Various DAC Audition Impressions

pk_LA

VIP/Donor
Oct 22, 2021
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295
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As many of you know, I set out to audition a number of the leading DACs in my system with the goal of identifying the ideal fit for my ears. Below is a bit of a stream of consciousness summary of how it all sounded and went for me.

But, first please let me outline a few parameters and disclosures...
  1. These notes are my thoughts and impressions based on my impressions. They are not in any way meant as a declaration or even a proper review.
  2. Not all of the DACs were inserted in the system identically! Some of them were heard with a streamer or a clock or bespoke cables. I will try to identify the setups below. For those looking to 'sweep the knee' on this post - one DAC had a FTA USB while another had a $5 USB!
  3. Many DACs were connected to the pre-amp using Transparent Opus Gen 6 balanced interconnects that were not tuned for the DAC. The tuning of the interconnects makes a noticeable difference - more so depending on the variance from what it is tuned to vs. the actual component. I have noted where this was the case.
  4. I tried to remain consistent with music tracks for all DACs with music ranging from classical to rock to EDM to folk
  5. There was an attempt to equalize the sound pressure across all
  6. Each DAC was compared against a dCS Vivaldi Apex stack (Clock, Upsampler, DAC)
  7. DACs were setup with the Boulder 3010 using trim functions for equalizing so that we could instantly switch back and forth and A|B|A listen
  8. Some DACs I had for days and others for only a few hours!
  9. I am not bought into, "...how the artists intended it..." I do not care too much about measurements. I have firsthand seen debates between artists and engineers occur on mixes to the effect of, "...it sounds best under x! But, we should mix it this way as most people will listen with y..." Let me say this another way. I care about music that moves me emotionally. I have regularly smiled when I read statements about "...how the artists intended..." I suggest that these people speak to some artists on how the process works.

The system that was used is outlined below.
  1. Source: Roon Nucleus connected via either network or by USB (specified per DAC)
  2. DAC: Variable
  3. Pre-Amp: Boulder 3010
  4. Amp: Boulder 3060
  5. Speakers: Wilson Alexx V
  6. Cables: All cabling is Transparent Opus Gen 6 (power cords are all Gen 5)

Basis system: dCS Vivaldi
  • Connections:
    • Ethernet connection to network
    • Transparent Magnum Opus Gen 6 balanced interconnect *tuned
  • Audition setup: Dealer loaned it to me
  • Impressions
    • Detail and resolution as good as I have ever heard
    • Can be a bit harsh upper range vocals
    • Wanted for more body - it can be somewhat thin
    • Incredible ability to resolve complex transients
    • Wanted for longer more natural decay - felt like it was 'just the facts' and absolutely no more
    • Lacked some warmth
    • Upper mid-range balanced
    • GREAT on classical music, processed music and EDM
  • Other: The dCS is highly dependent on the Upsampler and DAC variables that are user set. There is a filter on the Upsampler, an Upsampler output formal (DSD etc), a DAC filter and a DAC map. And, they all affect the sound.

Lampizator Horizon
  • Connections:
    • FTA USB from Roon Nuc
    • Transparent Opus Gen 6 balanced interconnect *not tuned
  • Audition setup: Sent for audition
  • Impressions
    • Wow! The holographic soundstage is amazing!
    • Density!
    • Decay
    • Air and space - instruments are there!
    • Not a quick and resolving as the dCS but so so musical
  • Other: The Horizon changed sound signature in the days I had with it more-so than solid-state gear I am used to. I was urged by Steve W to be patient but I was not. I have since wondered as the person I sent mine to indicated that once broken in it was incredible. I do not doubt it. That first night I plugged it in it was like nothing I have heard before.

