Any comments on the PS Audio DL111 with Stage IV mods?
have bought one with stage 1v mods havent received it yet , i have borrowed a stock unit very good hooked up to audio aero capitolle se mk 11, stock unit is very good can anyone tell me the differences , and recommend a really really good digital cable
As I stated in a previous thread, if you still want to know in four weeks, I'll have been able to burn-in my Stage IV DL3 enough to make an objective critique of its performance. You can shoot me an email and I will give you my opinion. If I don't feel it's a significant upgrade over the stock version, I'll tell you.
I did a home trial with the stock unit. While I do believe the stock version slightly improved overall clarity and opened up the soundstage (also slightly), I did not think it was worth the purchase of a new stock unit. I did direct A-B comparisons with the Rotel RDV-1093 (my GCC amp allowed me to gain match the two units, wich I ran via separate inputs and I was able to immediately switch between the two units via remote, without any delay -within the same vocal passage, and even within the same musical note). I would liken the subtle improvement to a superior cable upgrade (which, for some people, is definitely worth the additional $1,000). Keep in mind, the stock DL3 that I demod may not have been fully burned in, and I was using a $65 AQ digital cable. Also, the flagship RDV-1093 is a much better performer than any other Rotel CD players.
If what the reviews say is true (or even just some of it)the Stage IV upgrade should net a dramatic improvement across the entire frequency range.
Ill give a concise review with no audiophile reviewer hype/terminology. My perspective is very real world (investment vs return).
I do like the Krells in many ways. Theyre much smoother than the B&W 703s, which I replaced, and their coherency is much superior to the ML Sequel IIs that I previously owned (i.e. deeper/more defined bass with a much richer mid-range warmer/spacious whatever). Also, they will play extremely loud while maintaining their composure. However, I do feel that the Krells are a bit rolled-off in the upper-mid-range. Part of this issue may be due to my room - plenty of room on each side, which truly does add to the soundstage, but lacking sufficient space from the front wall. Seating arrangement necessitates a distance of only 3 from baffle to wall, whereas 5- 6' would likely open things up. After speaking to Rick Cullen, I am hoping that the stage IV moded DAC will improve things (open "everything" up).
Which sample rate do you prefer 96khz or 192khz? Which rate gives the smoother sound?
Based on my experience with the stock unit, I would say the 96Khz is smoother. I'll be damned if I could hear much of a difference though. What I did find is that on poorly produced CDs (here the whole presentation sounds "muddy - bloated - bloomy..." whatever) the 192 Khz improved clarity. I was able to enjoy Humble Pie's "Smokin" for the first time since my old analog days.
I have the stage 3 mod paired with my moded Sonos box. The difference between the stage 3 and stage 4 is an upgrade to the coax input that keeps it in phase better. Since the output of the Sonos already has the upgrade on the coax out, I skipped that part of the upgrade for the DAC.
My impressions thus far are very favorable for everything on the low end of the spectrum. Very deep, clean, and tight base. I get a much better sense of actual instruments being played - I can listen to a kick drum and hear the tone of the wood where before I just heard a muffled thud. The sound of the double base is alive with tones of bending strings and fingering of the fretboard. In this regard, there isn't much I've heard that I like better.
As for the mid and upper, I'm thus far disappointed. The staging keeps getting muffled or it keeps jumping around to the point where I can't locate anything. While listening to a track by Sting last night, the ping of the ride cymbal and the snap of the snare drum kept trading places every few bars and it became very disorienting.
On top of that, the overall tone of is very much 'in your face' to the point I really can't listen to anything for more than an hour. Between active listening and running brown noise through it while I'm away during the day, I've logged 500+ hours on it so far. Any piece of equipment should be mostly settled in after 100-200 hours which is leading me to believe this isn't a burn in problem.
I'm going to experiment with a new cable (currently using a Nordost Moonglo) to see if that is the problem. If I can't get it mellowed out soon, I'm going to have to do something different.
One qualifier to my comments - I've recently had severe vertigo problems and am awaiting a potential diagnosis of meniere's disease. That could explain a lot of the abrasiveness I hear. However, when I did an A/B comparison of my Sonos/PS Audio system with a Slim Devices Transporter, much of the difference I heard was the abrasiveness of the Sonos/PS Audio combo, although it had more dynamics than the Transporter.
That's disappointing to hear. I'm always skeptical of the "too-good-to-be-true" hype that you read about. I purchased the Stage IV on reputation only. From what I've read, your unit should be good and burned-in. Have you contacted Rick Cullen?
my ps audio dl111 arrived , with stage 1v mods , rick cullen has burned it in a little , and i have a stock unit here that is 1 week old also , so i have installed the stage 1v dl111 , and so far after 1 hour of listening , the bottom is better as well as much more microdetail
Its funny that you mentioned the mids and top end issue. Though I TOTALLY agree that the low end is improved drastically, I as well feel like the imaging and scale is jumbled. The instruments almost feel like they are on top of each other at times. I just have about 160 hours on mine. Maybe I need to keep moving on the breakin.
2chnlben, I haven't contacted Rick yet because I'm not convinced the DAC is a problem. I want to test different cables and sources first to see if I can soften the edges. The stock DAC was sharp to my ears to begin with, so it may just be the nature of the unit itself - regardless of the mod.
I don't want to give the impression that the mod is a negative. Point in fact, I find the moded DAC more listenable than the stock. If you like the stock sound of the PS Audio DAC 3, the upgrade is a fantastic value. Seriously, I haven't heard many other pieces of equipment that reach this low with such clarity and tightness (at least, not at this price point). All things considered, I think the Cullen mods are an exceptional value for what you get.
