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My digital front end is sounding the best it has ever done ....after a LOT of tuning. But, there are aspects of it that I would like to change. It could be that this is simply down to the source files or other parts of my system, but I thought I'd borrow one of these 'DAC of the moment' to compare with my Bel Canto 3.5 vbs.

R2R vs DS.


I arranged to borrow the Y through Schitt EU, and would thoroughly recommend the service offered by Mark - you pay postage at a very reasonable rate and have the DAC for two weeks.

My front end is shown in the graphic below, into EAR534 > Focal 1008be II.

Only update on the diagram = IFI SMPS powering the Raspberry Pi 3 is now an R-Core 5v/3A LPSU.

https://s14.postimg.org/3y13owapd/Digital_Audio-201707.gif

I listened to the Yggdrasil via its SPDIF input.

I was driven to try the Y by an ongoing edge that I hear when using my Bel Canto 3.5vb (BC), due to a change to Focal 1008be IIs. With my previous speakers, Living Voice, the issue wasn't evident, and even then it is only evident in a small subset of my music; but, irritatingly so.

I have used my Oppo 205D as a baseline to assure myself that any issues I was hearing existed, and that the issue wasn’t with the BC itself.
 
The BC is a better DAC than the Oppo, but the Oppo is no mean performer, excellent VFM – when set up correctly.
 
Looking at the issues I was having with the BC, after listening to the Y for a few days I noted:
 
>Small number of tracks/albums with hard sibilants (e.g. Tarzan)
Y – Initially no change, but as the Yggy has warmed and settled this has changed, e.g.:
Tarzan – Now listenable. Still sharper than I would like, but not ear bending
Simon & Garfunkle – Now a LOT better, mainly fine.
 
>Cymbals being splashy & hard
Y – Issue gone
 
>General feeling of edge
Y – Issue substantially reduced, almost gone
 
The Y painted a wider and more detailed soundstage. I could hear lyrics more easily. I was aware of fully resolved instruments that were before just a part of background clutter.
 
An example: Liszt transcribed Beethoven’s symphonies for piano. These are available on Qobuz. At the start of the 7th Symphony, 1st movement there is a thumping start which is immediately damped, this makes the whole frame of the strings vibrate. Through the BC this was an almost dissociated noise, like a second supporting instrument was in the background. Through the Y this was the piano, adding to the power of the player.
 
So the Y is simply better than the BC?
 
Perhaps, but I could set up a demo that the BC would win.
 
The BC has a high frequency edge, this can act like a spice in food. For instance, again from Qobuz, there is an album of Star Trek themes which includes part of the soundtrack from the more recent Star Trek movie. The track ‘Hella Bar Talk / Enterprising Young Man’ opens softly, and a deep drum beat joins, this moves into Enterprising Young Man when there is some impactful drumming. Through the BC the bass is more evident, and the climatic drumming is just balls out exciting. Though the Y this is all there, but just a tad muted.

Listened to a vinyl rip I did of Rikki Lee Jone's eponymous album and it was like listening to it for the first time.

Overall the Y paints a superb aural picture that the BC, while good, could not equal.
 

Having listened to the Y for two weeks I slotted my Bel Canto (BC) back into place, and noted the following:

I want to muddy the waters a bit. Returning to my three issues:

>Small number of tracks/albums with hard sibilants (e.g. Tarzan)
Y – Initially no change, but as the Yggy has warmed and settled this has changed, e.g.:
Tarzan – Now listenable. Still sharper than I would like, but not ear bending
Simon & Garfunkle – Now a LOT better, mainly fine.

--I will stick with this.
 
>Cymbals being splashy & hard
Y – Issue gone

--Again true .....but:

The BC is more extended in the high frequencies. The hard sibilance is happening at 6-10KHz, and perhaps this is where this effect is happening too?
With the Yggy the high frequencies are there, and beautifully articulated, however they feel as though they are recessed in the sound stage and at a lower volume so that some detail is just missing.
Similarly at the bass end of things the Yggy doesn't dig as deep. However, it is wonderfully musical, whereas the BC can feel a bit one note in comparison.

Please note that I am overstating things in order to draw the comparison. These are both good DACs, and the Yggy may well be a great DAC.
 
