PS Audio DL 3 or MF Tri Vista 21 DAC?

Your thoughts on which is better? I was debating getting a new cdp, but from the advice of other audiogon members, and thinking it over, I think it is a better idea to get a good DAC to use with my current cdp, and wait until I figure out exactly how I want to implement a hard drive based system.

So, from what I have read these are 2 very good DACs, but which is a better buy? What are the strenghts/weaknesses of each. The MFTV21 listed for $2400 and Im hoping to pick it up here on Audigon for around $1100. The PSADL3 lists for $999 and I could get it for around $750 here. What about the level 3 or level 4 Cullen circuits modded DL3 at around $1500 new?

Should they both retain their value pretty well?


In case it matters, I am using a MAC 6450 Integrated amp, and Gallo Ref. 3.1 speakers. Transparent Cables. The cdp is an Onkyo dvd player.
Oh yeah, one last question..
To connect the cdp to a DAC, the cable does not really matter right? I have heard the quality of a digital cable isnt important in the way it is with analog cables because with digital either the signal goes through or it doesnt. With analog the fidelity of the signal must be maintained. Is this true or will I have to buy a high quality optical or coaxial digital cable?
At the price level you're looking at I would reassess your choice of a seperate DAC. I've tried tons of digital cables, they can make a big difference, a good one is costly. Secondly, transports make a big difference, you will not be hearing the potential of either of those DACs using the Onkyo as a transport.
try the stereovox xv2 digital cable. Can be purchased new $200 and used $150. You won't get better performance for the money.
Interesting choices - couldn't be much more yin and yang.

I had a TriVista - it is a superb unit - was pretty much the queen of the ball and the toast of the town 3-4 years ago. The ones that were modded by Parts Connexion/Underwood were even better - that's what I had. (FWIW its worth I preferred it in NOS not the oversampling mode)

I have not heard the PS Audio unit.

At the time I ran the DAC directly from my Mac with a USB to SPDIF converter and then a SPDIF cable in. I went through a number of SPDIF cables till I found my winner, the original Stealth Varidig which at the time was $350 used.

I had gotten the cable here on the Gon. It replaced a Cardas. One of my first big steps up in price (the TriVista was the first) I plugged the Stealth in, noticed a minimum change, consoled myself with the idea that it was better and went about my business. Two days later, there was a definitive moment where everything suddenly snapped into a higher plane. I know its a complete cliche but the transformation in the sound was jaw dropping.

So yes the cable matters a great deal and can cost a great deal of money. To Jamesw20's point the Stereovox, which came along a bit later has a great rep - I never heard it.

So you know, while it is true that bits is bits, SPDIF is a flaky format that is very dependent on the details of implementation. In this regard all manufacturers are not created equal.

Later on I bought the Wireworld SuperNova 5+ Toslink cable and ran Toslink out of the Mac. The sound was very, very close. The Toslink offers the benefit of galvanic isolation (the DAC and the source are electrically decoupled by the use of fiber optics instead of wire.) I mention this because you can get a 5m Wireworld for considerably less then a 1m Stealth which may be of interest.

BTW the TriVista is one of the few DACs I have owned that is not highly sensitive to power cables - which reflects the fact that it is an incredibly well designed and built unit from one of the premier companies in the biz.

So on the surface, for a grand the TriVista is the slam dunk choice. It's built like a tank, there are lots of loyal MF customers and tons of great reviews so when time comes to resell, you wouldn't regret it.

BUT if your near term goal is to move to a hard drive transport system, the TriVista doesn't have USB and that would be (and was) the deal killer for me.

This is where the PS Audio comes to the fore. No doubt if or when I had the scratch I would have Cullen do the upgrade. (But enjoy it stock first so you can marvel later at what your upgrade dollars bought you.)

I have enormous respect for sixmoons and for Paul Candy. But it's only one opinion in one article. And there are an awful lot of people who don't agree. It is certainly not consistently shared even in sixmoons.

If you had a truly high quality transport it would be worth A/Bing the USB and SPDIF connection - the unit gives you the option. Of course if you don't already have such a unit it's a moot point - and acquiring a good enough one to be worthy of an experiment will set you back more then you are planning to pay for the DAC (never mind the cable cost).
Whatever DAC you chose, just be sure it reclocks the signal. If it does, it is my opinion the transport will not make such a difference as Sns alludes.

