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MHDT Lab Stockholm Balanced DAC

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

This is not an review. It is just my first impression of this DAC. Take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt because my ears are different than yours as are my components. My system: McIntosh C2300 preamp(I also have an YS Audio Balanced A2SE which is currently not in my system,although it sounds better than the McIntosh), McIntosh MC275 V amp, Denon DCD-A100 CD/SACD player, Klipsch Heresy III and(get ready to roll your eyes) Bose 901 VI speakers. Tascam DAT,Kenwood 600T tuner, and an Aiwa XKS-9000S Cassette deck. It's a long story why I ended up with the Bose 901 VIs', but believe me, I never thought I would find the 901s as a keeper. And they are!I have been involved in audio for over 34 years and have owned many speakers as well as source components.Some of which are: Hales Revalation(which was anything but), Infinity Kappa 8, Spenor 3/5a, Harbeth 7-ES2, Paragon "The regent"(which I paid $4000.00 for. They used Dynaudio drivers), ADS, JBL, etc, etc, etc......Some of the audio components, so you know where I am coming from are: Sony SCD-1, SCD-777ES, XA-7ES, Metronome, Blue Circle, Cary, Belles, Conrad Johnson, Audio Research, McIntosh(many pieces) the MVP-861 being the best sounding CD player I have ever had in my system, and many others. Now that you know where I'm coming from, I will tell you why the Bose 901 V!. I had never heard nor had any Bose product, but being involved in the high-end, I knew it wasn't a company to be taken seriously, so I just decided to stay away from them. It wasn't until I got sick-and-tired of being treated poorly by the high-end manufacturers, that I decided to purchase the Bose. You see, when I was 16, I wrote a letter to many manufacturers about wanting to be a speaker designer. Bose(the company. Not the man) called my home and spoke to me. Even after they learned I was just a 16 year old kid, they still treated me with great respect, telling me to go to engineering school and when I finish, to please contact them again for an interview. They even sent me a letter thanking me for my time. This stuck in my head. So I thought it was time to pay them back for there kindness, and stop giving my money to the condescending high-end which treats there customers like they should be thanked for allowing us to purchse their wonderful equipment. Yeah right!!!! Oddly enough, I love the way these speakers mate with tubes, although they were designed for solid state. What made me look for a DAC? Not being happy with the standard CD playback of my Denon CD player, I decided to look at what was on the market. Having owned a Paradisea in the past and thinking it was a little rolled-off in the high frequency, I wasn't sure another NOS DAC would be right for my system. But I went ahead and purchased it brand new from another head-fi member anyway. Well my first impression of this DAC with only a few hours on it, is that it is a bit thin and lacking in bass. My McIntosh preamp not being all that great with the low end makes me think this match-up will not last. Since I find the McIntosh a little lacking in the deep bass, it needs a DAC that has that low end and I am not sure this is the DAC that is up to that task. I am in the process of purchasing a new powercord, tubes, and isolation feet to see if that will improve the sound. I am not a purest so I belive in signal processing. In fact, I have an Ashly EQ and an Aphex Aural Exciter in my system. It's only after turning up the bass end on the signal processors that makes this preamp and DAC combo listenable. By contrast, The YS Audio Balanced A2SE preamp has thunderous bass, so that may be a better match, and since it sounds better than the McIntosh, I am thinking of returning it to my system. I needed the McIntosh because it has more inputs and a tape monitor loop. Not being a purest, I prefer a system that allows me to enjoy my music rather than being accurate. Sometimes accurate is just not enjoyable to listen to. I tried using my Klipsch Heresy III speakers in this system, but the Bose just sounded better so I am staying with them. I contacted MHDT Lab about the thin sound I experienced. They said it was the potential character of the CS8416 digital receiver. This will graduly improve in 100 hours burn-in. I figured this DAC was going to share some of the characteristics of the Paradisea, but since I read it uses mica caps, which improve on the shortcomings of the Paradisea, I thought the high frequencies would be improved,and I was right about that. It has me thinking that maybe I should have gone for the Havana Balanced because the guy I purchased this DAC from, said he read the Havana has a "metier" quality to it and is recommended for systems where that is required. It has been my experience(despite what you read) that as soon as you turn an audio component on, you are getting a sound that is 95% of the way there. I don't believe in lengthy burn-in because I have never heard the sound change beyond the first few hours. Maybe I just don't have golden ears. Another thing that worries me is, when I had the Paradisea, I changed the tube and didn't hear any difference. That has me worried because I can't change the tubes in hopes that, that would help improve the lack of low bass. I believe the tubes are used for buffering which, when changed, do not make a dramatic change in the sound quality. I did notice the DAC open up a little from when I first turned it on, but I am waiting for it to dramatically change because I think that's what's going to have to happen in order for it to fit into my system.  

