Does a Tube Dac make sense?



I’m  in the market for a dac since I bought a Musical Paradise MP701MKII Tube Preamp few months back, does it make sense to buy a tube dac? The seller Garry is suggesting to get the Musical Paradise MP D2 MKIII which is a tube dac with a AK4490 but can be upgraded to AK4499 but I’m leaning towards the RME ADI2 which is almost the same price as the MP tube dac. I’m finding it hard to justify a $1k dac but I have read a lot of forums that suggests the RME or the SMSL M400 and Denafrips Ares II but I’m a sucker for vu meters and spectrum analyzers but if the MP tube dac is a good match for my MP tube preamp I’m willing to give it a go.
stibin
Why not? I have tube amp & preamp. Sounds great.
makes sense to me. i love tubes in sources
It makes sense if you like the way it sounds. You should really be asking (yourself) which of the different DACs you are considering will sound best to you.
garry has a very good ear and his dacs sound very ’analog’ with their tube output stages - excellent performance for $ and like mhdt and a few others, ideal for those seeking a dose of warmth, body, dimensionality and fullness to the typically ’clean-n-lean’ sound of digital

however, i think garry, like many other small makers, are out of stock presently due to supply chain issues

but if you like a leaner sound, and like lots of features, buttons, menus, filters, sexy displays (not to mention an owner’s manual the size of a small phone book) the rme will certainly please!
If the dac sounds better because it’s got an output tube instead of ss, it was probably a bad sounding dac, and the tube is just a bandaid fix.

Also dacs with tube output don’t drive very well into the next equipment, be it passive pre active pre or direct to poweramp if it is lower than <20kohm input impedance.
As tube dacs usually have high output impedance and are capacitor coupled, which "could" also roll off the bass those low input impedances <20kohm.

Cheers George
It depends on your budget also.  I had a Lumin X-1 to source my tube mono and Pre-amp.  I thought a tube DAC would take it to the next level.  So I ordered the Lampizator Pacific.  Thje Pacific is a tremendous DAC.  However, after owning both the solid state Lumin X-1 and the Pacific there is not $15k improvement.  Plus I had to buy a Music server on top of that versus the all in one X-1.  
One of my DACs is a Modwright Elyse - 6922 tubes and 5AR4 tube rectifier that I have used with Modwright LS100 tube pre and KWA100 SE ss amp; Line magnetic 518IA tube integrated, Finale Audio 7189MK2 tube integrated , and now while in my 2nd system an Ayon Audio Spirit 2 tube integrated ; it has had zero issues driving into any of them, and there has been no loss of bass or any other frequencies
My integrated amp and DAC are both tubed based, no issues and both sound great. 
great, and i mean *great* sounding digital gear has had tube output stages placed on them for many years

i have had and still have several pieces - they bring tremendous musical enjoyment, and have no problems driving downstream gear, plus there is the added benefit of being able to subtly tailor the sound with different tube makes and types in most cases, which is a lot of fun if one is inclined to partake

like in all excellent gear in this pursuit, it is all subject to the talents of the designer/maker - to use good engineering, coupled with inspiration and creativity in making a piece sound ’right’ to them

so please let your ears decide


Thanks for all your replies. I want to try the tube dac to match it with my tube pre but I’m not sure if it will sound good, I guess I have to try it and see and return it if it doesn’t. I hope returning it won’t be a hassle.
Tube DACs can sound outstanding. I own a Audio Research Reference 9se... but then it is $17,000 so not much direct relationship with the DAC you are looking at. Mine is the best sounding DAC I have heard. 
Post removed 
Can I know what tube dac you guys are using?
well known well respected tube dacs that are near of less than $1000 include:

