I might be in a minority, not sure, but coming from a tube based SET system (Audio Note) I naturally leaned towards a Tubed DAC for my Stax SR-007s Mk2s with SRM-717 and Speaker system.
I did own various solid state DACs (UK boutique units) but build an Audio Note DAC 1.1 kit back in 2006 and stopped looking. That DAC had such an analogue, none fatiguing sound, solid bass and clean clar highs, plus a mid range to match, I was happy finally with CD playback.
But late last year, I was hankering to get my CD collection onto a Mac based music streamer for convience and to retain the CDP quality I was getting from my CEC TL51.
Enter the Audio Note 3.1 SE Kit
I have the Audio Note DAC 3.1 SE kit arriving next week, and are to hook it up to an EVO plus clock plus outboard power supply built by Cables R Us UK.
Inside the DAC 3.1 kit with Output transformers after the tubed output stage. Also note the wound transformers on the Digital board that avoid the op-amp issues.
Pictured the I/V transformers coupled between the Digital and Analogue board. It is to retain the energy in the current to volts transfer stage.
I am hoping the Mac Mini plus EVO stack will equal or better my CEC CDP. It should in theory I think. I was to use Pure Power software, and stuff 8 gig ram in the Mac Mini.
I use Audio Note AN-V RCA Coax for the EVO to DAC, and Audio Note RCA AN-V for DAC to pre amp. I use a factory Audio Note M3 pre and a factory Audio Note Conquest monoblock pair with 2 x 300b tubes and 1 x 6SN7 each channel.
I note the DAC 3.1 uses 2 x 5687s on the output board, which my M3 does as well, also the same is a 6X5 for the rectifier (which I swop out for a Bendix 5852 as it has more power draw and better bass).
My Amps and Speakers
M3 Pre Amp
Conquest 300b SET Mono Blocks
Zingali Overture 2s Horn Hybrids
Stax SR-007s Mk2
I am a bit nervous doing all these mods to my system in one go. I was happy with the DAC 1.1 sound, though it was a tad forward though very organic and smooth, with no treble edge. It's only failing if it had one was it was a bit hissy and hum levels were a tad high. It couldn't be beat at it's price though, and was close to vinyl.
I am not sure why more folk don't look at the Audio Note Dac kits (or UK factory products) as they are superb DACs. The nearest I have heard to analogue and can listen for hours with no fatigue.
They major on NONE OVERSAMPLING AND NO FILTERING.
The parts quality is also top notch (BlackGates, Elna Cerafines, Tantalum Resistors, Silver wiring, Top quality design, IV Transformers between the digital and analogue sections (most important) and Transformer Coupled Output.
I'll post a review (with my own photos and close ups) once I build up the kit and Mac Mini front end.