nature of entry-level DACs and acted as a full, mature and well balanced DAC. What better compliment could the DAC at the 1K pricing receive!?

CONCLUSION


Although with RT Audio Design Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC might appear simple by design, it's actually a very well thought out device. RT Audio Team spent a lot of effort to refine, voice and fine-tune the Hi-Res USB Orpheus. 

Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC is following the concept of RT Audio's initial design goals. RT Audio strives to use top-notch active/passive components and electronics parts in their products. There are no capacitors in the signal path and the battery power supply comes as mandatory. There is no active I/V conversion going on and all of the company's DACs are using selected output transformers. Each DAC is hand-assembled, thoroughly tested and before living the company each of them undergoes at least 24 hours testing period. 


RT Audio Design Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC is reasonably priced, great sounding DAC that delivers a lot of performance for the money. Simple, yet elegant aesthetics follows the minimalistic, but carefully designed innards. 

It easy to see and hear that Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC received a lot of attention and much effort was invested into making it sound so healthy balanced. Especially at this price, point, where more often than not, the DAC easily exhibits some sort of unwanted self imprint. 


The non-ordinary battery power and output transformers are certainly key elements of what makes RT Audio Design's DAC so fast, transparent, yet still organically sounding.  

Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC has a sparkling nature that intimately follows the authentic timbral DNA. The same goes for tone and color. It's never easy to achieve the right equilibrium, that keeps the proper music flow, but RT Audio Design Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC conveys a surprisingly well-tuned and captivating sonic performance. This is assuredly not the experience one would associate with 1000 EUR price tag. Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC breaks the usual norm by sounding easy above it's given price. 


Calling a DAC merely great-sounding might give some scope and recognition. Yet, without carrying a certain level of believability and emotional engagement it's just another DAC among hundreds.

Tsvetan Tsenkov has succeeded to encapsulate a lot of music's potency in the RT Audio's DAC. Surprisingly, Hi-Res USB Orpheus DAC could quickly show its strengths even when partnered with the components far above its price class. It could provide the ongoing lock and load with the music material without typical fatigue, which is very often associated with the many of the DAC in this price range.


It was great to hear again the latest Tsvetan Tsenkov and Ivaylo Ratzov's latest device that will surely be of interest to many of you that asked me to write about more affordable, yet not "standardly performing and sounding DAC.•

Matej Isak

PRICE


- 1000 EUR

TECHNICAL DATA

  • Frequency range: 10Hz-70kHz
  • Phase shift: less than 2%
  • THD+N: 0.0004%
  • Dynamic Range: 132dB
  • Resolution: 24bit/192kHz PCM
  • Output level: 2.1Vpp
  • Digital inputs: USB 2 Hi- res : SPDIF HI- res (AES/EBU in SE and EX version)
  • Analog outputs: RCA (XLR in SE and EX version)
  • Dimensions: 220 mm x 50 mm x 180 mm

CONTACT


RT Audio Design
Bulgaria
kv. Bratya Bukston 
blok:204 vhod:B floor: 2
1618 Sofia 

Tel: +359.898.216.109