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Metric Halo ULN-8 vs. newer DACs


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5-6 years ago, the Metric Halo ULN-8 was considered to be one of the "best" DACs available. Barry Diament was one of its strongest supporters, and I believe he still uses one in his well-recognized recording studio.

 

I own the LIO-8, and still find it to be very good. My audio dealer told me before listening to it that it was probably the weak link in my system. (He sold the Berkeley Alpha 2 at the time.). Then he listened to the LIO-8 in my system and literally said "Wow! Guess I was wrong."

 

5-6 years is a LONG time in the DAC world. My question is: has anyone compared a ULN- or LIO-8 to some of the newer DACs? I'm curious especially about the newer R2R or NOS DACs.

 

Dave

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Great thread. I still have my LIO-8 so I am interested in the feedback as well. I can tell you this much. Rtwrace also had a LIO-8. He and I both tried the Lynx Hilo which I felt bested the LIO-8, but not by enough for me to make the change at the time. I also tried the Invitca which I also did not consider to be sufficiently better to switch. Rtwrace eventually replaced his LIO-8 with a Vega. He might have actually gone from the LIO-8 to the Hilo and then the Vega - I just don't remember.

 

From my standpoint, I am intrigued with the Yggdrasil (although it has no built in pre-amp). Unfortunately, as a firewire device, the LIO-8 cannot take advantage of any of the current crop of USB regenerators/disruptors, although I recall in my interactions with the LIO-8 designer, he did not feel the LIO-8's performance was diminished by incoming noise/jitter from the source computer.

Mac Mini / Pure Music > Firewire & USB > Metric Halo LIO-8 > Hypex NCORE 400 > Geddes Abbey Speakers > Rythmik Servo & Geddes Band Pass Subs // DH Labs Cables, HRS MXR Isolation Rack, PurePower 2000, Elgar 6006B

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I also use my LIO-8 with a Mac Mini and Pure Music. I keep reading that the newer music servers provide better sound, and I'm willing to believe it. But they virtually never use Firewire connections and maybe you hit upon a reason why Mac mini/Firewire/LIO-8 just "works". I am very happy with the music quality of my system--so maybe I shouldn't worry about it--but have been wondering about the Yggy too!

 

Hoping someone with direct experience will comment.

 

Dave

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I have a LIO-8 and a Yggdrasil and I can say that the LIO-8 is right there, slight differences. I also have an APL NWO-M and both are too close, considering price, to that DA, but it is better overall.

 

My current direction is away from USB after trying most of the tweaks I've come to the conclusion that I do not like USB, it seems to have an incurable hardness. I am considering an SSR or Bel Canto REFStream right now to replace the Mac Mini > AP2/PP front end.

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5-6 years ago, the Metric Halo ULN-8 was considered to be one of the "best" DACs available. Barry Diament was one of its strongest supporters, and I believe he still uses one in his well-recognized recording studio.

 

I own the LIO-8, and still find it to be very good. My audio dealer told me before listening to it that it was probably the weak link in my system. (He sold the Berkeley Alpha 2 at the time.). Then he listened to the LIO-8 in my system and literally said "Wow! Guess I was wrong."

 

5-6 years is a LONG time in the DAC world. My question is: has anyone compared a ULN- or LIO-8 to some of the newer DACs? I'm curious especially about the newer R2R or NOS DACs.

 

Dave

 

The parts used inside your doc/interface were old when it was designed. This is an example of the total being greater than the sum of the parts. There are AK4395, NE5532, and other long in the tooth parts. Even the FireWire connection is old school.

Never seen the tests on one of these, is most likely is like a Benchmark with very linear measurements. Low noise is a given.

There are lots of great options for less than original money. The Weiss and several other original options have gone away.

Waiting for some top notch Thunderbolt interfeces to come alone. The number of them is increasing.

Using a computer with TB buss and FW adapter works better in my system. Try that.

 

2012 Mac Mini, i5 - 2.5 GHz, 16 GB RAM. SSD,  PM/PV software, Focusrite Clarett 4Pre 4 channel interface. Daysequerra M4.0X Broadcast monitor., My_Ref Evolution rev a , Klipsch La Scala II, Blue Sky Sub 12

Clarett used as ADC for vinyl rips.

