It may be worth noting that I am a headphone guy and that the PDX was auditioned exclusively in headphone rigs over the trial period.
As a short background, I've been on a bit of a DAC odyssey over the past year or so, and my system has been visited by a goodly number of some of the better known mid-level ones discussed here on Stereonet: I've owned or extensively trialed the Metric Halo ULN2, Anedio D1, Lite DAC 83, Wyred 4 Sound DAC1, JK Sabre, JDAC32, Metrum Octave, Metric Halo LIO-8, EE MiniMax Plus, NAD M51, Exasound E18, and Eximus DP1. I've also had the pleasure of hearing on numerous occasions the Audio GD Reference 5 and, on several occasions (and fairly intensely) the Audio GD Reference 7.1 and Reference 7. The latest DAC to have made an extended visit is the PDX.
At home, running through my Violectric V200 headphone amp and Audeze LCD2 Rev 2 headphones, the PDX revealed itself to me as a rough diamond. Most of my impressions were resoundingly positive and only one or two negative; and my negative thoughts were always seasoned with an anxious "but it's SO good".
In several ways it was the best DAC I've yet heard. It had a midrange realism I found extraordinary and addictive (as did two headphone buddies who also had a listen). Voices, stringed instruments and drums were a delight. My immediate reaction often went: "yep, that sounds like a real guitar; wow, that sounds like a real voice; that cello sound is eerily real. This is amazing!" It was very easy to get lost in the music, and exciting to have such life-like sounds coming through my headphones.
The rest of the audible spectrum was lovely too, plenty of deep textured bass, and sparkly clear highs.
The PDX was also perhaps the most 'fun' DAC to have graced my desk. In a word, it rocked. Probably the most toe-tapping, head-bopping DAC I've heard bar none. How to explain this, I don't know. Hi-rez acoustic music was particularly thrilling.
However, my overall response was always: "this is awesome, BUT…..".
The biggest drawback in my rig (I stress) was a narrow soundstage. Multi-tracked recordings were a bit squashed, noticeably more than any DAC I’d had in the rig: not a lot of space between voices and instruments in the mix. I'd like to stress, however, that this was with my rig - with the V200 and LCD2.2 in the chain. When I had the chance to hear the PDX with a heavy-weight balanced HP amp (Ray Samuel's Darkstar), the soundstage issue was somewhat relieved.
The other main drawback was a slightly higher noise floor than what I'm used to. The noise was pretty much inaudible at normal listening levels, and would not deter me from purchasing a PDX. It is also moot, because the newer PDXs (I've been assured) have a re-designed layout that substantially reduces the noise. However, in side by side comparisons with both an Audio GD Reference 7 and an Esoteric D-07x, I thought these DACs had a slightly blacker background when music was playing.
Thirdly, and this is difficult to put my finger on, but I think this PDX has an ever-so-slight ‘soft focus lens’ on the sound in comparison to some of the other laser sharp DACs I’ve heard. But I really need to stress that for many people this may not be a drawback at all. I get the impression (but this may simply be my ignorance speaking) that this is by design and that the Dueland capacitor option offered at Lenehan provides a sharper focus for those that want (and can afford) it.
I've decided not to buy the PDX, not because it was not the funnest, most realistic, toe-tapping DAC I've heard, but because the DAC I've settled on has (IMO) slightly better soundstaging and instrument separation (for my headphone rig), a slightly blacker background, perhaps slightly more detail, has a slightly smoother feel about the sound, and has more input and output options while maintaining a similar level of 'realism' as the PDX. It's also more than twice the cost of this pre-owned Level 1 PDX.
I would dearly love to hear a full-spec level 2 some day.
Whoever picks up this DAC will IMO have a slightly flawed diamond. But, in a sense, who cares… it's a diamond!
Many thanks to Bill for the opportunity of finally hearing a Lenehan Audio PDX.
Edited by Duckman, 12 June 2012 - 01:35 PM.