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The PX showed good sorting on tone and time. The song’s wiggly gestalt impressed particularly on tempo and control. The bass runs appeared crystal clear and lightning-y against a pitch-black background even if they were tonally limited on extension. Lateral soundstage sorting was exceptional, i.e. precise and consistent. Bass, percussion, vocals and guitars occupied fixed points without drift or central hole. That said—and I’ve curiously noted this with a lot of class D amps—the stage was noticeably broader than deep. This made for an energetic live feel but complex orchestral works don’t allow for the consummate depth layering rather costlier gear manages. Time to change horses in midstream.

As DAC and head amp. Now I bypassed the amp to run the DACmini purely as converter. Gain duties fell on my significantly dearer pre/power combo of Funk LAP2 and Myryad MXA 2150. Simultaneously the analog out of my Marantz shook hands with the Funk to allow switching between Marantz and Centrance DACs. I immediately appreciated how the Centrance DAC was far more capable than its class D power stage led on. Back to Boa with the triplets-gushing guitar paralleling the hectic percussion precisely at the left. This now had a more spatial aura particularly due to more peeled-out reverb elements. The entire number felt more three-dimensional in fact. Even Philip’s somewhat rough unpolished voice was better differentiated. The bass gained a pound and the walking bass had more substance and body.

DAC pure. Switching to the Marantz converter, the 3D remained, bass was comparable, the mids were a tad more colourful but the top lost a skoch of sheen. That was expected and tracked with the core voicing of the SA7001 which exhibits a somewhat polite treble. Further cross investigations including Peter Gabriel’s "Red Rain" from the 1986 album So solidified my take on the PX DAC as being quite reminiscent of the just-reviewed Pioneer N-50.

This meant cracking quick bass, cleanly resolved mids, clear open treble without edge - with one difference. Whilst the Pioneer and my own Marantz gladly drift into color saturation in the mids, the DACmini played it a tad more analytical. Peter Gabriel’s trademark Yamaha CP-80 digital piano for example was cooler and more artificial than over the Marantz – but in the final analysis it really isn’t a true but merely semi-acoustic piano. Again cleanly pegged but not overly present was the treble. The hi-hat for which Gabriel flew in Police drummer Stewart Copeland was quick, coruscating and accented but not crisp, the massive mechanical Linn drum sounds hard as nails and nicely fat. But the DACmini never painted it as anything other than a typical 80s production - in equal parts somewhat ‘wet’ and cool. No beautification here.

The USB input was the wolf in the sheep skin. As long as a streamed 44.1kHz WAV files to remain comparable to CD, I couldn’t tell a difference between S/PDIF and USB - with one proviso. Windows streamers must use ‘proper’ software to bypass the Windows mixer, say JRiver Media Center with Kernel streaming. This pays dividends with finer resolution particularly on dimensionality, sibilants and the treble. More interesting was hi-rez. I recently acquired Restored, Returned from the Tord Gustavsen Ensemble on The opener "The Child within" lives and dies on grand space, nearly lost piano chord decays and plaintive sax. As 96kHz WAV here the DACmini’s converter dug in deep. Instruments had great plasticity over against the blackground. Wind noises, leading and trailing edges, the lingering piano decays all showed exceptional magnification on a pleasingly deep stage.

The 6.3mm jack was the next surprise. Excuse my turning lustful teenager but this was outright randy! This circuit section had detail and drive galore. Nothing was amiss for massive - um, satisfaction. Extricating such emotional enthusiasm to get a bit more factual, bass here had true weight without getting overstuffed. The mids had noticeably more color than the class D outputs but like the latter high resolution and detail. The top end was lit, clear and pure but never strident. Plugging into the equivalent Marantz socket was nearly painful. The soundstage didn’t completely collapse but clearly shrunk. The presentation also felt more bleached and less rhythmic. Here the PX had a very clear advantage.