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Thread: THE ALLO KATANA 1.2 DAC REVIEW - A new ball game

  1. #1
    Join Date: Sep 2009

    Location: Derbyshire

    Posts: 8,176
    I'm Josie.

    Default THE ALLO KATANA 1.2 DAC REVIEW - A new ball game

    A few weeks ago I received the new DAC from Allo, the Katana 1.2!



    As some of you may know I've been using the Allo DAC products from the start and although there was some very understandable development hic-ups on the way Allo now have flourished in to a plethora of high quality audiophile products and the Katana is one which really stands out from the crowd.

    On my last review of the Allo Boss DAC you may remember me asking how things could get any better? Well needless to say things have just got better, a truck load better.

    Digital always surprises me in it's steps forward in sonic performance, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.

    Jumping right back to the IQ Audio DAC I was quite amazed how great it sounded. I was hooked pretty quickly. But back then things were a little confusing and sometimes frustrating when setting up due to the early development of software.

    The Katana 1.2 is simply brilliant in it's set up. Mine came with an RPI 3 and I also got the new Isolator fitted which some of you may have read about in my previous reviews. The Isolator is simply a must IMO.

    So, lets unpacking the Katana 1.2.



    It's worth me mentioning at this point that you don't need a christmas tree, it's very pretty with lots of little lights... lol

    The Katana arrived ready made but I felt you needed to see the individual parts as you guys like to see so I carefully disassembled it for your pleasure.





    The assembly is really easy but because some of the cards are now using smaller multi-pin connectors it certainly aquires more care but if one takes time it fits together perfectly.

    The case is really easy to assemble as most of you know. It's a jig-saw sort of affair and clicks together perfectly around the unit. It's also nice and strong and sturdy.

    My reviews are based on using the bog standard power supplies. Although I'm a big believer in what a good PSU can do I find this to be the best way to give an honest account.

    So let's get down to the switch on and most importantly, the sound.

    I've been waiting for this for quite a while and I kind of knew that I wouldn't be disappointed but I didn't expect the advancement since the Boss DAC.

    I have a selection of albums I use as a benchmark which IMO give a good breadth of styles from 1960/70s to modern day dance and Goa trance.

    The first albums were Demon Fuzz, Afreaka! and Pink Floyd, Meddle.

    As soon as the first track hit my speakers I simply thought it was the Boss DAC, not much in difference at all. Maybe a little more space in the stage but nothing to write home about and still amazingly good as ever. But after only a few songs in on Meddle things started to change. I wasn't expecting the sound to form so quickly out of the box as well all know these things need around 100 hours to really start to boogie.

    So, when the track Echoes hit things were getting a little scary... in a good way. I had to get up a few times, walk around a bit to make sure I wasn't hearing things. The bass was lovely with a gorgeous 'Floooowmmm' which really resonated whilst the mids were coming through nice and easy. It immediately made me want to hear a more modern album because the bass was so nice. But at the same time I simply had to just keep listening.

    At this point things were getting very exciting so on went Shpongle Codex IV. I love Shpongle, the ambiance and the textures are really amazing, kinda messes wiv ya head.

    So when the bass kicked in I was blown away. I have the same album on vinyl which I thought was the best sound but I must admit this is trumping it somewhat.

    When previously hearing this using the Boss DAC the sound was great, detailed and wholesome. Hearing it through the Katana 1.2 is a new experience IMO. The pace and the transient detail is upped in accuracy and the smoothness is very analogue sounding.

    The word 'harshness' doesn't even come in to it. It just doesn't sound digitally over thought which has always been the real bug bear of digital sound.

    The thing I believe makes a massive difference with the ALLO DAC hardware is the Isolator. It really does make a huge difference and well worth the extra outlay. Without it, the sound is flatter and not as smooth. With the Isolator you need an extra PSU as it feeds the RPI.



    Because I'm currently using bog standard PSU's I can only imagine how much improvement there is to come using the Katana 1.2 and I'll be updating this thread when I get a nice linear regulated PSU.

    I started this review a few weeks ago and I've had it running most days and since then the sound has grown even more in every way. The highs have really come in to their own. The whole image is nicely balanced and it really is something to admire.



    As you can see, it's grown up. Now with 5 boards including the Pi it now certainly looks like a serious bit of kit.



    What are my bad points?

    It's really difficult to pick it apart at the moment.

    I suppose it would be down to the look and the usability of the case maybe? If the case was larger to allow all cables to enter and exit from the back and made of aluminium that would be great. Make it look 'not like an RPI' package. It would also make it easier to dust.

    It gets quite warm and although the plastic case covers most of the board it still looks quite exposed so again, to have this in a nice aluminium case would be really nice.

    Also as noted previously, if you are going to assemble it yourself then do take care with the smaller connectors on the boards.

    A genuine ALLO PSU would be perfect and is in development. Hopefully the PSU will have two or more power outputs and to have that in a matching aluminium case with the DAC would be lovely too. (wishes)

    My closing comment - The Katana is a fantastic DAC with a whole lotta soul.

    Thanks
    Thorens TD124 (Schopper refurbed) - SME 3009 S2 (None improved) (Audio Origami refrubished) - Ortofon SPU GT - RPI 3 & ALLO Katana 1.2 DAC with Isolator - Tube Distinctions Copper Amp (Using KT150's) - Croft Epoch Elite (Very highly upgraded) - Studer A80R Master Recorder (High Speed 15/30 IPS) - Rectec M142 monitor - 15" Tannoy Monitor Gold Loudspeakers in Lockwood Major cabinets - Tannoyista SPEC 3 Custom Crossovers - VanDamme Black Speaker Cable - Mark Grant Interconnects

  2. #2
    Join Date: Nov 2011

    Location: Seaton, Devon, UK

    Posts: 1,715
    I'm Adrian.

