Various DAC Audition Impressions

TDX

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while i don't see myself as any critic of the compare efforts put forth in this thread, i would say that some here do quite involved and very serious compare efforts with dacs and servers. compares that take weeks between only two dacs and two servers, and much effort to pull off.

it can be done and has been done.

clear conclusions were reached, and outside participants were involved. plenty questioned that effort too, of course. just the way things go. normal stuff.

especially with dacs, you put forth an opinion, there is going to be turmoil. everyone is a dac expert, sometimes they run in packs, and we all have a dac.

it's all good. :rolleyes:
Yes, I do enjoy this comparison thread as well. But I don't expect every audiophile to write things in a certain format or manner. It is just their impression of what they heard.
 
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PYP

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The Tambaqui is one DAC I'd be curious to hear, as I haven't yet had the opportunity. It's an FPGA DAC (unlike most we've been discussing in this thread, with the exception of Playback Designs), correct?

Greetings from Switzerland, David.
yes, and "The converter is a two board stack. On the first board, all incoming digital audio is upsampled to 3.125MHz/32 bits and converted to noise shaped PWM. On the other board are two mono DACs, in which a discrete 32- stage FIR DAC and a single-stage 4th order filtering I/V converter, convert the PWM into analogue with a breathtaking 130dB SNR."

As lovely as it sounds, IMO the Grimm MU1 streamer/DDC/server/Roon endpoint makes it even more musical. While I use the MU1 primarily for streaming content, one can also feed it with a transport and/or use its internal SSD as the source. If interested, there are several reviews of this combination in addition to user feedback.
 

acousticsguru

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I just stumbled over a video on YouTube (not sure why this popped up, I rarely watch YT videos other than billiards) where a big guy by the name of Jay is discussing a comparison he made between two DACs (by dCS and MSB if I gathered correctly, with most people who listened to samples via YouTube voting for the dCS - needless to say, I wonder how much sense this makes, listen to gear via YouTube, it would seem this completely defeats the purpose…?!), anyways, I found his conclusion interesting, which is that using a streaming service (he says he doesn't own either physical media nor downloads) presents such a bottleneck that he couldn't recommend spending more than 20k on a DAC. I don't have streaming, but play back files from my NAS via Ethernet on one system, and via USB/FireWire on the other. One audiophile acquaintance of mine has indirectly convinced me to do so, and not use Roon either (which he does, he loves the GUI, certainly the convenience factor is way beyond Mosaic or the Daniel Hertz Masterclass media player, which I use in the my two systems, respectively, except when I'm spinning discs), as I sat through blind tests as he's a consulting engineer, anyways, different story - the point is, since almost everyone I talk to is streaming, I wonder what impact does this has on people's perception of the respective quality of DACs? One would think that this would be in favor of those DACs that to my ears create a sense of "sameness" of sound across different digital formats, different remasterings of recordings etc. (i.e. Lampizator thanks to using tubes, or FPGA DACs such as Playback Designs etc. thanks to the signal processing involved)? I've often wondered if the night and day difference an audiophile streamer may have on digital playback is due to streaming being the actual bottle neck (as in blind tests based on playback from storage, one might conclude they're a solution to a non-existent problem). Any thoughts on this? Also, anyone else around here not streaming?

Greetings from Switzerland, David.
 
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acousticsguru

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An additional problem with those services, and one where I feel the industry are taking us audiophiles for fools, is this:

Bildschirmfoto 2023-03-18 um 18.12.50.png

We can debate all day long how much "sense" it makes to remaster old analogue recordings (such as, in this instance, the first movement from Szell's Cleveland Beethoven "Pastoral") in high-resolution digital (such as, in this instance, claimed to be 24/192 PCM), I believe it does if done right, but for those who don't know how to interpret spectral analysis, note the brick wall filter cutoff above ca. 30kHz (the 24/192 PCM format being used as nothing more than a "container").

Greetings from Switzerland, David.
 
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Al M.

