Eastern Electric MiniMax DAC.
16 responses Add your response
Have you listened to any of this stuff yet? I would suggest that you take your time and get to know your equipment first. This will allow you to make a much better choice. Also, you can get a DAC card for the B100. If you can get your dealer to let demo one, I would start there. I've actually heard B&W with Bryston and I thought they worked very well together.
Not sure what your budget is nor what you have experience with, as far as digital sources. I own a B60 and use a Rega DAC. A touch warm and smooth, but definitely not artificially so. The most musical digital source I've owned.
Have you heard the Bryston BDA-1? It's slightly on the warmer side (for Bryston anyway). Obvious synergy. If you've heard the BCD-1, then you've pretty much heard the BDA-1.
Great advice, all. I find it very hard to trial equipment as most of the dealers near me have only a couple sources to try out.
I suppose my budget should "match" the relative price of my equipment....meaning I would not want to buy a $4,000 DAC nor a $300 one. Since DAC's are relatively new new me, I was guessing around the $1k mark.
I saw Musical Fidelity's Triple Threat tube DAC for sale and I thought it might fit the bill of what I was looking for: nice clean tube sound. My only reservation was that they have been discontinued.
The upgrade path of the internal DAC board was an obvious option at around $1k. I would also avoid having to buy interconnects. The one reservation I had with that option was that it seems the technology for DAC's is changing so rapidly that I would be better served by a more modern DAC release. Maybe you guys can help me out here.
I understand what you are trying to do. That said, you might mess up the way you are going about it here. First is with the pricing. Quite often, price plays absolutely no part with regards to sound quality. You might love something that cost a small fraction of what you were willing to pay or buy something really expensive that you will end up hating. You can look no further than my own system. I have somewhere around $25-30k in electronics for a pair of $2000 speakers. I made my choice based on results, not price.
Second, I feel its a big mistake to buy components to compensate for others. (Understand, though, very few people on this website would agree with me on this). If you bought an amp and speakers that come up short for you in some areas, I would recommend that you deal with that first before you move forward with other purchases. Let's say you decide keep the components, instead, and get some tube components and cables to balance the system out. It sounds like a very reasonable thing to do, but, in practice, is very difficult. Doing that is like buying an EQ with 1 setting. The worst part is that yo have no idea what that setting is until you buy the item, hook it up, and then cross your fingers when you listen and hope you guessed right. That's not all, either. Lets now say you get lucky and guess right and the system sounds pretty good (not at all likely, but maybe). Change 1 piece, and its likely that the whole system will fall apart because instead of buying neutral, you bought to compensate.
So, I still stand with my original recommendation. Listen to your amp and speakers and just take some time to see what you like or dislike about them before you jump into something new. If you don't have a DAC and you need to get something, I feel your safest bet is the card for you B100. If you end up selling it for some reason, it will go very quickly on Audiogon and for a good price.
Wow, it is difficult for you to choose without listening. As we all know, you try something and it is right (and you got lucky) or it is wrong and you try something else. I have experience with the PS Audio DLIII and loved the warmth and "musicality" of it. I now have a Eastern Electric Tubed DAC and love it. They say the newer version is better. I suggest you buy used and try it in your system first. It's a pain, but it's the only way you'll know if it fits with your equipment. We've all done it. Everyone is looking for the next greatest thing, and the thing they don't like may be the perfect thing for you. Goodluck.
In regards to the internal DAC card...
Im not too sold on the whole DAC technology is changing bit. Yeah, USB inputs have, but other than that there's not much the current DACs are doing that the internal card won't do. Maybe super high-Rex like 348 kHz or whatever the ridiculous number is lately. The reason I call it ridiculous is because what music is available in that resolution?
I almost bought the internal card for my B60, but stopped because I'd have had to get rid of my internal phono stage, and I'd only get a single coax input (I need at least one optical). The B100 has none of these issues.
A few downsides, if you will -unlike the BDA-1, the upsampling is not defeatable, and there's one DAC chip vs 2.
I'm not pushing the internal card on you. Sorry if I sound that way. It just irritates me when people advise others to stay away from a 2 or 3 year old design simply because they think the technology has changed so much. I have a 15 year old DAC that ran circles around today's entry level 'giant killers.' In a DAC, just like every other component, there's no substitute for a solid power supply and output stages.
Again, at $1k I love my Rega DAC and haven't heard anything better for the money. That's a preference thing though.
I probably should have chosen my words more carefully when explaining my thought process when I put my amp and speakers together. I did not buy a bright system and now I am hoping to balance them out with a warmer sounding DAC. But if I get a bright sounding DAC, then the equipment I have, with the metal dome tweater and revealing amp will scream how bright the DAC is.
Also, in regards to my price range, Any real faults will be revealeed with my system. I know the price of a component is not the whole story.....but you will be hard pressed to convince me that price is not a good indicator of the quality of the equipment. Sure there are exceptions, and that's what makes them great buys.....but those are exceptions.
I am looking for recommendations on DAC's that would fit the description I am looking for and information about how DAC's have changed or improved the last few years. Should I generally stay with DAC's that are newer?
I appreciate the feedback
You'll get no argument from me about being careful when dealing with an aluminium tweeter on a B&W speaker. You can even say that B&W tweeters made me the audiophile I am today. Just to note, you were very clear in your original post; your concern is very legitimate.
You are also right about something else. (And this is what really makes audio fun.) You state this:
"I know the price of a component is not the whole story.....but you will be hard pressed to convince me that price is not a good indicator of the quality of the equipment. Sure there are exceptions, and that's what makes them great buys.....but those are exceptions."
