Direct Heated Triode Tube DAC by Allnic Audio Labs




The New Allnic D5000 DHT tube dac is finally available world wide. I have been a huge fan of Allnic since my introduction to them two years ago by John Wright, former engineer for Ed Meitner. I recently became familiar with Direct Heated Triode tubes with the purchase of a used Allnic L5000 Linestage (preamp) which lists for $23K. So my heart leapt like a gazelle when I heard this was in production.

I have not myself heard the D5000 yet but expect to in the near future. However, I am very impressed with Waversa Systems digital architecture design. Most of the components are custom designed for this application. I believe the designer offers a fresh perspective and addresses areas where other dac designs fall short. Most important to me is complete galvanic isolation of the USB input which eliminates noise from the switch power supply of source components. This will likely negate the sonic benefit of my custom ten-rail linear power supply designed by Paul Hynes ($5000). But this alone to me makes their dac competitively priced, given the potential front end savings. I will also perform a USB cable comparison to determine any sonic benefit between a range of cables, including my $1600 Vertere Pulse-R USB 1.5 meter cable.

The analog output uses a fully balanced circuit from input to output with no coupling capacitors, only all pure nickel permalloy cored transformers. Each channel uses twin 3A5(DCC90) DHT tubes. The DHT 3A5 amp’s frequency range is from 20 Hz to 50 kHz (-3dB) with a perfect square wave form of 20 kHz. 3A5 tubes operate at a very low temperature that ensures long tube life. The circuit displays no negative feedback, not even a partial feedback. This design has absolutely no microphonic issues, which is the biggest obstacle to DHT realization. KS Park’s design resolved this issue through a newly designed 7-pin gel damper socket. In addition, the main PCB is floated with a drum rubber specific for this application. High S/N ratio and dynamic operation is achieved through full tube designed automatic voltage regulation which protects the DHT amp from both internal and outside voltage irregularities. The front panel displays a current meter which monitors safe operation and status of the tubes.

The D5000 is very unique in today’s DAC world because most of its components are not from any routine audio market source except the DAC chips. The USB interface, SPDIF receiver and high end upsamplers are all specifically customized for this application. D5000 uses very unique technologies for audio signal processing. The clock does not directly connect to the DAC chip. Instead, the audio processor uses clock alignment algorithms that determine exact alignment for the DAC chip in a real-time manner. The ES9018K2M SABRE 32 Reference DAC chip is a high performance 32-bit, 2-channel audio D/A converter with sampling to 32/384 kHz, 128 DSD and uses a 1.5 MHz upsampler through a field-programmable gate array USB interface.

While most ES9018K based DACs use the dac chip for audio processing, the D5000 has a proprietary internal processor that performs real time PCM upsampling or upsampling and conversion to DSD. The SABRE Reference DAC chip only performs the digital to analog conversion.

Real-time PCM to DSD conversion function is implemented when “conversion” is selected. All input samples are converted to 128 DSD with an internal 5.6 MHz/32 Bit upsampler and DSD converter. When de-selected, input audio sampling is either upsampled, if selected, or bypassed to the DAC chip.

The USB interface is implemented through custom hardware by Waversa Systems and is UAC2 standard compliant. This provides very clean audio through complete galvanic isolation, thereby stripping the digital signal of any PC noise commonly created by the server’s internal power supply. Thesycon driver is provided for Windows application. Drivers are not required for Mac/Linux.

I2S input will be provided in the near future. This separate system will be connected to DAC by a proprietary method through the AES port and provide not only PCM but also DSD. This system has the capability to support extreme upsample and cross conversion between DSD and PCM. Details will be published on a future date.

Every source component has a word clock that sends an impulse to the D/A converter ‘x’ times per second triggering it to take a sample -- this becomes the sampling rate. The precision of this clock determines accuracy of the conversion process which is essential to avoid frequency drift between the internal oscillators of the device. The D5000 frame clock provides synchronization information to the outside device allowing it to precisely match the D5000 MEMS clock. If word clock input is provided then the D5000 internal system will use word clock for playback. By providing an exact data rate, data overrun or underrun are avoided and this reduced jitter creates clearer transients, pronounced attack, crisp inner detail in the higher frequencies and overall improved stereo image.

Unlike the EMM DAC2x which uses a Service USB, firmware updates are completed through the USB input designated for music data using a special interface unique to Waversa Systems.