Nagra HD X
  • Connections:
    • Source was replaced by an Ideon Absolute Stream and Clock
    • USB to DAC (dealer brought top end Audio Quest)
    • Audio Quest Dragon balanced interconnect to pre-amp
  • Audition setup: Dealer onsite audition for 2 hours
  • Impressions
    • Smoother than dCS
    • Nice linearity and body with classical and rock
    • Struggled v dCS on some quick transients
    • Less musical than dCS on highly processed music and EDM
    • Mid-range focused v dCS
  • Other: I could have happily gone with this DAC

Infigo Method 4
  • Connections:
    • Bespoke streamer brought by Infigo Audio
    • USB to DAC
    • Transparent Opus Gen 6 balanced interconnect to pre-amp *not tuned
  • Audition setup: Infigo Principle brought to my home for a couple hours
  • Impressions
    • Warm - almost tube warm
    • Soundstage was similar to dCS
    • Struggled v dCS on some quick transients
    • On some dance tracks such as Senorita (Shawn Mendes and Camilla Cabello) it was get up and dance engaging.
    • Seemed to really shine with upper midrange centric tracks
  • Other: The Principal of Infigo is one of the nicer and most intellectually curious people I have met in audio

Wadax Reference
  • Connections:
    • Wadax Reference Server
    • Specific optical cable between server and DAC
    • Audio Quest Niagra 7000 power conditioner
    • Ethernet to server via Audio Quest Diamond
    • Audio Quest Dragon balanced interconnect to pre-amp
  • Audition setup: Dealer visit for 2 hours
  • Impressions
    • Linear
    • Smooth
    • Noise floor higher than dCS
    • Very musical
    • Server adjustments - Gain etc made massive changes in sound and were necessary
    • Soundstage very similar to dCS
    • No matter what music thrown at it it sounded great
    • Very balanced
    • Handled transients as well as dCS
  • Other:
    • I do not understand the Wadax haters. It is a damn impressive DAC. One might argue value but, at least in my system to my ears, it was a wow.
    • I suspect that the server is required for the sound on this one.

Aries Cerat Kassandra Ref
  • Connections:
    • $5 computer USB from Nuc
    • Transparent Opus Gen 6 balanced interconnect to pre-amp *not tuned
  • Audition setup: Very kind visit from Robert Do
  • Impressions
    • Imagine solid state with a hint of tubes
    • Linear and quick
    • Noise floor higher than dCS
    • A tick muddled on quick transients
    • Slightly less musical on processed and EDM than dCS
  • Other:
    • Near entry level DAC for Aries Cerat that held up to the dCS flagship. Wish I had more time with it!
    • Changed the power cord from Transparent Opus to Inakustik reference silver and it resolved as well as the dCS

SW1X DAC 1
  • Connections:
    • Coax from my upstairs bedroom subwoofer went from Upsampler as passthrough to DAC
  • Audition setup: Sent from distributor for audition
  • Impressions
    • Wonderful tube sound
    • Did not seem to have the soundstage like the Lampi
    • Struggled on transient and complex sections compared to the dCS
    • Very smooth
    • Lower mid balanced
  • Other:
    • This was a somewhat unfair comparison. The cable was an Amazon Basics subwoofer coax passing through other components.
    • I do not feel entirely comfortable with this set of notes given the cobbled together setup

MSB Select II

  • Connections:
    • Roon Nuc -> Shunyata Omega USB t-> ProISL
    • Transparent Opus Gen 6 balanced interconnect to pre-amp *not tuned
  • Audition setup: Purchased used for demo
  • Impressions
    • Body and density!
    • Balanced across the spectrum
    • Linearity to match anything
    • Has every bit the detail of the dCS
    • No harshness anywhere
    • Has a width and depth of soundstage that is great
    • Want for a tick more dynamic slam
    • One of only two DACs that matched or bettered the dCS on all tracks played
  • Other:
    • I am keeping the MSB!

Summary: I only auditioned one DAC that I just did not like. Out of respect I have omitted it. I could have lived with any of the above DACs. The MSB and the Wadax were uniquely great at everything I played. The dCS is awesome with processed music and classical. The Lampizator continues to be curious to me as it was literally magical that first day! I am admittedly impatient and a bit compulsive - I maybe cut the cord too quick. I was close to buying the Wadax but the MSB was so very good that I just could not rationalize the price delta. In other words, price was somewhat always in the mix. But, I was ready to buy any of these and if the Wadax had been noticeably stronger I would have bought it. I wish I could have A|B'd it to the MSB and even the Lampi. But, when I heard the MSB I felt it sounded as good from memory as anything and that was it.
 

Al M.

VIP/Donor
Sep 10, 2013
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Interesting report, thanks. Congratulations on your MSB!

Since you highlight body and density with the MSB, do you think it has more of that than the Wadax?