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I just stumbled over a video on YouTube (not sure why this popped up, I rarely watch YT videos other than billiards) where a big guy by the name of Jay is discussing a comparison he made between two DACs (by dCS and MSB if I gathered correctly, with most people who listened to samples via YouTube voting for the dCS - needless to say, I wonder how much sense this makes, listen to gear via YouTube, it would seem this completely defeats the purpose…?!),

Oh, don't say that about YouTube videos, you are hurting feelings around here (not mine, but that doesn't count) ;).

anyways, I found his conclusion interesting, which is that using a streaming service (he says he doesn't own either physical media nor downloads) presents such a bottleneck that he couldn't recommend spending more than 20k on a DAC. I don't have streaming, but play back files from my NAS via Ethernet on one system, and via USB/FireWire on the other. One audiophile acquaintance of mine has indirectly convinced to do so, and not use Roon either (which he does, he loves the GUI, certainly the convenience factor is way beyond Mosaic or the Daniel Hertz Masterclass media player, which I use the my two systems, respectively, except when I'm spinning discs), as I sat through blind tests as he's a consulting engineer, anyways, different story - the point is, since almost everyone I talk to is streaming, I wonder what impact does this has on people's perception of the respective quality of DACs? One would think that this would be in favor of those DACs that to my ears create a sense of "sameness" of sound across different digital formats, different remasterings of recordings etc. (i.e. Lampizator thanks to using tubes, or FPGA DACs such as Playback Designs etc. thanks to the signal processing involved)? I've often wondered if the night and day difference an audiophile streamer may have on digital playback is due to streaming being the actual bottle neck (as in blind tests based on playback from storage, one might conclude they're a solution to a non-existent problem). Any thoughts on this? Also, anyone else around here not streaming?

Greetings from Switzerland, David.

Yes, in my experience streaming can be a severe bottleneck. There are good implementations of it, but it takes a lot of effort (and/or money). It's easier to get a CD transport to sound excellent compared to streaming and even computer replay of local files (hi-res or not), especially when you employ a reclocker to bring down jitter to the low computer audio levels. I know that from side-by-side comparisons in a friend's system.

I don't stream on my high-end system, and I don't do local files either. I still spin physical CDs, but then I am, as someone called it, an "AARP audiophile" ;).

I do stream YouTube, over $30 headphones on my laptop. So perhaps I am not completely out of step with the times.
 

KrellFan1

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The Tambaqui is one DAC I'd be curious to hear, as I haven't yet had the opportunity. It's an FPGA DAC (unlike most we've been discussing in this thread, with the exception of Playback Designs), correct?

Greetings from Switzerland, David.
Try to audition on elf you can. This DAC wildly exceeded even my best expectations. I've had it now in my system for 2 weeks and friends say it's as though I got a new amplifier and new speakers. I've written a "review" on my findings in the forum if interested .
 

wil

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I just stumbled over a video on YouTube (not sure why this popped up, I rarely watch YT videos other than billiards) where a big guy by the name of Jay is discussing a comparison he made between two DACs (by dCS and MSB if I gathered correctly, with most people who listened to samples via YouTube voting for the dCS - needless to say, I wonder how much sense this makes, listen to gear via YouTube, it would seem this completely defeats the purpose…?!), anyways, I found his conclusion interesting, which is that using a streaming service (he says he doesn't own either physical media nor downloads) presents such a bottleneck that he couldn't recommend spending more than 20k on a DAC. I don't have streaming, but play back files from my NAS via Ethernet on one system, and via USB/FireWire on the other. One audiophile acquaintance of mine has indirectly convinced me to do so, and not use Roon either (which he does, he loves the GUI, certainly the convenience factor is way beyond Mosaic or the Daniel Hertz Masterclass media player, which I use in the my two systems, respectively, except when I'm spinning discs), as I sat through blind tests as he's a consulting engineer, anyways, different story - the point is, since almost everyone I talk to is streaming, I wonder what impact does this has on people's perception of the respective quality of DACs? One would think that this would be in favor of those DACs that to my ears create a sense of "sameness" of sound across different digital formats, different remasterings of recordings etc. (i.e. Lampizator thanks to using tubes, or FPGA DACs such as Playback Designs etc. thanks to the signal processing involved)? I've often wondered if the night and day difference an audiophile streamer may have on digital playback is due to streaming being the actual bottle neck (as in blind tests based on playback from storage, one might conclude they're a solution to a non-existent problem). Any thoughts on this? Also, anyone else around here not streaming?