Corning Optical Thunderbolt cable used to connect computer to 4Pre. Dac fed by iFi iPower and Noise Trapper isolation transformer. 

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I have a LIO-8 and a Yggdrasil and I can say that the LIO-8 is right there, slight differences. I also have an APL NWO-M and both are too close, considering price, to that DA, but it is better overall.

 

My current direction is away from USB after trying most of the tweaks I've come to the conclusion that I do not like USB, it seems to have an incurable hardness. I am considering an SSR or Bel Canto REFStream right now to replace the Mac Mini > AP2/PP front end.

 

I had the ULN-2, which was a nice-sounding DAC in the ways many AKM-based DACs are, but not very resolving whatever digital input or converter I used. I've always wondered if the ULN-8 or LIO-8 were any better.

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I had the ULN-2, which was a nice-sounding DAC in the ways many AKM-based DACs are, but not very resolving whatever digital input or converter I used. I've always wondered if the ULN-8 or LIO-8 were any better.

 

I've owned the unl - 2 and uln - 8 and the 8 was significantly better. That said I have a yggy in the system now for 2 weeks and love it. I need to perform a comparison in the next few weeks. That said even if the yggy is better (and I think it might be) the metric halo functioned for me as a dac and my phono pre amp and for the money nothing touched it in either category for me for 5+ years.

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Eager to hear your thoughts on this. What will you use as a pre with the yggy ?

Mac Mini / Pure Music > Firewire & USB > Metric Halo LIO-8 > Hypex NCORE 400 > Geddes Abbey Speakers > Rythmik Servo & Geddes Band Pass Subs // DH Labs Cables, HRS MXR Isolation Rack, PurePower 2000, Elgar 6006B

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When we did the shootout 6 years ago to determine which ADAC I would use for my massive ripping project, the MH ULN-8 was one of the five or six devices we tested. It was a surrogate for the Amarra 8 channel ADAC which was based on the MH, and wasn't quite to market at that point. The MH did very well, finishing second in some very heady competition. Glad to know they are continuing to upgrade.

 

Larry

Analog-VPIClas3,3DArm,LyraSkala+MiyajimaZeromono,Herron VTPH2APhono,2AmpexATR-102+MerrillTridentMaster TapePreamp  Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacificMicrosonicsModel2; Dig Play-Lampi Pacific, mch NADAC, Roon-HQPlayer,Oppo105  Electronics-DoshiPre,CJ MET1mchPre,Cary2A3monoamps Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR

Other-2x512EngineerMarutaniSymmetrical Power+Cables Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1.7KR2Rtapes,1.5KCD's,500SACDs,50TBripped files

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5-6 years ago, the Metric Halo ULN-8 was considered to be one of the "best" DACs available. Barry Diament was one of its strongest supporters, and I believe he still uses one in his well-recognized recording studio.

 

I own the LIO-8, and still find it to be very good. My audio dealer told me before listening to it that it was probably the weak link in my system. (He sold the Berkeley Alpha 2 at the time.). Then he listened to the LIO-8 in my system and literally said "Wow! Guess I was wrong."

 

5-6 years is a LONG time in the DAC world. My question is: has anyone compared a ULN- or LIO-8 to some of the newer DACs? I'm curious especially about the newer R2R or NOS DACs.

 

Dave

 

The MH ULN or LIO-8 are still very good DACs IMHO. I've had one for 5 years using it for both recording and listening (software player via FW and phono pre using the micpres, and outputting via the analog out direct to my amp). I enhanced it with modified connectors and power then recently am only using it as the phono-pre after running into some issues with the firewire port on my mac mini not to mention a strange interaction with my amp that eventually I'll have MH troubleshoot.

 

I picked up an Exogal Comet with the LPS at RMAF in October which I like better than the MH. The Exogal seems like it has more resolution than the MH while not being fatiguing ie a rather a nice relaxed yet detailed presentation. I'm still using the MH as a phono pre for my TT and feeding the Exogal via AES with really nice results. When the MH 3D upgrade is available I will likely upgrade and keep the MH unit for the recording work or for a 2nd DAC. Bottomline is the MH units are still pretty good while newer and cost competitive alternatives are available and worth checking in to.

