NOS DAC Warmth


Hi 

It is my understanding that in general NOS DAC's have a warmer smoother SQ then over sampling  DAC's

My question is if I match up a NOS DAC with a warm and smooth tube integrated amp would the SQ be too warm and obscure the nuance (details) of the recording ?

OR

Would the 2 combine and present the recording in a warm lush way with the microdynamics largely in place ?

Thanks
Bob


bokat57
I don't know if I'd call either devices generally warm, these are misconceptions IMO as neutral devices are just neutral...it's more a comparison between things that sound harsh versus non fatiguing, and bad recordings will never sound good right, unless gear is just overly smooth and takes away the harsh edges, in which case the gear is non neutral.

That said, I have a Metrum Onyx, paired to a very recently purchased tube integrated, Lyric Ti 140 mk2.  There's no loss of micro detail compared to my SS seperates (Ayre K5xeMP + McIntosh MC 252), it's in fact more resolving,  soundstage however is wider, bass more pronounced...it's a bit more lush, so there's that bit more weight to the music, and it's taste dependent. Intially it felt like a loss of detail but as I hear more and more tracks that I'm familiar with, the details are there and then some...just there's a bit more heft to everything. Good, bad? You decide.
An NOS Dac can present as much detail as any other type of Dac, it’s all based on the implementation and design. IME, NOS may sound more organic and less fatiguing than a Delta Sigma dac.
I actually think a design which implements a FPGA may have the smoothest sonics, but can also present a great amount of detail.

The analogue output stage is what determines the tonal colour or neutrality of the overall sound.

My NOS Dac playing thru an all tube system has a sense of realism and warmth with excellent microdynamics.

@bokat57, "NOS DAC’s have a warmer smoother SQ then over sampling DAC’s"

I have and like both, and my experience has been pretty much the opposite
I don't think these generalities apply at all, but if you want a very warm DAC, check out the ARC DAC 8 or 9.

Besides cost, I can't imagine a good reason to buy a DAC more than 5 years old right now. I _really_ love the DACs that have come out in the last few years at many price points, and I think they all really spank the previous generations, especially with Redbook.

I think it is dependent on what generation of NOS you are talking about. The older chips do tend to lose some detail, no matter what the rest of the system is like. I used to sell a NOS DAC based on an older chip.

Modern custom designs are much faster and retrieve all of the details.

Jitter will be a factor too, so the interface used and the quality of the master clock will affect this. Jitter will obscure detail if it is too high. Customers of mine that get lower jitter sources often say that it is "smoother". Not the way I would describe it, but sometimes eliminating the edginess or "fill" of jitter can be interpreted as smoothness.

Another thing to consider is that even an oversampling DAC can sound smooth if the digital filter effects are minimized.  DACs with selectable filter cutoffs enable this.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Hi Thanks for your submissions !

But I guess what I am asking is : can an amplifier alter the sound characteristics of a source component ( in this case a DAC ) to some small or large degree.

 Example  It is my belief that my warm sounding tube amp improves the sound of my DAC by injecting some warmth to the overall presentation.

I was wondering if the above statement has any validity to it :
Would a warm amp and warm DAC cause the overall presentation
to be too warm ?

Thanks
Bob

Adding distortion, such as poorly designed tube devices, can add warmth. This is a Band-Aid at best, masking distortion by adding more distortion of a different type. Kind of like using cables as tone controls.

It is better to rid the system of distortion that causes harshness, such as jitter from digital devices and poorly designed preamps that add distortion and compression for example.

Not all tubes add warmth BTW.  Well-designed tube circuits are every bit as fast and clear as SS devices.  This is mostly a function of the power subsystem and the tube selection.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

"Adding distortion, such as poorly designed tube devices, can add warmth. This is a Band-Aid at best, masking distortion by adding more distortion of a different type. Kind of like using cables as tone controls."

No It is not a poorly designed tube amp. It is an excellent tube amp !
All components have a sound signature. Some are warm & lush some are analytical & lean and some are somewhere in between that does not mean that they are poorly designed. It is about what type of sound the end user prefers.

"It is better to rid the system of distortion that causes harshness, such as jitter from digital devices and poorly designed preamps that add distortion and compression for example."

???

"Not all tubes add warmth BTW. Well-designed tube circuits are every bit as fast and clear as SS devices. This is mostly a function of the power subsystem and the tube selection."


