Orchid vs TUBADOUR III - Help me choose


Links to the products https://6moons.com/audioreview_articles/mhdtlab/ and https://www.audiomirror.com/product-page/tubadour-iii-non-oversampling-tube-dac.

The Orchid is 1100$ and the TUBADOUR III (T3) 1500$.
The are both R-2R tube DAC with tube buffered output. The inside of the Orchid looks very organised and clean. the T3 is a little messy. Which one should I choose?

I am in Denmark so there is no way to try before buy.
martin-andersen
I'm in the same boat as you lol! There's so many choices! I was leaning towards the Metrum Adagio which is more money, but they have other less expensive dacs as well. My problem is I've seen the Bricasti M3 and I can't get it out of my brain lol!
If you go for the Tubadour get ALL the upgrades. Will run you about $2200. My friend LOVES his and he has about $100,000 worth of equipment so money isnt an issue.
I don't know anything about the Tubadour, but I have the Orchid and have the following to compare it to - Wyred 4 Sound DAC 1, Auralic Vega, Mytek Liberty, the DAC in my Sony TA-ZH1ES headphone amp, and the DAC in the Oppo HA-1 headphone amp (which I no longer own). 

The Vega and the Sony are a little better, but not by much.  I would describe them as being just a tad "smoother".

I use the Orchid in my computer system, which is where I listen to digital music more than anywhere else.  The Orchid is a fantastic DAC.  I don't have the audiophile vocabulary to describe it, but it is very detailed, "musical", dynamic, and easy to listen to.  I'm listening to Shine on You Crazy Diamond from Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd on my Audeze LCD-4 headphones through it as I type this and it sounds wonderful.  It lets you "see into" the music, individual instruments are well defined, and it really "boogies".
+1 on the Tubadour with upgrades. I got one about a month ago and love it.

No experience with the Orchid, but my Tubadour isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
That’s saying something @waltersalas since you’ve had some top notch DACs Chris!  Glad you are liking yours! 

I agree with Chris; at a minimum get it with upgraded caps, and roll better tubes into It to get the best out of the Tubadour III. You won’t be disappointed! 
Hey martin-anderson,

I'm the one who wrote the review on the Orchid for Six Moons.  Since I wrote the review I have had another two DACS in-house to compare it to and it's still my favorite for the reasons stated in the review.

Waltersalas, has great taste and ears, so I'm sure the upgraded Tubadour III is a wonderful DAC.  However, its twice the price and I don't know if its a better performer.  Remember, if you purchase the Orchid from Linear Tube Audio you get a 30 day in-house trial and can return it if its not what you are looking for.
Where on the AudioMirror site does it speak to what the upgrades are and how to order them?
Hi @teajay your are just the person I wanted an opinion from (:
I took a big chance for importing the Tekton DI to Denmark and paid 1/3 extra to get them here. It was the right decision. Tired of mainstream speakers with 6" woofers and a tweeter.

I have listen to the Chord Qutest and the PS Audio DirectStream. The Qutest is a good DAC but I love the PS DirectStream, but its too expensive. It's funny there are both FPGA DAC, do I sense a trend here? 

I want to hear more music, not details. I think most modern DAC's are like the soap opera effect on tv's. You get a 3D like picture but it looks very unreal.

I am rambling need to take a decision (:
Well martin-andersen, you tried the FPGA approach, and if you liked the far more expensive PS DirectStream then my conclusion would be the Orchid would be a delight for your musical tastes.  I'm not saying it's the "greatest" DAC in the world.  But, for my tastes, that I state in the Six Moons review, the Orchid it delivers what I'm listening for in my system.  It competes with much more expensive pieces.
I was in the same position and went for the Audio Mirror. The deciding factor was I couldn’t find anyone rave about the Orchid and the Audio Mirror is designed around the same chip Audio Note has been stuck on for years. There is a review on the Pink Fish on the Orchid the person loved it at first, got obsessed about changing the chip then later sold it off. Look into Audio Note reviews you will get an idea how the chip frames the music. I have the standard model and will look at upgrading once solid comparitive reviews come in. Standard sounds great just enjoying it for now. Curious what tubes worked better over stock? The SR blue fuse works well. Can someone comment on tube options.
I have had my Tubadour III for a few weeks now, fully upgraded. With 100 hours of play time on it I can say that I love this DAC, it has bested a Yggdrasil Analog 2 for me which previously was the best DAC I had heard. The Tubadour sounds more human, alive but causes me less listening fatigue. The Yggy is no slouch either and better in the bass department by a few % but that's the only area I think it really wins.
Going to ask again what upgrades are available and where on the site are they listed?
@facten 

To the best of my recollection, the upgrade options are not on the website. Here is the info I received from Vlad via email:

1. Duelund caps 
2. Z-foil resistors 
3. Balanced outputs 
4. I2S input 

I did not include associated costs for each upgrade in the event that they may have been adjusted since I purchased mine. Emailing Vlad directly is the best bet, though it would surely be helpful if the information were available on the website.

The cap upgrade is the most expensive, but by far the most significant, according to Vlad. Even with all of the upgrades the Tubadour is still less than half of what I paid for my last DAC. 

@teajay 

Thanks for the kind words. I'd sure love to hear a head-to-head comparison of the Tubadour and the Orchid, which I have no doubt whatsoever is every bit as special as your review suggests. One thing that occurs to me is that we are very fortunate to have such quality choices at these price points.

