EverSolo DMP-A6 Streamer/DAC
It’s a rare occasion when an electronic component is functional, well built, well designed, a genuine value, and imminently FUN to use. The EverSolo DMP-A6 Streamer/DAC is such an item. Truly, it is one of the best components of any type that I have EVER owned!
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Let’s take a look at the EverSolo DMP-A6. As media technology has advanced in the 21st Century, there has been the appearance of some new product categories. Music streamers are one of the most significant. Where video streamers like Roku, FireStick and Apple TV are the most common, and while they can be used for most music streaming services, dedicated audio streamers are also a significant sub-category. They include simple, “black boxes” like the BlueSound Node, and may or may not include an internal DAC (Digital to analog converter). Some are styled like conventional audio components, with a small display, like the Cambridge CXN v2, while others are much more elaborate, and expensive, with large touchscreens, like the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition. They can also be a more all-in-one configuration, with internal amplifiers, like the standard edition of the Naim Uniti Atom or the Cambridge EVO 150. In general, they have an available mobile app for remote control of music queue and playback. There are actually a staggering number of music streamers on the market, with prices ranging from a few hundred dollars to over five thousand.
21st Century Marketing
Early in 2023, EverSolo, a new company and subsidiary of the Chinese manufacturer Zidoo, introduced their first music streamer, the DMP-A6. ($859.00) EverSolo was smart enough to employ a brilliant marketing strategy by, instead of traditional advertising, sending dozens of units to various online reviewers for evaluation. Even though the product was very much in Beta state, reviews were almost universally excellent, which created an enormous demand for the streamer before it was even commercially available. I had long been wanting to improve the playback of high resolution music files in my system, and had realized a streamer was the best solution, even though I had no plans to actually stream music from any online services. This is because streamers are primarily content management and playback systems and can be quite flexible.
In addition to using them to access online streaming services, most streamers also allow a user to connect a USB and/or networked hard drive, preferably a solid state model, containing all the music they want to have available for playback. In my case, this includes lossless files ripped from CDs as well as high resolution files purchased from sellers such as HDTracks. In most cases, the streamer has a free mobile app that can be used to choose what music is played as well as create song queues, in addition to having traditional controls on the front of the unit. It’s a very elegant and convenient way for music lovers to access their digital music, and it’s exactly what I was looking for. In fact, shortly before official announcement of the DMP-A6, I had purchased the aforementioned Cambridge CXN v2. As nice as that unit is, it was unfortunate timing for me, because the EverSolo appeared to be more what I wanted. After EverSolo’s remarkably successful marketing campaign, the DMP-A6 was exceedingly difficult to obtain. So I waited and schemed. Simply placing an order for one was nearly impossible, but something I finally accomplished in mid May 2023, receiving it a couple weeks later.
The DMP-A6 includes a nicely sized touchscreen for displaying cover art and to control any aspect of the player. The display can also be duplicated on a mobile device, or display a different screen.
Built For Growth
The DMP-A6 has a smaller than standard enclosure measuring 10.6″ wide, 3.5″ high and 7.4″ deep. It has a 6″ color touchscreen which is where most of the controls are displayed, as well as any of a selection of playback screens, which include basic cover art with titles and bitrate info (as shown above), and have been greatly expanded since it was released to include a variety of spectrum analyzers and VU Meters. Most of the time I select the cover art option, but the spectrum analyzers are fun, though their range is truncated to higher volume levels, which means with quiet music they don’t always display anything. Hopefully a range adjustment will be added in a firmware update.
Speaking of firmware updates, EverSolo is remarkably responsive to improvements, and updates have come fast. In the roughly seven months I’ve had the unit, I suspect there have been over a dozen firmware updates, and 6-7 app updates. The EverSolo Control app is available for Android and iOS devices. iOS apps can also run on the latest “Silicon” based (M1/M2/M3) Mac computers. In one case, a firmware update appeared to be a complete re-write, because it was like a completely new device. Happily, firmware updates are prompted automatically, as long as the DMP-A6 has an internet connection, either by Wi-Fi or ethernet.
While all functions can be controlled using the front touchscreen, I definitely prefer using the mobile app on an iPad. Unlike so many mobile apps, the EverSolo Control app has evolved to be almost perfect. The options for viewing and selecting playback, as well as creating queues are almost too extensive. Something that might be considered as a down side to all this flexibility along with the ability for the firmware to be radically changed is that there really is no such thing as an operating manual. As I said, everything changes, and sometimes significantly. So far, those changes have always been an improvement. I must take my hat off to the EverSolo programmers. Their improvements truly have always been actual improvements. Below are just two of the many windows available in the mobile app.
The mobile app’s “Artists” view shows each artist in a play list, in this case stored on a connected M.2 solid state drive. The icon images are populated either from an online database, or when one isn’t available, from the last album by that artist. At the bottom is information about the currently playing track, including progress and control functions. BTW, the “Untitled 5” track title isn’t a mistake. The tracks on this particular album by Sigur Rós don’t have titles. Clicking on the disc image on the bottom left takes the user to a screen dedicated to the current track.
The app’s album view shows all tracks, duration, bitrate and other details, with the same “Currently Playing” info at the bottom. The entire navigation of the app can seem almost cavernous at first, but after some use, it becomes clear it is fairly intuitive.
A sample of the spectrum analyzers and VU Meters the DMP-A6 screen and app can display.
