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Totaldac d1-six tube dac


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I asked the question back in Jan as to how the Lio-8 compares to the newer DACs. I own the Lio-8 but I had the nagging feeling that I might prefer the newer DACs to the very well-respected Lio-8.

 

I was right, although I had no idea HOW right I was.

 

I liked the Lio-8 a lot. It was the first DAC I ever owned that sounded almost as good as vinyl. Not that it sounded LIKE vinyl--it didn't--but it sounded really good in it's own digital way. That is a high compliment from this vinyl lover.

 

The Totaldac d1-six tube is in another class. Utterly natural, detailed with beautiful tone and timbre. HUGE soundstage. Generous bass, detailed but not harsh treble. Tonally dense images. Everything I like about vinyl with the strengths of digital without sounding like digital.

 

Haven't heard any other new DACs, so I can't compare the Totaldac to other new DACs.

But I love it so much, I feel no need to. Definitely a game changer and keeper for me.

 

Dave

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We have the d1-tube-mk2 DAC & d1-server and I concur. Against, say a well sorted DIY Twisted Pear Buffallo II DAC with HD Power supplies and Legato output, the TotalDAC has perhaps has a bit less slam? However, I was never sure how much of that slam was real. When I try and compare to an orchestra live, then the TotalDAC seems much more like the real thing. I guess it is system dependant and of course what you expect from your music, but for me the TotalDAC is something special.

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In the same boat with you, but different model- I've had a TotalDAC-D1 Dual since 2013. One thing you might want to investigate if you use AES/EBU is a reclocking unit before the TotalDAC. A friend of mine in Munich and myself (in SF Bay are) both use Brainstorm DCD-8 with a rubidium 10MHz master oscillator to clock the DCD-8. Mutec MC3+ is another alternative, I've got one but have been too busy to try it out yet (sitting in a box on the shelf for over a year!), but it does auto sample rate changes and handles single wire AES to 192kHz, which the Brainstsorm doesn't (requires dual wire mode, rare on server outputs, though Vincent can accommodate that if you ask).

 

I'm still curious to hear a Berkeley Alpha RS; I had the original Alpha DAC, now landed to a friend, which for it's time had a lot of pluses (I also still have a LIO-8 updated to ULN-8 which is just used as a DAW for music learning and recording); we've heard the Meitner's and MSB's of a few years ago, before buying TotalDAC. I'm sure they're better now, but I am curious about the RS DAC still. At the moment, not $16K curious; I've spent too much money on test equipment the last quarter to go there!

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I'm still curious to hear a Berkeley Alpha RS; I had the original Alpha DAC, now landed to a friend, which for it's time had a lot of pluses (I also still have a LIO-8 updated to ULN-8 which is just used as a DAW for music learning and recording); we've heard the Meitner's and MSB's of a few years ago, before buying TotalDAC. I'm sure they're better now, but I am curious about the RS DAC still. At the moment, not $16K curious; I've spent too much money on test equipment the last quarter to go there!

 

I hear ya about the "curiosity factor"! The dealer who sold me the Magico Q3s also sells Berkeley DACs. He's 2 hrs away, but he might be curious enough to bring the Reference down for a quick comparison. If I can talk him into it I'll report back.

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I hear ya about the "curiosity factor"! The dealer who sold me the Magico Q3s also sells Berkeley DACs. He's 2 hrs away, but he might be curious enough to bring the Reference down for a quick comparison. If I can talk him into it I'll report back.

 

That would be cool and interesting... Probably for the dealer, too! Very different technology approaches.

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  • 6 months later...

Last week I had the honor to host a TotalDac six as my guest, not the tube version but the transistor one.

 

This was a rather lucky coincident, because normally this unit is way outside my financial happy-zone.

However, the loaned TotalDAC was part of a big DAC shootout and after the event took place, I was able to integrate it in my system, if only for a few days before it had to go back to France.

 

To be completely honest, after the shootout I had very little hope that the TotalDAC would be an adequate match to my system.

We had a plethora of high end DACs available (Lampizator 7, tuned Linn, PS Audio DS, T+A, Artistic Fidelity, Soekris, Lynx and the TotalDAC) and were able to compare those (via A/D conversion) to a master tape copy.

Strangely enough, the TotalDAC was one of the worst contenders in this field, although being by far the most expensive.

 

However, having heard Vincent's DACs at various shows before, I just couldn't get my head around what I heard, leaving me with the conclusion that something in the shootout wasn't to the TotalDACs liking.

Possible explanations could be that the unit wasn't fully burnt in or that the TotalDAC is sensible to certain cables or power issues - I don't know.

 

To make a long story short, what I heard at home was so completely different than at the shootout, it was an ear-opener.

 

My system consists of a T+A DAC8 DSD - running of course in DSD512 mode. From there I go directly in my Gryphon Antileon Signature amp, which drives a pair of MBL 116. The system is Entreq'ed, cables are from Sablon and Gold Note and power conditioning is handled by Vibex.

