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Amp/DACs item created by _Spanky_, May 6, 2010
Pros - Build, upgradeability, competitive cost
Cons - Tube stage not connected to headphone out. 24/192 ONLY support on digital out, not USB. Poor return policy, not a good match to my K701s
As a new member, I was encouraged to buy a Maverick Audio TubeMagic D1 from reading all of the positive comments on the site...but a few things caused me to return the unit.
FIrst, which was my own fault, on receipt of the unit, I realized that the tube output is not connected to the headphone output - the tube stage is only valid for preamp use. I was hoping that like their other product, a product called Tube Magic would support tube output to my K701s. It didn't. Users expecting to use this as a dedicated headphone amp will not need the tube stage.
Second, I thought that the new DAC supported 24/192 thru USB. Unfortunately, it only supports the higher rate through the dedicated digital inputs. The updated pages on their website made it look like USB did support the higher rates (like my Peachtree Audio amp). Unfortunately, It doesn't and is limited to 24/96 through USB. (I'm using an iMac with Audirvana and a number of tracks at 24/192.
So, based on the above issues, I decided to return the unit and purchase the M-stage everyone has been raving about. This is where the problems really surfaced, and I want to make sure other forum members, who are considering the Maverick Audio unit, be very careful before you buy to understand return costs. I assumed, like other manufacturers, that the return would be easy...it wasn't.
First, I had to pay Priority International shipping back to China in order to be refunded. This was not clear in the terms and conditions on their website. The cost to return was @$60.00 USD. And I wasn't refunded until they received the unit back (which I understand, but for USA customers, they should have a US return depot).
Second, when they received the unit, they only partially refunded me, stating that I had to pay shipping charges outbound. This was also never clarified at time of order or on their website Another $25.00.
So, be cautious and certain that this is the unit you want before you buy. The return is costly.
I wish I could say more about the sound, but the Maverick Audio TubeMagic D1 (updated version) just couldn't drive my K701s at all. The sound was weak and lifeless.
Pros - Aesthetics, Versatility, Upgradeable, Durability, Price per Performance.
Cons - No tube for headphone jack and the tube is only usable as a preamp on the side.
I decided to purchase this after reading several reviews on this site and the product somehow surpassed my expectations. For my senn hd600s and my beyerdynamic dt 770s it sounds as good if not better than my modi magni stack all while offering down the line upgradeability and a pre tube amp all in in one package. With five input options and 3 output the versatility is also a selling point for those like myself who use various input sources. I look forward to experimenting with several different upgrades in the near future and will post the results.
Overall I would recommend this to any of my friends looking for a beginners dac/amp solution.
Pros - USB is pretty clean and detailed
Cons - CD coaxial is terrible, no iPod/iPad usb in, clunky design, no remote for volume at least, no 192 USB option
I listened really carefully to this DAC and compared it in four ways: to the Audioengine D1 DAC, the earphone output of a NAD C 720 BEE receiver using either the DAC of the Maverick or the DAC of a NAD CD player, then the DAC of the Maverick and its own earphone output. I listened to USB from a Mac and various CD's. My final conclusion, I would not buy this DAC again or recommend it. The NAD CD DAC was superior to the Maverick, so no point for the coaxial or the l/r or the Maverick earphone out from the CD. There much better solutions that also include iPod USB inputs. I did upgrade the Opa chip, but why don't they sell it this way to begin with? It made a big difference for the usb music, but the NAD cd play was still way better. Bottom line, this DAC is simply not worth the effort. The audioengine D1 was just as good and a whole lot more convenient. Personally, I would recommend the RDAC from Arcam. It is light years better and offers iPad/iPod usb in. The price difference is well worth it. As for Ryan's assistance, yes, he was helpful (if Ryan is in fact his name, based in China), but being helped down a muddy road is really not much improvement. Honestly, I kept feeling I had been "had" with the "tube" hype.
Pros - Versatile with lots of functionality, can be upgraded, good build quality, amazing value
Cons - Noise floor, not very detailed
About Me: I'm just a young man who loves music. My music taste is quite selective but not limited to one genre: I listen to some acoustic rock, melodeath, classical, and soundtrack music. I don't really believe in burn-in, and upgrading cables and using power conditioners are secondary to me. I generally prefer a neutral sound but I'm fine with mid-range warmth, some mid-range forwardness, some darkness, or even slight brightness, as long as there are no extremes.
Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium HD sound card - Features a PCM1794 DAC and no amplifier. I only used stock opamps: JRC211D on the I/V stage, and LME49710NA on the buffer stage. For music listening I would disable game optimizations, set it to Audio Creation Mode, and listen through Foobar2000 using Creative ASIO and bit-matched playback.
Audio Technica ATH-A900X headphones
I purchased the Maverick Audio Tubemagic D1 from the manufacturer on Ebay, for a mere $130 brand new although the shipping cost was $25. Still, that is an amazing price for a solid state amplifier, DAC, and a tube preamp. My review will focus only on the DAC and headphone amplifier, I don't have worthy active speakers to evaluate its preamp performance.
