Fidelice (by Rupert Neve) - Precision DAC - Official Thread

The Fidelice (by Rupert Neve Designs) “Precision Digital to Analog Converter” is high-end DAC/amp and one of a trio of launch-products under the “Fidelice” brand, targeted at bringing Rupert Neve’s legendary studio engineering prowess and delivering a high-end studio listening experience directly to the music lover.

This is a full-size, desktop, all-in-one component, with a number of interesting features:

  • 2x Analog Inputs (RCA and XLR/TRS combo)
  • 3x Digital Inputs (USB and S/PDIF COAX/TOSLINK)
  • 1/4" (6.35mm) TRS - Single-Ended Headphone Output
  • 4-pin XLR - Balanced Heapdhone Output
  • 4.4mm “Pentaconn” - Balanced Headphone Output
  • Selectable Gain (High and Low)
  • PCM support up to 24/384 kHz
  • DSD support up to DSD512
  • Switchable Fixed/Variable RCA & XLR analog outputs
  • Input level attenuator (for consumer/professional signal levels)
  • Selectable Digital Filter Options
  • User-updatable firmware.

You can employ the “RNDAC” as an analog amplifier, DAC, pre-amplifier or all-in-one device, giving a great deal of parallel functionality. The all aluminum chassis is inlaid with wooden panel embossed with stylized “R” signature.

This is a high-end piece, available from headphones.com, with an asking price of $4,995.

Specifications

CONNECTIONS

Analog Inputs: XLR Balanced, RCA unbalanced
(+4 /-10dB operating levels switchable on the rear panel)

Digital Inputs: Coax S/PDIF, Optical S/PDIF, USB (Mac / PC / iOS / Android)

Analog Outputs: XLR balanced (fixed or variable), RCA unbalanced (fixed or variable)

Headphone Outputs: TRS unbalanced, 4-pin XLR balanced, Pentaconn balanced

Firmware Update: Micro USB

Balanced XLR Input to Balanced XLR Output (FIXED Volume)

Source Z = 40 Ω Balanced with 30 ft Output XLR

Input Impedance: 10 kΩ
Output Impedance: 40 Ω
Maximum Input Level (+4dBu Selected): +23.5 dBu
Maximum Output Level: +21.3 dBV
Noise @ FIXED Volume (10 Hz - 22 kHz BW): -101.2 dBV typical
Frequency Response (5 Hz to 116 kHz): +/- 0.1 dB typical
THD+N (@1 kHz): 0.0005% typical (10 Hz to 22 kHz)

Unbalanced RCA Input to Unbalanced RCA Output (2V RMS Redbook)

Source Z = 470 Ω Unbalanced

Input Impedance: 10 kΩ
Output Impedance: 33 Ω
Maximum Input Level: +19.2 dBV
Maximum Output Level: +19.2 dBV
Noise @ FIXED Volume (10 Hz - 22 kHz BW): -109 dBV typical
Frequency Response (5 Hz to 112 kHz): +/- 0.1 dB typical
THD+N (@1 kHz): 0.0003% typical (10 Hz to 22 kHz)

Balanced Input to Unbalanced Headphone Output

Source Z = 40 Ω Balanced

Input Impedance: 10 kΩ
Output Impedance: 0.01 Ω
Maximum Output Power: 1W into 16 Ω
Noise @ Max Volume (10 Hz - 22 kHz BW): -98.2 dBV typical
Frequency Response (5 Hz to 200 kHz): +/- 0.2 dB typical
THD+N (1W into 36 Ω Load @1 kHz): 0.003% typical (10 Hz to 22 kHz)
THD+N (1W into 16 Ω Minimum Load @ 1 kHz): 0.006% typical (10 Hz to 22 kHz)

DIGITAL PATH SPECIFICATIONS

Coaxial S/PDIF Input to Balanced XLR Output

(FIXED Volume, 192 kHz SR)

Noise (10 Hz - 22 kHz BW): -96.2 dBV typical
Frequency Response (5 Hz to 23 kHz): +/- 0.1 dB typical
Passband (0.5 Hz to 90 kHz): -3dB typical
THD+N (@1 kHz): 0.0004% typical (10 Hz to 22 kHz)

Coaxial S/PDIF Input to Balanced Headphone Output

(192 kHz SR)

Output Impedance: 0.02 Ω
Maximum Output Power: 1W into 16 Ω
Noise @ Max Volume (10 Hz - 22 kHz BW): -89.2 dBV typical
Frequency Response (5 Hz to 20 kHz): +/- 0.1 dB typical
Passband (0.5 Hz to 90 kHz): -3dB typical
THD+N (1W into 16 Ω Minimum Load @1 kHz): 0.008% typical (10 Hz to 22 kHz)

Coaxial S/PDIF Input to Unbalanced RCA Output

(FIXED Volume, 192 kHz SR)

