Another new DAC: Audio Mirror


Just ran across this last night. Never heard of them before but
as a Minnesota company tweaked my curiosity.
Audio Mirror Tubadour III non-oversampling tube DAC. Sounds interesting.
If anyone runs across one and has a listen please post.
rja
I'd love more info on this dac. It doesn't seem to be a balanced design though, which is what I would be interested in. 
XLR analog outputs are available as an option which I realize does not make it "balanced".
XLR analog outputs are available as an option which I realize does not make it "balanced".
"Could be" what many do these days, on the output of sources and the input of amps, they just add a single ended to balanced output or input opamp converter, which sounds worse than the (single ended) rca which doesn’t use the opamp.

single ended to balanced opamp converter
https://www.mouser.com/images/microsites/low-power-diff-con-fig01.jpg

balanced to single ended opamp converter
https://i.stack.imgur.com/OBlvF.png

And the only way to find out is to look at the circuit diagram or visually trace the circuit to see if it’s a pseudo balance or a real balanced circuit from input to output, you’ll be surprised how many are pseudo, especially tube amps, pre’s and sources and R2R dacs, even some solid state pre’s and amps though not as many.

Cheers George
Years ago I bought the original Audio Mirror DAC for aroung $500 which I believe used the TDA1543 chip (it may have been TDA1541 though). It was a very nice DAC, which I eventually had modified by Tube Research Labs. Those mods made it sound a whole lot better. The DAC in stock form stacked up very well against an Audio Note DAC I had a chance to listen to for an extended period. Not sure what Vlad is up to these days, other than moving to MN from TX, but I hope his last two DAC efforts improved on the first. If so the price is a bargain.
clio09
Good to see he's a stayer in this industry Anthony, seeing you've had dealings with him before, any chance of finding out what d/a converter he uses?

Cheers George 
Analog Devices per his netsite.
For balanced outputs I use balance output transformers if you are curious how it's done.
Thank you for your interest in the new DAC,
Vlad
BTW Audio Note uses the same approach.
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@audiomirror

Hi Vlad.
We’re interested here and more so on SNA where I posted your new dac, what is the Analog Devices d/a chip your using, on SNA it’s bandied about that it’s the 20bit AD-5791 is this correct ???

audiomirror
 For balanced outputs I use balance output transformers if you are curious how it’s done.
Thank you for your interest in the new DAC,
So, single ended from the digital to analogue conversion output, then converted to balanced at the end like some do with an opamp, but you’ve use a transformer instead, as I’ve seen others do also.

Cheers George

I was a proud owner of a Denafrips Terminator DAC, which was significantly better than any other DAC I’ve had in my system before.

A friend of mine who has an entire Audio Mirror system including their big horn speakers showed up at my door with this brand new Audio Mirror DAC. It was not even burned in properly after only playing a few hours. I was absolutely sure that the big Terminator was in another league and there was no room for comparison. Well, it turned out I was not exactly right. They sounded different. What I really liked about the Audio Mirror was how it reproduced vocals and bass. Vocals was so smooth and real and the bass had a lot more details compared to the Terminator. Simply the Audio Mirror was more musical than the Terminator.

I realized how good the Analogue Devices AD1865NK chip was and went on a mission to find the best AD1865 DAC I can afford. I am currently building an Audio Note Kits 5.1 DAC. Once I get all the parts and complete the build it would be compared again to the Audio Mirror and can report back. If you see the ANK here sale you would know why :). One of these two DACs would go in the empty slot where the Terminator once was.


For balance outputs add $170
Have owned quite a few tube DACs from Metronome Technologie ( Talking many years ago with Dominique Giner about his favorite Burr-Brown 18-bit chip was fun, Accustic Arts, Zanden, Audio Logic ( Jerry Ozment was such a brilliant designer)  Audio Note 3 and 3.1,  Audiomeca and Audio Aero using Analog Technologies chips.  Went trhough the tube mods from Modwright, Exemplar Audio, APL. Nostalgia...
So what do we deal with now? ESS chips?  Looking at my Oppo 105 and 205 players now.  Boring.  I know, it's the chip implementation.  Still sold my Mytek DAC.Starting fresh, I guess I will follow Vassils' s advice and  will order a Tubadour DAC.

Just went to your website.  Really beautiful gear you have there!  And your mono blocks are stellar looking!
- Bob
I just bought The New Audio Mirror Tubadour 3 Dac and like most new audio it took about 10 Days of non stop usage to show you how Really GREAT this Dac is- in my opinion ....Its a combo of it being a R2R...with the  Analogue Devices AD1865NK chip and Vlads Stage/4 tube  implementation....I had a Schiit Audio Yggy 2 and it was to bold ...Vivid and could be unrelenting and sold it last week and was VERY glad to see it go...Its a great Dac-just didnt mesh with my system and was looking for something i could just lay back and listen to for hours...If your a fan of the better Audionote Dacs...This is the one to Listen to..Yep Yep...its that GOOD at a Very Fair Price....
@audiomirror. How many of the analog devices chips are used in your new DAC? What is the tube complement?
Will the Audio Mirror site have pics of the inside of the Tubadour 3 soon? Are there any professional reviews upcoming on it?

