@jplaurel: Well another vote for the Bel Canto integrated. Sure seems like good value. Not available here yet. Guess they're still moving all they can make in the larger markets. I've too thought about pairing the W4S Dac 2 to the MC 275 (good prices here), but not sure if we want tubes and/or class A for a living room set-up where it will be running 85% in the background and 15% for more dedicated/serious listening?
@muypogi: The Rega does not have a pre does it? The Luxman seems like good value against the competition. Look forward to any commentary you may have on this upgrade.
On a related note, wonder if any of you have any more experiences to add to this Truth about DACs thread?
Have tried the just-arrived Luxman L-550 A II and it is da bomb! For someone looking for a one-box solution, this appears to be a very very good combo for the Compact 7 ES3. Very musical, yet also very detailed. Phono stage digs deep and reveals details I never previously thought there. Very good synergy with the Rega DAC. Warm but detailed still. This combo though is not very forgiving of mediocre material. The tone controls help, but a crappy recording will not be smoothed out by the Rega DAC or the Luxman.
Originally Posted by thaimusic
No the Rega DAC is a pure DAC and has no preamp stage.
As for DACs, what I found is that:
1) In general, non-oversampling (NOS) DACs are very musical, and warm, but suffer from a bit of rolloff in the highs and slightly slower bass vs their oversampling/upsampling brethen. If you have a syrupy tube amp setup, best to partner it with a sharp detailed DAC. A sharp SS amp is likewise best partnered with a more mellow NOS DAC.
2) Apart from DAC chips and architecture the DAC's analog output stage is the second biggest contributor to its sound signature. Most DACs use op-amps at the analog stage end, where the sound varies according to the quality of the op-amp.
What I noticed that those DACs with passive analog stages sound more musical vs those with op-amps. The Rega DAC is one prime example.
3) Tubed DACs are also an interesting variation, if you want to infuse a bit of warmth. However, if you desire tube sound, you are better off buying a proper tube integrated or pre-amp and just get a normal solid state DAC.
@thaimusic: I notice you are located in Thailand. If heat in your listening area then the Bel Canto makes even more sense since it generates very little heat. There is a master power switch, but Bel Canto recommends that the unit be left on continuously. It uses very little power. Together with the Squeezebox Touch, it only consumes 19 watts at idle - less than a typical nightlight. My MC275 and C22 together consume something like 185 watts at idle and the amp throws off a lot of heat.
@muypogi: Thanks for all that. Your observations about the Luxman and DACs are interesting. Though really like the Class A sound, still torn on the inefficiency. Did not get a plasma video display for that reason though I liked the picture better than the less energy inefficient LCD.
@jplaurel: Yes, the heat. It reminded me of a thread Alan started on Harbeth's designed operating temperatures to which I've offered some observations. And yes, the Bel Canto is a great package. I plan on checking one out when I head to the US next month, since they are still unavailable here.
I would not let the heat and inefficiency of Class A amps get in the way of the music. It does get hotter than usual vs a normal AB amp, but nothing to be concerned about. I live in the Philippines, which is a tropical country and the amp in no way gets THAT hot. I have it in a open glass rack so heat is well dissipated.
Originally Posted by thaimusic
And it only consumes a rated 190w of power, so I imagine your power bill will not get that high anyways.
For me, the extra heat and power consumption is well offset by the fantastic sound I'm getting.
I used my Benchmark in preamp mode for many years with a Parasound HCA-1500A amp. In fact, I used it much like you are describing; HD TV box via toslink, BluRay via coax, and CDP via coax (now a squeezebox touch). Very satisfying, open sound. As compared to running passively, the BM in preamp mode adds just a touch more punch. I highly recommend a DAC/Pre to amp setup. Minimalistic, pure, versatile (if you use a multi-input DAC), and cheaper! I'm a firm believer in "less is more" when comes to electronics between me, and the source.
NAD C 990DD (digital integrated with tone controls)
Nice input steveinaz. Benchmark's implementation seems to impress many. Still leaning toward the W4S DAC2 as it's a bit cheaper and sounded good to us. However, came across the newly released C 990 DD from NAD (derivative of the much more expensive M2) which actually has tone controls--the first I've seen in such an integrated unit. Hope to listen to one while abroad next month. More expansive than the Bel Canto C5i or the newly released W4S mini integrated, but about the same price as say a W4S/Benchmark Parasound Classic combo. One nice thing about Parasound is that they have universal voltage (110/120 - 220/240) on their amps. Something few others offer.
I don't think you could go wrong with the Wyred 4 Sound DAC; it looks/reviews very positively, and is loaded with features. If I had to rate the latest setups I've had (all using the parasound amp) they would look like this:
Musical Fidelity A3CR: Good
Benchmark DAC/PRE: Better (Blacker background than the MF, less grain in the treble, individual instruments/performers more distinct, better focus)
Placette Passive: Best (Most open/natural sound, unequaled linearity through all frequencies)