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TOTALDAC DAC

Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by khaos974, May 12, 2011.
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  1. romaz
    With the monobloc, you have no choice but to use the reclocker. With the d1-dual, I can compare with and without the reclocker.
     
  2. nepherte
     
    You can always put them on a 3 level audio rack and be done with it, which would be the solution my wallet prefers :wink:
     
  3. cat6man
     
    when you take out the reclocker, you are also changing the dac input from aes/ebu to usb.
    vincent recommends the aes/ebu input (i concur).
    i guess it is still not clear to me if the re-clocking or conversion to aes/ebu is more important here............splitting hairs, i'm sure.
     
  4. ptcl
    I am glad to see many helpful comments on this thread. I did consider the D1 server initially. My Ethernet is not good enough to pass data from an NAS. I only use the network for remote control signal. For that reason, I have to rely on the local media server for music storage and playback. There is one trick though. I down-tuned the i5 T version CPU to the lowest speed 800 MHz. It is ticking along with low power consumption like the Totaldac Cubox. Further, I use the Daphile with a light weight real time Linux kernel, just like the server.  Previous comparison easily convinced me of its superiority over a stripped down Windows 7/JRiver combo.
     
    I graduated from a pretty respected Bricasti DAC in a recent version. I go to classical concerts about once a month. Every time I came home to my stereo, I would be discouraged to know that the stereo could not reproduce the bloom and the glory of a full orchestra. I reckoned that a two channel setup could not possibly replicate 70 to 100 instruments. I have to say the Totaldac combo comes so much closer to the real thing. Bricasti may be one of the best south of 10K and produced by a great company.  It is a spare now. The Totaldac D1/reclocker may be more expensive but convincingly in a more elite league.
     
    A separate Headfi thread sees a fellow questioning the effective number of bits of Totaldac and the theoretical shortage of dynamic. I suppose some follow marketing on ENOB. In honesty, I have not experienced reproduced orchestral and choral music as satisfying until now. I have to refer to what Ken Ishiwata of Marantz said.  Doe the music played through the equipment speak to your soul? It did take me more than a few minutes to be fully convinced but my day trial period was over 2 days underway.
     
  5. prot
    That sounds kinda strange, would you care to elaborate?
     
  6. romaz
    I understand.  We seem to be on parallel paths to some extent.  I'm coming from a Bricasti M1 also and this is not a DAC that is easy to improve on.  I listened to it again this weekend and it continues to hold up well but as soon as I go back to the TotalDac, the Bricasti sounds thinner and drier in comparison.
     
    I, too, frequent live performances.  My wife and I have season tickets to our local symphony. Just last Sunday, we saw Joshua Bell perform and before that, Alessio Bax.  We also host live concerts at our home including a Jazz harpist a few months ago and earlier in the year, an Ecuadorian guitarist and his trio.  Live performances are my reference.  It is difficult to reproduce this with even the best equipment but the TotalDac has brought me closer than ever before.  Having owned or heard a large number of very good DACs, my TotalDac experience has been unique for me because this is the first DAC to have elicited such an emotional response, something I generally have experienced only with headphones, speakers and amps before.  
     
    The TotalDac has also opened up a new vista and that is the importance of the source because all the TotalDacs are so transparent to the source and will absolutely scale with whatever source you put in front of it.  Having owned already so many sources and not really hearing much of a difference among them, I had come to the conclusion that bits were bits but that couldn't be further from the truth.  Trying to emulate the Cubox is a good strategy and I believe low power CPUs are best.  If you are interested in a source that won't require a NAS, you should also seriously consider the CAT by CAD (based in England).  Scott Berry has been as pleasant to work with as Vincent Brient and he will give you a full 30 days to evaulate a unit without obligation but like Vincent, you will have to pay for it up front.  It is too preliminary to make any definitive judgements as my CAT is still breaking in but already, it is running circles around the TotalDac Server.  To hear this kind of a difference from a PC running Windows 8.1 is unthinkable but when the time comes, I will share more about how Scott succeeded in differentiating his machine from the machines that we or others can build.  To be fair, I will wait for the Aurender N10 to come in before I make definitive statements because this unit is also an excellent unit that will not require a NAS.
     
  7. ptcl
    My router is located away from the stereo. I use Ethernet adapters near the route and the stereo to communicate through house electrical wires. This arrangement is inherently noisier. Totaldac server prefers an NAS attached to a router than an USB hard drive plugged in to the back. Therefore, Totaldac server without a local SSD is not ideal for me.  The reclocker is more suitable from a configuration standpoint and I have recognized its benefits.
     
  8. bmichels
     
    Impressive !  I thought that the TotalDAC server was the pinacle off all the sources !  May be it is the reclocker which is in fact the key element, not the TotalDAC server ? 
     
    Anywy, ca you tell us what player does scott has implemented on your CAT ?  
     
