When Crane Song told me it had a new converter that was a step up from the one that I raved about in my review of the Crane Song Avocet II monitor controller [Tape Op #103], I was excited and confused. How much better could it be? I love the sound of the Avocet II and its ultra-low-jitter converter. The function-rich Avocet II is a flexible monitor controller that has made my mixing more efficient and effective. It is hands down a fantastic product. And now it's better with the new, fifth-generation Quantum DAC.
The Quantum DAC uses a 32-bit, 211 kHz converter with asynchronous sample-rate conversion, using up-sampling to reduce jitter. The reference clock has less than 1 ps of jitter. (From 10 Hz to 20 kHz, the jitter is typically 0.05 ps.) A proprietary reconstruction filter is employed for extremely accurate time-domain response. But what does all this meeeaaan? If you are moving from a subpar converter, it's like putting on a new pair of much needed glasses — you'll be able to see with greater clarity and focus, and with fewer strain headaches. In other words, you will hear things you've never heard, while enjoying extended frequency response and depth. And for me personally, the music I hear through the Quantum DAC is far more spatial, and it's presented with more dimension.
I am spoiled because for the past couple of years, I have been using Crane Song's converters (both older and updated versions), and there is a great divide between where I started with my previous, “not to be named” converters, and where I am now with the Quantum DAC.
The Quantum DAC is included in the new Avocet IIA controller, and for those of us with the older II model, the DAC is offered as an upgrade. I sent my Avocet II to Crane Song for the swap-out, but Crane Song explained to me that anyone who is handy with a screwdriver can do the DAC replacement easily.
I wish I had a previous-generation unit so I could directly A/B with the Quantum DAC, but I did notice a subtle improvement in the low-mid and bass areas of the frequency spectrum once I received my Avocet II back. The new DAC seems to be a bit more three-dimensional in these areas, and it further cemented my confidence in the Avocet II for all aspects of my mix work. Moreover, I feel the Quantum DAC is most impactful when I work for longer stretches of time, because I now have increased focus, and I experience even less fatigue than before.
If you do not need all the functionality of an Avocet controller, but still want killer D/A conversion, Crane Song offers the standalone Solaris Quantum DAC ($1899 street), which includes a straightforward source selector; a main analog output with a stepped attenuator; a secondary, fixed- level analog output; and a headphone amp, also with its own stepped attenuator.
There are many shapes and sizes of conversion out there on the market today, but Crane Song and company head Dave Hill have been consistent leaders in the space, and they continue to push the boundaries in terms of quality and sound. If you are looking for a new converter or want to upgrade your Avocet II, do yourself and your clients a favor, and give the Quantum DAC from Crane Song a listen.