The Stax Thread III
Aug 2, 2015 at 9:08 PM Post #5,611 of 25,142
I'm in the camp that Stax amps are mighty fine. I think it's that Stax, as a platform, is so much better than anything else that any Stax system is gold. But with that I listen most days to a 404LE on a 006 which is sweet and mellow, and vocal music on a Sigma Normal/SRM-3S is even sweeter. When playing Wagner I tend to prefer a late edition Sigma Pro on a 323S, and a KGST for a no-nonsense presentation of Boccherini or piano sonatas. 
 
Go Stax, it's all good 
smily_headphones1.gif

 
Aug 2, 2015 at 11:20 PM Post #5,612 of 25,142
  There are a lot of discussions on DAC's for Stax, but most of them are out of date, so sorry if it's an old topic but I could really use some suggestions as there are so many choices. 
 
I have an extensive Stax collection, nearly every one they made new and old, same for the amps, plus the new DIY variants (KGST, T2, BHSE, etc). I've also got a Stax Quattro 1 and 2 as sources, but need a decent DAC to drive all this too (I have a pretty good Chinese one now but should upgrade). Here's what I'm looking for
 
  1. The best I can get in transparency and detail for my price. I use the headphones/amps to match my mood and music
  2. Ideally under $1k but can go higher
  3. Balanced and single ended out
  4. USB in
  5. A DAC/Power Amp (speaker) combo would be great - that way I can drive my Stax transformer adapters
 
Thanks for any suggestions. 

 
I would recommend an R2R DAC.  I have a totaldac, that is above your price range, but the sound of R2R and stax are magic together.
 
Aug 3, 2015 at 2:10 AM Post #5,613 of 25,142
  I'm in the camp that Stax amps are mighty fine. I think it's that Stax, as a platform, is so much better than anything else that any Stax system is gold. But with that I listen most days to a 404LE on a 006 which is sweet and mellow, and vocal music on a Sigma Normal/SRM-3S is even sweeter. When playing Wagner I tend to prefer a late edition Sigma Pro on a 323S, and a KGST for a no-nonsense presentation of Boccherini or piano sonatas. 
 
Go Stax, it's all good 
smily_headphones1.gif

 
I would recommend splitting your budget in half to go towards a USB- SPDIF and a vintage R2R DAC. Since you have some DIY skills you should be able to restore something with a NPT/PMD filter + PCM63
 
Aug 3, 2015 at 5:20 AM Post #5,615 of 25,142
   
We tried to tell you this for years
biggrin.gif

Not the appropriate post to quote but I'm curious if you ere able to cleanly remove the dust cover for mk1's before? I'm having some slight balance problems and I think it's because the cover is compromised. Did you just cut it out?
 
Aug 3, 2015 at 5:37 AM Post #5,616 of 25,142
 
Can't you try out the amps in Hong Kong somehwere?
 
Members can make recommendations but it's always going to be down to your preference at the end of the day.
 
I used to have the BHSE, SRM007 and SRM 727 before I got rid of all of them you mentioned (which I am regretting now dearly and searching for a new electrostatic amp) but I think it's worth for you to check them out personally.
 
On your limited budget, I don't think it's really worth it to spend a significantly larger amount on the amps such as the BHSE, KGHSSV and etc. when you can get another pair of closed backs for that sum.

Going the STAX route is a fairly recent move for me so I haven't spent too much time checking on places to try them here. I have been in contact with a local member that has a pair that I might get a chance to try if the stars align. I agree with you that personal experience is the best way to go. I just don't like to be an intrusion but I will try to find opportunities to try them.
 
Regarding the budget issue, I am strongly leaning towards compromising on the electrostatic amp so that I can add another (closed) headphone to my inventory.
 
Thanks for your advice and suggestions.
 
Aug 3, 2015 at 8:02 AM Post #5,617 of 25,142
I would recommend an R2R DAC.  I have a totaldac, that is above your price range, but the sound of R2R and stax are magic together.