For several DACs you note "noise floor higher than dCS". What exactly do you mean by that?
 

andromedaaudio

VIP/Donor
Jan 23, 2011
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Nice orderly sum up / written review , some magazines could take an example of such a extensive comparison ( which is not easy to do off course )
 
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Mike Lavigne

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 25, 2010
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PK,

thank you for taking the time to let us know your result, and the details and clarity on your findings. it will be a helpful data point for others. how many people could possibly do what you did? not many....maybe none. a huge effort for sure and should allow you peace of mind that you did your due diligence.

congrats on your acquisition of the MSB Select II, a great choice and one i personally really enjoy and recommend.

bravo!!!
 

Gjo

Well-Known Member
Aug 22, 2021
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Excellent report.

I'm simply amazed that you were able to get all those DACs into your system for evaluation.
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
13,500
1,772
698
As many of you know, I set out to audition a number of the leading DACs in my system with the goal of identifying the ideal fit for my ears. Below is a bit of a stream of consciousness summary of how it all sounded and went for me.

But, first please let me outline a few parameters and disclosures...
  1. These notes are my thoughts and impressions based on my impressions. They are not in any way meant as a declaration or even a proper review.
  2. Not all of the DACs were inserted in the system identically! Some of them were heard with a streamer or a clock or bespoke cables. I will try to identify the setups below. For those looking to 'sweep the knee' on this post - one DAC had a FTA USB while another had a $5 USB!
  3. Many DACs were connected to the pre-amp using Transparent Opus Gen 6 balanced interconnects that were not tuned for the DAC. The tuning of the interconnects makes a noticeable difference - more so depending on the variance from what it is tuned to vs. the actual component. I have noted where this was the case.
  4. I tried to remain consistent with music tracks for all DACs with music ranging from classical to rock to EDM to folk
  5. There was an attempt to equalize the sound pressure across all
  6. Each DAC was compared against a dCS Vivaldi Apex stack (Clock, Upsampler, DAC)
  7. DACs were setup with the Boulder 3010 using trim functions for equalizing so that we could instantly switch back and forth and A|B|A listen
  8. Some DACs I had for days and others for only a few hours!
  9. I am not bought into, "...how the artists intended it..." I do not care too much about measurements. I have firsthand seen debates between artists and engineers occur on mixes to the effect of, "...it sounds best under x! But, we should mix it this way as most people will listen with y..." Let me say this another way. I care about music that moves me emotionally. I have regularly smiled when I read statements about "...how the artists intended..." I suggest that these people speak to some artists on how the process works.

The system that was used is outlined below.
  1. Source: Roon Nucleus connected via either network or by USB (specified per DAC)
  2. DAC: Variable
  3. Pre-Amp: Boulder 3010
  4. Amp: Boulder 3060
  5. Speakers: Wilson Alexx V
  6. Cables: All cabling is Transparent Opus Gen 6 (power cords are all Gen 5)

Basis system: dCS Vivaldi
  • Connections:
    • Ethernet connection to network
    • Transparent Magnum Opus Gen 6 balanced interconnect *tuned
  • Audition setup: Dealer loaned it to me
  • Impressions
    • Detail and resolution as good as I have ever heard
    • Can be a bit harsh upper range vocals
    • Wanted for more body - it can be somewhat thin
    • Incredible ability to resolve complex transients
    • Wanted for longer more natural decay - felt like it was 'just the facts' and absolutely no more
    • Lacked some warmth
    • Upper mid-range balanced
    • GREAT on classical music, processed music and EDM
  • Other: The dCS is highly dependent on the Upsampler and DAC variables that are user set. There is a filter on the Upsampler, an Upsampler output formal (DSD etc), a DAC filter and a DAC map. And, they all affect the sound.

Lampizator Horizon
  • Connections:
    • FTA USB from Roon Nuc
    • Transparent Opus Gen 6 balanced interconnect *not tuned
  • Audition setup: Sent for audition
  • Impressions
    • Wow! The holographic soundstage is amazing!
    • Density!
    • Decay
    • Air and space - instruments are there!
    • Not a quick and resolving as the dCS but so so musical
  • Other: The Horizon changed sound signature in the days I had with it more-so than solid-state gear I am used to. I was urged by Steve W to be patient but I was not. I have since wondered as the person I sent mine to indicated that once broken in it was incredible. I do not doubt it. That first night I plugged it in it was like nothing I have heard before.

