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The main question we need to answer is: do we only play back ripped CDs or do we run high resolution files? If the first, I would stay with the Brick. While the Cosecant has a warmer, more pleasing timbre, I like the sound of the first one better. But this is my subjective choice related to price, sound and other elements and not to the inherent value of the unit. It will however be different once hi-res files compose a significant part of our collection (the following images open to full size in a new window).

To thoroughly test this, I made a set of different comparisons to determine how the Wavelength behaves with different kinds of recordings and how those stood against their versions on other carriers. The tests were as follows: the reference is on the left, the Cosecant on the right side (with one exception).
  • CD vs. FLAC from that disc
  • SACD vs. FLAC made from the CD layer from that disc
  • SACD vs. FLAC 24/88.2 (master tape)
  • FLAC 24/96 from DVD-A vs. FLAC 16/44.1 from CD version of the same disc
  • LP vs. FLAC from CD
  • LP vs. FLAC 24/88.2 (master tape)
  • LP vs. FLAC 24/96 from DVD-A

This meant a lot of comparisons but I wanted to report on how the device handles files in CD quality versus hi-res. Based on this we can describe the sound as warm, with an accent on the lower midrange. Switching to my Ancient Audio Lektor Prime, Luxman D-08 SACD or McIntosh (MCD-1000+MDA-1000, SACD) but also -- and this came as a surprise -- to the Avid Acutus + SME Series IV turntable, everything moved closer and became more rounded and fuller. Yes, besides vinyl, all remaining sound sources had a thinner midrange when compared directly to the Cosecant. This element had been most important when comparing my Prime to the Reimyo where it was mainly responsible for the significant advantage of the latter. The American DAC had a very similar timbre, perhaps a bit lower but with equally saturated vocals, big contrabass etc. The first soundstage row was close to the listener, far closer than with any of my reference devices and closer also than with the Brick. This is why everything seemed so intimate, so emotionally near and without digital hoarseness. As I said, this is a big achievement not only with regard to the computer environment but for a digital source in general. Only SACD discs played from top players I had for comparison showed that it can be taken further still, that the sound can be played smoothly without any warming up. The same was true for vinyl, which also gave the best stereophony and resolution in this comparison.

In my opinion it is this last element of resolution which falls victim to the fantastic timbre and palpability which characterize the Cosecant. The resolution with 16/44.1 recordings was rather mediocre and not only the edges but also the instrumental structures were better presented with the Brick - as much as I remember it. This was no mere romanticizing of the sound as over certain tube amplifiers but rather, a withdrawal of some information, with priority given to sound saturation. Hi-res fared far better. Here the Cosecant retrieved much information yet maintained the same beautiful timbre. Some problems were recordings ripped from DVD-A like The Beatles' Love. This 24/96 recording was used also to press the vinyl and still the record was much better than the digital sound. Because this happened a few more times (except for Classic Records), it must be attributed to some kind of protection or watermarks in the DVD-A audio signal. 24/96 and 24/88.2 FLAC files from Linn Records had similar timbre but their resolution and soundstage did not suffer the shortcomings of the DVD-A copies.

So that's how this DAC performed. For many audiophiles it can hit the bull's eye for while it is not a neutral sound, it does fulfill the basic requirements of an audio device: it provides joy from listening in as demanding an environment as a computer. This is very rare. But since the Brick delivered so well on 16/44.1 recordings, you should give both a head-to-head comparison before deciding. The Brick is one of the best USB DACs on the market and in my opinion even the very good Benchmark DAC1 USB does not provide as good a sound with computer-generated signal. I already learned just how bad it can be when listening to the Cambridge Audio Magic Dac, a splendid inexpensive and well-featured converter which nonetheless produces at most mediocre sound from USB. Against this background, the Brick and Cosecant look like heroes. They are the best DACs in this class I know of. Yes, the Cosecant gives a more saturated and intimate sound but it lacks extension on either end of the spectrum compared to the Brick. And this is good because it leaves us some choice.