 
That's the second R2R recommendation I've gotten (the other was a PM). I do have Soekris R2R DAC board that I haven't had a chance yet to finish (just a few simple things really.)
 
 I would recommend splitting your budget in half to go towards a USB- SPDIF and a vintage R2R DAC. Since you have some DIY skills you should be able to restore something with a NPT/PMD filter + PCM63

 
The third recommendation! OK R2R seems to be the cure to this problem. I wonder what it is about R2R that goes so well with Stax ...
 
The R2R options I've heard of are
  1. Soekris DAC (will finish soon - been busy with DIY Stax amps like the T2)
  2. totaldac
  3. AudioNote DAC 4.1
  4. Something with a NPT/PMD filter + PCM63 (like ...?)
 
Any other R2R options?
 
Thanks so much guys. 
 
Aug 3, 2015 at 8:15 AM Post #5,618 of 25,142
I don't really care for the dac 4.1 because there's a lot of fluff around the design, but you can probably assess that if you look at the internals
 
soekris is interesting but the si570 phase noise leaves something to be desired. Let someone who is capable of measuring crystals put it into the SPDIF side for you, i.e. invest in an audiophilleo/legato
 
classe dac 1 fits the bill, ultraanalog modules
 
parasound dacs have a wide range of chips and output stages that you can find within your budget
 
EAD Dac series
 
These are all a google search away if you look for any dacs that use the pcm63, 1704, 1862, among others. I wouldn't recommend building your own at that price level just because DACs are more complicated and there are certain things which are just beyond your capabilities as a DIY-er.
 
-----------------------
 
there are really strong s-d implementations as well which would also fit the bill, such as the audiolab mdac which uses the 9018. The Audioquest Dragonfly is very capable from a digital POV, and the designers are fairly famous.
 
R2R is nice but it's really just another option. There are a lot of issues that prevent it from being a real competent option in 2015 without significant expense to overcome things like digital filtering, manufacturing
 
Aug 3, 2015 at 9:28 AM Post #5,619 of 25,142
Agree on the DAC 4.1 - I'm sure it sounds great but why put tubes and transformer coupling in there as they're completely unnecessary? Tubes OK, but output transformer seems gratuitous. 
 
 soekris is interesting but the si570 phase noise leaves something to be desired. Let someone who is capable of measuring crystals put it into the SPDIF side for you, i.e. invest in an audiophilleo/legato


Actually I'm an Test Equipment R&D engineer and have access to just about anything you could want at the lab. Maybe because of that I don't bother testing my audio equipment 
biggrin.gif
 
 
Actually there's a story to this, I had a phono preamp I designed and built once that I loved and sounded wonderful. At some point I took it in and measured, to find all sorts of problems in the frequency response. Ever since then my motto is "I design spectrum analyzers for a living, and my ears aren't spectrum analyzers!"
 
 classe dac 1 fits the bill, ultraanalog modules

 
Another one, unfortunately it's $$ (I've already spent way too much on vintage Stax gear)
 
Aug 3, 2015 at 9:53 AM Post #5,620 of 25,142
   please keep us posted. Very interested in this comparision.


Some short notes on what I have so far, comparing a ...
  1. KGST
  2. SRA-3
  3. SRM-323S
  4. SRM-006t
  5. SRM-T1W
  6. SRM-T1mk2 serial A**** (TBD)
  7. SRM-T1mk2 PP (TBD)
  8. SRA-12S (TBD)
 
Tests were with an ED-1 and Sigma Pro NOS late version and I only listen to classical music. 
 
The KGST is the most accurate of the bunch probably. It has the largest 'space' - it sounds like you kind of poke your head into the concert hall, probably due to it having the lowest noise floor (just a guess as to what I'm hearing). It also has the most headroom, big dynamic peaks (many in classical) are handled with ease. The bass is generally better defined. Given that it's also the most fatiguing. This could be due to my upstream DAC - or not, but regardless it does get tiring after a while. 
 
