There are a whole lot of things that can get audiophiles excited. One of those things is a good Class-A amplifier. Despite there being other viable options, these are still somewhat of an audiophile holy grail, With that said, I’m happy to announce that in this review, I’m checking out the Yulong Canary II DAC and Class-A headphone amplifier. Join me for some birdsong!
This sample was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own based on my experience with the product.
Yulong Canary II Review
- Very solid construction
- Ease of use
- Can be used as a preamp
- Multiple input options
- Ample output power
- Fine sense of rhythm
- Not ideal for sensitive IEMs
- No 3.5mm input
Package and Accessories
The Yulong Canary II arrived in a black box with a nice picture of the red model’s front panel on the front and the rear panel on the rear of the box. Inside is the Canary II, a user manual, power cable and power brick, plus a USB cable.
Build Quality and Functionality
The Canary II has a fairly minimalist chassis design with a tidy, slightly angled surface. It is a fully closed, moulded aluminium chassis with no vents or ridges. Despite not having any vents, the body barely gets warm, even after hours of heavy use. Placed on the underside of the unit are 4 silicone feet to prevent any scratches on your desktop.
On the front panel (from left to right) are:
- Source input selection switch (with an 18K gold-plated panel)
- Volume pot
- 6.35mm headphone jack.
Over on the back, there are (from left to right):
- Analogue line-out
- Analogue line-in
- Coaxial input
- Optical input
- USB input
- ON/OFF switch
- DC 12V port
In terms of functionality, the Canary II is straightforward and very easy to use. It’s simply a matter of connecting a source via one of the inputs, selecting said input on the front panel and you’re ready to roll.
The input select method is quite unique as it is a spring-loaded switch that bounced back up after you press it down. It feels every bit as sturdy as the rest of the unit and the gold-plated panel adds a touch of flair to the Canary II’s understated styling. I should also mention that this device is available in 3 colours: black, silver and red.
If you’re a fan of nicely weighted volume pots, you’ll love this one. The potentiometer has a knurled, textured surface and a lovely smooth action that is ideal for making precise adjustments.
Like most amps, there is a slight channel imbalance at extremely low volume until the pot reaches around 7 o’clock (starting position is 6:30). This is only noticeable with very sensitive IEMs at a minimum volume so it’s not anything to cause concern.
At the heart of Canary II is an ESS 9038Q2M DAC along with a XU208+ FPGA processor + femtosecond clock for jitter reduction and to enable PLL synchronous digital signal processing. This DAC has support for DSD512 native and up to PCM768KHz.
When it comes to output power, the Canary II does 1000 mW@32 Ohm and 100 mW@600 Ohm, so it should be able to drive almost any headphones you throw at it.
The analogue line-out is variable so the Canary II can also function as a preamp for use with active speakers. Additionally, it can also be used purely as a fully discrete class-A headphone amp if fed an analogue signal from another DAC, making it even more versatile.
Source used for testing: Windows 10 PC/Foobar 2000 -> USB -> Yulong Canary II.
Alright, so how does this little Canary sing? I’ve been using it exclusively as my desktop DAC for a few weeks already so it’s had well over 100 hours of use as I write this review. And it has been sweet times too. Right from the beginning, Canary II’s effortless delivery has had me enjoying my playlist from top to bottom.
Listening to Ludovico Einaudi’s “Live In Berlin“, the Yulong does a fine job recreating the vastness of the soundstage and the all the nuance of the piano and string instruments. It demonstrates maturity and subtleness that’s less common in a mid-tier DAC where aggressiveness and staccato notes are more prevalent.
That’s not to say the Canary II isn’t lively when it needs to be. With Outkast’s “Wheelz of Steel” the rhythm and drive of the beat shine as does the details of the turntablism and samples in the chorus which have me subconsciously doing air scratches and probably looking like I’m having some type of seizure.
Regardless of the music, Canary II has liquidity and a subtle touch of warmth that somehow exists right alongside its transparency. It eases me into Gazpacho’s “Dream Of Stone (Live)” and holds me captive through all 17 minutes of the song with a mixture of cadence and clarity.
Sound-wise, the Canary II reminds me a lot of the excellent Aune X1s 10th Anniversary Edition, albeit with higher DSD and bitrate support plus its updated DAC chipset (9038Q2M vs 9018K2M). The Yulong’s slightly warmer and more insightful midrange make it a hint more emotive but the differences are minimal.
The Yulong Canary II might be modest in appearance but it really does sing like a bird. It’s a simple, no-fuss hi-fi device that performs and won’t break the bank. If you regularly use headphones and want to get the best performance out of them, the Canary II would be a great addition to your desktop.
- USB input supports DoP64, DoP128, Native DSD64/128/256,PCM 16-32bit, 32-384KHz
- Coaxial and Toslink input supports PCM 16-24bit，44.1-384KHz
- ESS9038Q2M DAC
- XMOSXU208+FPGA +Femtosecond clock+ Clock PLL
- S/N ratio: -128dB
- Dynamic range: 120dB
- Frequencyresponse: 20-30KHz -0.15dB
- Crosstalk: -120dB
- Headphoneoutput: 100mW @ 600 Ohm, 200mW @ 300 Ohm, 400mW @ 150 Ohm, 1000mW @ 32 Ohm