post #2 of 24
Thread Starter 

This is just an update on the sound of the MHDT Lab Stockholm Balanced DAC: While the sound is gradually improving, I have yet to hear an improvement in bass. I received the tubes and I will try them out. I am hoping this will have a positive affect on the sound. The tubes are 1954 CBS HYTRON 5670 matched pair. I am waiting for the powercord, which I purchased on ebay from Indeed-HiFi. The feedback on this powercord seems to be pretty good. It's also fairly low in price. The feet which I am also waiting for are from Vintage Audio Lab. They are Valab Carbon Fiber Audio Vibration Isolation Damper Feet. I am wondering if MHDT Lab has reached its peak. Their DACs which used to fly off of Audiogon and ebay, are seliing a little slower these days. And the sales of their new DACs on ebay have crawled to a halt. Maybe it's the bad economy. People have less money to spend, so they can't afford to waste money on a product they can't try out before purchase. People have to be sure of what they are purchasing and since the sale of these DACs have slowed, you can't be sure of how much money you will loose when selling it on the used market. 

post #3 of 24

I have no first hand experience with the feet you mentioned, but they are advertised as a vibration damper, which means you are trying to isolate the equipment from (external) vibration.  What about internal vibration?  If your going to make an effort to see how far you can tweak the MHDT you should consider internal dampening measures, like the tube.   From my own experiments I've found many equipment benefits from both coupling and damping. Doing just one, does not result in the ideal result. 

 

I prefer to couple the device to a damping mass, such as a maple block, and under that maple block, place the vibration damper, thus preventing mechanical vibration from your table going back up into the device.  Coupling the DAC to a maple block would help pull or dampen the internal mechanical vibration from any tubes, transformers, ect.   

 

If the MHDT has a tube, dampen that with a tube dampener, such as Herbies  http://herbiesaudiolab.net.  

 

Just my $.02

 

No Disc

post #4 of 24
Thread Starter 

Hi No Disc,

Thanks for your recommendation. I will purchase some tube dampers as well. My audio rack from VTI is on spikes. That is, each shelf is on spikes to help with vibration. System synergy is extremely important, and the guys at MHDT Lab said they think the Havana Balanced would be a better match for my system. They're going to send me the Havana Balanced DAC to try out in my system. For some reason the McIntosh C2300 is a little weak when it comes to bass reproduction. As I mentioned in my post, I have an YS Audio Balanced A2SE which has thunderous bass, so that is probably a better match. But the McIntosh C2300 has more inputs and a tape monitor loop which I need. The Stockholm Balanced DAC makes the internal DAC in the Denon A100 sound muddy and bloated by comparison. That's because the Stockholm Balanced DAC is so clear. It seperates the instruments where as, the Denon kind-of bunches instruments together.  I can tell you one thing about the guys at MHDT lab: Their customer service is first rate! They are truly music lovers, and they appreciate and support there customers very much. This is something I can't say about most high-end manufacturers.  

