Neko Audio D100 DAC

General Information

The D100 stereo digital to analog converter is the sum of our quest for true audio fidelity. By combining the highest quality components with a solid scientific foundation, the D100 produces music that is free of coloration and true to the source.

Digital audio is processed by a Wolfson WM8804 which provides excellent jitter rejection. The signal is then fed to a pair of Burr-Brown PCM1794A chips operating in mono mode for the greatest dynamic range, highest signal-to-noise ratio, and complete channel separation.

The majority of high-end audio DACs utilize an active analog output stage comprised of op-amps, feedback circuitry, and additional filters. In contrast the D100 output stage is entirely passive and consists of 0.1% resistors with Jensen JT-11-EMCF transformers—the output is a pure audio signal.

The D100 Mk2 features new Jensen transformers that provide an additional 6dB of gain while maintaining the same sonic characteristic of the D100.

Latest reviews


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Unique design, clean look, excellent sound
Cons: No USB, no DSD (is this really a con?)
(This is my first time writing a review on the site's new look, so bear with me...)

Ah, the Neko. A DAC that's been around for a little while now, but only recently have I heard about, much less owned it. Stumbled across it online while looking for a new DAC, and after reading reviews and a little back and forth with Wesley, the designer, I decided to pull the trigger, and well, I'm very glad I did!

My rig: MBP running JRMC > Singxer F-1 > Neko > MAD Ear+ HD. I've also got the Auralic Vega/Taurus stack, but that's an apples to oranges comparison, so if it appears in the review, it will certainly be brief.


Even though this isn't the newest FOTM design, the Neko has held it's own wonderfully. Wesley's unique all-passive design has produced a very natural, non-fatiguing, yet highly-detailed converter that would serve most audiophiles well, as long as they don't require USB input. It's a fully balanced design with only COAX and optical inputs. I believe you can specify when you order, whether you want RCA or XLR outs.

Build quality is solid. Basically we're looking at a metal black box with a power switch on the back and an input selector on the front. My kind of DAC! No obnoxiously cluttered menus, switches, or dials here. Just a piece of hardware that does it's job, and does it well!


From the bottom up...

Bass: The low end on this guy is very impressive. There's a nice vinyl-esque heft and fullness that provides a great foundation. Songs like Half Time by Amy Winehouse and Grown Folks by Snarky Puppy really show of the resolution and fullness of the low range that the D100 mkII offers. It's bass bests that of the Bimby, Cuinas, and Concero to these ears!

Midrange: Excellent! To me this is where DACs live or die. If you can't get the mids right, then why are we even giving you the time of day? Vocals have a great presence and richness that sounds very multibit-esque to me. A lot of qualities here are similar to those of the Gumby and Bimby. Guitars have a nice bite, but no harshness. Instruments have a wonderful organic quality that aren't nearly as digital sounding as the Mojo or Geek Pulse. Some of the best midrange I've heard in my entire head-fi journey.

Treble: Solid. Compared to the depth of bass and richness of the midrange, I'd say the treble isn't quite as impressive, but that's not to say it's bad or unacceptable. It's not as rolled of as say, a NOS design, but there's a bit of relaxation up top that trades the last amount of air for 'easiness.' Recordings like Chris Tomlin and Steve Vai that can be a little treble-happy are easier to listen to thanks to the Neko. If you're a fan of brighter headphones a la Grados or HD800s, this might be a great piece of source gear for you!

Soundstage/Separation/Etc: Above average. Similar to my impressions of the treble range, this isn't an area I'd necessarily write home about, but I do think it's in line with it's price point. On well-recorded material, there's a very good sense of space and depth between instruments - think Morph the Cat, Frampton Comes Alive, Grammophon classical recordings, etc. And conversely, when there's not, there's not. All I have to say about that!