Greetings from Switzerland, David.
@acousticsguru, It would be interesting to hear your experiences with using the Daniel hertz masterclass program
 

acousticsguru

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@acousticsguru, It would be interesting to hear your experiences with using the Daniel hertz masterclass program
Needs a dongle, i.e. constantly blocking a USB port. It's PCM and Mac only. Will play WAV, AIFF, MP3 and MP4, but not FLAC. Even using it in its purest form, playing back a WAV file straight, i.e. bit-perfect, the sound quality is noticeably more transparent, realistic, non-artificial and larger-scaled than with other media players I've compared it to (Amarra, Audirvana, HQPlayer etc.). The equalizer is a digital implementation of the Cello Audio Palette, which I remember as the finest-sounding EQ device available to audiophiles. Daniel Hertz still hasn't implemented gapless playback, which to classical music aficionado like myself is annoying, especially listening to e.g. opera (I realize one can concat files, as an audiophile acquaintance of mine does, too much of a hassle). It appears to copy files to RAM and play them back from there, but does not appear to purge RAM before it starts jamming (I purge manually either starting up Amarra, which has this function built in, or via Terminal). It's an extremely rudimentary media player to use, one needs to add files from folders. Includes a function called A+ that can be used to render and save files (or folders, apparently batch conversion and tagging still doesn't work), or in real-time (which is what I used because, interestingly, it sounds better to my ears than rendering files, plus I prefer to listen to music rather than spend time tagging files etc.). No one knows exactly what A+ does, my guess is it may be a further development of the Burwen Bobcat software. I looked at spectral analysis a number of times, and whatever low-level "information" A+ adds to the playback, it gleans from the file and reinserts in real-time, possibly noise-shaped low-level information. Mark Levinson called me a couple of times to discuss its benefits for people who suffer, like I do, from migraines, as A+ is said to reduce "digititis" (whatever that means, it works, as confirmed by a couple of audiophile acquaintances). Mark also sent me a link to this review:

https://www.monoandstereo.com/2014/06/daniel-hertz-master-class-review.html

Interestingly, using A+ doesn't invariably improve the sound, neither with all types of music or different remasterings of identical music (there's a slight halo or reverberation effect to it that improves soundstage perception, imaging, detail retrieval and coherency, oftentimes by a lot, it may also add a tiny bit of dynamic compression, making unheard spatial cues etc. heard, adding density and timbre, as well as PRAT), nor with all DACs (for example, I almost invariably like it with the dCS Delius/Purcell combo, but not with the Vivaldi stack, which is so resolving one can tell what A+ "does", which really defeats the purpose given the idea is it should put one's analytical mind at ease, also, using more "tools" in combination, such as the Multiwave function of a PS Audio regenerator, may be to much of a good thing). An audiophile acquaintance of mine who has a TotalDAC with tube output stage absolutely loves it. I personally like it best, as does Mark Levinson, with digital files that don't sound quite right on their own. It's almost more of a tool to me than a media player, and indeed, Mark did refer to it as something of a mastering tool in our conversations.

It's also expensive for a media player, but then, it really is the software equivalent of an equalizer (which, admittedly, I rarely ever use, but which Mark thinks is its main purpose). Hope this helps?

Greetings from Switzerland, David.
 
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wil

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So when you apply A+ in real time you're using a Mac based server running the Master Class software media player?

It sounds like it would be a cumbersome chore (if you have a Windows based server) to take your files - transfer them to a Mac - apply A+ and possibly eq - and then transfer the altered files back to the Windows server.

I imagine a better way, from a user perspective, and Mark Levinson's business interest, might be to license the software to the likes of Roon or to Dac/Server manufacturers.
 
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Ron Resnick

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I don't see how "equally priced" has much to do with a fair comparison. I have not heard a convincing correlation between price and sound quality in diverse DAC comparisons.
+1
 
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Zeotrope

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I don't understand any comments on this thread, and the forum in general, where people are warning others that a comparison is not to be taken as unimpeachable gospel, because of various factors relating to the details of the comparisons. Yes......we know. We already know this. We really already know.

