Letters to the editor: Soekris, FiiO, Parks Audio, Gustard

  • Once again, thank you to everyone who writes in to offer up their own experiences and insights.

    James W. writes…


    I enjoyed your article, much needed in audio circles in my opinion, about active loudspeakers, which I have consistently found to outperform passive designs. I was surprised, however, that you forgot to mention THE grandaddy and possibly still the leading exponent of active/DSP speaker design, the people who practically invented them at least for domestic use – Meridian.

    If you haven’t heard a pair of Meridian DSPs, you owe it to yourself, particularly the SE speakers since you like MQA and they are probably still the only speakers designed from the ground up to take full advantage of the format. If you do hear them, make sure you drive them with an 808.6 or 818v3 as it does affect the sound quality.

    All the best,


    Nick C. writes…


    We’ve never spoken before and I’ve only recently found your YouTube channel, website, podcasts and Instagram sites.

    I’m a music loving hi-fi beginner and just wanted to say thank you for the stuff you post. It’s completely opened up my thinking and options around equipment from buying my first amp and DAC to which headphones I want to buy next. I don’t confess to being able to follow absolutely everything you share but I’ve never really been worried about that. I find your updates really fascinating and it really has helped improve my listening experiences.

    So far you’ve introduced me to Roon (changed my musical life), the Naim Uniti Atom, my very first Dragonfly Red DAC as well as my next purchase which is the new KEF LSX for my office.

    I could go on but if you ever wondered if your videos and updates were enjoyed by people please take it from me that they most certainly are.



    Tim J. writes…

    Dear John,

    A big thank you for what you’re doing.

    I was a hi-fi nerd in my late teens, followed by 40 plus years of life getting in the way and some bits of audio equipment.

    Then back in January, I decided I wanted to drag myself into the 21st century from an audiophile perspective and quite a bit had happened. I’ve always been a research type and chanced upon your work. What a help you’ve been.

    I never ripped my CDs and most went walking when I split with my ex anyway so straight into streaming. Of course, I had Spotify thrown in with my Vodafone but suddenly there’s Tidal, Qobuz etc. Then how do you listen to it? Through you, I’ve discovered Audirvana (nice sound, visually a bit clunky) and through watching your Roon videos I’ve finally begun to understand what that does….currently waiting for my Nucleus to arrive.

    I’m sure without your clear, no-nonsense, gently humorous and excellently crafted written and visual content I would not be standing (technically sitting with a mug of tea) where I am now.

    Please continue. I love it. And if somebody doesn’t like coffee slurping, well, they aren’t actually paying for it.

    Geniesse auch Berlin. Ich habe viele schöne Erinnerungen aus den 90er Jahren.

    All the best and thanks again for the great delivery.


    Alpár R. writes…


    I’ve read a lot of good things about the Soekris DACs but not so many comparisons. They are R2R based DACs. Would be interesting to read your opinion on them and where they fit in the Darko DAC Index.

    Here you can find more info:



    Julian P. writes…

    Hi John,

    Nice summary of the state of the phone and headphone market vis-a-vis codecs, but a couple of points of additional info about LDAC to add to the mix:

    1. Fiio’s BTR3 offers all the codecs you mention, including LDAC
    2. Nerd’s corner: there’s a PPA for LDAC encoding for Linux’s pulseaudio, meaning – within reason – any Linux laptop can deliver LDAC. See

    I’m currently enjoying the BTR3 feeding LDAC to CA Comets. A plus is that it is small enough to fit in the case. The BTR3 also opens the door to the perhaps perverse comparison of the Sony (model 2s in my case) decoding LDAC itself with NC versus using the wired input (no NC) fed from the BTR3.



    Klaus J. writes…

    So sad, Mark Hollis, our hero, has died.
    But he gave us some of the greatest music ever, which escorted me through my youth.
    He may have disappeared completely now, but his work will stay.
    R.I.P. Mark

    Stuart E. writes…


    First I’d like to say I really enjoyed your Music-First Audiophile video. In fact, I have enjoyed all of your videos.

