<snip>That said, I have a Geek Out 2a Signature Edition coming which I'll put up against the Mojo and expect to have the edge, especially balanced.I am listening via CA Andromeda...</snip>
Okeydokey, GO2ASE arrived and I had a chance to dink around with it a bit.
Unboxing impressions: this is much better packaging than GOV2. Interestingly the inner flap of the fold-open box refers to the device as a GO2Pro...maybe a little confusing, but not a train smash. It looks like the GOV2+ will also inherit the GO2Pro naming. The magnetic flap is a nice touch - well done. It seems LH Labs is making progress.
The unit looks soooo much better then GOV2. And the champagne is not quite as cheesy as I feared it might be. Buttons all work well, as do the LEDs
. It looks like a quality piece of casework.
Impressions are primarily via Andromeda, as I don't have balanced cables for the HD6XX yet. Thanks, SAPO, for continuing to suck so relentlessly.
OK, so SE output
First test, Andromeda hiss. They are VERY sensitive. SE there is easily audible hiss, but it's tolerable, and it's the same on all 3 gain levels. It's slightly more than the Chord Mojo, but not much. Still, I was hoping for dead black, but I did get an Ifi IEMatch juuuust in case
. IEMatch cleans it up on 'high' and of course on 'ultra' as well. I'm not noticing a difference between 'high' and 'ultra' in terms of FR changes, FWIW, which is good, as the impedance adapters I played with really affected FR a lot.
Of course I put it in the ring with Mojo straight away
. Did a casual volume match using JRiver/pink noise and linked them (sends the same output to both simultaneously). Testing with KEF M500 (Andro's are a pain to remove/replace and I get a lot of fly-by's at my desk) and the treble roll-off that people refer to on the Mojo is immediately apparent. Initially vocals seem to sound ever so slightly thinner than Mojo, but cymbals etc. are rendered with greater detail and clarity and there is a sense of air and dimension that's not quite there with Mojo. Not that Mojo is a slouch, but the GO2ASE edge is easily evident.
OKay... GO2ASE vs GOV2 + Andromeda w/litz and tinsel balanced cable:
I used a decent passive switchbox and linked the two Geeks in JRiver. Level matched with narrow band pink noise at a reasonably loud level (for me). The GO2A is significantly louder - -22dB on the GOV2 matches -26dB on the GO2A on low gain. Interestingly switch to high gain and the GOV2 is louder than the GO2A. I know LLH Labs have been working on SE, so this is part of those changes I imagine.
To be honest there's not much between them SE. Slightly airier, and a sense of a little better detail. I wondered if the switchbox was getting in the way and blurring things maybe, so took it out OK, testing SE with IEMatch and tinsel, there's a much bigger difference...soundstage is noticeably wider on GO2A and instruments are more clearly placed.
Channel match is -29dB GO2ASE to -22dB GOV2 on low gain. Again, at high gain GOV2 is louder.
GO2ASE hisses more loudly, approximately double the hiss of GOV2. This is disappointing, but IEMatch takes care of almost all of it at High, but needs Ultra to clean it all up for a dead black background. I was hoping this would be the hiss-killer, but I'm actually OK with the IEMatch, so I'm not going to fret about it. The IEMatch is also great for not having to swap out the cable for SE phone outputs. FWIW, although most feel the ALO tinsel cable is an ergonomic nightmare, I actually prefer it to the litz. It feels less fiddly to me and I prefer the straight plug. YMMV, but there you have it.
SQ Balanced... (using IEMatch on Ultra), differences are clearer than SE but of course still close in the grand scheme of things. Greater sense of air, and I'm noticing on live recordings there's better timbre on female vocals. It's almost like there's a slickness/thickness on the GOV2, that's cleared awayon the GO2A, so you feel more present in the audience and the presentation sounds more like it's actually happening in 3d space. Soundstage is wider, without losing focus, so things feel more natural to me.
SE vs Balanced (GO2A)
This is tough to volume match, so YMMV and all that, but there's clearly more grip and control, especially evident in the bass. Wider stage, better placement of instruments, just overall a sense of better clarity. This is a clear step up from SE, a more precise presentation and less murky
Overall with Andromeda my initial impressions are despite the pronounced hiss, this is the better of the three DAC/Amp units. IMO IEMatch is optional with GOV2 but a must-have with GO2ASE. Once you've lifted the Andros out of the noise floor, the GO2ASE takes the prize.
I have yet to pit the Mojo, GOV2 and GO2ASE against each other with the HD6XX, which I will do as soon as the bloody cables arrive.