Any DAC veterans? Please advise...

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by MI55ION, Sep 13, 2007.

  1. MI55ION

    MI55ION
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    Hi, a quick DAC question for those of you in the know. I currently have a Cambridge Dacmagic 2 MK2 but it died on me. To replace it, I was thinking of getting a Moodlab concept DAC from Honk Kong, would this be an upgrade over the Dacmagic or at least at the same level? I don't really want another dacmagic anymore since they're getting old and like mine could give problems with dry joints etc.

    Any alternatives, I don't mind second hand but not too old that I get dry joints for less than £150?

    Thanks
     
  2. trailer

    trailer
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    Beresfords get a good write up. £100.
     
  3. rozzar

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    if you can find one, Entech 205.2s are excellent - there was a whole load of them on US ebay but they don't appear to be there anymore. Entech is the old Audio Alchemy guys and indeed....AA made some great dacs. Also look at Micromega and DPA and Meridian stuff although some of that is knocking on a bit.

    From my experience the Musical Fidelity dacs aren't very good- the X-24K and X-Dac didn't really improve the sound of the players I put through them whereas the Entech transformed them!
     
  4. alexs2

    alexs2
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    An alternative is one of Derek Shek's NOSDACs,which also attract very good reviews and would fit your budget nicely.

    The MF X-DAC3 is actually a pretty decent DAC,but does need an off-board PSU,and benefits from other internal mods,as well as being too costly even in stock form.

    The Entech mentioned above is interesting,and I have no experience of it,but I do have another offshoot of the Audio Alchemy heritage in the shape of a Perpetual Technologies DAC and upsampler,too costly by far,but as an example of what those involved could make,very good indeed.
     
  5. Dusteh

    Dusteh
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    As I'm thinking of replacing my dacmagic I'd really like to know what you go with MI55ION - the beresford sounds too good to be true on some reviews I've found, so if you do plump for one of those please report back on its quality compared to the old CA DAC.
     
  6. MIB

    MIB
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    The Beresford comes with money back garantee so would only cost you 2 lots of postage if you weren't happy.

    I tried one and returned it as I didn't hear a decent improvement. Just want to quantify that statement as at the time I was changing a lot of kit (power amp & speakers) and I'm not sure I allowed the DAC sufficient time to burn in - about 5 days for 4hrs a day. Maybe after 100hrs it really improves but the garantee was nearly up so I returned the item.
     
  7. MI55ION

    MI55ION
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    Hi, thank you all for the suggestions. I'm now even more confused.

    The Derek Shek looks very similar to the Moodlab, I'm not sure if that has any bearing on the sound. I would like to understand their sound quality/characteristic, does anyone have any experience with these, how do the NOSDACs sound compared to say the Dacmagics of the world? I know I'll have to do some more research on these but it'd be nice to hear from anyone who has been down this road already.

    MIB, it's interesting that you didn't notice a difference with the Beresford, where did you get it from, have you tried any other DACs?

    Dusteh, I'm surprised that I haven't come across any comparisons between the Dacmagic and NosDACs or Beresford. Again, I need to carry out a bit more research and find some reviews as I'm sure there must be some out there.
     
  8. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Being honest,I've not tried a NOSDAC,although lots of people swear by the sound quality as being more vinyl-like than many other DAC types.

    I've only used the TAG,Perpetual Technologies,and MF Dacs that I've commented on,as well as a good bit of listening to Levinson,Wadia and dCS.

    One other you do come across at times that I have heard a long while back was the Arcam Black Box,which is still a decent DAC,and it may be worth keeping an eye out for similar previously relatively high-end DACs.
     
  9. Dusteh

    Dusteh
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  10. Mr_Sukebe

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    I've heard and owned quite a number of DACs. At present I have a Bel Canto DAC2, Shrek NOS DAC v2, 7510 and have owned a Meridian 203, MF digilog (ancient), Shrek mk1. I've also heard a number of others including a modded Behringer SRC and DEQ, Benchmark DAC1, Audio Research unit, newer BC DAC3, and some of the older CA DAC magics. Have to say that I didn't rate the DAC magics at all.

