T+A SD3100HV DAC Review

rower30

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Mar 20, 2022
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SD3100HV REVIEW - reference https://www.ta-hifi.de/en/audiosystems/hv-series/sd-3100-reference-streaming-dac-2/

The PS Audio and like design DAC's use open architecture with commercial software. This is great because if you don't like one manufacturer's stuff, change! You'll need to settle on a couple of different client packages as each has a different job to do. We'll get to all this and why this reviews is as it is because of the SD3100HV DAC's streaming ability that makes it different, and better for overall flexibility. The SD3100HV has twenty-three input options;

  1. IPA Link
  2. FM Radio
  3. DAB Radio
  4. USB1
  5. USB2
  6. NAA
  7. Optical 1
  8. Optical 2
  9. Coaxial 1
  10. Coaxial 2
  11. BNC 1
  12. BNC 2
  13. AES/EBU
  14. Bluetooth
  15. HDMI 1
  16. HDMI 2
  17. UPnP/DLNA
  18. USB
  19. PODCASTS
  20. Deezer
  21. Qobuz
  22. Tidal
  23. Roon Ready
The SD3100HV has built-in streaming software such that if you use a pre-built DLNA UPnP/compliant streamer and plug it into the SD3100HV, you can communicate with the UPnP/DLNA compliant streaming PC and immediately play music straight away with the built-in file navigation system into the SD3100HV. You don't need anything else to play basic music files. I say basic because the built-in album / song menu is an index, like a book, and you can search albums in sequential order or play songs from your start point. You can't make play lists and play stuff out of turn to your liking. Nothing different than any DAC's index type playback here. This is why we leave the convenience of the built-in hardware based indexing software behind and move to a networked (MinimServer) and/or USB (J.River) based system with a control point (bubbleUPnP) on a tablet. We have a lot of setup to do, ugh! Face it, the onboard indexing is more a convenience for smaller file folders or the USB input.

To those that want the nitty-gritty on the SD3100HV DAC's general design, it is pretty awesome. It is two separate DAC's in the same box, each designed just for DSD or PCM exclusively. This is part of the reason we need to really look at the DAC's main advantages and how to best use them. The filters are the sound and they pretty much get you from digital A to analog B. The SD3100HV's sonic qualities are extremely good. The price should suggest that, but it often doesn't. To use both PCM and DSD you'll need to use the USB connection from a PC or a dedicated 1GB NAA Ethernet. The standard UPnP/DLNA Ethernet setting won't play your DSD off a PC.

The over the top sample properties of the DAC give the sound an analog quality. All DAC's have some digititus and my ear says it is more the filters properties assuming the same rate (how much the sine waves are sliced up). The SD3100HV has two DSD filters choices and four PCM filter choices. Yes, they sound different and this is why I suggest that the filters are oh so important. A quick listen and you will find the filter you like in a hurry. Better sample rates and filters use lots of processing horsepower.

Is the DAC “that” good? Well, this is the only DAC I've used that makes me say it is better than my records at times. Equals is good, but the SD3100HV exceeds in many instances! The sound is more open and fast than warmer so if you like a heavier bass timber this isn't your DAC, it's basic sound is far, far more neutral to the source. I go nuts over the expansive distances between musical events as recorded, left to right, front to back and even up and down. The focus and purity of this DAC opens up the spatial recorded bits and paints them in front of you like a digital device isn't expected to...but it does.

I categorize stuff based on the seasons. Corny, but it works;
Summer – Warm.
Fall – Warm but a little cooler touch.
Winter – Cool.
Spring – Cool with a little warm touch.

I lean towards spring a touch. But just a touch. I still want to hear it like it is. I want the recording to be the season and not my equipment so much. When a source is, of course, the same season as you device you may get too much. So there's that compromise. The SD3100HV is so darn good, that a WINTER recording plays on a near spring sounding DAC (where I place the SD3100HV's basic sound) is still superbly easy to listen to. This DAC is SMOOTH in texture even with an amazing resolution. You can remove hardness in a picture with edge softening (blur the boundaries). This DAC is different in that it replaces a “warmer” softer edge to remove the aliasing jaggies with such high resolution that the jaggies aren't there. The DAC will follow the source and not add distortions of it's own. I have so, so few recordings that I'd say are remotely winter in relief. Some old Elvis stuff is really good at decent spatial resolution but you get what I mean, I think. Most recordings have added warmth and any DAC can't remove what the recording has added. But, get an exceptionally neutral recording and this DAC gets you farther into the actual sound of just the recording than I'm used to reaching. Bravo.

