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post #1 of 51 Old 01-03-2007, 09:57 AM - Thread Starter
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i am interested in getting a dac for my soon to arrive olive music server. i want one that is above all, musical. i also would prefer a tube dac so i can alter the sound a bit from tube rolling. what would you all recomment? i am open to all sugestions, so go crazy.

i have reading about the following:

dodson 263/ 217mk2d
sonic frontiers sft 2 mk3
audio note 2.1x balanced
benchmark

i would like to stay under $2500 on the used market, and perfer if it had balanced outputs. thanks.

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post #2 of 51 Old 01-03-2007, 11:40 AM
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I am a fan (and a dealer) of the Dodson, so that's where my preference is for the ones you list. And among those, I am of the opinion that the Benchmark doesn't belong in that group in terms of overall performance, particularly if you are considering tube-based DACs...

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post #3 of 51 Old 01-03-2007, 11:53 AM - Thread Starter
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hey thanks. can you elaborate on the "sound" of this dac. also, any experience with the benchmark personally?

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post #4 of 51 Old 01-03-2007, 12:52 PM
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I know it's a bit cliche, but the Dodson "sound" is one that strives for an analog sound; a smooth "liquid" sound with good speed and extension. It does tend to emphasize musicality over micro-detail. My only qualm with the 263 is that it is a little lacking in terms of presenting spacial cues...it doesn't provide the same front-to-back depth that some other DACs in its price range does. I'd almost compare it to sounding like a Naim cd player. And fwiw, I've not spent much time with the 217mkII (only at CES in the Hovland room a couple of times), but Ralph Dodson tells me he thinks the 263 is better than the 217mkI.

I had the Benchmark DAC1 in my system for about 3 weeks to evaluate whether I wanted to become a dealer for it. In my system, I liked its speed/PRaT, but found it to sound a little too edgy for my personal taste...and eventually went with the Bel Canto DAC2 in that price range (unfortunately, Bel Canto discontinued te DAC2 three months after I became a dealer for them, so I still don't have a DAC in that price range...!). For what its worth, I've been told that Benchmark has revised the DAC1 a little bit since I demoed it. And perhaps in the right system, its strengths may be more suitable and its weaknesses less prominant.

Hope this helps...

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post #5 of 51 Old 01-03-2007, 01:35 PM - Thread Starter
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yeah, it seems the benchmark is either a hit or miss. i reviewed it on aa and found that some members loved it, while others found it too aggressive. i guess it is very picky with system synergy to sound its best. the price is quite good considering it has balanced outs, etc. so that is what lead me to it, plus a lot of talk about it. the dodson seems like a nice piece as well, given its price i would like to audition it only there is on one in my area that is a dealer. if the 217mk2 is better than the 263, i may try it out, unless of course i find a 218 for a very very good price.

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post #6 of 51 Old 01-03-2007, 04:25 PM - Thread Starter
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on a side note, can any of these dacs be used to control a dvd player? i currently only use 2 channels for my home theatre and i usually have the dvd player convert the 5.1 into the 2 fronts channels. if i use a dac, is it still doable?

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post #7 of 51 Old 01-03-2007, 05:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony A. View Post

on a side note, can any of these dacs be used to control a dvd player? i currently only use 2 channels for my home theatre and i usually have the dvd player convert the 5.1 into the 2 fronts channels. if i use a dac, is it still doable?

As long as you can set the DVD to output PCM (instead of Dolby Digital or DTS), it is doable. Most DVD players have this ability (I do this in my 2-channel AV system with a Sony S7700 DVD player and a Bel Canto DAC3)...

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post #8 of 51 Old 01-05-2007, 03:17 PM - Thread Starter
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cool thanks. perhaps i can have a more nejoyable "theater" experience if i add the dac to my dvd player. will definately try it out. i am going to try a benchmark dac first (home demo) and then gradually "step up" to the other dacs before i commit on which one to buy. i think this will give me a good idea of what each one has to offer, from "cheapest" to "most expensive".


does anyone have any experience with sonic frontiers or audio note dacs? i am very interested in these as well.

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post #9 of 51 Old 01-07-2007, 12:14 PM
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You should conider the Lavry DA10 DAC on your list. There's been lots of favorable reviews in comparison to the Benchmark.

http://www.lavryengineering.com

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post #10 of 51 Old 01-11-2007, 10:51 AM
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Can't comment with regard to the Dodson - haven't heard it. But compared to the other 3 you listed, the MHDT Labs Paradesia is IMO far preferable and far more musical. It's not the n'th degree in detail but is very good top to bottom tonally and musically.

I personally have one and know several other people who have sold their high $$$ DACs to pick up this little gem.