The build quality is pretty much all metal, the buttons and knobs feel sturdy. There are two knobs on the front: a volume knob which feels like it uses a stepped attenuator, and a source selection knob, letting you choose between Coaxial, Optical (TOSLINK), USB, Analog, and Line-in. Line-in refers to a 1/4" headphone jack right next to the source knob, which is appropriately labeled Line-in. There is another 1/4" jack right next to it which is a headphone output. Aside from the 1/4" Line-in, all inputs are on the back. The D1 comes with a really short AC cable (too short for my needs), a USB cable which also looked short, and a 1/8" to 1/4" cable.
Setting up the D1 is easy. There are no drivers so it's just plug and play, unless USB mode requires it but I wouldn't expect very good USB performance out of this thing. Maverick Audio recommends the newer D1 models if you want to use USB.
At first I was only using the D1's amplifier, connecting it to my sound card with dual RCA connectors using the sound card's line outputs and setting the D1's source to Analog. Even with stock opamps there were some noticeable improvements, such as:
Goodbye sibilance! My favorite change for sure.
Lower noise floor, but still far from completely quiet.
Slightly improved instrument separation.
Ever so slightly improved bass extension.
A tiny bit more air around instruments.
The sound also became slightly more smooth and buttery, but nothing major. The A900X is extremely efficient after all, it doesn't beg for amplification. Overall the changes are nice and more than welcome. In addition, using the D1 like this with my sound card does not take away any of the sound card's gaming features, for those who were wondering (I play PC games using X-Fi CMSS-3D and bass boost).
Things became interesting when I got my optical cable to use the D1 as both a DAC and amp, using ASIO4all drivers with Foobar2000. I wasn't expecting any improvement over my sound card's DAC, in fact I was simply hoping it wouldn't be a downgrade. But some improvements were there, such as:
Improved sound stage depth.
Slightly wider sound stage.
Better decay? It seriously sounds that way to me.
I didn't expect this, especially since I'm still only using stock opamps. The improved depth is really helpful when it comes to immersing myself in the music, and so is the improved decay combined with the lower noise floor from the amp. Let's not forget the added air and superior instrument separation mentioned earlier; all of this makes for a much better experience than using my headphones straight out of my sound card.
Based on these characteristics I have come to the conclusion that as a DAC/amp, the Maverick Audio Tubemagic D1 is neutral, smooth, but slightly forward sounding. However the smoothness seems to hide some of the texture detail from strings and percussion instruments, which is an unfortunate change.
Note that using the D1 as an optical DAC and amp, along with my sound card, doesn't prevent me from using my sound card's gaming features like X-Fi CMSS-3D and EAX. In Windows I simply have to keep my default sound device set to "Speakers (Creative SB X-Fi)" instead of "SPDIF Out (Creative SB X-Fi)" and I have to enable "Play Stereo Mix Using Digital Output" in my sound card's software control panel. Using SPDIF Out as the default sound device bypasses all sound card functions; I actually switch to this when listening to music.
I recently replaced the two opamps with LT1364s. Upgrading the unit is a bit of an annoyance; the chassis really does not want to come out and there's nothing to hold on to, so it really has to be pried off. Replacing the opamp near the tube requires more caution since there are capacitors all around it, in close proximity. My new listening impressions are as follows:
Slightly wider and deeper sound stage
Slightly improved instrument separation.
More neutral sound, slightly more tamed highs.
Slightly less forward sound presentation (again, more neutral I guess since my A900X is rather forward).
A tiny bit more detail in the lower mids and maybe in the bass (hard to tell with the latter).
Not a huge upgrade, but I will probably try a different opamp in the buffer stage eventually. I look forward to trying this with other headphones, I'm thinking the AKG K712 Pro might be next which should be about as close to dead neutral as I can get.
Pros - Affordable , Upgradable, makes all digital sources sound cleaner bigger and better.
Cons - None , as a first unit it destroys onboard soundcard in my mac, pc and ipod
Could not be happier with the D1 .(Bought with Opa 627 upgrade and the ge5670w tube.)$264 delivered.
It has done as advertised and upgraded my digital music and movie collection in leaps and bounds.
As this is my first unit i can not make any comparisons.
My beyer Dt770 pro 250s now sound so much fatter that they have a dac/amp driving them.
Using Media monkey on pc laptop playing 44.1 mp3's via usb into the D1 with the beyers and everything from Reggae to blues , Hardcore metal/punk to dubstep just sounds awesome,
huge improvement on standard soundcards highly recomended!
Using the tube preamp through my old logitech 5.1 speakers adds warmth and depth and a truckload more volume, turning the volume up full on D1, and to about 80% vol on the logitech with no distortion!!! just a big fat sound that annoys my neighbours and gets the wife all sexy and fired up , lol.
Plugged into the ol yamaha Htr 5630 av receiver and similar outcome to the logitechs ,
movies are sounding awesome straight from the pc using hdmi into the tv all while the D1 is still connected via usb then tube pre amp out into the Yamaha.
