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REVIEW: Grant Fidelity TubeDAC-11 - Page 5

post #61 of 267

Our friends at A$$A are back in case you missed it, one of my favourite Audio Mags. Real world reviews of real world gear, highly recommended read. Check out the archives too, should keep you busy for a while 

We made the cover of Issue 63 with the TubeDAC-11 and the review starts on page 3.

http://www.affordableaudio.org/aa2012-08.pdf 

here is the new link to the A$$A site.

http://www.affordableaudio.org/Welcome.html

Enjoy,
Ian

post #62 of 267

Dutchi Merenge,

 

Have you tried running your headphones from the Tube Outs on the back of the TubeDAC-11?

 

Cheers,

Ian


Edited by Grant Fidelity - 8/17/12 at 4:21am
post #63 of 267
Thread Starter 

I discovered a good combination the other day. I recently picked up a Cambridge Audio 840C, which I mostly intend to use as a transport. It was pretty well-hyped a few years back as one of the best players available for under $5k. Not sure if I quite agree with that, but it does sound pretty nice. 

 

Pairing it with certain headphone amps/headphones can leave me a bit cold though. It sounds great with my Violectric V200/Lawton LA7000, or Icon Audio HP8/Ultrasone Signature Pro. But with more analytical stuff like Matrix Quattro Amp/W1000x, or Yulong A100/K701 it just doesn't do it for me.

 

The TubeDAC-11 is not a better DAC than the 840C. Which makes sense because the Cambridge unit sells for nearly 5 times the price. But using the Grant Fidelity unit as a tube buffer with the above-mentioned analytical combos is perfect - it warms up the sound, and rounds out some of the sharpness, while maintaining nice detail levels. Once again the TubeDAC-11 makes itself useful!

post #64 of 267

I like that the review evaluated the TD11 for use with speakers, and I'm glad to see they also concluded the SS DAC out is best when you have more tubes downstream...

    "With the TubeDAC-11 running into a Mini-WaK N3 SET amplifier and 1980’s Klipsch speakers at a college buddy’s home on a Sunday, I preferred the SS output of the DAC into tubes rather than the tube/tube sound. Too much rounding of edges, the acoustic guitar and cymbals lacked definition."

Q: Can I leave the tube unplugged to keep the heat down and extend the tube's life for when I eventually sell it?  I like to keep it on my preamp and it's top surface get's hotter than my CJ-ET3

 

Q: Does anyone know of a non-headphone thread for the TD11 with this much coverage?

post #65 of 267
Quote:
Originally Posted by Grant Fidelity View Post

Dutchi Merenge,

 

Have you tried running your headphones from the Tube Outs on the back of the TubeDAC-11?

 

Cheers,

Ian

 

only my akg k601's and they did not like it lol, they are only 120ohm though, the only other phones i have that come close to the 300ohm mark are my koss pro4aat at 250, i'll have to give it a shot later and see what i discover

post #66 of 267
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wynnytsky View Post

I like that the review evaluated the TD11 for use with speakers, and I'm glad to see they also concluded the SS DAC out is best when you have more tubes downstream...

    "With the TubeDAC-11 running into a Mini-WaK N3 SET amplifier and 1980’s Klipsch speakers at a college buddy’s home on a Sunday, I preferred the SS output of the DAC into tubes rather than the tube/tube sound. Too much rounding of edges, the acoustic guitar and cymbals lacked definition."

Q: Can I leave the tube unplugged to keep the heat down and extend the tube's life for when I eventually sell it?  I like to keep it on my preamp and it's top surface get's hotter than my CJ-ET3

 

Q: Does anyone know of a non-headphone thread for the TD11 with this much coverage?

 

Wynnysky'

 

Are you aware of the GF forum? Quite a few threads on the TubeDAC-11:

http://www.audiokarma.org/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=164

 

Dutchi - My AKG 701 don't like the Tube Outs either, but a customer just informed me a few minutes ago (I was showing him your update post) that his 32 Ohm GS-1000 Grado Statements works fine. It is hit and miss on lower impedance headphones.

 

Cheers,

Ian

post #67 of 267

That customer was me. I'm not a dedicated headphone user but do listen with headphones from time to time. I've used my Grado GS-1000 and on occasion my older Sony MDR-CD777 phones with the DAC-11 both via the SS front plug-in as well as an RCA to Headphone adapter. Both of these outputs work well with headphones.

 

Wb

post #68 of 267

What kind of Y adapter do you use to connect your headphone miniplug to the tubed RCA outs?  I'll be trying my Grado SR80i 'phones that way and do not want to settle for a crummy adapter that would negate the nice Grado wire further downstream. 

 

On a related topic, I recently discovered that J River 17 will open and play Pandora.  It sounds a whole lot better that way because it bypasses the Flash player that Pandora normally enlists.  Despite the much improved soundstage, it is a bit dry that way and just begs for a tube to make it more musical.

 

My GF TD11 should arrive next week, and I can't wait to hook it up.  Having read not one single negative review, and mostly glowing reviews, I decided to take the plunge.

post #69 of 267

Consensus seems to be the TubeDac-11 is better than the NuForce HDP?

 

What about the (higher priced) Glow One Amp?

post #70 of 267

The toroidal transformer just makes the internal build quality so much cooler and high class.  Another reason I wanted this or an audio-gd amp.  Do they make a noticible difference in quality?  I know some brands like Meier and Schiit don't use them along with alot of others.  Just curious!

Also.. why doesn't this thing get more press.  It should anyway.  How's it compare to a Valhalla?

post #71 of 267
Thread Starter 

Well, a toroidal transformer has its benefits, but it isn't clearly better than R-core which is the other popular type used in audio gear. You also see EI cores used and sometimes other types. DIY guys will argue for ages about the advantages of each. 

post #72 of 267

Here's my first impressions of this wonderful little item from the eyes of a complete newbie.