    The NOS units like the Shrek are great at being VERY natural in their presentation. Where they can lose out is air and space around instruments, which is where the upsampling units have the edge. Unfortunately most of the other DACs I've heard sound really synthetic, or in the case of the DAC1, seriously dry.
    The best I've come across is the Audio research DAC, though my BC DAC2 gets awfully close and for a fraction of the price.

    For really cheap sound quality, a modded Behringer SRC2496 is stonking, though that depends on if you can mod them. If you have no skill with a soldering iron, the NOS DAC takes a lot of beating for the dosh. Drop me a PM if you wish more details on that.
    I've only just got the 7510, that's only for AV work, so I'm not really sure how that sounds just yet.
     
  11. Adam Shaw

    Adam Shaw
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    I have owned a couple of TEAC D700's, and can heartily reccomend them. Average price on Ebay is around £70-£90, not bad for a unit that sold for £800.
     
  12. Dusteh

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    I got bored of waiting and I've ordered the Beresford, along with the optional modification by Stanley for an extra £30 which seems to be getting good reviews elsewhere.

    I will let you know how it compares to the old CA in a week or so, if you still don't have a new DAC.
     
  13. MI55ION

    MI55ION
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    Thanks again for all the suggestions and for kick starting my interest in DACs.

    I saw the Entech mentioned in a couple of places however it seems they have all but disappeared. The Teac and Arcam dacs sound good but due to their age and knowing my lack of skills with a soldering iron, I'll have to give them a pass.

    The DACs that have caught my interest are the Beresford, Moodlab and Derek Shek and for some reason, they are all almost exclusively sold through ebay. The Beresford gets a mention over on AVSforums, albeit a new member attempts to spread the word so to speak and gets jumped on by a few of the established members, it was quite painful to read. I believe there are a few members there solely trying to promote certain DACs whilst anything new gets rubbished. However, there are a lot people at Head-fi forums who seem to have taken a liking to the Beresford dacs.

    There's plenty on the net about these DACs but a lot of it appears to be from individuals with vested interest. For me though, for some reason I keep coming back to the Moodlab, the description of its characteristics have a certain appeal. Between the Beresford and Moodlab, the latter seems to just edge it in a few of the reviews. My apologies for boring anyone here, I'm so indecisive with these things that it hurts sometimes. Alright, I'll shut up now and report back with my impressions if and when I do get hold of one these.

    A good thread here that I just found as I'm writing this, got some more reading to do, lol.

    :thumbsup:
     
  14. trailer

    trailer
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    The Beresford is on a 10 day listen and see if you like it or not return. If you don't like it send it back. Plus the support is very good.

    I don't have one nor ever listened to one but was tempted a few months ago so did a bit of research.
     
  15. Dusteh

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    Yes you have to be very careful with people bigging up equipment on forums, treat everything you read with care since often people are extremely bias, if not out-and-out plants.

    The info that swung it for me was the following (rather long and tedious) thread on hifiwigwam:

    http://www.hifiwigwam.com/forum7/15325.html

    What was interesting was some of the established and seemingly knowledgable forum members moving from cynicism to acceptance of the Beresford. For me thats a more valuable endorsement than either random new members or website reviews. Of course I'm not expecting it to be the ultimate DAC that some people are trying to make out, as long as it outperforms the old CA and my CA CD players bult-in DAC I'll be happy.

    The other deciding factor for me over the moodlab (which I was tempted by as well) was the built-in headphone amp, my NAD silverline hasn't got headphone out and I really do miss this function, getting what appears to be quite a respectable one built into the DAC is a real bonus.

    Although the Beresford is an ugly little bugger from the looks of it, but I can live with that :D
     
  16. Trixster

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    Derek Shek NOSDAC V2 here - superb little piece of kit, great sound and it's not going to break the bank. Well recommended.
     
  17. Dusteh

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    So far I've had about 50 hours of burn in time for my modded Beresford MkVI. People were not exaggerating when they said the Beresford sounded bad out of the box - it sounded horrific. The mid-range was so flat and dead it almost wasn't there. Things have so far improved greatly, although the extreme high-ends are rather sharp, it remains to be seen if another 50 odd hours will clear that up. Bass is more defined than that of the dacmagic, and everything seems generally a little more forward, more clearly defined.

