Channel Islands VDA-1 w/ VAC-1 first impressions / review
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akwok

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Hey all,

My VDA-1 + VAC-1 DAC/PSU combo came in today (http://www.ciaudio.com). Since my Headamp GS-1 still isn't here, I won't be able to comment too much on the sound quality for the next few days as I'm just using a PAV2 at the moment. I bought the combo used, so it should be properly burnt in (but in mint condition!).

Here's a picture of it (sorry for the bad quality... the T1 takes crappy pictures indoors)


First impressions :

Build Quality :
Amazing. Out of the box I was amazed at how small these guys REALLY were. I estimated them to be a bit bigger, but not this small! The amp is very solid, and looks very modern and chic. The faceplates are brushed aluminum, the text silk-screened and the case itself is hard plastic. A very subtle but 'sexy' blue LED is shown when a source is 'LOCK'ed.

The power supply is the same thing as the DAC, but without an LED. It is quite heavy considering it's small size, and is able to be stacked on top of the DAC (or below) without scratching or rubbing the faceplates together.

Preliminary Sound Quality :
Equipment used before : Glass TOSLink w/ Enlightened Audio Designs DSP-1000 DAC, Onkyo SE-90PCI Digital Output as source playing FLAC (ALE).

The DAC I was using before wasn't anything to sneer at either, as it was pretty good considering it's age (about 10 years old I think? Still goes for about $250 on the 'gon). It was a pretty big gain from my Onkyo SE-90PCI sound card, improving on the soundstage mostly.

When I A/B'd the CIAudio DAC against the EAD, the CI improved on almost every aspect of the EAD. The soundstage is again VASTLY improved (on a Pocket Amp V2 even!). Detail is also improved significantly; I could hear many imperfections in AC/DC's Back In Black. The bass is much tighter, and it seems to have tamesd the highs / brightness of the SA5000's a bit (they are not as painful anymore). Speed seems to be the same (using Queen's Another One Bites the Dust as a reference).

I going to spend a few more hours listening to this sweet combo, and will post more in depth when I get a better amplifier (the GS-1 is stuck at Customs right now)

Tadah
 
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ajt976

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Thanks for the impressions, I'm really interested in this DAC as it fits my price range perfectly. Be sure to post your thoughts on this combo after your GS-1 arrives.

I'm glad to hear you stuck with this one and didn't go pull the trigger on a DAC-1 or something like that!
Oh, I'm sorry, I guess I shouldn't be giving you any ideas!!!
 
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akwok

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Aww man.. lol.

But for me, exterior looks / aestetic appeal is a huge factor. The DAC1 doesn't look too snazzy, but I'm sure it performs better (although $500 worth of a difference I am unsure)
 
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ajt976

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Did you get the wall-wart PS as well as the VAC-1? I'm also curious as to how the VDA-1 would perform without the dedicated PSU. Basically, is the PS worth the extra $$$?
 
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akwok

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Quote:

Originally Posted by ajt976
Did you get the wall-wart PS as well as the VAC-1? I'm also curious as to how the VDA-1 would perform without the dedicated PSU. Basically, is the PS worth the extra $$$?


I don't have the wall-wart unfortunately, but the guys at audioasylum.com note that the PSU makes a significant difference and is worth more than the extra $150!

Upon further listening this amp shines EXTREMELY well in 'poor' recordings for some reason; listening to a couple of Nirvana tracks it does not sound as bad as it did before, and the detail is just.. wow.

This combo SCREAMS detail! Bass impact is tight, pretty fast, perfect for the SA5000's and probably for Grados too.
 
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grandenigma1

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Ill have some input in a few days as i just scored a VDA/VAC for a GREAT price and am currently building my dedicated PC rig....
 
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skitlets

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Quote:

Originally Posted by grandenigma1
Ill have some input in a few days as i just scored a VDA/VAC for a GREAT price and am currently building my dedicated PC rig....


I know you have/had the modded Onix, so please do compare the two! My source decision has been down to these two choices....
 
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grandenigma1

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Quote:

Originally Posted by skitlets
I know you have/had the modded Onix, so please do compare the two! My source decision has been down to these two choices....


Seeing as how no one has shown any interest in the Onix I am sure it will be around for a while yet... so I will defenitely give my impressions on the two.
 
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dano1122

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i, for one, can't wait until you get the gs1 so we can have a properly amplified review
 
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ajt976

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Quote:

Originally Posted by dano1122
i, for one, can't wait until you get the gs1 so we can have a properly amplified review



DITTO!!! The CI Audio DAC/PSU plus the GS-1 was the very set-up I am currently contimplating for my Grado can's and I'd be mighty interested in how this combo works together. For now I'll stick with my sound card and hopefully a Gilmore Lite sometime next week!
 
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akwok

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I got the GS-1 today, but I want to wait a few days for it to burn in so I can make a valid assessment. Burn-in results have been varying, according to a couple of guys here (gpalmer vs Glod).

All I can say is that the GS-1 and CIAudio seem to have pretty good synergy, plus they look like they're a match made in heaven. The LED's are the same, the faceplates are the same (even the screws on the faceplates are the same size and type!). Standing next to each other this is one of the nicest simplistic chic setups I've seen yet.
 
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dano1122

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akwok, just curious what made you side with the cia dac and what other dacs you were considering at the time?
 
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dafiiid

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Wow I am surprise to see so many people buying this DAC when there are so many other popular ones selling at a similar price! I thought I am the only person who bought this DAC during the past few months!


I like this DAC a lot
and you guys, be prepared to spend some more cash on modding it!
 
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akwok

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Quote:

Originally Posted by dano1122
akwok, just curious what made you side with the cia dac and what other dacs you were considering at the time?


I was also considering the Dack Ack! 1.2e, and I eventually chose the CIAudio because there were hundreds of posts praising the little DAC at audioasylum. Plus, it looks very sexy.
 
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dano1122

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did you ever consider a modded emu0404/1212m or a headroom dac? why/why not?
 
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