Reference DACS: An overall perspective

There has been many threads the last few months regarding the sonic signature of some of the highest regarded reference DACS (Dcs,Meitner,Ensemble,Audio Note,Zanden,Reimyo,Accustic Arts) here on the GON. I have been very fortunate to audtion many of these wonderful pieces in my home or friend's systems. I wanted to share, in a systematic way, my impressions/opinions with you GON members for a two reasons: 1)That my experiences might be helpful to fellow members interested in audtioning these DACS. 2)Starting an interesting discussion regarding the different "sonic flavors" of these reference digital front ends. I totally agree with the statement, "if you have not heard it you don't have an opinion". Therefore, I have no comments regarding DACS from Weiss,Goldmund,Audio Aero and Burmester because I have never had the pleasure of audtioning them. I would love to hear from members who have and share their experiences with us. My overall impression is that these DACS(Dcs,Meitner,Ensemble,Audio Note,Zanden,Reimyo,Accustic Arts) can be grouped into two molar categories regarding their overall sonic signature. By the way, all of them can throw a large/deep soundstage with excellent layering in the acoustic space with "air" around individual players on that stage. However, than they start to part company into two major categories. Category #1) These DACS "flavors" revolve around pristine clarity, fine sharp details,speed,very extended top/bottom frequencies,and great PRAT. These DACS never sound "etched" or "in your face" but are more "upfront" then "layed back" in their presentation. The DACS, to my ear's, that go into this bracket are Dcs,Ensemble,Meitner. My personnal favorite in this group is the Ensemble, which I owned for two years. These DACS remind me of the sonic signature of speakers such as Wilson,Thiel,Dynaudio, Focal/JM Labs. Category #2) These DACS "flavors" revolve around a "musical/organic" sense, natural timbres,and an easy flowing liquidity. Their "less forward" presentation my give the impression of less detail, but I think in this case its an illusion fostered by their more relaxed/organic manner. The DACS, to my ear's, that go into this bracket are Audio Note,Zanden,Reimyo,Accustic Arts. I did find that the tube DACS did not have the top/bottom frequency extenstion and PRAT of the SS DACS in this bracket. For me, the Accustic Arts DAC1-MK3 gave me the best of both categories, therefore it is now the resident DAC in my system. These DACS remind me of the sonic signature of speakers such as Magnepan,Von Schweikert,Sonus Faber. Well, it's all just my opinion regarding these digital pieces, but I hope this post was at least informative/somewhat interesting and would lend itself to other GON members sharing their impressions, not about what DAC is the "BEST" in the world, but your personnal taste and synergy with your system.
Sorry, to anyone reading this thread, I forgot to mention that all statements regarding the sonic signature of these DACS is based only on redbook cds. Its the only format I listen to or care about. Thanks.
For me, it's the MBL 1611E that does the magic. It transcends all those audiophile checklist items (speed, soundstaging, PRAT, etc) and just presents the music in front of me. I said this before, here I say it again: it presents the music as a physical event taking place in my loft/listening room. Definitely far ahead than other digital front-ends I used to own (Audiomeca MII.X, SimAudio Moon Eclipse LE, Krell KPS28C, Cary 306/200, Accuphase DP55). And I use cheap DVD player as transport!
Hi Teajay, none of the so called reference DACs is bad actually: that's why they are called reference. Even oldskool reference DACs, like the older Accuphase, Stax or Wadia DACs are still competitive with current DACs. My opinion is: the most musical DAC is not a "reference" DAC, but a heavily modified non-oversampling DAC (47-Labs Shigaraki DAC), together with a top notch CD-transport.

