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Maverick Audio TubeMagic D2 (Dedicated DAC) - Review, FAQ & Info Thread

post #1 of 120
Thread Starter 
TubeMagic D2 Dedicated DAC

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:

http://www.mav-audio.com/base/product/tubemagic_d2

 

 

My review is unfinished but for the sake of having a decent thread, here it is:

 

 

Introduction:

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.

 

Pictures:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/464376/head-fi/mav_d2_condensed/pictures/DSCF0057.JPG

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/464376/head-fi/mav_d2_condensed/pictures/DSCF0059.JPG

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/464376/head-fi/mav_d2_condensed/pictures/DSCF0048.JPG

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/464376/head-fi/mav_d2_condensed/pictures/DSCF0049.JPG

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/464376/head-fi/mav_d2_condensed/pictures/DSCF0050.JPG

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/464376/head-fi/mav_d2_condensed/pictures/DSCF0051.JPG

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/464376/head-fi/mav_d2_condensed/pictures/DSCF0052.JPG

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/464376/head-fi/mav_d2_condensed/pictures/DSCF0053.JPG

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/464376/head-fi/mav_d2_condensed/pictures/DSCF0055.JPG

 

 

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.

 

Sound Quality:

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:

 

 

Quote:
I Can not eliminate opamps due to production issues and cost concern. It can be done, but to match the components into pair is a pain in the ass, it can be done when you just make a few units for a time, but very difficult if you want to make 50-100 units a time. If I price the unit to $600, probably I can do that, but I have to compromise this feature due to budget concern. I have fine tuned the D2 by tweaking the components used in the D2 since I sent the demo unit to sp70 a few months ago. I completely understand what you are coming from --- the DAC market has become so competitive recently, with a lot of new models with different feature sets. I agree Audio-GD has a excellent DAC product range targeted to the DIY audio lovers and people who want absolute best circuit design. I have spent a lot time thinking about bringing the D2 to the market. Then I realize I have to face the reality -- it may take forever to bring out a good discreet stage DAC from my team -- in the mean time, I have lost market opportunities. Each product has it's pro's and con's, that's why I want to bring the D2 to the market, as it does fit a lot customers' needs -- a simple to use, good sound quality dedicated DAC. It may not be the best DAC for people who know discreet stage, but it is a good DAC choice for normal audio lovers. That's what a lot of my friends and dealers told me, that's why I decided to bring D2 to the market, although it is not the "perfect" in designer's eye.

 

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
post #2 of 120
Thread Starter 

Placeholder.

post #3 of 120

First of all, I'd like to say congratulations to Spanky for a damn fine review, can't wait to read the finished article,it's hard as hell any reviews on this product.

 

I bought a tubemagic D2 myself a couple of months ago, after reading a long long list of reviews I decided to go for the D2, I managed to audition a CA dacmagic before I made my decision but I wasn't too impressed, it seemed to take any atmosphere the track has away and the bass seemed to recede into the background, in my opinion the D2 is in another league, when my D2 arrived the difference was immediately noticeable , I was very impressed with how much it improved the sound on my set up.

 

The  D2 has both solid state and tube outputs and plenty of inputs ( optical, s/p dif coaxial, usb, bnc coaxial ), at first I'll admit to not being too keen on the tube out stage, but after about a month I decided to give it another go and it must be due to burn in, the sound had definitely improved and now it's tube all the way for me.

Both outputs have a fantastic sound, the solid state has a clean, crisp,punchy sound, while the tube stage has a more natural non fatiguing sound with a slightly bigger sound stage,both are very detailed.The D2 is also very easy to upgrade which makes it means you can improve on an already good sound for little cost, this was a major factor for me when I decided to buy.

post #4 of 120

I've had the D2 for several months. It's my first venture with an external DAC and so far I have been pleased with the results. I would recommend going for the OPA627 upgrade. Mine arrived yesterday and after installing I immediately noticed an improvement. Lots more subtle detail in the music and an increase in soundstage both horizontally and vertically. Nice to finally read a review on the D2, none of the mainstream reviewers have touched it yet.

post #5 of 120

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Edited by preproman - 10/30/12 at 12:38pm
post #6 of 120

How do you hook up D2 with A1?? Just wonder using tube out or SS out...

post #7 of 120
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by truenobzr View Post

How do you hook up D2 with A1?? Just wonder using tube out or SS out...

I use the tube output with my speaker amp.

post #8 of 120

I am not an audiophile and I got my D2 two weeks ago. I decide to buy (give a try) to D2 after reading very little review available on the net. D2 is part of my new audio system setup and the whole system just completed two days ago by buying last two sub-woofers. (Btw, my last audio system was Sony mini Hi-Fi - Dolby Pro-Logic system that I bought way back in 1996.)