Nagra HD X
  • Connections:
    • Source was replaced by an Ideon Absolute Stream and Clock
    • USB to DAC (dealer brought top end Audio Quest)
    • Audio Quest Dragon balanced interconnect to pre-amp
  • Audition setup: Dealer onsite audition for 2 hours
  • Impressions
    • Smoother than dCS
    • Nice linearity and body with classical and rock
    • Struggled v dCS on some quick transients
    • Less musical than dCS on highly processed music and EDM
    • Mid-range focused v dCS
  • Other: I could have happily gone with this DAC

Infigo Method 4
  • Connections:
    • Bespoke streamer brought by Infigo Audio
    • USB to DAC
    • Transparent Opus Gen 6 balanced interconnect to pre-amp *not tuned
  • Audition setup: Infigo Principle brought to my home for a couple hours
  • Impressions
    • Warm - almost tube warm
    • Soundstage was similar to dCS
    • Struggled v dCS on some quick transients
    • On some dance tracks such as Senorita (Shawn Mendes and Camilla Cabello) it was get up and dance engaging.
    • Seemed to really shine with upper midrange centric tracks
  • Other: The Principal of Infigo is one of the nicer and most intellectually curious people I have met in audio

Wadax Reference
  • Connections:
    • Wadax Reference Server
    • Specific optical cable between server and DAC
    • Audio Quest Niagra 7000 power conditioner
    • Ethernet to server via Audio Quest Diamond
    • Audio Quest Dragon balanced interconnect to pre-amp
  • Audition setup: Dealer visit for 2 hours
  • Impressions
    • Linear
    • Smooth
    • Noise floor higher than dCS
    • Very musical
    • Server adjustments - Gain etc made massive changes in sound and were necessary
    • Soundstage very similar to dCS
    • No matter what music thrown at it it sounded great
    • Very balanced
    • Handled transients as well as dCS
  • Other:
    • I do not understand the Wadax haters. It is a damn impressive DAC. One might argue value but, at least in my system to my ears, it was a wow.
    • I suspect that the server is required for the sound on this one.

Aries Cerat Kassandra Ref
  • Connections:
    • $5 computer USB from Nuc
    • Transparent Opus Gen 6 balanced interconnect to pre-amp *not tuned
  • Audition setup: Very kind visit from Robert Do
  • Impressions
    • Imagine solid state with a hint of tubes
    • Linear and quick
    • Noise floor higher than dCS
    • A tick muddled on quick transients
    • Slightly less musical on processed and EDM than dCS
  • Other:
    • Near entry level DAC for Aries Cerat that held up to the dCS flagship. Wish I had more time with it!
    • Changed the power cord from Transparent Opus to Inakustik reference silver and it resolved as well as the dCS

SW1X DAC 1
  • Connections:
    • Coax from my upstairs bedroom subwoofer went from Upsampler as passthrough to DAC
  • Audition setup: Sent from distributor for audition
  • Impressions
    • Wonderful tube sound
    • Did not seem to have the soundstage like the Lampi
    • Struggled on transient and complex sections compared to the dCS
    • Very smooth
    • Lower mid balanced
  • Other:
    • This was a somewhat unfair comparison. The cable was an Amazon Basics subwoofer coax passing through other components.
    • I do not feel entirely comfortable with this set of notes given the cobbled together setup

MSB Select II
  • Connections:
    • Roon Nuc -> Shunyata Omega USB t-> ProISL
    • Transparent Opus Gen 6 balanced interconnect to pre-amp *not tuned
  • Audition setup: Purchased used for demo
  • Impressions
    • Body and density!
    • Balanced across the spectrum
    • Linearity to match anything
    • Has every bit the detail of the dCS
    • No harshness anywhere
    • Has a width and depth of soundstage that is great
    • Want for a tick more dynamic slam
    • One of only two DACs that matched or bettered the dCS on all tracks played
  • Other:
    • I am keeping the MSB!

Summary: I only auditioned one DAC that I just did not like. Out of respect I have omitted it. I could have lived with any of the above DACs. The MSB and the Wadax were uniquely great at everything I played. The dCS is awesome with processed music and classical. The Lampizator continues to be curious to me as it was literally magical that first day! I am admittedly impatient and a bit compulsive - I maybe cut the cord too quick. I was close to buying the Wadax but the MSB was so very good that I just could not rationalize the price delta. In other words, price was somewhat always in the mix. But, I was ready to buy any of these and if the Wadax had been noticeably stronger I would have bought it. I wish I could have A|B'd it to the MSB and even the Lampi. But, when I heard the MSB I felt it sounded as good from memory as anything and that was it.
Amazing comparison! Thanks for taking all the time to listen, and then to describe all your listening notes! Great reading.

