There's a review posted at: http://hometheaterreview.com/cary-audio-xciter-dac-reviewed/
The Cary DAC apparently sounded better than the DAC built into the reviewer's Esoteric DV-50 (a universal player introduced around 2002, I think). I will be receiving a Cary DAC tomorrow and can post some comments if you're still interested.
Thanks. That would be great. I think I am leaning toward mods done by Underwood Hi-Fi but am very interested in the Cary DAC comments. I just have not seen that many reviews on it yet.
I've just spent an evening listening to the Cary Xciter DAC and it's pretty amazing. Don't be fooled by the MSRP of $1,500. Cary kept the costs down by simplifying (no remote, single-ended outputs only, non-adjustable 24/192 upsampling, simple but solid enclosure). The money went into the state of the art 32-bit/192khz DAC chip and the new technology in the analog output stage. The previous owner feels that it's comparable to the $4,000 Cary 303/300 CDP in terms of DAC quality (he upgraded to the Cary 306 Pro SACD/CD player, an $8,000 unit). The Cary DAC immediately blew away my old but much enjoyed MSB DAC Link III with 24/96 upsampling and Powerbase. With the Cary processing Eva Cassidy's "Live at Blues Alley" CD, I heard much more detail with better dynamics, yet with an effortless sound and without any digital harshness. I turned up the volume and remained very comfortable for a long listening session, like listening to vinyl or SACD. Then I put on the hybrid SACD/CD of "The Ray Brown Trio, Live at the Loa," a very fine live jazz recording. I've listened to its SACD layer many times through my Sony SCD-2000ES player. However, the CD layer through the Cary (using the Sony as the transport) sounded better than the SACD layer going through the Sony's DSD DAC; more detail, more dynamics, taller and deeper soundstage, effortless detail. Next week I will receive a new Sony 5400ES SACD/CD player and the Cary will have some stiffer competition. (The Sony 5400 has no digital input, so I bought the Cary to process other sources, and eventually to serve as the DAC for a network music system, probably based on the new Squeezebox Touch, available in December, which will handle up to 24/96 input for $299 MSRP.) I hope this is helpful. I will comment later on the Cary's Toslink and USB inputs, and in comparison to the Sony 5400ES, if anybody's interested. You might want to hear this DAC before you spend a lot of money on mods to a CDP that may not have a DAC chip or output stage design that is as capable as the Cary's.
Thank you for your time and input. Something told me this DAC really needs to be heard. Cary products are quality, period. I am reconsidering my position on this. Drew at Moon Audio in North Carolina told me it was a great DAC also, on par with the high-end Cary CD players. I also liked the idea that Cary partnered with another company on the chip, which says alot right there, with each company focusing on its strengths and its core knowledge. I am sure your Xciter will only sound better with use also. Thanks again.
You are most welcome. I read the 6moons review of the Underwood-modified Music Hall 25.2 CDP and it sounds like a very nice unit. However, even if you paid an extra $100 to get the Burr-Brown op amp upgrade, I think the Cary would have the technology edge with its 32-bit DAC and collaboratively designed National Semiconductor output devices. Good luck with your decision! Either way you will enjoy your music more than ever.
Do you know if it accepts a 24/192 signal? Or something lower and so will always be upsampling?
Yes, the exciter accepts up to 24/192k.
I have ordered the Cary Xciter DAC and will post some information on it after I receive it, and do some burn-in. I decided to just keep the Music Hall 25.2 as a transport and have the flexibility of an outboard DAC since there seems to be a lot of innovation/improvements going on with DACs these days. Also I like the idea of using my laptop as a music server, even though that is not the reason I decided on an outboard DAC. Just want to improve the sound of my CDs since I listen to a lot of vinyl, but also have alot of great CDs.
Hi Moofoo, here's some followup. Redbook CD playback, Cary Xciter vs. Sony 5400es: (Caveat: my Xciter DAC was thoroughly broken in by the previous owner, but my new 5400es has been on for 200 hrs, played about 30 hrs.) At this point the Xciter DAC (using the 5400es as a transport via a 0.5 meter digital coax) is equally detailed and spacious but pleasantly smoother and sweeter than the 5400es built-in DAC. The Xciter just never seems to have any digital edge, whereas the (still breaking in) 5400es DAC doesn't produce quite the same feeling of "ease" while listening to RBCDs. According to some the 5400es requires a long break-in period, so it is likely to smooth out over time.
Xciter Toslink input: Tested via Samsung BDP-2500 BD player ouputting 48khz PCM > 0.5 meter glass fiber Toslink cable > Xciter. The Dolby Digital soundtrack on Diana Krall's "Live in Paris" DVD sounds better through the Xciter than I thought possible from a lossy compressed standard DVD soundtrack. The Xciter sounds deeper and more dynamic than the Samsung, which although it's an inexpensive BD player, uses the ESS 9006 DAC chip which is quite good.
Thank you for the additional information. Much appreciated. I received the Xciter DAC today, set up the coax input with a Moon Audio supplied digital cable, and am running it from a secondary system CD player (at 44.1 kHz)for a few days - before I even listen to it. I would like to burn it in for about 96 hours, but I am not sure I can wait that long to check it out in my main system. Looking foward to it!
