Yulong DA9

Until a couple of years ago, Yulong DAC’s have historically been associated ESS Sabre chipsets, introduced with the Yulong D18 and used through the years until the Yulong DA8 Mk2 was designed.
In 2016, we saw a change of pace: Yulong created the ADA-1, a middle range DAC based up AKM 4490 chipset. Along with the switch in technology, a different sound signature was adopted by Yulong, since AKM are designed to be more liquind and smoother compared to the hyperdetailed, slightly clinical presentation of the ESS Sabre chips.
In summer 2017, about one year later, Yulong launches the DA9, designed using the best among AKM chips, the AK4497.

The DA9 has stunning looks, with gold plated front panel and aluminium casing and a super solid feeling. It’s a blend of minimalistic shape and elegance. It feels very professional and the volume knob is much more solid than more expensive offerings (such as Violectric V281).
 

Yulong DA9

 
Specifications

These are the highlights of the new DA9:

● Fully balanced decoder topology based on AK4497
● Fully balanced high current preamplifier
● Fully discrete and balanced DC coupled Class A headphone amplifier, with JFET input

To dig more information about the AK4497, this link can be used as a starting point:
http://www.akm.com/akm/en/product/featured/premiumaudio/

Other specifications are:

● DoP64 and DoP128 support over SPDIF/Optical/AES
● PCM 384KHz 24bit over SPDIF/Optical/AES
● DoP64, DoP128, Native DSD64/128/256 and PCM 16-32bit, 32-384KHz over USB
● 99 steps volume control to pair with headphones in different impedance and sensitivity.
● SNR: -130dB
● Dynamic Range:  125dB

Test System

I have tested the Yulong DA9 as with my Luxman L58A and Mordaunt Short Performance 6 speakers.
I have used the DA9 as DAC/amplifier combo with Sennheiser HD598 (single ended), Sennheiser Momentum (single ended), Hifiman Susvara (balanced and single ended).
 

Yulong DA9 Sennheiser

 
Sound Quality

The Yulong DA9 manage to be very smooth and very detailed. It has a very clean output which translated in high spatial capabilities, but has an even tone on the warm side that makes the whole presentation more refined than the DA8II.
It’s very lively sounding and slightly midrangey, but with a has a relaxed quality that makes everything flow spontaneusly. It’s enveloping without ever pushing the music aggressively, such quality making it a wonderful all arounder.
Compared to the DA8II, it’s more neutral and musical. Both of them are quite sounding but the DA8II sounds more aggressive in comparison, pushing more in midbass and lower treble, while the DA9 sounds more solid in the midrange and lets more out the true character of a headphone.

No narrow frequency ranges are emphasized and the treble is especially smooth. Details and spatial imaging reproduction are “effortless”, in the sense that everything is presented vividly and precisely but without calling for attention, hence never being tiring or distracting. Spatial detail layers and patterns are very easy to follow, but they never get in the way of the music flow.
The bass is tight, deep, well integrated with the midrange.
Vocals are richer and more lively than with the DA8II.
All these qualities are transfered to its headphone output. The DA9 has a high quality Class A headphone amplifier, which very few DAC/amps have, and its discrete output stage makes it even more open and refined.
 

Yulong DA9 Susvara

 
The Yulong DA9 can work great with all kind of headphones because it’s very neutral to the transducer character and won’t add anything unwanted: it’s very good at disappearing from the equation. Using both the Sennheiser HD598 and Momentum, the DA9 lets their character through without colouring anything, but making them sound very open and dynamic. The headphone out is very clean, and even if the two headphones are quite sensitive, there is no detectable noise on quiet passages.
Using the Hifiman Susvara, which is a power monster, the DA9 is still very transparent tonally and very detailed, although it can’t reach lacks the high volume, dynamic power and ultimate fullness that the Susvara can reach with the use of speaker amps and dedicated amplifiers.

Conclusion

The Yulong DA9 marks a very cool step up among Yulong offerings. It’s a DAC built with all the right ingredients (starting with the AK4497 chip, continuing with the analogue section), very well optimized, even pleasant to the eye and very well built.
It blends the usual high level of spatial information and a much smoother presentation than before. Its neutral-to-warmish signature is very pleasant sounding and transparent to the musical message.
As usual, it is compatible with every file format and it’s priced very reasonably. It takes the reference title among all Yulong lineup, and it should be seriously considered in the 1000-2000 Euro price range.