Congrats on the MSBII!
 
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RaChiK

Active Member
Sep 14, 2020
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As many of you know, I set out to audition a number of the leading DACs in my system with the goal of identifying the ideal fit for my ears. Below is a bit of a stream of consciousness summary of how it all sounded and went for me.

But, first please let me outline a few parameters and disclosures...
  1. These notes are my thoughts and impressions based on my impressions. They are not in any way meant as a declaration or even a proper review.
  2. Not all of the DACs were inserted in the system identically! Some of them were heard with a streamer or a clock or bespoke cables. I will try to identify the setups below. For those looking to 'sweep the knee' on this post - one DAC had a FTA USB while another had a $5 USB!
  3. Many DACs were connected to the pre-amp using Transparent Opus Gen 6 balanced interconnects that were not tuned for the DAC. The tuning of the interconnects makes a noticeable difference - more so depending on the variance from what it is tuned to vs. the actual component. I have noted where this was the case.
  4. I tried to remain consistent with music tracks for all DACs with music ranging from classical to rock to EDM to folk
  5. There was an attempt to equalize the sound pressure across all
  6. Each DAC was compared against a dCS Vivaldi Apex stack (Clock, Upsampler, DAC)
  7. DACs were setup with the Boulder 3010 using trim functions for equalizing so that we could instantly switch back and forth and A|B|A listen
  8. Some DACs I had for days and others for only a few hours!
  9. I am not bought into, "...how the artists intended it..." I do not care too much about measurements. I have firsthand seen debates between artists and engineers occur on mixes to the effect of, "...it sounds best under x! But, we should mix it this way as most people will listen with y..." Let me say this another way. I care about music that moves me emotionally. I have regularly smiled when I read statements about "...how the artists intended..." I suggest that these people speak to some artists on how the process works.

The system that was used is outlined below.
  1. Source: Roon Nucleus connected via either network or by USB (specified per DAC)
  2. DAC: Variable
  3. Pre-Amp: Boulder 3010
  4. Amp: Boulder 3060
  5. Speakers: Wilson Alexx V
  6. Cables: All cabling is Transparent Opus Gen 6 (power cords are all Gen 5)

Basis system: dCS Vivaldi
  • Connections:
    • Ethernet connection to network
    • Transparent Magnum Opus Gen 6 balanced interconnect *tuned
  • Audition setup: Dealer loaned it to me
  • Impressions
    • Detail and resolution as good as I have ever heard
    • Can be a bit harsh upper range vocals
    • Wanted for more body - it can be somewhat thin
    • Incredible ability to resolve complex transients
    • Wanted for longer more natural decay - felt like it was 'just the facts' and absolutely no more
    • Lacked some warmth
    • Upper mid-range balanced
    • GREAT on classical music, processed music and EDM
  • Other: The dCS is highly dependent on the Upsampler and DAC variables that are user set. There is a filter on the Upsampler, an Upsampler output formal (DSD etc), a DAC filter and a DAC map. And, they all affect the sound.

Lampizator Horizon
  • Connections:
    • FTA USB from Roon Nuc
    • Transparent Opus Gen 6 balanced interconnect *not tuned
  • Audition setup: Sent for audition
  • Impressions
    • Wow! The holographic soundstage is amazing!
    • Density!
    • Decay
    • Air and space - instruments are there!
    • Not a quick and resolving as the dCS but so so musical
  • Other: The Horizon changed sound signature in the days I had with it more-so than solid-state gear I am used to. I was urged by Steve W to be patient but I was not. I have since wondered as the person I sent mine to indicated that once broken in it was incredible. I do not doubt it. That first night I plugged it in it was like nothing I have heard before.