>General feeling of edge
Y – Issue substantially reduced, almost gone.

--Again true .....but:

That was with the tracks that caused me issues with the BC. With other music the Yggy could move towards sharp, not to the same extent as the BC, but it is there, for instance:

Stevie Nicks (LP rip 9624) - The Other Side of the Mirror
Great album, and sounds stonking through the BC. Via the Yggy retained all the marvels of that DAC: wider soundstage; more details that add to the experience; clearer what is happening musically ....but, the vocals sound slightly sharper.

U2 (Quboz 16/44.1) - The Joshua Tree
As above (*)

Conclusion

In my mind and in my system the Yggdrasil is a clearly a better DAC overall than the Bel Canto 3.5vb, and I thought the BC was a very minor improvement on my nDAC/XPS; purchased to scratch a couple of other itches.

Having listened to the Yggy I can definitely understand why some people describe DS DACs as grey in comparison to R2R, at least on this very limited sample! There is something propulsive and compulsive about the Yggy, you want to stay up and listen to just one more track, that becomes one more album. You find yourself getting into music that before left you a bit nonplussed.

Will I be buying it? Perhaps. I want to audition two or three other DACs: A Lampizator; the Border Patrol DAC; and, perhaps the Mytek Brooklyn.

(*) Fascinating:
Last Saturday I was listening to the Yggy most of the day. In the evening I put on U2 (Quboz 16/44.1) - The Joshua Tree, it sounded AWFUL. Far worse than any of the sharpness I had experienced with the BC. I had already listened to this and not heard this issue, and the following morning all was well again. Why? I obviously don't know, but I wish I had immediately tried streaming a local file as I suspect it may be due to high contention on Virgin's infrastructure. As it was I turned off the system and watched Dr Who - really good this season!

Dear Mods,

Apologies - thought I was creating this in the Computer Based HiFi section. Can you move it please, thx.

M

Edited by Mr Underhill

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Following this I listened extensively to a Lampizator Level 4 G5 .....and?

An excellent DAC that I prefer it to the Yggdrasil. However, the Y does seem to be just a bit more open. The Lampizator appears to mask a bit of the detail from the music, but boy does it get timbre.

However ......

A week ago I received the latest OS and app update for the micrRendu, and this has turned a lot of my thoughts around:

Sonicorbiter 2.5

This has given me a VERY definite improvement in SQ; using LMS and Squeezelite.

Is this due to the updated OS? The newer Squeezelite app? Who knows.

Ever since I got the microRendu I have been battling a pervasive feeling of excess higher frequency edge, and have spent time and money trying to combat this. I have been demoing DACs to replace my current Bel Canto DAC 3.5vb, including Schiit and Lampizator. I would summarise the issues as:

>Small number of tracks/albums with hard sibilants (e.g. Tarzan)
>Cymbals being splashy & hard
>General feeling of edge
 

I found that the Yggdrasil reduced the issues, although it introduced another lessor issue; fantastic clearly resolved and lithe bass. The Lampizator was even better, but without the quality of bass - Level 4.

Now following the 2.5 upgrade?

The Bel Canto now has the same level transparency as the Yggdrasil and Lampizator. The edge is substantially reduced, to the same level as the Schiit. The bass is improved to the level of the Lampizator, not quiet as good as the Ygg. - this is with pop and rock music.

Wish this update had been available sooner, I would have saved myself some money, and wouldn't have had the urge to look at other DACs ....but, these have been interesting journeys.

Recommended update - probably system dependent, YMMV.

Now I did not demo the Yggdrasil or Lampizator with this updated software and, who knows, perhaps this would lift their performance too, but I am not convinced. The Yggy and Lampi both sounded transparent anyway, now the Bel Canto does too.

As it stands, and with the above caveate in mind, I would rate the DACs as:

Lampizator > Bel Canto > Schiit Yggdrasil.

I have the Border Patrol DAC arriving today: R2R, NOS with valve rectification.

50% of the cost of the Yggdrasil, 25% of the Lampizator. OLD technology, no DSD or anything > 9624. Should be interesting.

M

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Super Wammer
18 minutes ago, Mr Underhill said:

I have the Border Patrol DAC arriving today: R2R, NOS with valve rectification.

