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Empirical Audio Spoiler Tube DAC Impressions

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 
Since Steve Nugent was at the meet, anyone care to post impressions of the Spoiler DAC? Much appreciated.
post #2 of 30
Very very analog sound, I was very impressed with it. The thing is though, one of his tubes went after excessive use (he said it just came back from the reviewer), and the listening conditions were limited so I get the feeling I did not even get to hear the true capability of it.
post #3 of 30
Yeah, I really doubt that the ASL Headphone amp was really letting us hear what that DAC is capable of, at least I hope it wasn't (because I didn't hear anything that would have merited the cost).
post #4 of 30
Wow, what a meet. Definitely worth the trip from Cincinnati. Thanks to all who made it possible.

I had the chance to listen to this and its related solid state DACs from the same maker (very nice guy). Due to meet conditions and limited time, I wasn't able to fully evaluate the sonic performance, but one thing was very apparent: I have never heard this kind of dynamic range before, and was impressed enough to want to look into computer as source and the external DAC world. I run a Naim CD5i through a GS-1 and K701s/HD600s and love the sound - but the dynamic range does not even come close to what I heard from these DACs and what was arguably a less than high end amp. More research and learning and listening is called for.
post #5 of 30
Very impressive sound indeed! Warm, natural presentation and it is definitely more analog-like among all the digital sources at the meet. First time I met Steve and he definitely is a pro, and he is a nice guy!
post #6 of 30
I came in on the shuttle with Steve on Friday night, talked with him on Saturday, and finally (after always arriving at his table while he was doing a demo for someone), yes finally got a demo Sunday. For me, it was best sound of the show. His good, better, best demo was no joke. I listened on HD600s and MontanaJustin's HD650s. OMG. The sound had a very natural ease, and yet had total control. Steve played a few percussion tracks that had a splendid sound with everything from the huge drums to the smallest splash cymbal. The cymbals, in fact, even had a smooth sound. They were clearly a high-frequency instrument, but I didn't feel the need to turn down the sound or cringe...! Then he moved on to some pop music and just played DJ for a bit. MontanaJustin and I just stared at each other... The sound reminded me of my first impression of Boulder electronics and the way that they had TOTAL control of the audio, while still giving a relaxed presentation and MUSIC. Wow. REAL music coming out of there. MJ said, "Geez, Jack Johnson is HERE!" No joke. As for trying to describe the word relaxing...hard to describe. The sound did not put me to sleep like some dreary design, but the music just had a great flow. Most impressive.

I understand that Steve had done five or six mods to the ASL headphone amp, much of it with the power supply as you would guess, so it is far from stock.

I'm gonna have to save my penines as I understand that the Spoiler retails at around $6K. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
post #7 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by TomH View Post
I run a Naim CD5i through a GS-1 and K701s/HD600s and love the sound - but the dynamic range does not even come close to what I heard from these DACs and what was arguably a less than high end amp. More research and learning and listening is called for.
Interesting that you mention the dynamic contrast. I've been using his Offramp II for awhile, and Steve has been experimenting with a different playback method for Fooobar. On my system, using the new method has upped the dynamics and especially the contrast. It has been a pretty large difference where some CDs sound like they have been "released" of their restraints.
So that advantage you are mentioning has come from his USB interface and especially the new playback method.
post #8 of 30
I spoke with him about it he said who was it Ray or Tyll gave it a listen and told him there was something wrong with it and they brought over one of there amps to give it a test from of what he told me he was right.

I thought the moded DAC was good specially compared to other systems for that price range.
post #9 of 30
l am much more in agreement on the Spoiler Dac with bhjazz than Iron Dreamer because I thought the SD was incredible, but I too would have liked to hear it out of a better headamp. That would have really done more to show its capabilities and the already obvious improvement over the modded Benchmark Dac1. Nevertheless, it was a killer sound that was analog or natural or whatever you want to call great, clear sound without glare. For me, and in the moment or two I had to listen, the modded Dac1 sounded better from its own headphone jack than out to the ASL. It was just a bit more cohesive to me.
post #10 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by RasmusseN View Post
I spoke with him about it he said who was it Ray or Tyll gave it a listen and told him there was something wrong with it and they brought over one of there amps to give it a test from of what he told me he was right.