I haven't experiemented with coax cables to the level as others have, but the two I did I could hear no difference.

All I can say is looking into the used components here on AGON I have not seen MORE available used dacs than the PS DL3's over the last few months.. I don't know what it means, but obviously they either sold a ton of them, or people are moving on rather quickly.. But I have seen about 3 a week at least come up, then again they sell pretty fast too.

I am not slamming PS as I own one of their best pieces and love it to this day.. I have not heard this DAC however, just letting you know my thoughts, as today in digital you can in fact Find some hidden Gems which would sound for way less money as good as a DAC that cost 20,000 10 years ago!
Brian claims transports may not make much difference as long as the DAC reclocks the signal. I don't agree, all DACs reclock the signal, some do a better job than others, the two DACs your looking at don't reclock as thoroughly as Esoterics for one example. I would try to audition various transports to determine whether they make a difference for you. I've found transports and digital cables do make a large difference, others here find the same thing.
I have the PS Audio DAC 3 its main issue is slight harshness in the upper treble you can get around this but requires good cabling or modifying the unit, it has more user options than the Tri Vista eg Balanced and USB. I think PS Audio our about to bring out a new DAC.If I was in your shoes I shop around there are some excellent DACs around that might over better sound and the same flexiabilty of the PS Audio, others to think about are the Stello Cambridge Audio Benchmark and the new Beresford
Brian claims transports may not make much difference as long as the DAC reclocks the signal. I don't agree, all DACs reclock the signal, some do a better job than others...
We all have our opinions. While mine is based on a little experience, I also had a conversation with a known reveiwer that states as much also. It is my understanding that not all DAC's reclock, and yes, some are better.
I vote for the PS Audio. For the price this is a very good DAC. Many review have been done as well on the Digital Link lll. Absolute Sound did a review March 2007 as Positive Feedback did one in Jan2007. Check their web sites for the reviews. I also think 6 moons did a review on a modded one.
I feel this is one of the better DAC for the price. Again you could spend more and not gain much. And yes, a good cable makes a big difference IMHO.
I have not listened to the MFTV21.
Have two DL3s and enjoy them because of the lack of hard edge in the treble. They are are easily upgraded.
Using Analysis Plus and Kimber Illuminations digital cable with the edge going to the AP.
First heard the units at RMAF2007 and they sounded quite good in several systems.
Brian, perhaps we have a misunderstanding of clocks. When I speak of reclocking, I mean the quartz oscillators that all DACS have. Yes, there are other DACS that have jitter attenuators that go by other names, but essentially they all do the same thing, attenuate jitter.

And yes, perhaps Farjamed's Onkyo transport and some relatively cheap digital cable alongside either of these DACS my satisfy him, he will not be hearing the full potential of either of those DACs. My own, and plenty of other people have found transports and digital cables can make a huge difference. Go back through the archives and see tons of opinions on this. I've even seen reviews and opinions on the Esoteric DACs benefitting from better transports and digital cables.

Bottom line. Farjamed may be better off with the DAC setup or he may be better off with CDP, I would like to hear a Cambridge 840 (perhaps some other CDPs) vs. this DAC setup.

Finally, I suspect Farjamed may be better off with a DAC with USB input if he's not willing to invest in a higher grade transport and digital cables.

You eluded to the main reason I am choosing to go with the DAC vs a better cdp. Soon, as in within the next few months, I would like to implement a music server based off the Mac mini and apple lossless. As much as I like cd's, and the physicality of actually picking one out, putting it in the tray, and listening to an album as a whole, I also love the practicality of having it all at your fingertips.

So essentially, the way I see it, the fact the DAC will improve my onkyo dvd/cdp is a little bonus. If I did not intend to build a music server I would probably just go with a better dedicated cdp.

Thanks for all the input guys.
If music server is your future, then you should absolutely consider the Wavelength asynchronous USB DACs. They get around jitter (though not entirely) by having the DAC clock manage the audio stream instead of the computer - which is much less reliable.

Of all the computer based DACs I've listened to and owned, it is far and away the smoothest to my ears.