Noise (10 Hz - 22 kHz BW): -107 dBV typical
Frequency Response (5 Hz to 20 kHz): +/- 0.1 dB typical
Passband (0.5 Hz to 90 kHz): -3dB typical
THD+N (@1 kHz): 0.0004% typical (10 Hz to 22 kHz)

Coaxial S/PDIF Input to Unbalanced Headphone Output

(192 kHz SR)

Output Impedance: 0.01 Ω
Maximum Output Power: 1W into 16 Ω
Noise @ Max Volume (10 Hz - 22 kHz BW): -95.2 dBV typical
Frequency Response (5 Hz to 20 kHz): +/- 0.1 dB typical
Passband (0.5 Hz to 90 kHz): -3dB typical
THD+N (1W into 16 Ω Minimum Load @1 kHz): 0.006% typical (10 Hz to 22 kHz)

This is the spot to discuss Rupert Neve’s “RNDAC” …

6 Likes

Fresh from @Resolve’s initial comments and subsequent review, and with the kind indulgence of @Andrew and @taronlissimore, the not-so-wee beastie above just arrived in my hands:

I will very likely approach my own review of this in a stream-of-consciouness fashion, in the interests of making my comments reasonably timely.

Part of that will include direct comparisons with other DAC/amps, matching, and bracketing, the “RNDAC”'s price-point, including the RME ADI-2 DAC fs, SPL Phonitor X w/ DAC, Chord Hugo 2 and Hugo TT 2 and, of course, a wide array of appropriate headphones.

8 Likes

Absolutely "Stunning{

1 Like

Considering the price I’d like to know how the DAC alone compares to Yggdrasil A2. For 5 grand you could buy a new Yggdrasil and DNA Starlett. On the used market Yggdrasil A2 is going for about $1800 so if you don’t mind buying used the Starlett new is $2000 so only $3800 total. That’s good value to me.

Sure you may have to wait 6 months for Donald to build your amp but you would have an endgame DAC and amp that will hold their value better than others. I am also open to the possibility that as an AIO the Fidelice might have exceptional synergy with some phones. Lots of choices lately.

It’s tonally more similar to the Yggdrasil A2 than to the original Yggdrasil. No question that the RNDAC has a blacker background, better resolution with a leaner overall presentation.

Stage/imaging is, surprisingly, very similar to the Yggdrasil A2 in terms of precision and depth, though the RNDAC is more expansive (at least on the slow roll-off/standard-delay filter), which puts it ahead of most comparable DACs in that regard. In fact, on its default settings, it actually manages to give a real sense of expanded space to the stage rendering with the Focal Utopia.

Too early to say more, but those are obvious factors … obvious enough not to miss anyway.

3 Likes

While further, more detailed, commentary is going to have to wait for my “SoC” posts, there are a few things I will say, at a high-level, here.

First, I’m rather well accustomed to evaluating DACs; probably more so than any other type of component. And I come from a place where my personal DACs are much more on the high-end side of things than not, and have been for an extended period now. So getting a baseline-feel for a DAC’s performance usually doesn’t take me very long.

A few hours of post-warm-up (the chassis on this thing was at 42℉ when it arrived in the way-too-early hours of this morning … also known as “before noon”) listening is all it has taken to establish the RNDAC as a credible high-end piece.

Despite my appreciation of Rupert Neve’s work (more about which in my “SoC Review” intro), I was highly skeptical of both the aesthetics and the price-point of this unit.

I needn’t have been.

While value is a very personal call, and $4,995 is undeniably expensive, even for a combined DAC/amp/pre-amp and proper analog-amp, it is not out of whack here vs. the competition. Exactly where it falls in that regard is a bigger question, and one I’ll explore over the next few days. But so far I’m enjoying the heck out of this thing, and haven’t felt moved to switch to something else in the last six hours or so.

Though … I DID switch from the default filter setting (slow roll-off/standard delay) to the sharp/standard setting (switches 1, 2, 4 & 5 up, 3 down), due to my unerring preference for linear-phase filters. The default setting has a bigger stage presentation, and an airier, more open, feel (very nice, as perviously mentioned, with the normally somewhat “intimately staged” Focal headphones), but the sharp/standard setting is my preference with AKM 449X based converters, and the RNDAC is no exception.

I’ve only run this with dynamic cans so far (Utopia, Vérité, HD800S), and it’s lovely with all of them.

Quibbles to this point are purely fit/finish and aesthetically related, and the odd dichotomy between 1970s-throw-back ultra-solid toggle switches and super-smooth/well-damped volume pot, and the more modern tactile source-buttons is, well, “odd”. And the panels don’t match in color, which is a bit disappointing at this price point.

But sound wise … impressive so far!

8 Likes

Oh, and this thing does not get warm to the touch at all …

The large chassis, and aluminum casework (excellent at dissipating heat), keeps the unit to-touch temperatures low and with no apparent (i.e. you can’t feel it) radiated heat.