Some years back I bought into the idea that a stereo system had to be completely transparent and accurate. So I bought an expensive (for me anyway) system. It was a tube amp and SS pre It was so quiet that with no playback and you turned up the volume all the way you heard nothing.

This stereo was so clear and transparent that when I played my cd’s it would reveal every flaw the recording contained. With an excellent flawless recording the sound it presented was breathtaking no doubt about it. However in my cd collection there were many cd’s that were not recorded to that high standard.

To make a long story I have changed my thinking on the matter and have decided I prefer a less accurate less resolving presentation. I have found that now all my recordings are easy to listen to. The stereo I have now at a third of the cost to my ears in my room sounds far more musical and is definitely more enjoyable.

Thanks

Bob









One thing I forgot to mention, but as a number of products offer both oversampling and non-oversampling, with them comparing the two becomes as easy as changing the channel on your television 

Each to his own.  I prefer to have my cake and eat it too:

https://www.audiostream.com/content/empirical-audio-overdrive-sx-ethernet-dacpre

This sounds like the midrange of tubes, but it's SS.

Steve, $13K and only 6 lbs.? That’s more than $2K per pound....!!!
Just joking as I’m sure it’s worth every ounce....I wish I could afford to have my cake and eat it too.
this stereo was so clear and transparent that when I played my cd’s it would reveal every flaw the recording contained. With an excellent flawless recording the sound it presented was breathtaking no doubt about it. However in my cd collection there were many cd’s that were not recorded to that high standard.

I think I understand what you are saying. Not all tube systems are warm and fuzzy, they can be very resolving, analytical and without any tube bloom.
Regarding digital playback, a CDP or a DAC can also be very resolving, without warmth. But first jitter in the digital devices needs to be reduced. Once that is accomplished, the true sonic signature of the device is revealed; it can be neutral, analytical, warm, or organic. It depends on the design.
Adding tubes into the mix may only colour the sound (distortions). It’s the even order distortion that can make a tube system sound so appealing.
So you really need to choose a DAC that presents the sonics you desire, it can be NOS or other designs.

And some CD's will never sound good, I have many of them. A high quality CD can sound great thru NOS or Delta Sigma. I'm very pleased with my NOS Dac thru a tube system, it's very revealing and not too warm.


Thank You to all who contributed to this thread and took the time and effort to offer their thoughts on the topic.

Thanks
Bob


Yes, preamps can add a lot of sweetness. I like older Conrad Johnson for that reason. :)

Best,

E
Wouldn't this discussion be R2R (or discrete ladder) DACs vs. Delta / Sigma DACs?

Aren't all NOS DACs R2R DACs?
Yes, all NOS DACs are R2R ("multibit") designs. They are multibits that are non-oversampling.

There are also a great many multibit DACs that are non NOS.

I own one of each: Audio GD NOS 19, the non-oversampling variant of this standalone multibit DAC; and their DAC-19, the oversampling variant. My preference is the NOS 19, but they're both excellent, fully featured DACs.

Multibit DACs have truly changed how I hear digital. Yes, they sound more relaxed, organic, and "musical." But whether they are "warm" or not is one of those "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" distinctions. What I've found is that when one's digital signal is NOT bright, edgy, overly emphasizing transients, and conveying bass in a weirdly exciting yet ablative way (hard-hitting, deep, but not timbrally rich or faithful to the source instruments)--the music often does sound "warmer," but that's mostly because it's no longer hyped in the manner of many delta-sigma DACs.

Some DACs, just like some solid state preamps & amps, are voiced to be "warm." But even then, their interaction with speaker loads is not exactly predictable. For example, a warm SS preamp + a warm pair of speakers may synergize in unexpected ways, with the result being more apparent resolution (yet not tiresome or peaky sound). In general, "warmth" in SS devices is less predictable than it is in tube preamps or amps (I've owned both and know that delicious warmth well).

Net/net: to my ears, a NOS multibit DAC sounds more relaxed in every way...yet not at all suppressed or undynamic. Sans that delta-sigma spotlighting of transients & treble, it's easier to hear the actual instrumental tone/timbre and layering of instruments...

Ultimately, that apparent "detail" from delta-sigma DACs is just another unwanted sonic filter that tends to obscure the music.