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The Great Dac Search - Page 4

post #46 of 76
Quote:
Originally Posted by granodemostasa View Post
So far I have the same impressions i had at the start.

dac: VDA-2/VAC-1

Dynamics
I don't think this is the most dynamic dac i've ever heard. overall, it isn't as bad as the Lavry in dynamics, but i'm not particularly impressed or taken back as i was with the Stello DP200. it's average.
Dusty makes great products at great prices. The classic Audio Alchemy digital gear REALLY started to Smoke once the power supply comes up to par.

I've only listened to VDA-2 in high-end speaker systems, but dynamics and "veil" will likely be a non-issue once you use a upgraded PS. In fact, if I owned VDA-2, I would immediately commision a stout PS from people like Wayne at Bolder Audio...
post #47 of 76
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon L View Post
Dusty makes great products at great prices. The classic Audio Alchemy digital gear REALLY started to Smoke once the power supply comes up to par.

I've only listened to VDA-2 in high-end speaker systems, but dynamics and "veil" will likely be a non-issue once you use a upgraded PS. In fact, if I owned VDA-2, I would immediately commision a stout PS from people like Wayne at Bolder Audio...
the first thing i would like to try is upgrade that cord going from the PS to the vda-2, it's so small and fragile... you are giving me ideas... i'll see if i can meet any member of trade people at the international meet and talk to them about what i can do about the dac's PS and PC.
post #48 of 76
Quote:
Originally Posted by granodemostasa View Post
the first thing i would like to try is upgrade that cord going from the PS to the vda-2, it's so small and fragile... you are giving me ideas... i'll see if i can meet any member of trade people at the international meet and talk to them about what i can do about the dac's PS and PC.
Granodemostasa,

i have spent a few days following your cloudy, uncertain & unsatisfactory <edit> feelings </edit> on various dacs. I have come to appreciate and perhaps to a certain degree relate to your approach or rather way of "negative reviewing" a product. I agree wiht it and as i am standing here on the sidelines you do all the dirty work and making notes for my own benifit i think you may have earned yourself a brief, critical and surprisngly positive applause from a fellow negative reviewer.

Back on dacs I see you have stuck with the clinical and neutral vda2. I think i keenly away my experience via proxy for you to upgrade your power supply and see if you begin to have a less negative relationship with the dac.

P.S - Surprised you have not given citypulse a go yet.
post #49 of 76
Thread Starter 
I never did get modders to start doing that. Simply put, I decided not to head down that winy road of "maybe" upgrades for big loads of cash.

After going to several meets I encountered some different responses.

The first meet was Icarium's "pre-national meet" in Palo Alto. At this meet i got several hours between the VDA-2/VAC-1 and the Monarchy 24. The differences between the two dacs were quite small actually ( I had to use a Qualia throughout most of the comparison). I tended to side with the monarchy on most subjective terms, since it was sweeter and tended to have a softer texture (as a tube person I tend to like these traits). However the details kept getting me... the VDA-2 seemed more extended at the bottom. During several large orchestral pieces and marching band recordings the "blueprint" of the music tended to come out more from the VDA-2. For example the Monarchy tended to sound like 2 snare drummers, while the VDA-2 clearly showed me 6. I brought up my findings with several head-fiers i respect, and they all tended to agree that having the most neutral/solid dac was best since all those other traits in the monarchy can be introduced later with tubes/cables/headphones... while you can't make up for lost information.

At the set-up for the international meet I made a way to get a quick A/b between the VDA-2 and the Benchmark Dac-1. The results were rather clear... there wasn't a single thing the Dac-1 bested the VDA-2 on... so I stuck with it. It even convinced the Benchmark's owner to get a new source.

At the international meet I got a good 2 hour comparison between the VDA-2 and the Bel Canto Dac-3. The Bel Canto had some mean advantages over the VDA-2, mainly better ICs and a 2K power cord connected to it. Nevertheless, it was obvious they were really players in the same sonic league. The only thing that could be said about the Bel Canto was that it hit everything with speed and authority in a way that the VDA-2 never could. Two other head-fiers did the same comparison to their dacs (benchmark and stello 220) and come to the conclusion the Bel Canto wasn't a cut above the rest and therefore didn't justify it's price premium.

The VDA-2's next stop was Ori's OMZ v. the vda-2. Two people liked the modded zhaolu, but I thought it had too many negatives (a glare, lack of both treble and bass extension and overall boringess). At that meet, I also got a chance to hear the Lavry DA-10 against it, and the Lavry, surprisingly didn't show up to play... as it was clearly not giving me as much resolution and soundstage as a dac at that level should.