Thanks for this. I especially appreciate your effort to group the DACs and to compare the group sound to speakers most of us are familiar with. I wish more reviewers would provide this kind of insight into the overall character of a component.
teajay's catagories are pretty much true with all cd players and newly mastered redbook cd's themselves. in fact, in the broadest terms all hi end audio falls into one of these two catagories. the real fun starts when the room they in wreaks havoc with the everything
I will put my Audio Logic 24MXL into your #2 group, but with some qualities of group # 1 as well (especially with NOS tube and digital cable upgrades)- a nice balance...
One more piece of information that might be helpful to know would be all the DACS were audtioned using the following transports: Mark Levinson 31.5, Cec TL-0, or the Ensemble Dirondo. Thanks.

Thanks for the impressions and sharing your experiences. I think it will be helpful to people on where to start if they are in the market for a DAC.


The MBL 1611E lists for $25,000. The other front ends you owned were about 25% to 1/3 of the cost. It doesn't suprise me that it sounds better. In fact, I'd expect nothing less than magic for a $25k DAC when you compare it to a $5k CD player. How does it do compared to other DAC's in the same price range? Apples to Apples.
Good post, Teajay. Personally, I don't think you can lose with any of the DACs you mentioned. Some are better values than others, but each is state of the art. I own the EMM Labs DCC2/CDSD combo, and I couldn't be happier. I've heard a lot of the DACs you mentioned, and while most of them bowled me over, the EMM had the sound closest to what I was looking for. But anyone who owns any of these DACs is a fortunate man/woman indeed!
I have the Manley Ref DAC from the late 90's and this fits right in category 2. Only wish it had a little more low-end extension. But for now, it is a keeper.
Hi Robm,

Yeah, I'm aware of that, too. :)
I've heard dCS' 33K DSD stack, but in different system, different room, with Wilson Maxx2, Halcro DM58, and Transparent cabling, so cannot compare. But IIRC, dCS sounds more like #1.
I've heard MBL's and Burmester's in their ref. systems in Berlin, Germany. (In fact, in Berlin there is this dept store called KaDeWe that puts these 2 brands side-by-side and has demoes on certain days and hours.) Burmester is more like #1 while MBL is more like #2 in Teajay's classification. (Maybe that's why Burmester is more appealing to reviewers???)
I'm curious about the MBL vs the Reimyo or the Zanden.
Yr44: I was at KaDeWe in 2002 and that was quite an experience to walk around and see virtually all of the top notch products from around the world. But after 5 or 6 floors and a great lunch, it was time to go. If only I had known they did high-end audio systems! It never dawned on me to check. Now I have an excuse to go back. 8-)
We need names for categories 1 and 2. Like HP's yin and yang, which are more about describing dark vs. light, Bordeaux vs. Chardonnay.

I think I'm a Cat 1 guy mostly.

You mean you didn't buy all the $25k to $33k dacs to try and compare in your system? ;) Thanks for the clarification. It's all out of my price range, but I like to keep up on people's opinions in case I win the lotto.

How did the transports play into the comparisons? Did you sample each dac with each transport? Any variables in digital cables and/or power cords?


Hi Jafox,

Last time I was there was also 2002. If memory serves correctly, they put the Burmester Rondo system in window display on the easter side of the store. I think it was on the 4th fl that they have the MBL and Burmester side-by-side. I hoped they didn't notice the drool I left there ;D.


That DAC is actually stretching my budget A LOT. As a result, my system is rather unbalanced right now. I have great front-end that performs also as pre-amp, great cabling, great speakers (B&W Sig 805), but a so-so (but excellent for the money) mono amps, Denon POA6600. But it's still hugely enjoyable.
Great question Steve, I'll be brief but hopefully informative. The CEC TL-0 added great smoothness/liqidity/warmth to any DAC that it was linked to. However, it's PRAT/bottom end was not as good as either the Levinson or the Ensemble transports. The Levinson 31.5 added great details/speed/clarity and an excellent bottom end, was not as warm/organic as the CEC transport. The Ensemble Dirondo was almost in the middle sonicly, great details/speed/extension top-bottom with a nice sense of ease/smoothness, but not as lush/romantic as the CEC transport. The transports themselves could fit into the sonic categories that I used to group the overall "flavor" of the DACS I was comparing.The Levinson 31.5 would go into bracket#1,the CEC TL-0 would go into bracket#2, and the Ensemble Dirondo would be a "middle path" between #1 and #2. All are wonderful transports, remember the TL-0 is no longer in production, the 31.5 I believe is just now again being produced and the Ensemble is the current reference and in production. Hope this helps.
Generally agree with the categories. Another key parameter is then if so should the rest of system designed to accentuate or counterbalance such sonic character? I guess it depends on the extremity of the character in the first place but worthwhile when considering. For example for category 1, should one try to aim for tubes in the amplification chain? For category 2 should one aim for somewhat more analytical speakers?

