Incredible new USB DAC from GOTO Unit USA
I wanted to give you guys a heads up on an a breathtaking new USB DAC in the works from Goto Unit USA. A name has not yet bet selected for the piece nor has a professional chasis been designed yet, but irrespective of those details the two weeks I spent with the unit in it's wooden project box were two weeks of the best digital reproduction I have ever experienced.
I was previously a LampizatOr (level 3) owner who liked but never fully loved his DAC. Discussing this with Ming of Goto USA, and contemplating the move to a Lampizator level 4 dac, he offered me the opportunity to give a listen to and potentially buy a piece he had been working on with the goal of selling commercially in 2013. The terms of our agreement were that he'd build a fresh unit and send it my way to listen to for two weeks. If I liked it, I'd send a check for around 50% of what it would eventually retail for and if not, just send it back along with some feedback on the experience... very fair terms and I jumped on the opportunity.
The unit is a USB DAC, though if necessary SPDIF can be fitted to it. The designer, Ming believes USB to be the best route feeling adding a receiver chip for the SPDIF only adds another imperfect layer for the signal to pass through. An excerpt of one of our discussions:
[quote author=Ming]I can add remote volume control and SPDIF input but the more function you add, the more you take away from the music. At the current design, the digital music get converted from digital to analog and straight out after this D-to-A conversion happen, the music connect to the next stage (preamp or integrated amp) w/o any resistor, capacitor and any other parts that will alter the sound. In 99.99% of DAC on the market, the music right after the D-to-A conversion, it has to go thru, a capacitor/resistor network to filter out the digital noise generated from the D/A chip. So, the sound get altered, modified and tone-adjusted/distored in order to get rid of those unwanted digital noise. In my design, the special transformer also served as digital noise filter, output buffer and hookup wire - so there is really nothing between the sound right out of D/A to the next stage (preamp or integrated amp). That give you the dynamic, clean and clear transparency and the details of the sound. Really, there is nothing in between.
The reason that I choose to have only one USB input is to avoid adding extra receiver chip before the D/A chip. In all DAC, the extra receiver chip is just there so the unit can have multiple input types. The downsize of adding this extra receiver chip is the extra process of the digital signal from your music source. You finally rip the CD and upgrade the music server and software to be bit-perfect digital signal playback unit. The music signal is ready to be converted to analog music (D-to-A) but now it has to go thru. this extra receiver device(which is not a 100% perfect device) to introduce more error to the digital signal. In my view, most of user only use one input type - the rest of the input types are there just in-case but hardly used. So, if you only use one type of input, such as USB from music server, the single input DAC will provide the best sound quality" [/quote]
So how did it sound?
It was a revelation. I have had the opportunity to hear some pretty nice digital gear in my day, but none have pulled off the level of purity, inner detail and just uncolored naturalness that this DAC pulled off with ease. The noise floor is just non-existant (very welcome change after LampizatOr) and the presentation is dynamic, alive, exciting and completely addictive. Sterility doesn't enter this equation at any point--and I found it much more fun and enjoyable to listen to then my LampizatOr.
One of the biggest things I noticed is how much the LampizatOr influenced what I listened to. Finishing almost every listening session with Mark Knoffler or Cowboy Junkies. With Ming's DAC ALL much was fair game. I found myself revisiting rock and hip hop I listened to in Junior High school, and the wild part was it all sounded excellent.
I'd always felt my system to be a bit on the polite side, which was something I've been working on voicing out, but with this DAC in place there was not a trace of it. Everything from Jay-Z to Natalie Merchant were fair game and well reproduced--this thing is killer.
On the second to last day of my trial, I got the opportunity to directly A/B this at a friend's house to an AMR DAP-777. The GOTO DAC linked via Wywires Ltespeed USB cable to a MacMini and the AMR linked by ASI Liveline to a the LampizatOr Transporter (tubed SPDIF out into tube SPDIF in). The AMR is a very nice unit, but there was no question in my mind that the GOTO unit was sonically superior being more immediate, dynamic and natural sounding. It also did a significantly better job of re-creating the venue of the recording (resonant details/room interactions). This is a major praise as the AMR is no slouch.
I'll update this this thread with more information as it further develops, but I'm still contemplating the purchase...