 

On this round of audio system setup, I feel it is a special experience by having a lot of personal touch, including a couple of emails with Ryan, on each and every component that I bought, and yet all the brand and equipments are unknown to me before this purchase.

 

My setup is: 2.2 channel audio setup -

 

Cheap China made DVD player with USB/SD media playback > Coaxial Digital Out to Tubemagic D2 >

 

- D2's Tube Pre Out > Martin electrionic's Single Ended Tube Amplifier (Designed and handmade by old couple in Singapore) (Jan Philips 6188, Svetlana EL34, Hammond 125ESE out) > Paradigm Mini Monitor v.6 Bookshelf Speakers

 

- D2's Normal Out > 2x Sunfire SDS-8 subwoofers (Stereo sub setup)

 

My D2 is GE 5670 tube + BB 627 OpAmp upgraded.

 

Hammond 125ESE cut the audio frequency into 100Hz to 15kHz, power at <15W per channel. Sunfire SDS-8 drive 100Hz and below. I don't miss audio frequency above 15kHz (less noisier).

 

All the interconnects are Monster cable and Tubeamp to Paradigm is Cable Talk 3 cable.

 

Usage: Listen to songs and musics ranged from popular pop audio, rock, tube only voilin/saxophone/concerts, vocals and watching movies. (Looking for good Jazz to try.)

 

What D2 improves my setup?

 

1) Enhance audio resolution

- After D2 is in, the audio resolution was significantly improved and all the weaker tone becomes apparent. Clearer sound to before.

 

2) Larger soundstage

- Immediately noticed by first playback with D2.

 

3) Tube out further soften the audio out from my Tubeamp

- The music becomes so soft and so enjoyable, especially during the playback of Tacet's Tube Out Violin where there is no audio note lower than 100Hz frequency (i.e., my subs are total silent)

 

4) Enhance bass from normal out - Before my subs come in, I have already noticed the bass driving from D2's normal out but my tube amp cut it down. At least I can feel the difference on 100Hz to 200Hz range made by D2 on my Paradigm.

 

- After my subs come in and combine with those subs, the bass becomes extremely powerful (I have skipped Sunfire HRS series to avoid to be overly powerful). After blending the subs into the system, it gives me a clear, powerful bass amid sweet and warm vocals/musics.

 

5) Functional improvement

- I don't need to buy expensive High-End CD player or Tube CD player, but instead allocate my budget into subs. D2's plenty of inputs and outputs enable me to make it to function as preamp plus mutli-channel receiver.

 

6) Improve movie experience

- This part is not totally relate to D2 but with my 2.2 channel setup, I have a very good balance on music/movie playback. I don't miss my old Pro-logic 4.1 setup or many friend's 5.1 setup.

 

(Btw, cheap Chinese DVD player runs 1080p HDMI out and good discs reading servo. Anyway, both D2 and Sunfire are made in China.)

 

Now I am a happy customer with my new audio system, and sharing my experience to you.


Edited by Versa2222 - 6/1/12 at 9:13pm
post #9 of 120

Other than what's on the upgrade page for the D2.  What are some other Tubes and OPAmps that will work and that are clear upgrades to this DAC?

post #10 of 120
Thread Starter 

Anything on the D1 FAQ should work as it uses the same tube.

http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/470639/maverick-audio-tubemagic-d1-dac-amp-condensed-faq-and-info-thread

post #11 of 120

A lifelong music lover, I dipped my foot in the audiophile world two years ago with my first purchase of nice speakers. Previously, I had been using a half-decent setup from Philips, but when one of the speakers stopped working, I decided to upgrade. After much research, I settled on a pair of Audioengine P4 passive speakers with a MiniWatt N3 tube amplifier. This setup was an amazing improvement over what I had, and for the first time I had a glimpse of the world that audiophiles seemed to regularly inhabit. I was sort of hooked.

 

The next year, I decided to take another jump in quality by purchasing a PreAmp or a DAC. Because my setup included at least two components, a TV and an Apple TV/Airport Express, and because the MiniWatt amp only has one analogue input, I needed something with multiple inputs and a single output. Also because I'm a novice in the audiophile department, I wanted a relatively inexpensive solution. The Maverick TubeMagic D2 was a dream come true.

 

Solid build, good reviews, low relative price-point, a tube preamp, and best of all (for me, at least) a range of input possibilities, TubeMagic D2 seemed exactly like what I was looking for.