However, between the aggressive nature of my other equipment (Manley Stingray, Nordost Blue Heaven cables) and my sensitivity to the bright edges, I may have to go a different direction.
I picked up the stock unit about 5 weeks ago and am really enjoying it. It is supplementing an Underwood Level 2 modifed Music Hall CD25.2. Am also thinking about the Stage 3 or 4 Cullen mods, so will be watching this thread closely. Please keep the comments coming...
What's now gone is something I thought wouldn't exist (much) in a $1K cdp; I'll call it digital harshness. The tweeters in my VSA VR-4SRs are very hot, so any crap in the high frequencies are in your face. The most obvious change when going to the DAC was the clarity and smoothness (if those terms aren't mutually exclusive) of the upper frequencies. I heard triangles in songs I used to think was the drummer hitting the bell of a cymbal. Vocals are more realistic, do I dare say sweeter? Bottom end has more authority and again, clarity. I suppose all of the above also helps provide a better defined soundstage which I'm also now getting.
Some CDs I have were too irritating to play before. I can listen to those again. And the ones that already sound good, well I just enjoy the music more and the "sound" less.
A follow-up to my previous comments about the harshness of my level 3 mod; I have since moved my system into a larger room with more wall treatments for sound dampening and it has made a world of difference for me. With less flat surfaces to bounce high frequencies off of, I'm hearing a more natural sound with more proper decay which seems to be taking the bright edge off for me.
The liveliness the mods bring is still there - I get a sense of 'urgency' out of the music that brings the details to me. A different feel from some of the more laid back circuitry where your ears have to "lean forward" to find details. And that stunning, muscular, articulate base is to die for - even in a room almost twice the size of the previous room.
If the rest of your equipment is up to snuff, there isn't a better $600 investment you can make than a stage 3 (or 4) Cullen Circuits mod.
The Cullen Stage IV simply reveals more of the recording than other DACs. It separates the musical threads better, and sounds more like music, with other DACS sounding more canned and dead. A few posters who criticized it probably like a more dead sound, and when presented with the stunning clarity and ability to dig deep into the digital bits, they interpret this as more "in your face." The Cullen is certainly not recessed sounding, but neither is it highly forward, perhaps just a bit.
In any case, going back to other DACs shows that they blur and obscure details, and are unable to resolve the full sound of the instruments. Until I find something better than the Cullen, I have no intentions of letting it leave my shelf.
Any updates to this thread? I'm considering a level 4 mod myself. Everything I've read seems positive and I spoke with Rick Cullen directly yesterday. He sincerely believes in his product and doesn't think you can do better unless you spend a lot more money.
If money is an option, as it is with most of us, I recommend auditioning the stock PSA-DL-III before spending money on the mod. If you can, do an A/B comparison with the stock unit and whatever digital source you are currently using. Upon doing this myself, I found only subtle improvements, in favor of the DL-III, over my Rotel RDV-1093. I had to really do some critical listening to discern any differences. The DL-III presented a slightly more open soundstage (depth and width) and also seemed to allow greater bass response (tighter, more defined). If you are currently running a digital source of better quality than my Rotel, the differences, for you, may be even more subtle.
I went ahead and purchased a new DL-III with the Cullen Stage IV upgrades directly from Cullen Circuits. When I hooked everything up, I was shocked to hear that I could only discern a slight improvement over the Rotel (same as the aforementioned improvements with the stock unit). After about 160 hours of use, I took my new modded unit into my dealer, where the staff and I proceeded to run A/B comparisons between the stock unit and the Stage IV mod. (None of us) could discern ANY differences.
The Stage IV unit is unbelievably good. It sounds as good as any digital source I have heard. That said however, it just doesnt sound any better than the stock unit go figure. I never provided my follow up review because I didnt want to slam Cullen. The people at Cullen, including Rick, are absolutely excellent people to work with. Upon contacting Rick, he even offered to take a look at the unit and repair it if he found anything wrong that, or replace it with a stock unit (and refund for the upgrade). That was a couple of months ago. I really dont want to ship the unit half way across the country (to & from), besides, Rick doubted that there was anything out of place do to the fact that the unit operated fine. As I said, it does sound great just no different than the stock unit. For me, this subtle improvement was not worth the investment.
Since I want to build a music server anyway, and because the unit does sound good, I can find satisfaction in my purchase of the Cullen unit. I plan to go back to the dealer now that I have over 300 hours on the DAC. We (my dealer friend and I) plan on doing another A/B comparison using his very best reference system. I hope to hear a difference this time.
Keep in mind, there are many newer, quality-built, high-end/upper-midfi digital sources available that provide exceptional playback. The newer systems tend to sound better than (any or most) of the older high-end digital sources (better clocks, less jitter, improved circuitry, etc.). Therefore, if you have a pretty good newer source, you may be surprised at just how little an external DAC may improve your systems sound quality. On the other hand, if you have an older system, you are likely to hear some real improvements. I replaced an Enlightened Audio T-7000 transport and ARC DAC II (an exceptional system in the late 80s early 90s) with the Rotel/Cullen Unit. The Rotel unit alone, sounded much better than the older separates.
Note: before you write off Rotel, do try the RDV-1093. While it is primarily a DVD player, it sounds considerable better than Rotel's best CD player. It is their flagship player that retails for $1,500. I use this as a benchmark for your reference only not an endorsement for Rotel. There are many CD players on the market that are better than my Rotel. If you happen to be running something of better quality than this unit, I would not consider the external DAC. It would be to your advantage to make your requests for recommendations by including the makeup of your entire system.