The Chronicals

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C'est La Vie
 
Edited by The Chronicals
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Good review - looking at the specs I see the frequency response is 20 to 20khz plus or minus 2db .. that is no better than an old Decca Export (conical stylus) which has a flat as a pancake response curve to 10k and a gentle rise to a +2db at 15khz and gradual falloff to -2db at 20khz.  Most DACs have a ruler flat frequency response .. so it makes you wonder if they have tailored the frequency response to try and improve euphony but I am not sure that this would make something sound vinyl like.  

The main thing is we each have our own ideas of what sounds right and if it floats your boat that is all that matters .. happy listening 

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It is a great review. Some interesting comments about Chord DACs, I have not heard them yet myself but from some other people they do say similar things. It seem sthe tube is making the more analogue sound or the main difference. I see we have similar taste in music, have not heard of a few of those.  Are you in the UK or USA?

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1 hour ago, uzzy said:

Good review - looking at the specs I see the frequency response is 20 to 20khz plus or minus 2db .. that is no better than an old Decca Export (conical stylus) which has a flat as a pancake response curve to 10k and a gentle rise to a +2db at 15khz and gradual falloff to -2db at 20khz.  Most DACs have a ruler flat frequency response .. so it makes you wonder if they have tailored the frequency response to try and improve euphony but I am not sure that this would make something sound vinyl like.  

The main thing is we each have our own ideas of what sounds right and if it floats your boat that is all that matters .. happy listening 

Thanks for the positive comments. 

I have to admit, I'm am quite a virgin when it comes to understanding the technical abilities and ways of DACS - but I understand what you have written and its something I can look more in to.  There is definitely a 'retro' sound to the DAC, maybe thats what gives it a similar presentation to the old cartridge you mention?

16 minutes ago, BeeRay said:

It is a great review. Some interesting comments about Chord DACs, I have not heard them yet myself but from some other people they do say similar things. It seem sthe tube is making the more analogue sound or the main difference. I see we have similar taste in music, have not heard of a few of those.  Are you in the UK or USA?

Thanks - Apparently, from another reviewer who did the Pagoda, the Tube buffer isnt a massive element to the overall sound, but I cannot confirm or deny. Jiun, the MHDT designer, said he wants to create an adaptor to bypass the buffer by the user, so we might see that in the future. 

I'm in the UK!

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..

Edited by The Chronicals
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On 18/09/2018 at 15:27, The Chronicals said:

Travelling

My journey to finding an affordable vinyl sounding DAC

Affordable being a very appropriate word for 'good digital', especially when better analogue results can be had for a fraction of the price with vinyl, even if it is way more of a faff and less convenient.

This is an interesting thread and I just discovered it from your classifieds post of the MHDT that's up for sale.

I can really relate to this and think I have similar preferences to yourself when it comes to digital, and as much as I appreciate it, I personally cant ever see vinyl ever becoming an option for me again. As much as vinyl sounds are comforting and alluring I sold / lost / got rid of my record collection many years ago and I never returned to it with the dominance that digital became. Plus I just found digital overall more versatile and impressive anyway, even though I did know something was also being lost from that analogue listenability. By taking vinyl away totally I understood there would be some loss in the love of that sound. I did return once or twice to it and experienced what it had to offer again, even with cheaper equipment it could show up digital at what it did best which was giving a pure un digitised analogue sound that the majority of DACs just can only emulate at best.

I have tried numerous forms of higher priced/spec'd CD players and DACs to be more faithful to a truly analogue sounding source but the results have been extremely varied. I'm with you on the Chord DACs to me they are impressive but emphasise the qualities of digital technology (which can be equally impressive for its virtues by the way) rather than sounding like dreamy forget yourself good sounding analogue. I've heard plenty from Chord and even topped out owning a QBD76 myself which didn't really do it for me, and I did really want to like it. The DAVE would possibly be one exception to the rule from this company but not one I would personally consider owning at least for now, with its cost being one factor that puts me off.

Many cheaper DACs I've owned / heard / tried over the years I find about as listenable as screeching car brakes long term, with some half decent ones dotted around but nothing I would want to listen to for extended periods, with a lot of the better softer sounding ones perhaps sacrificing some ultimate resolution which can be a trade-off.   

Ive had / tried / owned many tube amps buffers as well over the years and know the benefits of using those also, but provided the source is good anyway I don't think they add much benefit other than making up for some inadequacies perhaps, but that being said I do very much like the sound / effect / presentation that valves can give.