@1markr 

I've really enjoyed comparing notes, my friend. I'm so glad you're getting your Tubadour dialed in to your liking.
I don’t have orchid but I have a big brother pagoda in balance mode and I find it very musical and natural to my ear , I can listen to my system for all days long without getting fatigue! Hope that help 
I just switched from a Prism Sound Callia DAC to the Orchid. However, the reason i switched was the ability to change out the stock chip (Philips TDA1451A R1) to the NOS Philips TDA 1541 S single crown. Before changing the chip to the S single crown the Orchid was on par with the Callia which at full retail is over twice as much but it upsamples, DSD and higher bit rates and typical bells and whistles except for MQA. The Callia also has a headphone amp with its own volume. Not a bad DAC at all but the Orchid sounded as well without changing the chip to Philips NOS... However, no upsampling with the Orchid and with the new chip i was easily pleased with my choice.. 
    
+1 for the Orchid. Just as described: detailed but musical and natural sounding, excellent stage width, depth, and localization. No weaknesses that I have found. 
@wal

Txs for the upgrade info
Hello to everyone of you guys. I feel like I need to clarify a few things about Tubadour III DAC compared to Orchid. I've been building audio for more than 30 yrs. I tried all the DAC chips possible. Out of that I picked TDA1541A S1 - Philips and AD1865N-K as the most musical and analog sounding ones. I liked best AD chip and second TDA chip. Of course this is my personal opinion and it's not necessary to agree with me. TDA is limited to 96khz, AD can do 192khz, if that matters to you. It is not a coincidence Audio Note uses AD chip. Orchid employs TDA chip, Tubadour - AD chip. Now the rest of the design is:

Orchid:
- one pice pc board
- one power supply
- op amps in IV conversion
- one tube, dual triode used as a buffer, not as gain stage
- Chinese coupling caps in the signal path
- USB - hard to tell from looking at the board

Tubadour:
- 4 pc boards, separate digital, separate analog and separate power supplies using MOSFET
- 2 separate power supplies for digital and analog sections
- tube IV 
- tube output gain stage
- Clarity caps CMR series, British made caps which are way better than Chinese caps. Base model Tubadour come with Clarity caps
- USB - Amanero upgraded with better clocks

Upgrades which improve the sound are Duelund caps and Z-foil resistors. Each Duelund cap is $238 before shipping
Z-foil resistors are around $13-22 a piece. 8 pieces total.

The whole design and architecture of Orchid are not meant for upgrades.
Tubadour is designed with all possible upgrades in mind.
Audio Mirror offer 2 weeks for audition and return.
These are my 2 cents.
This morning, Vlad, who is Audio Mirror's owner/designer sent me an Email if I would be interested in reviewing the Tubadour III DAC for Six Moons.com.  My response was this would be a great project to work on and explained the procedure to set this up.

I shared I would like to review the piece with all his upgrades to see what his ultimate attempt can sound like.  Furthermore, since I just reviewed the Orchid, which is a great DAC in its own right, I could help shed light on how the two DACS compare to each other in my review.

Hope, Vlad would want to pursue the review in the future.
It's a little too late, would have loved to read the review. But I just ordered the Orchid.

I figured that it was 400$ less and since I couldn't compare them I went for the cheapest one (:

But I will read the review if I dare.
Hey martin-anderson,

Rest easy tonight!  Congrats on purchasing the Orchid.  I just stopped a listening session of four hours with Orchid driving the system with beautiful tonality and air and space around each player without a hint of digital dryness or flatten of images that so many hi-rez DACS create when used in my system.

I'm sure the Audio Mirror is an excellent DAC in its own right, but that does not necessarily mean its better then the Orchid.  Enjoy, and let us know what you think when you finally get it.
Vlad go for it, Teajay is a very good reviewer, very fair, He will write exactly what he will hear , I heard the orchid in his system thru his ps tekton, Iam very impress...
I am very interested in seeing Teajay's Audio Mirror DAC review.  I am trying to choose among the Orchid, the Tubadour III, and the Border Patrol DAC's.  I have been using the MHDT Paradisea+ for many years and am looking for an upgrade with high musicality, and high boogie factor.
mlg, Do you mean you have a Musical Paradise MP-D2 DAC? If so why aren't you looking to get their Mark III updated version?
Hi klh007.  I have the MHDT Paradisea +.  MHDT is the company who makes the Orchid.  The Paradisea is an earlier MHDT model than the Orchid.  It was a nice DAC for it's day, tube buffer, NOS, and very musical.  Jeff Day, now at Positive Feedback Online, gave it a very good review many years ago and still uses it in one of his systems.  Thanks so much for the idea of the Musical Paradise.  It looks interesting and I will look into it.  
Hope to see comparison between Holo Spring 2 and AM Tubadour III.
I saw in different threads many audiophiles are asking but surprisingly nobody did it yet 
All I can say is wow. I got the Orchid today and have listen to music far too long (: should have been in bed hours ago.

My digital chain no consist of NUC with ROCK, Allo DigiOne Signature Player with RoPieee and the Orchid DAC.

And I am very happy with it. Also happy that you can trust reviews and get a sense of a product from reading and joining FB conversation.

I bought the PrimaLuna HP, Tekton Design DI and the Orchid all in "blind" trust and my system sounds amazing.

All is new also the cables so it can only get better (:

I am certain that the Tubadour is as good as the Orchid or maybe better but I ended up paying less than the Chord Qutestz and shipping was included.

Looking forward to the review of the Tubadour
@martin-andersen Any comparisons to the Chord and the Directstream (even if by memory)?
I am wanting a new dac so very interested in this thread. What's the consensus for people who have heard the mojo audio mystique v2 plus? Ben at mojo audio did a fabulous job modding my LTA MZ2S and his power supply is wonderful. 
@cal3713 From memory? It's going to be hard because I got a new streamer chain.

But I can say that the DirectStream was better but also 6x more expensive. I will still consider a DAC from PS when the new junior are released in 2020.

All I can say is that I like the sound of the Orchid even if its brand new.