I saw that thread became active again, so let me post an update.

I built the Audio Note Kits DAC 5.1. I went nuts and put Duelund tinned copper caps, Vishay Z-foil resistors, expensive silver wire, silver WBT connectors, etc. etc. The list goes on. I am very happy with the result. No regrets that I sold my Terminator DAC. The sound now is more dynamic, more analog, musical, better refined. The bass on the Terminator was always muddy, and now it is very well defined.

I guess it is a matter of personal preference. If crystal clear details is the most important thing for you, the Terminator may very well be a better choice. If you want to experience music and like to feel that the musicians are playing in your room, give the ANK 5.1, the new Audio Mirror DAC, or another well design AD1865 DAC a try.

After I gave the ANK 5.1 enough break-in time, I took my friend’s Audio Mirror DAC at home again and did a lot of A/B testing for over a week. Surprisingly (or not) they sounded so close that it was hard to believe I spent four times more money for my DAC. There were songs I could not pass an A/B test, and there were songs I could. I liked my ANK DAC better, but I still wonder if I tweaked the Audio Mirror DAC with better coupling caps, resistors, wire, connectors, etc. The difference between the two DACs was much smaller than the difference between the streamers in my system. Actually adding or removing the fiber media convertors in my network probably made a bigger difference than the A/B between these two DACs. I think the difference in sound comes down to the different tubes these DACs use, the different coupling capacitors, and a couple minor things in their design - the ANK DAC has more sophisticated power supply, while the AM DAC may have a little better digital section, or at least that’s what I think the differences come from.

A person on another forum with a Terminator DAC contacted me and after chatting for a while, he ordered a custom Audio Mirror DAC with some upgrades I recommended (Duelund caps, Z-foils, and pretty much all the tweaks I made to my ANK DAC). Last I heard he sold his Terminator and was super happy with the AM DAC.

I am considering selling my ANK DAC and buying an Innuos server and an Audio Mirror DAC that I can tweak with my favorite sounding parts. I think I would have better sound, because the source makes a big difference with these DACs. But it’s hard to replace the almost 40 lbs ANK box that is nearly the size of my PS Audio P20 Power Regenerator with the tiny little AM device that weights and costs a fraction of the ANK. It does not feel right :). Although I already know it "sounds" right :).

Hope that helps. I highly recommend both of these DACs. Audition whichever fits your budget if you can.

P.S. My friend also had an older model Audio Mirror DAC. I was never impressed by it, and I would not recommend it. 
another little update on my AM tube3 Dac....it continued to open up after 500 hrs of usage to the point that if you know a better Dac at $1500 please turn me on to it...this Dac just changed my way of Listening....HUGE soundstage...smooth as silk sound with enough punch to sink my Schiit Yggy2 to never never land....And Im thinking about  vassils upgrades that I may be sending it back to Vlad to MAX it out!!  if and when i do i will report back...but even at stock(xlr upgrade) this RTR tube Dac kicks sum serious Analog  ASS...THUTH!!
Has anyone done a comparison of the Audio Mirror Tubadour III DAC to the new Holo Springs 2 Dac.(Level 2 or 3). I am interested in purchasing one of them soon,
thanks
Has anyone done a comparison of the Audio Mirror Tubadour III DAC to the new Holo Springs 2 Dac.(Level 2 or 3). I am interested in purchasing one of them soon,
thanks
I have not done exactly that comparison, but I did consider the Holo Springs 2 Dac at some point and ended up buying a Denafrips Terminator at the end. All the reviews I read made the Terminator a winner between those two. 
Here is one: https://www.audiostream.com/content/review-denafrips-terminator-dac
"Compared to the Terminator, the Spring sounded vague, grayish, and slightly mushy. Though it hurts me to admit it, the differences weren’t subtle."

After owning a Denafrips Terminator for several months, I heard the Audio Mirror and ended up selling the Terminator. You can read more about it in the post above. 

If I was to pick between the Holo and AM, I know what it would be. But that's me and my system. What works well in my system ans satisfy my music taste may not work that well for you. But if you have a chance, give the new AM DAC a try. I highly recommend it. 