In conclusion, the D100 mkII is to me, a highly underrated DAC that could make a serious dent in the market if it was a little prettier. It's no nonsense, small-house design keeps it off the hype train, but I certainly think well of it and recommend it without hesitation if you're not needing USB or DSD capabilities. To give you an idea, here's where it stacks up with the last five DACs I've owned: Vega > D100 > Teac 503 > Cuinas > Mojo.

Check it out!


500+ Head-Fier
Pros: Natural Sound, Great Bass.
Cons: Too much bass when paired with wrong equipment
I will start this review by providing some background. I had just purchased a Beyerdynamic T1. I paired with a Bottlehead Crack I loaned off a friend and it sounded amazing except for one thing. There was too much treble energy and it hurt my ears. I tried burning it in and it only improved slightly. The other problem was a clear lack of bass impact. There was some midbass hit but low bass presence and body was severely lacking. I decided that the Beyerdynamic T1 was not for me and sold it. 
Shortly after, I read a review on Headfonia that claimed that this Neko DAC (which I had never heard of) was a fantastic natural sounding unit with plenty of low end emphasis. It sounded like the perfect solution for the T1! It was a pity I read it after selling the T1. Anyway as fate would have it, I found a refurbished Neko unit for a fantastic price. I bought it without hesitation and then began rebuilding my set up. I was more careful this time and I actually bought another T1 and had it recabled by Whiplash Audio with their latest and greatest Hybrid V3 cable. 
I had a Burson Soloist Amp at this time and I figured that since it did such a great job with my MrSpeakers Mad Dog 3.2 that it should be able to handle the now re-cabled T1 and the bassy Neko DAC. Unfortunately the Soloist has a very strong character of its own that it imparts regardless of DAC used. When I plugged in my T1 to this new setup, all I heard was the Burson Soloist. I switched out a few DACs and it was still the same. I decided to go back to the trusty Bottlehead Crack that my friend had and pair it with the Neko. What I heard was MAGIC. THIS was THE sound. 3D, wide, smooth, detailed, full-bodied, spacious, clearly imaged. Sparkle, yet with all the bass impact/body I wanted. I lacked nothing. 
I of course then proceeded to buy my own Bottlehead Crack amp (had it upgraded with a better stepped attenuator and capacitors - thanks @Loquah), added an Audiophilleo 2 to increase detail retrieval and perfection got even better. 
I'll come back to the Neko now and not make this a T1/Bottlehead Crack review. The point I was trying to make though was that equipment synergy is of utmost importance. 
Pairing the Neko with a Burson Soloist did not yield the results I wanted with the T1, but it worked well with MrSpeakers Mad Dog 3.2. 
When pairing the Crack with Neko and Fostex TH900, the sound was overly dominated by bass elements in the music. It sounded great but it was very imbalanced. 
Burson Soloist with Neko and TH900 resulted in a weird unnatural disjointed sound that had bass impact that hit unnaturally hard, too much treble emphasis and everything else was not present enough. However, I found that it was mainly the fault of the Soloist as no DAC could make it work well with the TH900. 
Even the mighty Bakoon HPA21 + Neko + TH900 resulted in music that was noticeably tilted towards the bassy end of the spectrum. 
The only amp that could make the TH900 work with the Neko was strangely enough the RSA Intruder which is a very good and very neutral portable amp. That combo was strangely potent. 
Anyway, this DAC has very unique qualities and anyone who has a good transparent amp and equipment they wish to inject a massive dose of natural bass-laden sound to neutralize over-excited treble, this is the DAC for you. Just make sure your headphones are good enough to bring out the best from the Neko and that your amp does not color the sound so much that the Neko cannot shine through. 
I cannot recommend the re-cabled T1 + Crack + Neko combo enough. It's very special. 
Very interesting impressions, thanks.  If I may ask, why did you persist with the T1 and didn't switch to e.g. HD-800 or a HifiMan can to see how they fared?  I owned the DT-880 (sold it) and tried the T1 but to my ears all BD phones are too aggressive in the treble.  Tried the Burson Conductor and found it a technically very able amp but a bit too forward/aggressive to my ears, at least for classical.  I've since tried to stick to the straight and narrow path of choosing as neutral DAC's amps as possible (even my tube amps are quite neutral..for  tube amps of course) and try to tailor my sound via the headphones and audacious use of EQ where required, else the permutations and expense are endless, especially since the way I like my sound depends on the type of music and my mood.  If you can get an audition:  try the Metrum NOS DAC's, I think you'll like them, going by what I read in your post.
I tried a HD800 at a Melbourne Head-Fi meet and found myself not liking its sharp high end which required a Bottlehead Mainline to tame. Even on the Crack it was a bit too edgy. I noticed some of my friends loved this edginess but it's not my taste. It did sound on amazing on the Mainline though. I also find that HD800 while being amazingly spacious and very detailed, doesn't quite have the same bass thump as the T1 (not sure how to describe it). The bass note is played accurately and with presence but it feels relatively soft. I've also tried it with a Norne Draug 8 cable on the HD800 and it enhanced everything it was good at and even made the edginess go away but the bass still did not thump the way the T1 does. It does many things better than the T1 but the things that count for me favor the T1 (recabled). 
If I get my hands on some Metrum DACs I will be sure to try them. Thanks for that suggestion. I have an Audio GD NFB 1.32 (SABRE 9018) coming (with ACSS to SATRI cables) to pair with the Bakoon HPA21 in Current Mode. I will be curious to see if that brings out the best from the TH900. 