Bryan

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post #11 of 51 Old 01-12-2007, 06:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilNYC View Post

...eventually went with the Bel Canto DAC2 in that price range...


hey phil, how would you compare the dac3 to the dodson? would you say it is more musical? any info/comparisons would be great, this dac has intrigued me and the price is pretty good (and its size!!!). thanks.

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post #12 of 51 Old 01-12-2007, 08:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony A. View Post

hey phil, how would you compare the dac3 to the dodson? would you say it is more musical? any info/comparisons would be great, this dac has intrigued me and the price is pretty good (and its size!!!). thanks.

While I think both are more musical than they are analytical, I think the Dodson 263 is more musical than the Bel Canto DAC3. The DAC3, on the other hand, offers significantly more in terms of producing "holography", image seperation, and soundstage depth...a "cleaner" sound, but once again, not analytical.

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post #13 of 51 Old 01-14-2007, 09:25 AM - Thread Starter
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a local dealer has also suggested for me to look into the accustic arts dac 1mk4. anyone have experience with this guy, or any of products from this german company?

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post #14 of 51 Old 01-14-2007, 10:21 AM
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Hey some of the best sounding audio at the Venetian was with the Esoteric po3- Po2 feeding an AR amp and Watt Puppies.


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post #15 of 51 Old 01-14-2007, 04:07 PM - Thread Starter
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i believe you, the esoteric separated are amazing, but a little over my head in price.

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post #16 of 51 Old 01-15-2007, 07:22 PM - Thread Starter
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the more people i talk to who have heard the accustic arts dac say it is among the top dacs available. i found a local dealer who is willing to let me "audition" it along with the matching preamp. i may sell my aesthetix if this unit gives me equal or better performance but without the "tube rolling" headaches. i must have about $1.5k right now just in tubes alone for that unit. will keep everyone updated. my music server is getting broken in as we speak, so a little while longer and i can finally try out all these dacs.

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post #17 of 51 Old 01-17-2007, 05:43 PM - Thread Starter
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the aa pre and dac are in my house as we speak. i have hooked up the pre and so far it is sounding waaaaay nice. i may end up keeping it and selling the aesthetix. as always, (since it is ss) tubes will always have the last word in "realism" but this unit is so natural that i am listening to the music and not the "details". i played already a few of my test cd's and they all sounded superb. dead on imaging and sounstage, excellent musicality and very very non-fatiguing. i gues the word im looking for is completely natural. nothing stands out, it sounds quite close to vinyl if i may say.

and i haven't even hooked up the dac yet..... time to log off and go listen!!!!

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post #18 of 51 Old 01-28-2007, 08:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilNYC View Post

As long as you can set the DVD to output PCM (instead of Dolby Digital or DTS), it is doable. Most DVD players have this ability (I do this in my 2-channel AV system with a Sony S7700 DVD player and a Bel Canto DAC3)...



another thing i just thought of. since i don't have a prepro, what can i do for bass management if i output the dvd signal to the dac? i usually bump up the bass a few notches for my ht setup to get more rumble, but it seems this is imposiible if i use an external dac. any ideas?

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post #19 of 51 Old 03-13-2007, 04:55 AM - Thread Starter
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just an update to this thread, i auditioned the audio note 2.1 sig and found it to be, well, not for me. it really didn't do anything for me. i guess one can say it was "neutral" but it really did not sound at all different from my cheapie cdp. i am looking for above all, musicality in a dac. so, the audio note is out. my next dacs to consider are:

mhdt paradisea
lavry dac10
bel canto dac3
dodson
sonic frontiers
accustic arts dac 4

still have a long way to go since i just sold my amp and waiting for a new one to "arrive". the mhdt paradisea got a lot of raves from the audiocircle forum. everyone favors its musicality, so i may try it out and see how it does. for $500 bucks, how much can i possibly lose by reselling if its not for me?

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post #20 of 51 Old 03-13-2007, 06:26 AM
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Just got it, but I'm really liking the EMM DAC2SE. It's resolved and musically rich.


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post #21 of 51 Old 03-13-2007, 07:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bpape View Post

Can't comment with regard to the Dodson - haven't heard it. But compared to the other 3 you listed, the MHDT Labs Paradesia is IMO far preferable and far more musical. It's not the n'th degree in detail but is very good top to bottom tonally and musically.

I personally have one and know several other people who have sold their high $$$ DACs to pick up this little gem.

Bryan


I agree. Very, very nice DAC for $500. It was "this close" (thumb and forefinger 1" apart) to my current CDP in sound at 3x the list.
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post #22 of 51 Old 03-13-2007, 10:51 AM
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Anthony, what were your thought on the Accustic Arts DAC4 ?

Another cheap DAC that has received a bit of chatter is the latest Monarchy DAC24.
This still uses the "old" Burr-Brown PCM63P-K DAC with a tubed output stage, and also has a built-in a tubed pre-amp stage with volume control.
You can use the DAC24 solely as a DAC with tubed output stage, or as a combo of DAC with tubed output mated to a tubed pre-amp and volume control.