When you go to a carefully done DSD file, WOW, stuff really POPS. Micro dynamics are exceptional. The PS Audio “ONE” DSD is in the room with you good. Take PCM on steroids, as good as the PCM is, DSD just runs with it. This is an expensive DAC but at least it sounds expensive in a very, very good way. Saying it is organic is almost an understatement as the phrase has been used on stuff this DAC makes digital again. It's a file / filter changer sound for sure. The DAC's specs are nuts good, and so is the resulting analog like sound. I've played my compressed beyond belief (what were they thinking?) best of Herman's Hermits on this DAC and darn if it isn't fun to listen to. Do listen to this DAC! The SD3100HV's sound is over the top in neutrality and exceeds the musical dynamics in every measure. It never seems to be “in the way” somehow adding stuff to your meal you didn't order. You get only what's in the box.

Most of you are already pretty network savvy...but for those that aren't let me try to make this simple as I can. OK, I may fail but I'll try...
Of course we need a PC to start. I made W10 / AMD 5600G (removes the video card so it is quiet) PC with a NAS quality 6 TB HDD for my music.
I used a 500 GB NVMe SS drive for W10.
There is also a 128 GB SSD SATA scratch drive for editing stuff.
I still RIP my CD's so we have a DVD play/recorder.
A small Gigabyte mini ATX MB and a fan less power supply with 16 Gig RAM.
Stick all that into a mini ATX case and we're done.
Simple and quiet.

To make W10 work with USB, and we'll get to why USB in a minute, we need to load the T+A USB ASIO driver so Windows doesn't mess with the file format. It's right off the T+A site.
To use the PC on a UPnP/DLNA system we need a couple of software clients on the PC and tablet; MinumServe as a file system, JRiver MC29 as a digital format system and BubbleUPnP as the tablet control point.
I use MimumServer as my FILE system the tablet is pointed to. This is where we use to see and select what to send to the DAC.
With the SD3100HV, we really send the data BACK to the PC, not the DAC directly, by select the JRiver MC29 as the "endpoint".
The JRiver MC29 formats the digital stream to the format we like, and it is now sent to the SD3100HV.
To do all this we need to select a CONTROL software on the tablet, and I use BubbleUPnP.
When we boot the tablet and bubbleUPnP, we need to select the Minumserver as the file system.
Second we tell bubbleUPnP to use the JRiver (shown as a generic DLNA) as the end point.

JRiver formats the data it is sent to OUTPUT to the OC using USB based on how you set it up. Pick the ASIO ddriver, use the SOX filter if you like and the sample rate you want and type (DSD or PCM).
This will go to the DAC. I know we say that JRiver is the end point but it really isn't, it all goes to the DAC from the JRiver MC software.

Of course we have the PC running with Minumserver and JRiver MC29. Why use this system? Because I can use the JRiver to FORMAT the files the way I want to hear them from the tablet. I use DSD512 up-sample as I like the DSD filter better than the PCM most of the time. Everything is converted to DCD512 that isn't native DSD64, and that stays the same, and then goes to the DAC. If you don't use the USB to the SD3100HV you can only stream PCM files with the Ethernet type connection. If you use the NAA, Network Audio Adapter and a dedicated 1 Gbit Ethernet line, you can stream DSD, though. But I don't have a cloud system yet and use PC sources. Streaming seems easier than the PC for sure.

This all seems complicated, and it is. Some of you may have suggestions on how to stream off a tablet CONTROL to the DAC with DSD using a PC, but the above is what I have found works really well. I can use the Bubble UPnP CONTROL that I like on the tablet instead of the T+A Music Navigator app that isn't as flexible or intuitive. You don't have to use bubble UPnP if you have other tablet control apps that work to your liking. MinimServer is FREE, and the bubbleUPnP was like 5 bucks license, and JRiver is the only expense at about $50.00.

I hope I made sense to some of you so using the DAC is easier. it isn't the DAC's fault but the digital system in general. The sound of this SD3100HV DAC is simply gorgeous on all the filters. It is really two DAC's in one. This DAC pits digital on my map with records and that was a long time coming, but it has arrived.

Best, rower30
 
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