 

Best wishes,

 

Steve

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The Metric Halo ULN-2 was the DAC that had me convinced that computer audio was the way for me to go. I still own it, as well as an Amarra Model Four/LIO-8. I'm sure there's better out there, but at what cost and in what way? I've always wondered what 'transport' and playback software sounds best with the MH boxes, since it does seem make a difference. I don't think I've seen a discussion about that, even after all this time.

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electricity,

 

Thanks for the link which I read through. Do you know if the 3d upgrade will improve sonic performance? I did not see that listed.

 

 

Metric Halo is still the reference. When the 3d upgrade appears, it will also support USB.

 

More info on the 3d upgrade here:

 

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/9961694-post96.html

Mac Mini / Pure Music > Firewire & USB > Metric Halo LIO-8 > Hypex NCORE 400 > Geddes Abbey Speakers > Rythmik Servo & Geddes Band Pass Subs // DH Labs Cables, HRS MXR Isolation Rack, PurePower 2000, Elgar 6006B

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I don't know about sonic difference, but IMHO there is not any need for that. This is one of the most well-designed audio devices ever conceived and the choice of an abundance of elite mastering engineers globally (the individuals that need absolute clinical transparency more than anyone else). MH's appeal is that it has no signature, it disappears from the chain. IMO, if you think that you need better sound, it's because other links of the chain are not up to par compared to the ridiculous standards the LIO-8 has set. Also, if what you need is some colour, you can play with the outstanding DSP capabilities (Character processing etc...) of LIO-8 and mold the sound any way you see fit!

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  • 2 weeks later...
I don't know about sonic difference, but IMHO there is not any need for that. This is one of the most well-designed audio devices ever conceived and the choice of an abundance of elite mastering engineers globally (the individuals that need absolute clinical transparency more than anyone else). MH's appeal is that it has no signature, it disappears from the chain. IMO, if you think that you need better sound, it's because other links of the chain are not up to par compared to the ridiculous standards the LIO-8 has set. Also, if what you need is some colour, you can play with the outstanding DSP capabilities (Character processing etc...) of LIO-8 and mold the sound any way you see fit!

 

I pinged Metric Halo support and got a fast response.

 

Q. Will the coming 3D upgrade improve audio playback performance? Yes, I know the LIO-8 is already outstanding…:-).

 

A. The clock performance is expected to improve by an order of magnitude.

 

Wonder how an order of magnitude improvement in clock performance will sound ? :-).

Mac Mini / Pure Music > Firewire & USB > Metric Halo LIO-8 > Hypex NCORE 400 > Geddes Abbey Speakers > Rythmik Servo & Geddes Band Pass Subs // DH Labs Cables, HRS MXR Isolation Rack, PurePower 2000, Elgar 6006B

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I love Bruno. I have his NCORE amps. I am sure is new DAC is killer but it's also very expensive.

Mac Mini / Pure Music > Firewire & USB > Metric Halo LIO-8 > Hypex NCORE 400 > Geddes Abbey Speakers > Rythmik Servo & Geddes Band Pass Subs // DH Labs Cables, HRS MXR Isolation Rack, PurePower 2000, Elgar 6006B

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I have used a Metric Halo LIO 8 to make recordings.

Personally, on the type of music I have recorded, I detect no audible difference between the input to the recorder and its output which means that it is, to my ears, audibly transparent.

 

The MH is an "industrial" product so does not have a very expensive enclosure or fancy connectors which makes it outstanding vfm IMHO.

 

A Dac in a beautiful enclosure with SOTA connectors using the MH interior would cost at least 5x as much to make but probably be more domestically acceptable.

Frank[br]Mac mini, Amarra, Pure vinyl, Resolution Cantata, Metric Halo LIO-8, dCs P8i,DeVialet 800, Goldmund Mim 20/36+/22/29.4, Epilog 1&2[br]Reference Turntable Ortofon Jubilee pickup

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Hey F1. Have you or any of the other LIO-8 owners out there ever tried AES in versus Firewire? All the talk about USB scrubbers got me thinking. Although, I seem to recall BJ at Metric Halo not buying into the possibly of ground plane noise, etc. on the Firewire input compromising sound quality.

