I've been teased by the Audiomeca Enkianthus (DAC)
Mar 8, 2008 at 8:01 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 11


MOT: Bellatone Audio
Caution: Incomplete customer orders
Apr 17, 2006
When you are used to listening to a simple DAC (such as the one found in the Opera), you appreciate it for what it has to offer but you know that there are much better out there. I just didn't quite realize how good until now, but that's to be expected when jumping from a DAC roughly worth $300-$400 to one that cost $5,500 (but can now be found used for around $2,400). And I typically try to avoid listening to equipment I can't afford, but when I saw him walking down the stairs with it to drop off here (along with an $800 Synergistic Research power cord), I wasn't going to send him back up with it.

My good neighbor/apartment building manager and audio buddy, George, decided it would be nice to let me borrow a DAC he no longer uses, the Audiomeca Enkianthus (which he replaced with a $13,000 one-box CDP/DAC/Upsampler/Preamp from Audio Arrow). He maintains that the Enkianthus was leagues better than the top-of-the-line Theta Digital DAC+Purcell Upsampler combination at the time. These items are so far outside of my price range that when he describes them as being inexpensive compared to top-tier $50,000 DACs, I can do nothing but grin, shrug it off, and say "okay."

It is a gorgeous piece of equipment finished with what looks like piano black, high-gloss, Formica laminated boards. It's a big boy, at least twice the size of my amp. It comes featured with phase inversion, 3 coax inputs, one AES/EBU input, one AT&T input, and a digital output. Just like the Cambridge Audio Azur 840c, it features Anagram Technologies' upsampling DSP to give you 24/192 (but the 840c is newer and goes up to 24/384). Even though the unit is about 5 years old (originally released February, 2003), it sounds every bit as good as it looks. Any preconceived notions I had about analog's potential over digital went out the window when I plugged this baby in.

Here's a pic I found on the web:

And here's a review with more pictures.

The resolution and detail from one end of the spectrum to the other are extremely resolving. The airiness and space around the instruments are eerily lifelike. Tonal color is spot on. Silky smooth highs, organic mids, and ultra-tight bass; you know the usual descriptors. The bass actually has a lot more detail when the phase is inversed, but other sonic attributes take a beating. I'll just leave it simple and say it sounds amazing, but it should at that price point. Actually, the only thing really limiting it's potential is the Opera (and, sad to say, I've outgrown), which is not capable of resolving much bass detail, just bass quantity.

I just wanted to know if anyone else has heard this piece and if so, kindly share your thoughts.
Mar 10, 2008 at 6:57 AM Post #3 of 11
Well, after spending a few days with this thing so far, I can tell you that it must not be working properly. I knew there were issues with it because he told me that it would occasionally lose the signal lock. I've only experienced that once, certainly no big deal at all. But the problem I've encountered is a very different one, an issue with the bass. There's hardly any bass detail/quality at certainly not much bass quantity.

Certain low frequencies have lots of bass impact (20Hz-55Hz), but between 55Hz to 300Hz there is such little bass detail, quality, and quantity. This is a real shame because from 300Hz to 20kHz the sonics are golden. But without good bass, it's a pretty useless DAC. And I cannot imagine in a million years that a company would sell a $5,500 DAC that lacks in bass detail, so I am assuming it is a problem with this particular unit. I know the Opera is not the greatest amp on the market and certainly can be slaughtered by many an amp, but it is still a very good amp and, in this particular case, is not the cause of the lack of bass detail as I previously thought. The reason I know this is because both the amp's internal DAC and the analog outs from my soundcard yield more bass detail than the Enkianthus.

Again, it's a real shame because the Enkianthus slaughters any DAC I've ever heard between the frequencies of 300Hz-20kHz. I'll have to keep searching for that perfect DAC. But since the Cambridge Audio Azur 840c uses very similar processing from Anagram (which is newer and better), I am definitely going to have to give it a listen. The only thing that troubles me is why quite a few of them have been selling on Audiogon if they are as good as the reviews say, "able to hold their own against $10,000 DACs."

Edit: See post below.
Mar 10, 2008 at 8:04 AM Post #4 of 11

Originally Posted by IPodPJ /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Surely there must be some big-leaguers in here that have listened to this DAC.

Lonely at the top. I'm happy with my nowhere-near-the-top Sony ES DAC.
Mar 10, 2008 at 8:34 AM Post #5 of 11
I think the problem with the DAC was moreso with the power going to the unit. During these late night/early A.M. hours when everyone's asleep in our building, audio just sounds a whole lot better; as it should since no one is up -- we all share the same return line I think. I need to get more fuses for my power conditioner. But I swapped plugs and it's a night and day difference. I put the DAC on the 75W isolated line (because my other six all have blown fuses) and the amp on the 1500W quad-block.

Edit: Well that's definitively what the problem was... power. For those of you that don't believe clean power is important, well, that's for another thread and another time (and been discussed many times). Those of you who have equipment like this know that it is. I hope he will let me buy this piece off of him via a payment plan, and I can't see why he wouldn't since he wasn't doing anything with it anyway. It is the most mindblowing source I've ever heard. Oh how I wish you guys could hear my system right now. How I wish you could even fathom how amazing it sounds (but many of you can, I'm sure).
Mar 11, 2008 at 5:02 AM Post #7 of 11
Good for you. From the looks of the insides, it was well thought out and I would love to hear it. Will it sound good from 2200 miles? Probably not. Glad that you have brought another maker to our attention. The more available, the less are huddled to a few.
Mar 11, 2008 at 6:24 AM Post #8 of 11
Thank you! I got a killer deal on it. They sell on Audiogon every time they are listed and go for $2,000. There is a minor issue with the phase lock on my unit but it hardly ever occurs, so he sold it to me for $1,000 and is letting me make payments. And if I ever wanted to fix the issue I could get it done for about $300, but it only happens on occasion when I manually switch the phase so it's really no big deal. A $5,500 DAC for $1K is a steal! I might have to buy one of his other power conditioners, too!

If you're ever in my neck of the woods, I'd love for you to come by and have a listen.
Mar 12, 2008 at 1:49 AM Post #9 of 11
You have been teased? Will your girlfriend get upset when you take her home?

Chef could sing a song "I'm gonna make sweet sweet love to you DAC, I'm gonna lay you down by the fire..."

Mar 17, 2008 at 5:35 AM Post #11 of 11
Well, I gave it back to him and did not end up buying it. The phase lock problem was a lot worse than I had previously thought. It would go for 20 minutes at a time dropping the audio every few seconds, and the only way to make it stop was to unplug it for 30 minutes at a time. I did not feel like paying $1K for that when I can get an 840c with newer Anagram technology for $1,300.

Question: Does anyone have an 840c that wouldn't mind loaning it to me for 2-4 weeks? I will be happy to pay a rental fee if required, and will of course leave excellent feedback for you.

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