Impression of MF Tri Vista 21 DAC vs. Arcam CD23T
I've been looking at replace the arcam for awhile so when I saw the DAC advertised for $800 at Audiogon, I immediately jumped on it. The seller happened to be local so that is plus.
My system consists of Conrad Johnson 17LS, Sim Audio Moon W-3 amp, CD23T as cdp and transport. Speakers are DIY 2way using Seas Excel 7 in. drivers. More info on speakers here:
My system overall a bit neutral - not warm but definitely not bright either which is typical of the Seas magnesium drivers. Vocal has the right sssshhhh balance. Not too sibilance but not too lush either.
Before the Tri Vista DAC, although I like the CD23 very much, I always thought it could be a bit more dynamic, give more excitement. I feel like the player is a bit laid back and lacking punch.
With the Tri Vista DAC in the system using the Arcam as transport, the immediate impression was the presentation is bolder, bigger, has more "apparent detail", slight more forward, and the bass seems stronger. The bass seems to go "deeper" but not warmer. There is slight more space between the vocal and the background bass and in general there are more space between the instruments compared to the Arcam. The sound stage is both deeper and wider. In term of frequency response, it seems like there is a bit of emphasis on the upper register with the Tri Vista and it's consistent on all recordings. The vocal seems be "clearer" with the added emphasis. The whole presentation seems more "live" compared to the Arcam. I guess the Tri Vista gives a bit more energy to the music on the other hands, the Arcam is a bit more relax and easy going.
Initially, I sort of like the Tri Vista better may be because it's different from something I've been having for a long time. But after awhile, I am not too sure. The Vista seems to add something that may not have been there in the first place. The most apparent difference is in the vocal reproduction. With the added emphasis on the upper register, the voice can sound more "hoarse" where as with the Arcam, the voice has more of the "chest" so it is fuller and as the result has a bit more emotion. When the vocal gets louder, with the arcam, the "chesty" part and the "falsetto" stay together and move in unison. In the Tri Vista, it seems like the "falsetto" moves up just a tick more than the "chesty" part therefore the sound becomes slightly more hollow. And this shows up on the piano reproduction as well. My speaker drivers are of metal type so I guess with speakers using paper drivers or even with a tube amp, things may be a bit difference and may give the Tri Vista a better match. This got me thinking - I have a pair of AES SixPac so maybe I'll give this a try with the Tri Vista.
As it is right now, the Arcam is slight warmer, smoother. The Tri Vista is bolder, bigger, more dynamic but can be a bit forward, has bigger sound stage. But if I had to pick one to keepe, ultimately I think I'll go with the Arcam. Somehow it is just more natural, more balance, gives music inner beauty, and I dare say that it gives a bit more mid range bloom which is ironic since the Tri Vista is a tube design.
Note: I use the optical link so I am not sure if the coaxial will make any difference.
What if I tune down the speaker treble level a bit to give the Tri Vista a more balance reponse? Can this be the best of both world: Arcam balance but with attitude?