Originally Posted by HPiper
I had a chance to audition the Zdac today, and it is a very nice sounding unit. Did not get to check the headphone amp though. Only other dac they had to compare was the DacMagic 100, and I couldn't hear much if any difference between them, I liked the appearance of the DacMagic better but it is just a dac, no amp, they had the 100 Plus which does have an amp, but it was considerably more money, I could get a DacMagic and an amp like the Asgard 2 for the same money and probably end up with an overall better sounding system. Sometimes I feel like I am trying to split too many hairs.
What amp and speakers were you using to audition the Zdac and DacMagic 100?
Parasound hired Holm Acoustics to design the Zdac and to rewrite the firmware code for the TAS1020B: (from InnerFidelity review...others cover this as well)
http://hometheaterreview.com/parasound-zdac-192khz-digital-to-analog-converter/ (new review)
"The Zdac accepts 24-bit/192kHz signals through both SPDIF inputs by way of an AKM AK4113 receiver. USB signals are handled by a TI TAS1020B which is an older USB 1.1 part rather than USB 2.0 and thus necessarily limited to 24-bit/96kHz signals. With many new USB DACs boasting 24/192 capabilities and beyond, the Zdac might initially seem underwhelming. Not so fast... this isn't your run-of-the-mill design.
Some DAC makers use the TAS1020B with its stock adaptive mode firmware and call it a day. Others like Benchmark, Lavry, and Bel Canto, license code from CEntrance, which offers much higher performance. Holm Acoustics has enough in-house expertise to create their own firmware from scratch which is not something many companies are equipped to do. This avoids licensing fees which would surely push this sub-$500 DAC into a higher price bracket. It also allows for potentially higher performance. USB 1.1 means no drivers needed - just plug and play. According to Holm, it's also more reliable with longer cable runs."
Honestly, I wasn't aware of any of this at the time I ordered the Zdac, I was just in the middle of trying as many under $1000 DAC's as I could for my office system AND the DAC I REALLY wanted to love (since it would look nice next to my Lyr...silly reason, I know) was the Schiit Audio Bifrost (very nice DAC). Frankly, lower priced DAC's are getting so good that it was difficult to find one that stood out as being clearly better sounding (to me) than my older DacMagic & Pangea 100 until I heard the Zdac. The Zdac was impressive in my smaller system with the Parasound A23 amp driving either the B&W 805's, CDM-1NT's or NHT Classic Threes with a Velodyne DD-10 so I used it to replace my Benchmark DAC1 (3 years old) in my main system. With the Zdac feeding an A21 and Magnepan 1.6's and another Velodyne DD-10 it sounded even better. I now have one in my office and a second Zdac has replaced the Benchmark DAC1 for good in my main system. I don't know how much difference it makes but I did allow the Zdac to cook for around 100 hours before truly giving it my full attention.
Best of luck with whichever DAC you pick!
Edited by KLJTech - 7/9/13 at 9:34am