OPPO Digital Sonica DAC

OPPO Digital Sonica DAC

 Many readers know OPPO as a manufacturer of multifunctional optical disc players, high-quality planar headphones, and other personal audio devices. Over the past two years, OPPO has begun producing wireless devices - SONICA wireless speakers and audiophile DAC / network player Sonica DAC.

I first encountered the OPPO Sonica DAC back at the show, where I had the opportunity to speak with OPPO Lead Technology Officer Jason Liao about the device. He spoke in detail about the functionality of the combine, and at the same time stated that the Sonica DAC is the best sounding device that OPPO has ever made. Even then I decided that I needed to get acquainted with this device in more detail.

Among all the features of the device, nevertheless, the main function is to work as a digital-to-analog converter. The Sonica DAC uses ESS Technology's 32-bit ES9038PRO DAC chip, which is the flagship of the ESS SABER PRO series and claims to deliver 140dB of dynamic range. USB input supports PCM audio from 44.1 kHz to 768 kHz at 16, 24 or 32 bits; it also supports DSD 64, 128 and 256 in DoP (DSD over PCM) or native format, and also supports DSD512 in native format. In addition, the DAC provides playback from USB drives, coaxial and optical S/PDIF inputs, and supports many network protocols. S/PDIF inputs, network inputs and USB storage input support PCM formats with sample rates from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz and 16-24 bits,

To ensure the purity of the DAC signal, the Sonica DAC uses balanced analog circuitry from the beginning to the end of the amplification path (i.e., the balanced circuitry is preserved completely from the DAC chip to the XLR output connectors located on the rear panel). Even the unbalanced RCA outputs are obtained by converting the balanced signal. OPPO claims that the balanced amplification circuit delivers lower noise levels, improves sound quality, and provides better channel separation.

To power the electronic circuits, a powerful power supply is used, which uses a "massive toroidal transformer that provides high efficiency and significantly less electromagnetic radiation than traditional E-shaped transformers" - a quote from OPPO materials. The presence of a massive transformer explains the fact that the Sonica is not a large device, but it weighs 4.7 kg (more than some of the previous generation of OPPO optical disc players). As soon as you take this DAC out of the box, thanks to its weight, you immediately feel the seriousness of the device.

If this device had only worked as a simple DAC, then I suspect that the OPPO SONICA DAC would still be recognized for its exceptional sound quality and excellent value for money. But the simple fact is that the Sonica is much more than just a DAC, it's also a full-featured network streamer and digital audio player. In particular, SONICA DAC can connect to its owner's home network - via Ethernet or Wi-Fi, and then connect to any DLNA servers, network storage devices or streaming services such as Spotify or Tidal. In addition, users can connect USB drives directly to the Sonica DAC and play files using the free OPPO app on their smartphone. Finally, Sonica DAC supports Bluetooth 4.1 and Apple Airplay, which means

The Sonica DAC app is free and easy to use. Once downloaded and installed, the app checks that the device is connected to the home network, then goes through a straightforward setup procedure and searches for available network storage and USB storage devices connected to the DAC itself, and finally allows files to be played from the found sources through the app's user interface .

The SONICA app isn't as "advanced" as similar apps I've seen from AURALiC, Naim or Roon, but it's very easy to use, which in our overly complex world can make a great gift.

OPPO Digital Sonica DAC

I started listening to the Sonica DAC by connecting to its analog outputs a wonderful Sonoma Acoustics Model One system, which includes an amplifier and electrostatic headphones. Using this system allowed me not only to study the sound of the SONICA DAC with the highest resolution headphones, but also to compare the performance of the SONICA DAC with the DAC built into the Sonoma headphone amplifier.

If I had to sum up the sound of the Sonica DAC in just one word, I would say 'virtuosic' - a word you don't see often in descriptions of inexpensive DACs/players (think about it, there really aren't many such devices on the market in the sub-£1000 price range. ). The Sonica DAC handles "difficult" musical material perfectly and delivers a natural sound. However, unlike sources that focus on "search for details" and often lose the main musical thread, Sonica DAC always conveys the musicality of the sound, making the sound very "tasty" (of course, as far as the recording itself allows). By "delicious" sound, I don't mean a sugary or cloying sound, but a sound that, for example, able to convey the difference between a classical guitar and a steel-string guitar, and the radiance of brushed brass on wind instruments. SONICA DAC is able to convey tonal richness, well-defined transparent sounds, deep immersion in music, without forgetting about the details.

All of the above can be seen by listening to Miles Davis' "Time After Time" from the Live Around the World disc [Warner Bros., 16/44.1]. On this composition we can hear the incredible possibilities of the Davis trumpet - from quiet sounds to full power. The Sonica DAC perfectly reproduces even the smallest elements of the soundstage, such as a faint squeak from monitors on stage or a slight emphasis on percussion sounds. Such elements not only make the sound stage wider and deeper, but also create the feeling of a live presence at the concert.

Switching back to earlier recordings from the early 1970s, I once again chose the Miles Davis Tribute to Jack Johnson [Columbia, DSD64] and again was struck by the Sonica DAC, which combined tonal richness, high dynamics and unobtrusive detail. Running for almost half an hour, "Right Off" uses a rhythmic backbone provided by bassist Michael Henderson and percussionist Billy Cobham. It occurred to me that I had never before heard Henderson's bass so thick, punchy and fast, and I had never heard Cobham's lively cymbal work delivered so brightly, cleanly and with high speed. After such a sound, there is a desire to compare the Sonica DAC with devices that cost several times more.

In conclusion, we can say that one of the serious arguments for buying a Sonica DAC DAC / network player is its great sound, which is on par with more expensive devices.

OPPO Digital Sonica DAC

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