Oh, The Versatility
Music streamers like the DMP-A6 are so versatile, and have so many functions, a comprehensive review of everything would be almost endless. I won’t go into the streaming features themselves, largely because the streaming apps are developed by each individual streaming service, not EverSolo, so those details are not exclusive to the DMP-A6. Needless to say, pretty much every music streaming streaming service has an app for the DMP-A6. My personal priority, and the main purpose of the this review is overall sonic quality, functionality, and ability to manage and play back CD quality and high resolution music files. The CD files were ripped from disc using Apple iTunes, which is now the Music app. The files I have currently are Apple Lossless (M4A), a few MP3s, and Free Lossless FLAC. The DMP-A6 is capable of seamless playback of virtually every audio format available, including stereo and multichannel DSD. Though multichannel playback can only be achieved using the hdmi output to a surround processor or receiver.
On the technical mumbo jumbo side, the DNP-A6 has dual ESS Sabre ES9038Q2M DACs and can play files up to a completely absurd 768KHz/32 bit and DSD512. Personally, I’m skeptical there is a sonic benefit, even in the best systems, to anything beyond 96KHz/24 bit, though I do have a couple 192KHz recordings. Each DAC handles one channel in “high quality” mode, which means it is outputting a true differential analog signal. What does that even mean? Simply put, it is directly converting the digital source into discreet positive and negative wave forms, which theoretically will improve sonic quality by eliminating common noise and distortion.
Since the DMP-A6 has balanced outputs, users who have compatible equipment can continue that differential signal further. In my case, my entire music audio chain is fully differential all the way to the speakers, so I am able to take full advantage of any benefit the differential design of the DMP-A6 has. Many user will use the standard, unbalanced RCA outputs, but there should still be some degree of benefit to the design. Finally, the DMP-A6 does have a (defeatable) digital volume control, meaning it’s output can be fed directly to a power amp, with no preamp, or to powered speakers. There is the question of whether this type of volume control degrades the audio quality, but I’ll leave that to the nitpickers. I deactivate the volume control, since I am using a preamp.
The DMP-A6 has a staggering array of inputs and outputs. In addition to ethernet, Wi-Fi and bluetooth, inputs include optical and coaxial digital, a USB-C that connects to a computer and operates like a sound card, and a USB3 that can be connected to a drive. Outputs include analog in both unbalanced RCA and balanced XLR, as well as (audio only) hdmi, USB3, and optical & coaxial digital. There is also an M.2 SSD slot for internal storage of up to 4TB.
What About The Sound?
The important thing is, how does it sound? My music system consists of the (discontinued) Emotiva XSP-1 stereo preamp, Emotiva XPA-DR2 amplifier, Thiel CS 3.6 speakers, and a pair of SVS SB-16 Ultra subwoofers in “opposing corner” placement, diagonally across the room from each other. The Thiels are generally considered to be ruthlessly revealing, and for good reason. They are notoriously intolerant of poor electronics and source material. Outstanding recordings will be transcendent, and bad ones will be intolerable.
I gave the DMP-A6 a good 50 hours of break-in before getting critical about its sound. At that time, I played a 96/24 high resolution recording of Dream Theater’s A Dramatic Turn of Events. One of my favorite, “blow my mind” recordings. It is one of the most spectacular recordings I have ever heard. The sweeping envelopment and visceral power of This Is The Life was as impressive as I’ve ever heard it. By the time I got to the room-filling embrace at about 3 minutes into Breaking All Illusions, it was genuinely bringing tears to my eyes. Time for some acoustic music, and one of my favorite test recordings is the complete Tchaikovsky Swan Lake performed by Neeme Järvi and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. As the piece opened, the instruments simply floated in the air, leading into the point at around 1:40 where the entire orchestra, complete with bass drums shook the earth. It’s as close as can get to a live performance, without the parking problems.
In the end, I would describe the sound of the DMP-A6 as three dimensional… and accurate. It’s the accurate part that will be a problem for some users. There is a belief that audio gear should be (in my opinion, excessively) warm sounding, even downright subdued. That high frequencies, especially around 2KHz, should be attenuated and mid bass should be exaggerated. The DMP-A6 will not produce that type of sound, at least not without modification. Fortunately, a pending firmware update (which is currently available in Beta) will include both parametric and graphic equalizers, so the output can be suited to the listener and room. The only limitation is that it is limited to files with a maximum 96KHz sample rate. Used with a calibration mic such as the Umik-1 and software like Room EQ Wizard (REW), this allows the user to create their own room correction, as well as to suit their own desired sound profile.
Final Thoughts on the DMP-A6
Despite all the technological advancements in recent years, it’s not often a product comes along that is as well designed, functional, as good a value, and just plain fun as the EverSolo DMP-A6. It manages to hit the bar on every level. Regarding overall sound quality, it probably hits 95%. Nicely at the point of diminishing returns. Subsequent to its release, a Master Edition ($1,299.99) was released, with an upgraded digital clock and analog op-amp output. However, at a $440 price premium, I doubt it provides a sensible improvement for the price. For the more audiophile crowd, there is also the DMP-A8 ($1,980.00), with a radically different R-2R DAC design and a wide variety of upgraded sonic features.
The bottom line is, the DMP-A6 hits a perfect spot for the music lover who wants a superior, but rational way to access music streaming services, as well as play back digital files in an almost unlimited variety of formats. It is also a wonderful value. I look forward to many carefree years of music enjoyment with it.
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