Hey everybody, this will be one of the Maverick Audio threads that I've written in the past. This time it's for the TubeMagic D2 dedicated DAC that was recently released. I finally got some time to compile my thoughts, pictures and info about the unit. This thread is mostly just a placeholder until I format it properly like the other threads. Please check back soon to see updates and more info!
To see more about the product until I'm able to finish this page, check out the link here:
My review is unfinished but for the sake of having a decent thread, here it is:
For those of you that know me, you'll know that I've been a supporter/promoter of Maverick Audio products almost since the beginning. You'll also know that I try to provide an unbaised opinion compiled from my limited experiences with other hardware. I haven't been an audiophile for very long but I've moved up rather fast and have arrived at a setup I'm completely content with. Now, this is where I have to say that I have limited experience with different DACs and other components. The setup I've arrived at is a Sony TA-N55ES power amplifier (110WPC) and JBL L19A speakers. Anyone who knows speaker setups has surely heard of the classic Sony ES series and the classic JBL L series. While my components aren't at the high end of what those classics were, they certainly are a staple of what vintage audio is truly about. With that said, the Sony is my first real power amplifier (not counting the Maverick A1). The speakers I had previously were the infamous Best Buy Insignias which sounded good but they're nothing compared to these JBL's. My point is, that I'm new to being an audiophile. I haven't been around 20 years listening to dozens of different DAC's, Amps and vintage speakers (heck I'm only 22...).
I believe in Ryan, the owner/founder of Maverick Audio, because he's striving to create good, competitive products in a niche market. I also favor him because of his unparalled customer support/service. He's Chinese and lives in China but when you talk to him via e-mail, you get real and understandable English. He's not a flash in the pan that's purely here to make money, he's here to make quality audio products that the average person can afford and enjoy. Too many Chinese start-up companies come and go in the audio world. Ryan's here to stay and he's proven that with his latest product; the Maverick Audio TubeMagic D2.
Looks & Build Quality:
As you can see, the D2 is built on the same form factor as Ryan's previous products, the D1 and A1. This means you can easily stack it with the A1 to have a great sounding DAC and Amp. The finish, screws, faceplate, knob style, blue LED's and power button remain consistent with other models as well. There is one thing, however, that is different; the case itself. Many of you know that other models have had issues with case alignment. Even my own personal units suffered from this, the A1 being the worst as I couldn't even get 2 of the top screws back in place even with bending as much as I could. I disassembled my D2 prior to listening and was pleasantly surprised when I went to put it back together; all the holes lined up and I didn't have to use any force to put the screws in. This may seem like something basic but the TubeMagic series uses a thick-gauge bent metal sheeting for the case unlike offerings from Audio-GD which uses extruded aluminum. Back to the D2, after having put the screws back in, the whole case is perfectly square, no edges poking out, it's really rigid. It appears that Ryan's got the factory workers doing a better job as this is the best case I've seen from Maverick Audio.
The internal build quality matches the external. The wiring and component layout looks better than other models (although to be fair, my A1 was a pre-production model). It also appears that Ryan has sourced better components as I spot many ELNA capacitors scattered across the board along with Rubycon and WIMA. I believe the source switch for the 4 digital inputs (USB, Optical, Coaxial, and BNC) is more of a software type as opposed to the D1's hardware type which made weird noises, clicks and static as you switched between digital inputs. The source switching on the D2 is almost quiet and much more pleasant. The source knob itself is somewhat loose, and this may be the only negative thing I can scrape up for this unit. For those that remember the A1's source switch being somewhat difficult to turn, Ryan changed things up and is now using a switch that gives a tactile feedback similar to stepped volume pots. It takes very little effort to turn the switch which may worry some at first, it certainly worried me. But, Ryan thought of this as well and to switch sources, it takes 2 clicks or "steps" of the switch to change the source. This makes it so sources won't accidentially get switched if you bump the unit. Personally, I think it's pretty well balanced.
This is a part where I've had some trouble. Another follower of Maverick Audio and friend of mine, sp70, received a D2 from an early test batch. After listening to it, he was disappointed. I was as well I after seeing the components. Knowing that the D2 had been designed with opamps rather than a discrete circuit, our hearts and expectations sank. Time went by and Ryan said he was going to revise the D2. Fast forward a few months and I have a production version of the D2, still with opamps. I talked for a while with Ryan on this subject. To quote Ryan on a few e-mails:
Ryan simply did the best he could in the time, features and money constraints that he had. After listening to the D2, I think he did a damn fine job.
The first day I had my D2, I did some A/B testing with the Audio-GD NFB-12 I have. I was shocked after a while. I honestly didn't expect the D2 to hold it's own against the NFB-12. Nothing against Ryan's abilities at all, it's just that a company like Audio-GD has been around longer and has more experience and ability to create great products. Ryan simply hasn't reached that level yet, or has he? I couldn't believe my ears while I was doing A/B tests. I couldn't tell a difference at first. Both units seemed to have similar sound. After about an hour or so, I started noticing differences as I was going through different music. The D1 consistently had slightly more bass (could be due to the tube?) but not at all bloated like a cheap low-end subwoofer. There was also more pronounced highs like cymbals in classic rock. The NFB-12 started sounding more restricted to mids and the D2 sounded more dynamic or extended. I setup the D2 as my DAC for over 2 weeks, keeping the NFB-12 on the shelf the whole time. I didn't miss the NFB-12 at all. Having had burn-in time (whether or not it did anything) the D2 still sounds great and I don't feel it's restricting anything in my audio setup. I decided to pop the NFB-12 back in place today to try some A/B testing again and I'm really straining to find anything better with it over the D2. In the past, upgrades for me have been pretty black and white. This is the first time I've had a hard time discerning differences in 2 products.
Edited by _Spanky_ - 5/2/12 at 7:17pm