My main DACs, for now, consist of a Trichord Research Pulsar One which even though very long in the tooth is one of the much better offerings that errs towards that proper analogue almost vinyl'esque sound/quality which we are looking for, whilst still being a good digital source, and as old as it is its one I just couldn't bear to part with. The other much more modern DAC I own is a Naim DAC, this one I'm just staggered with its resolution (and I thought I had already heard the limits of most digital formats). This along with its layering and separation just never leaves me less than impressed every time I use it, perhaps it's not the most vinyl/analogue of sounding DACs but its enough to very much forget about it being digital. I find it true to the emotion attached to music as well whilst being more organic than anything Chord has shown me. Yes, better recordings is where it really shines but its not painful if the recording is not the best either, its still very easy to enjoy the music and as I said the emotion attached to it which is an achievement in itself.

What hybrid valve amplifier do you have now out of interest?

Edited by eddie-baby

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1 hour ago, eddie-baby said:

Affordable being a very appropriate word for 'good digital', especially when better analogue results can be had for a fraction of the price with vinyl, even if it is way more of a faff and less convenient.

This is an interesting thread and I just discovered it from your classifieds post of the MHDT that's up for sale.

I can really relate to this and think I have similar preferences to yourself when it comes to digital, and as much as I appreciate it, I personally cant ever see vinyl ever becoming an option for me again. As much as vinyl sounds are comforting and alluring I sold / lost / got rid of my record collection many years ago and I never returned to it with the dominance that digital became. Plus I just found digital overall more versatile and impressive anyway, even though I did know something was also being lost from that analogue listenability. By taking vinyl away totally I understood there would be some loss in the love of that sound. I did return once or twice to it and experienced what it had to offer again, even with cheaper equipment it could show up digital at what it did best which was giving a pure un digitised analogue sound that the majority of DACs just can only emulate at best.

I have tried numerous forms of higher priced/spec'd CD players and DACs to be more faithful to a truly analogue sounding source but the results have been extremely varied. I'm with you on the Chord DACs to me they are impressive but emphasise the qualities of digital technology (which can be equally impressive for its virtues by the way) rather than sounding like dreamy forget yourself good sounding analogue. I've heard plenty from Chord and even topped out owning a QBD76 myself which didn't really do it for me, and I did really want to like it. The DAVE would possibly be one exception to the rule from this company but not one I would personally consider owning at least for now, with its cost being one factor that puts me off.

Many cheaper DACs I've owned / heard / tried over the years I find about as listenable as screeching car brakes long term, with some half decent ones dotted around but nothing I would want to listen to for extended periods, with a lot of the better softer sounding ones perhaps sacrificing some ultimate resolution which can be a trade-off.   

Ive had / tried / owned many tube amps buffers as well over the years and know the benefits of using those also, but provided the source is good anyway I don't think they add much benefit other than making up for some inadequacies perhaps, but that being said I do very much like the sound / effect / presentation that valves can give.

My main DACs, for now, consist of a Trichord Research Pulsar One which even though very long in the tooth is one of the much better offerings that errs towards that proper analogue almost vinyl'esque sound/quality which we are looking for, whilst still being a good digital source, and as old as it is its one I just couldn't bear to part with. The other much more modern DAC I own is a Naim DAC, this one I'm just staggered with its resolution (and I thought I had already heard the limits of most digital formats). This along with its layering and separation just never leaves me less than impressed every time I use it, perhaps it's not the most vinyl/analogue of sounding DACs but its enough to very much forget about it being digital. I find it true to the emotion attached to music as well whilst being more organic than anything Chord has shown me. Yes, better recordings is where it really shines but its not painful if the recording is not the best either, its still very easy to enjoy the music and as I said the emotion attached to it which is an achievement in itself.

What hybrid valve amplifier do you have now out of interest?

Really nice to hear/read your thoughts.

The Hybrid I have gone for is a Pathos Classic Remix, and I have actually opted for the internal HiDac . The Pathos has a wonderful ability to 'chill' out even the ESS Sabre DAC chip to a point where it becomes extremely fluid and although not analogue sounding persay like the Orchid, its calm and focussed, defined but smooth, which is something I like. I still prefer the Orchid, but I cant afford to keep them both. I am still a vinyl man, but with the ease of digital streaming, and the cost of vinyl , I have concentrated more on digital for everyday listening and use vinyl for those special occasions when I really want to be absorbed. The Orchid manages to do that, so if you are looking for a DAC that gives you more analogue than digital, then its the one. 

Lots of interest in it in the classifieds, but no takers as yet. Probably a little close to Christmas , and most NOS fans prefer the cheaper end of the NOS market. I am sure it will find a happy home sometime.