This in a 70℉ ambient setting.

4 Likes

On DSD replay on macOS (v10.15.2), via either Audirvana (v3.5.28 or Roon (v1.7 build 505) …

macOS does not support “native” DSD replay, and must use DoP (DSD over PCM) to send DSD data to a DAC. This does NOT change the DSD data, it just packages it in PCM sample frames.

To date, macOS is limited to DSD256 via DoP.

Units like the A&K SP2000 or Chord DAVE allow sending DSD256 over DoP (v.1.1), and this is something I use with the occiaisional DSD album I play (most of which are at DSD256).

With the RNDAC …

The unit only advertises DSD rates up to DSD128 (2x DSD) to macOS, despite supporting up to DSD512 with Windows. Sending it such content results in appropriate playback, with the DSD indicator lighting and the correct bit-rate light coming on (5.6 MHz).

Sending the RNDAC DSD256 from macOS does play correctly, but the PCM, DSD and bit-rate indicators will turn off.

It turns out that I didn’t spot that my player software was converting DSD128 content to PCM at 24/352.8 kHz. So in fact you cannot play DSD256 on the RNDAC from macOS without either downsampling to DSD128 or converting to PCM (both can be done on the fly).

Sending the RNDAC data at 352.8 kHz is actually what results in the PCM light going out and no sample rate being shown (since it doesn’t have an indicator for that rate).


When starting and stopping DSD playback, and particularly when switching DSD sample rates, the occasional click/pop/glitch is heard. For once, these are not (so far) at obnoxious levels, but they’re present. This is not uncommon with DSD replay, but is something to pay attention to if you have a lot of DSD content. Especially if you do playlist-based playback vs. listening to whole albums.

3 Likes

Any problems streaming in exclusive mode using Tidal or Qobuz? Since drivers need to be installed it is not clear from the manual if sample rate and bit depth auto switching work as expected.

1 Like

Sorry, no idea, macOS doesn’t require any drivers, I don’t use Windows, and I don’t use the native TIDAL or Qobuz apps. It’s all Audirvana or Roon here (both of which switch sample rates and bit depths without issue).

3 Likes

“Atomic Blonde” soundtrack, George Michael’s “Father Figure” … RNDAC -> Vérité … don’t know why this track has such a big effect, but is has an especially dramatic one here.

5 Likes

Thanks, using Yggdrasil with Windows 10 Pro here. Mostly streaming Qobuz, did have Tidal but dropped it. Both see the Yggdrasil without installing drivers and allow the DAC to run in exclusive mode auto switching sample rate and bit depth. If Fidelice does not do the same it would be a deal breaker for me, probably many others.

I really like the looks of the Fidelice. It would be good sometime to get some photos with the case off see what the boards look like, how well it is made.

1 Like

I’d be surprised if it doesn’t. @Resolve might be able to comment more immediately. Otherwise, I can take it to the office and try it there next week.

TIDAL shouldn’t care about sample-depth/bit-rate changes though, unless you’re streaming MQA content.

4 Likes

Fixed it for you :wink:

4 Likes

I see what you did.

4 Likes

Excellent first impressions @Torq

Will you be reviewing the RNHP as well? I know it doesn’t have the same output as the RNDAC, but I’d like to hear your impressions of the headphone output sans dac.

Thanks again.

Edit: I just realized there are analog inputs which would allow you to connect a different dac for testing of the headphone output. Thanks.

Maybe, but not this year, due to lack of time.

At best I’ll get to post some first-impressions before I head off.

I hope to get the original RNHP for a side-by-side comparisons as part of that, since I am fairly convinced that the only difference between that and the one under the Fidelice brand, is the chassis/casework.

I’ll be testing the analog amplification path in the RNDAC using various external DACs. Similarly, I’ll be testing the DAC stage of the RNDAC with various external amplifiers. Though in both cases the focus will be on known-entities so I can assess the RNDAC’s contribution in either situation.

4 Likes

Awesome! Phonitor is one I’m really looking forward to.

I can send you my RNHP for comparison if you’d like. We can arrange that when you’re back and have the time to if need be.

1 Like

Used as a DAC/amp (i.e. using both parts together as an “all in one”) it’s clearly better than the Phonitor X w/ DAC. The DAC in the Phonitor X being the weak point.

Can’t say how it stacks up just as an amp vs. the Phonitor X yet, however, but that’ll certainly be part of my review/comments.

Appreciate the loan offer on the original RNHP. I may take you up on that, though I know at least one local chap that has one also (in his private studio). Will be several weeks out on that though, so we’ll see!

5 Likes

No problem. It would give me an excuse to expedite the purchase of another amp! I returned one of my RNHP’s when I first heard the announcement of the Fidelice line. Though something tells me I may just end up with another RNHP. :laughing: