RAM-Modded Lite DAC-Ah Review

Category: Digital

Let me begin by saying that I like Doug Jesse's work. I have several RAM-modded components that I am very happy with. So I may not be the most objective reviewer, but here are my thoughts anyway:

I've been running a RAM-modded Lite DAC-Ah in my system (I have actually listened to it in a couple different systems) for almost two weeks now and I am mightily impressed. I had the stock unit for some time and the modded version is a significant improvement. Details, transparency and soundstage are all dramatically improved.

I listen to a lot of jazz, especially piano trios and female vocals. I notice a much better sense of the music...cympals are crisp, drum brushes are eerily "there." Listening to Blossom Dearie's "The Party's Over" from the Comden and Green songbook, I was immediately struck by the wider soundstage. The song opens with a wonderful instrumental trio of bass, drum and guitar (the late, great Barney Kessel, I believe). Guitar and drum off to the right, big, fat, rollicking bass on the left. I could literally hear the strings being struck on the bass. When Blossom comes in front and center, it sounded like she was in the room with me.

I have listened to a lot of the contenders in the $1,000-$1,500 range and this DAC stacks up against any of them and is better than most. For the money it is hard to beat. I highly recommend it.
Can you list your transport and other major pieces in your audio system?

Also can you name a couple of the other Dacs you have used?
The main reason I use a DAC is so I can keep a multi-player in my system. The transports I used with the DAC were a Rotel RCC 945 CD changer, Arcam Alpha MCD and RAM-modded Toshiba 6915 universal player. I evaluated the DAC mainly in two systems. One system consists of a Symphonic Line Kraftquelle integrated amp and Vienna Acoustics Beethoven speakers. The other consists of a RAM-modded PS Audio HCA-2 amp/PS Audio PCA-2 preamp and Odyssey Audio Nightingale speakers. I use PS Audio UPC200s with both systems. I also briefly listened to the DAC in a bedroom system that consists of an LFD Mistral integrated amp and Morel MLP 203 speakers.

In addition to what I have listened to, though admittedly not all in my home, I have owned: Benchmark DAC-1 (original and later version), Scott Nixon Tube DAC+ (with outboard power supply), EVS Millenium II, MSB Gold Link III (with outboard power supply), McCormack DAC-1 Deluxe, Audio-by-Van Alstine Transcendence R-DAC, various Audio Alchemy DACs, Channel Islands Audio (with outboard power supply), Bel Canto 2 and Bolder Mensa ART DI/O.
I have been taking a long look at this dac. The build quaility looks awsome. I too use a dac for the same reasons, it is always good to be able to switch music quickly, and the multidisk players alow you to do that. The only drawback is sound quality. I was wondering what you thought of the unit compared to the benchmark Dac1? I had a benchmark, and thought it was incredible. Regards,,Jon
Love to knkow how it compares with the Benchmak and in comparison with the modded Zhalou 1.3 DAC?

I owned the Benchmark (two of them actually) and found it to be a great DAC. I did find it to be little lean for my tastes, though. The modded DAC-Ah is, IMHO, more musical, for lack of a better word...more pleasing to my ears. The music has more soul.

In fairness, I did not own the two at the same time and I am relying on memory for the comparison. I did own the Benchmark at the same time I owned an EVS Millenium II (one of my favorite DACs) and I felt the same way comparing the Benchmark to the EVS; to my ears and in my system, the EVS was more musical and I sold the Benchmark. I would have liked to A/B the EVS and the modded Lite DAC-Ah. In memory, at least, I think the DAC-Ah would compare well and sound as good if not better. Considering that a new RAM-modded DAC-Ah costs $525 and a used EVS typically sells for around $800, I think the DAC-Ah is a bargain. I am currently using a CAL CL-10 as a transport with the DAC-Ah and the combo sounds just great.
Mezzrow - As one of the few people who have heard both a Bel Canto 2 and a RAM moded DAC-Ah, would be very interested in your thoughts on how these units compare (if you can remember). Looks like they both can be had these days for about $600.