Then another thing happened that ended my dac search. Humanflyz got an Esoteric DV60. the esoteric blew the VDA-2 away on sheer resolution and preciseness alone. the distinctiveness of tones and the speed of the esoteric are unlike anything I have ever heard in this price range. As a result, I'm now hoping to save up enough $ to buy a source in this performance range.... and have stopped looking for the holy grail of 1K sources.
post #50 of 76
Quote:
Originally Posted by granodemostasa View Post
I never did get modders to start doing that. Simply put, I decided not to head down that winy road of "maybe" upgrades for big loads of cash.

After going to several meets I encountered some different responses.

The first meet was Icarium's "pre-national meet" in Palo Alto. At this meet i got several hours between the VDA-2/VAC-1 and the Monarchy 24. The differences between the two dacs were quite small actually ( I had to use a Qualia throughout most of the comparison). I tended to side with the monarchy on most subjective terms, since it was sweeter and tended to have a softer texture (as a tube person I tend to like these traits). However the details kept getting me... the VDA-2 seemed more extended at the bottom. During several large orchestral pieces and marching band recordings the "blueprint" of the music tended to come out more from the VDA-2. For example the Monarchy tended to sound like 2 snare drummers, while the VDA-2 clearly showed me 6. I brought up my findings with several head-fiers i respect, and they all tended to agree that having the most neutral/solid dac was best since all those other traits in the monarchy can be introduced later with tubes/cables/headphones... while you can't make up for lost information.

At the set-up for the international meet I made a way to get a quick A/b between the VDA-2 and the Benchmark Dac-1. The results were rather clear... there wasn't a single thing the Dac-1 bested the VDA-2 on... so I stuck with it. It even convinced the Benchmark's owner to get a new source.

At the international meet I got a good 2 hour comparison between the VDA-2 and the Bel Canto Dac-3. The Bel Canto had some mean advantages over the VDA-2, mainly better ICs and a 2K power cord connected to it. Nevertheless, it was obvious they were really players in the same sonic league. The only thing that could be said about the Bel Canto was that it hit everything with speed and authority in a way that the VDA-2 never could. Two other head-fiers did the same comparison to their dacs (benchmark and stello 220) and come to the conclusion the Bel Canto wasn't a cut above the rest and therefore didn't justify it's price premium.

The VDA-2's next stop was Ori's OMZ v. the vda-2. Two people liked the modded zhaolu, but I thought it had too many negatives (a glare, lack of both treble and bass extension and overall boringess). At that meet, I also got a chance to hear the Lavry DA-10 against it, and the Lavry, surprisingly didn't show up to play... as it was clearly not giving me as much resolution and soundstage as a dac at that level should.

Then another thing happened that ended my dac search. Humanflyz got an Esoteric DV60. the esoteric blew the VDA-2 away on sheer resolution and preciseness alone. the distinctiveness of tones and the speed of the esoteric are unlike anything I have ever heard in this price range. As a result, I'm now hoping to save up enough $ to buy a source in this performance range.... and have stopped looking for the holy grail of 1K sources.
Odd you are going for dedicated all in one player.... as i came from an Arcam FMJ series cd player and am currently using a computer transport and getting similar results.

Though a big thing in cd players is different manufacturers have different type of sound so in effect it is not neutral or balanced... e.g the arcam cd player sounds very different than a simaudio cd player... big $$$ i like to get all the colouration being done at the amplication level.

vda2 seems to be a key component in the source chain so far.
post #51 of 76
Quote:
Originally Posted by granodemostasa View Post
Then another thing happened that ended my dac search. Humanflyz got an Esoteric DV60. the esoteric blew the VDA-2 away on sheer resolution and preciseness alone. the distinctiveness of tones and the speed of the esoteric are unlike anything I have ever heard in this price range. As a result, I'm now hoping to save up enough $ to buy a source in this performance range.... and have stopped looking for the holy grail of 1K sources.
LOL, much like what happened with me and the Lavry Gold. I guess after a while you just come to realize that these mid-level DAC's will always leave you chasing your tail, so to speak.

Just for the benefit of other readers, I did listen to the DAC3 for a good while, and I do think its' sonic performance is more in line with the $1000 crowd. However, I would say it's near the top of that crowd, and if the build quality and features (esp. remote volume) appeal to someone, I could see it being worth its' used prices (~$1600 or so). I do think the MSRP is a pipe dream, though.
post #52 of 76
Quote:
Originally Posted by Iron_Dreamer View Post
LOL, much like what happened with me and the Lavry Gold. I guess after a while you just come to realize that these mid-level DAC's will always leave you chasing your tail, so to speak.

