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Favourite Tube DACs


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For me, it was (is, really, as I still have it) my Eastern Electric MiniMax tube DAC that was modified by Wayne at Bolder Cable Company (his Level 1 mod).

 

Here is a review of the EE DAC and the Bolder modification:

 

EE DAC:

Eastern Electric MiniMax DAC Review

 

Bolder Mods:

BOLDER MODIFIED EASTERN ELECTRIC MINIDAC

 

Wayne/Bolder Cable Co. "upgrades most of the passives parts, some of the active ones and completely redesign the tube output section. This will give greater dynamics, lower noise floor and more of a sense that the musicians are in the room with you. We remove and upgrade 30 capacitors, 12 diodes and 7 resistors. In addition we install 30 more capacitors as supplemental or by-pass. We also install two new circuit boards for cascaded current sources for the tube output section. We include a silver plated, cryo-treated, ceramic fuse." Wayne also bypassed the volume pot for this unit as I had a higher quality pre amp than the pot in the EE DAC.

 

I liked using a Mullard Long Plate 12AU7 in the EE DAC, by the way. I had to use a USB/SPDIF converter to utilize the best input quality/performance. As set up with the USB/SPDIF box, it was remarkable. However, the 24/96 and no DSD limits were a concern. However, I still think about using it from time to time…it was that good.

 

Best,

John

Positive emotions enhance our musical experiences.

 

Synology DS213+ NAS -> Auralic Vega w/Linear Power Supply -> Auralic Vega DAC (Symposium Jr rollerball isolation) -> XLR -> Auralic Taurus Pre -> XLR -> Pass Labs XA-30.5 power amplifier (on 4" maple and 4 Stillpoints) -> Hawthorne Audio Reference K2 Speakers in MTM configuration (Symposium Jr HD rollerball isolation) and Hawthorne Audio Bass Augmentation Baffles (Symposium Jr rollerball isolation) -> Bi-amped w/ two Rythmic OB plate amps) -> Extensive Room Treatments (x2 SRL Acoustics Prime 37 diffusion plus key absorption and extensive bass trapping) and Pi Audio Uberbuss' for the front end and amplification

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The Killer is the best tube DAC and DAC I have heard.

 

Trouble is unless you are in Australia you wont be able to hear one.

 

It bested a Phasure, PDX, and a Playback Designs via DSD.

 

Its very harminically rich, some call it harminic resolution, that people that listen to a lot of live music simply say is real.

 

Of the DAC's you can probably get a hold of I would go for the new AMR.

 

There will be a blind DAC comparison out our way (the Gold Coast Australia) on the 15th of March between:

 

1. The Phasure

2. The Killer

3. A New PDX - totally redesigned from the ground up for computer audio including DSD

4. The new AMR but upgraded to use Duelund cast

 

Watch out for the write up.

 

Thanks

Bill

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+1

 

I really like the tube mid range on the AMR 777 DAC.

AMR 777 DAC, Purist Ultimate USB, PC server 4gig SOTM USB, server 2012, Audiophil Optimizer,Joule Preamp LAP150 Platinum Vcaps Bybee, Spectron Monoblocks Bybee Vcaps, Eggleston Savoy speakers, 2 REL Stentor III subwoofers, Pranawire Cosmos speaker wire, Purist Dominus Praesto cabling, Purist Anniversary (Canorus)power cables and Elrod Statement Gold power cable, VPI Aries I SDS w/Grado The Statement LP, 11kVA power isolation, 16 sound panels and bass traps TAD,RPG,GIK and Realtraps

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Not saying its the "ultimate DAC", but I've recently bought a Jolida Tube DAC III & rolled in some Seimens tubes to replace the stock Tung Sols.

This is a seriously good DAC which makes me question the wisdom of spending mega$$$ on a replacement.

It replaced a Young DAC, which it easily betters, & I always rated the Young pretty highly.

3D imaging, great vocals & an effortless presentation. Loads of detail but not in a "in yer face" way. Very musical indeed.

Matt.

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The Killer is the best tube DAC and DAC I have heard.

 

Trouble is unless you are in Australia you wont be able to hear one.

 

It bested a Phasure, PDX, and a Playback Designs via DSD.