The SRA-3 is a very sweet, very forgiving amp. Wonderful with Normal phones, especially shines for vocal Sonata or Lieder (e.g. Fischer-Dieskau Schuber Lieder), or Bach harpsichord. On this one I used a pair of Normal bias Sigma so some difference there. 
 
The 323S is the most energetic of the bunch. With boom-boom music (Rachmaninov, Nielson) I prefer this one, it's a wonderful match with a Sigma as it really punches through. Some loss of detail, but conversely it's somewhat more relaxing to boot in that regards. Needs about 5-10 minutes warmup
 
006t version 1 - the most fuzzy and warm of the bunch. This is a rare NOS one I got from a guy who bought it new as a backup. Warm, forgiving and the most fuzzed out - which doesn't detract. Great for when I just want some no-nonsense relaxing music, say Haydn string quartets. 
 
T1W - wonderful amp. Rich, a little warmer than some others, not quite as detailed as the KGST but a little forgiving too. Excellent cup of tea for anything up to large ensemble, and there too for Classical era symphony (e.g. Mozart, Beethoven). This one takes about 30 minutes warmup before it comes together, it really does. 
 
More to come in a few weeks ...
 
Aug 3, 2015 at 11:17 AM Post #5,622 of 25,142
I use a relatively budget DIY R2R dac by Standing Point Systems from France. Christophe builds them and sells them via eBay. Cheap but a good introduction to the NOS dac world IMO. Probably not as competent as the higher range ones but to these ears, pretty awesome sounding and stands neck to neck with my Gungnir.
 
Aug 3, 2015 at 11:39 AM Post #5,623 of 25,142
  I use a relatively budget DIY R2R dac by Standing Point Systems from France. Christophe builds them and sells them via eBay. Cheap but a good introduction to the NOS dac world IMO. Probably not as competent as the higher range ones but to these ears, pretty awesome sounding and stands neck to neck with my Gungnir.

 
Thanks, a cheaper option! But is the name "Starting Point Systems"?
 
Aug 3, 2015 at 11:48 AM Post #5,624 of 25,142
   
Thanks, a cheaper option! But is the name "Starting Point Systems"?


Hahahaha...yes, you are absolutely correct - it should be Starting Point Systems..my bad ! 
 
It's a passive DAC meaning there is no extra gain to it so you need to dial up the volume knob a fair bit depending on your source. It sounds a tad slow-ish on my Stax rig but once your ears adjust, it sounds great for the price.
 
Aug 3, 2015 at 1:13 PM Post #5,625 of 25,142
First rule of digital audio is to buy used. Whatever the "flavor of the moment" is today, you'll see it on Audiogon next year for about 50% off the original price.
 
Extrapolating your tastes, and given your original price point, you might want to look at a Benchmark. If you're willing to spend a bit more, check out a used Berkeley Alpha or something from PS Audio. I've heard them all in my system.
 
To me, most $1k DAC's sound very, very, similar. They're sonically competent, they measure well, but compared to a good analog system, they usually sound flat,  harsh, and lifeless.
 
The last few % of digital performance comes with a much higher price. Whether the price is worth it is a matter of choice.
 
I'm currently running a Metrum Hex. Probably not your taste, but I like it a lot. I bought it used for about 60% of retail.
 
 
Interesting how people in this hobby, even highly experienced ones, can have totally contradictory opinions about equipment.
 
I build all kinds of (mostly tube) audio equipment, including the occasional electrostatic headphone amp. I have a Stax 323s that I keep as a baseline amp. Most people here like this amp. To me it's a good example of what I don't want to build into my own equipment.
 
I'm also a big fan of Audio Note DAC's. Like any other tube output stage, the transformers are there to load the plates of the output tubes, remove the DC from the signal path, and convert the high impedance of the output tubes to a low impedance amp input.
 
The transformer output version of this DAC sounds better than the cap coupled version (which I own ) , and is a serious contender against any "state of the art" DAC.
 
 
 
I
 

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