Nagra HD X
  • Connections:
    • Source was replaced by an Ideon Absolute Stream and Clock
    • USB to DAC (dealer brought top end Audio Quest)
    • Audio Quest Dragon balanced interconnect to pre-amp
  • Audition setup: Dealer onsite audition for 2 hours
  • Impressions
    • Smoother than dCS
    • Nice linearity and body with classical and rock
    • Struggled v dCS on some quick transients
    • Less musical than dCS on highly processed music and EDM
    • Mid-range focused v dCS
  • Other: I could have happily gone with this DAC

Infigo Method 4
  • Connections:
    • Bespoke streamer brought by Infigo Audio
    • USB to DAC
    • Transparent Opus Gen 6 balanced interconnect to pre-amp *not tuned
  • Audition setup: Infigo Principle brought to my home for a couple hours
  • Impressions
    • Warm - almost tube warm
    • Soundstage was similar to dCS
    • Struggled v dCS on some quick transients
    • On some dance tracks such as Senorita (Shawn Mendes and Camilla Cabello) it was get up and dance engaging.
    • Seemed to really shine with upper midrange centric tracks
  • Other: The Principal of Infigo is one of the nicer and most intellectually curious people I have met in audio

Wadax Reference
  • Connections:
    • Wadax Reference Server
    • Specific optical cable between server and DAC
    • Audio Quest Niagra 7000 power conditioner
    • Ethernet to server via Audio Quest Diamond
    • Audio Quest Dragon balanced interconnect to pre-amp
  • Audition setup: Dealer visit for 2 hours
  • Impressions
    • Linear
    • Smooth
    • Noise floor higher than dCS
    • Very musical
    • Server adjustments - Gain etc made massive changes in sound and were necessary
    • Soundstage very similar to dCS
    • No matter what music thrown at it it sounded great
    • Very balanced
    • Handled transients as well as dCS
  • Other:
    • I do not understand the Wadax haters. It is a damn impressive DAC. One might argue value but, at least in my system to my ears, it was a wow.
    • I suspect that the server is required for the sound on this one.

Aries Cerat Kassandra Ref
  • Connections:
    • $5 computer USB from Nuc
    • Transparent Opus Gen 6 balanced interconnect to pre-amp *not tuned
  • Audition setup: Very kind visit from Robert Do
  • Impressions
    • Imagine solid state with a hint of tubes
    • Linear and quick
    • Noise floor higher than dCS
    • A tick muddled on quick transients
    • Slightly less musical on processed and EDM than dCS
  • Other:
    • Near entry level DAC for Aries Cerat that held up to the dCS flagship. Wish I had more time with it!
    • Changed the power cord from Transparent Opus to Inakustik reference silver and it resolved as well as the dCS

SW1X DAC 1
  • Connections:
    • Coax from my upstairs bedroom subwoofer went from Upsampler as passthrough to DAC
  • Audition setup: Sent from distributor for audition
  • Impressions
    • Wonderful tube sound
    • Did not seem to have the soundstage like the Lampi
    • Struggled on transient and complex sections compared to the dCS
    • Very smooth
    • Lower mid balanced
  • Other:
    • This was a somewhat unfair comparison. The cable was an Amazon Basics subwoofer coax passing through other components.
    • I do not feel entirely comfortable with this set of notes given the cobbled together setup

MSB Select II
  • Connections:
    • Roon Nuc -> Shunyata Omega USB t-> ProISL
    • Transparent Opus Gen 6 balanced interconnect to pre-amp *not tuned
  • Audition setup: Purchased used for demo
  • Impressions
    • Body and density!
    • Balanced across the spectrum
    • Linearity to match anything
    • Has every bit the detail of the dCS
    • No harshness anywhere
    • Has a width and depth of soundstage that is great
    • Want for a tick more dynamic slam
    • One of only two DACs that matched or bettered the dCS on all tracks played
  • Other:
    • I am keeping the MSB!

Summary: I only auditioned one DAC that I just did not like. Out of respect I have omitted it. I could have lived with any of the above DACs. The MSB and the Wadax were uniquely great at everything I played. The dCS is awesome with processed music and classical. The Lampizator continues to be curious to me as it was literally magical that first day! I am admittedly impatient and a bit compulsive - I maybe cut the cord too quick. I was close to buying the Wadax but the MSB was so very good that I just could not rationalize the price delta. In other words, price was somewhat always in the mix. But, I was ready to buy any of these and if the Wadax had been noticeably stronger I would have bought it. I wish I could have A|B'd it to the MSB and even the Lampi. But, when I heard the MSB I felt it sounded as good from memory as anything and that was it.
Cannot appreciate enough for what you did and the way you reported it. You tried to be as objective as possible in the world of "musical jargons", which is hard to do especially with this level (or price point) of DACs. This tells that performance of DACs (or any gears in that matter) depends on ones system, cables, room and most importantly how all of the above interacts with your senses to get you to feel the way you felt (which is subjective of course).
On a different note, I wish (again, it is only me) you had tried Aries Cerat Kassandra signature or limited edition (I am a fan of sort of Aries Cerat brands). I have Kassandra ref II and agree with "solid with a hint of tube" although you can tailor tubbiness to your taste with biasing.
 