@audio123
I would highly recommend the Duelund CAST tinned copper capacitors on this DAC.
Thanks  vassils...will do....any other upgrades/besides the Caps and power supply....I decided to send it back to Vlad and let him work sum more
 magic on this little gem!
Thanks  vassils...will do....any other upgrades/besides the Caps and power supply

If you really want to tweak it to the max, I would change all signal path resistors to Vishay Z-Foil. 
And going into the world of diminishing returns, controversial topics, and things that may not be audible in every system, but I did on my ANK DAC... I would replace the IEC inlet, RCA connectors, and the stock fuse. 
I think the Audio Mirror DAC had one of those combined IEC / fuse inlets.  Furutech FI-03 (R) would be a good replacement. The SR Blue fuse worked well in my system.
I would put ETI Silver Phono Pods or WBT-0210 Ag NextGen RCAs. WBT are cheaper from European distributors. 

Also, I read you got an XLR output. Is that what you use? If you have unbalanced inputs on your line stage, try them out.  
Mucho thanks Vassils on the other upgrades....but a little confused on why go unbalanced?..Have Acoustic Zen Matrix Reference II balanced and can switch to sum AZ Silver Reference II single ended..........Also Peace and much Love & Prayers to All Of New Zealand’s Sister’s & Brother’s and beyond(were all CREATED in the Image of THE SAME GOD!! Amen!....................One thing I forgot to mention is that I am running all inputs into A BAT tubed pre ...and running Balanced makes a HUGE difference....
If I understand audiomirror's post above correctly the balanced output passes through a transformer (same with my ANK DAC by the way). I am a minimalist and would prefer less components in my signal path. But this would be gear/system dependent. You should try both if you can and decide what you like. 

My ANK DAC sounds a little better with RCA interconnects, but that might be because my line stage is not fully balanced. I have a balanced input, which passes through a transformer inside the line stage. So what I might be hearing is the side effect of the transformer in my line stage.

In any case, I thought I would suggest to try the RCA output as well. If you prefer the balanced output, obviously there is no point to replace the stock RCAs. 
Much Thanks Vassils for all your input...and will try both and report back after i receive my AM Tube3  Dac back from the Bulgarian who goes by the  Alias Vlad....HA!!
You are welcome. Keep us posted. I am very curious of the result. As I mentioned above I am considering replacing the ANK DAC with an Audio Mirror DAC (and Duelund caps) and getting an Innuos Zennith MK3 music server. 

Also, I forgot to mention in my previous post, but one of my previous DAC's (Ayre Acoustics) sounded better with the balanced output even through the transformer on my line stage. That was a fully differential design, though. Those tube / Analog Devices DACs like the ANK and AM sound better single ended in my system. 

Vassils,
Appreciate your feedback on the Holo Springs DAC but the article you referred to comparing the Terminator to the Holo Springs 

Appreciate your feedback on the Holo Springs DAC but the article you referred to comparing the Terminator to the Holo Springs

Okay, that’s fair. I never heard the Holo. But I had the Terminator and compared that with the Audio Mirror DAC in my system. 
I was just trying to help with what I can ... :) 
Vassils,
Appreciate your feedback on the Holo Audio Springs & Audio Mirror DAC's. The article you referred to on comparing the Terminator to the Holo Spring, The author was using the version 1 of the Holo Audio Spring DAC. I would assume that version 2 is better and would have produced a different review outcome. Were you able to hear the Spring 2 as you mentioned and what did you think of it
Thanks
cavy
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No, sorry, I haven't heard the Holo Spring 2 DAC. It looks like a very well made DAC, though. 
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Vassils,
Appreciate your input. I am close to ordering the Audio Mirror and have the caps and resistors replaced with the Duelund and Vissay but I wish I could get some feedback on the Holo spring 2 Level 2 Dac before I pull the trigger
.
Cavy
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Hi.

Does the DAC respond to tube rolling?

Thanks
I've had one of these DACs in my system for 2-3 weeks now. It's still burning in each time sounding better than each previous day. It is very musical! Seamless, fluid and dynamic. I understand why Audio Note stuck with this chip. My reference points are a Rega DAC R that I was stuck on because despite its shortcomings is very musical and frames the music like a good TT. My other reference point is my TT DV XV1s/TW Raven/AC controller/10.5 arm/Tron Seven Phono. The gap between my TT and Rega DAC was more of every parameter being relatively constrained but the music framed in the same manner that's why I was hesitant to move off it. This Audio Mirror DAC, not fully broken substantially narrows the gap with the TT and with nothing lost. I plan to wait until its fully broken in before experimenting with cables and fuses. At this point no need to it sounds that good very similar to quality vinyl playback. Interesting how it makes some of those older CD mastering sound so good! Its improved every CD in my collection so far, none dropping off or not listenable which is so common with many digital units. I always believed you don't have to spend over $2K to get into top shelf digital.