Nice essay, and I have to say it agrees with my experience with DACs in general - I haven't had a lot of exposure to the heavy-hitting reference class, beyond my own Audio Note and a friend's Wadia 861.

What Audio Note DACs you listened to? The reason I wonder is because of your comments regarding frequency extension from tubed DACs. While my judgement is constrained by lack of adequate comparisons, I certainly don't feel that my 4.1x Balanced Signature is lacking in those departments.

One has to be cautious when judging top end extension of course, because a top end that's free (or at least freer) of artifacts will sound less extended. And as always, system synergy will play a role, especially in judging bass quality and extension.
Audioezra, thank you for your kind words regarding my post. Next,Henryhk, your statement is totally about synergy in a well put together system that would shine sonicly. Thats why its so silly to call any DAC the "BEST" in the world because it leaves out the important factor of system matching to get the correct synergy. Lastly, Gliderguider, I audtioned a fully broken in Audio Note 4 which I believe is an older model than yours, along with that your wonderful DAC is a step higher in the Audio Note line. As I stated in my post, I did not confuse a lack of what you call artifacts in the high end means a lack of details or extension. However, in my system, The Audio Note DAC had wonderful warmth/musicality in the midrange but did not have the top/bottom extension of the other DACS that I audtioned. As you stated it just might have been lack of system synergy in my rig or your model Audio Note retains the virtues of the older and less expensive DAC but adds the extension on both ends.
Teejay: I was not referring what was the best DAC at all: but merely a question: that whether in your own exp whether one should accentuate the DAC sound color, if you will, with a speaker of similiar ilk or go the other way and try to counter-balance? Obviously depends on the degree from which the particular unit diverges from the golden mean, so to speak. I have been trying to think about this for awhile and I know the best way is to audition in my home, but still would like to save some time so seeking your learned opinion.
Henryhk, sorry if I misunderstood your statement/question, however I think we are saying the same thing just using different semantics. My opinion would be is that if you have a warm, layed back sounding speaker, such as a Sonus Faber, a DAC from category #2 would be to much of a "good thing" and would not lead to good synergy. However, your Kharmas, which are great speakers, I believe would be a great match with category #2 solid state DACS such as the Reimyo or Accustic Arts were you would still get great dynamics and top/bottom extension but would add more warmth and musicality to your system. I don't think I have to tell you that your Meitner front end is world class stuff, but it would be very interesting, on redbook, what you would think if you audtioned one of these other DACS in your system and see if a different "flavor" would be more to your personnal taste or better synergy with your overall gear. If SACD is important to you then the above information would be irrelevant because the DACS I'm talking about are only redback. One final note you might find interesting. I have a good friend who also has Kharma speakers and he chooses to use a CEC TL-0 belt transport on redbook instead of his Meitner transport to feed his Meitner DAC to add more warmth and liquidity to his system. He likes that combo much more then the straight Meitner setup and only uses the Meitner transport to play SACD.
thanks....I was thinking perhaps getting a second player for redbook, category #2 ilk, but at this juncture its an excess....going to first experiment with amps.....but perhaps one need SACD and overall like Meitner on redbook too. (though perhaps again a player like Reiymo may just add that incy bit of warmth that may be lacking)
Teajay, Excellent thread. Your friend with the EMM Labs gear, is his transport the CDSD or a modified Philips SACD 1000? Is his amplification tubes or solid state?
I am using EMM Labs DCC2 DAC but your review (and the Dagogo review) of the AA DAC1 mk3 has me wanting to try an all-Accustic Arts digital front end before committing to the purchase of an EMM Labs CDSD transport.

