The Japanese brand AMI International is a newcomer to Son-Vidéo.com. Specialising in the manufacture of audiophile cables for headphones and earphones, the company has already released two audio USB DACs ? the Ami Musik DDH-1 and the recent Ami Musik DS5, which we have just reviewed.
This is a DAC with digital optical S/PDIF Toslink and coaxial inputs, 24 bit and 192 kHz compatible, 24 bit / 192 kHz and DSD 2.8 and 5.6 MHz (native and DoP) compatible asynchronous USB input, line output with OP Muse 8920 amplifier line output and headphones output with OP Texas Instruments TPA6130A2 amplifier. The USB Amanero Cortex M3 controller is ASIO compatible (for unaltered and DSD compatible reading) and AMI offers a driver for Windows that we implemented using Windows 8.1 and Foobar2000. A DSD decoding filter for Foobar2000 is also installed.
The AMI Musik DS5 USB DAC is fitted with a notched volume control, which enables you to switch the device on or off by holding down the knob. Two knobs allow you to select the desired input (USB, coax and optical) and output. It’s worth noting that AMI chose to power just one output at a time, to not use the supplied switch-mode power supply needlessly. On the front panel, each sampling frequency is represented by a small white LED, from 44.1 to 192 kHz, without forgetting the rates of 2.8 MHz and 5.8 MHz for DSD flow. The presence of these diodes allows us to check that USB streaming is BitPerfect and that no re-sampling is applied.
There is a coaxial S/PDIF RCA input and an optical S/PDIF Toslink input at the back. These are both driven by a low-jitter Wolfson controller (less than 50 ps), a type B USB port, a stereo RCA output and an earthing connector.
We tested the Ami Musik DS5 with two sets of headphones ? our trusty Sennheiser PX-100 and the famous HiFiMAN HE-500. Although the USB cable which was delivered is of good quality, we preferred the Audioquest Carbon USB, which offers a clearer and sharper delivery of high frequencies. We also chose the Audioquest Coffee USB cable, which has exemplary neutrality. It is ideal when listening with HiFiMAN HE-500 headphones.
We also listened to the Ami Musik DS5 connected to the Denon Ceol RCD-N8 amplifier, with RCA Viard Audio Silver HD RCA cables and Viard Audio Silver HD 12 HP speaker cables on Q Acoustics 2050i and Focal 716V floor-standing speakers. The results are better than those obtained when the Denon amplifier decodes the files with its own DAC ? improved serenity, good bass presence and better upper bass and low medium. The frequency response seems extended to our ears.
How does it sound’
Depending on the output used, headphones or line, the tonal balance of the Ami Musik DS5 differs slightly. It stands to reason that the OP headphone amplifier (Texas Instruments) isn’t the same as that of the line output (Muse). The headphone amplifier is slightly more generous in upper bass and low medium, whereas the line amplifier places a slight accent on the medium range (most likely due to the lack of bass masking effects, which are less rich). In both cases, the balance is very appealing. It must be said that this DAC delivers a well structured sound, which is extremely accurate throughout the spectrum, which is no mean feat. Where other electronic equipment emphasises the medium range to bring a pseudo definition (like an image sharpening filter), the AMI Musik DS5 plays the audiophile card with remarkably detailed low medium and bass, bass notes are well extended. This positive feature is further enhanced by obvious energy beyond 15 kHz.
The OP headphone amplifier is so solid and well balanced that the use of the NuForce HA-200 headphone amplifier (on line output) hasn’t added anything more and has proved itself to be less solid, which is ironic as the NuForce amplifier operating in Class A is as solid as a rock.
Et moi et moi et moi, Jacques Dutronc, Deezer
Due to the fact that we think that a very good DAC must be able to produce miracles with a low bitrate MP3 file, we listened at length to Deezer. The result is quite simply excellent. Dynamics aren’t amazing and the frequency response is tight but it definitely swings along. One of the major qualities of the DAC AMI Musik AMI 5 is clearly its ability to extract the most substantial means from the audio stream. We can therefore listen to Dutronc and feel like singing along with him.
Initial conclusion: a DSD 24/192 compatible DAC with a good headphone amplifier is a real treat for listening to MP3s!
Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie, FLAC 16/44, DR12
Very good separation of channels, impressive lateralisation and depth. We revel in Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie, a track which benefits highly from this DAC. The 70s mix, which isn’t a dynamic model, delivers astonishing details as well as great voice reverb. It doesn’t go down too low, nor go up too high but we immediately fall under its charm. Each time we listen to the track, turning it up a little more each time, the Ami Musik DS5 impresses us more and more. When turned up high, there is no medium range projection nor crushing of the bass range. Everything holds up in place and when Bowie ends with ?Ziggy played guitar?…we’re left wanting more.
The Message, Grand Master Flash (12″), FLAC 16/44, DR11
Impressive dynamic range. It thuds hard but always with control, good space and voices well represented and clear. This increased focus on the voices doesn’t, however, overshadow the medium treble range.
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (12″), Santa Esmeralda, FLAC 16/44, DR12
We would like to hear a studio version of this legendary track, resurrected by Tarantino for Kill Bill. The title is complex, mixing drums, percussion, castanets, strings and brass over a furious ?disco-flamenco? rhythm. The Ami Musik DS5 passes the test with flying colours without ever shying away even when the volume is turned up.
Cults, Abducted, FLAC 16/44, DR5
A particularly noisy track with a low dynamic range. This is an arduous test as sound levels are tight. Despite this, the Ami Musik DS5 DAC undoes Cults’ saturated melodies.
Just the Way You are, Barry White, FLAC 16/44, DR13
The singer’s voice is skillfully delivered. The AMI DS5 DAC doesn’t overdo it to the extent of crushing the rhythm section, which is common. The layering of sound levels is well respected. Listening to other tracks in the Barry White The Collection compilation reveals differences in the singer’s voice sound takes with different microphones. In all circumstances, the AMI DS5 is a hit.
Under The Cherry Moon, Prince, FLAC 24/192, DR17
This is a spectacular interpretation which captures you with its great sound localization. We rediscover an exceptional mix with astounding attention to detail. The OP amplifier connected to the headphones output never misses a breath at high volumes. In spite of the crash of the bass drum, strings and brass play with subtlety on the far extremes of the sound field. Prince’s voice is crystal-clear and his breathing vibrates. It’s simply remarkable.
Where is My Mind, Pixies, FLAC 24/88, DR13
If there’s an obstacle to be avoided with this track, it’s that of a delivery with too much emphasis on the snare drum and a lack of body. The AMI DS5 hits hard, prolongs the drums’ muffled resonance and supports its basic frequencies. The cymbals don’t scatter all over the place and are delivered with praiseworthy energy and control.
What A Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong, FLAC 24/96, DR11
The delivery is soft. We are rocked by the double bass, acoustic guitar and wind instruments. Armstrong’s voice resonates softly.
Girl from Ipanema, Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto, FLAC 16/44, DR9
When Getz blows into the saxophone, something amazing happens. Even after listening to this track on many occasions, we still pick up on details that we didn’t know of. This is proof of the DAC’s successful layering of the sound stage. The sax is sublimely sophisticated and full of energy without overrunning.
Hey Now, London Grammar, FLAC 24/44, DR6
It’s on this type of mix with reduced dynamics that the AMI Musik DS5 proves itself to be an absolute gem. The loud bass guitar with excessive reverb finds a delivery that we’d never heard before. The singer’s voice is well represented. Impressive bass range.
Ma Benz, Supreme NTM, FLAC 16/44, DR6
A reference track which brings OP amplifiers down to their knees as the bass is terrifyingly low. It’s difficult to make out the lyrics sung by Joey Starr and Kool Shen as their voices are slightly in the background compared to that of Lord Kossity. The electronic snare drum is however slightly aggressive at a high volume. The rest is just for the pleasure of listening for those who love this legendary track.
I’m So Open, Cowboy Junkies, DSD 2,8, DR10
We played the SACD ISO image of this Cowboy Junkies album. The signature sound is analog, to the extent that medium and treble are generally in the background which favours an emphasis and uncommon exploration of the rest of the spectrum. A similar warm balance can be heard with the SACD ISO image of Supertramp’s Breakfast in America.
This DAC sounds just like the good old days. This might seem contradictory as we’re dealing with the latest electronic components made for the treatment of digital signals. When you listen to it, the AMI Musik DS5 DAC delivers a well structured sound, highlighting in particular the bass and low medium frequencies. There should be no mistaking, delivery is perfectly balanced. Choosing this DAC can make you appreciate headphones or floor-standing speakers. We really enjoyed its unique sound experience just as much as its ability to widen and place the different sound layers, whether they are studio quality files or files streamed from on-line music services such as Deezer or Qobuz.French