Take care,

Steve

post #5 of 24
Thread Starter 

This is an update: I contacted MHDT Labs to ask them if I could do an exchange and send them the Stockholm Balanced(which I did not purchase from them) for either the Havana Balanced or Havana. They sent me an Email asking me what my shipping address is. Well, without me sending them the Stockholm Balanced, they sent me a brand new Havana Balanced. Hows that for customer service??? Do you know of any company that would do that?????? Because I sure don't! After speaking with Jiun, he felt the Havana Balanced would be a better match for my system, and he was right. I actually like the Havana Balanced. It does have a meatier quality to it. Its build quality is first rate! Its bass is almost as deep as the built-in DAC in my Denon DCD-A100. It also makes my Denon sound a bit congested and muddy by comparison. I received the powercord from Indeed Hi Fi Lab(a seller on ebay) and I will try it out. I also want to try out the two 1954 CBS HYTRON tubes I purchased for the Stockholm Balanced. I read online that this DAC does not strike you right away like some other HiFi components do. Rather, it grows on you the more you listen to it. The DAC only has about an hour on it. It will be interesting to see if the sound does indeed change as it breaks in. The designer of the YS Audio Balanced A2SE preamp said that preamp needs about 150 of burn-in to sound its best. Well, I put 38 hours on that preamp and it does not sound any different than the first day I hooked it up. Why is it that the burn-in always "improves" the sound and not the other way around? Why can the burn-in change the sound for the worstevil_smiley.gif??? So far, I like the Havana Balanced, but the jury is still out on whether it is the right DAC for my system. I've been thinking of trying the Sony SCD-XA5400ES, but what will I do with the Denonconfused_face_2.gif? NOS DACs are very system dependant. Either you love them or you hate them. I can tell you the people that feel all NOS(Non Oversampling)DACs are dull and are rolled off at the high frequency should have a listen to the Havana Balanced or the Stockholm Balancedbiggrin.gif.

post #6 of 24
Thread Starter 

Yet another update: Jiun said the Stockholm Balanced and the Havana Balanced have the same analog output. I guess he is suggesting they both should sound the same when used in an audio system(don't know about computer audio). Hmmmm....I will have to do an A/B test because I remember the Stockholm Balanced being a little weak in the bass, while the Havana Balanced seems to have a little stronger bass output. I installed the 1954 CBS HYTRON tubes in the Havana Balanced and don't notice any difference between them and the stock tubes.


Edited by steveoboy - 8/27/12 at 9:45pm
post #7 of 24

What about Stockholm, have you shipped it back to Jiun or still keep both? I have read that Havana have some noise issues, while Stockholm not, also, you may want to take a look for a new caps, such as V-caps, Mundorf, Cardas or Jensens to improve the sound quality of Stockholm or any DAC / Amp.

And, burn in can take some time, say 500 hours, before it will open up fully.


Edited by Blackmore - 8/28/12 at 5:10am
post #8 of 24
Thread Starter 

I still have the Stockholm. Jiun said it's too expensive to ship it back, so he told me to sell it and send them the money. I have not noticed any noise at all. I'm not into  mods. I figure the engineer did many hours listening before he stuck with this design. I'm not so sure I believe in long break-ins.

Take care,

Steve

post #9 of 24

Do not want to start anything to change your mind, but I think it's time for you to believe in break-ins en upgrades, especially with budget equipment. I am not saying that Jiun gear are cheapish, no, but depends where you compare them with. Tell me, why Audio Note Japan uses all silver wire transformers, oil caps of own design and many other things in their top line products? Simply because its top of the line and must have top grade material  and components.

What I am trying to say, there is nothing wrong with upgrades, cos if you buy it and find a friend who can do it for you it will be much cheaper than let do this by manufacturer. By changing of couple of caps you will not destroy the basics of the DAC, only give it the new life and support of already good product. Why dont you ask Jiun about it?

 

After many years I still learning and there is nothing wrong with it either, more even, I like it more than ever.

 

Good luck.

 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by steveoboy View Post

I still have the Stockholm. Jiun said it's too expensive to ship it back, so he told me to sell it and send them the money. I have not noticed any noise at all. I'm not into  mods. I figure the engineer did many hours listening before he stuck with this design. I'm not so sure I believe in long break-ins.

Take care,

Steve

post #10 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by steveoboy View Post

I I figure the engineer did many hours listening before he stuck with this design.

 I like this.biggrin.gif,

 

Stop this advertisement thread, Stockholm needs many upgrades to sound good..