You haven't even begun to tap the potential of your DCC2 without a Meitner CDSD. You are already 1/2 way there. You just need the CDSD. Your system will sound so much better with it than with the modded Philips SACD 1000. I have owned both. IMO there really is none better than the Meitner stack.
Exlibris, my friend's system is powered by Lamm pre and mono block tube amps and he uses both a CEC TL-0 and the Meitner CDSD transport to drive his DAC. He likes the sound of redbook cd better on the CEC transport then the Meitner transport. I just replaced my digital cable (Artistic Audio vacuum reference) with the new Stealth Varidig Sextet reference which brought my system to a new level of sonic resolution. I posted a review with more details if you are interested and want more information. Finally, when I read a post like Oneobgyn, I have sad feelings, not about his educated opinion regarding his own gear, but the "absurd" position that there is one BEST anything in high end audio. There are many wonderful pieces with different flavors, along with personnal taste and system synergy, therefore there is in no absolute BEST. This type of statement, "there really is none better", just leads to elitism and ego jocking in our fun hobby. It's fun/pleasurable to share what we hear with other audiophiles who then decide what they find the most pleasing by using their own ear's.

I agree with you completely

Unfortunately you missed the "IMO" at the beginning of my sentence. I have said repeatedly that there are many flavors. i then went on to say that "in my opinion" there is none better than the Meitner stack. I fail to see my error.
Great thread, Teejay! I generally agree with your findings.
Since I never had a chance to audition EmmLabs combo in my system( only at audio show ) I will imagine that it is as good as people say. On the other hand I have excellent experience with Weiss Medea/Jason combo, IMO it is one of the best red book cd playback systems currently availabile.
But, is it #1 or #2? Well, maybe none of them since it combine some qualities of both. It has killer bass,excellent midrange articulation and presence, highs are extended but not agressive. With CEC transport Medea is #2 but, with Jason neither #1 or #2. Also there are new Esoteric gear D-01/P-01 or D-03/P-03( both can be combine with G0s external clock ), what about them? #1?
System synergy is the most important issue, IMO.
It doesn't mean that you can not have good result by combining warm speaker with warm amp/pre and warm dac.
Quite the opposite. Of course, results will vary from system to system...
Lamm and a CDSD, and still the CDSD gets the hook?! That's
very interesting. I'm going to try an Accustic Arts Drive 1 with my EMM DCC2 and I'll report the results here.
I'm wondering where Theta's GenVIII fits into the groupings discussed here. Why hasn't it been mentioned?
Although it may not fall into the same class of players discussed above, I'm wondering if someone has an opinion regarding which category the MSB Gold falls into.
Teejay just saw this post. It is very interesting and i tend to agree with your results and most of your comments through this post. I prefer the 2 flavour for myself and I've an Audiomeca Mephisto II which IMO is to 2nd flavour and pleases me most.
But I'll check also the Accustic Arts , this hobby never ends (it's in it's name).
Hi All,
Very interesting, and surprisingly gentlemanly discussion, given the diatribes one finds all over regarding audio gear. I have the Meitner gear, and recently heard the combo of the DCC2 and the CDSD, going through smaller ARC amps, an Aesthetix Calypso pre and Sonus faber Stradaveri speakers. The sound was absolutely fantastic on both RBCD and SACD, with rich warm vocals, integrated bass, imaging , etc. I'm only mentioning all the associated gear, since I believe that it's difficult to isolate one piece. While one can certainly switch gear in and out to get a sense of the pieces that are being evaluated, in the end it is the system synergy and the tastes of the owner that will determine what makes you happy. I for one have found my tastes to be evolving. I started with relatively laid back equipment, category 2, and am heading into a more dynamic sound , category one. If your curious, my system is listed here, but that's not the point.
This weekend I had a chance to audition Esoteric D-01/P-01/G-0s combo and DCS P8i player. Both in two different systems. First system was friends Avalon Eidolon Vision-ARC VT200MkII/REF2MkII/CD3MkII and we also had Weiss Medea/Jason combo acting as RBCD reference. It that system it was immediately clear that Esoteric and Weiss have a edge over DCS. Esoteric combo is #1 flavor but, probably the best #1 flavor sounding digital playback that I heard recently. Weiss is very close second( we are talking about very small differences here ). Esoteric has enormous amount of detail without edge or grain in sound picture. It also has 'powerfull' presentation with extended bass and treble.
Weiss is almost as extended in bass, has more midrange presence and is sweeter on top. DCS was not in the same class, it was thinner than Esoteric and Weiss in bass and midrange. Highs were extended( but, not as Esoteric ) and it didn't better even ARC CD3MkII a lot in RBCD playback.
In my 'office' system( Dynaudio Special 25-ARC VT50/REF1 ) results were almost the same... But, we used balanced outputs on all of them. Esoteric and Weiss sounded way better on XLRs and to our suprise DCS prefered single-ended RCA connection. All of them were used with preamp in system. We all will also have Esoteric D-03/P-03 soon as well as new Krell Evolution Three universal music player. ARC Reference CD7 is interesting as well.
I own more than 1000 CDs and only 20 SACDs so, I am not very interested in SACD. My feeling is that both SACD and DVD-A will become a failure( or allready are-specially DVD-A ). Of course, many of you will not share my opinion but, I would like to meet an audiophile who owns few hundreds SACDs or DVD-As...
branimir, i would have to sadly agree with you on the future of sacd/dvd-a...'