Inputs:

2 Coax
1 Toslink
1 AES/EBU
1 USB

Output:

Balanced XLR
RCA

Analog Specifications:

1) Output RMS voltage: 2.5V
2) Output impedance: 150 ohms constant
3) Frequency range: 20 Hz-20 KHz flat
4) THD: less than 0.1%
5) Tubes: DHT: 3A5 X4; Tube-based internal power supply: 7233X1, 5654X1
6) Dimension: 430mm, 290mm, 150mm (W, D, H: 17", 7.4", 6")
7) Weight: 9.2 Kg
8) Power consumption: 23W /230/50Hz Or 23W/120V/60Hz for North America.

Digital Specifications:

1) Toslink Sampling limit 96 kHz (Note: In case of TOSLINK, some devices will work correctly with D5000 at any rate. This depends on the signal quality of the transport.)
2) AES/EBU and Coax sampling limit 192 kHz (if the source is SPDIF standard compliant). Higher sampling rates have been demonstrated with some source components.
3) USB Sampling limit 384 kHz, DSD128
4) USB Input Custom USB Audio Interface design with Cypress FX2/FPGA
5) DAC Dual Mono/Mono ES9018K-2M Reference Audio DAC
6) Word Clock: Clock Reference Output, Clock Reference Input
7) DSD Conversion FPGA Based DSD Converter: PCM to input DSD128
8) Upsampling FPGA Based Upsampler: Up to 384 KHz
9) Mac OSX 10.6, Linux OS with UAC2, Windows OS (Thesycon Driver)

List Price: $11,900 USD.

Contact your regional Allnic dealer or Allnic international distributer David Beetles at www.hammertoneaudio.com

Hammertone Audio
252 Magic Drive
Kelowna, British Columbia
Canada V1V 1N2

Contact Person: DAVID BEETLES
Office Phone: 250.862.9037

Disclaimer: I have no professional relationship or financial interest with Allnic Audio Labs.

Please post your experience with this dac or any questions regarding the summary itself.
ketcham
Hi.

How can I arrange an audition?
Hi Matt,

I would call David. I believe they have a demo for review in the NY area but that may be destined for a buyer already. I purchased one after selling my EMM DAC 2x. It should arrive in a few weeks and will be able to compare to my Empirical Audio Overdrive DAC SE, with all options. Although the sonic signature of the new firmware of the EMM is wonderful in my system, I still favor the Overdrive. Did you purchase the Overdrive yourself after the big shootout?

Also, are we able to post photos on this forum? The summary above was the culmination of correspondence between myself and Allnic Audio Labs. The manual is still in production.

If anyone is interested, see Albert Porter's System blog on Audiogon (google it) regarding his impression. He was the first to receive a unit in N. America, I believe.
Hi Matt,

I believe you and Albert Porter are close by. He has audition parties at his house and is a audio dealer. www.porterhouseaudio.com
Ketcham, thanks for the detailed prelude. Sounds like some serious thought and engineering went into this dac.
I am very excited about this DAC, given my experience with Allnic. I have the L5000 DHT Linestage and A6000 Monoblocks. I hear great things about the H5000 Phono Pre. Give me a few weeks to burn in the dac, as the Sabre chip requires about 300 hrs for full burn in.
Ketcham, looking forward to your comments. So far only read comments by Albert Porter who's an Allnic dealer.

Did you purchase it from David Beetles?
Hi Joe,

Yes, I did purchase it from David.

It should arrive in a week or two. I will post when I have meaningful thoughts.
Ketcham

I look forward to your comparison. You and I have a similar appreciation for Steve's OverDrive SE.
I will build you one for 1/8th the price. I have been building DHT preamps, phono, dacs and amps for years now.

Happy Listening.
I am very excited about this DAC, given my experience with Allnic. I have the L5000 DHT Linestage and A6000 Monoblocks. I hear great things about the H5000 Phono Pre. Give me a few weeks to burn in the dac, as the Sabre chip requires about 300 hrs for full burn in.
What is the purpose of tubes in DACs or any digital source?
I am not anti-tube. I have heard great tube gear, Zanden/Octave/VTL/PrimaLuna and others. Also i have heard the AMR DAC and CD player, they all sounded good

However I remain skeptical about tubes in non-amplifiers.
08-08-14: Mordante
What is the purpose of tubes in DACs or any digital source?

A cynic would say embellishment. I would be interested in any technical logic for their presence....
Tubes allow you to build the light and pure circuitry for the Dacs.

Have a listen to the lampi Big 7 and you will understand. Those use 45 triodes. Sublimely good.
@Wisnon

If it takes a DAC that costs more then an average car to let me hear how good a tube DAC is then I do not need one. I never said that DAC with tubes sound bad. I just do not understand why you would need tubes in a DAC.

