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Starting Point Systems portable NOS DAC

Discussion in 'Portable Source Gear' started by cjg888, Mar 12, 2014.
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  1. RiddleyWalker

    Looking forward to your impressions as well, really considering this DAC along with maybe the Teralink USB-to-SPDIF converter you mention above.  I've never had a NOS DAC but looking to rid my current system of some lean-ness and digititis/glare on poorer recordings.  And this seems like a good starting point ([​IMG]) without having to drop ~$1200 on the Octave.
  2. jk47

    on ebay - seller is a u.s. distributor






    Click to view larger image and other views

    1. [​IMG]

    2. [​IMG]

    3. [​IMG]

    Have one to sell? 

    Metrum Acoustics Octave MkII NOS Mini 24bit/192 DAC Great,non-fatiguing, sound !


    US $999.99



  3. zilch0md

    I hear you. I should have The Battery DAC any day now. :D

    I will test it with the Teralink TeraDak X2 and report here.

  4. uncola
    I should also receive one of these in a few days, getting Zach's used one for cheap.  I'll use a jay's audio 12v lps with it
  5. zilch0md
    Joy! [​IMG]
  6. zach915m

    Haha - yeah - I'm burning in the other one now!  Interested to hear comparison's the the Metrum.
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  7. zilch0md
    18 days later, it has arrived.  Joy!
    (Updated the morning after arrival day)
    (Updated two days in - with perhaps 6 hours of listening)
    My first, very premature impression is that this is the best most enjoyable "transportable" rig I've ever had:
    FiiO X5 Coaxial Out > The Battery DAC > iBasso PB2 w/LME49990 and dummy buffers, balanced out > HD800
    I am amazed out how smooth the treble is with the HD800.  There is a slight significant slight loss of detail compared to the Metrum Octave MkII (a perception I've decided is primarily due to this NOS DAC's rolled off highs, with a bit of a veil in the lower frequencies, as well, compared to the oversampling DACs). But I still very much like the way it sounds with the HD800. It has a signature that makes the music fun (not necessarily accurate) and somewhat cartoonish (which sounds bad, but what I'm really saying is that it's the opposite of sterile and thin), yet still very believable - kind of like a tube DAC that has only desirable harmonic distortion.
    I'm discovering, however, that it severely underutilizes the HD800's best trait - the ability to render a recording's weakest and smallest micro details that reside at the volume that is just above the noise floor.  All the low-energy signals are missing.  They are not masked by a high noise floor - they are just not revealed by this DAC - they are not there.  Those faint echos, trailing decays, and micro-textures that help to define the timbre of instruments and voices, to illustrate the sound stage and to improve imaging - all of that is missing.
    It's not as black and white, all or nothing, as I'm making it out, but a quick A/B with my favorite oversampling DAC - the FiiO X5's PCM1792A - made this very obvious.  So much so that, given my apparent addiction to those micro-details, from so many hours of listening to the HD800 with higher resolving DACs, including my favorite DAC - the Metrum Octave MkII, I'm finding myself almost involuntarily turning up the volume to much higher levels than those at which I normally listen.  I've now realized that I'm doing that because I'm looking for something that's just not there.  With lower-distortion DACs and amps (like the Octave MkII and Aurix pairing), the HD800 allows me to enjoy my music at lower volumes than any other headphone I've owned - as long as the ambient noise in my environment is low enough.  I'm such a freak about hearing a recording's low-energy micro-details, that I will turn off my AC or heat, so that no air is rushing from a ceiling vent that's about ten feet away from my recliner.
    In an attempt to quantify the loss of detail imposed by The Battery DAC relative to a good oversampling DAC, I could say that The Battery DAC turns the HD800 into a better HD650.  That "veil" of which the HD600 and HD650 are often accused (primarily by people who have the HD800), is draped upon the HD800 by this DAC.  The loss of detail imposed by The Battery DAC, really isn't any worse than that experienced when going from the HD800 to the HD650.  But the signature of the HD650 is also put upon the HD800 (a good thing, in my opinion) when using The Battery DAC, while retaining the HD800's sound stage.  
    Also, thanks in part to its rolled off highs, The Battery DAC completely eliminates any hint of the fatigue-causing sibilance and treble edginess that the HD800 suffers with oversampling DACs used in combination with amps that employ a lot of local or global feedback.  The iBasso PB2 and OPPO HA-1, fed by your choice of oversampling DACs, suffer intolerable treble harshness with the finicky HD800.  And where the Metrum Octave MkII did wonders for satisfying the HD800 while still using amps that employ negative feedback in their design, it wasn't until I went to a low-feedback amp (the NuForce HA-200) and later, a zero-feedback amp (the Metrum Aurix), that I finally eliminated a residual, brittle edginess in the treble of the HD800.  