 

Its very harminically rich, some call it harminic resolution, that people that listen to a lot of live music simply say is real.

 

Of the DAC's you can probably get a hold of I would go for the new AMR.

 

There will be a blind DAC comparison out our way (the Gold Coast Australia) on the 15th of March between:

 

1. The Phasure

2. The Killer

3. A New PDX - totally redesigned from the ground up for computer audio including DSD

4. The new AMR but upgraded to use Duelund cast

 

Watch out for the write up.

 

Thanks

Bill

 

Bill,

The killer sounds like...er! A killer. Fairly sure that would be awesome as I like the idea of a tube DAC.

 

Also a tube DAC that I have not heard, but 100% sure this is the beast is the Lampizator L7 DAC.

Ps. I have been wrong before....

Synology NAS (LPS) >UA ETHER REGEN (BG7TBL Master Clock) > MACMINI (Uptone MMK JS-2) > Auralic Aries 2.1 > Auralic Sirius G2.1LampizatOr GG/Mola Mola Tambaqui /Meridian 808.3> Wavac PRT1 / Wavac EC300B >Tannoy Canterbury SE

 

HP Rig ++ >Woo WES/ > Stax SR-009, Audeze LCD2

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The Killer is the best tube DAC and DAC I have heard... It bested a Phasure, PDX, and a Playback Designs via DSD.

 

Just for clarification, Bill has never directly compared the Killer to the Phasure. A bit misleading to say "It bested..." IMO.

 

Mani.

Main: Okto dac8PRO -> 6x Neurochrome 286 mono amps -> Tune Audio Anima horns + 2x Rotel RB-1590 amps -> 4 subs

Office: MOTU UltraLite-mk5 -> 6x Neurochrome 286 mono amps -> Impulse H2 speakers

Vinyl: Technics SP10 / London (Decca) Reference -> Trafomatic Luna -> RME ADI-2 Pro

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Not just the L7…all Lampis are superb. Lampi DSD is also unique …no Dac chip, tube output.

Correct tonality, holographic solidity and live/analog sound guaranteed.

 

Ear Yoshino should be good too.

 

But their website is so crap that I would never trust the with my money. Also their most basic DAC the level 3 costs a lost of money, €2300. That is not a cheap DAC by any means. Then why does the website look like a site is made by a 12 year old?

[br]

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Just for clarification, Bill has never directly compared the Killer to the Phasure. A bit misleading to say "It bested..." IMO.

 

Also just for the record I have heard them separately in the same system, and three acquaintances have compared them directly. One thought it too different from the Killer to really pass a comment and the Phasure may have needed more warming up. That one person also thought on dynamic pieces like Radiohead the Killer fell to pieces a bit, and was perhaps colored. The other two thought the Killer bested the Phasure, and when I discussed it with them it was for exactly the same reasons I thought the Killer better. The Phasure was a bit 'blancmange like' and the Killer harmonically richer.

 

People pass comment on equipment all the time without doing direct comparisons.

 

Thanks

Bill

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Unfortunately there's a big gap in tube dac availability between around a thousand dollars (MHDT Havana, Eastern Electric DAC Plus and, formerly, the Minimax) and around three thousand dollars (Cary DAC 100t, Lampizator Level 3). I've owned and modded all of the former, after which they were quite good, esp. for the money. I haven't heard the latter DACs though I'd like to, even being out of my price range.

 

I have heard the AMR CD player, which I thought was fantastic, and the AMR DAC is supposed to be similar in sound. But $5k. :(

 

On the low end of the scale, I've heard the Grant Fidelity (completely mediocre), and owned the Music Hall 25.2 (not bad, good after some mods, but not up to the un-modded MHDT or either Eastern Electric DAC, albeit less expensive than all of them even after mods).

 

2010 Mac Mini > Singxer SU-1 > Lampizator Amber II > Rogue Cronus Magnum (modded & NOS signal tubes with 6P3S-e power tubes) > Aural Acoustic Model B speakers. Furutech outlets, PI Audio USB Cable, PAD Aqueous Aureus Praesto Digital IC, Audio Envy ICs & SCs, TWL PCs, and PI Audio Buss-Stop power conditioner.