First Professional review of the Audio Mirror Tubadour III  Just out in the April Edition of "Enjoy the Music" by Ron Nagel...Just My 2cents but These kind of Review's always Leaves me scratching my Head..Very little (I MEAN NONE) Info on the  Tonality...soundstage (Height..width..depth)...dynamic range & contrasts..ect...ect..and goes on to compare it to of all dac's a  Music Hall 25.3 DAC! (which i owned years ago and used it on a cheap sony player in my sony based garage system) Let alone any comparison to any other mid priced dac's (Holo audio..Mytek...Schitt....Bechmark to name a few).and found very little useful info besides Ron spending about a 1/3 of his print on the attractive front panel(really!) yet he ends with    "I highly recommended it for its overall musical performance and price. And I recommended it for the sound shaping flexibility only Vacuum Tubes can offer you"..and gives it mostly 4 1/2 notes out of 5..How would could you make a sound buying Decision on This type (0r lack Of) Review??.This is not the first time Ron Nagel's Reviews left my wanting (and how he got this Gig??) and find his "Style"...Confusing & Empty to put it mildly...Read it yourself and share your thoughts...as with anything Audio... YMMV
I'm with you audio123... very similar to the review he published of the Audio Mirror monoblocks... just a lot of useless preamble and then one paragraph describing the sound. Finally, he rates it with 3 notes for the bass with no explanation why! Given that these are designed around a Russian triode allowing for use of wide bandwidth transformers for exceptional bass performance, this is a real shocker! I believe these components deserve better than these two 'reviews'
I agree... this review is a total joke. Funny it was released on April 1st :). It feels like the stars for each category are automatically filled out based on the fact it has a tube - lack of bass, good highs, excellent midrange. This is not what I heard when I had this DAC at my house and listened to it. In fact this whole idea of stars per category is a complete BS in my opinion, especially when they are subjectively rated by different reviewers.

The AM is a world class Hi-Fi DAC at a Lo-Fi price.
I compared it against a Denafrips Terminator, which is another direct sale DAC compared to DACs double its price. After hearing how the Audio Mirror DAC sounded, I sold my Terminator.

Like a typical audiofool, the low price tag and small size turned me off, and I built the top of the line reference Audio Note Kits DAC with the best quality parts. It’s a 40 lbs. beast almost the size of my PS Audio Power Plant P20. After a few months of break in period I brought the Audio Mirror DAC back in my system. The ANK sounded a little better on some recordings, and the difference was indistinguishable on many. I do prefer the ANK, but they are so close. The AM with a better source sounded better than the ANK with a worse source.

The source matters A LOT with these DACs. When I switched the linear power supply on my source with another linear power supply, I heard much bigger difference overall than what I heard while I compared the ANK and AM DACs. In the past year I changed a lot of digital sources. I went from a decent source to a good source, to a better source, to an even better source. Every time I changed the source I was amazed what both of these DACs could deliver. I haven’t reached a limit yet. Those DACs have so much potential that you can reveal by improving your source... I can’t believe it was reviewed with a Sony UHP-H1 player.

Put an Innuos Statement in front of this DAC, and see what it can do. In fact I would put an excellent sounding source and an Audio Mirror DAC against ANY DAC at ANY PRICE fed by Ron’s Sony player. 
I am not saying it is the best DAC at any price. Not at all! There are better DACs (my tweaked ANK DAC is a little better in my opinion but I have never heard a tweaked AM DAC either). Just disappointed to see another completely useless review!
I pilled the trigger and ordered the Holo Spring 2 level 2 DAC. I should get it in a couple of week. I will post on my analysis of the unit.
Installed a SR Blue fuse in the AM DAC, nice! really nice!
Can't get over how good the older CDs sound, especially the early Blue Notes. Either they were mastered based on this type of chip or the chips where designed based on the mastering or maybe both?
Read the review, I guess Vlad didn't pay the required advertising fee. The review was meaningless?
My buddy just ordered the Tubador with every possible upgrade...around $2200.  When I get his "review" I will jump on the bandwagon if its a stellar report.
I also just ordered the Tubadour with all the upgrades. Very excited to try this dac!!
I have the Schitt Yaggy and agree with Audio123's description of it.
My maxed out AM 3 should be arriving in a few days.Looking forward to it.
Hey folks, what tube family does the Troubadour III use, and what’s the recommended tube to use ? Also, what is the fuse value?  I am finding it intriguing....
@1markr 

according to this review
http://www.enjoythemusic.com/magazine/equipment/0419/Audio_Mirror_Tubadour_III_Review.htm

" Tubes used in the DAC are two 5977 sub miniature triodes, a pair in each channel. They use a special tube adapter, which is plugged into a regular 9 pin tube socket. You could unplug the adapter, which would then allow you to do some tube rolling. So you could substitute tubes like, 6DJ8, ECC88, 6N1P, 6922 and the Soviet 6H23 P. After experimenting with many tubes the AM team found that the 5977 were the best sounding tubes for this application. Second best sounding tubes are the 6N1P."
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