 

Because I listen exclusively to digital, I refuse to invest in a preamp and instead look for DACs with a competent output stage and volume control. The T+A has a resistor based vc, the TotalDAC handles vc in the digital domain.

All my files were upsampled via HQPlayer to either DSD512 or high res PCM for the TotalDAC.

 

So, what did I hear?

 

The TotalDAC is a very relaxed sounding DAC. Directly compared with my T+A, the noisefloor drops to almost non-existent levels. Considering that noisefloor is one of the hallmarks of the T+A, that is saying something.

IIRC, the French's noisefloor is at a record-setting -160db and I believe you can hear that.

Along with lower noisefloor, you get the usual suspects, like more resolution, more air around instruments and finer decays.

 

Additionally I found the TotalDAC to be the least fatiguing DAC I heard in my system by a comfortable margin.

That includes DACs like Lampizator, Electrocompaniet, Lector, PS Audio and my resident T+A.

I could listen for hours without feeling the urge to stop. Great stuff.

In a nutshell, the TotalDAC sounded simply pleasant and very appealing.

 

The comparison with my T+A was very interesting, because I believe both are targeted to different customer groups, as the sound is very different.

The T+A makes music exciting, raising the adrenaline level and delivers the wow-factor.

It sounds bigger and more dynamic in an absolute manner (although I consider the TotalDAC to be the winner in the micro-dynamic discipline).

Also the bass goes lower and is more powerful, but less refined and articulated.

 

A friend of mine said that - based purely on sonics - 60% or 70% of all audiophiles would prefer the TotalDAC, the rest would choose the T+A.

Generally I would agree, but I made a slight alteration for myself:

For 60%-70% of my music collection I would like to have the TotalDAC around, for the rest I would choose the T+A.

 

The TotalDAC is clearly the more refined DAC. However, when the music demands a kick in the behind, the T+A just makes it more fun and exciting. If I just want to relax and get lost in the music, I can think of no better choice than the TotalDAC.

 

Having both on tap would be my ultimate dream, choosing either one depending on the mood or the music material.

As this will probably not become reality, I'm more than happy with my T+A, especially considering the enormous price gap between both.

 

As a final word I would like to add, that I didn't felt the need for a preamp with both units at all.

Judging from the 6moons review, the tube output has to be more problematic with a direct connection to the poweramp.

As my Gryphon is very picky with who delivers the signal to him, I can attest that both the T+A and the TotalDAC are decent preamp replacements.

 

Here's a little picture of the music pyramid, lucky me:

IMG_3124.jpg

 

Cheers

Christoph

Consultant to Taiko Audio

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Last week I had the honor to host a TotalDac six as my guest, not the tube version but the transistor one.

 

This was a rather lucky coincident, because normally this unit is way outside my financial happy-zone.

However, the loaned TotalDAC was part of a big DAC shootout and after the event took place, I was able to integrate it in my system, if only for a few days before it had to go back to France.

 

To be completely honest, after the shootout I had very little hope that the TotalDAC would be an adequate match to my system.

We had a plethora of high end DACs available (Lampizator 7, tuned Linn, PS Audio DS, T+A, Artistic Fidelity, Soekris, Lynx and the TotalDAC) and were able to compare those (via A/D conversion) to a master tape copy.

Strangely enough, the TotalDAC was one of the worst contenders in this field, although being by far the most expensive.

 

However, having heard Vincent's DACs at various shows before, I just couldn't get my head around what I heard, leaving me with the conclusion that something in the shootout wasn't to the TotalDACs liking.

Possible explanations could be that the unit wasn't fully burnt in or that the TotalDAC is sensible to certain cables or power issues - I don't know.

 

To make a long story short, what I heard at home was so completely different than at the shootout, it was an ear-opener.

 

My system consists of a T+A DAC8 DSD - running of course in DSD512 mode. From there I go directly in my Gryphon Antileon Signature amp, which drives a pair of MBL 116. The system is Entreq'ed, cables are from Sablon and Gold Note and power conditioning is handled by Vibex.

 

Because I listen exclusively to digital, I refuse to invest in a preamp and instead look for DACs with a competent output stage and volume control. The T+A has a resistor based vc, the TotalDAC handles vc in the digital domain.

All my files were upsampled via HQPlayer to either DSD512 or high res PCM for the TotalDAC.

 

So, what did I hear?

 

The TotalDAC is a very relaxed sounding DAC. Directly compared with my T+A, the noisefloor drops to almost non-existent levels. Considering that noisefloor is one of the hallmarks of the T+A, that is saying something.

IIRC, the French's noisefloor is at a record-setting -160db and I believe you can hear that.

Along with lower noisefloor, you get the usual suspects, like more resolution, more air around instruments and finer decays.

