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Digital-to-analog converter shootout: Cranesong Solaris vs the rest
Friday, 19 May 2017 16:14

We take our equipment seriously, and our digital-to-analog (DA) converters are no exception. It’s critical to have supremely accurate DA converters in the equipment chain to ensure music is converted into the analog domain precisely ahead of both monitoring and analog compression & equalisation; a DA converter that is lacking will degrade the quality of the music from the get-go.

In our never-ending quest to apply the latest design breakthroughs to enhancing and improving our mastering process, we recently compared three popular DA converters from leading manufacturers to the ones we already have in our rack. Here’s the full list:

  • Dangerous Convert2
  • RME ADI-2 Pro
  • Cranesong Solaris
  • Antelope Audio Pure2 (which we already own)
  • Forssell MADA-2 (which we already own)
  • Dangerous (Chris Muth)
  • Monitor DAC (which we already own)

We placed the DA converters ahead of the analog compressors and equalisers and tested the units in a very precise manner, level matching all the converters’ reference levels to within ±0.01dB to ensure a level playing field. While we found every unit to be a quality piece of gear up to the task, we added the Cranesong Solaris to our rack as the primary choice for DA converter. We will continue to use the Forssell DA when it suits the source, but the Pure2 DA converter, which was previously our second converter option, has been removed from service. Here’s why:

Cranesong Solaris DA converter

Cranesong-Solaris-web

The Cranesong Solaris was a clear standout: everything sounded more connected and fluid, yet alive, like the sound was leaping off the speakers. For a moment in time, we forgot all about the converters and were just immersed in the music filling the room; it was like the sound was coming from a band in the room rather than the speakers. We put this down in part to improved clocking techniques, the advanced jitter suppression and an extremely well-designed high-end analog output stage.

The tonal balance was spot on: extremely natural and, while flattering on great mixes, it didn’t gloss over any problem areas; in fact it tends to reveal issues in a detailed manner. The Cranesong Solaris is natural and organic and as such suits pretty much any style of music.

We found it really difficult to fault the Solaris and, when paired with one of our Analog-to-Digital converters (Antelope Audio Pure2 AD or Forssell AD), it’s a real thing of beauty to master music through.

What about the other converters?

We like to have two sets of DA converters that compliment each other in different ways so we can choose the one which benefits the music we’re working on. While the Crane Solaris came out on top, our Forssell MADA-2 DA is a great converter, with its presentation being slightly more flattering hence favouring pop and EDM styles; we’ll be using both the Cranesong Solaris and the Forssell MADA-2 ongoing.

The Dangerous Monitor DAC will remain our primary monitoring DA converter, but at some point we may consider upgrading it with another Solaris, as the Solaris also excelled as a monitoring DA converter.