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How Does Lavry DA11 Compare to Newer DACs?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I have the opportunity to purchase a 2nd hand Lavry DA11 for around $800, which I consider a pretty good deal.

 

However, I am aware that the Lavry was released in 2009, before the current wave of Sabre-chip/asynchronous USB DACs.

Furthermore, the DA11 is pretty similar to the DA10, which is even older, other than a few added features like USB and the crossfeed-type functionality.

 

In other words, where does the Lavry, which was a strong performer in the $1000-$1500 price range up till, say, 2011 or so, stand today, given that most if not all of the competition has moved on tech-wise?

 

I mean, even Benchmark has since released the DAC2, which is pretty "new-gen" compared to their previous DAC1.

 

The things that sway me in favour of getting the DA11 are:

1) I am an audio engineer by trade, so I admit to having a bias towards pro-audio gear

2) I'm not concerned about the DSD/hi-res capabilities of the new-gen DACs as I seldom listen to stuff that's above 44.1kHz/16bit

3) It's "only" $800, so I'm not exactly expecting it to completely match or outperform something like the W4S DAC2 or the Benchmark DAC2

 

Would you buy the DA11 if you were in my position? I hope previous/current owners who also have some experience with Sabre-based DACs can offer their opinions. Thanks.

post #2 of 7

I would suggest looking at the thread ranking-of-21-dacs-and-dac-configurations-and-why-chocolate-ice-cream-must-die for a comparison of the DA11 to several modern DACs.  I agree with the summary of the DA11: it's not the best in any way... but it doesn't do anything wrong or annoying. t am still using my DA11. When I purchased the DA11 I didn't think there were any DACs under $2k that could touch it overall... certainly not the Benchmark DAC1.  

 

These days there are a number of cheap DACs (AQ Dragonfly, Meridian Explorer,  Schiit Bitfrost) which aren't quite up to the DA11 in SQ, but are reasonably close to the DA11 SQ at a better value point compared to even a used DA11. I haven't spent any time looking at $800 DACs, but from reviews I have read and a bit of listening I have done, the only DAC I would think about is the Schiit Gungnir.  The brief time I spent listening to it made me think it's SQ was at the same level as the DA11.  Over the summer I plan to listen to a number of higher end DACs hoping to find something whose SQ is better than the DA11 with it's value (SQ/cost) being not too much worst than the DA11 when I purchased it.

 

 

--Mark

post #3 of 7

Not shabby at all if fed by a good USB/SPDIF converter. A little bit prim compared to sabre dacs but should not be a problem with most headphone systems.

post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 

After mulling it over, I've decided to pass over the chance to get the used Lavry DA11 for $800.

I do think that, purely in terms of digital signal in --> analog signal out, the DA11 probably does not lose out by much, if at all, compared to new-gen DACs. This isn't based on any critical listening, but only based on how much better, objectively speaking, a DAC could get in terms of converting a digital signal accurately into an analog one.

 

However, just for my own peace of mind, or in other words, the spirit of "keeping up with the joneses", I've decided to look out for used pieces of newer models.

 

My current main choices are:

 

1) MyTek Digital Stereo192-DSD DAC w/Preamp ($1595)

2) Wyred4Sound DAC-2 DSD w/Femto Grade Clock ($1649)

3) Benchmark DAC2 HGC ($1995)

 

#1 and #3 are chosen as they are solid performers and are manufactured by pro-audio companies, while #2 is one of the stand-out models in the $1500 +/- price range. There are many other contenders but I've arbitrarily omitted them to save myself a headache :tongue_smile:

 

Obviously, these are all a fair bit more expensive than an $800 DA11, but since I intend to use the DAC for a long time to come, and will try my best to hold out for a used piece to turn up, the additional cost isn't much of an issue.

 

I feel that the Benchmark DAC2 is the new Lavry DA11, in the sense that it's highly-rated by both the pro-audio world as well as the audiophile crowd. Objectively, it measures extremely well, just like the DAC1 always did, but unlike the DAC1, there seems to be less criticism of it suffering from "digititis", although I've always been rather doubtful about that view. It is based on new-ish technology, and is also packed full of features (lots of inputs and outputs, a headphone amp with 2 outputs, preamp).

 

The MyTek is fairly similar, except it uses the 9016 chip as opposed to the 9018, but that shouldn't really be much of an issue in actual performance.

 

I've always held the DA11, and Lavry products in general, in high regard, even without owning one, but I do get the feeling that Lavry has fallen a step behind its competitors in the last few years.

 

MyTek, Benchmark, Grace Design have all released new models in the years since the DA11 was released, not to mention the deluge of products from audiophile product manufacturers. If there was a DA12, with features similar to the MyTek and Benchmark, it would certainly be near or at the top of my list.

 

Finally, I'm still hoping that those who have had experience with the DA11 and any Sabre-based DACs will share their opinions, mainly in terms of how they measure up, mainly in terms of actual SQ.


Edited by senn_liu - 6/4/14 at 5:04am
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

As an additional point of discussion, do you guys think a DAC can actually advance significantly in terms of converting a 44.1kHz/16bit digital signal into an analog one accurately?

 

Strictly speaking, in terms of measurements, most decent DACs since the days of the Benchmark DAC1 and Lavry DA10, can deliver a level of performance which is beyond the accuracy of our hearing.

 

What I mean to say is, yes, DACs could be more accurate in terms of frequency response, and have lower signal-to-noise etc., but in the years to come, will they actually sound more accurate?

post #6 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by senn_liu View Post
 

 

What I mean to say is, yes, DACs could be more accurate in terms of frequency response, and have lower signal-to-noise etc., but in the years to come, will they actually sound more accurate?

First we would have to define what we mean by "accurate". The best accuracy that a common pair of speaker can manage is less than 10%. And a chain is only as strong as the weakest link.

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

First we would have to define what we mean by "accurate". The best accuracy that a common pair of speaker can manage is less than 10%. And a chain is only as strong as the weakest link.

 

My definition of a DAC having "accurate" frequency response, is how close its output signal is to the digital signal it is fed e.g. when a pure 200kHz digital signal of a certain amplitude is sent through the DAC, does it send out a pure 200kHz analog signal with the exact same amplitude and ADSR envelope. The closer it is to the original digital file, the more "accurate" it is.

 

You bring up a very good point, that speakers (including headphone drivers), the room and our individual hearing are often the least accurate elements in an audio chain.

 

This further begs the question which I brought up earlier: Even if DACs keep progressing towards greater accuracy, would it be a significant improvement when the speakers and/or our ears cannot reproduce these improvements?

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