50% of the cost of the Yggdrasil, 25% of the Lampizator. OLD technology, no DSD or anything > 9624. Should be interesting.

M

I agree it should be interesting. I have a soft spot for anything from the Border Patrol stable (I still have a pair of their valve rectified PSU units sat here doing nothing but can't bear to part with them).

It will be interesting to hear what you think about it.

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Hi Nick,

Having had the Border Patrol DAC running constantly for three days what I think is ......bl**dy hell, buy this ASAP.

This is a stone bonker BARGAIN. I don't mean, 'this will challenge things up to twice its price', I mean, 'it is as good as anything I have heard'.

I have to confess there are a lot of DACs I have not heard, so I will try and paint an aural picture:

I have had a number of wow moments, as in ‘they are in the room’; these have been with acoustic and jazz; but there are plenty of hair raising moments with rock, pop & classical music.

I just listened to Waterloo Sunset streamed from Quboz, it is the BEST I have ever heard it. Not only open but also the delivery of dynamics in the song towards the end, that I had never noticed before. Also some added reverb in the last few stanzas, all laid out very clearly – as the different voices join the fray.

I played Wagner’s ‘Entry of the Gods into Valhalla’. This has a crashing strike at the opening. Through all the other DACs I have tried it has been there, but not THERE. With the BP I knew it was coming, but still jumped.

Beginning of Roger Waters The Wall Live from Quboz. Scale and power.

The BP is more prone to zingers in my system, that is hard sibilants, than the Lampizator, but I think this may be related to the very open nature of the sound, and perhaps the R2R chip - as I heard this with the Yggdrasil; and, as with the Yggy, the DAC can tend a bit towards the bright with some music.

The one area where the Yggdrasil may have it slightly over the BP is imaging, but the BP is opening up all the time.

I have already told Gary it won't be going back. I have bought the version with the enhanced PS. I did not bother with the USB input as my feeling is that this is an area that is advancing all the time, and in due course i will just replace my Singxer F1.

Really, this thing must be heard to be believed.

Downside?

9624 maximum.
No DSD.

Neither of these will bother me.

M

Edited by Mr Underhill

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Super Wammer

@Mr Underhill + 1 for the Border Patrol DAC SE, the DAC has been in my system for a week now and I'm really enjoying it, it's making sweet music.

I haven't have much time to listen for any differences regarding have the valve rectifier in and out of circuit, I've just been turning the valve on a few minutes before I listen. 

I haven't used a NOS DAC for a few years now, I'm glad I've gone back to this kind of DAC, mines staying also :D 

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Hi Jez,

I haven't tried leaving the valve rectifier out either. Currently playing with different SPDIF cables; which one(s) have you used and tried?

I am very happy with the music I am getting from Quboz. Some of the music I was streaming from there sounded less than stellar before, now sounding very good.

Had a chat with Gary yesterday, the DAC just throws away any data > 16 bit. That doesn't bother me as I have never heard them sounding better. Interestingly he thought there was a 96kHz ceiling, but I was testing my HiRes files and found:

192 = No

44.1, 88.2, 96, 176.4 = Yes -- in fact 176.4 = NO, LMS had changed settings under my feet.

I posted the above thoughts on SBAF, and got accused of being a stooge for Border Patrol! So I posted a longer review:

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Introduction
I posted the detail of my system above, so I won't repeat it here.

I decided to start listening to some alternative DACs as since I moved to the Sonore microRendu (mR) I had been hearing sibilance and what I describe as edginess with a sub-set of my music. Having tried a number of tuning steps, which generally improved clarity, I was becoming frustrated.


I will compare and contrast the Bel Canto 3.5vb (BC), the Schiit Yggdrasil (Y), the Lampitizor Level 4 Gen 5 (L) and the Border Patrol (BP).

In fact the bar has moved in the last three weeks as Sonore distributed an OS update (2.5) and this substantially removed the issues I was hearing with the BC. However, having heard the Y I was happy to press on.

All four are excellent DACs, especially since the OS update! I could live with any of them, but I can see that system and personal taste will lead to different people choosing different DACs.

