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Lindemann and/or Blacknote DAC experience -now with quick review of DAC30-


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Hello,

 

In my search for the best price/performance (emphasis on absolute performance) on DAC´s, i´ve so far shortlisted the Ayre QB9, the PS Audio PW DAC, the AR DAC8 and the W4S DAC 2...

 

But it seems new contenders are appearing weekly, now recently two new ones that need to be auditioned, the first because of the company´s reputation for clean, transparent sound and the second one for being a tubed design.

 

If there´s anyone here who has any experience with these, i´d really appreciate Your comments:

 

Lindemann USB-DAC: http://www.lindemann-audio.de/en/products/small_utilities/usb-dac-24-192/

 

Blacknote DAC30: http://www.blacknote.eu/products/dac30.php

 

Best regards,

 

RKL

 

iMac / Puremusic -> Classé CP-800 -> Pass X350.5 -> Montana XPS Signature / Montana SSW

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I´ve now spent a few days with the Blacknote DAC30, with the following setup:

 

- USB in (iMac running PureMusic)

- Volume control bypass

 

My expectations beforehand were a bit mixed, i was expecting warm(ish) tonal balance + a pleasant and "easy" overall sound (italian-made with tubes, what else...?).

 

Even with this limited-time experience and despite the DAC only being broken-in for 20+ hours, i got something completely different. The DAC30 sounds nothing like what You´d expect from "italian with tubes".

 

The sound is delightfully detailed and airy, coupled with a soundstage depth that beats most of the digital front ends I´ve had in my system. At the same time, the midrange has a certain fullness which prevents things from sounding too digital. Transient response and dynamics are simply excellent, with eg. sharp plucking of guitar strings rendered believably both in terms of the initial "twang" and the natural decay of the sound (example Private Investigations from "Love over Gold", Dire Straits). Drums and cymbals have all the required impact (unforgiving on bad recordings) coupled with the nuances that make it sound "real" (the drumstick hitting the skin/rim/cymbal), which tend to get lost with lesser machines.

 

Compared to my previous cd rig (Audionet ART G2 + EPS power source), the iMac/DAC30 sounds more detailed, more transparent, more dynamic and more natural. There might be a slight loss of the finest details in the highest frequencies, but this might be attributed to the lack of break-in. Also, while the DAC30 clearly has better bass resolution, the Audionet might have had a bit better "grip". This is all with 16/44.1 material.

 

The other point of comparison is the highly regarded Ayre QB9 that I had in the system a week back. In my own subjective view (and in my system, mind You), the DAC30 performs better in most regards.

 

In terms of overall neutrality, the Ayre might have been a bit better, but it also tended to get a bit too "polite" overall, compared to the more "snappy" and forward character of the DAC30 (which I prefer). The Ayre was also a bit more dry in the lower register. BUT on most other parameters, i preferred the DAC30 - more air, much more transparency, better resolution of detail, better midrange presence, deeper and more expansive soundstage. And despite the bass being a bit softer, it still had more nuances than the Ayre presented. Dynamics (both macro- and micro) and transient response were better with the DAC30.

 

Caveats? Well some; first of all, the display doesn´t show the incoming frequency when using USB. This was initially very confusing as the display reads "fs.44.100" despite PureMusic putting out 24/96 or 24/192. I checked with the factory, when using USB the display is actually showing the frequency on the "digital out", instead of the frequency currently being received. So it will adapt (and play, uncompressed) to any signal coming in automatically...with any other digital input the display will show the correct sampling rate .

 

The other thing is the slightly flimsy feel of the two pushbuttons on the front of the unit, given the otherwise high level of build quality.

 

I wasn´t very familiar with the Blacknote brand until now, but i´ve cetrainly been very impressed. The DAC30 is currently a strong no.1 contender on my DAC (very) shortlist.

 

I can only speak for myself and i´ve only listened to my own system, but if You´re looking for a very high-quality DAC You should definitely give this one a try.

 

I´ll keep updating when i move onwards in the dac-jungle...

 

Br,

 

RKL

 

PS. The Lindemann, despite the website talking about a "fully balanced output stage" didn´t have XLR outputs, so I never got around to auditioning it...

 

iMac / Puremusic -> Classé CP-800 -> Pass X350.5 -> Montana XPS Signature / Montana SSW

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