Line Magnetic 502ca


So ive got an extensive thread regarding the 219ia that has stemmed into its tube rolling, and other ventures, as of late being the discussion of my newest addition, the LM502ca DAC. Figured id keep that thread where is at and move discussion here.

Acquired this DAC roughly a month ago. Was previously using an Oppo105, which i have now sold, as it is, to 'my' ears, not even a contender to the 502. The 502 is doing everything i could have hoped it to do. Using the oppo, i was always dealing with digital listening, sounding, well, extremely digital. Metallic, very harsh at times in the mids and upper range frequencies. Just poor presentation, and with the shrillness of these frequencies, it was topped off with poor bass. I did not think i would yield this dramatic of an improvement. 

The 502 looks of tremendous quality in person, and sounds of the same. It is simple, and straight forward, no unneccesary gadgets, no remote. The ability to utilize tube rectification or solid state in the push of a button.

When the DAC first arrived, i admittedly did not even listen with the stock 12AU7's, and swapped in NOS mullard 4003's , regarded as one of if not the very best 12AU7 of all time. The sound was great out of the box. I let the unit get some burn in hours on it before critical listening for the first week by leaving on for extended increments of hours while home. I listened to it in this state for about 2 weeks. Coming from the oppo, i thought maybe i lost just a drop of imaging, and transparency in the sound, but all of the pro's in the trade off, were totally worth it.

i then swapped the stock 6z4 rectifier tube out for a NOS tung sol 6X4WA and moved the little jumpers for this change as well. Right off the bat a tremendous inprovement. It was the best that digital music has sounded yet in my room at that point but i knew the tube needed some burn n being brand new.  The biggest thing, the clarity and transparency that i felt i lost some of, was back, and back greatly. Back in a far smoother and more nature way. Grain, gone. Over abundance of Transparency sometimes comes at the cost of an over analytical touch that is very fatiguing. None of that here. Just naturalness. There WASthat drop of harsh bite in only some pieces of music at the right volume, when using the stock 6z4 tube..  That quality that you often hear with fresh valves that need some time to wear in.  Just a week later with the 6x4 in, and this DAC is sounding truly excellent. I could not be happier with the unit. Whether it is jazz or speed metal, it is doing it all oh so well, and with quite an analog nature might i add.

i highly recommend this DAC. I dont know if it can be beat or rivaled for less than 5x its price....
jkull
I tried one at home for a weekend, thanks to my local dealer.  Beautiful unit, though I feel at that price point a Chinese manufacturer should offer more than a 1-year warranty.   I'm glad you're enamored of it, though I personally would avoid the "can't  be beat or rivaled for less than 5x its price" hyperbole. 

Using an Audio Research front end, and switching back and forth between Proac and B&W Nautilus speakers (I had both, for different rooms), we couldn't tell the difference between the 502CA and a Peachtree Dac-itx.   This comparison was done using the solid state output, just to keep it apples-to-apples.  The tube output does sound dramatically different, of course, but the tube output runs at 3V (I think the SS output is 2 or 2.5) so there's a not-insignificant volume bump on that output.  To compare against the tube output you have to adjust amp volume to correct for the tube voltage jump, just to get the listening levels equal, and that makes comparing against the tube output more difficult and, to me, less accurate.

Once we realized that strictly on the SS side the $1800 unit wasn't doing anything the $350 Peachtree wasn't doing, it became difficult to justify and we brought it back at the end of the weekend, which was a bummer because it's an awesome-looking DAC and I was excited to buy it.

Again, I'm glad you're enjoying the heck out of yours, but from my experience you don't need to spend 5x the price of one (which would be about $10K at current prices) to rival it.   We ended up spending $350, though the Peachtree doesn't have tube output (not important with a tube front end) and surely doesn't look as pretty!
Bcgator-
thank you.  I am really loving the 502. I must mention, with the 5x statement, and i should have mentioned this initially, i meant this in regards to the price i payed which was just under $900 brand new. And like you said, the tube stage sounds significantly different, and to almost all reviewers, better. 
Bcgator- the tube stage is very much superior to the ss stage in the 502, as im sure you experienced.  The difference in the swapping of the 12AU7's and the 6z4 was tremendous.  A very audible impact.  I just do not believe this DAC can be rivaled at near its cost.  It outright embarrasses every quality of the oppo 105.  
" It outright embarrasses every quality of the oppo 105" 

jkull, Is it fair to pity Oppo 105 against a dedicated DAC? IMO, Oppo is a versatile media / disc player at its core with a decent DAC on board as a bonus.  What other dedicated DAC's have you compared with LM 502CA?

Good luck to you jkull...I'm glad your hyperbole festival is in full swing, and I appreciate the invite, but I'm skipping this one.  When you assert that the LM dac "embarrasses" the Oppo 105, I'm out.   You may as well be trying to convince me that children should eat Happy Meals 7 days a week - it's not going to happen.  
Bcgator. - Yes, Its in full swing just for you buddy.. I notice your thread, directly pertaining to acquiring feedback regarding the 502. Hmmmm.. The happy meals 7 times a day is not quite the right comparison here. Sure, the oppo is not a dedicated, stand alone dac, but there are many who use it, or own it for the DAC that it contains, and thus utilize it as the single DAC in their system. My opinion however, is that it completely betters the oppo. To my ears, it is significantly better, which did surprise me. Ive owned both side by side. I feel as if the oppo never sounded relaxed. If you have anymore intellectual comments to toss in, I welcome them whole heartedly.
lalitk- the only standalone DACs i have heard in my setup/room are the wyred4sound DAC 2 and a Cary Audio 100t. Sure, i may be exaggerating to say 5x the cost of the 502. I understand there are many great DACs in the 4-5k range. However at that point, if improvement is to be, i feel that diminishing returns may start to come into play to a greater extent. I am no expert and perhaps sure, it can be beaten by DACs at roughly ~ 3 times its $900 cost. This can be supported by my initially statement that i dont know if it can be rivaled as opposed to a definitive statement. I would love to hear more DAC’s myself to compare.
The LM 502ca is a discontinued model; according to Jeff Halpern, Tone Imports &US LM distributor, a new Line Magnetic DAC may be out late this year; no information available yet on the model or pricing