I have an old CAL Sigma I in my system. I generally like the sound, it's musical & dynamic, however there's a bit of shrillness in the top end that I find off putting. I'm wondering how different a modern upsampling DAC such as the Benchmark DAC1 or a PS Audio Digital Link III would sound in my system? I'm a bit of a noob with external DACs so any input would be greatly appreciated.
I also have a CAL DAC (an Alpha). I haven't heard the Benchmark but I can say that my Alpha sounded SO much better with Sylvania 5751 tubes. Have you tried a different tube in your Sigma? That might help to reduce your problem with it, as you "generally like the sound".
I have a Sigma II and it really is a nice DAC. What are you using for a transport? When I replaced my old Delta with an newer transport it made a world of difference. I now use a Audio Research CD7 for CDs. But I still use the Sigma II for my computer audio server. It replaced a Musical fidelity A324 upsampling DAC that I thought the CAL bettered.
Can someone respond to the original question? I, too, have a Cal Sigma I and II, and have had good experiences rolling tubes for this DAC. However, I want to hear about options for the next step up. Insights or comparisons with PS Audio DAC, Benchmark, Bryston, or Bel Canto 3 will be especially appreciated. Com'n Audigoners, us Cal Sigma owners await your insights to help us evaluate our next DAC. (FYI, my transport is the Sony SACD/DVD 9000ES.)
Lostbears, my Sigma is pulling 'dual duty' for me. I am running pc based audio into it via a digital coax cable, and I am also running an Oppo DV-980h into the Sigma via optical cable so that I can enjoy concert DVDs through my 2 channel stereo system (such as Diana Krall's Paris & Rio concerts & the many outstanding jazz DVD offerings from Jazz Icons such as Anita O'Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Art Farmer etc) I flip a switch on the Sigma to go from coax to optical input.
I have a Doge 6 Tube CD Player for redbook CD, but I have to say that that playing redbook CD through the Oppo/Sigma combo sounds ALMOST as good as it sounds through my $1500 Doge-save for this bit of shrillness that I mentioned in my original post. Here's the rest of my system:
Since, apparently, no one has done a direct comparison of the Cal Sigma with the Benchmark DAC 1 or the PS Audio, FWIW, maybe this is as close as you can get: I had a dac of approx. the same era, the MSB Half Nelson with upgraded power supply, and the Benchmark DAC1 ate it for lunch.
My friend had a Cal CD player of the same era, then replaced it with a new Classe CD 10 (I think it was), which cost $2,000 and was much superior to the Cal CD player, he thought. Then, he sold the Classe when he heard my Benchmark DAC1, which he felt was better than the Classe, and got a Benchmark also.
Looking at your system, I think a DAC1 would work very nicely, but be sure to use a reasonably good transport and a good digital cable.
Your shrillness at the top end could be either jittery hash from a DAC or it might be the metal drivers used on the F30. (All rigid metal drivers suffer from unwanted ringing and designers must all try to mitigate this within the crossover design - some people like this sound as it may sound more "etched" or detailed - others prefer paper/fabric damped cones as no crossover seems to completely cure the ringing problem)
Since you can usually get a Benchmark DAC1 for a home trial (from a pro music center), I'd recommend you try it and see and report back. If you don't find the DAC1 does enough for you then you can usually return it within 30 days - no questions.
I've owned both the Benchmark and the PS Audio, as well as a Musical Fidelity V-DAC, haven't heard the CAL.
To me, the Benchmark was too bright/harsh. The PS Audio was very nice, smooth yet detailed. But I ended up keeping the V-DAC. For about a third of the price of the PS Audio, it was very, very close. I'm still not sure if I heard a difference or if I thought the PS Audio was better because it looked nicer and cost more.
Dne, Thanks for the input, those comparisons are very helpful indeed. BTW I'm using a Morrow Audio DIG2 Reference Digital Coax & a Kimber OPT1 TosLink Cable with the Sigma.
Shadorne, Thanks for the helpful suggestions. I don't think that the F30's are the source of the shrillness. I've had the speakers since 2003 and have never had any issue whatsoever with upper end shrill until adding my old Sigma to the chain.
i used to own a sigma dac and i thought it sounded more to the warm side than having any shrillness to it. back then, i used a sony dvp9000es with it (the sony is a little bright on its own) and the sigma made it very enjoyable to listen. i thought the alpha was a step up to the sigma. as for the benchmark dac, i thought it was way cool sounding to me compared to other dac's. the other dac's that i have owned after the sigma that i thought were better sounding were from: audio research, manley, adcom gda-700, and the music hall 25.2 with an upgraded tube. the music hall is a sleeper of a dac. if you like tubes, you can roll the tube while using rca cables, while if you like a more solid state sound, use xlr cables to by-pass the tube. the other dac's to try are the new audio research dac-7, ayre, and the cary. as for the comment above of somebody preferring the benchmark over the classe cdp-10, all i can say is that individual must like his music very analytical and bright sounding. i have a classe cdp-10 and that unit is much more musical sounding than the benchmark.
I also used both Cal tube DACS (back in the day) along with the Delta transport.I thought they were both good--the Alpha better.I switched to the Monarchy 22b at that time for a more detailed presentation.Then I went to a Soundstream one for something that sounded fuller and more rounded.I remenber the vintage PS Audio DACS as very nuetral,but also lacking sparkle and life.
I've been on this merry-go-round for many years.Like many others,constantly changing equipment in the search for sonic nirvana.Even when a system is very close,some aspect will begin to annoy me and the cycle starts over again!
I have not heard the Benchmark,but do own the purportedly similar Citypulse 2.03.It is very good,and very detailed(I'm back in that groove again).I recently sold the outstanding Musical Fidelity A 3.24.It was also very good,but with a somewhat smoother presentation.I've been told that the V-DAC is quite similar.I hope that these ramblings were of some assistance.
Yes,between the transport and DAC.Many years ago(probably around 1993 or 94) my friend and I undertook the ambitious task of running our own A-B tests on a number of transports,DACs and CD players.We used an Audio Alchemy DLC preamp and a digital spl meter to equalize volume levels and to switch between digital front ends.I recall that certain transports and CD players fed into certain DACs sounded much better with the DIP inserted between them.Other combinations produced small/if any discernable difference.The Cal Delta,which was supposed to be a low jitter transport, benefieted greatly from the addition of the DTI or DIP inserted between the transport and DAC.
transnova - both outputs are active. you can switch your preamp inputs to see which sounds better. i like the tube sound with the better tube installed. probably will be replacing the opamps in the near future.
also, i also use jitter devices before my dacs. i currently use the monarchy dip units. i have used the audio alchemy dti in my den and family room with good results.