Allow me to answer my own question. A tube in the DAC went out last night. It was apparently the cause of the popping and crackling. In fact, that is all it does now...
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The DAC was bought second hand and appears to have the original tubes. It was already in the plan to replace the DAC's tubes soon, not to mention it's a cheap undertaking even with good NOS' (they're 12AX7s). There's a local audiophile shop that specializes in tubes that has a selection on hand, so I should be back online today. In any event you are right about tubes and their sound.
We have an SAE X100 Class A Solid State Amplifier which have been "Butchered" by an inept repairman. We would like to restore this amplifier for use as a reference unit. Does anybody have a manual available for this make and model to help in the resoration. Please contact [email protected]