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Hello there,

 

Some of you may remember my journey into buying a 2 channel system. I'm very happy with my purchase, however, I'm just wondering if any of you have any experience in using cheap USB DACs. 

 

As part of my Primare NP5 streamer purchase I was gifted a free three-month trial for Tidal Hi-Fi (thanks @gwurbfor bringing this to my attention). When streaming via Chromecast and Apple Airplay through the NP5 I am unable to stream Master quality (this isn't a bad thing as Hi-Fi quality is still sounding good and is better than the quality through Spotify). However, should I want to listen to Master quality albums on my MacBook through my Audiolab 6000a, what is the best way of doing this without paying too much. 

 

I was going to buy a 3.5mm to Toslink cable but then found out that my version of Mac no longer has analog/optical audio out through the headphone port (good ol' Apple). And I don't think my Galaxy Note 9 can do this through its headphone port.  I have been looking online and it looks like I could potentially run a USB - S/PDIF from my Mac to the amp. I'm assuming I can pass audio from my Mac to the amp this way.  If so, I've found the following device and was wondering if anyone here has used it before and if so will it achieve wha ti want it to?  Or are there other cheap alternatives out there? 

 

Signstek HIFI USB to Coaxial S/PDIF Converter Convert Digital to Analogue Signal Mini USB DAC PCM

 

If I were to use this one would the DAC in my amp be used for the audio and not the DAC in the device? 

 

The other alternative is to get a jack to RCA cable and plug my Note 9 to the amp that way. I'm guessing this would affect the quality of the music, or am I wrong here? 

 

Many thanks 

 

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All of the sample rate and bit depth information is for the audio/signal when it is in the digital form. Once it's in analogue form don't think of it in terms of sample rate and bit depth.   To

NBN Don’t get me started!!!!!

Have you received your Meizu HiFi Pro? If so how are you finding it? I ended up buying a preloved Schiit Modi 3.  I’m looking forward to testing it out.

One of the cheapest but reasonable ways to get USB to optical is Topping D10. It also gives an option for coaxial out or RCA out.

 

If you have optical or coax input to the integrated amp then the DAC in the integrated amp will be used.

 

3.5mm stereo to RCA can be hit and miss. It can pick up a lot of noise or it may be ok. If given the choice I always vote optical over 3.5mm.

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Thanks @gwurb. I thought that was the case regarding the DAC but I thought I'd check - I'm pretty green when it comes to this stuff. 

 

I'm going to order a $15 3.55mm to Toslink to see if I can use my phone or tablet to stream Master titles and connect to the amp. If that doesn't work then I may need to consider the Topping D10 - it is on my list to consider. 

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2 minutes ago, YippeKiYay said:

I'm going to order a $15 3.55mm to Toslink to see if I can use my phone or tablet to stream Master titles and connect to the amp.

Are you looking at something like this?

https://www.jaycar.com.au/1m-mini-3-5mm-toslink-to-toslink-optical-cable/p/WQ7310?utm_campaign=redirect&utm_source=WQ7310r&utm_medium=web

 

Your Macbook would work with it if it can output optical from its 3.5mm out port.

 

Another option could be something like:

https://www.storedj.com.au/behringer-u-control-uca202-usb-audio-interface

I've never tried it so can't comment on its quality.

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1 minute ago, gwurb said:

Are you looking at something like this?

https://www.jaycar.com.au/1m-mini-3-5mm-toslink-to-toslink-optical-cable/p/WQ7310?utm_campaign=redirect&utm_source=WQ7310r&utm_medium=web

 

Your Macbook would work with it if it can output optical from its 3.5mm out port.

 

Another option could be something like:

https://www.storedj.com.au/behringer-u-control-uca202-usb-audio-interface

I've never tried it so can't comment on its quality.

That's exactly what I'm looking for. Apparently Apple removed the function of outputting audio through the 3.5mm port. I have a 2016 MacBook model and only models from 2013 to 2015 could do this. I'll give it a try anyway when I receive the cable. 

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32 minutes ago, YippeKiYay said:

That's exactly what I'm looking for. Apparently Apple removed the function of outputting audio through the 3.5mm port. I have a 2016 MacBook model and only models from 2013 to 2015 could do this. I'll give it a try anyway when I receive the cable. 

Yeah, none of the aluminium MacBooks had optical digital audio, the last ones were the polycarbonate ones (late 2010). The last of the MacBook Pros with optical digital audio were the 2015 models. None of the MacBook Airs ever had optical digital audio.

 

That Behringer device only goes to 48kHz, probably not enough for what you’re trying to do. I’ve got one similar to that, called Edirol UA-1EX, that does 96kHz. But I’d seriously be looking at the Topping D10, like @gwurb suggested.

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2 minutes ago, Steffen said:

That Behringer device only goes to 48kHz, probably not enough for what you’re trying to do. I’ve got one similar to that, called Edirol UA-1EX, that does 96kHz.

Good pick up on the 48kHz! My bad. The Behringer will be a bottleneck for Tidal Masters.

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Yeah, I'm going to see if the 3.5mm to toslink will work using my phone or tablet to stream Tidal masters. If not, I won't be  rushing in to buying new equipment just yet as I am more than happy with the quality of streaming at HiFi quality. 

 

Thank you both for your input.

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I bought the Topping D10 for $130 off Amazon for casual audio from my PC via USB, best thing I did.

I have now put my Pass ACA class A power amp and 1970 Wharfedale full range speakers to good use.

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1 hour ago, Pallydou said:

How much is your budget? Do you accept second hand items? Is DSD a must for your music journey?

Really all I need is a simple DAC that I can use to pass audio from my MacBook, phone or tablet (when streaming Tidal Masters) to my Audiolab 6000a that will allow me to play songs at 16-24 bit/96-192kHz.  So I wouldn't want to spend more than $150 if I can help it. I'm happy to go second hand as long as it is in a good condition. DSD would be good but not a must at this stage - I'm happy with FLAC. 

 

I have a Primare NP5 streamer but I cannot stream Tidal Masters through this, it only plays HiFi version (which is still an improvement on Spotify). I can use the bluetooth on the Audiolab 6000a when streaming Tidal Masters on my phone, but I'm pretty sure I'm only getting 16bit/44kHz through bluetooth. 

 

 

 

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Just now, pwstereo said:

What about those Audioquest Dragonfly USB DACs?

The Black is only just above your budget and Im always seeing good reviews for them.

https://www.audioquest.com/dacs/dragonfly/dragonfly-black

https://addictedtoaudio.com.au/products/audioquest-dragonfly-black-dac-amp

I was considering one of these. Would I just connect a 3.5mm to toslink (or can you use a coaxial cable?) into the headphone port and my amp and it will do what I want?  

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12 minutes ago, YippeKiYay said:

I was considering one of these. Would I just connect a 3.5mm to toslink (or can you use a coaxial cable?) into the headphone port and my amp and it will do what I want?  

As far as I'm aware the 3.5mm output is at headphone/line level. It's an analogue audio output.

They're made as portable headphone DAC Amps, but I think it would work for any sort of computer USB DAC role. They are very capable going on the specs.

 

From the Audioquest page I linked to:

  • Drives headphones directly
  • Fixed output feeds preamp or AV receiver
Edited by pwstereo
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I shall mention the D10 once again, USB input only and also takes its power from the USB connection.

 

RCAs out too.

Edited by Batty
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2 hours ago, Batty said:

I shall mention the D10 once again, USB input only and also takes its power from the USB connection.

 

RCAs out too.

Again, the D10 is on my list. I'm just curious to see what else is out there. 

 

But it sounds like there are a lot of fake D10s now flooding Amazon. There's a whole thread on audioscience. In summary it looks like Topping stopped providing products to a distributor (Aimpire). Allegedly, this company has since gone on to flood Amazon with devices that look remarkable similar (even stickers are added to the box stating it is a Topping D10) but the components inside are not the same.  It looks like people have received these dodgy DACs even though Amazon claimed they were the Topping D10. 

 

So, if anyone has a legit Topping D10 for sale on here I'd happily snap it up. I don't fancy going through the hassle of waiting weeks for a device and potentially having to deal with a return through Amazon if I get sent a dodgy version. 

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1 hour ago, YippeKiYay said:

Again, the D10 is on my list. I'm just curious to see what else is out there. 

 

But it sounds like there are a lot of fake D10s now flooding Amazon. There's a whole thread on audioscience. In summary it looks like Topping stopped providing products to a distributor (Aimpire). Allegedly, this company has since gone on to flood Amazon with devices that look remarkable similar (even stickers are added to the box stating it is a Topping D10) but the components inside are not the same.  It looks like people have received these dodgy DACs even though Amazon claimed they were the Topping D10. 

 

So, if anyone has a legit Topping D10 for sale on here I'd happily snap it up. I don't fancy going through the hassle of waiting weeks for a device and potentially having to deal with a return through Amazon if I get sent a dodgy version. 

So how do you tell the difference?

 

I purchased this

https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B07CYRRV1K/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

I've also purchased another item (not Topping) from the same seller and that seems ok too. If there is a way to check if its legit then I would be interested.

 

Edit:

That seller is listed as Authorised Amazon seller by Topping

http://www.tpdz.net/amazon

Anything else to check if its legitimate?

Edited by gwurb
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20 hours ago, gwurb said:

Are you looking at something like this?

https://www.jaycar.com.au/1m-mini-3-5mm-toslink-to-toslink-optical-cable/p/WQ7310?utm_campaign=redirect&utm_source=WQ7310r&utm_medium=web

 

Your Macbook would work with it if it can output optical from its 3.5mm out port.

 

Another option could be something like:

https://www.storedj.com.au/behringer-u-control-uca202-usb-audio-interface

I've never tried it so can't comment on its quality.

The Behringer is said to measure phenomenally well.  

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12 minutes ago, DEANO23 said:

The Behringer is said to measure phenomenally well.  

Got a link for those phenomenal measurements?

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51 minutes ago, gwurb said:

So how do you tell the difference?

 

I purchased this

https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B07CYRRV1K/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

I've also purchased another item (not Topping) from the same seller and that seems ok too. If there is a way to check if its legit then I would be interested.

 

Edit:

That seller is listed as Authorised Amazon seller by Topping

http://www.tpdz.net/amazon

Anything else to check if its legitimate?

As long as your device has the Topping logo on. Some of the ads people linked to had the device listed as  a Topping or very close but when you checked the picture it had Aimpire on the device and not Topping. Sometimes it is easy to pick but other listings had Topping as the seller and the device still showed the device as being an Aimpire product but not Topping. 

 

So this is the first item Amazon gives me when I search https://www.amazon.com.au/Decoder-Amplifier-TOPPING-ES9018K2M-OPA2134/dp/B07B46KQVP. The picture shows the device as being an Aimpire but sold by Topping. Although Topping no longer uses Aimpire as an authorised seller. Apparently some other listings posing to be updated device includes a picture of an Aimpire device sitting on a Topping device - very sneaky. 

 

I have found one that has the Topping device image and sold buy Topping, but again not sure I should pull the trigger and buy it as others have received dodgy devices even when the page shows the Topping device.

 

The thread on Audioscience is here.

 

 

 

Edited by YippeKiYay
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Mine looks ok from the outside. It took a while to ship but is working fine. The other item also looks ok from the outside. The seller also followed up the delivery with a query to check that everything was ok.

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19 minutes ago, gwurb said:

Mine looks ok from the outside. It took a while to ship but is working fine. The other item also looks ok from the outside. The seller also followed up the delivery with a query to check that everything was ok.

As long as your device says it is a Topping you're fine. As far as I can tell the other company has always branded the fake devices with Aimpire. 

 

Well, I decided to order mine from an authorised dealer so fingers crossed I get what I ordered. I'm sure I will as none of the images showed an Aimpire device. 

Edited by YippeKiYay
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I posted a question on Amazon as to why it was being sold as a Topping.

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I will happily recommend the Schiit Modi 3. Good reviews, measures very well on ASR, and to my ears sounds great! Gives you three inputs over the D10’s one. They are a bit pricier new, $260 through A2A, would be cheaper direct from USA but then you don’t get warranty. Or look out for a cheap one second hand.

 

Cheers,

Andrew

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41 minutes ago, Batty said:

I posted a question on Amazon as to why it was being sold as a Topping.

I'm not sure they will respond.

 

According to the thread from the other forum I posted. The listing gets linked to Topping due to some algorithm on their end. Not sure how true that is though. Apparently a user who received the wrong device posted a negative review on the item and Amazon removed it. 

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6 minutes ago, gwurb said:

But no optical output...

Valid point! If you want a device to keep it all digital and use the audiolabs inbuilt dac then the D10 is your guy. You’ll just have to roll the dice with the knock offs. If you want a decent cheap dac then look at the modi 3 to run into one of the analogue inputs. 

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22 minutes ago, gwurb said:

But no optical output...

What impact does analog output have on audio quality. Would it still pass Tidal Masters at the 24 bit/ 96 kHz or will it play as HiFi quality as it does when streaming through the Primare NP5? 

 

Also, how does one test the bit depth and sample rate? I'm guessing one would need various devices hooked up to determine this. 

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1 hour ago, YippeKiYay said:

What impact does analog output have on audio quality. Would it still pass Tidal Masters at the 24 bit/ 96 kHz or will it play as HiFi quality as it does when streaming through the Primare NP5? 

 

Also, how does one test the bit depth and sample rate? I'm guessing one would need various devices hooked up to determine this. 

All of the sample rate and bit depth information is for the audio/signal when it is in the digital form. Once it's in analogue form don't think of it in terms of sample rate and bit depth.
 

To get Tidal masters to be played at the speaker you need the following:

1. MQA decoding

2. Digital to analogue conversion 

3. Amplification of the analogue audio

4. Output to speaker

 

In your current situation you have Macbook doing step 1. Step 2 right now is being done by your MacBook and you have considered sending the analogue audio from 3.5mm Macbook jack to integrated amplifier. Step 3 is being done by your integrated amplifier. Step 4 is being done by your analogue amplifier.

 

If you connect a DAC to your MacBook via USB then there are two things that can happen. If the DAC output is RCA then the DAC will do step 2 and send analogue audio to your integrated amp and the rest is as described in above paragraph. If the DAC acts as a converter and either coax or optical output is used to connect to your integrated amp then the DAC simply changes how the audio signal is being sent in its digital form (instead of USB cable and protocols it is changed to send via coax or optical). Step 2 is then done by your integrated amplifier and so are steps 3 and 4.

 

DACs do make a difference to sound (at least they do to me) so if you like your integrated amplifier DAC or another DAC will determine where you prefer step 2. 
 

To maintain Masters quality the goal is not to have a downgrade in the digital sample rate and bit depth. If you get a DAC that doesn't lower those between the MacBook and digital to analogue conversion then you have Masters output at that stage. MacBook to Topping D10 via USB then to RCA is ok. MacBook to Topping D10 via USB then to your integrated amp via optical is ok. Some DACs will take the data, down sample it and convert it to analogue at lower bit depth and sample rate, which means Masters benefits have disappeared. Note that your integrated amp and D10 DAC chip are almost the same but the implementation probably is not the same.
 

The other thing you need to keep in mind is that once the audio is in analogue form it still needs to get to your speaker and along the way it can be degraded. No point in having great digital fidelity to then ruin the audio once it's analogue. Noise and distortion (in its various forms) will ruin the analogue audio. Noise can be introduced in cables, in amplification stages, in interconnects. I prefer to have the best possible digital audio sent as close as it can be to amplification. For me that would mean sending the audio to your integrated amplifier via optical. If your integrated amplifier digital to analogue conversion wasn't great then I would get good RCA cables between the DAC and integrated amp analogue inputs, and I would live with any noise that is introduced along the cable. The problem with 3.5mm to RCA adapter is that it's an extra interconnect to pick up noise.

 

Some DACs show the sample rate and bit depth that they are processing. It has been a long time since I've used a Mac for audio but Windows have settings to choose what the PC will output in terms of bit depth and sample rate. After that you need to rely on your DAC display, or as you mentioned other equipment yet you mostly care about what is happening at step 2 so the DAC is what you care most about for bit depth and sample rate information. 

Edited by gwurb
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Thanks @gwurbthat clears things up. I'm pretty new to this as you can probably tell. 

 

According to Tidal, Masters are streamed at 24 bit / 96 kHz. I can set audio settings in my MacBook to 24 bit / 96kHz (the highest settings available). So as long as any DAC I buy doesn't go below these settings I should be able to connect it to my integrated amp either using RCA cables or toslink/coaxial and benefit from Tidal Masters. 

 

If that is correct then does it mean I can buy a portable DAC that does 24 bit / 96 kHz so I can make the most of my Sony wh-1000xm3 when on the move, and as a DAC between the Mac and amp? 

 

There's the AudioQuest Dragonfly black that says the fixed output feeds preamp or AV receiver, which as far as my knowledge goes will be fine as I use the Audiolab in the integrated mode. 

 

Or there's the Fiio EK10 which has a coaxial output and headphone port. This is limited to 24 Bit / 96 kHz so there's no room to move. 

 

Thanks again for your advice and I'm sorry for the extra question, but I just want to make sure my understanding of all this is correct before buying something that may not solve my problem. 

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2 hours ago, gwurb said:

Looks pretty sad, though it is an extremely cheap device. The laptop built-in DAC outperformed it, and those are commodity off the shelf bargain basement components so that's a pretty low bar.

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On 10/06/2020 at 12:55 PM, YippeKiYay said:

 

Signstek HIFI USB to Coaxial S/PDIF Converter Convert Digital to Analogue Signal Mini USB DAC PCM

 

If I were to use this one would the DAC in my amp be used for the audio and not the DAC in the device?

 

Hi there Yippe...

 

I have that DAC.

You could ditch both the analog outputs and just use it for its toslink / coax output (max bit rate unsure).  All the outputs are active concurrently.

The DAC does not do much beyond 16/44 for its analog output.

 

There is a write up on it on the audiocircircle forums.

Edited by keinesorge
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11 hours ago, YippeKiYay said:

According to Tidal, Masters are streamed at 24 bit / 96 kHz. I can set audio settings in my MacBook to 24 bit / 96kHz (the highest settings available). So as long as any DAC I buy doesn't go below these settings I should be able to connect it to my integrated amp either using RCA cables or toslink/coaxial and benefit from Tidal Masters. 

 

If that is correct then does it mean I can buy a portable DAC that does 24 bit / 96 kHz so I can make the most of my Sony wh-1000xm3 when on the move, and as a DAC between the Mac and amp? 

You are correct in the understanding. You can use a portable DAC between Macbook and integrated amp.

 

Do you have a phone that has 3.5mm headphone out? If you do then try the following:

Buy a 3.5mm to RCA cable.

Connect your phone's 3.5mm out to your integrated amp RCA line level in.

Don's play anything on your phone but have the phone input selected on the integrated amp. Have your phone volume set to full.

Slowly turn up the volume on the integrated amp and listen if you can hear any noise coming from the speakers.

Turn the volume back down on the integrated amp.

Connect your phone to your MacBook via USB.

Repeat the volume up and listen for noise. Listen if it sounds different to when you did not have the phone connected to MacBook.

Turn the volume down on the integrated amp.

Change the integrated amp to optical input (even if nothing is connected).

Repeat the volume up and listen and volume down, and note your findings.

Is your Primare or CD player connected to your amp via RCA? If so repeat the process with one of those but remember not to have anything playing.

 

After you do that then let us know your findings. It will be easier to discuss DAC options based on what you find with above.

 

A cheap but decent 3.5mm to RCA cable recommendation:

https://www.amazon.com.au/Monoprice-Premium-3-5mm-Stereo-Plated/dp/B002K8A75I/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=monoprice%2B3.5mm%2Bto%2Brca&qid=1591919751&sr=8-3&th=1&psc=1
 

 

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Hey @gwurb

 

I just ran your tests and the results are as follows.

 

Connect your phone's 3.5mm out to your integrated amp RCA line level in (I plugged into the Aux 1 input). Nothing was playing on the phone. The phone volume was set to full. I couldn't hear any noise from the speakers as I increased the sound. 

Connect your phone to your MacBook via USB. Repeat the volume up and listen for noise. There was no noise coming from the speakers here either. 

Change the integrated amp to optical input (even if nothing is connected). Repeat the volume up and listen and volume down, and note your findings.  Again, there was no noise coming from the speaker.

Is your Primare or CD player connected to your amp via RCA? If so repeat the process with one of those but remember not to have anything playing. They are both connect via coaxial. I decided to connect the MacBook via RCA using the headphone port and no noise came from the speakers. 

 

I'm now streaming a Tidal Masters album on my phone and listening through the amp via RCA to see if I can hear any difference versus streaming through the Primare. 

 

EDIT: It's sounding fine using the RCA, however, I am having to turn may phone volume all the way up and increasing the volume on the amp more than I would streaming through the Primare. I was going to try streaming through the Primare, but it has been playing up the last couple of nights it keeps stuttering. This is more than likely down to my poor internet (yes, I am on the NBN but you wouldn't think so). 

 

cheers 

Edited by YippeKiYay
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So according to your test 3.5mm to RCA is fine with your equipment. So you have a wide selection of DACs.

 

If you want a portable DAC and your price limit is $150 then Dragonfly Black seems a reasonable choice.

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      It was originally built in mid-2014 and then with Clay until I bought it in mid-2018. The Konverter has been part of my system ever since while a number of other DACs came and went.
      Amazing Gieseler quality one of a kind DAC with some added tube goodness. Exceptional build quality and very high spec components – this was originally going to retail for around the $6,000 mark. Almost perfect combination of detail retrieval, musicality and tube-flavour of choice, which is why I kept coming back to this over and over again.
       
      EOI at this stage, as this is one of the very few items I believe I might regret selling. House renos are imminent and I need to simplify system and get rid of some gear.
       
      Link to Clay’s original for sale add with a lot more detail and some additional photos:
      https://www.stereo.net.au/forums/topic/249039-sold-gieseler-konverter-dac-original-tube-version/?tab=comments#comment-3927621
       
      Quote from a PM that Clay sent to when giving the Konverter a final test-run before sending it:
      “I compared it to a Gross DAC & was quite surprised with the result. I was expecting more detail from the Gross but it was the other way round. Bottom end was similar on both DAC’s - maybe a fraction tighter on the Gross but not much in it.”
       
      I had one issue with the Konverter a couple of months after buying it. The LDR/optical volume system was drifting out of balance favouring the left channel. Initially adjusted back with the balance trimmer on the PCB inside the Konverter with Clay’s remote support, but kept drifting out of balance. New Optos were ordered from the US, matched and installed by Terry Demole (zenelectro here on SNA) in Sydney with some remote assistance provided by Clay. Problem resolved and no issues in the 2 years since.
       
      The DAC comes with several tubes that I used over the years, so you have a good range of different “flavours” to experiment with:
      1.      Genalex Gold Lion E88CC (this was the original tube it came with)
      2.      Philips NOS PCC88 (provided by Clay as an option)
      3.      Amperex 6922 US Pinched Waist D Getter PQ 1959 (my favourite)
      4.      Siemens E88CC grey shield 1966
      5.      Telefunken E88CC 1968
       
      Any questions, please ping me a PM or ask here.
       
      I am very reluctant to post this – not due to weight but rather due to potential damage in transit, so pick-up only at the moment. I can deliver within Greater Sydney if required and pre-arranged. No in-home auditions at this stage – sorry.
       
      Cheers,
      Ralf











    • By peppy
      Item: AUDIO GD
      R27
      R28
      D27
      D28
       
      Any of the above All in One models.
      Price Range: Nego
      Item Condition: New or Used
      Extra Info: I am based in Sydney . Can cover postage
       
      Please don't forget to report your post as FOUND when possible. (You can now delete this text).



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