I borrowed the Yggdrasil and was suitably impressed; my review is posted above. However, since then I have made a further discovery. Both the Y and the BP had a tendency to sound bright with some music, whilst the L did not. I had deliberately left my system as stable as possible during this exercise, with the exception of the mR OS change, which i couldn't resist - and I am glad I did not. I had been using a Mark Grant Oyaide SPDIF from Singxer-F1 to DAC. When I replaced this with a good quality copper SPDIF the brightness simply vanished. I suspect this would address this issue with the Y as well as the BP.

What I am left to think about is a selection of attributes that are exemplified by each DAC within my system. I will discuss these below with reference to the listed music.

Music Used:

1. Torq's List
As far as I can replicate it using Quboz.

2. My List


Artist - Album - Quality - Track:
Eric Clapton - Unplugged - 4416 - Signe
Jeff Buckley - Grace - 4416 - Grace
Rolling Stones - Brussel Affair - 4416 - Brown Sugar
Mary Black - Live at Olympia - 4816 (DVD rip) - Columbus
Nils Lofgren - Live - 4416 (Quboz) - Keith Don't Go
Peter Gabriel - Compilation - 4416 - Sledgehammer
Peter Gabriel - So - 9624 - Sledgehammer
Rachmaninov - Symphony No1 - 2496 - Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra
Simon & Garfunkle - Old Friends - 4416 - The Dangling Conversation
Stevie Nicks - The Other Side of the Mirror - 9624(LP) - Long Way to Go
Phil Collins - Tarzan - 4416 - Son of Man
Pink Floyd - DSOTM - 4416 - Time
Elkie Brookes - Pearls - 4416 - Superstar
Carole King - Tapestry - 4416 - I Feel the Earth Move
LSO - Star Wars - 9624(LP) - Main Title
Dusty Springfield - Dusty in Memphis - 4416 - Son of a Preacher Man
Dusty Springfield - Dusty in Memphis Remastered - 4416 (Quboz) - Son of a Preacher Man
Roger Waters - The Wall - 4416 (Quboz) - In the Flesh?
Pat Metheny & Anna Maria Jopek - Upojenie - 4416 - Cichy zapada zmrok

Some specific comments below:

Eric Clapton - Unplugged - 4416 - Signe
This track includes some great percussion, which includes a triangle centre stage.
BC - Triangle present, but it can sound distorted, it doesn't sound as though it is ringing true at times.
Y - Music is well presented and I was aware of elements in the music that I hadn't heard clearly before. I felt that the BC was slightly opaque, this issue was addressed by the mR OS update. The triangle seemed to have decided to turn up occasionally. While the high frequencies were better presented they didn't extend as high and what I heard was subtley recessed in the soundstage. But, the detail and width of the soundsatge were excellent.
L - Triangle present and correct. The soundstage is almost super-sized. The bass via L reminded me of my LP12, a sloght upper bass lift. Enjoyable but perhaps not correct.
BP - Triangle present and correct, high frequencies beautifully rendered. Soundstage precise but smaller than Y and L, on a par with BC.

Jeff Buckley - Grace - 4416 - Grace
I picked this as in my system this could be bright, and there is a level of distortion towards the end of the track that allied to that reduced my enjoyment.
Solved with mR OS update.

Rolling Stones - Brussel Affair - 4416 - Brown Sugar
BC - The bass seemed to be present but more by feeling than clearly hearing the notes. Improved by mR update.
Y - I was immedialetly struck with the clarity of the bass and the ability to follow the bass line. The transparency of the Y is excellent.
L - Bass as BC post mR update.
BP - The transparency of the BP is very good. Not sure if it is quiet up to the Y. However, the richness of the bass adds to the feeling I get from listening to the music, although I think it is a tad less clear in following the bass line.

Rachmaninov - Symphony No1 - 2496 - Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra
I love some of the flourishes in this symphony. If Rachmaninov could have patented them he would have earned a stream of money from modern movie composers.
BP - All the DACs play this well. Y with its emphasis on detail and soundstage is very good. The BP adds to this with slightly more timbre.

Phil Collins - Tarzan - 4416 - Son of Man
In my system this has been a problem to all the DACs. Now much reduced, but still sibilance and spitting.

