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Check out my Audio Note DAC 3.1 SE build!

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hi all

I am a tube lover, and run an all Audio Note DAC-Pre-Power system, but also use SR-007 MK2 and a Stax SR-717 amp.


I have owned quite a few DACs over the years from Naim, Meridian and Musical Fidelity. 7 years ago I came across the None Oversampling DACs and fell in love with the organic and smooth sound. I would characterise the sound of the Meridian and Naim DACs as good but 'HiFi'. I liked them on demo in the shop, but sold them inside 3 months of owning them. They just didn't do it for me. I was picking my favourite CDs on SQ replay, and avoiding those that sounded harsh or brittle.


Don't believe the rumours, None Oversampling DACs can sound VERY detailed and yet have the smoothest treble possible in digital replay. I have learnt to re-love my RedBook collection as it is now so close to a good vinyl rig. I listen all day with no problems. Ok tubes need replacing every 2 years, and it needs to warm up for 1/2 hour, but it glows in the dark and the sound is just so right!


I am using a Mac Mini and Pure Music into M2Tech EVO full stack including regulated power supply into my new Audio Note DAC 3.1 SE kit. The kit costs 2,250 US and you get (once assembled) a truly high end DAC with great quality parts, solid design and fantastic sound quality. I would say it will compete with DACs 3 times it's prices, especially OS units.


The kit took me 10 hours to build over 4 nights, and was a truly fun experience. The thing is, after you have built the kit, you understand the layouts, and can appreciate the way it works. It is very easy to bolt in upgraded components later should you want to as the case is big and there is space left.


BTW if you think 2k sounds a lot for a kit, this is no ordinary kit. Check out the parts quality. And the Lampizator is more money and look in the Lampizator box, looks cheap to me. I haven't head that DAC, but have heard the MHDT Havanna and though nice, the Audio Note is much better in every respect.


My 3.1 DAC has:


1. No Oversampling

2. No Brick Wall Filter (makes a big sonic improvement)

3. Tubed rectified Power board

4. Separate power supply board for the Digital PCB

5. Quality Digital PCB with toroidal transformer

6. Custom Audio Note I/V transformers to transfer the signal between the digital and Analogue boards

7. Output transformers for maximum dynamics and energy (plus 8 ohm low impedance) output to your pre-amp 


Also I have the ability to choose my favourite tubes, in this case a Bendix 6x5 for the Power supply board,

and 2 x Tungsol 5687s for the Analogue Board.


Hope you like the photos!








post #2 of 11
Nice. I went the new dac route but this was my other option. Sweet.
post #3 of 11

I wish I had the funds to get one to, especially with silver wire transformers, grrr...:-)


THX for sharing.

post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hi Blackmore

You know Audio Note kits do a 2.1 A which is only 1250 US. That model still sounds great and can be upgraded by buying the extra bits and fitting them later

to then bring it up to 3.1 spec.

post #5 of 11

Thank you for your advice, but you know, ones you try something that good, you dont want anything else, however I see your point about later upgrades:-) I have been advised to get 3.1 with silver transformer on input section, which would be on pair with 4.1 kit, performance / sound I mean. Personally, I never tried / heard 3.1 only 4.1 and like I wrote, fantastic.





Originally Posted by astrostar59 View Post

Hi Blackmore

You know Audio Note kits do a 2.1 A which is only 1250 US. That model still sounds great and can be upgraded by buying the extra bits and fitting them later

to then bring it up to 3.1 spec.

post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 

Build Update


I completed the build a few days back, and have it on soak in my Studio for the next few weeks.


The sound from switch on is great. The first thing I did was turn up the volume to max, and listen for hum

or buzz. Nothing, dead quite, and no hiss either. Great.


I have V-Cap Teflons on the output board, so I do expect the sound to be all over the shop for 3 weeks or so.

The Mundorf caps on the Power board will need the same, though won't affect the SQ as much.


Right now it sounds really clean, very dynamic and great bass WOW, a lot stonger than my previous Meridian DAC.

And the detail is already better, possibly partly due to the NOS and no Brick Wall filter.


The 6X5 tube on the Power board was swopped out for a Bendix which draws more current but gives a more

dynamic presentation. I'll report back in a few weeks once the V-Caps (and the rest of the parts) are run in.


A thought, it would be possible with a minor tweak to add a volume pot, thus negate the need for a Pre Amp i.e. straight

into my Stax SRM-717 amp, and the same into my Power Amps. I will look into that.




I would strongly recommend looking at these kits. Brian the owner of Audio Note kits in Canada is like me, a 300B SE fan and hifi fanatic. What you get once you have put it together is a leading edge audiophile product for the money. Forget any kits from cottage suppliers or China stuff. This gear is the real deal. I see it as a good investment as well. I mean, how ,many manufacturers really offer upgrade paths or options? And I aren't an engineer, a web designer with no electronic background. BUT I can further tweak and upgrade this DAC if I wanted to. Though, it is that good, I may be better looking at my source tweaks first (Mac Mini and M2Tech EVO).





post #7 of 11

How are those caps doing mate, are they opened up, any updates?



post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 



Yes, and yes to that question. I have had the DAC running 24/7 for 2 months now, and it sounds amazing, really smooth and great treble detail

without any digital edge. I am sure the V-Cap Teflons are part of that extension.


I would be tempted to say put them in any tube amp in the coupling postion. But I would say the upstream gear needs to be top notch

and the parts and design integrity of the circuits in the DAC or amplifier getting the caps needs to be good as well.


The V-Caps don't create more grain or harshness, and in my set-up didn't give an elevated tipped up balance. But in systems with sub

quality parts, the designer may have used coupling caps of the paper in oil variety to smother or hide failing in the SQ of the unit itself.


I don't buy into the sound signature of the V-Caps. To me simply remove any haze and give you a straight wire to the source.

The SQ change was all good for me, better hight frequency extension, better ambiance and depth, wider dynamic range, stronger bass

response in level and depth. Other caps sounded slow and syrup like. Also the V-Caps are dead quite, with no buzz or hum, just blackness.

It all helps to get you closer to the music.


Highly recommened, plus the Audio Note Dac range and amps are top quality units.

post #9 of 11
I don't know what justifies high end but I am rather surprised this isn't there.
post #10 of 11
Awesome pics, I love the idea of soldering it all together and understanding how it all works.
post #11 of 11


I am glad to meet you. I really like Dac 3.1 so much, but I have no schematics and manual it. Please, you send it to me.

I think that DAC is really good for everyone in the world.

Thank you so much

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