TheMooN

Well-Known Member
Jul 30, 2013
1,375
747
370
N/A
On a different note, I wish (again, it is only me) you had tried Aries Cerat Kassandra signature or limited edition (I am a fan of sort of Aries Cerat brands). I have Kassandra ref II and agree with "solid with a hint of tube" although you can tailor tubbiness to your taste with biasing.
Indeed, As excellent as the entry level Kassandra series DAC undoubtably is at under £20,000 RRP in spite of the $5 computer USB cable! , the twin full chassis Kassandra Signature and Signature LE are a notable evolution in performance.
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
13,500
1,772
698
Indeed, As excellent as the entry level Kassandra series DAC undoubtably is at under £20,000 RRP in spite of the $5 computer USB cable! , the twin full chassis Kassandra Signature and Signature LE are a notable evolution in performance.
Great to hear from those who know this brand! What happens as you move up the levels with Aries Cerat?
 

microstrip

VIP/Donor
May 30, 2010
19,572
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Great work. Being a biased happy Vivaldi APEX owner I only regret that you have not listened to the dCS using the Taiko Audio Extreme server or using a quality router. It would remove some of your objections, particularly in the vocals and decays. Can I ask what were the clock cables?
 

Alrainbow

Well-Known Member
Dec 12, 2013
2,624
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I think while setup seemed less then perfect Your comments seemed honest and well versed
hating a wadax goes a bit too far but consider it’s price point and how few have heard it setup well. elliot kills himself to show its virtues at shows
of 4 times I heard it at shows it was away from my likes but the entire systems used and rooms are totally not what I know. at axpona they had two rooms one upstairs nice setup but music choice and equipment were not for me Elliot’s room I felt was better.
but over all a few rooms were what I liked much more
lampi h dac for one
the Aries room blew me away truly stunning to me lol
the krell room had an msb dac and I own a krell too. When I walked in it was home fast for me.
the msb sel 2 is a marvel in sound no doubt. Enjoy
 

Holli82

Well-Known Member
Jun 7, 2010
256
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Great report!. Thanks for sharing.
 

marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
2,606
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pk_LA, that was a yeoman task! I take off my hat to you, sir. As a Horizon owner, I'm truly baffled by your assessment of the Horizon, and its dismissal after 1 day since it is hard to understand how it could possibly be optimized in such a short time. However, as the old saying goes, "you pays yer money and you takes yer choice"!

I would also add that just because someone doesn't prefer the Wadax, not everyone who does not prefer its sound is necessarily a Wadax hater. But there are certainly folks who may have other preferences which are almost certainly personal and system dependent. In my own view, I think the Wadax is an excellent DAC but its just not my cup of tea.I wouldn't call the Wadax "dark sounding" but there is definitely a house sound and I think I know the reason why. In comparison to either the Horizon or real instruments, the harmonic envelope of the music is more fully developed than it is when played back on the Wadax in which the harmonics, particularly the high frequencies, seem somewhat truncated and therefore not as convincingly as "real". If you think that a piano or a violin sounds that way in real life when played through a Wadax, great, but I'll respectfully disagree. I find the Horizon, no matter what tubes I am using, is simply more harmonically true to the sound of natural instruments. I would also be hesitant to use it in my system that is otherwise SS (Soulution. 725 pre; Gryphon Mephisto monoblocs) so in that sense, its not a good fit for my system. (To quote Dave Wilson "You need a tube in there somewhere!") The Wadax is excellent but it does have some harmonic truncation to the music that the Horizon does not have regardless of the tube set one uses. I like the Wadax. But I like the Horizon even more. Just my 2 cents.
 
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Sampajanna

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Apr 1, 2021
375
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Excellent post! And what a comparison1 Wow!

