My First USB DAC Sounds Dull, Please Help

Greatings from Tanzania,

I finally jumped into the PC audio arena with the purchase of a Mhdt Paradisea+. However the PC/DAC combo came out very disappointing! The sound was dull and contrived. Even my wife gave it a thumb down.

This is my first try on a system with a tube stage, but don't think it should sound so lucking of high frequency signals. I switched between foobar and Windows MP11, tried a different laptop, and even connected the DAC direct to the Amp (by-passed the preamp), but to no avail.

The rest of my system is comprised of Martin Logan SL3, Bag-End Aragon 8008 BB, Aragon Aurum preamp, and Kimber cables.

I am I doing something wrong. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

I remain a believer of PC audio.
DAC's vary a lot in their sound and quality. Dont believe everything you read on the forums.

One thing that is probably a big limiter here is the USB interface, which I believe is based on one of the TI PCM270X chips. These have given USB audio a bad name, but it's just the chip at fault. This is wrong chip to use for high-end audio.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I own this dac and it is not dull in the high frequencies I can guarantee that. Something else is wrong. Maybe the tube is bad?
I agree with Ejlif - this is a nice sounding DAC. Not the uptmost in high frequency extension, but not by any means dull and uninivolving.

Is there a transport you could use to plug into the DAC and test whether it is the USB part of the circuit or the DAC itself?
Have you checked to see what their return policy is if you can't resolve this? I am sure they would want your complete satisfaction.
I am a dealer and carry the Benchmark. Assuming you have a good DAC, for a PC you must also use a piece of software called an ASIO driver. This is the only way to bypass the operating system of the PC. You are now listening to the internal DAC of the PC and getting BAD sound because of that.
Hello Tanzania - I lived in Africa many years! I see you have an SS audio chain,
Try a Benchmark DAC1 - it is dynamic for sure. You might be brainwashed by
that dynamic SS sound. I know I am ! Benchmark is for those who crave power
dynamics and detail (even if it is felt to be overly detailed non-musical or non-
organic or whatever by many). Power! Power! Dynamics it does have. He gives a
cruel chuckle.

Obviously I am being a bit jovial - as there are plenty of awesome DAC's out
there but I can assure you that the DAC1 is more dynamic than most (just not
everyone's cup of tea)
I also have this DAC (non-USB version) and it is one of the better DAC's for the money. May sound better after some break-in time. Others have reported improved performance when connected to a "USB converter" such as the Trends UD-10, rather than directly via USB. Also, different tubes will affect the sound...detail, smoothness, etc.

Steve, this DAC uses one of the CM-1xx chips, which I believe are worse than the popular TI PCM270X chips. Don't recall which one maybe 108? The orginal Paradisea USB used the CM-102.
I almost purchased the DAC in question (paradisea+) and did very much research on it. I have read several threads on different sites and there are many happy campers using this DAC. In fact i haven't read anything negative anywhere about it. This being said i believe you have problems elsewhere and if not then you have a faulty DAC. I would look into what Mglik has suggested here. I know it took me awhile to get the PC sound i was looking for and the correct drivers installed. Also had to learn how to bypass the "Kmixer" etc. This information can be found in these forums. good luck

By the way, i am using JRiver MJ12(free) and it is fantastic. I found this to be far superior sounding then the WMP9 i was using prior. Lots of positive feedback on that program as well.
Before jumping to conclusions on the DAC or cables etc… I highly suggest backing up a few steps, first off get a hold of (unless you have already in the house) a basic DVD player or CD player with a digital out, coax or toslink, If the DAC has one of these inputs test it out, or is it USB only? If so this will not be testable as most disc transports probably don't have a usb out, but anyway simply run the old fashioned way with an optical Disc transport playing a few of your CD's and see if its just an inherited problem of a "Rolled off:" Dac sound or simply the files on the pc your playing…

If its better than its obvious and very possible an optical disc transport is still superior in your case for the time being.. Other than that if it is a Tube DAC I can tell you most newer especially cheap taiwan type components today come with really flat and steril sounding Tubes, you may want to just make a small investment in a better tube for the unit as an experiment before spending more on another dac and hoping it solves the issue… Good luck
Good idea Undertow
Thanks guys for all your inputs.

All my files are in wav format, and I believe I did by-pass the Kmix (I selected the "bypassing Windows kernel mixer" option on the output preferences page). But, I could be wrong. Also, the sound quality was equally terrible with both Windows Player and Foobar.

I would suspect, as you guys have pointed out, that it could be the USB interface on the Laptop. I am going to test the DAC as per Ejlif's suggestion. Unfortunately, I am away on a business trip until December.

But, I will keep you posted.


You should read this Apparently soundcards on PC's and DSP's in DVD players are not "bit-transparent" or you need to be savvy about settings to make sure that no "processing" or bit truncation etc is going on.
Shadorne, thanks for the link. I think I did follow the same precautions described on that wiki, but I will double check my setup.

If this doesn't work, I have to options: Getting a non-tubed\solid state DAC, or an internal soundcard. I am still not sold on the idea that EM-noise can mask a good soundcard like a Lynx.
I am still not sold on the idea that EM-noise can mask a good soundcard like a Lynx.

I think your skepticism is healthy - however the variables with the variety of PC's (with cheap power supplies) + soundcard combinations are large. Does your PC give good clean power to the card - is the PC power supply noisy or is it well shielded - that would be my worry with a good card.
True. Also, the power supply can be shielded, upgraded, or even completely taken out of the PC...
Good News!
I finally bought a PC to replace the dell laptop player and the sound was night and day! This DAC is worth every penny...
get yourself a Lynx two card and be done with it.

I have a server PC system with 4TB of HD space, with 2600 CDs without any compression and 200 high res 24/192 tracks; smokes any cd player.
Unless it is asynchronous USB, the USB interface is not very good. S/PDIF is better.
Hi Blackstonejd.
Unless it is asynchronous USB, the USB interface is not very good. S/PDIF is better.

Better to qualify that in the context of your system and listening biases. Most of the time blanket statements like this only cause false perceptions and confusion across the enthusiast community rather than something that's truly helpful.

Not all synchronous interfaces are poorly executed and there are certainly some very good ones available that are head and shoulders above S/PDIF.


Blackstonejd wrote:
"Unless it is asynchronous USB, the USB interface is not very good. S/PDIF is better."

What converters have you compared?

Have you read this:

Or this: