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alistairm

Money no object digital front end

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Would love to hear the CH full lineup. I was fortunate to have the disc spinner in my system. As well as being a bit "low res" compared to the DCS (but tonally very nice), the user interface was very "gen 1" and rather clunky. For a young company they're putting out some intriguing gear though. 

They have an app being developed for iOS/Android that should be ready by now. it was quite advance in June when I saw it.

Edited by wis97non

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To the point of the thread. If I were cashed up and looking for digital front end then I wouldd start with:

The DCS as mentioned. Sounded good in the demos I have heard it. Not amazing but the conditions were not great in any. So I give it a chance.

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Accuphase. They just sound right to me. I have heard the 550 sound utterly amazing ( imaging especially) so would defiantly look up the accuphase range.

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Audio Research. I like the house sound so I would make a point to hear their DAC's.

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MBL: has the bling looks to go with a good sound.

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Meridian 818 with an MD600 for storage. A very good DAC with the bonus of the sooloos server interface

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The PSAudio perfect wave DAC also making a fuss. I don't really like the looks but worth checking out.

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The MSB may be good but I can't take the looks. Same for soulution, constellation audio, and CH.

I heard an upgraded MSB Plat stack directly against the DirectStream and these was no contest. Understandable given that its $35K vs $6K retail. The most surprising thing was how the MSB destroyed the DS in DSD!!!!! It was not pretty.

 

My friend owns 6 quality Dacs and we spent over 6 hours comparing 4 of them with 3 HP amps (2 Woo tube amps and a Sennheiser SS one) and 3 headphones. Senn HD800, HifiMan HE6 and some Stax electrostatics (cant recall the model number). All fed by a hot rodded CAPs server running Windows 2012 server R2, Audiophile Optimiser and JRiver player. Pictures here:

http://theartofsound.net/forum/showthread.php?33845-From-the-beginning/page3&highlight=alrainbow

 

It was easy to separate the Wheat from the Chaff with such a head to head setup with very revealing gear.

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It was easy to separate the Wheat from the Chaff with such a head to head setup with very revealing gear.

So can you summarise your conclusions here?

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So can you summarise your conclusions here?

Very quickly, the DS was very very poor on DSD, as if stuffing cotton balls into the headphones. The PCM was pretty good, but still far below the MSB stack in terms of resolution and a sense of ease. Perhaps not as "PCM" like though in terms of the upper mid-range harness like the MSB (which was not unpleasant - mind you).  In this case, the price difference can easily be understood, even if not justified ($35K to $6K). They sinmply are not in the same class.

 

Of the 4 Dacs you see in the picture, the MSB and Lampi are a cut above, while the DS beat the Hugo on PCM and they both were very poor with DSD (and I am being kind here).

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I am sure you have noticed the same thing that I have. Most audio engineers seem to believe that DAC's can not be improved any further except for reducing cost and increasing manufacturing efficiency, or stuffing features into DAC's that we don't need. This is why a DAP manufacturer can offer the same "high end" DAC chip as found in an Oppo player. If an audio manufacturer is supplied with such a chip, they are limited to playing around with the preamp stage or perhaps reclocking to reduce jitter. This is why most DAC's sound the same. All those audio flat earthers who say that all DAC's sound the same are right ... if their only exposure is to low end DAC's which use the same chips anyway. 

 

There ARE some DAC manufacturers (e.g. MSB, DCS, Playback Designs, Meitner) who design their own DAC's from the ground up and do not use mass market chips. I have listened to a few of these, and I can tell you that they are a completely different kettle of fish. And of these, the choice for me is easy ... if I could afford it, I would go for a full DCS stack. 

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Chord has the most bespoke converter of them all, but that alone does not mean more preferable SQ. The Aries Kassandra Dac is "big iron" and overly expensive, but that overspecced power supply will likely beat out the likes of dCS!

 

Jitter, despite the propaganda, is not the be all end all of good sound.  Jitter in PCM is not the same as in DSD (packet bursts vs continuous stream), yet I see people conflating the 2 concepts. The implementation needs a balance of all things in the build and there are MANY ways to skin the cat and all roads do lead to Rome, if you know how to follow them.

 

In the end, taste matters most of all. Some love dCS and others say its like nails in the head! Choose your poison well. LoL

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In the end, taste matters most of all. Some love dCS and others say its like nails in the head! Choose your poison well. LoL

 

Dont care about the crtics, the dCS is, nothing comes close, I know when I played my own files, wish i had cash to burn, its a no brainer.  I just wish there was a product in the market that comes close at a price i can afford.  :unsure:    But thats wishful thinking! :emot-bang:

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I imagine the Merging Nadac will be among the finer DSD converters available when it is released here. The Ravenna ethernet transfer protocol, and MassCore engine is very interesting, and robust. I expect mine in a couple weeks. I agree dCS is very transparent, but to my ears lacks an organic flow. Then again, I haven't been fortunate enough to hear the more upmarket dCS offerings lately. So I might be expressing an opinion based on a false assumption (that dCS are a tad clinical as a house sound). And of course it is difficult to compare converters unless you actually have them in your system, in which case it usually means you just prefer one type of converter in that system. Something else may be preferred in another system. I like the Emm Labs sound - alot. And its cousin Meitner. Very involving, yet transparent and with excellent dynamics.

 

The Mytek Manhattan I also own is a fine converter. Remarkable, when one considers the price. The headphone stage is quite special. The DICE controller and FW transfer protocol has more than a little to do with that, I feel.

Edited by andrew_stenhouse

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