    As a long-time audiophile, I’m tired of reading reviews by people whose musical taste are vastly different from mine. I’m 58 yrs old and I don’t listen to nor like Diana Krall, Nora Jones etc… Or the other side is some artist that no one has ever heard of – the more obscure the better, like its some contest between reviewers who can come up with the latest artist no one has ever listen to. (not saying the artist or music is particularly bad but, trying to purchase said artist may be near impossible)

    In fact, my favorite stream right now is

    Written reviews and opinion are fine and are also convenient but I’m with you, let’s attract more of the younger crowd! Your YouTube channel along with New Record Day are awesome! Keep up the great work!



    Paul W. writes…

    Thanks again for all your reviews and videos.

    I am wondering if you have ever entertained the idea of reviewing or recommending books about audio and music.

    I have read two books that have tremendously helped me understand how audio and music work. They are:

    (i) Perfecting Sound Forever: The Story Of Recorded Music by Greg Milner

    (ii) How Music Works by David Byrne

    I am sure there are many other books available that you or your followers could recommend.

    Thanks again for your refreshingly simple approach and your professionalism.

    All the best,


    Pedro G. writes…

    Hello John,

    I’m Pedro from Argentina and I like very much your reviews and videos on YouTube. Thank you for your work, it helps a lot to our audiophile community!!!

    I would like to tell you about my experience with digital because I think it might be interesting to you and because you influenced it somehow.

    First, it is important to say that there aren’t many dealers in my country to buy hi-fi products at a reasonable price or to ask them for a loan to try them, so I´ve bought all of my systems blindly, only guided by internet forums and reviewers like you, and then importing them from abroad.

    Also, it is important to say that, not always, but almost every time I’ve read a lot of people (forum posters or reviewers) claiming that some piece of equipment was fantastic, it certainly was. Also some times I’ve heard hifi systems on a dealer’s shop and if it’s not well voiced to the room, the sound from it could sometimes not reflect the quality or it could sound VERY different in your room. That’s a fact.

    About a year ago, mostly encouraged by your article, I bought the Wyred4sound USB Reclocker as I listen to all of my music from my PC (Windows 10) streaming Tidal and I connect it to my DAC with USB cable.

    Before the RUR, I bought a better USB cable, which improved the sound a bit (not much). The RUR brought a bigger improvement (very nice one), so then I decided to buy a Swagman Linear Power Supply for it, which also pushed up the sound quality further and I was very very happy with the results as I have a pretty revealing system and I could enjoy these upgrades and they made me a strong believer for the critical need of a clean signal to feed your DAC to get the best out of it and mostly if you stream audio from a PC. That also encouraged me to buy Audinirvana+, which was also a nice improvement (not big) and the Gustard U16 USB converter, which is why I’m writing!!

    The U16 brought something I didn’t know existed! Even I feed it with the RUR with LPS, not the PC directly, the U16 is a BEAST. I cannot believe the sound I get from my system. I’ve never had listened to USB converters before, but as on Head-fi forum people raved about it and said it blows the much more expensive Singxer SU1 out of the water, I decided to buy one. I cannot be happier with that decision!

    Summarizing, I strongly believe you should review the Gustard U16 with a good system. I’m sure it will amaze you as it did to ALL of its users.

    Kind regards,


    Alex B. writes….

    Hi John,

    Have enjoyed your website for a while now (basically because I feel I have found a kindred spirit who understands that it’s not about the gear, it’s about enjoying the music! 👍) but hadn’t listened to any of your pods until I tried the “Vinyl” podcast while driving back towards Bath from London last week.

    Like you, I’ve often wondered how much better a cartridge it might be worth putting on my record player? I’ve always been budget constrained but equally wanted to buy something that’s good value. Even as my fluid £ has increased I’ve stood by that ethos, being determined not to overspend by chasing diminishing returns, preferring to spend it on buying more music. I’d happily settled on a Rega P3, a Nait (5) amp & some Gale Floorstander (recently added an ifi iDSD in recent years) and it all makes me smile.

