So how does the unit sound? Well in a word excellent! There is a clarity to the sound that is quite remarkable – you really notice it at the frequency extremes. Bass is incredibly tight and well defined and treble is smooth and clear without any trace of harshness. Massed violins, or recordings with some sibilance are actually quite listenable. If you had any doubts, a quick reversion to a PCM 2707 based converter will re-assure you. John himself told me how he noticed ever-increasing levels of clarity in the sound as he worked his way through his mods to the HiFace, and I for one believe him. As John himself says “I now know what jitter sounds like – as each improvement was implemented a layer of hash and noise was removed and bass and treble improved. However, go back and compare to a standard unit and the difference is pretty stark”.
Extended listening with the HiFace also showed up a superb depth of soundstage, sounding really fantastic with all music, and especially effective with full orchestral music. Given a DAC of adequate quality (and I do believe that Johns modded HiFace unit will only reflect what the DAC can handle) the sound has a liquidity and pace that does compare to analogue. As a testament to its resolution, I could clearly hear the difference in music files encoded to different sample rates, all the way up to WAV files. Not many transports can do that.