mhdt (numerous models)
black ice fx tube dac
musical paradise d1 d2
van alstine fet hybrid dac (used)
Sure - the real question is what’s your budget and timeline. 
I have a tube preamp so my DAC goes through a tube on its way to my speakers and ultimately ears. 
So while I’ve only heard Audio Research tube DACs, I am certain there are options to consider depending on your budget. 
Get the Border Patrol Dac with tubed power supply section. No tubes in the Dac signal chain, but a rectifier tube in the power supply that can be switched in or out via button on front panel. It’s a R2R with a phillips chip.
The RME ADI 2fs is a great DAC especially with a linear power supply. I have a ModWright LS36.5 which is a nice preamp. Lately I’ve been running my RME/Teddy Pardo direct into my amp and I’m not missing my tube preamp in the chain whatsoever. The ModWright is not a creamy sounding preamp but it’s also far from sounding thin, sterile, cold or flat like some solid state preamps. The RME going direct loses none of the attributes of my ModWright, but where it pulls ahead is it’s transparency, it’s brutally honest, but even on mediocre recordings I prefer going direct. The noise floor is nonexistent, so even though it is very revealing, it simply passes what it is being feed doing very little to alter or smear things. The RME has tons of settings to alter its sound to ones taste, either with tone controls, Eq, and different filters. I run mine with all settings set to lock or direct and with the sharp filter and I find it easily competes with my tube preamp. It’s all about synergy so if you think your system is a little on the thin or harsh side then maybe the RME is not the right DAC as it’s not going to butter things over but point out you may have shortcomings elsewhere. It’s a great DAC and worthy of being connected to cables that cost far more than itself. Those using the stock power supply and power cable have no idea how great this DAC is.
OK MAYBE. I have a Mcintosh C2500 it has a DAC and valves, does that count?

Regards
I use to have a jolida jd 100 which had a tubed output stage. It wasn’t very good and got replaced with a musically cd/dac. The music hall is 10 times better. I do run tube separates and I have the mytek liberty now. It sounds very good.
Makes sense to me as well. You can spend months reading/researching but in the end you need to listen for yourself. I went through this a few years ago before purchasing my MHDT Lab Pagoda. This DAC turned out to be one of the best audio purchases I've made. Never a problem driving downstream gear. I'm currently using it direct to a Decware SE84UFO and it's equally impressive when using my solid state gear. Best of luck to you.
I own the MP-D2 mk2 with the AKM 4497 chip, Mundorf caps, and NOS Amperex tubes. No regrets here.

The value in this DAC for someone in your position (unsure of tube components) is the ability to easily parts swap rather than whole component swap. Tubes, caps, even chip swaps are possible, and the changes do have a noticeable effect on sound.

There is a fairly active Musical Paradise thread on audiocircle that would be worth your time.

No, tube DACs make no sense at all but buy whatever you want.
I'm not getting why tubed digital sources are a bad idea, in general.
Georgehifi mentions added challenges mating with downstream equipment, but are there other reasons?
Surely there are better and worse designs, but people have mentioned numerous well thought of units, including high end ones.  (I'd add add Lampizator to the list; I've heard several of their models sounding quite good in a friend's system.)  I'm now solid state, but I've had and enjoyed both.

I'm genuinely curious, but barring more information, it seems like a blanket dismissal of tubed digital is hard to maintain.
The only answer to that question is get the MP AND the RME side by side in your system with your ears for some time. Return the one least liked, whatever the reason(s).
Report your experience, which is more valid than blather.
If $1K is a significant amount to you, do it right.
Not by fishing in the impounded pond of forum opinions.
I had a CAL dac with a tube output stage 15-20 years ago when digital was harsh. Modern dac's/recordings/streaming services are so much better I don't look for tone controls anymore.
@jdoris 

you participate on this forum for a while, you realize there are some usernames who are here just to issue blanket dismissals... i suspect they are now pretty much deaf but can still see and can type
@jjss49

There certainly s a wide range of confidence with which opinions are tendered! ;)

@stibin,
I’ve heard a number of tube DACs and they can range from just okay to superb, same exact experience with transistor DACs. The sound quality will be determined by the talent of the builder, design, part quality, attention to detail and implementation.

Musical Paradise has earned a good word of mouth reputation. I would seek clarification in regard to the return policy. If you find it satisfactory I’d get it and judge it based on its sound quality in your system. This the only way to really sort it out. The general dismissal of a DAC with with tube output stage seems illogical and without merit. Execution of the product is the key.
Charles
There is no more reason to discount a DAC having a tube output stage than a tube pre or a tube amp. In some regards less so. 