it would appear the lower resolution /convience format has won again with the advent of compressed formats.. the plus is, it would appear digital recording has improved because of it..

hopefully, the music companies will jump on board and sell ultra high res downloadable for a higher price ( the higher the resolution - the higher the price).

btw, great thread !!!!!!
Branimir - Did you purchase the Weiss or were you just auditioning it? How long did you let it burn in before critical listening? Were you using the high or low output setting?

I had the Weiss Medea in my system for a week. It took 3 days of continuous use before the sound opened up to any degree. Someone who just powered it on and listened may be disappointed. I've never seen anyone else comment on this and I wonder how many other people have come away dissappointed from an audition because of a lack of burn-in on whatever gear they were auditioning.
I was wondering where Levinson digital would fit in with all these. I own a 31.5 and 360s which are the best that I've ever experienced and am curious where they might fit in. I confess to not heard any of the latest contenders as there are no dealers in the are for Weiss, EMM,Lamm, Audio Mecca or any others mentioned. Also where does the highly regarded Meridian special edtion fit in(I don't know the model) when these systems are ranked? I'm just curious, and wondering how I might best improve my system.
Jazzdude-I have Weiss Medea/Jason for almost 6 months now. They took more than a week of constant play to open up fully.
I am using high output setting but, sound of high/low setting depend more on preamp gain... In some systems low setting is better. The best sound is with Double XLR( AES/EBU ) connection between Medea and Jason, word lenght at 24bit and upsampling at 88.2kHz( I do not why but, 176.4kHz upsampling is not allways the best, it depend from cd to cd ). Also I tried Medea with other cd transports and IMO you can have 80% of its potential without Jason. I use Medeas balanced analogue outputs because to me they sound better. As I said before this combo is something like #1.5 flavor, half way between #1 and #2. I bought them for my future big system and they are here to stay. Esoteric combo( D-01/P-01/G-0s ) is also excellent but, very expensive. I would love to own it some day( together with Weiss!)... Weiss combo is within 1-2% of Esoteric combo and system synergy is here more important issue. BTW, Weiss combo simply 'crushed and burned' Esoteric DV50s in RBCD playback, it is that good.
I hope you enjoy your Weiss Hydra single / dual wire AES/EBU Interface, dejittering unit.
Branimir - I got the best sound with the Weiss in my system by turning the trim pots most of the way down. It has a tremendous amount of gain and would work well with a passive preamp config. Or, for the hardcore, with no preamp at all so long as the listener doesn't mind using the trim pots for volume controls.

