Reviews where I don’t bag physical flaws here, ergonomic oversights there, are very few and far between. Put simply, perfect products do not exist. So, when Essence's head, Bob Rapaport, insisted that the unit he sent for review was perfect, and by corollary, the phsycial flaws I noted were the products of my imagination, I decided to re-unpack the HDACC again and take a few reference images. Snap, snap.
Subject: Essence HDACC For Hi Res Audio
Reference: RMAA Essence HDACC 24-bit
Congratulations Bob: I’ve never dedicated an essay (however short) to the physical flaws of a DAC, amp, or headphone, unique to a review unit or not. Never has a manufacturer challenged me over the condition of the device he, or she has sent me. Never mind that my use of the definite article and other indications made it clear that I was speaking only about the unit I was reviewing. Never mind that otherwise I praised the HDACC's solid chassis. Bob took issue with any imperfection. Which, if this were a 10.000$ USD Swiss-made unit (like the Telos HD), he would have reason to chew out his factory or distributor. But HDACC goes for 499$ (after a 200$ price drop). And bob took issue with the two small paragraphs I dedicated to its small issues. For a Nathan review, that is pretty good.
Now it's time to get physical. As it's my first time, I kept things simple. I didn't measure the angles. I didn't measure distances. I just indicated incongruences in red. Bob, now you have the reference you need, and about which you complained in the comment section of my HDACC review. Again, I shoot review images to make a product look cool, not to point out problems. There is a first time for everything.
Note: I didn’t spend hours levelling or squaring the HDACC and my Fujifilm GX680 III. Nor did I calibrate exact the distance from the HDACC to the lens. I eyeballed everything as well as I could. Unless otherwise noted, red marks represent converging lines, and/or illustrate the distance of incongruent gaps.
1. HDACC fully monty:
2. Illustration showing how far the chassis occludes LEDs to create a cat eye effect (red annulus represents a true circular path):
3. Clearly, the attenuator grinds against the chassis on one side, while enjoying a wide birth on the other:
4. Leaning tower of Attenuati:
5. The large attenuator gap seen front-on:
6. Off-centre view (whoopee!) of the off-centre headphone jack:
Keep in mind that pointing out manufacturing flaws is a small but important part of every review I write. Typically, manufacturers appreciate the feedback; many rush to address problems. Some even apologise. When I am wrong, I do the same. But after handing Bob my rough draft (an interesting demand Bob makes of his reviewers), I was greeted with large swaths of red corrections, most of which largely ignored reality, and which jumped to conclusions: I didn’t remove the protective film (not sure how that will fix the off-centre faceplate), and I was looking at the amp at the wrong angle (I’m not unaware of geometry, Mr. Rapaport). Rather than issuing apology, or accepting the information as critical feedback, Bob attacked the reviewer.
Which is a shame. HDACC is a very nice-sounding DAC with a decent, if noisy headphone amp. It does loads of cool stuff that any DAC should be proud to do. But if you're a reviewer, you had better say nothing critical of it. Bob'll get you!