Mac Mini / Pure Music > Firewire & USB > Metric Halo LIO-8 > Hypex NCORE 400 > Geddes Abbey Speakers > Rythmik Servo & Geddes Band Pass Subs // DH Labs Cables, HRS MXR Isolation Rack, PurePower 2000, Elgar 6006B

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  • 1 month later...

Decided the best way to find out how the Lio-8 compares was to actually compare it. Vincent Brient sent me his newest Totaldac d1-six tube R2R DAC and I've been listening to it for 3-4 weeks now.

 

One of the reasons that I asked the original question was because I've always thought that the Lio-8 sounds like VERY good digital. So I was pretty much shocked to hear the Totaldac. Beautiful tone and timbre. Great detail. Dense images. Very natural. Doesn't sound digital! I hate to say it, because I've always preferred vinyl, but now I slightly prefer the Totaldac. It sounds like REALLY good MUSIC.

 

The Totaldac is staying in the system!

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Not at all surprised to hear this from you- I have a LIO-8 which I've upgraded overall to a ULN8 (DSP and Pre's) and I still use it as a DAW for music learning and recording, as it works fine with the Thunderbolt to FireWire adapter. But a TotalDAC-D1 dual replaced it in my stereo playback system back in 2013, with the help of a friend I visit regularly in Munich. Vincent has always been a very professional and accommodating person to deal with, and I can highly recommend him, as can my friend, who has a TotalDAC server, too.

 

One thing we both do is running the AES input through a Brainstrom DCD-8 as a reclocker, while using a Rubidium 10MHz frequency standard to clock the DCD-8. This provides even more focus and definition than the TotalDAC by itself. (Been doing this for years, as earlier we were using this approach with Antelope Zodiac DAC with good results). I'm planning to try out a Mutec reclocker due to auto-sample rate change and higher single wire AES sample rate capability- will have to see how that works out.

 

The updated LIO-8 is still very useful, as it's used for music learning and recording, and as a DAW interface still works very, very well.

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  • 1 year later...

With all the Yggdrasil entusiasm, I am also wondering how competitive the Metric Halo LIO-8/ULN-8 is? I noticed that some of you have experiences with both. How are your impressions now with a well-burned in Yggy maybe used via USB Gen5 input compared to the Metric Halo firewire device? Thanks in advance for your reply.

 

I am still a very happy owner of the LIO-8, which I became aware of through this wonderful forum. To all Metric Halo owners I can highly recommend upgrading their device by using a high performing power cord (e.g. Ansuz Mainz C/D/... or Studio Connections Black Star) and some good footers: Substantial improvement! I also used it directly on power amps. Excellent transparency/timing/naturalness. It gets fully out of the way. Just recently I made some experiences by adding in the Ayre KX-5 (non-20) preamp. Works very nicely as well. Everyting becomes more juicy/muscular. While the frequency bandwidth toward upper octaves (=openness) and the transparency/timing/naturalness is even better without the preamp, I am still enjoying right now the preamp. Somewhat more weight, more sweetness and more relaxed and maybe more details in the mids. And since I have now a nice preamp, I am even more intrigued by the Yggy.

Apple Powerbook G4 15\", iTunes, Metric Halo LIO-8, active speakers

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  If a power cord helps, try connecting to a Thunderbolt port using an Apple TB to FW adapter. Much better. 

  These still are very nice. I would like to see newer 32 bit AKM chips, better opamps, and Femto clocks. Cannot hurt. 

  It’s the effort BJ puts into layout, power supply, firmware, and other optimization’s that make this old design sing. 

 

2012 Mac Mini, i5 - 2.5 GHz, 16 GB RAM. SSD,  PM/PV software, Focusrite Clarett 4Pre 4 channel interface. Daysequerra M4.0X Broadcast monitor., My_Ref Evolution rev a , Klipsch La Scala II, Blue Sky Sub 12

Clarett used as ADC for vinyl rips.

Corning Optical Thunderbolt cable used to connect computer to 4Pre. Dac fed by iFi iPower and Noise Trapper isolation transformer. 

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