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In search of the most Vinyl sounding DAC

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Any thoughts on which dac out there may yield and or deliver the most vinyl like experience? Ideally, I'd prefer to be under $2,500, but would consider going as high as $5,000 IF it really made a BIG difference over something under $2,500.



Jonathan[br]-------------------[br]Still finding my way, but soaking it all up like a sponge!

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things to 100 people, including warm, organic, analog, scratchy, lots of pops-n-clicks, smooth, 3D, requires flipping after 15 minutes,etc. Of course, all the positive words in that sentence would be used for almost any good DAC. Please let use know what you are looking for.


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We can recommend DACs, etc. that we prefer in our systems but it is very difficult to recommend the prefect DAC for your ears. The best approach is to try to evaluate some DACs in your system to determine which one best suits your musical taste. You will learn that DACs really do have a dramatic impact on the sound qualities and the right one for you is the one you like the best. If you are willing to spend up to $2500 you should be able to find a really good DAC. I think it might be best if you tell this forum the balance of your system and how you plan to send a signal to the DAC. With this information folks here could probably offer some excellent suggestions for you to consider.




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Yes, it is difficult to recommend one product, also every unit's performance is dependent on the system it is playing in. However, I would say that the most vinyl-sounding DAC I have heard in your price range is the Stello DA 220 MKII. In my system it was also rather dull and unengaging, though. It may have to do with break-in, and it may also be different with balanced outputs - I had to use singleended.


One thing, which I have found to be very important for ALL dacs is the quality of the power and the power supply, also for the unit that feeds the dac. This can't be stressed enough, it can really make the difference between harsh and digital-sounding and vinyl-like sound (almost ;-). Seems like vinyl is more forgiving when something in the chain isn't optimal.


All best,



i5 Macbook Pro running Roon -> Uptone Etherregen -> custom-built Win10 PC serving as endpoint, with separate LPUs for mobo and a filtering digiboard (DIY) -> Audio Note DAC 5ish (a heavily modded 3.1X Bal) -> AN Kit One, heavily modded with silver wiring and Black Gates -> AN E-SPx Alnico on Townshend speaker bars. Vicoustic and GIK treatment.

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Here's what we're dealing with:


Pre-Amp: Wyred 4 Sound STP SE

Amp: Pass Labs XA30.5 (Class A)

Speakers: Zu Essence


Sources: Apple TV streaming from Apple iTunes. Future expansion will be to include Mac mini funneling music to DAC. Discs can be played through an Oppo BDP83, which may be upgraded to a BDP83 SE.


As for vinyl ambiance, I'm looking for the slightly warming than neutral, but still natural sounding DAC. I've spoken with some about the NAIM DAC, and like what I've heard so far. I may ultimately demo it, but sitll deciding.


Since I am in the process of purchasing a Rega P9, my budget is slightly less than perhaps what others might throw money down for. But the goal is to close the gap, as much as possible, between the digital sources and vinyl.


Jonathan[br]-------------------[br]Still finding my way, but soaking it all up like a sponge!

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"But the goal is to close the gap, as much as possible, between the digital sources and vinyl".


I find the Wyred STP SE to be a wonderful pre that is a smidge slightly warmer than pure neutral (my liking). I also find the Weiss DAC2 to be there, and the combo is not too much, just magical. But that was with my Spectrons. With the also-slightly organic-to-warm Pass .5's (especially the 30) then I think you will like many DACs except, IMHO, Benchmark, Bryston and PS Audio (without their transport) and any that are siad to sound like them. they are a smidge to the left of neutral, IMHO (big generality I know) and will upset the vinyl goals of your system tone. The Metric Halo ULN-2 would be a great find, too. But don't just buy one, demo as many as possible in your own home, with your own room sounds, and your own system synergy and your own ears. Those last four variables are critically important and impossible to recreate outside your home system...impossible.


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so that you can add an M2Tech HiFace with early drivers for those nostalgic pops and ticks presented in 24/192 quality! :)


But you can also check out the Apogee range of Dacs which have a nice phat midrange, in a good way.


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Little mentioned on this forum because they are a little 'old fashioned' and lack the bells and whistles of new current designs but the valve stage output coupled with NOS design produces a gloriously 'analogue' sound.


Contrary to what my dealer believes they are not steam powered but use that new fangled device electricity!