  9. romaz
    No, for sure the server is doing more than the reclocker.  As for the CAT, it is pure ROON.
     
  10. romaz
    TOTALDAC D1-MONOBLOC vs D1-DUAL vs D1-DUAL WITH RECLOCKER
     
    Now that I feel the TotalDac-d1 monoblocs are sufficiently broken in (I have not heard any sonic changes for several days), I feel I can comment on the differences between the TotalDac d1-dual vs monobloc.  I have spent the past few days very carefully listening to the differences between a d1-dual alone versus a d1-dual with reclocker versus the d1-monobloc and while I was waiting for the Aurender N10 to arrive before making any formal comparative statements, based on numerous PMs I've received, I felt I should go ahead and make some comment now.  I used the TotalDac server initially as my source but when my CAT arrived on Thursday, I gave it a listen and almost immediately, I found it to be superior to the TotalDac server.  I will speak more about the CAT once the Aurender N10 shows up but the best that the TotalDac Server will be is either #2 or #3 because without question, the CAT is superior - more refined, more relaxed, music just flows.  Those that own a TotalDac server know that this is saying a lot.  My usual playlist which incorporates both PCM and DSD files that I know extremely well was used but I also did a lot of random listening because it was hard to stop listening.  A TotalDac USB cable was used to connect server with DAC and listening was both via HE-1000 and 2-channel speakers.
     
    For those interested, the conversion from monobloc to d1-dual requires opening up the case of the master DAC (which is the left channel), flipping a switch and replacing a chip.  Because I told Vincent there was the possibility I would be keeping the monobloc or possibly downgrading to a d1-dual, he provided me this chip so I could perform the comparison.  I have gone back and forth several times now and this is what I have found:
     
    (1)  d1-dual without reclocker:  When I first swapped the chip, the sound was very closed in and congested.  Not good at all.  My first thought was maybe Vincent had slipped me a chip that would make the d1-dual sound so bad I would feel forced to stay with the monobloc but this thought contradicted all that I knew about Vincent.  I kept the DAC playing for a few hours and I went back to it.  It turned out this new chip required some break in because it soon began to sound very good, in fact, it was excellent.  I listened for a few hours and soon found myself wondering if there really was much of a difference between the d1-dual vs the monobloc.  Certainly, my level of enjoyment was no less than what I recalled with the monoblocs.  
     
    On Wednesday, the Entreq Poseidon grounding box came in for evaluation and so I grounded the TotalDac's output signal.  By Thursday, the d1-dual went through its first revelatory transformation.  With the Entreq grounding box, the sound became darker with a much blacker canvas.  The soundstage/headstage also opened up.  Even though I have clean power and a good ground to my mains, every electric component including the TotalDac with its linear PSU will generate noise that ultimately is passed onto the signal and even the best power conditioner or cables can do nothing about it.  You don't even notice it's there because you learn to live with it but once you hear the same signal with the grunge removed, you quickly appreciate more the quality of your DAC.  You can ground the signal of every electric component you have but most have commented that grounding the DAC or preamp is where the most benefit is derived.  So far, this difference has been quite significant.
     
    On Thursday night, the CAT server arrived and I began listening to it on Friday after about 12 hours of burn-in.  My first thought was "OMG", I didn't think another server could best the TotalDac Server so easily but the CAT is clearly at a higher level.  With the arrival of the CAT, I had come to the forgone conclusion that I would be downgrading to a d1-dual, returning the reclocker/server and buying an Entreq box and the CAT.
     
    (2)  Yesterday morning, I connected the d1-dual to the reclocker but I also kept the CAT and Entreq box connected.  Vincent told me he believed the AES/EBU connection sounds better than USB on the TotalDac and so this was one of the reasons the reclocker was created.  For those who have not appreciated much difference with the reclocker in the past, Vincent has recently improved the reclocker.  It now incorporates an improved AES/EBU port (not sure how exactly) but also incorporates a large heavy rigid copper plate at the base of the reclocker that minimizes vibrations.  This copper plate was chosen over a less expensive iron plate because copper apparently sounds better than iron although it was an upgrade that cost me an extra 200+ Euros.  To be honest, the improvement here is more subtle but consistently noticeable.  Whenever a difference is small, I go to blind testing to make sure that what I am hearing is real.  With the help of my wife who would swap the USB cable back and forth from the CAT to d1-dual and the reclocker, I was able to notice the difference accurately each time and each time, the d1-dual with reclocker sounded better.  The detail, especially in complex passages, with the reclocker is better and especially noticed when multiple instruments are playing or when a large choir is singing.  The separation is simply better.  With certain bright recordings, there seems to be less digital shimmer as well.
     
