Sprout - Review and Measurements..not very flattering

I don’t pay too much attention to measurements in headphones other than impedance and sensitivity. Comfort is an equal concern. With respect to specs, I want to make sure my headphone amps can drive them adequately.

YOU should try his Ether 2…:blush:

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Noted. I was just replying to your comment “Headphone manufacturer Mr. Speakers doesn’t either…”

It is very possible to have great measuring stuff that also sounds great.

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I love my Aeon Closed so much, I can’t see any changes.

I’ve tried significantly more expensive headphones including HD800S, LCD-4 and Utopia.

Aeon Closed just has the overall perfect balance of bass, mids and treble for my tastes. And comfort too.

I guess it’s just a bonus that it’s also one of the best measuring headphones that Innerfidelity has ever measured! And Tyll Hertsens said this is the headphones he’s personally taking on the road in his retirement travels :grin:

But for sure, I will give Ether 2 a listen.

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I just added a WyWires Platinum cable to the Ether 2 AND yesterday setup a new Benchmark DAC3 HGC (for the preamp/DAC section to feed my tubed A&S Kenzie Encore headphone amp).

Note: The Headphone amp in the DAC 3 is solid on its own…

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Yup I’ve heard it - very good DAC & headphone amp combo indeed.

Measures really well too in 3rd party measurements… :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

Very very nice setup you have there.

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These tests at the budget end are important.

I have MrSpeakers Aeon and my office system is an Audiolab M-One that cost £650. I had their MDAC+ (£800) that replaced a PSA PWD Mk2. A superb DAC. The M-One is quite noisy through the Aeon, less noticeable through P3ESR speakers. I get much less noise through my Chord Mojo and it is preferable and sounds way better.

So I might get a Sprout100 for driving office speakers, but it does start to clip heavily below the claimed output, but not for headphone listening, so that counts it out.

I note they give a superb review to the Cambridge Audio DAC Magic+. This is well known to be a great device and sells extremely well, as did the first version. Cambridge Audio contract some of the best audio designers in the world and generally make fantastic products at a great price and have been doing so for ages. Their budget priced streaming products compete favourably with many high end products.

I have the original DacMagic (no plus) here on my desk. I am done with it and need to find some place for it to go, other than the trash heap. Any interest? Should not cost much to ship.

If I get bored of the very convenient Audiolab M-One I’d go for something like the CA DacMagic+ and a Rega Brio. Total cost £950 compared to £600 for the Sprout100. With my Auralic Aries Mini (Roon Ready), P3ESR speakers and Mr Speakers headphones, becomes a pretty seriously good system for not a lot of money. I’m not sure there are any really good all-in-one boxes until you get up to the Naim Uniti Atom, that is a seriously good and classy device and just makes you smile. Of course nothing’s perfect, it doesn’t have a phono section, Naim don’t do vinyl, but Cambridge Audio do an excellent one for $200.

We don’t set conditions for reviewing and no magazine would agree to such conditions. They ask for and receive review samples and then it’s up to them to do what they want.


Yes - these pieces won the measurement lottery - you’ll notice little or no mention of sound quality in these reviews. Any site that reviews audio equipment and commonly uses the word “High End” in quotes should be avoided at all cost. I suppose it’s possible to parse through the rubble of this wasteland of a site and find some value - too much work for me as it’s negative sprit and anti high end bias makes me nauseous.

The late Julian Hirsch would have been proud.

The first DAC he mentioned, the Chord Qutest, is a fabulous sounding FGPA portable DAC that’s 20% cheaper than the Stellar DAC. Cord DACs measure very well, sound even better and sell in huge numbers.

The same can be said for the Benchmark DACs.

30+ yers ago every review included measurements. Reviewers were often experienced or leading engineers, like John Borwick. Now many reviews are subjective gibberish by people to lazy or ignorant to bother. At least someone is bothering to put up measurements, mostly of cheaper units, so people have some guidance as to what represents value for little money.

Often these cheaper units don’t get reviewed properly. The original DacMagic did and this is what Atkinson and Telling said in Stereophile:

“Although its USB input is really of only utility quality and shouldn’t be used for serious listening, the Cambridge Azur DacMagic otherwise offers superb measured performance. In fact, considering its street price of $400, this level of performance is astonishing. I am not surprised that Sam Tellig liked the DacMagic’s sound.”

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I tried a Sprout for a living room setup. I combined it with a pair of Monitor Audio GX50 speakers. I was not a fan with the way the Sprout sounded at all. I sold it a few days later and replaced it with a Onkyo A-9010 which sounds worlds better (and costs hundreds less, though with slightly less functionality) .

This is coming from someone who owns a Directstream for my main 2-channel system and loves it. Just my 2-cents.

In the UK the Sprout100 costs £600, so effectively it costs 30% more than in the US. My reason for buying it was because I wanted to try a class D amp, my previous experience there having been the truly terrible Sinclair X10 over 50 years ago, plus I wanted to nod a thanks to PS Audio for the enjoyment I have had on their site in the last couple of years. I am happy with the sound of it. I suspect that the sound is not as clean as from the Arcam class G amp on my main system (effectively class A at my listening levels) but I haven’t done a direct replacement so I cannot be sure. It has certainly convinced me that class D is not as evil as some maintain.


You’re not kidding - the bad old days of audio reviewing to be sure. ASR is keeping the flame alive…

So should we all completely ignore measurements and only choose components based on listening…? Skip/ignore distortion figures, S/N etc as it apparently doesn’t matter…? Should we all tell, for instance, Stereophile to stop the measurement section and only give us their subjective opinions on how a component sounds…?
Should PS Audio and everyone else stop wasting time, i.e. stop measuring, and only construct by ear…?

I actually thought ASR’s data was faulty, or the result of a faulty unit. I was expecting a response here that contradicts their data, but not yet…
Should we simply not expect to get good sound AND measurements for $599…?

And lastly, I’m NOT a PS Audio basher. I love their company, their products…I even love Paul…:wink:

But the responses to this thread were (mostly) not what I expected…

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I had the DacMagic and it was nothing special. I’ve heard the Benchmark DAC’s and never liked them. I guess I should have paid attention to the measurements and they may have sounded better - but that would only matter to people like me. I believe the label ASR uses for people who use their ears for audio decisions is “subjectivists”. I’d imagine they’d use the same derogative term for all the lazy reviewers out there they aren’t narrow minded slaves to measurements. Not saying that the productive “Scientists” at ASR don’t provide some value. Some people say horse shit is useless but yet it works wonders in my garden.

No you should filter the available information for yourself and decide based what you hear. I leave the measurement decisions to the high end artists like Ted, Paul and others. For an end user all that matters is system synergy and how that all sounds to you. Don’t need a tool from ASR telling what I should hear based on their measurements.

ASR provides a very useful service, IMHO. Should you base your buying decisions entirely on his reviews and measurements? No. But it does help weed out some of the overpriced, poorly made, or just plain broken stuff.

I read his Sprout review when it came out and I still like mine. I don’t see the need to get all paranoid about something you like not measuring well. But measurements do matter, especially things like clipping, THD, and to an extent SINAD.

If you look back to some of his earlier reviews, he has changed his methodology and emphasizes different things now than he used to (like his “effective bits” thing that was based on linearity rather than SINAD or SNR). And while he’s had some fierce shouting matches with people (especially Schiit and their fans), he does listen and change how he does things.

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