The best DACs I heard did not have tubes, Weiss, Metrum, EMM labs/Meitner, Schiit and dCS.
I have a Level 4 Lampi and it certainly beats the Snott out of the Schitt.

The Big7 sounds better than the EMM Labs Dac2x to me. My pal here recently sold his Weiss for a Big6 and we both livenin Switzerland.

The US Lampi dealer used to have a Metrum and traded it for a L4 ad now he has a 7 soon to come..

Never heard the Meitner nor dCS. Many of the Dacs you quote above are more pricey than my L4 and at least 2 are priceier than the Big7. I'm just saying...
Why does the LampizatOr use tubes?

http://www.monoandstereo.com/2012/08/interview-with-lukasz-fikus-lampizator.html

Why tubes in the audio path?

I have no particular attachment to tubes. If the parrot guano gave better results in signal amplification, or transistors - I would use them. Tubes sound good not because they are made of glass, or because they have vacuum inside, but because I can get away with simple amplifier stage without local or global feedback and without high part count. The tube circuit can be as simple as humanly possible - in my case the stage has just one resistor, one triode and one capacitor. Thats why I love tubes. Listening confirms that the signal is pure, uncorrupted, and the musical content comes through, shining in full musical glory.

What would you say, that Lampizator- Lukasz Fikus is doing different and specific to other DAC’s?

Mainly I am very open to listening test and comparisons. I don’t follow so called datasheet and white paper specs - I use the chips the way I want and I make the chips sound the way I want, even if the approach is far from textbook or dogmatic respect for manufacturer’s suggestions. I realized that chips for DAC are not digital devices (like in computers) but they are analog devices, responding really strongly to strange manipulations like power supply filtering, capacitor quality, connection topology, clock frequencies, materials used for wiring and soldering, vibrations, magnetic fields, grounding schemes and so on. Making a chip sound in a specific way is like building violins. Yamaha can’t duplicate what Stradivari did, it is a secret of the trade. It is like cooking, or gardening, or animal training. It is not about zeroes and ones.
I look forward to hearing more about the Allnic dac after you get the 300 plus hours on it!
@Winson

A level 4 Lampi costs €3540, the Schiit DAC with optial USB is €849. Should I really be surprised that the Lampi is better?

The BIG 7 costs about €9000, the Meitner Audio MA-1 is €7000. So again a rather hefty price difference.

A Weiss DAC2 is cheaper then a Lampi 4 and costs a little more then half Big6.

Winson, I am not trying to make this personal or make an attack on the Lampi DACs.I just askeds a question and you got your panties in a knot and started to compare cheaper DACs to the Lampi DACs.
To be honest I preferred the EMM Labs DAC (€15500) over the Vivaldi with costs a lot more. Although it was only a few minutes listening.
Mordante,

Why do you think I am upset? Not at all.

Many people bought the L4 at about $3.5K new when there were group buys last year. Many people traded up, so many almost new ones are available for great discounts 2nd hand.

My point was the L4 does not cost the same as a typical car and sounds great.

The Weiss model my pal had was higher than the one you quoted.

The MA1, can it do DSD2x yet? Its a $7K Dac and is more comparable to a L4 with DSD. The L7 is likely way better, as it bested the EMM Labs Dc2x to me.

No comments on the tube rationale I posted?
Winson.

The level 4 Lammpi costs 2950 Euro add 23% vat that is 3628.5 euro. Add to that say 50 euro shipping costs. So 3678.5 euro.

3678.5 euro = about 4900 dollar. That is way more then what my car is worth.

The only difference between the two Weiss models is the volume control and a more fancy looking.

The tube rationale was just marketing babble. The same babble as "no op amps". There are great sounding product and bad sound products with op amps. It is all a matter of implementation.
The level 4 Lammpi costs 2950 Euro add 23% vat that is 3628.5 euro. Add to that say 50 euro shipping costs. So 3678.5 euro
Yikes! Glad I don't live in Europe. Do you pay vat if used from private seller?

ECB negative interest rate policy to stimulate growth is not going to work. Vote these clowns out of office. Welfare state to the MAX.

3678.5 euro = about 4900 dollar. That is way more then what my car is worth.
I think you need a new car more than a Dac?

The tube rationale was just marketing babble. The same babble as "no op amps". There are great sounding product and bad sound products with op amps. It is all a matter of implementation.
Typical SS vs tube debate. One is not necessary better than the other but just different.
In the USA a BMW MSRP is $62.000. In the Netherlands it is €104.000.