 

Upon arrival I connected an Apple TV, and my television. I was immediately blown away by the upgrade in quality. The difference was reminiscent of my experience when I first heard the MiniWatt amp with the Audioengine speakers: a new dimension in clarity, power, separation, and pure listening enjoyment. Except this time, the leap was from great to even greater (a jump I did not expect I could take). For the first few days I was switching between the Solid State and the Tube Pre, but honestly I could not discern a great difference. After doing a diligent burn-in with the Tube Pre, I have never gone back to the Solid State (although I just read that it has a simultaneous output and wouldn't mind trying both at the same time, if only I had another amp).

 

Everyone has a subjective experience with audio, and there is no doubt that my impressions will be different from others. But my impressions were and are very positive. Listening to an Apple Lossless (from FLAC) live recording of The Allman Brothers at the Beacon (a performance I attended) immediately takes me back to being in the audience hearing it live. The separation and clarity of Derek Trucks' guitar solos scream out at you, take you up and down, and leave you with their lingering, melancholy notes. The bass lines, drums, and blues organs are all well-articulated, with punch, but soft and gooey at the same time. And the gravely voice of Greg Allman comes through clear and growly, just the way it should.

 

Speaking of subjectivity, I have to disagree with something other reviewers have mentioned, which is that this DAC does not handle lossy audio well. My music collection had a great range in quality before I upgraded to iTunes Match (which brought everything up to a minimum of 256kbps -- not ideal, but also not horrible) from really bad bootlegs I acquired in the early Napster days, to Apple Lossless files converted straight from FLAC. All of these files sounded noticeably better once I put the TubeMagic D2 DAC into my system. Obviously the better quality ones sounded great, but the lower quality ones got a nice bump as well. In my estimation, this product brought the low end of my lossy files up to the medium end of the quality spectrum.

 

I also recently compared the effects of this DAC with the famed iTunes VolumeLogic plugin. I originally purchased VolumeLogic about 7 years ago and loved it. Trying to bring it back to my system, I eventually found a way, albeit not an easy way, to install it into the current version of iTunes. It did, as usual, make a huge improvement in the sound quality when listening to music through just the computer an my Klipsh SE1 earbuds. Just like I remembered. So I was excited to try it out with the DAC. Much to my amazement, all of the gains from the plugin where matched and then exceeded by the DAC. The improvement in quality from the plugin, as dramatic as it is (and other users can attest), was overshadowed by the DAC. I didn't need it after all.

 

In short, the TubeMagic D2 DAC is an amazing piece of technology. Is it as good as a product that costs several thousand dollars? I have no idea, because I can't afford something like that. For the price, I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's perfect for anybody who is either new to HIFI and wants to get into it (like me), or for anyone who wants great sound without blowing the bank. I would recommend it to anybody.

post #12 of 120
Thread Starter 

Great review for your first post! Thanks for contributing to this thread and welcome to Head-Fi :)

post #13 of 120

Hi All,

 

I'm a new member looking to get some info on the D1 and D2. First of all, thanks to Spanky for the wonderful pages on both these (largely ignored elsewhere) products. I'm looking at the upgraded D1 ($244) and the upgraded D2 ($289). Primarily I'm looking for a DAC and to experience tube sound. Based on that I would've picked the D2, but I'm trying to understand if the $45 difference gets me something that I will use. I definitely won't need the extra coax on the D2. From the comparison sheet on their website it seems the D2 has much better SNR specs than the D1 - but that's just for the base versions. Do we know what the difference is for the upgraded versions? Are there any differences that make the $45 worthwhile?

 

Thanks!

post #14 of 120
Thread Starter 

Personally, I think the D2 is better than the D1. Of course, the D1 has a built in headphone amp and analog inputs which is nice but the D2 has a better USB chip if you're going to be using that.

 

If you need a DAC now, go for the D2, you won't be disappointed. I'm using it as my main DAC now and am pleased. I'm eager to try the OPA627 opamps though, Ryan says they really improve sound. I rolled in LM4562 and they bring about high details but fades the bass away a little bit. I have no complaints about the stock opamps though.

post #15 of 120

Hi guys -- brand new here, and I have a question regarding the DAC2 as it pertains to the overall setup of a system I'm building out.

 

I'm basically starting from scratch, as my previous Onkyo --> JBL rig doesn't really fit with my media console in my new apt.  I'm most likely going to purchase the Audioengine A5+5 powered speakers, and was hoping to bypass the whole A/V receiver thing and go direct from the audio source(s) --> D2 --> speakers.  

 

My question is, if I want to hook up several components (Apple TV, BluRay player, Cable TV), is it advisable to pass all of the components through the TV (via the 3 HDMI inputs), and then run the optical out from the TV and into the DAC?  Or is there another/better way to set this all up?  For example, is there any kind of decoding issue, or jittering or latency that will happen by using the TV as the actual conduit for all these sources...and if so, how might I get around that?

 

Many, many thanks in advance!

 

-Aram

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