It was an exciting listen.
Sgr, I used to have a ML31.5,360s,and DCS purcell in my system for about four and a half years. I was extremely satisfied, especially when I added the Purcell and upsampled to 24/96, through the ML360s DAC. However, in my opinion, because digital gear is a relatively new technology and therefore might change faster then other older more established technology, I began my attempt to do home auditions of the most highly regarded reference DACS as I could possibly do to scratch my curiosity itch. That lead to posting this thread to share my experiences and ideas of how to group the different DACS sonic characteristics into the two different groups. I would say, with my gear, that your ML digital front end would be closer to the type #1 sonics and you would find that some of the newer DACS would offer more detail, air around players, a somewhat bigger sound stage. I found these improvements along with one more very important factor, sorry this is stated somewhat subjectively, that my ML gear sounded somewhat "dry/flatter/not as musical" as the more current DACS. My experience was that by adding the DCS Purcell to my ML gear brought it closer to this musicality/liquidity I'm trying to describe. So, I would suggest you might audition a DCS Purcell upsampler, your 360s will process 24/96, and see if you like the difference before you go to trying some of the newer DACS. Your wonderful ML31.5 is just a great transport, so even if you would choose a new DAC, in my opinion, there would be no reason to replace it with anything that is current. A final note/suggestion would be to try the new Stealth Sextet digital reference cable, I posted a review you nmight take a look at, that is just terrific and also could help your ML gear blossom much more. The DCS Purcell you could pick up used for around $1200.00/$1800.00, the Stealth Sextet retails for $2400.00, and you would have to use a pair!, if you audition the DCS Purcell, but I think you might be shocked/thrilled with the results of your experiment. It's alot of coin, around $5500.00, but I know you can audition the Stealth cables for 30 days, with a full refund minus shipping, along with hopefully trying the DCS Purcell before you purchase it. Let me know what you think and I hope this was helpful.
I wonder why the Dodson 218 is not included in this illustrious company. It falls somewhere in between the two types of DAC's and is a superb performer.