    I do wonder if older users haven't picked up on the sharpness of the high end because their hearing doesn't go that high anymore, I can't understand why no one else has mentioned it. I'll post back next week after a bigger burn-in time and longer listening sessions.
     
  18. trailer

    trailer
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    What's the rest of the kit you're running with the Beresford?
     
  19. Dusteh

    Dusteh
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    The transports are an old Cambridge Audio CD5 (on its last legs) through optical, and a Pioneer DV-360 DVD player through coax - both sound virtually the same.

    From the Beresford, its into a NAD Silverline S100 preamp, a NAD c272 poweramp, and Quad 21L speakers. None of which are known for their sharp highends, if anything the opposite.
     
  20. MI55ION

    MI55ION
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    Dusteh, thanks for the mini-review, it's quite informative. Very surprised to hear you say that the highs lean toward the the bright side since from what I've gathered Nosdacs are supposed to sound more neutral to warm... do let us know if it gets any better.

    When you say it sounded 'forward' compared to the dacmagic, was it as revealing in your opinion?
     
  21. Dusteh

    Dusteh
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    I've been running through quite a few varying extremes of music. From the zen white-noise of Merzbow to the minimalism of Taylor Deupree, from the harp strings of Joanna Newsom to the rock of the Smashing Pumpkins. The sub-bass of Thomas Koner and Lustmord, and the cold atmospheres of Sigur Ros.

    And I can say that the sound of the Beresford is pretty good in comparison to the Cambridge.

    BUT, and theres the but, I still feel like the high end is intruding more than it should do at times. Yes the Beresford is detailed but sometimes the coherency seems to be lost. One example would be in a build up of a rock wall of noise, the cymbal cuts through everything else like a hot knife through butter, dominating the rest. Whilst I may not know too much about high end audio equipment, I know enough about music to know that that shouldn't be happening.

    Likewise, listening to Alva Noto's recent 'Xerrox Vol. 1' on Raster Noton, the static noise he uses to contrast against the orchestral undertones becomes so prominent I can barely hear the strings properly.

    That said, albums such as Vangelis 'Blade Runner' soundtrack (which most people here will probably know inside out), or Thom Yorke's 'The Eraser' are stunning. I'm sure its the same prominent high end that allows me to hear him smacking his lips together as he moves from one line to the next at one point - and this is what I assume people often mean when they say they hear more revealing levels of detail.

    So for me its an improvement, but one I'm not entirely convinced about yet. That said, at approximately 70 hours burn in time - perhaps theres still room for it to mellow out a little (although I doubt it). Special mention should go to the bass in comparison to the CA - its a whole new beast. I won't be swapping back thats for sure. But does it beat higher end DACs as people elsewhere on the intarweb have mentioned? I'm dubious.

    I don't deny it could be the combination of my equipment causing this issue that no one else has mentioned. Maybe its the modification to the MkVI that I have, and a vanilla model might not have this. Or maybe its my sensitive hearing, having been used to the overly rounded high end of the CA for all these years - at a hospital hearing test a few years ago I was told I still had the hearing sensitivity of a 5 year old in one of my ears - so perhaps thats to blame. :rolleyes: :D
     
  22. Dusteh

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    hmm, reading that back and it comes across as overly negative. I should emphasise that this is me nitpicking, and that overall its a brilliant bit of kit. I now need to get back to focusing on listening to the music rather than the sound of my equipment.
     
  23. Mr_Sukebe

    Mr_Sukebe
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    I recently bought a 7510 for use with my AV kit. For the money, it's fine. However I did yesterday compare it with my Bel Canto DAC2. Whilst the DAC2 doesn't have the same number of inputs, it walks all over the 7510 from a musical perspective. The DAC2 does a much better job of pulling back a lot of additional information. For example, the 7510 will happily find the note of a singer. The DAC2 then adds of the inflection on how she's singing the note. The DAC2 is simply a LOT more involving and emotional to listen to.
     