DACs often have fewer tubes than preamps, tubes are of lower output and less costly than preamps or amps. They are often used at far less than rated output so last longer. A great way to introduce tubes into a system. Especially at the budget under discussion here.
The question was, do tube dacs make sense, not can I buy a dac with a tube to distort the sound to my liking. The whole engineering concept of a DAC is to convert the digital to analog as precise without distortion as possible. From that perspective adding tubes and other filters to mess with the output makes no sense. If you want colorations, to me it makes more sense to buy a transparent dac for $200 and do the signal degradation with preamps or amps or EQ. It’s cheaper and in the OPs case it makes even less sense he's already using a tube preamp.
This is why when discussing an audio product the final arbiter is "how does it sound" and do I like it. Tube colorations? Sure, either that or one may prefer transistor coloration. Both active devices have their inherent distortion profile and character. Either one used thoughtfully in a well designed analogue output stage of a DAC can be successful. The listener decides which device distortion characteristics they are more pleased with.
Charles
In properly designed DACs there is no audible inherent distortion profile. 
Technically probably not. I probably would not. Used to have one. But practically sure why not if a particular tube dac sounds good to you. I am a mhdt dAC fan. Mostly tube DACs. Mine is SS though. I found I was trying to get the mhdt tube dac to sound like the SS one by rolling tubes. Rolling tubes to change the sound is a feature of many tube DACs. .
djones51 Exactly my point. Will a tube dac go well with a tube pre since the my pre is already a tube is a tube dac necessary or will my system sound too tubey if there is such a word. I appreciate all the insights here as I myself is at a lost, I’m new to this hobby and I’m learning a lot by reading suggestions and comments but if someone has any experience with a tube pre and tube dac I appreciate the knowledge that you are passing to newbies like me. 
Charles1dad. Thanks. I have the Musical Paradise MP701 mkII and it does have significant sound improvement on my system but after a few months of using it I started to hear micro-phonics on one of the tubes so that also got me thinking do I really want another tube gear which I might ran into tube problems or just go with a dac that does not use tubes but that does not mean R2R dacs or any other dacs won’t encounter problems as I’m sure at a certain point in time it will.
Hi @stibin, 
You wrote,
I have the Musical Paradise MP701 mkII and it does have significant sound improvement on my system.

That just confirms my position that tube DACs can sound terrific. If you decide to move on from a tube DAC you'll be able to find a transistor DAC that will sound terrific as well. Excellent choices in both camps. 
Charles 
@stibin,
You can have an all tube audio signal path or an all transitor audio signal path and be happy with either. Just depends on what type of sonic presentation you are seeking. Within the realm of tubes there’s very noticeable variation in what you’ll hear. So called "tubey" to not so "tubey".

For example an Audio Research component using 6H30P tubes would sound different from another brand’s tube component using a 6SN7 or a 12AT7. So even though utilizing tubes you’d still hear a different signature. Same would be true for mixing different transistors. Krell doesn’t sound like Jeff Rowland even though both are solid state.

You say that you are a newbie, no problem you’ll learn to appreciate the many variables that factor into High End audio. We all continue learn as we gain experience along the way.
Charles
I have got very limited experience with Digital Replays in my Home System, but have been able to Visit Different Homes and Events and as a result have auditioned/been demonstrated many Digital Front Ends.

My most impressive CDP is a heavily modified Sony Model that has Valves Incorporated, Multiple Power Supplies throughout the Channels Circuitry, Insanely Priced Cap's and Bespoke Wound OCC Silver Transformers.
This CDP has been auditioned by a variety of experienced HiFi enthusiasts and it get very good appraisal.

Prior to the past year of enforced limitation to travel, I made it my goal to learn about how different Digital Devices can present a  Replay.

Some I was totally impressed with and others were not so attractive.
 
I have interrogated for a few hours a Denafrips DAC hooked up to a £5000 Streamer, being played through $30 000 Amplification and 
£40 000 Speakers.

I have also heard other Digital Devices in very good systems from
£20 000+ up to 150 000+ in value where the Digital Devices from the  Brands, MHDT, Soekris, Wadia, Soulution, have been in use.
There are probably others as well, as their are always Digital Front Ends at the Events I attend.