LSO - Star Wars - 9624(LP) - Main Title
BC - This recording has always sounded disjointed through the BC.
Y - First time I had heard it sounding cohesive. Still not the best recording.
BP - On a par with the Y.

Dusty Springfield - Dusty in Memphis - 4416 - Son of a Preacher Man
Dusty Springfield - Dusty in Memphis Remastered - 4416 (Quboz) - Son of a Preacher Man

Y - First time I heard this through the Y I was bowled over. I had never realised how brilliant the bass line was.
BP - Not quiet up to the Y .....but, that was with my CD rip. With the remastered version, which is what I fed to the Y, much clearer.

Roger Waters - The Wall - 4416 (Quboz) - In the Flesh?
Y - Detail and soundstage, but not the impact of the BC.
BP - Best of Y & BC.


Conclusion
I hope I have given a flavour of what I am hearing. Since the mR update I could live with any of these DACs. What I enjoy about the BP is that it gives me the detail of the Y with most of the richness of the L. Is it quiet as detailed as the Y, I suspect not. But, there were times when the Y could edge towards being a bit academic to me, it was forensically precise but perhaps missed a smidgen of heart.

With respect to Timbre, the L played almost all my 4416 files with aplomb, which I greatly appreciated. Now that I have swapped the spdif cable and heard a similar response from the BP I expect it would solve that issue for the Y as well. The L has a richness to it that makes classical music in particular very nice. When listening to Beethoven's 9th 9624 (Barenboim) I finally got what a great recording it is, it had always been a bit flat via the BC, and not really improved upon by the Y. The BP may actually be a bit more accurate, and is certainly a step up on the Y and BC, but I did not feel quiet the excitement I got from the L. However, with the Elgar Cello Concerto (Du Pre) I preferred the BP, which produced the power & rasp of the piece the best that I have heard through my system.

The two R2R dacs have an energy in the mid-range that the BC frequently doesn't approach. The L get very close much of the time, but misses out in the transparency.

Is the BP a technical marvel? Almost certainly not. Is it using all the data it is fed? I don't know. However, I do not associate high resolution with great music. I do have some hires files that are the best versions of a piece that I have, those are still the best version via the BP.

Four good DACs that may well appeal to different people / tastes. But, the BP DAC works well for me.

M

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In fact the change in SPDIF is less than straightforward. Although the Oyaide cable in my system leads to a snidgen of extra brightness it is also: More dynamic; and, gives better differentiation - simply more transparent.

M

Edited by Mr Underhill

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Super Wammer

Hi M,

I used to have a Audio Note DAC, the cable I bought along with it was the Audio Note Pallas, so that's what I'm using it now. I don't really have any other cables to compare with.

My previous DAC the Chord 2qute, I was using a QED glass optical cable with that, so two very different DACs and cables.

In the next few weeks or so I'll do some comparisons between them, but at the moment I'm just enjoying the music through the BP.

I'm using the Border Patrol SE with a Cambridge CXC CD transport only, that's all I wanted it for, so no streaming or hi res.

I've just found your thread on SBAF so I'll be reading that with interest.

Cheers, Jez.

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Super Wammer
On 15/06/2017 at 18:51, JezR said:

Hi M,

I used to have a Audio Note DAC, the cable I bought along with it was the Audio Note Pallas, so that's what I'm using it now. I don't really have any other cables to compare with.

My previous DAC the Chord 2qute, I was using a QED glass optical cable with that, so two very different DACs and cables.

In the next few weeks or so I'll do some comparisons between them, but at the moment I'm just enjoying the music through the BP.

I'm using the Border Patrol SE with a Cambridge CXC CD transport only, that's all I wanted it for, so no streaming or hi res.

I've just found your thread on SBAF so I'll be reading that with interest.

Cheers, Jez.

Have you had chance to draw comparisons between the DACS? I am keen on going for the BP, with the AN and 2Qute being on my list until I heard about it....so would be very interested to find out what you think...

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Super Wammer
3 hours ago, Spen ago said:

Have you had chance to draw comparisons between the DACS? I am keen on going for the BP, with the AN and 2Qute being on my list until I heard about it....so would be very interested to find out what you think...

