Top positive review
Great DAC that makes a noticeable difference with all hardware MQA unfolding.
Reviewed in the United States on March 5, 2018
I've had this DAC for a couple of weeks now. I debated quite a bit before buying this DAC, as the price of $399 is not exactly cheap. I was skeptical when I bought it, but so far my impression is overall positive. The full MQA 'unfolding' makes an audible difference as compared to 'first unfolding' done in the TIDAL desktop app.
Before this S2, I was playing Tidal MQA via desktop app on my MacBook, connected via optical cable to a Denon 4310CI. I bought this DAC specifically, for the MQA, which to my ears is audibly superior than the regular HiRES streaming from TIDAL. Denon is driving a pair of Paradigm Studio 60v5 speakers.
I setup this DAC as a pre-in to Denon. The computer was connected to S2 via a USB cable. Right off the bat, I was able to tell the sound is different. The greatest difference is in the clarity of the top end, imaging, and separation of the instruments - this was tested with Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong MQA recordings on Tidal.
Next I tested it with some rock music, and the first was Hotel California (remastered) in MQA by Eagles. The mids are clear, and the bottom end is so nicely rendered that there is no muddying in lower mids. The bass is rendered beautifully.
I also tried running it with my tube pre-amp (Little Dot MKIII), connected to Denon via Pre-in. The sound with MQA or plain HIRES is jawdroppingly beautiful. So it pairs nicely in this setup.
Not so good:
- You can't power it off - there's no power switch. This is lame, and I am not sure what use case Pro-ject had in mind.
- The display is small and cannot be read from across the room. In S2's defense, the display is gorgeous! It's just that this device is quite small, so I guess it's asking too much.
- As a headphone amp, it sucks. I tried it my AudioTechnica ATH-M50x which are one of the easiest cans to drive, and also with my Sennheiser HD 700s - the result was disappointing.The sound is thin, and if you are looking for a DAC that can double as a headphone amp, I can decisively recommend that you look elsewhere.
This DAC represents a good value for with and without MQA - fantastic SQ if you are streaming MQA via Tidal. ProJect S2 excels at being a DAC as a source to a pre-amp, or acting as a pre-amp to a power amplifier. It's not meant for serious headphone listening. Recommended, if you are looking for a great MQA DAC at this price point.
Although, it has weaknesses in certain areas such as no power-off switch, and a weak headphone amp, but for my use case as a dedicated DAC, it fulfills all my requirements wonderfully. So I am giving it a 5 out 5.
After less than 2 weeks of use, the power socket (usb input looking 5v port) broke. Luckily, it was still covered under Amazon's return policy, so no harm done there. Also, this is not a testament to Pro-ject's support, but a comment on the quality. Priced at $399, this thing ought to be more sturdy. Disappointed in build quality, so I am revising my original review from 5 to 4 stars. I have thought about giving it 3 stars, but I think the sound quality, and the features are pretty good e.g. this is the only DAC in this price range that has a volume remote. Although perhaps it's purpose is not to be used as a dedicated pre-amplifier, but the remote control feature does come in pretty handy.
I would not be ordering it again, and will be going for something that's built slightly more sturdy. Unfortunately, that will mean paying a lot more.