Most European made items are actually cheaper in the USA. The government is not always to blame. Often the manufactures have something to say as well.

Not sure if the ECB is doing a bad job. Turning on the printing press means you are not facing the real issues just postponing what needs to be done.
08-09-14: Mordante
In the USA a BMW MSRP is $62.000. In the Netherlands it is €104.000.

Most European made items are actually cheaper in the USA. The government is not always to blame. Often the manufactures have something to say as well.
My guess it's EXTRA cost doing business in Europe.

Plus market dictate prices so companies will charge what each individual market will bare. After all, private companies exist to make $$ in order to stay in business. Can't turn on printing presses like ECB or Fed in US.

Not sure if the ECB is doing a bad job. Turning on the printing press means you are not facing the real issues just postponing what needs to be done.
Killing fixed income with rising inflation. Destroying the class that they are trying to help that can least afford inflation.
Mord…I live in CH and the VAT here is 8.5%. LoL

VAT in (closeby) France is 19%.

The L4 full retail in the US is at or just below $4K, not $5K.

Again, if your car is used at $5K, what does a L4 cost used?

The rationale for tubes is clearly given by Lukasz, in that it allows him to have an ultra-light circuit and get the sound he likes. Try one on a demo and see if that is the sound you desire. If it is, then you can get one used, sometimes even from the dealer, as people want to trade up all the time.

Anyway, we both understand each other's point now.
@Wisnon

Thank you for your advice. But a demo is not an option. As far as I am aware of. Lampi sold by Lampi website only. Also they are not for sale 2nd hand anywhere in Europe and I doubt I'll find one for about €1000. Since about €1000 would be the max I am willing to spend on a DAC.

My whole audio system is maybe worth €4000 new. So adding a €4000 DAC would seem absurd.

It seems Lukasz is willing to sell his DAC for much less profit in the US then in Europe.

I live in the Netherlands. The average net month income is about €1800.
Not sure if the ECB is doing a bad job. Turning on the printing press means you are not facing the real issues just postponing what needs to be done.

On the surface, neither the ECB or Fed are doing a good job. On another level, everything is going swimmingly. You break a nations spine not by invasion but via $$$.
OK, in NL…so you are in Europe too.

Lukasz does run sales from time to time and the amber Dac is an option in Europe.

Yes, Lampis do go on sale 2nd hand, but a lot less frequently than in the US.

If and when he does, I will let you know.
If there is anyone reading this that lives in the Nw region of USA and has a lampizator, I would love to meet up and a to b the two dacs.
@Wisnon

Thank you. To be honest I had not seen the Amber before. I knew the Lampi 1, 2 and 3 were long longer in production. So I wrongly presumed the 4 would be the basic model.

I'll have a look at the Amber. It would not be my first Polish audio equipment. I own a RCM phono stage.
Ketcham, where do you live exactly? There are 7s in Cali, NY, and NC at this point. I think there are a few in the midwest as well....

Look forward to hearing your impressions of the Allnic. I am sure it will be fab....
Portland. Ore. Anyone in the northwest region reading this, I am always looking compare and post impressions of gear. Hard to gain valuable insight, especially as gear becomes more expensive. If I ask local dealers to audition gear they just laugh.

This is why I like Sanjay Patel at Ciamera in NYC. He will ship gear without hesitation.
This is why I like Sanjay Patel at Ciamera in NYC. He will ship gear without hesitation.
I agree Sanjay is a good guy. Bought my TAD Evolution One from him.
I sold my DHT DAC and will be building a two chassis version with better parts. I am in Northern New Jersey. If you are near, I will bring it over for you to hear. If you are not near, contact em and I can discuss shipping one to you.

Happy Listening.
Bigkidz, tell us about your design (tubes used) and what if anything is proprietary ....
BigKidz, I am in central Jersey. Let me know when the 2 chassis version is done and I will invite a bunch of people over and we can all listen to it together on my system. I'll provide the system and the wine. You provide the DAC.

Who is the Allnic dealer in NJ/NY? I'd like to call someone...
Ketcham, do you have it in your hands yet?

As a fellow ODSE lover I am very interested to hear your thoughts about the Allnic DAC. I believe we have similar tastes...
Who is the Allnic dealer in NJ/NY? I'd like to call someone...
Contact Sunil Lekhi at care-audio.com

He's the NE Allnic dealer and I think located in NJ. I spoke to Sunil when I was considering the Allnic M3000 mono amps.
I am using the 3A5 Dual Triode tubes, I may also try the 26 tube which is what I use in my DHT preamp. Nothing unusual in the design, Buffalo-IIISE 2-Channel DAC, Sowter 9055s transformers, copper plate, a few caps and resistors. Separating into two chassis to see if that has an improvement on the sound.