Hi, not really, only very briefly before I loaned the 2Qute out to a friend, I wouldn't like to say just yet, I should be getting it back in a few weeks time so can comment then.

When I get it back I can have both DAC's plugged in at the same time from transport to the pre amp, I can just switch over between them but what I can't do is level match accurately, the 2Qute outputs 3 volts and the Border Patrol I think is 2 volts, the pre amp has a stepped attenuator inside so no fine adjustment, it will be a bit coarse, I'll get one of my hi fi buddies around to see if we can hear whats going on between them.

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Super Wammer

Look forward to your findings, I know it can be subjective but just intrigued. Cheers Jez

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Just to update:

I think the Border Patrol SE is a stonking DAC. I use Qobuz and through my Bel Canto DAC is was pretty good at 16/44.1, with the BP SE it sounds simply excellent.

Over the last few weeks I have been tweaking my system. The BP is transparent to this, my system revealing minor changes in the system further upstream. For instance, changing the LPSU that IO use to power my Raspberry Pi 3, which hosts Logitech Media Server.

I listen to my music daily for hours, it is now very rare that I find an album that is less than listenable, and I find new detail on albums that I have not listened to for a while - but presented in a way that I just find addictive.

M

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@Mr Underhill

Any news regarding comparisons?

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Hi Metatron,

I was waiting for JezR & his thoughts of the BP & the Audio Note. My comparisons were between the BP, Yggdrasil and Lampi 4, as covered above.

I am still VERY happy. I just can't believe how good this DAC is.

Saw a new review:

http://www.theaudiobeat.com/equipment/borderpatrol_dac_se.htm

In addition to:

https://parttimeaudiophile.com/2017/04/16/review-borderpatrol-usb-digital-to-analogue-converter-se-version/

https://www.cnet.com/uk/news/a-kinder-gentler-sound-for-digital-audio/

A number of viewpoints have astounded me in doing posts, telling me:

As I am enthusiastic I am in the pay of BP;
As the chip is a 1543 the DAC just can't be any good;
As this DAC is NOS it simply isn't worth listening to.

I have to say I have not come across anything that I thought was a stone bonker bargain before.

M

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@Mr Underhill

Have you in the past compared to any other DACs (more mainstream / renowned) ?? I own a Hugo... looking for a step up without loss of detail. I've tried the PS Audio DirectStream and the dCS Debussy.

Here are my objections to those:

dCS Debussy is voiced to work best with other dCS equipment and Wilson Audio speakers which have a pronounced bass for the US market. I have Wilson Benesch speakers, so compared to the Hugo, I got less bass - which I missed. Also, the soundstage was super-wide that there was nearly a whole in the middle. Tonally it was great. I didn't hear masses of extra detail over the Chord, much of a muchness. Soundstage was also a bit set back more than I prefer. I am sure the dCS works well with speakers similar to the Wilson Audio's, but there wasn't a synergy in my system.

PSA DirectStream seemed super smooth and inoffensive. Rounded everything out too much in my view. Energetic music consequently lacked energy. Bass was lightest of the 3, lighter even than when I owned a PSA PerfectWave Mk2 DAC. Detail was a little behind the Hugo IMO. It just couldn't justify itself. I'm sure it is voice to sound more like vinyl, but I think it's overdone.

Would love to hear the Lampi or the Yggy.. and based on the above, the Border Patrol. In fact, I'm willing to try a lot of DACs (much like Torq did), but I am not finding UK dealers amenable. They all want you to buy to try, which means that I cannot compared two similarly priced DACs at the same time.

Lampi seems to be a special hand-built order from Poland, so not even sure how I could get a demo of it. The Yggy is cheap enough for me to buy-to-try alongside a home demo of a Chord Hugo 2 or something else sub £3k. 

My Hugo objections are: despite great detail, it can sound a little ragged or clinical at times. Looking for something a miniscule bit warmer, more noticeable mids and a touch smoother, but with more resolution (not the digital kind of resolution, but not a DAC that sounds like the DirectStream). The Hugo TT solves a lot of it, but I want to try other options also. Too many DACs, too little time.

Currently thinking about tracking down an MSB Analog DAC.

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Super Wammer

@Mr Underhill Sorry I still haven't got the Chord DAC back yet.

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