I too favor the Horizon, but have not heard many of these dacs. I heard the MSB Reference and it was great, I haven’t yet heard Wadax. I have heard the Kassandra and also loved it. My only divergence from your findings, and this is just my experience, is the Apex. I have heard it in 3 systems now—2 well set up. In fact, I found it fatiguing in 2 of those rooms. It was less clinical than non-Apex stack, but still soullless iIMO. It failed to pull me in, to make me surrender and forget myself… It was not my cup of tea at all. Also, I would add the Playback Designs MPD8 to this list. It is an excellent dac.
 
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pk_LA

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pk_LA, that was a yeoman task! I take off my hat to you, sir. As a Horizon owner, I'm truly baffled by your assessment of the Horizon, and its dismissal after 1 day since it is hard to understand how it could possibly be optimized in such a short time. However, as the old saying goes, "you pays yer money and you takes yer choice"!

I would also add that just because someone doesn't prefer the Wadax, not everyone who does not prefer its sound is necessarily a Wadax hater. But there are certainly folks who may have other preferences which are almost certainly personal and system dependent. In my own view, I think the Wadax is an excellent DAC but its just not my cup of tea.I wouldn't call the Wadax "dark sounding" but there is definitely a house sound and iI think I know the reason why. In comparison to either the Horizon or real instruments, the harmonic envelope of the music is more fully developed than it is when played back on the Wadax in which the harmonics, particularly the high frequencies, seem somewhat truncated and therefore not as convincingly as "real". If you think that a piano or a violin sounds that way in real life when played through a Wadax, great, but I'll respectfully disagree. I find the Horizon, no matter what tubes I am using, is simply more harmonically true to the sound of natural instruments. I would also be hesitant to use it in my system that is otherwise SS (Soulution. 725 pre; Gryphon Mephisto monoblocs) so in that sense, its not a good fit for my system. (To quote Dave Wilson "You need a tube in there somewhere!") The Wadax is excellent but it does have some harmonic truncation to the music that the Horizon does not have regardless of the tube set one uses. I like the Wadax. But I like the Horizon even more. Just my 2 cents.
The Horizon somewhat haunts me. That first night it sounded absolutely incredible. The sound stage and holographic imaging was amazing. The decay was as real as I have ever heard. I worry that I reacted too quickly. To my defense it started with a tube that went bad which had me maybe a bit hair-triggered. But, when time affords, I am hoping that I can convince Steve W to let me come listen at his home again.
 

pk_LA

VIP/Donor
Oct 22, 2021
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pk_LA, that was a yeoman task! I take off my hat to you, sir. As a Horizon owner, I'm truly baffled by your assessment of the Horizon, and its dismissal after 1 day since it is hard to understand how it could possibly be optimized in such a short time. However, as the old saying goes, "you pays yer money and you takes yer choice"!

I would also add that just because someone doesn't prefer the Wadax, not everyone who does not prefer its sound is necessarily a Wadax hater. But there are certainly folks who may have other preferences which are almost certainly personal and system dependent. In my own view, I think the Wadax is an excellent DAC but its just not my cup of tea.I wouldn't call the Wadax "dark sounding" but there is definitely a house sound and iI think I know the reason why. In comparison to either the Horizon or real instruments, the harmonic envelope of the music is more fully developed than it is when played back on the Wadax in which the harmonics, particularly the high frequencies, seem somewhat truncated and therefore not as convincingly as "real". If you think that a piano or a violin sounds that way in real life when played through a Wadax, great, but I'll respectfully disagree. I find the Horizon, no matter what tubes I am using, is simply more harmonically true to the sound of natural instruments. I would also be hesitant to use it in my system that is otherwise SS (Soulution. 725 pre; Gryphon Mephisto monoblocs) so in that sense, its not a good fit for my system. (To quote Dave Wilson "You need a tube in there somewhere!") The Wadax is excellent but it does have some harmonic truncation to the music that the Horizon does not have regardless of the tube set one uses. I like the Wadax. But I like the Horizon even more. Just my 2 cents.
I did not mean that everyone who doesn't love the Wadax is a hater. Sorry if I implied such. I was referring to the various threads I have read that I feel bash the Wadax. Your notes and preferences, Marty, are quite balanced. And I generally value your notes very much.
 

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