Another great DAC is the Marantz HD-DAC1 , this has great resolution and an ultra smooth sound, but alas still not quite 'analogue' like the Orchid.

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27 minutes ago, The Chronicals said:

Really nice to hear/read your thoughts.

The Hybrid I have gone for is a Pathos Classic Remix, and I have actually opted for the internal HiDac . The Pathos has a wonderful ability to 'chill' out even the ESS Sabre DAC chip to a point where it becomes extremely fluid and although not analogue sounding persay like the Orchid, its calm and focussed, defined but smooth, which is something I like. I still prefer the Orchid, but I cant afford to keep them both. I am still a vinyl man, but with the ease of digital streaming, and the cost of vinyl , I have concentrated more on digital for everyday listening and use vinyl for those special occasions when I really want to be absorbed. The Orchid manages to do that, so if you are looking for a DAC that gives you more analogue than digital, then its the one. 

Lots of interest in it in the classifieds, but no takers as yet. Probably a little close to Christmas , and most NOS fans prefer the cheaper end of the NOS market. I am sure it will find a happy home sometime.

Another great DAC is the Marantz HD-DAC1 , this has great resolution and an ultra smooth sound, but alas still not quite 'analogue' like the Orchid.

More interesting reading thanks, I've heard the ESS chip in various DACs and I know things can vary very much between equipment and how its implemented but some of what I heard was to good effect. I found it very pleasing also but as you say maybe not vinyl killing, at least what I've heard so far.

Its really funny you should mention the Marantz as well, I too like the way they do it in some of their digital, smooth detailed and very pleasing sound, getting the best from digital whilst still making it sound very nice also. One of the great bargains I have heard and discovered actually shares the same chip as that HD-DAC1 I think, the CS4398. On my search for a cheap and not so cheap headphone DAC amp I stumbled across it whilst trying offerings from Chord Mojo (and above), ifi and the like. It's not a name you associate with hi-fi even its a Creative E5, absolute bargain battery powered headphone DAC amp, which to me showed the others the door just for its pleasing tonality, warmth, spaciousness and highly detailed sound. I often use it here with headphones and it is superb, it really lets you get deep into the music and never sounds offensive. As good as it is its only after extended listening to the Naim DAC and going back to it it shows what extra outlay does sometimes give you, the Naim DAC is a beast but at the same time it is different. But it does cost around 30x more so hardly a fair comparison.

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31 minutes ago, The Chronicals said:

Lots of interest in it in the classifieds, but no takers as yet. Probably a little close to Christmas , and most NOS fans prefer the cheaper end of the NOS market. I am sure it will find a happy home sometime.

And selling gear is just a hit and miss affair at the best of times, just a hassle we all have to go through from time to time. It sounds like a great piece of equipment though, good luck with the sale.

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51 minutes ago, eddie-baby said:

More interesting reading thanks, I've heard the ESS chip in various DACs and I know things can vary very much between equipment and how its implemented but some of what I heard was to good effect. I found it very pleasing also but as you say maybe not vinyl killing, at least what I've heard so far.

Its really funny you should mention the Marantz as well, I too like the way they do it in some of their digital, smooth detailed and very pleasing sound, getting the best from digital whilst still making it sound very nice also. One of the great bargains I have heard and discovered actually shares the same chip as that HD-DAC1 I think, the CS4398. On my search for a cheap and not so cheap headphone DAC amp I stumbled across it whilst trying offerings from Chord Mojo (and above), ifi and the like. It's not a name you associate with hi-fi even its a Creative E5, absolute bargain battery powered headphone DAC amp, which to me showed the others the door just for its pleasing tonality, warmth, spaciousness and highly detailed sound. I often use it here with headphones and it is superb, it really lets you get deep into the music and never sounds offensive. As good as it is its only after extended listening to the Naim DAC and going back to it it shows what extra outlay does sometimes give you, the Naim DAC is a beast but at the same time it is different. But it does cost around 30x more so hardly a fair comparison.

Yes, definitely all about implementation. I have steered away from sabre Dacs because my only experience of them was in my previous Peachtree Nova 125, it was far too 'hifi' and raw for me, but listening to it in the Pathos, is like a completely different world. Interestingly the same chip is in my Pioneer HD Portable Player and is smooth as silk in that as well.

The HD DAC is a complete bargain imo, it gives a wonderfully smooth 'real' sound with real world seperation - I think thats the Marantz signature all over. Interesting to hear the same hip is in the Creative E5, I'll definitely remember that if I ever need a small inexpensive unit, I might even get my dad one for Christmas if its similar to the HDDAC.

Ive never actually heard any Naim gear other than the Muso I have in my bedroom. I should really do that one day :)

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14 minutes ago, The Chronicals said:

The HD DAC is a complete bargain imo

Yeah it shares the same chip, doesn't mean they'll sound the same though but if you ask me the Creative sounds excellent for its price its a gift / steal even! The Marantz DAC has interested me but I'm pretty happy with everything I have for the moment, and I can't see it bettering the Naim anyway, different yes I'm sure but not better. Maybe one day I might find a use for it though or second hand you never know, it looks a great unit and I do like Marantz's better offerings.

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Super Dealer

I've offered an open shoot out at the OP's place with the latest version of my dddac with valve output stage and await a response!

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It's great that you're in love with your MHDT but, I am sorry to say, this report reads a lot like an infomercial...

There's a lot of information about NOS DACs on Computer Audiophile, and a lot of technical evidence underlining its shortcomings. I bought into the NOS Redbook myth some ten years ago and learn the hard way that it wasn't very high-fi. And in my experience the higher the fidelity the more realistic and natural recorded music will sound. Oversampling became norm early in the life of digital for a good reason.

Now I am again using a NOS DAC but I do so in order to oversample and filter my Redbook music library (actually I upconvert it from PCM16/44.1 to DSD128) using my computer and HQ Player. This way I am not stuck with the internal ASRC or filtering algorithms which may or may not be top level.

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8 hours ago, tuga said:

It's great that you're in love with your MHDT but, I am sorry to say, this report reads a lot like an infomercial...

There's a lot of information about NOS DACs on Computer Audiophile, and a lot of technical evidence underlining its shortcomings. I bought into the NOS Redbook myth some ten years ago and learn the hard way that it wasn't very high-fi. And in my experience the higher the fidelity the more realistic and natural recorded music will sound. Oversampling became norm early in the life of digital for a good reason.

Now I am again using a NOS DAC but I do so in order to oversample and filter my Redbook music library (actually I upconvert it from PCM16/44.1 to DSD128) using my computer and HQ Player. This way I am not stuck with the internal ASRC or filtering algorithms which may or may not be top level.

I think those using a Phiips 1541 chips, and there are many, many....would disagree with you. I guess Audionote and Lampizator get it wrong as well? Ah well , better tell them to shut up shop lol.

To be honest, it sounds like you're not a musician, or spent years recorded, playing live etc as claiming the more high fidelity something is is more realistic and natural is actually the complete opposite of how music actually sounds, so 'natural' is almost the opposite of hi-fi which is why NOS DACs do so well amongst those wanting a 'real' sound as opposed to a computer engineered sound. Theres nothing wrong with the latter, its merely personal preference, and this review was merely intended to give insight into a product that I bought blind to allow others for years to come to read and make informed decision before spending a huge chunk of hard earned without being able to hear it first. It's a community based approached, and one , after reading others personal reviews about products not skewed by industry politics and backhanders, that I value immensely. Sorry if you feel the time I invested into writing an information community review like its an informercial, I'll ensure I check with you first before i decide to sell something I have reviewed previously before selling it at a hugeley discounted price.  Thankfully the 00's of emails I get thanking me for taking the time to review it thoroughly outweighs your negativity :)

I personally feel oversampling became the norm because digital playback is flawed, so 'they' over process to hide the actual flaws., there is nothing more real about that than Pamela Andersons chest. Its the same way Apple can get actually quite good sound out of tiny laptops, its a processed 'fake' sound that hits certain senses to make your 'feel' like something is good. There is no right and wrong to any of it, its pure personal preference beause thats what music choice is, preference.  Im currently using an internal OS DAC to reduce costs so i could invest in amplification but the MHDT is a cracking little unit (oh that you can also oversample through the likes of Audirvana etc with good results) and one I would keep for sure if I had the money.

Vinyl has as you say 'technical evidence' to show it is flawed also, but it sounds fantastic to many, so for those wanting to recreate a vinyl sound, buffered NOS DACs imo get closer to that without huge other system changes, and that is for those that want that sound is for, definitely not for a 'measurist' which is why I made reference to this in third paragraph to save those of that ilk getting too involved in something that won't suit them and to save life hours in a debate, much like cables, that has no definitive 'right' outcome, just a load of  endless waffle (from both sides!)

Edited by The Chronicals
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8 hours ago, Juancho said:

I've offered an open shoot out at the OP's place with the latest version of my dddac with valve output stage and await a response!

I don't think you have?  But definitely, I'm game, although it won't be possible for a while, if its the MHDT is still for sale in the new year, definitely give them a little Dac-off!

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