Just got it up and running about half an hour ago.  And by that all I mean was I plugged in the power cord and plugged in the optical cable.  In windows 7 it was as simple as right clicking the volume icon, pointing to playback devices and selecting SPDIF as default output.  Not even a driver was needed or anything.  I wish I was more of an expert but I will preface by saying I'm just a beginner so I can't give you a super detailed review.  This is my first amp and the Beyer's are my first step into audiophile 'phones.  Before that I had only owned some $60 sennheiser eH350s.   I also only have about 50 hours on the headphones too so that won't help my case either.

After initial listen my reservations about amps quickly disappeared.  I thought I might hear clipping, wouldn't hear a difference, or that it would be kind of a pointless mod like a high flow air filter on a car.  Right now I can only describe the sound as crystal clear.  Switching from unamped to amped the biggest difference I noticed was how much the bass cleared up.  Without the amp it was pretty muddy in comparison.  I think the tubedac11 has done very well at working with the Beyer's as many people have said the bass/mids are kind of poor on the DT 880 model.  I probably won't be spending any more time listening without the amp but I'm sure there are several other key differences as well; this was the most obvious one in about 5 minutes.  (these units receive burn in at the factory and I also bought this one second hand so I'm guessing around 50+ hours on this unit)

 I'm already noticing differences in the music I know very well so I'm going to have to relisten to alot of my favorites.  I also notice that alot of my 320kbps mp3 files are showing big variations in volume output?  This may just be the way the track was mastered, but some are significantly louder than others.  Sort of like when you're watching TV and every commercial is a different volume.  I never really noticed this as much before but it seems to stick out now switching from song to song.  I have the dial at 12 o clock which is somewhat loud but still very comfortable.  I'm also noticing alot of flaws in recordings.  Here's a song I had listened to about 15 times and never noticed it.  around 0:41 you can hear a tear or skip in it.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qES5dn0mmp8   Now I know what people mean by hearing all the flaws.  It becomes very noticible.  It will be obvious as I'm pointing it out to you but for some reason I just never noticed before. 
I'm sure I'll have more comments later but these were the most noticible observations right off the bat for me having listened only less than an hour so far.

 I think it helped me knowing beforehand not to expect drastic differences as someone here had pointed out the following to me;
Headphones: 50%
Amp: 15% (unless you have an odd personal tuning like massive basshead, then this may be a little more or less)
DAC: 10%
Source File Quality (below 320 vs reference): 20%
Source File Reference Bitrate(16/48 FLAC vs anything above 16/48): 3%
Cables: 2%

post #73 of 267
Thread Starter 
Thanks for those impressions! Well put.
post #74 of 267

UPDATE

 

I've now had the TD-11 for over two months and am very pleased.  I use the tube output on my Audioengine A2s and the result is deeply impressive now that I've tamed the previously massive bass resonances in the A2s, but that output won't drive my 32-ohm Grados worth a darn.  For that, I need either the headphone jack, or I connect the Y-adapter to the solid state outputs and hook the phones up there.  Sometimes I hear better headphone sound from the SS outs than the headphone jack, sometimes not so much.  I can't decide if it's a volume difference or a quality difference.

 

I've noticed one weird thing with the TD-11, and I can't tell if it's my computer or the DAC.  If I leave my computer on but shut off the DAC at night, then power the DAC up again the next morning, I get nothing but static from the USB connection at first.  Over a period of about ten minutes, the static fades and the music starts coming through.  There's no such problem from the SPDIF connection.  Go figure.

 

The TD-11 serves my desktop system almost exclusively.  I originally bought it thinking I would run the SPDIF out from my vintage JVC XLZ 1050TN CD player into the TD-11, and run than directly into my Acurus A250 amp so I would have an upgraded front end and a tube somewhere in the chain to benefit my Martin Logan SL3 speakers.  The TD-11 was to replace my Acurus L10 preamp.  Well, I learned that as good as the TD-11 is, my 20-year-old electronics are better than I thought.  The best configuration is to put the TD-11 between the cdp and the preamp, and that does offer a subtle improvement from the mids on up.  The truth is that I rarely get to listen to my big stereo any more.  That's why I love desktop audio, now.

 

My only comparison is with my Audioengine D1 DAC, which I use now when I travel.  The TD-11 is smoother, with better transparency and mids and highs.  To its credit, the D1 does have sledgehammer bass, even when dropped into my big rig in my listening room and driving the amp directly, but it's bright at higher volumes and gets rather congested with transients in that set-up.  So, yes, the TD-11 is a better DAC and headphone amp than the D1, and it should be at twice the price.  Neither one is shamed and I'm fortunate to own both.

post #75 of 267
I just got my tubedac 11 last week and I've put maybe 10 hrs of play but I've left the dac on for 5 days. I love the sound but I'm not sure how much is the dac or new power cords that arrived the same day. Regardless the combo has increase dynamics and SQ a great deal. At about day 3 I started using the Amarra player and it improved the sound even more. I'm returning my A5x Adams for the larger A7x's to complete my rig, I'm pleased with the sound and can't wait to do some tube rolling.

My next buy will be the JKUSBSPDIF MK3 and some acoustic treatment for my listening room. I've read some good results using USB/SPDIF so I'm working off of faith on this add but sometime while listening I can't imagine the sound quality getting any better its just that impressive. I know the A7x will give a more 3D full sound but the USB conv I'm growing more uncertain daily. Any opinions on the improvement expectation?
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