Even though the PCM63P-K DAC is "old", it is still one of the best measuring DACs even by todays standards, IIRC.

http://www.monarchyaudio.com/

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post #23 of 51 Old 03-13-2007, 03:13 PM - Thread Starter
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andy i actually have not yet heard the dac4 in my system. i heard it today briefly in a dealers system using martin logan summits and running on mcintosh 275 tube amp. my initial impressions is that it is very smooth and definately analog like. the mcintosh is soo different than my pass, that it was really hard to say the extent of its benefits. i compared it briefly to the wadia 302 cdp and it smoked it, imo. i will try to get my hands on it in the next little while, as soon as i have my amp broken in. the monarchy looks pretty good, i always liked bb for their dacs... warm sound and never aggressive. i will research this little guy a bit and try to have him in my system as well.

just to recap, in the next month or so, i will audition the following dacs in my system:

accustic arts dac4
bel canto dac3
blue circle 501
lavry 10
and hopefully get a paradisea to try as well

will keep you all posted.

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post #24 of 51 Old 03-14-2007, 09:21 PM
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PS Audio Digital Link III DAC should be on that list also. I had demoed it in my system and I thought it was astonishing throughout whatever I find important in music reproduction. I ordered one.... and since returning the demo unit, I havent listened to my system critically anymore since I'm waiting on my PS Audio DAC and know how much better it can sound.

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Working on the analog system...
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post #25 of 51 Old 03-15-2007, 02:25 PM - Thread Starter
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please post additional comments when you get it settled into your system. a brief review would be great for all of us.

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post #26 of 51 Old 03-15-2007, 07:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony A. View Post

please post additional comments when you get it settled into your system. a brief review would be great for all of us.

I had it in my system for over a week.... and I'm very familiary with my system, so the difference I heard was very easy to pick out, without even trying. Even if I tried, I couldn't NOT hear the difference. I'll write a review when I have the time.

But, the DAC is a great improvement for me coming from a stock SB3 analog outs.

System:
SB3 -> PS Audio Digital III DAC -> Cary Audio SLP-98L preamp -> Plinius SA102 amp -> Martin Logan Summits

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Working on the analog system...
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post #27 of 51 Old 03-16-2007, 12:13 AM - Thread Starter
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wait a second, are you joey from the ml owners site? if so, i remember you had other ml's so i assume you just got the summits? if so, congrats. i used to be on the site too, i had ascent i's that served me well for a few years. nice to know you linger around here too!!!

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post #28 of 51 Old 03-16-2007, 12:42 PM
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Anthony!

I knew you seemed familiar!

Yeah... I got the Summits exactly a year ago.... you must've not checked back on MLO for a while.... hehehe!

I linger around here sometimes.... you had Ascents, so what do you have now?

Are you still on the fence with some DAC units? My order is still not yet filled... stupid backorder at PS AUdio.... no units left until the end of the month.... grrr...

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Working on the analog system...
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post #29 of 51 Old 03-16-2007, 01:39 PM
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I have the DAC1 from Benchmark (the new USB model) and I happen to love it. I don't drive anything but headphones with it at the moment, so I don't know what to say about it beside it's accurate, and bad music sounds bad through it.

I think that's what people call 'analytical'; I don't know, I don't really assign attributes to audio equipment. Some songs, electronic music mostly, have harsh glitchy things going on that can hurt my ears listening through it, but I blame the recordings in this case. 95% of my music doesn't have this problem.

I tend to go with pro-type equipment because I figure what's good for the studio is good for my home, and I also don't think that capacitors sound like anything. Probably just me, though.

-eli
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post #30 of 51 Old 03-16-2007, 04:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joey_V View Post

Anthony!

I knew you seemed familiar!

Yeah... I got the Summits exactly a year ago.... you must've not checked back on MLO for a while.... hehehe!

I linger around here sometimes.... you had Ascents, so what do you have now?

Are you still on the fence with some DAC units? My order is still not yet filled... stupid backorder at PS AUdio.... no units left until the end of the month.... grrr...



yup, deja vu. i replaced mu ascent i's with jas odin speakers that are a combination of ribbon tweeter and accuton ceramic drivers. i loved my logans for the longest time and was sad to see them go (actually i wanted a speaker that was a lot smaller nicer finish). after months of searching and always thinking i made a mistake in selling the ascent's, i finally stumbled on the jas and bought them. they gave me all the transparency of the logans but with a much sweeter and smoother integration. bass is the strongest i have ever heard from a speaker this size and i sold my sub. i am extremely happy with my new speakers and now don't regret the move anymore. the more i listen to them them more they amaze me and i continue to look them more and more. glad you found the speakers that are right for you joey, the summits are excellent speakers.

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