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    Great review Josie. I was wondering what one of these would be like, I may be tempted in the future to see if is an upgrade to my current set up.
    [FONT="Arial"]
    Listening is the act of aural discrimination and dissemination of sound


    Michel GyroDec (slightly modified), SME IV arm(special build virtually a V), Michel Cusis MC cartridge, Furutech AG-12-R4 High Performance Phono Cable, LFD MMC special phono stage, RaspberryPi/HifiBerry Digi to Beresford Caiman SEG DAC, Meridian 508 CD to Caiman SEG, ALLNIC T1500 MKII SET 300B amp, Vienna Acoustics Mozart SE speakers, Chord Epic speaker leads, & signature links, the Eccose Conductor CA1 cd to pre

  3. #3
    Join Date: Apr 2017

    Location: Manningtree, Essex

    Posts: 913
    I'm Tony.

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    Thanks Josie,

    Looks like my next upgrade is planned then! :-)

    Tony
    A mainly digital setup with a musical amplifier and endearing 1970's speakers. A CD player that hardly ever gets used and a turntable that is good enough to remind my how enjoyable my old vinyl is. Some cables and things.

  4. #4
    Join Date: Dec 2016

    Location: Saint-Siméon, Basse-Normandie, France

    Posts: 54
    I'm Paul.

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    Hi Josie

    Which output stage are you using? Did Allo send you both to try? Which do you prefer?

  5. #5
    Join Date: Nov 2018

    Location: Grimsby

    Posts: 143
    I'm David.

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    Very nice review, and pleased your happy with the new Allo. I have read that using a good LPSU makes worthwhile improvements with these products, it certainly did with my Project cdp and Calyx dac.

  6. #6
    Join Date: Sep 2009

    Location: Derbyshire

    Posts: 8,176
    I'm Josie.

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    Thanks guys. Glad you like it.

    Its certainly worth the upgrade.

    Hi Paul. I don't use the ALLO output stage products but I am curious to try them to be honest.
    Thorens TD124 (Schopper refurbed) - SME 3009 S2 (None improved) (Audio Origami refrubished) - Ortofon SPU GT - RPI 3 & ALLO Katana 1.2 DAC with Isolator - Tube Distinctions Copper Amp (Using KT150's) - Croft Epoch Elite (Very highly upgraded) - Studer A80R Master Recorder (High Speed 15/30 IPS) - Rectec M142 monitor - 15" Tannoy Monitor Gold Loudspeakers in Lockwood Major cabinets - Tannoyista SPEC 3 Custom Crossovers - VanDamme Black Speaker Cable - Mark Grant Interconnects

  7. #7
    Join Date: Dec 2014

    Location: UK, East Midlands

    Posts: 1,445
    I'm Mike.

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    Great review Josie - thank you
    Been very interested in this development so is good to hear your (positive) experience.

    Also agree about a more robust and professional looking casing .... this DIY lego-like structure I find very off putting.
    If you don't like my potatoes - please don't dig up my vine!

  8. #8
    Join Date: Dec 2016

    Location: Saint-Siméon, Basse-Normandie, France

    Posts: 54
    I'm Paul.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Black Adder View Post
    Thanks guys. Glad you like it.

    Its certainly worth the upgrade.

    Hi Paul. I don't use the ALLO output stage products but I am curious to try them to be honest.
    Hi Josie

    Apologies, I wasn't clear in my question. Allo supply the Katana with one of two (or both) output stages, one based on the best THD numbers, one that apparently sounds the best. Looking at your packaging, it would seem that you've got the THD output stage. Some reviewers have been sent both, and there is a difference, sonically; I just wondered whether you had both available, and could offer your opinion.

  9. #9
    Join Date: Sep 2009

    Location: Derbyshire

    Posts: 8,176
    I'm Josie.

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    Hi Paul.

    I was only sent the THD version but will ask if the other version is available to review too.
    Thorens TD124 (Schopper refurbed) - SME 3009 S2 (None improved) (Audio Origami refrubished) - Ortofon SPU GT - RPI 3 & ALLO Katana 1.2 DAC with Isolator - Tube Distinctions Copper Amp (Using KT150's) - Croft Epoch Elite (Very highly upgraded) - Studer A80R Master Recorder (High Speed 15/30 IPS) - Rectec M142 monitor - 15" Tannoy Monitor Gold Loudspeakers in Lockwood Major cabinets - Tannoyista SPEC 3 Custom Crossovers - VanDamme Black Speaker Cable - Mark Grant Interconnects

  10. #10
    Join Date: Sep 2009

    Location: Derbyshire

    Posts: 8,176
    I'm Josie.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikmas View Post
    Great review Josie - thank you
    Been very interested in this development so is good to hear your (positive) experience.

    Also agree about a more robust and professional looking casing .... this DIY lego-like structure I find very off putting.
    Thanks, Mike. Your welcome.

    Yes, the case work is rather simple. I now feel this Allo package now needs to be presented much more professionally. To be able to buy a nicely designed case which fixes the wiring direction issue would be superb.

    It's all good feedback for Allo.
    Thorens TD124 (Schopper refurbed) - SME 3009 S2 (None improved) (Audio Origami refrubished) - Ortofon SPU GT - RPI 3 & ALLO Katana 1.2 DAC with Isolator - Tube Distinctions Copper Amp (Using KT150's) - Croft Epoch Elite (Very highly upgraded) - Studer A80R Master Recorder (High Speed 15/30 IPS) - Rectec M142 monitor - 15" Tannoy Monitor Gold Loudspeakers in Lockwood Major cabinets - Tannoyista SPEC 3 Custom Crossovers - VanDamme Black Speaker Cable - Mark Grant Interconnects

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