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Resonessence Labs add DSD-capable products to CONCERO family

  • [UPDATE September 2013:  My review of these two units can be found here.]

    A new slice of ESS silicon was announced by one Mallinson brother (Martin) yesterday: the ESS Labs Sabre ES9018-2M DAC, intended for DAPs and mobile devices. Not twenty-four hours later comes the announcement from the other Mallinson (Mark) that his Resonessence Labs team have expanded their Concero range from one to THREE devices with both new models utilising said ES9018-2M chip.

    Along for the ride on the back of Concero HD and Concero HP boxes comes native DSD playback.  This is now one of the cheapest entry points for anyone looking to wet their DSD whistle.

    The Concero HD still doubles as a USB-S/PDIF converter (which I rated highly when I reviewed the standard Concero) and the Concero HP packs  headphone amplification action.  Interestingly, Mark Mallinson is looking to program the S/PDIF socket on the HP to act as input OR output:

    “We are seeing if we can use a dual boot for the FPGA to allow S/PDIF in when use external supply and S/PDIF out in USB mode.  We are open to customer feedback: until we figure out the dual boot thing what would people rather see?”, said Mallinson.  The floor opens to you, dear customer.


    The Concero range now breaks down like this:

    CONCERO: 24 bit, asynchronous stereo DAC + USB-S/PDIF converter. Capable of 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz, 352.8kS/s and 384kS/s (DXD) file playback. CA$600

    CONCERO HD: 32bit, asynchronous stereo + USB-S/PDIF converter. Capable of 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz, 352.8kS/s, 384kHz (DXD) and native DSD (DSD64 and DSD128) file playback. CA$850.

    CONCERO HP: 32 bit, asynchronous dedicated headphone amplifier DAC. Capable of 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz, 352.8kS/s, 384kHz (DXD) and native DSD (DSD64 and DSD128) file playback. CA$850.

    Further information: Resonessence Labs | Addicted To Audio


    UPDATE from Mark Mallinson on Concero HP’s S/PDIF: “[We have] decided to give a Mac/PC app that can configure the HP to either S/PDIF in or out as a one-time setup. Release this week.”


    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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    1. Very promising and potentially ‘disruptive’ developments. Untill recently, 32 bit and native DSD and DXD playback was only available at products like DCS and other top-end audio brands but with a 50 to 100 times higher price tag…
      Still a shame that there is no shortest signal path (= best sound) available. It is a fact that I2S -I2S still is the best sounding connection, but almost all manufacturers prefer USB or SPDif. Really a missed opportunity since this would disrupt the market even further and offer audio nirvana fot the masses..!

      • Yes, but a lack of a formal standard for i2s connectivity keeps it on the margins even if it is superior sounding.

        • Yes I am aware of that..
          All ‘we’ can do as critical listeners and audiophile enthousiasts ( with limited budgets..) is to create more awareness regarding this fact and maybe some clever japanese, chinese or US company will understand such a feature will easily provide them a competive advantage. There is an excellent open source I2S – I2S protocol available from PSaudio which makes use of a modified HDMI connection ( no video signal used, only audio and NO jitter..!) It would be an affordable and logical choice for the audio industry to adopt this protocol. It will for sure enhance digital audio performance to a much larger extend than further increaseing the ‘number crunching power’ of the DAC.

          Ideal configuration would be a DAC which accepts SD cards or solid state memory buffers directly connected to this new 32 bit chipset ( and others). Running under minimalistic PC setting using only one masterclock and therefore (intrinsically) having NO jitter at all.. But such an approach would probably disrupt the audio cable industry as well…
          The point is that such logical and feasible ideas on short signal path designwill be implemented much faster by relatively new and small ( mostly chinese) audio manufacturers. It will probably be just a matter if time that even companies like DCS and other esoteric audio manufacturers will fall back into the digital stone age.. Even DCS is not using shortest signal path architecture..

          Regard, Peter

          • Peter you are describing INVICTA, our flagship product. It has a built in SD card reader and HDMI output so that you can view the contents of the SD card on an external monitor as well as on the front panel display.No computer or cables in the playback loop….

            • Very interesting products you manufacture!

              I would still encourage you to do some further product development and listening tests with your products with I2S connectivity present as well. Best to compare for yourself if state-of-the-art USB 3.0 is able to beat I2S or not.

              Kind regards, Peter

    2. Really stoked to here more about these, the OG Concero is the dac I am currently using, and I am enjoying it immensely in my new budget friendly setup.

      I most likely will bite the bullet and try the HP model, because I do have a need for that. I would love to see the HP model utilize the spdif as an output so it could still work as a usb to spdif converter.

      I usually wait for reviews and opinions of people I trust but I am familiar enough now with Resonessence to take the plunge. They have a wonderful return policy if for some reason it is not to my liking !

    3. The I2S problem is mostly due to the source. There are already plenty of DACs that accept I2S in via BNC, RJ-45, DIN, or HDMI. The problem is that you need a source with a matching output, which pretty much restricts you to the matching CD transports that go with those DACs, and who wants to use a CD transport in 2013?

      If you’re a digital audiophile now you likely have either a standalone digital media server with internal storage, or some type of network media renderer that pulls from network storage. The standalone servers are usually computer based, and thus are using either sound cards or USB output. There really isn’t a good way to get I2S straight out of a PC, at least not currently, so asynchronous USB is the best option.

      Network renderers can be more dedicated designs as opposed to adapted PCs, and that opens up more options. The Sonore Rendu for example offers an HDMI based I2S output option right now. The problem there is that DXD streaming via a network is problematic, and DSD128 probably is as well.

      I’m also not convinced that a network streamer even with I2S straight into a DAC would sound better than a media server with a TOTL USB output (battery powered SoTM or PPA Studio USB card, Adnaco optical USB card) into a TOTL asynchronous converter (Empirical Off-Ramp, Alpha USB).

      It’s also soon going to get even better. The Adnaco was never designed with audiophiles in mind, it just happens that it sounds very very good. Adnaco is currently developing an “audiophile grade” optical USB card in partnership with JPlay that should be something else. Those guys are absolutely fanatical about computer audio.

      • Hi Dave,

        Interesting to read your comments and ideas. There is a company over here in The Netherlands (Pink Faun) who will soon release a multichannel 32 bit/192 kHz PC soundcard with I2S-I2S connectivity. The sound seems to be mind blowing, finally fully releasing the quality of not only stereo, but also multichannel audio. The 32 bitdepth seems to create a significant improvement. I have done experiments at home with my Musiland USB-S/PDIF transformer and was stunned how much the sound of 32/192 upsampled .wave file of original 16/44 CD material improved.

        My contact with Pink Faun started 1,5 year ago when I asked them if it would be possible to connect my C-390DD digital amplifier to a PC via I2S. After some experimental testing it was clear that I2S-I2S is the best sounding signal path. How the clocking and jitter problems are solved, I do not know yet.

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