I don't think anyone has given their credentials as professional audio scientists, and are looking to have their findings picked apart, peer reviewed, and then repeated to the letter so that their findings can be viewed as fact. This is all just a bunch of people trying stuff and telling you what they heard. That's it. Nothing any more serious than that.

It's weird to me that people feel the need to dispute the findings of what someone has heard, when they're literally just trying to tell you what they did and what they thought of it over a nice weekend.
Agreed.
However, I think the comments are because you really can't take much of anything away from these comparisons. So the comments are to warn others that this is the case.
You can change a cable and it will change the sound completely. Someone on this site there's a comparison of various high end DACs; each was connected separately to the same pre-amp. One used XLR, one used RCA, etc. While it's an interesting read, there's little you can reliably draw if you are cross-shopping those DACs.
 
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Lee

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The Tambaqui is one DAC I'd be curious to hear, as I haven't yet had the opportunity. It's an FPGA DAC (unlike most we've been discussing in this thread, with the exception of Playback Designs), correct?

Greetings from Switzerland, David.
The Ring DAC uses FPGA as well.
 
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KrellFan1

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The Ring DAC uses FPGA as well.
I would absolutely urge you to have a listen. I believe they have considerable distribution in your area. Now, I haven’t heard every DAC in a price range from 10k - 100k. That said, I cannot imagine a better sounding interpretation of digital to analog at any price - especially when combined with my Sonore Optical Rendu. It’s magic.
 

Lee

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I would absolutely urge you to have a listen. I believe they have considerable distribution in your area. Now, I haven’t heard every DAC in a price range from 10k - 100k. That said, I cannot imagine a better sounding interpretation of digital to analog at any price - especially when combined with my Sonore Optical Rendu. It’s magic.
I heard it at Axpona and I have long been a fan of Putzeys. But I hear more resolution and musicality with the dCS Rossini Apex.
 

KrellFan1

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I heard it at Axpona and I have long been a fan of Putzeys. But I hear more resolution and musicality with the dCS Rossini Apex.
That’s fair. I suppose for some listeners resolution can trump musicality. And vice versa. I’m really not qualified to form an opinion since I’ve not heard the Rossini. Maybe it is ALSO more musical. In any case, theoretically it SHOULD sound better at more than twice the price of Tambaqui. In any case, good luck to you in your quest!
 
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gleeds

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We used the Sonore Signature Rendu with an i9 Small Green Mountain Roon server and Lampizator Horizon in our room at Axpona and it was killer! I'm a big fan of optical connectivity for digital streaming.
 

KrellFan1

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We used the Sonore Signature Rendu with an i9 Small Green Mountain Roon server and Lampizator Horizon in our room at Axpona and it was killer! I'm a big fan of optical connectivity for digital streaming.
Sonore Optical was a game changer for me. Transformative. I am waiting for Sonore to release their new firmware update which Adrian says is UNBELIEVABLE. Once that's ready I intend to send my SE back to the factory top upgrade the power supply. And I am a fan of SGC as I have their ST-5 which works well for me given my library size. And have heard good things about the Lampi for sure!
 
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Lee

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That’s fair. I supper for some listeners resolution can trump musicality. And vice versa. I’m really not qualified to form an opinion since I’ve not heard the Rossini. Maybe it is ALSO more musical. In any case, theoretically it SHOULD sound better at more than twice the price of Tambaqui. In any case, good luck to you in your quest!
I am sure the Tamabqui is a great value at the price point. I sounded great in the GTT Audio room at Axpona.
 
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KrellFan1

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I am sure the Tamabqui is a great value at the price point. I sounded great in the GTT Audio room at Axpona.
Yup. I agree completely. Bill at GTT has some great gear to be sure.
 

Al M.

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That’s fair. I suppose for some listeners resolution can trump musicality. And vice versa. I’m really not qualified to form an opinion since I’ve not heard the Rossini. Maybe it is ALSO more musical. In any case, theoretically it SHOULD sound better at more than twice the price of Tambaqui. In any case, good luck to you in your quest!

True resolution *is* musicality.

Hyped-up resolution is not.
 

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