A DAC that can make digital sound analog?

Hi All,

I have a ModWright Oppo 105D. It’s excellent....but it sure don’t sound like vinyl or tape.

What DACs have you heard that really work like magic on digital audio files? 

I am interested in DACs that kill that digital glare/blare, that gives you that sense of ‘blackness’ or ‘darkness’ to the audio soundscape, really letting you hear into the mix...ya know that layering, space and depth that is very evident on tape.

Very curious to hear your thoughts.

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Showing 17 responses by brettmcee

Cool.  Can you suggest any particularly good implementations of an R2R DAC?
Johnsonwu....  I might agree with you. 

The reason why I all of a sudden am worried about my digital front-end is because I just purchased a reel to reel player and have started listening to tapes.

i think something like stochastic or random noise being an asymmetrical compounded component of signal (left channel and right channel not identical) of multichannel tape recordings and then listening to those recordings via commercially produced tapes (again more noise) and also the natural compression tape imparts to sound coming from the original master and again compounded by listening to those recordings via commercially produced tapes with more natural compression is causing this huge perception of something sorely missing from my digital playback system. 

I know that Carver intentionally EQs his left and right channels of his solidstate amps just a bit differently to create that phasy, tubey, holographic sound we all know and love, so I wonder if it’s all just subtle random phase variation between left and right channels that feels more natural and revealing about analog? 

Mans yes I think vinyl and tape ask less of your preamp and amp. Most digital formats have information way above and also below human hearing and your poor speakers and amplifiers are trying to reproduce all of those sounds for you. With vinyl and tape much less of those superhuman frequencies are there to be reproduced. 

Food for thought.
How many of you are familiar with the ModWright Oppo 105D?

Which of these excellent suggestions is going to best the ModWright Oppo?

All in all the Oppo with upgrades runs about $4,000.
Nope richopp73 

I am looking for a digital front end that is much closer in sound and presentation to a tape or vinyl front end.

Vinyl and tape sound like they are ‘played’ for you. Digital always sounds ‘presented’ or ‘propped up’.  

If 74 is your birth year we are the same age. If not you now know how old I am.

I know you are trying to be coy and/or kind about my point of view and/or system and thanks for that I think. 

No you are not confused. I’d like to not have to deal with tape and/or vinyl all the time but I want the tape and/or vinyl sound from a digital source. The ritual and fragility of both tape and vinyl is frankly annoying. And honestly I don’t want to listen to my favorite albums or tracks with clicks and pops intermixed all the time.

Now that I can play back 7 1/2 tape in my system, I can hear what is lacking in both vinyl and digital. Above average quality tape feels supremely integrated and without any softening or rounding (or clicks and pops). It has a very natural contrast and excellent reproduction of space/time. Vinyl does some of this but it’s more warm and syrupy sounding. Vinyl, due to its additional mastering phase generally has a pleasant—essentials only—sound. Digital can occasionally do space/time as good as tape and can go get details buried under tape hiss and/or vinyl surface noise. But quite often digital is too stark, there seems to be something extra added to the presentation, something offputting that is never present in vinyl or tape. I believe most often it’s inaudible brief transient overloads of the analog-to-digital processor at time of initial tape capture resulting in aliasing in the audible frequencies. 

I am certain digital can sound as good, if not better than, vinyl and tape. And I am curious to find solutions towards that end.
Well I received my Ortho Spectrum AR-2000 Analog Reconstructor the mystical, mythical Japanese filter that's supposed to remove all the digital nasties from the analog signal coming out of ones DAC.  Will try it out this weekend and let you all know.

It's old voodoo, but potentially strong voodoo.

I agree with you. Most initial CD pressings are more natural sounding and spacious. I have gotten very close on occasion to getting a real tape feel from my digital setup using older Zeppelin, Hendrix, Genesis and Cream discs. 

I think tape noise might be important to space/depth/time. I think it may act as a sort of bias towards signal.

The only remaster so far (which really is a remix) that is better than every other format is the Wish You Were Here SACD. Very nice.
whats your digital setup?
I’d love to hear that Hendrix reel!!!
I listened to a 3 3/4 version of Jethro Tulls Aqualung a few nights ago. I didn’t have high expectations cus of the ips and the fact that that album does not sound good on CD. 

The tape was a joy to listen to. So integrated, pleasant, cohesive. Wondering Aloud was sublime...perfect.
Is it me or does digital often feel like too much information? Maybe too much of what isn’t essential...? Dunno. There is almost a ‘shout’ or ‘all on’ quality to it. I often explain it as the sensation of there being no room for the listener in much of digital playback.
All these suggestions are amazing people! Thank you.

...so I already own the ModWright Oppo 105D which many consider an excellent player (but now hearing tape in my system I see/hear all that is not quite right with digital). Most assuredly the Oppo is gonna stay in my system for the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, what is a very solid and noticeable DAC upgrade from the Oppo, on the used market, costing between $500-$1000? It does not need to do DSD, but something that could handle 24/196 via optical, coaxial or usb.

I have a Music Hall 25.3 DAC that I haven’t listened to in years, might hook that up. I can’t imagine the Music Hall is going to best the Oppo, but I’ll give it a shot.

@audiobunker thanks for your thoughts and opinions!!!

Any thoughts on a SONY NS9100ES CD SACD Player as transport, as a player?


i now have reel to reel tape in my system. With this extra point of reference, now having heard vinyl, tape and digital, I can really hear ‘digital’ when I listen to it.

depth of soundstage is compressed, the glass between me and ‘the event’ seems thicker and performers more pressed up agaianst it. glare cuts through at moments, glare also enlarges and distorts the scale of instruments. and there seems to be less contrast, less quiet, less space for me and my ears. It’s a bit like digital is shouting at all times (regardless of volume), like digital is an ‘all on’ proposition with no off.

When you have a reasonably good tape, and a properly setup and maintained reel to reel player, reel to reel tape sounds very very nice.  This is why I started this post.  I realized how much is missing from digital when compared to vinyl and tape.

Digital does not have the same simultaneity, integration, natural contrast and beautiful empty space around instruments and vocals that reel to reel tapes can provide.  

I have a serious suspicion that frequencies above 20kHz and below 20kHz are more detrimental than beneficial to audio reproduction. They surly exert an unnecessary physical burden on speakers. Plus any audible harmonics from those higher than 20kHz frequencies are already in the recording. Why do we need to reproduce those inaudible frequencies again to reinforce audible harmonics that are already present in the recording?

Tape has noise, and is very fragile and generally an annoying medium to deal with especially when one is stoned. Other than that, I’m totally sold on tape.
@gregm http://v2.stereotimes.com/post/the-ortho-spectrum-analogue-reconstructor

I am speaking more of inaudible frequencies provided by digital means.

I am using the Ortho Spectrum AR-2000 now (see the link above). It has brought my digital much much closer to tape.
@sabrejet My ModWright Oppo outputting to/through the Ortho Spectrum AR-2000 might have ended my search.

Its a great combination.