I myself have chosen as a DAC, a Bespoke Built DAC produced by a EE/Builder located in Bulgaria.
This has left a very good impression for a very fair outlay.
I am Wed to this hooked up the PS Audio Transport.

This marriage has been heard by some of the owners of the above equipment, and even undergone Tube Rolling in their company.
There are to date not any concerns being raised about the presentation that is on offer, the PS Audio > Bespoke Built DAC leave a very positive impression.

In my experience there does not seem any reason to not use a
Tube DAC. 
Is a Home Loan Available of a few Devices to gather the capabilities of a Model in the Home System ?

Don't overlook a very good quality Power Cable, the influence that one can offer when used on a CDP, CDT, or DAC can be very impressive. 
The Transformation can rearrange any assessments without the Cable exchanges in place.    

     
Well, I am using a Audio Mirror Tubadour III tube DAC with a Aric Audio tube preamp. Both have improved my systems sonic presentation in a way that I like. 


A tube dac vs a non tube dac is just another option for you to consider in your search for the sound you want or like. It is no different than comparing a chip design dac bd an r2r dac. Some will like one delivery over the other. What matters is what you like. I think what your concern is is that a tube dac going into a tube ore will cancel each other out. That is not the case. Look at it as a chain that starts from the wall outlet and ends at your ears. Anything you change, add, or remove in that chain will effect the sound you hear. Enjoy the journey and the music.
A tube dac vs a non tube dac is just another option for you to consider in your search for the sound you want or like. It is no different than comparing a chip design dac to an r2r dac. Some will like one delivery over the other. What matters is what you like. I think what your concern is is that a tube dac going into a tube pre will cancel each other out. That is not the case. Look at it as a chain that starts from the wall outlet and ends at your ears. Anything you change, add, or remove in that chain will effect the sound you hear. Enjoy the journey and the music.
Hello,
I have a friend who has a full Rogue tube system. He used to have a tube DAC that cost around 1k. He did not like it. It was too dull. I had him try the first gen M2Tech young DAC. This was not tube based. M2Tech is a chip based DAC with lots of detail. Through optical connections I was even getting a little sibilants. He put it in his system and said it was unbelievable. Bottom line you need a chip based DAC or a $5k R2R DAC. If you go with the Aries II you will be disappointed. If you can find this 1st gen M2Tech Young DAC used for $600 buy it. It was like $1400 new. No remote control just a simple DAC. New, buy the RME. It is customizable. That is good for you and when you upgrade you will be able to sell it for a decent return over the next two years. 
It did for me, but you'll need to try in your own system.  Went from Schiit Yggy and Chord Qutest to Lamipzator Golden Atlantic TRP (much more expensive) and believe it is significantly better.
 Bottom line you need a chip based DAC or a $5k R2R DAC. If you go with the Aries II you will be disappointed.


i don’t know exactly which person this comment is directed at, but all good intentions of this poster aside, i cannot fathom how such proclamations can be made without knowing the system and room the dac is going into, or what the tastes of the user are... good system building is all about compatibility and synergy with associated gear and listener preferences
The Jolida (Black Ice) tube dac is a real cracker for well under 1000 bucks. In fact just yesterday I was trying to find the txt messages between myself and the buyer of the one I sold to see if he if he would consider selling it back to me. Want to compare it with my current RME that I am also very happy with. 
My personal opinion having a DAC with only a tube based output is like having a preamplifier with the tone control set non-flat and no way to ever change it.  Tone controls are a great idea, and only stuffy audiophiles killed them, not because they were bad, but through their own hubris.  A tone control can help a recording sound the way you want to sound, help to tune a room a bit, or can set flat so it does nothing.


I am all for the option of the tube output on a DAC. I have no doubt for many people, on many recordings, that it will provide them with something that sounds better to them. However, just like tone controls, I doubt it would be ideal for all recordings, but if that is the only choice for output, you are stuck with it. 
@dletch2 .. how is it any different with a tube-free DAC? Every DAC has one signature sound unless it includes different filter options (tone controls). I've heard quite a few DACs over the years and each one sounds unique. Neutral? Free from distortion? No sound of it's own? Yeah, not so much. IMHO of course.