One other procedural test was immunity from vibration. While the Dp5 was not overly sensitive, it still benefited considerably from more upscale resonance management beyond the stock feet. The insertion of Equarack footers made noticeable improvements in soundstage precision and treble smoothness. To test headfi chops, I pitted the Dp5 against the Auralic Altair G1, my veteran DA&T U-2 and also a Burson HA-160D with a trio of loads. To represent "pro" headphone style I had an Audio Technica ATH-50. For an audiophile alternative with angled drivers from the same company, I had the wood-body Sovereign ATH-W1000. For a test of testicular fortitude, the power-hungry HiFiman HE560 planar were tailor-made.

The tonal signature of the Dp5 was consistent with all headphones and matched that of the line outputs. It fell into the ESS mold: mildly warm from the lower mids on down with a clean midrange, slightly piquant upper mids and a smooth treble like the Auralic. By contrast, the BurrBrown-based Burson went full-on warm without deviation, the Cirrus-based DA&T a little cooler but unswervingly uniform. Dynamics were headphone dependent but the Dp5's ESS chip guaranteed good liveliness and bass kick on par with the competition. Tests of usable volume range showed that the Dp5 fared comfortably with the majority of headphones but stretched to its limits with the HiFiman HE560. That required volumes at about 90 for just average listening. It did retain composure and showed no audible signs of strain or change of character. This mirrored the Auralic G1 which showed near identical behavior. The DA&T and Burson did not hit SPL limit because they each utilize heftier dedicated output stages.

Where the Dp5 fell a little short was resolving power. The consequence of lower overall detail was less focus. The Dp5 created a headspace that was voluminous but somewhat diffuse. It afforded decent but not outstanding localization and placement of images and limited venue definition. This was surprising given the caliber of the Dp5's superb 90308Pro chip. The implementation of the 'lesser' 9030Q2M in the Auralic Altair G1 pulled considerably more detail from the same recordings to confirm that raw specs only indicate potential, not realization. In fairness this was subtractive and not particularly disconcerting in the absence of direct comparisosn. Also, in two cases the Dp5 compared to more expensive dedicated headfi/DAC/preamps so its faults should be regarded within that context. Outside of headfi, the Dp5 offers considerable flexibility as system source so I put it through its paces standalone into two amps, supplemented with an outboard preamp and as a dedicated transport feeding the Wyred4Sound or M400 DACs.

The Dp5 as standalone source managed to strike a nice balance at its price and exhibited an overall tonal character akin to the pricier Auralic G1. It showed all the basic flavor of the G1's ESS DAC chip and added a little more refinement in the upper frequencies. The core balance favored the lower mids through mids, granting body and intensity to instruments and vocals. Cable choice and amplifier selection introduced minor variations that were within the boundaries of taste or compensatory requirements. Dynamics held similar to the Auralic, exhibiting good liveliness in both the micro and macro range but not quite in the league of the Wyred4Sound. Transient behavior was best across the midband but softer towards the extremes. On resolution, soundstaging and imaging, the Dp5 mirrored its headfi showing. It lost fine detail, simplified musical content and diminished spatial information. Soundstage width was well produced but depth and projection were diffuse, giving a sense of space but showing limited hall boundary cues and image specificity. These observations played out identically with both the SOtM and Audio Zone amplifiers.