All in all this is a truly versatile unit that has totally impressed my wife and friends.
It is so awesome for the money and has made all my old speakers and new cans sound like i don't need to fork out for upgrades for a long while !!!
Although more cans will be coming soon i think! mmmm sweet sweet cans.
It is a great start and has inspired me to explore the Audiophile world .
I now have a new found love for my music collection,
thanks to everyone for their great reviews, especially spanky .
Do not have any regrets buying the D1 , it does it all , without eating a hole in the pockets!
Pros - excellent base for upgrading Excellent service from Ryan !
Cons - none, not sure the Line In is that useful
I bought this DAC-preamp and after several attempts made the following changes to it for an amazing result:
Installed 5670 Raytheon Windmill getter tube
upgraded diodes to Schottky Diode 11DQ10
Changed the output coupling caps to Sanyo Oscon 47uF
opamp for tube to LT1364 or metal version of LM4562.
The biggest gain came from opamp then the diodes. Do not underestimate the diode upgrade.
I own a lot of HIFI equipment and have tested this modded version with STUDER A68 Amps and Infinity 9A speakers. The result is outstanding and the sound is precise and like liquid ! plenty of bass and despite the higher value of coupling caps, no loss of highs.
There are better DACs on the market like the new DAC-01 with SMD components but the opamps can not be changed as easily as well as the diodes which are SMD. I think the DAC stage of the tube magic might not be the best but with the above mods, the overal result is AMAZING. The D1 has now become a very high class preamp that I use with my modded Behringer scr2496 and the DAC stage holds its own without of course competing with the modded Behringer. The only drawback of this combination is that the output of the Behringer is very high and one tends to have a very loud sound right at the begining of the volume potentiometer.
HAVE FUN !
- Changed the main opamp to Burson discrete opamp. Quality is above any IC and by far. The only shortcoming seems to come from voltage either from the resistors lowering too much the voltage supplied to the DIP8 socket or maybe a shortcoming of the powersupply (I am not advanced enough in the field to correct this). However I have found one way around it, noticed that by taking away the opamp for headphone section the clipping I could hear when volume was past 12oclock have reduced, therefore I managed to solder the most recent audio IC from TI OPA2209 onto a dip socket (had no SOIC adapter at hand!) and now the clipping is only at 2 oclock (way above my listening needs) and headphone quality is better than with the canned version of LM4562 or OPA627.
- Changed to the OSCON 47uF coupling caps for Roederstein 47uF gold Caps. The bass is endless and trebles are not cut off, barely mellowed. Do not have enough space to put a similar MPK inside
Now the Maverick is connected to my PC with TOSLINK cable (24/96 upsampling) and I use ADAM A7X Studio monitors. The sound is truely near perfection, it is as good, sometimes I even better than my main system with Infinity 9A speakers and STUDER A68 power amps. For a total cost of about 1600 USD, this is the highest quality I can imagine to achieve in a sound system within a reasonable budget but by putting the money where is should be, even 96kb/s MP3 sound quite good when going through this setup.
Pros - Tons of inputs, easy source selection
Cons - Some interference between sources
All the other reviews sum up my feelings about this. It's a great all-in-one component. I have my PS3, computer, stereo, and portable devices all feeding audio to the TubeMagic D1. It handles them with ease and doesn't get uncomfortably hot like other amps I've used.
Only flaw I've noticed is that my computer generates a slight signal noise that carries through the SPDIF connection. It's unnoticeable when the volume is set to comfortable levels for the computer, but if I leave the computer on, switch the source to my PS3/portable device, I have to turn the volume up, and the signal noise becomes noticeable until I turn the computer off or disconnect the SPDIF cable. This could be solved by eliminating the signal noise from the computer, but it's odd to me that the noise isn't "turned off" when using a separate source.
edit: The signal noise was from a ground-loop, and I fixed it by using a CyberPower UPS that provided cleaner power.
Pros - Build quality and lots of input options
Cons - USB input does not support 24-bit/96Khz
I've only had this for a short time but I love it so far. The xfi soundcard on my computer didn't have enough juice to power my HD650s so I got this to use as an amp and DAC. I'm using the optical out from my soundcard instead of USB because the USB on this DAC does not support 24-bit/96Khz (it is resampled in the DAC). This wouldn't be an issue except that I would like to hook my xbox 360 up using the optical connection, now I have to use RCA. The tube didn't change the "warmth" of the sound as much as I expected or would have liked, but probably for the better. This has been a great purchase and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a good all-in-one solution for a reasonable price.
Pros - Natural sound from digital source
Cons - At this price, none
I got the Maverick Audio TubeMagic A1 Hybrid Integrated Amplifier w/ Raytheon 6AK5 tube. It was magic right out of the box. Surprisingly good bass, clean midrange and treble, great soundstage. Incredible value, incredible service, incredible sound. Used as a companion with the Maverick Audio TubeMagic D1 DAC w/ GE 5670 Tube, lossless music from a 13" white MacBook into Klipsch KB20 loudspeakers or AKG 701 headphones. Very highly recommended.