    Recently I had to admit that my very elderly Rega Elys really did need changing and bought a cheapo Rega Carbon while I pondered things. My inexpensive but really quite capable phono amp (Project) can be configured for 40 or 60db of gain so considering a MC wasn’t out of the question but quickly came to understand that, basically, nobody demos cartridges, it seems you have to read up & take a punt. I’m not an engineer (I’m a graduate microbiologist) but understand the physics & electrical principles enough to spend some time considering how MMs & MCs work & their Pro’s & Cons (which, if anything, drew me to think that Moving Iron is a very clever design with possibly the fewest compromises and had consequently been considering a Soundsmith Otello as well as something like Rega’s new MC at the same sort of money, the Ania). However, even after mentally coming back & settling on “…I’ll just spend the £150 and buy a new Elys…” an evening last week in the company of EBay & a few too many Belgian Beers saw me become the owner of a 2nd hand Dynavector MC Karat with a ruby cantilever. Supposedly WAY beyond the RegaP3 (and I don’t doubt that it really is) and it also broke my own rules of believing that if there’s one thing it’s risky to buy 2nd hand then it’s a cartridge, but I’m SO glad I did.

    I’ve listened to the P3 with an Elys for long enough to know how my music sounds with it and, while I expected that even a part worn Karat was going to offer “some more” I really wasn’t ready for just how much more music I would hear. By some orders of magnitude, it all seems so much more musical. Clearer. Instruments & voices sounding startlingly clear & open & “real”. Have already listened to several records I thought I knew like the back of my hand and heard instruments I didn’t even realise were in the backgrounds of those records. It REALLY has been an eye-opener. OK, I was lucky to get it for Elys money but I can firmly throw my hat into the ring of advocating “A half decent turntable with a 2nd hand cart that’s supposedly too good for it”.

    I suppose it shouldn’t be that surprising really? The Rega arm is a beautifully engineered thing and the platter & bearing of a Rega are also great examples of “good value precision engineering” (you can clearly see where they’ve spent the money, and it’s not on the plinth is it?) Once those basics are there, holding the cartridge precisely enough to be doing it’s job the way it should, it IS actually the cartridge itself which generates the signal and reproduces the music?

    Thanks again for all your excellent coverage. You clearly think things through for yourself rather than rehash press release shittery. Your keenness to avoid cliche also shows someone who really wants to try hard to feel that they have done their utmost to honestly communicate what you think & feel about your experience of something; that’s a trait many people value way beyond either a bunch of measurements or just the same old regurgitated tosh they can read elsewhere.



    PS: One thing I spotted recently, in the process of thinking about & researching cartridges, was the Parks Audio Puffin phono stage. It’s another thing it would be almost possible to audition here in Britain as Parks sell direct, so again it’s a Have-A-Punt product, but Parks’ reputation is fine enough & I immediately wondered if it’s the sort of thing which would fascinate you because of its defiantly iconoclastic design. A phono stage which brings in an analogue signal then converts it to the digital domain (24/96) where it “photoshops” any amendments to the signal, including gain, and then reconverts to analogue for traditional output to an amp. Have messaged him on Twitter & understand it will also soon get a digital out as well. Sounds like the sort of thing that’s right up your street? If you ever get a chance to review one it would be great to hear what you make of it.

    Don M. writes…

    It seems as though servers are “the next big thing”, especially if you stream and use Roon/Tidal/Qobuz, all of which are software needing a low noise home. I find the Roon Nucleus intriguing, and since I am a fan of PS Audio, I am looking forward to their new Octave product. I am currently using a wireless-connected iMac for such duties, and wonder if jitter is transmitted wirelessly.

    I really appreciate the beautiful photography of Berlin you post on Instagram, as well as the YouTube content, which communicates better than just text. Being strictly middle class, I also appreciate your focusing on affordable gear and music, so it is not just some pipe dream. Your reviews make me think.

    Keep up the wonderful work, Mr. Darko!

    Written by John

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

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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