I disagree with that statement, but you are right. I would have a very hard time convincing you otherwise. Unfortunately, this is one of those things you will have to figure out yourself as you gain experience. One last comment: Just because you may pick a less expensive product does not, necessarily make it a good deal, or an exception. For example, if you get something for $3000 as opposed to $10000, the one for 3 is not, necessarily a good deal. Compared to similar products for $3000 it may be overpriced. That said, it just might be the right thing for you, that works in your system.
I just thought of 1 last thing that may help you out. You may, very well, make all good choices, set your system up, and still have an issue with your B&W tweeter. I just happened to come across a speaker cable made by Synergistic, called the Signature 10. Its a biwire cable that uses a different metal for the tweeter. Whatever it is, it works and is not that expensive. I really dislike making cable recommendations as a means to fix a problem and not just for signal transfer. Given the cost and how well it targets the problem, it makes more sense than buying new components. Also, I know it is no longer in production. You would either have to find one used or call Synergistic to ask what they currently make to replace it. Anyway, I hope this info helps you out.
I know exactly what you mean by your system being revealing. My B60 and Audio Physic Yara Evolution Bookshelves are ruthless of everything upstream. Even though they don't have metal tweeters, they still shine a light on any flaw, well, as much as anything can at this level of gear anyway.
Newer DACs only really have a couple advantages IMO...
1) Jitter reduction/reclocking
2) USB input and/or asynch USB
3) High-res capability
Those can equal better sound, but if your catalog is pretty much all redbook and you're not using a computer as a transport, they can be insignificant things IMO.
As I said in a previous post, there's no substitute for a good power supply and output stages. The entry level DACs pretty much all use wall-warts and op-amps. Both are pretty compromised IMO. Yeah, you can get a better power supply like the Pangea unit and/or roll op-amps, but why? Put that money towards a better DAC IMO.
When Bryston developed the BDA-1, James Tanner (VP of Bryston) said they were very surprised how little the DAC chip made. They said it made a difference, but no where near the difference that different power supplies, input stages and output stages made. That was in response to people asking why they used a Crystal chip rather than the flavor of the month ESS Sabre chip or others.
I own a 15+ year old Theta Cobalt DAC. It was their entry level DAC at the time, costing about $700 or so if I'm correct. I auditioned the MF V-DAC and DAC Magic in my system. They didn't hold a candle to the Theta. If DAC technology has come so far in the last 15 years, how come those DACs paled in comparison? The Theta has superior parts all around. It took $1k-ish DACs to get me to open up my wallet without reservation. I also heard the Benchmark and W4S DACs in my system, and the Rega DAC was an easy choice for me. The only sub $1k DAC that had a realistic chance was the Arcam rDAC. The Rega DAC was far better side by side, so no regrets.
Two DACs that get a lot of favorable press around here in the $1k range are the EE Minimax (whatever the current one is) and the Havana DAC. I heard the previous EE DAC, and it was very good. Not exactly my cup of tea, but very good nonetheless. Haven't heard the Havana DAC. From what I've read, I'm lead to believe the Havana and Rega are very similar.
If you want me to get more specific as to why I chose what I did or didn't choose the others, I'll elaborate.
My music library primarily comes from iTunes these days. Once I get a DAC worked out, and I am leaning towards the internal Bryston DAC since it eliminates a separate chassis and interconnects, I will work on how to get my music from iTunes to the DAC. Someone mentioned getting an older Apple TV box which keeps the library stored internally. Does anyone have any suggestions? My vision is to be able to access the library from an App on the iPhone or iPad and control it that way.
Hey, dumb question, does anyone know how the internal DAC is installed into the amp? Can do it myself?
I have the ATV Gen 1. Think of it as a 160 gb iPod with optical output. It also does YouTube and Internet radio. After owning it and using it for the last 2 years, I'll never go back to CDs again. The reason I went with it over a squeezebox (whichever one it was at the time) is that it has internal memory, thereby eliminating the need for a computer to be running. A NAS works the same way, but it's an extra piece and I'm horrible with setting up network stuff.
The ATV is limited to optical digital output (and analog RCA and HDMI). Some people see that as a downfall, but I don't. It doesn't do high-res, and you may run out of room due to the 160 gb not being a whole hell of a lot. My entire collection in Apple Lossless fits with a little room to spare. I'm guessing I have about 400 or so CDs synched to it. I have more CDs actually, but I didn't synch stuff that I never listen to.
I control mine with my iPhone 3GS. Works great. I actually like that better than the on screen display and my Harmony remote, as it's easier to find stuff.
Not sure how many ATV 1s are floating around nowadays.
I think Bryston may have to install the DAC card. Call them and ask, or even post over at the Bryston Circle at Audio Circle. James Tanner (Bryston VP) moderates the board and is a great guy to deal with.
The DAC I own, I consider to be a bit on the warm site the PS Audio Digital Link III. I think the sound and playback is incredible. I have coupled this with a SONOS setup playing out of my Ayre Integrate Amp (AX-7e). I have a NAS device with my computers that I host my iTunes (Apple Lossless) on, that presents the library to SONOS (control with great App on iPad, iPhone, etc.) I then have a digital coax from SONOS to the PS Audio DL III, from there I have XLR balanced connection to my Ayre. The sound is great and rivals my Ayre C-5xe (but that is my post in this forum). I would describe the sound as warmish, but just as detailed as the CD, and more powerful.