HQPlayer DACs that convert DSD direct to analogue (bypassing all DSP)

Some of the DACs that get Jussi’s highest recommendations are RME ADI-2 DAC/Pro (AKM chip), Holo Audio Spring/May and T+A’s range.

With those DACs, HQPlayer can do all the DSP to output DSD and the DACs just convert DSD directly to analogue.

If anyone here is looking to try an affordable DSD DAC that just converts DSD direct to analogue (bypassing even modulator), the new iFi range is nice.

Jussi has added a couple to his website (Gryphon and Neo iDSD) and I’ve been measuring Zen DAC Signature V2 and discussing my results with Jussi and the measurements are similar for all those 3. They 3 differ a lot more on features. Performance is mostly similar. And nice !

The Zen DAC Sig V2 is the cheapest of those 3 and only has USB input and both unbalanced and balanced outputs. There’s both variable and fixed outputs - the latter bypasses volume control. Pretty clean measurements all around.

There’s lots of great ESS based DACs of course and even AKM based that don’t allow ‘DSD Direct mode’.

But if you really wanted to try proper DSD to analogue conversion, with HQPlayer literally doing all the DSP, and you didn’t have a budget yet for RME ADI-2 DAC/Pro (AKM) or Holo Audio or T+A DACs, I can easily recommend the Zen DAC Signature V2 as a great starting point.

It’s fixed balanced output on the rear is 4.4mm Pentaconn, so I’m using iFi’s 4.4mm to XLR cable.

Currently feeding Zen DAC Sig V2 with DSD256, gauss-long, ASDM7ECv2 modulator.


I should add I started my HQPlayer journey years ago with the iFi micro iDSD.

It was very popular with HQPlayer at that time. Since those years, I think most of those people have moved onto Holo Audio DACs :grinning:

So I was keen to check out iFi’s new range to see performance after all these years.

Pretty nice, especially fixed balanced output (bypassing volume control).

Nice to see iFi not only sticking with DSD Direct DACs (same Burr Brown DSD1793 chip they’ve used for years) but also having good performance and great price.

I could very easily keep it as my main for headphones use (I have RME ADI-2, Chord Hugo2 and Merging Anubis also, in various different setups).

I thought I’d start this thread for any other DACs that also convert DSD direct to analogue.

Let us know what you’re using !

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How about showing the results, please?

Just for some context, here are APx555 measurements of my Chord Hugo2:
Chord Electronics - Hugo 2 - The Official Thread | Page 112 | Headphone Reviews and Discussion - Head-Fi.org

And I’m sure you know how the RME ADI-2 FS DAC (Version 2) measures…

I’m not claiming this is as good those DACs I use daily :wink:

But here are some. The real measurements are probably better than this in reality, due to my ADC.

Not state of the art… but not bad.

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Thanks a lot!
I also checked out Stereophile, and the results are very nice indeed.
The ZenCan isn’t a slouch either…

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I only wish ZenCan employed a better volume control. My headphones are all sensitive so channel imbalance an issue.

But my current SMSL SP400 (THX 888) with relay controlled resistor ladder volume control is great. Perfect channel balance!

It pairs nicely with the Zen DAC Sig V2 ! Using balanced connection.

Jussi’s iFi Gryphon and NEO have stepped attenuator volume control, so no issues with channel imbalance.

My Zen DAC Sig V2 has fixed output switch which bypasses it’s volume control completely.

And regarding his Fig10 - when I take PCM44.1kHz 19.1kHz tone and upsample to DSD256 and put it through the iFi, the 25kHz image is gone. I’m not saying I could hear an image at 25kHz but moreso just cool to see it disappear :grin:

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Just purchased SMSL D300 using Rohm DAC, if volume control is not functioning in DSD so the DAC suppose in Direct DSD mode?

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I have the same device. Yes, the Rohm chip is always in direct DSD. Similar to TI/BB DAC chips.

For best performance, set the DSD filter to lowest frequency (“13 kHz”) which means 104 kHz for DSD256:


Hi I just saw this post.
Why does the DAC perform the best in DSD256 with 13khz (104khz)?

Does this apply to the DAC in general or only when used with HQPLAYER?

And would you recommend using the MPC mode in on or off? I’m not even sure what that mode exactly does.

I have the D300 since a while and through pure chance I always used it in Fixed mode, DSD256 :slight_smile:

But shouldn’t the cut-off frequency be 26khz for DSD256 to get to 104khz? Looks like 13khz is for DSD512

Thanks for the post and reference to Zen Dac Sig. v2

I have just started with HQP from January and I did used Zen Dac v2 and managed in February to upgrade to Sig. Thanks for the measurements. I’m using a Zen Stream in NAA only mode, both powered with iFi powerX (9 and 5v). Fixed volume with balanced to LA4.

Still testing the filters.


As you see from the table, lowest filter corner for DSD256 is 52 kHz. Higher you set it, more in-band noise you will also have (audio band dynamic range drops as the filter frequency is moved up).

What was it? My D300 is dead now, so I cannot use/test it anymore.

Ehm what? Why 104 kHz?

U said here set the filter to 13khz for 104khz with DSD256.

But looking at the diagram shouldnt that be 13khz cutoff for 104khz with DSD512?

And I found this post in another forum

That is because the firmware talks about the filter frequencies re DSD64 rates and doesn’t consider how they scale vs the sampling rate. So you can safely ignore what ever frequencies the firmware shows on the display and instead focus on the particular filter they correspond to, that scales as function of sampling rate.

So when the menu says “13 kHz” it actually means “13/26/52/104 kHz”.


Hello @dabassgoesboomboom thanks for your post. I’ve been trying HQP with a Mojo2 which isn’t on the approved list. I wasn’t game to fork out on a RME ADI-2 to try direct DSD so was thinking of a Gryphon, then I saw your post. It encouraged me to get an iFi Zen DAC Signature v2 (and I already have an iFi HFM Zen Signature amp to go with it).

I have tried to get it to play DSD on my Mac Mini but it always insists on playing only PCM. I have tried all combinations I can think of, would you be able to share your settings or help pls?

Thanks for any help.

I am playing Apple Music → Blackhole → HQP → usb → Zen DAC → RCA → Zen amp.
I have macOS midi for iFi DAC set to 32bit 352.8kHz.

All that comes up on the HQP status line is ‘Processing Time: m:ss.sss’
Don’t know where to find the log.

Here is my settings from XML Export, this pretty much worked for my Mojo2 …

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>

For macOS you’ll need to enable the “DoP” on SDM pack

Should work

Easier if you can share settings screenshots so we can see what you see

OK, pics attached thanks - I have tried DoP On/Off to no avail …

With DoP on, do you get any sound?

For SDM output settings, change modulator to ASDM7 (not EC).

And 1x = poly-sinc-gauss-long

Nx = poly-sinc-gauss-hires-lp

Just as a quick test - not saying this what you need to do forever

Here it seems to be in SDM output mode, although not playing right now.

@dabassgoesboomboom - no sound with SDM Pack = DoP
I tried all those settings and still nothing.

@jussi_laako - I press the Play button and there is no sign of the usual offload resampler etc message. Just the processing time message. If I press Play repeatedly, then I can just about make out a message saying something like … engine. Requested Sample Rate() requested not available.