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You may want to try the iTube from iFi Audio, this add a tube stage to the DAC of your choice(tube or non tube), it even improves the high-end Audio Research CDP/DAC (check out iFi Audio's Facebook).

 

iFi-audio iTube

 

AIFIICAN.jpg

Digital Sources: Optimised HP TouchSmart PC/CEC TL-1X CD Player/AMR DP-777 DAC/Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II (old)

Analogue Sources:Koetsu Jade Platinum MC Cartridge/Tri-Planar arm/Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable/AMR PH-77 Phono Stage

Amplifiers:The Gryphon Elektra Preamplifier/Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 Stereo Amplifier

Speakers:Kharma Grand Ceramique Midi[br]Cables:Nordost Valhalla (interconnect and speaker cables)/Shunyata Research power Snakes power cables

Portable: Sony PHA-1/PHA-2; Dragonfly 1.0/1.2; Meridian Explorer, Director; iFi nano iDSD, micro iDAC, micro iDSD; Geek Out; Hdta Serenade DSD

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I second the thought of going with Bolder modded EE minimax dacs. I have his stage 3 (now stage 3+) simply amazing!

 

Eastern Electric MiniMax DAC Level 3 mods: Finished

 

 

For me, it was (is, really, as I still have it) my Eastern Electric MiniMax tube DAC that was modified by Wayne at Bolder Cable Company (his Level 1 mod).

 

Here is a review of the EE DAC and the Bolder modification:

 

EE DAC:

Eastern Electric MiniMax DAC Review

 

Bolder Mods:

BOLDER MODIFIED EASTERN ELECTRIC MINIDAC

 

Best,

John

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Sorry, wrong photo.

 

AIFIITUBE.jpg

Digital Sources: Optimised HP TouchSmart PC/CEC TL-1X CD Player/AMR DP-777 DAC/Theta Digital DS Pro Basic II (old)

Analogue Sources:Koetsu Jade Platinum MC Cartridge/Tri-Planar arm/Kuzma Stabi Reference turntable/AMR PH-77 Phono Stage

Amplifiers:The Gryphon Elektra Preamplifier/Convergent Audio Technology JL2 Signature Mk 2 Stereo Amplifier

Speakers:Kharma Grand Ceramique Midi[br]Cables:Nordost Valhalla (interconnect and speaker cables)/Shunyata Research power Snakes power cables

Portable: Sony PHA-1/PHA-2; Dragonfly 1.0/1.2; Meridian Explorer, Director; iFi nano iDSD, micro iDAC, micro iDSD; Geek Out; Hdta Serenade DSD

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John Swenson is working with Bottlehead to develop a tube DAC for their stable of analog products. Alex C. (Superdad) is familiar with this project and either he or John might be able to comment on it. I suspect it will be amazing and address the $1,000 to $5,000 range product gap.

 

Best,

John

Positive emotions enhance our musical experiences.

 

Synology DS213+ NAS -> Auralic Vega w/Linear Power Supply -> Auralic Vega DAC (Symposium Jr rollerball isolation) -> XLR -> Auralic Taurus Pre -> XLR -> Pass Labs XA-30.5 power amplifier (on 4" maple and 4 Stillpoints) -> Hawthorne Audio Reference K2 Speakers in MTM configuration (Symposium Jr HD rollerball isolation) and Hawthorne Audio Bass Augmentation Baffles (Symposium Jr rollerball isolation) -> Bi-amped w/ two Rythmic OB plate amps) -> Extensive Room Treatments (x2 SRL Acoustics Prime 37 diffusion plus key absorption and extensive bass trapping) and Pi Audio Uberbuss' for the front end and amplification

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If you want a tube USB dac you have to check the Wavelenght DACs, I believe the developed the asynchronous technology used by many companies.

 

 

I forgot the Wavelengths. Unfortunately most are priced well above $3k. The Brick actually falls into the mid-range ($2k) between the DACs I mentioned above but, while piquing my interest, I just never saw enough raves or even positive comparisons to the other DACs to take the plunge.