Trying to make sense of all the bits...MacMini/Amarra -> WavIO USB to I2S -> DDDAC 1794 NOS DAC -> Active XO ->Bass Amp Avondale NCC200s, Mid/Treble Amp Sugden Masterclass -> My Own Speakers

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I'm currently listening to a new TDAC from Paul at Tube Audio Design. Setup is mac mini with Pure Music or Amarra > HIFACE > tube TDAC > solid state PBN Audio olympia mini > True Sound Works speakers.


The TDAC is a new design from Paul and I think it's very promising. I'm comparing it to two DACs 3-4X times its price that I've listened to a lot and are talked about a lot on these forums. It's almost as good.


TDAC has great vinyl tone, warmth, harmonics, the kind of varnished sound from vinyl. The weakness when compared to the other DACs is in the attack of something like a congo or tightness of bass, and it's really not far off.


I'm ordering the modified HIFACE in hopes it improves the tightness. Not much improvement is needed and if the modded HIFACE comes through as others say it does, I expect this DAC will be over the top.


Already, piano, jazz, and classical might surpass the other DACs I've listened to, I just want the extra kick when listening to my old standby, Talking Heads...


Also note that with the HIFACE this does 192KHZ and I'm experiencing that as a significant improvement so far too.


Paul is great, he's tolerated an awful lot of emails from me, with quick, informative, and patient responses. Don't be put off by the website claiming the DAC is "jitter free," I've spent enough time on this forum to read that a certain way, but the proof is in the sound and in Paul's interest in making this the best it can be.


I'll write more after I've listened some more. But I'm really pleased so far with this TDAC considering it's not yet broken in and I'm only using the stock HIFACE.


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My Audio Note Kit Dac is the most analog sounding dac! I have so many Vinyl Rips that I play through my 'puter and teh Hi-Face , the sound is like records!


Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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Anyone here have any experience with Neko Audio's D100? Certainly falls into line with some of the attributes I'm looking for. Also, I like to the 30 day trial period.


Jonathan[br]-------------------[br]Still finding my way, but soaking it all up like a sponge!

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That the Neko lists a supported sampling range of 44.1 to 192 kHz, EXCEPT that 176.4 kHz is not supported... What the ???


I only mention that because 95% of my own available hi Rez material IS 176.4. Would almost be like having a car that supports 1-5 passengers EXCEPT four passengers are not allowed, and you have a family of four....


The transformer coupled balanced output direct from the converters is a nice trick if done right; did that with Jensen transformers years ago on a DAC design I was working on. With the right transformer and circuits the PF filter is implemented pure passive.



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I read what you're saying about the 176.4, but is that original the original rate, or is it upsampled? Since MOST of what I have in digital format right now is CD or loss-less ripped CD's, then this fits nicely for me. I am still waiting for the high-end, hi-res to shake out and settle down. By then I'm sure there will be sufficient trickle down with the technology that I'll be able to easily swap out.


Jonathan[br]-------------------[br]Still finding my way, but soaking it all up like a sponge!

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It doesn't accept 176.4 kHz inputs (quad rate CD). It does accept other inputs at 44.1 (CD) through 192 kHz, though it's very vague about this- possibly just 44.1, 96, and 192. That may be a limitation of the Wolfson receiver chip and what clocks they have setup for it.


I have a lot of 176.4 kHz because many high res labels prefer that for mastering and recording as it is an integer downsample to redbook CD. In my case, it's also the optimum downsample of DSD, and I have lots of SACD albums converted to 24/176.4. So, as they sometimes say, this would be a show stopper for me.


If you just have CD, this might be a nice choice, depending on how it stacks up sonically. With a passive output stage, even with higher gain transformer, the output level is on the low side (not specified).


It would be interesting to see how this sounded with a good balanced system; for me, digital only approaches vinyl when I start to get the imaging that is possible even with as basic a setup as my Linn Itok arm and Denon DL103. This has been very difficult for any moderate priced digital to do; the least expensive DAC I've heard to do this is the Berkeley Alpha DAC, which I own now, and which I've recommended to some other vinyl people looking for a digital solution still. There are other more expensive solutions that work well, that I've heard, but all over 10K. That's why I'm quite curious to hear the Metric Halo LIO-8 which is on order. Since my home setup does involve a workstation configuration as well as a playback system that is more "pro like" than "audiophile like", the configuration of the MH LIO-8 shouldn't be a problem.


Given your specialized desires, auditioning first will be important before making a purchase decision.


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