Audio Note DAC Owners- please share your thoughts

Hello to All-

Although I’ve been reading this forum for years I’m relatively new to posting here. I’ve read most of the archived posts regarding Audio Note products- unfortunately the majority of them are fairly old.

For the last few years I’ve been wondering about AN DAC’s as I rarely hear about there being any downside to them (other than the entry fee) and have also noticed that they are fairly scarce on the used market.

I’m currently using a Aqua La Scala Optologic MKII and while I enjoy it very much I am always wondering “how good is an AN dac and would it be worth purchasing?”

If you happen to own one of these mystical pieces of technology would you mind helping me understand more about their qualities? Like-

1) I’ve heard they are remarkable when it comes to Redbook playback- flawlessly true to the source

2) I’ve heard them described as warm, some say like syrup and others say neutral.

3) Looking under the hood (pictures) seems straight forward- like old school yet it still competes with the latest designs

4) If you’ve owned one and sold it what did you move to, why and did you regret it?

5) Some folks have decided to pass on the high ticket price and have bought the AN Kit instead. Are these even a close facsimile of the original?

I am very fascinated with this product as it seems to hold a high place in audio gear history- it’s reputation makes it almost one of those things that you shouldn’t have to ask about but I’d like to know a little more before making the spend. Any help on this would be appreciated!




@jasonbourne52 it is as if you are resentful of people that have disposable income, and can afford such luxuries in life. Your post is not helpful at all.

@designsfx I would love to hear one also and the kit intrigues me also, only if I had the time. Guess I could make time. 


I heard an all Audio Note system at one of the audio shows and it was one of the best sounding systems I have ever heard.  At the time, they were using a midrange AN DAC but midrange in Audio Note territory is quite high.  There was a total rightness to the sound that tricked me into thinking it was a pure analog system.  Even their least expensive DAC sounds great and there are many options to make it sound even greater depending on the level of parts inside the unit.  

Since something is better than nothing I will reply with the fact that I own an SW1X DAC 3 Balanced which has many common design elements/goals as Audio Note and I could not be happier. I stream Qobuz through an Aurender W20 and I also must emphasize how important the digital cable is-at least with my rig-and I discovered that an Analysis Plus Silver Apex custom made S/PDIF conquered everything else I tried. Don’t misunderstand-they are different products with different processors and tube complements but I would bet a hefty sum they sound similar.

And I too have visited the AN room at Axpona with Vincent Belanger on hand as ambassador and I also came back again and again to just relax in a room that made me happy. My system is not altogether different despite ARC amp/preamp and Devore O/93’s.

So if it is any help at all, I think you can’t go wrong with AN DAC’s but only if system matching and a certain sound signature preference is present. I would (and do) say that the sound character favors acoustic jazz and well recorded acoustic-based rock and not electronica and electric rock and such. For example, the newly issued Blue Note "Here it is, a Tribute to Leonard Cohen" which I am listening to now is incredible. But if I play something like ZZ Top’s Tres Hombres, it only passable.


@jasonbourne52 - Nice

@jerryg123 - Quick return to the Bourne! But I do understand the remark as these seem pretty pricey. I’ve seen some examples going in the $5-12K range- certainly worth evaluating the value but definitely NOT $99K! I’m curious about the kits as well.

@stereo5 - Thanks for the memories- This is what I’m talking about! So far I’ve only heard one person tell me that they were not really impressed by the AN presentation but admitted that the exposure had been some time ago with the entry level model. I have no way to bias that comment as I’ve no experience with the product. Many suggestions point to a “in home demo” but these seem to be vaporware in my local.