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.

8b96c43b e6a2 44b2 9680 9f170d281699Ag insider logo xs@2xbrettmcee

Showing 7 responses by lowrider57

Never heard of the SW1X DAC, but their website makes for some interesting reading. Their design approach reminds me of Audio Note, both based in the UK and believe R2R NOS is the way to achieve analogue-like sound. SW1X even offers Signature (upgraded) and Special (custom) models using primo parts such as Black Gate caps. 
They also stress that minimal components and filters be used in the current/voltage conversion and analogue stage.

@larryi  is spot on with his assessment of Audio Note DACs. They are NOS with no filtering in the digital or analogue stages. 

And I agree the mastering is the all-important element in creating digital music. Many original CDs which were transferred from analogue sources have excellent sonics. The countless times that discs have been remastered makes for some rough sounding CDs.

I love R-R tape. I used it for years in studios, I'd love to have it in my home system. I've been told CD transfers sound terrific on tape.

Brett, hearing tape hiss on albums from this analague era is a good thing. It means there is minimal compression during the mastering process. With the natural noise floor of the recording intact, we hear the ambience of the room and separation of instruments.

After upgrading my digital, I went on a tear buying early release Redbook to replace any remasters and CDs with poor SQ. The best were usually mastered in W. Germany followed by Japan. The Japanese like their digital clean and analytical. 
I'm right there with you on the flat transfers of Zeppelin, Hendrix, Cream. Discogs is the place to go to find the best pressings.

And funny you should mention the remaster of Floyd's WYWH. My Redbook sounds excellent, it may be from the same session as the SACD remix. I own a few of the remasters that were released. I also own some original Japanese PF.

Now that I have good digital playback, it sounds very much like analague, but very dependent on the source material.

I’m using a NOS Audio Note 2.1 Signature with reclocker and can easily hear differences in recordings and mastering; ie, original flat CD transfers vs. remasters vs. modern loud CDs.
Many CDs have the "wall of sound" compression, early CDs typically are spacious, more dynamic, and organic (analogue-like).

I own the various early issue Hendrix CDs mastered in W. Germany and they sound like analogue tape reproducing studio depth, off-mike sounds, and clear vocals.
There are two versions of "Are You Experienced," one with NR and one without.

@musichead , yes the Analog Devices chips really are different than the new production.

My transport is a PS Audio PWT which uses a buffer to clock the data. Then I have an iFi iPurifier using a Swagman Labs upgraded LPS to the Audio Note. Then adding a High Fidelity CT-2 SPDIF cable was a major upgrade. I demoed it and even though it cost $1100, I had to have it. Its unlike any other cable I've heard. 

From my Bluesound Node 2i I'm using an Empirical Design coax with a Cullen PC.
Using good quality power cords really upgrade performance of digital.

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....
I suggest you use reference quality CDs for your evaluation. Chesky Records offers one for testing system performance. Or use a known high quality source recording; it should sound spacious and transparent. 

The fact that you experience glare on playback points toward the shortcomings of your DAC or DAC/transport. The other flaws you're hearing may also be attributed to the DAC.