The Yulong DA8II is the successor to the original DA8, which came out two years ago as Yulong’s flagship.
The DA8II is a revised design, in which Yulong decided to collect some of the users’ suggestions, and achieve a warmer, smoother presentation.
The Yulong DA8II is still based on the ESS9018 DAC chipset, but all sections have been refined. Improvements to the first revision involve a better audio crystal oscillator (the low phase noise Crystek CCHD-950-25-100), a revised power supply, a new Low Pass Filter (LPF) and reworked the headphone amplifier.
The other technical specifications are very similar:
Total Harmonic Distortion plus Noise (THD+N): 0.0002%, Dynamic range: > 130dB, Idle noise 1,5 uV
SNR: -135 dB
ESS Technology SABRE32 Reference DAC / Digital Filter (ES9018S) working in 32-bit Hyperstream™ via a patented Time Domain Jitter Eliminator
USB input: Amanero-Yulong Combo384 chip, supporting PCM 16-32 bit, 44.1Khz 48Khz 88.2Khz 96Khz 176.4Khz 192Khz 352.8Khz 384Khz DSD64,DSD128 – On Windows DSD256,DSD512
KS/Wasapi/WDM/ASIO Drivers for MS OS XP to Win8 32-64bit
5 x AD797 for voltage regulation and filtering, 2 x OPA1632 for buffer stage and preamp output
Diamond buffer circuit for headphone output
I have tested the Yulong DA8II with my Luxman L58A amplifier and Mordaunt Short Performance 6 speakers. I have also used Sennheiser Momentum and HD598 headphones, and Stax SR-001 Mk2 with modded amplifier (already reviewed on this website).
The best strengths of DA8II involve its exceptional soundstage and spatial capabilities. The soundstage is among the widest I have heard, and imaging is extremely precise. The spatial representation of the music is so clear to be almost visible, and patterns based on stereo imaging can be followed more easily than on other DACs (even more expensive) such as the AMR DP-777, the Digicode S192, or my custom DAC just obtained from Museatex (based on the dual AKM4399 Weiliang design, heavily – and expensively – modded afterwards).
The DA8 has impactful and precise bass, never overpowering the rest of the spectrum, nor the tiny details. Bass quantity is about the same as the AMR DP-777, but not as much as the mentioned custom Museatex DAC or the Lector Digicode S192, which sound denser. The tone of the AMR is somewhere in the middle, while being less dynamic than the others.
The Yulong has very fast transients, and its exceptional clarity produces a sense of satisfaction in how easily details are perceived and followed.
The DA8II is surprisingly smooth for the amount of details it produces. It has a tiny hint more treble quantity than the Museatex DAC, the AMR DP-777 and the Digicode, but it’s never sharp. From the low end to the high end of the spectrum, the DAC is very even and no section overpowers the others.
Vocals sound more relaxed than the former DA8. They are generally less forward in the mix, compared to the first revision, sounding less tense and fuller.
The headphone amplifier sounds more transparent and clearer than the first revision, where it superimposed its own signature and lacked some transparency. The improved linearity makes it compatible with a broader range of headphones. In my case I have been using the Sennheiser Momentum and the HD598, which sounded clear and dynamic, without any tonal alterations compared to the sound I was used to.
The USB chip, named Combo384, has been developed between Yulong and Amanero. It’s very likely the same as on the DA8, where it was exceptional. Not only the Amanero is a very high quality receiver, but the ESS Sabre DAC chipset, with its complex architecture, is already robust to the USB signal. The DA8II comes with a proprietary cable, which has very tight connector and feels high quality. Swapping USB cables (with JCAT or TotalDAC usb cables) doesn’t make much difference with the DA8II, making it unnecessary to purchase a more expensive USB cable over the stock one.
Installing and using the USB driver on windows has proven hassle free, and I have never witnessed any cases of unrecognized drivers (which is common with other common drivers, such as the Thesycon).
The Yulong DA8II packs several desirable characteristics, is compatible with pretty much every format, and is extremely competitive in its price range. The Yulong is simply superlative in regards to details, clarity and spatial intelligibility. The level of instrument placement definition makes my other sources sound blurry in comparison. Usage is hassle free, thanks to the high quality construction and well designed USB drivers.
Its improved headphone amplifier, the preamplifier section, and the capability of working both in single ended mode and balanced make it a very versatile machine, capable to hold its own even against much more expensive offerings, and an easy recommendation in the price bracket.