 

Additionally I found the TotalDAC to be the least fatiguing DAC I heard in my system by a comfortable margin.

That includes DACs like Lampizator, Electrocompaniet, Lector, PS Audio and my resident T+A.

I could listen for hours without feeling the urge to stop. Great stuff.

In a nutshell, the TotalDAC sounded simply pleasant and very appealing.

 

The comparison with my T+A was very interesting, because I believe both are targeted to different customer groups, as the sound is very different.

The T+A makes music exciting, raising the adrenaline level and delivers the wow-factor.

It sounds bigger and more dynamic in an absolute manner (although I consider the TotalDAC to be the winner in the micro-dynamic discipline).

Also the bass goes lower and is more powerful, but less refined and articulated.

 

A friend of mine said that - based purely on sonics - 60% or 70% of all audiophiles would prefer the TotalDAC, the rest would choose the T+A.

Generally I would agree, but I made a slight alteration for myself:

For 60%-70% of my music collection I would like to have the TotalDAC around, for the rest I would choose the T+A.

 

The TotalDAC is clearly the more refined DAC. However, when the music demands a kick in the behind, the T+A just makes it more fun and exciting. If I just want to relax and get lost in the music, I can think of no better choice than the TotalDAC.

 

Having both on tap would be my ultimate dream, choosing either one depending on the mood or the music material.

As this will probably not become reality, I'm more than happy with my T+A, especially considering the enormous price gap between both.

 

As a final word I would like to add, that I didn't felt the need for a preamp with both units at all.

Judging from the 6moons review, the tube output has to be more problematic with a direct connection to the poweramp.

As my Gryphon is very picky with who delivers the signal to him, I can attest that both the T+A and the TotalDAC are decent preamp replacements.

 

Here's a little picture of the music pyramid, lucky me:

[ATTACH=CONFIG]29625[/ATTACH]

 

Cheers

Christoph

 

Very interesting and thorough report. Thank you for taking the time to write it up so completely, and explain where you are coming from.

 

My only comment is in regards to using the DAC as a preamp- I used to be coming from where you are, and went this way for some time with other DAC's like the Berkely Alpha, and the TotalDAC-D1. However, a colleague of mine in Munich, after some experimentation, concluded that the results with the TotalDAC are better (including the six, which he now has) WITH a high grade preamp; and visiting him earlier this year, and trying it with and without his Chorale Preamp (curved front panel version- see picture), I agreed that results at medium and lower listening levels were clearly better with the preamp in the circuit, and overall it was not subtle with the right program.

 

 

25317328234_a9fbeda500_o.jpg

 

 

So, since then, there is now a very clean Halcro DM10 in my system, (thanks to Audiogon, at a reasonable price) and I have to say I concur. So, should the opportunity present itself, you might want to try that, even with your T+A, as an experiment. The kicker is, that even a Cambridge Audio 851e produced much the same improvement, though not quite to the same level.

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Very interesting and thorough report. Thank you for taking the time to write it up so completely, and explain where you are coming from.

 

My only comment is in regards to using the DAC as a preamp- I used to be coming from where you are, and went this way for some time with other DAC's like the Berkely Alpha, and the TotalDAC-D1. However, a colleague of mine in Munich, after some experimentation, concluded that the results with the TotalDAC are better (including the six, which he now has) WITH a high grade preamp; and visiting him earlier this year, and trying it with and without his Chorale Preamp (curved front panel version- see picture), I agreed that results at medium and lower listening levels were clearly better with the preamp in the circuit, and overall it was not subtle with the right program. [...]

 

So what kind of thing are you gaining with the preamp?

 

I used to have a power amp with built in volume control and have compared the digital volume control on Berkeley Alpha 2 and totaldac d1-tube-mk2 against the analog one in the amp. The Berkeley digital volume muddies things up quite a bit, and you lose quite a bit of spacial resolution. But in the case of the totaldac, it's the reverse. Running the DAC at max gain and using the analog volume on the amp loses quite a bit of subtlety in the microdynamics. I suspect in addition to the quality of the digital volume, it probably also has to do with whether the DAC's analog section likes to be driven flat out or backed down to lower level. Perhaps the d1-dual like flat out and the d1-tube-mk2 like the signals to be lower? It's probably quite configuration dependent.

 

Now a little bit of comment on the dynamics of the totaldac. The following is observed from d1-tube-mk2, but I would imagine is a totaldac house sound. The poster above commented that microdynamics is refined. It's probably more than that. For example, it can project a tiny image of an instrument in a vast empty soundstage, but the dynamics of the instrument is not scaled down. The tiny image is fully alive and credible in dynamics and tone. And when other instrument joins, volume just keeps going up with no hesitation or confusion, until the soundstage is filled to the brim, and you see just how big the whole picture is. It's quite amazing to see in action.

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