    I'm mentioning all of this here, because I've now concluded that The Battery DAC, all by its self, is a "cure" for the HD800 - even with high feedback amps - if you can let go of some "air" and those micro-details that help so much with imaging - pushing the HD800 in the direction of an HD650 (ending up with a considerably better HD650 - and, in terms of frequency response, not "air" and detail, an HD800 that's more fun).
    Again, with only about three hours of listening time, at this writing, all of this is premature, but I am also amazed at the bass energy, more so than the bass detail.  It's about the best most energetic bass I've heard with the HD800 - in the direction of the LCD-2 - far from it, but very satisfying.  OK, enough impressions for now - it's likely to improve with a few hours on it.
    In short, I like it!  Really, I do!  But more as a way of just enjoying music - for which I cherish this little DAC - because I tend to analyze music rather than simply enjoy it.  This DAC throws up a big road block to that part of my brain that wants to dissect every song like a dead frog pinned to a cutting board in a high school biology class. I have no choice but to let go of that tendency, where normally, I admit it's a struggle to just listen to the content instead of listening to the reproduction of the content.  THAT'S what I like about this DAC - it has me suffering withdrawals from my addiction to fine detail, but it also has me in awe of the very thing that I most like about my first and only other NOS DAC, the Octave MkII.
  8. hans030390
    Glad to hear it arrived safe and sound! I think this is a good introduction to what you'd normally expect from a NOS R/2R DAC, and it's priced well. The TDA1543 chip was a budget chip in the Philips lineup, so harmonic distortion is relatively high, and accuracy/linearity is not going to be the greatest (this ain't no Yggy). In these regards, it probably sits around or below the rumored chips used in the Metrum DACs, and Metrum has multiple of those per DAC (TDA1543 might also benefit from parallelization). I think it's safe to expect some limitations as such, but you can often find these for $175-250 depending on if you bid or buy. I think they're a good option at that price point. DACs using TDA1543 chips at higher price points make me a bit wary.
    So, if you don't like a warm, smooth, slightly thick, and not very resolving sound signature, you may not like this DAC. If you haven't liked any NOS R/2R DAC you've tried or found them to have certain undesirable traits, this won't change your mind. I think it does very well with liquidity and general tone, despite being a touch thick and intimate sounding - perhaps more so than the Metrums, and is just downright enjoyable. Others are likely to disagree. I can't argue with what personally draws me into the music.
    Burn-in might help improve the sound over time,for those of you that think that's possible. I do think it sounds best after warming up for a bit at least. I don't believe these chips are designed to be left on all the time, though, for longevity reasons. I'm also not sure how well it scales with better and better SPDIF sources, but that's a factor to consider as well.
    I use mine with this PSU, which is supposedly linear (I can't verify): http://www.amazon.com/Super-Power-Supply%C2%AE-Transformer-5-5x2-1mm/dp/B00DHMCNOO/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1426029711&sr=8-7&keywords=linear+power+supply
    This PSU might sound a bit cleaner than running it off the battery. Maybe. Likely fooling myself. Too slight to really tell.
    One odd design choice, IMO, is that you have to leave both the "mains" and "battery" switches on while plugged in if you want to charge the batteries. Oh well, no biggie.
    Looking forward to hearing more thoughts as you give it more time, especially directly compared to the Octave MkII.
    starence and landroni like this.
  9. zilch0md
    Thanks for that great summary!  Again, it's too early for me to be forming an opinion, but you've pretty much summarized what I'm hearing.  [​IMG]
    Quote (heavily edited, in agreement):
    Absolutely.  In some ways, it's got more of what I like most about the Octave MkII, but less of what I most like about oversampling DACs. In a way, it's a caricature of the Octave MkII - very analog, and yes, very enjoyable.
    Thanks for encouraging me to get it.  I can already tell it's a keeper.
    landroni likes this.
  10. CJG888
    Has anyone had a chance to compare it to the Hifiman HM-60X players? Would it be considered an upgrade, or is the sound essentially similar?
  11. CJG888

    DX50 / Starting Point NOS DAC / iBasso P4 (AD797 + BUF634) / T51p

    But only if it is genuinely better than the line out of the HM-601LE!
  12. drbluenewmexico

    check out MOJO_Audio.com and their dac.  Benjamin Zweikel, head MOJO is totally devoted to NOS dac performance and sound.
    he has some great position papers on digital sound that are worth perusing, and his products really sound incredible!!
  13. CJG888
  14. zilch0md
    I've gone back to my earlier post and updated it. I'm starting to get a handle on The Battery DAC, but don't take anything too seriously, yet, as I haven't even had it for 24 hours.  [​IMG]
  15. CJG888
    Sounds very like the HM-60X series, then.

    That is the reason why I usually schlep two DAPs around with me! The HM-650 for accurate listening, and the HM-601LE for fun listening.
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