 

2010 Mac Mini > Singxer SU-1 > Lampizator Amber II > Rogue Cronus Magnum (modded & NOS signal tubes with 6P3S-e power tubes) > Aural Acoustic Model B speakers. Furutech outlets, PI Audio USB Cable, PAD Aqueous Aureus Praesto Digital IC, Audio Envy ICs & SCs, TWL PCs, and PI Audio Buss-Stop power conditioner.

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I thought Wayne (Bolder) was no longer in business. I modded my Minimax (not the Plus version) and have yet to find anything in its price range that can touch it.

Effective Audio offer a modded Minimax Plus for a "reasonable" price. Not sure how good a job they do however. Right off the bat I would ask them to install Auricap XOs instead of regular Auricaps. The latter sounded rather flabby in my Minimax. The XOs were spot on.

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I thought Wayne (Bolder) was no longer in business. I modded my Minimax (not the Plus version) and have yet to find anything in its price range that can touch it.

Effective Audio offer a modded Minimax Plus for a "reasonable" price. Not sure how good a job they do however. Right off the bat I would ask them to install Auricap XOs instead of regular Auricaps. The latter sounded rather flabby in my Minimax. The XOs were spot on.

 

He's not.

 

I installed the regular Auricaps in an EE DAC Plus (with Dexa op-amps) and while they increased the resolution significantly, I found them to be a bit too analytical. I switched to VH Audio OIMP which are also resolving but warmer, more dimensional, and more refined.

 

2010 Mac Mini > Singxer SU-1 > Lampizator Amber II > Rogue Cronus Magnum (modded & NOS signal tubes with 6P3S-e power tubes) > Aural Acoustic Model B speakers. Furutech outlets, PI Audio USB Cable, PAD Aqueous Aureus Praesto Digital IC, Audio Envy ICs & SCs, TWL PCs, and PI Audio Buss-Stop power conditioner.

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But their website is so crap that I would never trust the with my money. Also their most basic DAC the level 3 costs a lost of money, €2300. That is not a cheap DAC by any means. Then why does the website look like a site is made by a 12 year old?

 

Have you ever heard one?

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But their website is so crap that I would never trust the with my money. Also their most basic DAC the level 3 costs a lost of money, €2300. That is not a cheap DAC by any means. Then why does the website look like a site is made by a 12 year old?

 

Lots of Vodka will do that.

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QUOTE=bhobba;297475]Also just for the record I have heard them separately in the same system, and three acquaintances have compared them directly. One thought it too different from the Killer to really pass a comment and the Phasure may have needed more warming up. That one person also thought on dynamic pieces like Radiohead the Killer fell to pieces a bit, and was perhaps colored. The other two thought the Killer bested the Phasure, and when I discussed it with them it was for exactly the same reasons I thought the Killer better. The Phasure was a bit 'blancmange like' and the Killer harmonically richer.

 

Blancmange (/bləˈmɒnʒ/ or /bləˈmɑːndʒ/, from French blanc-manger French pronunciation: ​[blɑ̃mɑ̃ʒe]; part of the cake family, also known as shape) is a sweet dessert commonly made with milk or cream and sugar thickened with gelatin, cornstarch or Irish moss[1] (a source of carrageenan), and often flavored with almonds. It is usually set in a mould and served cold. Although traditionally white, blancmanges are frequently given alternative colours. Some similar desserts are Bavarian cream, vanilla pudding (in US usage), panna cotta, and haupia.

 

The historical blancmange originated some time in the Middle Ages and usually consisted of capon or chicken, milk or almond milk, rice and sugar and was considered to be an ideal food for the sick. Tavuk göğsü is a sweet contemporary Turkish pudding made with shredded chicken, similar to the medieval European di

 

Blancmange? Really?? I would not use that word for Phasure. Makes me wonder what the heck you were hearing or maybe you could explain that word with Phasure. Taking nothing away with your like with Killer I do find your take on Phasure to be a bit , shall I say, colored. What ties do you have with Killer if any? Oh yes, you will come back and say none so the end with that. You will just say I just like it so we will rest on that.

 

I would never fork over big $$$ for a Blancmange sounding Junk Sugar Food Dac :)

 

So you have lost my interest on your thoughts on Dac offs.

 

You can have the last word.

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