We have heard superb ladder dac units and superb delta simga and other dacs which are not ladder types.
The Esoteric line, the Emm Line are both superb dacs, we have had both of those lines in our shop. Wether someome prefers one of the other dacs presentation or not is a different matter.
Ed Meitner is one of the world’s greatest digital designers and he does not use ladder dacs, the Esoteric Grandiso units are also considered fantastic products.
We would agree with you that there can be a naturalness with a ladder based dac that can be very enticing and musical.
Again we disagree with your slight on "chip based dacs not sounding or can’t sound as good, we just became Bricasti Dealers the M3, M1, M12, M21, are dacs which do use chips for both PCM and DSD decoding the new M3 sounds fantastic. Also the reference level Bricasti Dacs are also lauded for their superb sound quality.
Both of our two reference dacs’s the T+A SD 3100 and the Light Harmonic Davinci, offer ladder type decoding for DSD files the question as to why those devices sound better may have more to do with listening to DSD files than it is that they are ladder based designs.
In the case of the Aqua Hifi Formula a filterless ladder dac design this is a wonderful dac however it does get bested by the T+A both of these run ladder type designs however, the T+A is not using discrete resistors they are using many chip based switches which are doing the same task. So the fact that both use ladder dac’s doesn’t provide for the take away that the T+A is still a better performing product, the type of conversion method is just one part of the equation.
This is a perfect example of how two dacs both using "ladder" type networks to drive their voltages sound totally different.
As per MSB they do make an excellent product and we have heard their gear at shows, at Axpona Alon Wolf of Magico was using CH Precision and the uber expensive MSB dac along with either the M2 or M6 the sound was insanely mediocre, just because one critic liked a product or mentioned the systems realisim can have more to do if that critic is biased towards that systems sound or his or her biases.
Most of the raves at show reports are usually pretty wrong and we constantly disagree with many of the well received rooms at these shows, at Axpona 99.9 percent of the systems sounded pretty poor considering the huge costs involved in many of the shows trophy setups.
Our best at show Axpona 2019 included a Wilson room running a full DCS stack, the Vimberg Room running Metranome digital and a few others, the Tidal room sounded very good and they were using a Tidal dac card built into their preamp.
Our take away is that all of these dacs are excellent, we have chosen T+A because we have found that its unique feature set and design heritage enable it to easily compete with a $90k DCS or MSB product yet sells for 1/3 the price of those, it all comes down to engineering and resources T+A has 12 full time engineers, which include two enginers with PHD, and the company received a grant from the German goverment to help offset the huge costs to deliver this state of the art dac, which include proprietary input technology that allows for native DSD 1024 which no other dac on the market can process or take in.
As we mentioned before other companies will double DSD 512 internally through a reprocessing algorithm, only T+A can handle that high of a data rate from the beginning without having to reprocess that data to accheive a similar result, how big is MSB again? How many engineers do they have?
Just because you over build something with more massive external power supplies and more expensive femto clocks and run up your price tag, doesn’t mean your product will necessarily sound the better than one that does not.
We would welcome the comparison, Robert Harly did say that the SD 3100 playing DSD was his new benchmark, funny don’t you think Mr. Harley has heard and played with both the DCS and MSB gear?
Beautifully built, highly capable, feature-laden, and a joy to use, T+A’s SDV 3100 HV DAC and PDT 3100 HV CD/SACD transport are at the pinnacle of digital’s ascent from the early CD players to today’s highly sophisticated machines. The vast array of formats accessible by the SDV, coupled with the superb user interface, opens up a vista of musical discoveries.
The SDV is a superb sounding component, rendering PCM with exceptional dynamic verve, tremendous bottom-end grip and definition, and fine rendering of high-frequency detail. This DAC is particularly impressive with standard-resolution files and CD—T+A’s upsampling algorithm narrows the gap between CD-quality and true high-res.
With PCM sources, the SDV’s performance approaches the best DACs I’ve heard.
But with SACD, and DSD files, the SDV and PDT establish a new benchmark of performance.
If you have an SACD collection, or a library of DSD files, the SDV and PDT pair is your ticket to experiencing that music as never before. How do we get DSD through Roon or Jriver to transcode all PCM to DSD.
Although these two components are the most expensive in T+A’s history, they are more than fairly priced considering their build-quality, sound-quality, and the fact that they can access virtually any digital format extant.
Alma we sell and carry more dac’s than most dealers we sell Lumin Ess Based, Aqua Ladder based, Bricasti chip based, Naim chip based, Light Harmonic Ladder and Chip based, All of these dacs’ can sound fanatastic and can sound extremely musical depending on how they are feed, the source of the data, and the type of data.
Proof postive the Lumin X1 sounds unbelievably good and to best it you have to spend to to three times the money and that is a Sabre based dac, please go find us one review on the X1 where they thought otherwise.
Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ T+A dealers