    I went further and compared the reclocker against the USB Regen with linear power but also against USB Regen + AQ Jitterbug.  Maybe because the signal from the CAT is already so clean but the USB Regen and Jitterbug did not appear to add much if anything at all and so the TotalDac reclocker is better.  My guess is that any improvement heard from the TotalDac reclocker was less about jitter control and more about converting the signal to AES/EBU but this is just a guess.  
     
    (3)  This morning, I converted the d1-dual back to monobloc although I listened to the d1-dual + reclocker for a full hour before switching back to monobloc mode.  Once again, I had the CAT + Entreq box connected.  This was my first time hearing the monoblocs with both the CAT + Entreq box connected.  All I can say is OMG once again!  The difference with adding the reclocker to the d1-dual was subtle but the difference with the monobloc was not and I attribute the CAT and Entreq box as adding to the delta.  The biggest difference is air and soundstage, almost like a new dimension has been added.  With live recordings especially, I am getting a much truer sense of the width and depth and height of the soundstage/headstage on both speakers and headphones.  With well recorded music, not only the detail but the layering of the detail is exquisite.  The monoblocs hide nothing.  Give it a worthy source and it just sounds correct and with a very very low noise floor (especially DAC-direct to headphone).  Instrument timbre is spot on and especially with speakers, image focus is spooky good.  These qualities were present with the d1-dual but the monoblocs take it to a higher level.  The presentation was without question more relaxed - music seemed to play so easily and sound so natural and more alive.  I have learned to stop asking myself how it can sound better than this but at this point, I'm not sure how it can sound better than this.
     
    Well, it didn't take long because I found one more way to improve what I was hearing.  Even before any break in, I decided to swap my Moon Silver Dragon headphone cable with the DHC cable which had just arrived in the mail yesterday.  I purposely avoided listening to it until the very end and this is definitely a worthy upgrade.  The Moon cable was already a nice improvement over the stock HE-1000 cable but the presentation with the DHC cable is more relaxed yet more nuanced and with fuller body.  This is a very easy cable to listen to and I know it will only improve.  
     
    For comparison, I went ahead and connected my Balancing Act with PX4 tubes to see if it could sound any better vs DAC-direct to headphone and I have to say it does not.  This evening, I also briefly switched back to my CAPS server and Auralic Aries and it was clearly several steps backward even with the Entreq box connected to the DAC.  For the first time, however, with these lesser sources, the USB Regen seemed to benefit the TotalDac monoblocs even with the reclocker in place.  This would suggest to me that if you are noticing an improvement with a USB Regen, it is not because of a deficiency with your DAC but a deficiency with your source and several jitter control mechanisms could prove to be additive.  
     
    With my time with my BHSE/SR-009s, both Viva Egoistas as well as all the gear I heard at Tyll's Big Sound 2015 a few weeks ago, I have not had a sonic headphone experience equal to this combination of TotalDac monobloc + CAT + Entreq + DHC cable although admittedly, this combination comes at an insanely high price.  I once believed that a headphone would not be resolving enough to appreciate this level of gear but I was wrong.  If you can justify the price and you are looking for the ceiling of headphone listening, I might have found it.  While there are other DACs including the Nagra HD that could be as good as the d1-monoblocs, unless you can connect directly to its signal output like you can with the TotalDac, I cannot imagine it will sound as good as the TotalDac.  The Aurender N10 arrives soon.  Will it be better than the CAT?  I don't recall that it sounded this good but it remains to be seen what effect the Entreq box will have on it.  I am open to any possibility.
     
  11. prot
    Ethernet over the power cables is indeed inherently noisier. OTOH, ethernet uses very robust correction mechanisms and the data *always* arrives 100% correct.. if a single bit error ever happanes the whole transmission is interrupted and your music will stop playing. You can rest assured that your player device will never receive a single wrong bit over ethernet.

    And if you are afraid of the mythical 'noise', add a network isolator and/or an ethernet switch right before your player device. A good switch basically acts like a 'reclocker'/'regen' for the ethernet signal. And if you wanna go truly hardcore on that noise, you can feed the switch with the purest linear regulated power that money can buy :)
     
  12. Yoga
    Wonderful Roy! Goodness me, that's one expensive headphone setup. Genuine end game. Will you be keeping it? :¬)
     
    Lastly, interested to hear how the Regen affects the N10 when it arrives!
     
    Thanks for the insight.
     
  13. a1uc
    Why would you use those Ethernet adapters ? Why not run a cable
     
  14. Yoga
    Found the price (at last) - CAD CAT £5,300. £4,800 if you buy with the DAC (£6,900) also.
     
    Have you heard the CAD DAC Roy? Sorry if I've asked you that before!
     
  15. romaz
     
    I have not heard the CAD 1543 Mk II but I have heard from another head-fier that it is excellent.  It is priced similar to a d1-dual and because of its high output impedance, it would be impractical to connect its signal output directly to most planar magnetic headphones such as my HE-1000 or your Abyss although you could do it with an HD800.  That is the only thing that kept me from trying it.
     
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