I am offering my Demo Elac Alchemy series stack for sale. These units will come with a new warranty from Elac.
These are an outstanding system that sounds great with every speaker system I have tried them with and especially good with your Elac Speakers.
The DDP-2 has precisely the same dimensions as its Alchemy siblings, the PPA-2 and DPA-2: 17.5”W x 2”H x 15”D, including jacks. It weighs 14 pounds, and its appearance is plain-Jane and basic black. The DDP-2 has a reassuringly solid feel; its overall build quality, while not luxurious, is very good. This thing seems built to last.
On the rear panel are three sets of analog outputs: one fixed and one variable unbalanced (RCA), and one variable balanced (XLR). There are also three sets of line-level analog inputs: two unbalanced (RCA) and one balanced (XLR). Analog signals remain in that domain from input to output.
For digital sources, there are two optical (TosLink) and two coaxial (RCA) S/PDIF inputs, one AES/EBU (XLR) input, a USB Type-B port for connection to a computer, and two Inter-IC Sound (I2S) inputs (one five-pin mini-DIN, one HDMI) for connection to CD transports with I2S outputs. With I2S, the audio and clock data are carried on separate lines, so the interface is inherently jitter-proof. I2S is used in CD players as the internal interface between the player’s transport and DAC sections; Audio Alchemy pioneered its use as an external interface.
The DDP-2 also has an Ethernet port, and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The antennas are internal, which helps maintain the component’s unusually low profile of 2”. The DDP-2 doesn’t support advanced Bluetooth codecs, only the standard SBC format. When I streamed high-resolution files from my LG G7 ThinQ smartphone to the DDP-2, the sound was more muffled and compressed with Bluetooth compared to network playback.
The streamer module has three internal I2S outputs to the DAC section, one each dedicated to Roon, Bluetooth, and streaming via AirPlay and UPnP/DLNA.
The DDP-2 has dual AKM 4493EQ DAC chips in balanced configuration. The DAC’s maximum resolutions are 32-bit/384kHz via USB and I2S, 32/192 via Ethernet and Wi-Fi, and 24/192 via S/PDIF and AES/EBU. The DDP-2 supports DSD64 and DSD128 via its USB interface, and DSD64 via Roon network playback.
The user can apply to each digital input one of four different digital filters: linear phase, fast rolloff; linear phase, slow rolloff; minimum phase, fast rolloff; or minimum phase, slow rolloff (apodizing). For each of these, Resolution Enhancement can be turned on or off. I experimented briefly with these settings and found the differences very subtle. For most of my listening I settled on minimum phase, fast rolloff, with Resolution Enhancement -- this combination provided a good balance of articulation and spaciousness. Engaging the Upsample function, accessible from the remote control, made CD-resolution recordings sound just a bit more smooth and refined.
According to Elac’s specifications, the Alchemy DDP-2 is “MQA-capable” -- but the product’s web page says “MQA coming soon.” It’s still not here. In an e-mail exchange, Madnick told me, “The DDP-2 hardware was designed to do full MQA decoding. There is a plan to issue a software update in the future which will enable this feature.” In the meantime, to perform the first unfolding of MQA-encoded Tidal Masters streams, Tidal subscribers can use Tidal’s desktop app or a third-party app such as Amarra or Audirvana, if connecting to the DDP-2 via USB. For network playback, Roon will perform this function.
The DDP-2 has two internal power supplies: a linear supply with toroidal transformer for the analog section, and a switching supply for the digital section. To minimize noise and interference, the analog and digital circuit boards are completely separate, with separate ground planes, each isolated from chassis ground.
The front panel is attractively sparse, with (left to right) a power switch, 6.3mm unbalanced headphone jack, and mute and headphone LED indicators; then come buttons for mute, activating the headphone output, and menu navigation. At right is a small OLED display, and at farthest right a knob for adjusting the volume or selecting sources -- push it in to switch modes. This control has a lovely silky feel, and the pushbuttons feel satisfyingly solid.
The supplied plastic remote control lets users adjust volume and balance, activate and de-activate mute, cycle through inputs, choose digital filters, and turn the DDP-2 on and off. When streaming from Roon, users can use the remote to skip tracks, and to pause and resume playback.
Setup and software
If you plan to use the DDP-2 only as a DAC and preamp, setup and daily use are straightforward. Connect your source components, your power amp or active speakers, and you’re all set. If you’re connecting a computer to the DDP-2’s USB input, you’ll have to configure your music-player software to output audio to the DDP-2 -- again, not a big deal. All of this will be completely familiar to most audiophiles.
Network playback is a tad trickier. To use the DDP-2’s streamer, you have to connect its Ethernet port to your network router or access point. If the router or access point is in your listening room, you’re good to go. If not, you have to configure the DDP-2’s Wi-Fi settings, after which you can disconnect the Ethernet cable and use the DDP-2 wirelessly.
You begin by determining the IP address that your network router has assigned to the DDP-2 (this information can be found in the About page on the DDP-2’s display), entering this into the address line of a Web browser. That will open the Settings page, where you’ll find a box for enabling Bluetooth (which also can be enabled through menus on the DDP-2’s display). The Firmware tab lets you check for and install firmware updates. Clicking the WiFi tab takes you to a page where you can select your Wi-Fi network and enter your password.
Elac recommends using an Ethernet connection if possible, but I streamed to the DDP-2 via Roon and AirPlay over Wi-Fi, and experienced nary a hiccup or dropout.
Unlike many streaming DAC-preamps I’ve reviewed over the past year, the DDP-2 does not have a companion app -- you can stream to it via AirPlay, Spotify Connect, UPnP/DLNA, or Roon.
The rest of this Review is here https://www.soundstagesimplifi.com/index.php/equipment-reviews/133-elac-alchemy-ddp-2-streaming-dac-preamp
Please send your questions to [email protected] or call me at 720.308.4000
the rest of the stack is for sale too.