  24. trailer

    trailer
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    I should hope it would given the cost difference.
     
  25. Dusteh

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    I've done a massive amount of A/B listening, switching back and forth endlessly and I can confirm the Beresford goes a little higher and lower than the CA dacmagic. My dacmagic also has a louder background hiss to many recordings. What I thought was the overbearing highend of the Beresford might actually be due to its contrast to the midrange. The CA's mid is fuller - a bit fuzzy around the edges, but it fills the room more than the Beresford. I don't know if you would call the Beresford refined or closed-in - I think it would depend on personal preference. For rock music I think a fuzzier fuller midrange is preferable to me than the muted Beresford, its a very close call indeed between the two DACs.

    So I don't know if this is testament to the build quality of the old dacmagic, or the budget sound of the Beresford, but after my initial happiness of the increased range of the Beresford has worn off, the warmer fuzzier mids of the CA are calling to me.

    People saying that it produced a massive difference to their setups, I can only dread to think what they were using beforehand.
     
  26. Mr_Sukebe

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    Agreed. I've heard quite a few DACs that would outperform the 7510, though being fair, it is good for it's price and does offer my digital inputs than most, and a built in headphone amp.
     
  27. CJROSS

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    Dusteh, I happen to rate the CA 2i Mk II very highly, I only ever used it via its XLR balanced outputs in my Primare and it was very nice digital convertor sounding to my ears. I only got rid of mine as I used my DVD player as a DAC for Freeview, but I also used the CA DAC off a Pioneer 717, Sony NS900V & Toshiba SD-9500 acting as transports for CD for a play about. Lovely device. One thing to note here is that new digital devices get really hyped when they hit the open market, thus some are propelled into cult status very quickly, I am not saying that the Beresford is not a good sounding device, more that opinion about it should be tempered with regard to “emperors new clothes” syndrome, an area that affects digital replay in hifi terms more than any other area IMHO.

    I’d easily buy a CA 2i II again (and I have owned a couple of nice DACs prior to that too X-24K & TAG DAC20), cracking convertor and excellent connections to my mind.
     
  28. MI55ION

    MI55ION
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    Great stuff guys!

    It's genuinely reassuring to hear such positive comments about the Cambridge - I've always been happy with mine (when it worked). I think the main strengths were that it had an open soundstage and was able to dig deep into the source, extracting a great level of detail even when connected to a mediocre transport and played back through a budget amp. The presentation wasn't exactly refined but for the money, the sound was quite incredible, which just makes me wonder how it would sound now with my other upgraded components. Hmm, might need to get the old soldering iron out after all…

    A true testament to how good the Dacmagic performed (or how poor DACs are inside AV receivers for music) was witnessed by myself when on one occasion, I was carrying out A/B comparison between my Yamaha 2700 AV receiver against the Dacmagic. As I was in the process, my brother who had happened to be in the room suddenly interrupted and commented on "the openness and detail" he could hear and added “it has a refreshing sound". This was from a guy who had absolutely no interest in this hobby and no idea about DACs, but just a vague idea of what I was doing.

    Based on what Dusteh has described here, I believe that these Nosdacs are certainly in for a fight if they are to equal or even better the Dacmagic. CJRoss, your statement about new digital devices being hyped up as it were is absolutely spot-on. As it happens, I closed my eyes and placed an order for the Moodlab Concept, I don’t expect it to better high end DACs but I’d be more than happy if it can perform as well as the Dacmagic. Let’s see how we get on once it arrives…
     
  29. Dusteh

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    I can't bring myself to sell my dacmagic now, especially seeing the silly low prices they go for on eBay. Its going to be stashed under the bed should the Beresford ever go belly up, or I need a second DAC for errr... something. At least thats what I'm telling my better half.
     
  30. Jaunty

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    Sorry to drag up this thread but I was wondering if you had any feedback on the Moodlab MI55ION? I am thinking about a DAC for my headphone amp (see my linked post) and I guess it is between Beresford, Moodlab or Shek at the moment

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/showpost.php?p=5883339&postcount=15

    Thanks for any feedback
     

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