Sunil is a great dealer, highly recommended. I have his Allnic Dac in for a home audition. Very impressive Dac!
09-04-14: Socfan12
Sunil is a great dealer, highly recommended. I have his Allnic Dac in for a home audition. Very impressive Dac!
Socfan12, how are you driving the Dac? I heard there are compatibility issues between Allnic Dac and Bryston BDP-2 (coax and aes) above 96hz but fine via usb.
Hi Joecasey,

Believe it or not, I'm using my lowly modified Sonos media player. Yes, I know this is far from optimal, but it allows me test drive the Allnic with what I have. My other DAC is a streamer, so ethernet direct to DAC, no media player necessary.

Anyway, yes, I've read there are issues with the BDP2 interfacing with the Allnic DAC. As of yet, they haven't determined whether it's an Allnic or Bryston issue. In either case, I also believe it was only with higher sampling rates that the interfaces became an issue, but I'm not 100% certain of that. In either case, I think the problem should be solvable with a firmware update, on either side. Or so I hope.

I've been a SS guy all my life. This is my first foray into tubes. I am very impressed with the Allnic DAC and there's a good chance Sunil will not get the DAC back! ;-)
Well Soc, its funny to see a CH guy dabbling in tubes.
Haha, I'm as surprised as you are, winson! Went to the dealer looking for a TT and I walk out with the Allnic DAC instead! Has got to be one of the most analog sounding DACs I've heard! And Allnic doesn't have the traditional tube sound - more neutral, like good SS with lots of meat on the bones. Me likes. :-)
09-05-14: Socfan12
Hi Joecasey,

Believe it or not, I'm using my lowly modified Sonos media player. Yes, I know this is far from optimal, but it allows me test drive the Allnic with what I have. My other DAC is a streamer, so ethernet direct to DAC, no media player necessary.

Anyway, yes, I've read there are issues with the BDP2 interfacing with the Allnic DAC. As of yet, they haven't determined whether it's an Allnic or Bryston issue. In either case, I also believe it was only with higher sampling rates that the interfaces became an issue, but I'm not 100% certain of that. In either case, I think the problem should be solvable with a firmware update, on either side. Or so I hope.

I've been a SS guy all my life. This is my first foray into tubes. I am very impressed with the Allnic DAC and there's a good chance Sunil will not get the DAC back! ;-)

You owe yourself an Auralic Aries....from one streamer to another....
Thx, Agear. I've heard good things of the Auralic Vega, and I believe Stereophile's review of it earlier this year compared it against the DCS stack. To my ears, the Allnic sounds more like analog than any other DAC I've heard. Most DACs won't stop me in my tracks but this one did. It may not be everyone's cuppa, but worthy of an audition if you are in this price range.
09-07-14: Socfan12
Thx, Agear. I've heard good things of the Auralic Vega, and I believe Stereophile's review of it earlier this year compared it against the DCS stack. To my ears, the Allnic sounds more like analog than any other DAC I've heard. Most DACs won't stop me in my tracks but this one did. It may not be everyone's cuppa, but worthy of an audition if you are in this price range.

I was actually referring to the Auralic Aries which is their WiFi streamer. I own the Lampizator L7 which is in the same neighborhood as the Allnic. Actually, Lucas has been using DHTs in dacs for some time. Mine uses EML45s as output tubes.
No Soc, the Aries is a Streamer, not a Dac. AGear has a Lampi B7 (and an Aries), so he would never point you to the Vega when you are considering the Allnic, tube converter solidarity and all that. LoL
Thx, winson, agear, I stand corrected. :-)

Agear, have you heard the Allnic? Any comparisons to your Lampi 7?

thx
09-10-14: Socfan12
Thx, winson, agear, I stand corrected. :-)

Agear, have you heard the Allnic? Any comparisons to your Lampi 7?

thx

I have not but it would be fun to do so. The tube complement used is VERY different. I think someone in NJ has both an Allnic and L4 or 5. Again, the 7 (and presumably the Allnic) brings an analog fluidity to digital that is normally spikey and discontinuous (to my ear). I am no longer pining away for a turntable...enjoy!
Agear, your description of the Lampi is similar to the Allnic - very analog sounding.