Just for the benefit of other readers, I did listen to the DAC3 for a good while, and I do think its' sonic performance is more in line with the $1000 crowd. However, I would say it's near the top of that crowd, and if the build quality and features (esp. remote volume) appeal to someone, I could see it being worth its' used prices (~$1600 or so). I do think the MSRP is a pipe dream, though.
Hiya Iron_Dreamer,

- Which Model is the Lavry Gold, i dont see it on thier website
- Dac3?

thanx
post #53 of 76
Their "Gold" DAC comes in two forms, the DA924 for pros and the DA2002 for audiophiles, but both are the same circuitry.

I was referring to the Bel Canto DAC3.
post #54 of 76
Quote:
Originally Posted by granodemostasa View Post
Then another thing happened that ended my dac search. Humanflyz got an Esoteric DV60. the esoteric blew the VDA-2 away on sheer resolution and preciseness alone. the distinctiveness of tones and the speed of the esoteric are unlike anything I have ever heard in this price range. As a result, I'm now hoping to save up enough $ to buy a source in this performance range.... and have stopped looking for the holy grail of 1K sources.
LOL. One minute, you're messing around with $400 DAC (Ori Zhaolu), $1000 DAC's, then next minute you're talking about near $6000 Esoteric DV-60!

I've always liked Esoteric gear, and I think I actually prefer the slightly more "digital" sounding lower-tier Esoteric compared to the super-refined top Esoterics.

Hey, at least the audio-only version SA-60 is only $4500 I would buy it in a heartbeat if only they had digital input for my computer
post #55 of 76
Quote:
Originally Posted by Iron_Dreamer View Post
Their "Gold" DAC comes in two forms, the DA924 for pros and the DA2002 for audiophiles, but both are the same circuitry.

I was referring to the Bel Canto DAC3.
ThanX.

I have seen those "Gold" Lavry dacs they do cost a PRETTY penny, a very pretty shinny penny actually.

I think i may bypass this vda-2 and jump on the Chord DAC64.

For you dac veterans what are your thoughts?

I am building a separate 2ch system and will be using a dac for my pc. It's very hard to decide a dac as no one carrys them in stock i think the dacs maybe a piece of hardware that may make cd player redundant as it has for me.
post #56 of 76

ouch

well i think the chord is out of the question as i was quoted 5300 cdn dollars here .

So far i have the following in the list

VDA2+PSU
APOGEE MINI DAC
STELLO 220 MKII
CHORD DAC64

Any suggestions/opinons comments?
post #57 of 76
From what I've read the Chord is the next level sonically from the others you've listed (as it should be for the price). The DA220's main chips are good looks and build quality, with a slight nod to warm sound in the mid-bass. The VDA2 encapsulates "keep it simple, stupid!" with a straightforward clear sound. The Apogee is a swiss-army-knife digital product with great capability packed into a small, even battery-powered shell.

All have their merits and drawbacks. Think about what suits your usage and desires best. There are also plenty of fine options you didn't list. And once you've made your decision, try not to worry too much about the grass on the other side, as we've discussed the mid-level DAC market is all about trade-offs, so you will find no ultimate solutions without going into the insane budget territory. Good luck!
post #58 of 76
Quote:
Originally Posted by Iron_Dreamer View Post
From what I've read the Chord is the next level sonically from the others you've listed (as it should be for the price). The DA220's main chips are good looks and build quality, with a slight nod to warm sound in the mid-bass. The VDA2 encapsulates "keep it simple, stupid!" with a straightforward clear sound. The Apogee is a swiss-army-knife digital product with great capability packed into a small, even battery-powered shell.

All have their merits and drawbacks. Think about what suits your usage and desires best. There are also plenty of fine options you didn't list. And once you've made your decision, try not to worry too much about the grass on the other side, as we've discussed the mid-level DAC market is all about trade-offs, so you will find no ultimate solutions without going into the insane budget territory. Good luck!
Thanx for hte input... after i had posted i was reading your dac review and the german one seems very nice...

cost wise to me the VDA2 will be the cheapest with the PSU... the apogee will be in and aroudn same... the stello would run me about 1k more and chord well ... chord will run me significantly more.

I like warm sound and chord maybe what i should be getting but then its a hefty change i rather spend that on speakers + seperates for this setup....

<edit> german one would be along the lines of the stello also cost wise

I think in a odd way i may have answered my own question that to go for vda2. and start saving for something in the line of chord next?</edit>
post #59 of 76
Thanks for the great review.

I loved the Bel Canto DAC but the Presonus Central Station DAC was also very good for much less.
post #60 of 76
wow - I was searching for reviews, insights on DACs and this was one of the best threads (best?) I have come across.

Thanks to the OP and to all other posters for your input. It is helping me in my DAC quest.

Best, Cheers!
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