Sugar and spice and all things nice
Pros: Beautiful midrange, punchy bass
Cons: Not the last word in detail
I was lucky enough to have this DAC in my house for 2 weeks through Wes's loaner program.  I do not own the DAC.  I am also not much of a writer so I am going to keep this as short as possible. 
My current desktop setup currently consists of a Macbook Pro -> Electrocompaniet ECD-1 DAC -> Headamp GS-1 -> HD800/JH13/HD650/PS500/Thunderpants.  I have been looking for a smallish desktop DAC to replace the rack sized Electrocompaniet ECD-1 that I have owned for a few years and which I have grown to love.  I was thrilled to get the chance to demo the Neko DAC.  Because of the short amount of time and my desire to see how it fit into my desktop setup, I only used it with the GS-1 and only directly compared it to the ECD-1.  I also own a PS Audio PWD MKI which is fairly new and is used in my main setup - with my KGSS, Woo Audio WA5LE, and Apex Peak/Volcano.  I never directly compared the Neko to the PWD.  
I should also point out that I demoed this a month ago so I am going from memory and a few notes I jotted down.   Sorry for taking so long to write this Wes.  
Let me first say that I thoroughly enjoyed the time with the Neko and if I had the extra money, I would probably buy the Neko and get rid of the ECD-1.  I could certainly see a time in the future when I do just this. 
The things that stood out to me about the Neko was its beautiful midrange, natural tone, very smooth vocals, and a really damn fun punchy (but not too bloomy) bass!!!  It wasn't the last word in treble detail but that is not something that really bothers me too much.  The DAC was extremely musical, maybe more so than the ECD-1. The soundstage sounded deeper to me on the Neko than the ECD-1. Did I mention the punchy and fun bass?!  :)  I also love the simplicity of the Neko. 
I didn't directly compare it to the PWD but don't think that I would choose it over the PWD.  Of course, the PWD costs quite a bit more and takes up a lot more real estate so that is not a very fair comparison.
I had a great time with the Neko and would give it the slight nod over the ECD-1, especially with its compact size. It's definitely something I am going to think about when I get some excess cash.  Wes has something special here. 
Awesome review, Shelly. I was laughing about the "not much of a writer" bit and couldn't help but think you might have been better off just expressing all of your prosaic points with one, big fat and pretty differential equation.
Your thoughts on the Neko echo mine almost exactly...


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