Edited by robeeert1 - 8/28/12 at 1:54pm
post #11 of 24
Thread Starter 

This is not an advertisement. I purchased the Stockholm Balanced from COUNTCHOCULABOT for $1000.00. As you can see by what I have posted, I don't think it is a good match with my system. That's why MHDT Labs sent me the Havana Balanced. Jiun said the Havana Balanced would be a better match for my system. Yet, I received an Email from Jiun stating both the Stockholm Balanced and the Havana Balanced has the same analog output stage. I think he is suggesting that they both should sound the same, which makes no sense. Why would he have sent me the Havana Balanced if he thought it was going to sound the same as the Stockholm Balanced??? As for the mods, You can't just throw brand-name parts at something and expect an improvement in sound. It doesn't work that way. There are key areas on a PCB where higher quality parts do well. And then there are areas where it is piontless to use expensive high quality parts since it will not improve the sound. In the ares where it is piontless to use expensive parts, a good quality lower cost part is what is needed. It takes many hundreds of listening hours to determine what parts go where. Just because you spend big bucks on a part doesn't mean it will sound better when you replace the original part with the higher cost part, and just because somebody thinks a replacement part sounds better than the original doesn't mean I am going to run out and buy that part and install it. I'm sure there have been  many cases where an owner of one of these MHDT Labs DACs have attepmted to better the sound by trying an expensive part in place of the original, and found out that he/she has just made the sound worse. If you feel the need to mod something, be my guest. I'm sure it's a lot of fun, but I am not going to open up something that cost me $1000 and start replacing parts with the hopes of improving the sound. 

Take care..

post #12 of 24
Thread Starter 

By the way, there is no consensus on the burn-in process. Some engineers say there is no such thing, and some others say it does happen to some degree but it's not explainable as to why. It also does not apply to all electronics. There is no practical way to determine this. You can't listen for 500 hours straight to listen for a change in sound. And even if you did, your senses would be affected by fatigue so what you think you are hearing as a change in sound could just be an illusion. Your system could also be affected by the time of day and the amount of people using electricity in your area. I'm also sure our hearing is affected in ways that we still do not understand. I'm not saying there is no such thing as burn-in, I'm just saying I don't believe in the long burn-in process. I have heard the sound change in the first couple of hours on some equipment, but it doesn't seem to change beyond that. Speakers, of course, need a few hours of burn-in to loosen things up. 

post #13 of 24
I would think all materials need to be conditioned with their operating parameters. I recently got a new TV with an ISF cert. They wanted us to run the tv for several hours a day and waited a month to cal it. They wanted a couple hundred hours for circuit stability.

The two headphones I did notice changes in over a week or two were the K701 and the HE-6. They weren't weeks but days of pink noise upon arrival between listening sessions and I noticed the change in character. I also broke in my tube amp for 200 hrs (Blackgate caps.) straight (on the 701s) and was gone through the week. After the second week, the amp had settled in with better impact and quieter noise floor. No objective inquisitions please as these were my experiences.

Every life critical circuit has to be ran for reliability before being put into service. In the Navy, ships are ran through sea trials for certification before being put into service. Mil. spec tubes were required to have so many hours use before being put into service. While I hear many engineers say there is nothing to burn in, the protocols for the end users would suggest there is.

Oh, welcome to head fi and sorry for your wallet. tongue.gif

All that gear and you never heard the evidence of burn in?
Edited by Happy Camper - 8/30/12 at 2:22pm
post #14 of 24
Thread Starter 

Hi, thank you. I have been in audio for 34 years and have worked at an audio store. I have owned and heard hundreds of audio pieces through the years. There was never any talk of the burn-in process before. This is a fairly recent thing. Of course I can understand the testing of circuit stability before something is released to the public. It is necessary to burn-in tubes prior to releasing them to the public because they can cause serious electrical problems. This is different than the burn-in process we are talking about. The burn-in process we are talking about isn't for circuit stability, it has to do with a change in audio quality. Like I stated earlier in my post: why is it that the sound always improves during the burn-in process? Why can't the sound change for the worse? I guess either I don't have the "golden ears" that others claim to have, or maybe I am just telling it like it is. Remember "Fi" magazine? They told it like it is, and didn't last too long. Sometimes the truth hurts. As far as headphones go, of course they are going to change. They use drivers which are stiff when first manufactured. Just like loudspeakers, they have to loosen up. Quite honestly, I have never kept anything or used anything long enough to put a hundred hours on it. So I don't know if there is a change in sound quality after that many hours. I can tell you there is no change in audio quality after the first several hours. Try posing this question to some of the engineers that build the equipment. See what they have to say. Maybe they will prove me wrong. Bob Carver is on ebay. I think his ebay user I.D. is AUDIOSHOPPER. I think Stereophile posed this question to Lew Johnson(of Conrad-Johnson) and he said it is true, but he doesn't know why. I don't recall him saying anything about extensive burn-in, however. I guess you have better hearing than I dobiggrin.gif.


Edited by steveoboy - 8/30/12 at 10:13pm
post #15 of 24
enjoyed your post. its nice reading something els, instead of how mush more analog the DAC sounded after 200 hours
and still improving:D
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