My Take on DA100The unit
April Music sent it to me very nicely packed via DHL. There was a well written manual, USB cable and a better power cable. Surprise! It contained a little Allen key tool to open the case if someone wants to peek inside.
Its build quality is excellent. It is heavy due to the fact enclosure being steel!!. Budget DAC! Face plate is aluminium though. It has a very nice feel and 1/2 size of a full rack component in width! Idea being keeping two components side by side if one has full sized components and a RACK.
I should say for a home component it is miniature in size. Space saving if is is used as a desktop component. Nice touch!! If it was combined with headamp/preamp HP100 it gives a nice desktop stack as headroom stack.
Dac has power switch, upsampling selector, and input selector. It has a green LED as a signal locking indicator. All the plugs and connectors have nice feel and good build quality.
The topology of the DAC has few distinct features. Its USB receiving chip is BB PCM 2704. So USB receiving capability is limited to 16bit 48KHz stream!! And its USB 1.1!
Power supply section is impressive. It has 2 10000UF 50V tank capacitors! Some Korean brand! Samyong!! I am itching to swap them Panasonic HA ones. But it is clearly mentioned in the manual doing so, makes 5 year warranty void. So no modding for this! 5 year warranty seems to be too precious thing to loose for stupid mods. Power supply section has 5 voltage regulator chips. The ones with heat sinks, are LM317 series and gets very hot. Nice toroidal transformer. Dac section has two dac chips for each channel and the upsampling circuitry.
Impressively , it has a 6th order digital filter section including four NE5532 chips and one OPA2604 chip. I don't think swapping them will have any effect on sound as they serve as digital noise filters.
The most important part is the discrete output stage. It consists of high quality wima capacitors and transistors. Output stage is biased class A, so again it generates lot of heat. It doesn't have headphone amp stage. HP100 gives that functionality as a separate class A discrete amp/preamp. For DA100, being a budget product, APRIL music has done well in keeping output buffer as a discrete circuit. It really does have a huge effect on the SQ. As most dacs waste parts, space and money on a sub-standard headphone out section. DA100 has done well to reserve that space for a high end discrete output buffer.
All the components and PCB are of top quality. Only grudge I have is the brand of power capacitors. I would have been more reassured if they were low impedance HIGH ESR caps like Panasonic HA!
APRIL MUSIC has retained the same topology found in their award winner DA220 in DA100!! They have served budget users very well doing so with this sub 1000$ DAC.Operation and connectivity
Its functions are pretty basic. Input selector allows to choose 1 AUX line, 2 optical lines and one USB input. It has unbalanced output only. Upsampling switch convert any input digital to output stream of 24Bit 192kHz stream! when I used upsampling function output signal was more refined with extended dynamics.Sound qualityFrequency and sonic qualities
DA100 has essentially a flat neutral response. It is not bright and upfront compared to MD10 I used to have. Bass is deep and accurate. The deepest bass notes, I heard with my HD650 to date! It combines with my GS-1 very well to bring punchy bass. Mids are sweet and female voices seem to be correctly reproduced. Trebles do extend well without any sibilance.
Timbre and tonal accuracy is pretty impressive. The sound is not unduly analytical. It has some musical quality and does not fatigue on long standing listening. Recently I auditioned one of my friends DA-10. I didn’t like the sound very much as on long hours of listening it used to give kind of fatigue mainly due to being too analytical. DA100 has right combination of being musical without being unduly analytical.Timing and Dynamics
Both attack and decay across the spectrum pretty impressive. The attack and thump in low bass notes were very impressive and beyond the capabilities of MD10. It shows how good my GS-1 is, when it comes to reproduce quality and fast bass and trebles. The control of dynamics is good and it reproduced most difficult passages of music without any cluttering and distortion.Psycho-acoustics
DA100 is very detailed but not overly detailed as I already told. It has very wide soundstage and spatial layering of music. I can feel air between performers and most impressively music genres like heavy metal or jazz do not seem to be congested. Even bass notes are well separated to discern multiple sources generating low end notes.
Sweet sound and really high end sound for budget users!
April Music produced really quality DAC both soundwise and quality wise! It not not very surprising they are giving 5 years warranty for this unit.
A special line should be written for CHRISTINE of April Music. She promptly responded to all the queries and was most helpful in speedy shipping of the unit even when they were short of one part. Wonderful person! According to her April Music is going to organize its distribution network more. But there may be price hike of the unit in near future too according to 3rd party source known to April Music.
Compared to MD10, DA100 is certainly an improvement. But improvement is not twice more as the price does. The diminishing return rule applies here. But I think DA100 can give head on fight to more expensive DAcs such as Lavry D10. I can safely say it is one of the best sub 1000$ DAC available even surpassing more costly DACs above 1000$ Real value for money. Well done APRIL MUSIC!
DA100 has got recognition of few professional reviewers too.Sonicflare.comThe Absolute SoundSoundStage.com
Few words should be said about s100 power amp too. Its topology is based on M200 mono block amp.Soundstage6Moons
M200 is known for its pure tube like sound quality. S100 although it produces 50W per channel gives clean performance with impressive bass and clarity. I am very impressed with its size and capability of producing real high end sound. Certainly a miniature M200 with single ended output.