OK. I spent the last couple of days listening in my main system after 96 hours of burn in. This DAC is great, and it just blends well with my other components. It has a wide, rich, expansive and very detailed soundstage and you are correct, it has an analog, smooth sound. I can't agree with your observations more and look forward to using the other inputs and other sources. I am more than pleased with what I am getting through the coax connected to my CD player. I have not tried laptop output yet but will eventually. I know the Xciter is somewhat being marketed to a PC/desktop type use, but I think this thing belongs in a larger system - in other words - justice may not be done to its capabilites if you listen to it through desktop speakers. It brought another level of improvement to the digital front-end of my main listenting system that I did not think it would. The soundstage consistently went outside of the outer edges of my floorstanding Snell speakers. I listened to a variety of CDs, mostly rock and acoustic:
Beth Orton - Daybreaker
King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King
Brian Auger - Straight Ahead
Leni Stern/Wayne Krantz - Separate Cages
Suzanne Vega - Beauty and Crime
Jorma Kaukonen - Blue Country Heart
Jeff Beck - Blow by Blow
Chris Whitley - Living with the Law
Next up will be jazz. It is great to get a product like this since it makes you think of all those CDs you can't wait to hear! Now...if I could just replace that old Adcom power conditioner with ...a Hydra 6. It is all about getting to the music!
Would wait for the Wyred DAC that I heard at RMAF.
It has the Sabre(9008) DAC. Built like a tank for around $1200.
Discrete output, high quality parts, etc.
Wyred has a great reputation and that is ESS's 32-bit chip; I'll bet it's awesome. No specs on the Wyred site yet, though; do you know whether they are using any of the new minimum phase or "apodizing" filters (Meridian, Ayre, and Cambridge use different implementations of these ideas)? Some people think these new types of filters are a revelation, others can barely hear the difference. I haven't heard one yet. Cary doesn't say anything about their digital filter(s).
Moofoo, you need to hear some hi-res through the Cary DAC. I got the hybrid DVD of "Muddy Waters - Folk Singer" from Acoustic Sounds and played it from my Blu-Ray player through the Cary at 24/96, and the great performance, excellent 1963 recording, and hi-res reproduction will raise the hairs on your neck. Assuming that you like blues, of course!
I will check it out and yes I do like blues. Which input did you use on the Cary?
2nd try - I posted a detailed response earlier today and it didn't get through for reasons unknown to me. So, briefly, I used the Cary's Toslink input, driven by my Blu-Ray player through a 0.5 meter glass fiber cable. The Cary locked up to the 24/96 signal with no problem and it sounds amazing. I have also used the Cary's USB input through a 16-foot( !) cable to play ripped Redbook CDs and I doubt that I could tell it from the coax or Toslink inputs in a blind test. To get 24/192 into it such as DVD-Audio, though, I think you have to use the Cary's coax input.
I know this posting probably won't be very helpful, insofar as I really don't have a lot to compare my Cary Xciter DAC with (well, I do own a Headroom ultra micro DAC and amp), but I own the Cary Xciter DAC and the Cary Xciter amp (I've had them for about three months now, though I don't have that much time actually playing them), and the combination sounds wonderful - absolutely smooth, in a good sense, and no "digital harshness" at all. I mainly listen to high-bitstream classical music and classical redbook CDs, but I am also pleased with this combination with respect to classic rock, vocals, jazz, and a variety of world music. I am using the USB connections only for now, and mainly with the Grado PS-1000 and Sennheiser HD800 headphones, so I haven't even tapped into all the DAC's capabilities, but I am very, very happy with my purchase. So, for what it's worth, I simply wanted to get the word out that the Cary Xciter DAC (and the Xciter amp) really is/are something special (and apparently, for reasons that are beyond me, very little known!)
I agree. I could find very little about it while searching the internet for DACs and once I discovered it, could not find any reviews, other than the one that Doug-mann steered me to (thanks again!). Also Drew Baird at Moon Audio was very helpful and had a good price on it. This is what makes Audiogon a great site. I would rather get the opinion of other users than a industry magazine review (even though those are interesting and helpful sometimes also). Maybe Cary's marketing plan is word of mouth, trade shows, etc. instead of print and internet advertising.
I read a comment that said the Xciter DAC's USB input was only 16-bit. Any knowledge about this out there?
The Xciter DAC manual at http://www.caryaudio.com/pdfs/manuals/Xciter_DAC_manual.pdf is clear that the upper limit of the USB input sampling rate is 48 khz (see pp. 6 and 12), but it is unclear as to whether the word length limit is 16 or 24 bit. I suspect it's limited to 16-bit USB input like most other DACs that don't use special USB software. The manual needs a bit more detail on the specs.
A related question: The Cary DAC does not list 88.2 khz as a supported input sampling rate, although there are quite a few high-rez downloads available in 24-bit 88.2 khz. Has anybody tried 88.2 khz into the Xciter DAC?
The specs on the Wyred Dac says it'll have 24 bit USB.
I'm also very curious what is the performance of Xciter Dac especially compared to Cyrus DAC-XP. I'm currently pairing Cary Integrated Amp with Cyrus DAC-XP.
I am really eager to know whether Xciter DAC would provide better synergy therefore performance than Cyrus Dac-XP.