I thought the moded DAC was good specially compared to other systems for that price range.
Yes, Ray pointed out that the tube head amp I was using was really inferior, even with the mods. The bass was WAY too flabby, overpowering any female vocalist. He knows his stuff for sure. He brought over one of his Raptors and it sounded great to me, no flabby bass. I'm not particularly fond of Musicaps, but they can always be changed.... I liked his Raptor amp using my sources much better than his Meridian so I'm hoping I can do some horse-trading for one of his tube head-amps before next years meet.

Also, kudos to Stax for allowing me to demo their $4K electrostatic phones and head-amp. Percussion sounded just like the real thing. Nice bass too.

And, thank you all for the positive, and negative feedback. You are all too kind. I met a lot of nice folks at the meet and made many new friends. These things always energize me to go back to the drawing board and do new things.

Steve N.
post #11 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by audioengr View Post
Yes, Ray pointed out that the tube head amp I was using was really inferior, even with the mods. The bass was WAY too flabby, overpowering any female vocalist. He knows his stuff for sure. He brought over one of his Raptors and it sounded great to me, no flabby bass. I'm not particularly fond of Musicaps, but they can always be changed.... I liked his Raptor amp using my sources much better than his Meridian so I'm hoping I can do some horse-trading for one of his tube head-amps before next years meet.

Also, kudos to Stax for allowing me to demo their $4K electrostatic phones and head-amp. Percussion sounded just like the real thing. Nice bass too.

And, thank you all for the positive, and negative feedback. You are all too kind. I met a lot of nice folks at the meet and made many new friends. These things always energize me to go back to the drawing board and do new things.

Steve N.

And thank you for the efforts to make the best possible systems that bring the digital world to it's capabilities. I do believe your work will obsolete the vinyl world once and for all. Now if we can get units for the layman's budget.
post #12 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Happy Camper View Post
And thank you for the efforts to make the best possible systems that bring the digital world to it's capabilities. I do believe your work will obsolete the vinyl world once and for all. Now if we can get units for the layman's budget.
Actually, you guys got me thinking about maybe an iPod docking station or small black box cabled to iPod, with digital interface that has D/A and headphone amp, all rechargable battery powered. Battery would be recharged with a wall-wart and cable. This could put out 1-2 watts if the new TI class-D amp chips were used and give long battery life. Volume control that is digital. I modded a Panasonic receiver with some of these class-D chips in it. Sound was amazing and dead silent when nothing playing. Completely digital path from source to speakers/headphones. No analog conversion except at the speaker outputs.

I was also thinking about the same thing only USB driven from laptop instead of iPod. This would probably use my favorite D/A chip and a non-digital volume control. Any interest in this?

Steve N.
post #13 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by audioengr View Post
I was also thinking about the same thing only USB driven from laptop instead of iPod. This would probably use my favorite D/A chip and a non-digital volume control. Any interest in this?
Steve N.
This reminds me a lot of Tyll's Bithead. How will your idea be different aside from the new class-D chip?
post #14 of 30
Steve,

I'm waiting for a 160GB 7200 rpm drive for my Dell M1210 laptop (which is only 11.7" x 8.7" x 1.4" and 4.4 lbs). When this arrives, I will be able carry all of my lossless FLAC files with me. Until your box comes to market, I'll be using the USB DAC1 as discussed on the other thread.

I love the idea of a high quality USB DAC/amp with a form factor similar to the laptop. This would be amazing. Something like this could compete with the Squeezebox as the foundation of a small system.

The problem with iPods is lack of digital output...
post #15 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dept_of_Alchemy View Post
This reminds me a lot of Tyll's Bithead. How will your idea be different aside from the new class-D chip?
Different? The design and implementation, parts choices etc.. It will have dynamics, clarity and vocal smoothness, the trademarks of my DAC's.

Steve N.
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