Jazzdude-Error in my response, in my system sound is also best in low setting( around 4.3V on XLRs ) output. Your comment regarding passive preamp is interesting...
If you use preamp with normal gain low setting is the way to go. Jason remote is a killer! Excellent build quality.
Teejay-Are you using Balanced or normal version Of Accustic Arts DAC I Mk3 and did you have a chance to compare both versions?
Musical Fidelity just introduced kW DM25 DAC and kW DM25 cd transport-they are also very interesting( I only hope that build quality on them is OK!)...
Hi, Branimir, thanks for sharing your experience with your Weiss/Jason digital front end, sounds like its another world class reference and I would love to hear it one day. To answer your question, my Accustic Arts DAC1 MK3 is the normal version, not the balanced one. I did not audition both of them in my system, however an audiophile buddy did and did not believe their was a significant difference sonicly between the two versions. Do you think you might be interested in auditioning the Stealth Sextet cable between your Weiss/Jason pieces? It really is a very special cable and quite different then anything else I have ever heard in my system. It might be a great match with your gear. It would be hard for me to believe it would not sound great with any digital gear, but their is always personnal taste/synergy to take into account, but I believe the Sextet sets a new reference standard for digital cables.
Teejay-Thanks for info about Accustic Arts DAC1 Mk3, my friend is very interested about it. Stealth Varidig Sextet is very,very interesting product.Is it possible to give us little bit more of your findings about it? I need two 1m AES/EBU cables ( $3200/each ), they are expensive... I have Siltech Signature G6 Golden Ridge and I am pleased with it. Siltech also have better cable above-Golden Eagle which is also expensive. Currently I am experimenting with Acrolink 7N-DA6300 Mexcel AES/EBU( this cable is spectacular with Esoteric D-01/P-01/G-0s combo ), final results in few weeks.
BTW, infos in this thread are IMO better and more useful than most reviews( of digital gear) in mags.
Thanks for the info. I see there is a DCS Purcell unit available now. Would it be better to move this way, or buy a new DAC entirely and replace my 360s? If I did replace my DAC which type would you recomend a group 1 or 2? Do you consider the transport nuetral? What would I have to do to convert to DSD which the Purcell seems to do or is this important?
I have never thougt about this route until today.
Branimir, I don't know if you read a review I posted about week ago on the Stealth Sextet digital cable, but it will give alot more details regarding what cables I compared it to and why its my new reference. It's hard to put into words why the Sextet is not just an improvement, in my opinion, compared to other great cables, but offers a qualitative shift towards musicalty/liquidity, without loss of speed/details/dynamics, in a very natural way. I still think most audiophiles would say it sounds like "analog" in its ease and organic presentation. I was talking to someone about this cable and they shared that a very dedicated audiophile, who happens to live in Europe, had gone the extra mile and had literally auditioned every highly regarded digital cable available today, regardless of cost, and had come to the same conclusion, its a qualitative shift towards the illusion of real music, not just doing things better then other cables. This cable was the owner/designer of Stealth attempt to replicate the sound of his highly acclaimed Indra interconnect in the digital domain. That I can't comment on since I never had one in my system, but the Sextet in its own right is a very special cable indeed. I would find it very interesting, if its in your budget, if you auditioned it with your gear and share what you think. Stealth has a thirty day audition policy, with full refund minus shipping.
Sgr, before I finally replaced my ML360s, I had added the DCS Purcell which significantly raised the performance of the 360s in all the right ways {more air around players,bigger/deeper sound stage,more details,more clarity,deeper/better bass} and kept that front end for another two years. The 360s will only handle 24/96 upsampling, so DSD is not possible with this DAC. So, my opinion would be: 1) If you can audition a DSC Purcell, see if you can find a older model without the firewire for DSD, it should be less expensive and have no effect on the sonics, see if it gives you a great sonic bang for the buck, if not, then audition some of the newer DACS discussed in the thread. 2) Your ML 31.5 is still one of the best transports in the world, I would see no reason to change it regardless if you go to a different DAC in your system. 3) My personnal taste is towards type #2 DACS that still offer great details,speed,dynamics along with warmth/liquidity/musicality, thats why I finally chose the Accustic Arts DAC1 MK3 for my system. I never claimed that its the "BEST" in the world, even though I think its quite terrific and a great bargain at its price. 4) I'm sure your quite curious to hear some of these other DACS in your system, but first I would run the experiment with the Purcell to really get all the possible potential out of your 360s, you will also have fun experimenting with the four digital filters that the Purcell offers you to tailor the sound to your personnal taste ( mine was always filter 4 by the way), then go on to audition other DACS if your not really satisfied.
Good news for all CEC TL-0 fans, CEC just introduced TL-0x!
TL-0x in refinement of original TL-0. New one is available in silver color only. It should be available in Europe and Usa in limited quantities( 1st quarter of 2006 ). More is on Japanese web side ). Price-around $14K
Thank you TJ for this excellent thread. Not having had the opportunity of listening to the Esoteric stack, I have auditioned at length, then finally purchased the Teac Esoteric X-01 single box. My findings concur with Branimir: a type 1 sound. . . one with clenliness, ease, liquidity and a great 'heart'.
not to forget its huge 3d well focused soundstage and the ever-present sense of air and room decay around instruments. I listen only to classical music, mostly chamber and the X-01 staggers me with its nuance and microdynamics.
I have now just over 300 hrs on it and the creature is coming into its own and is still changing.
One interesting note: I recently had the opportunity to audition the X-01 augmented by the G0S masterclock. . . over the course of a whole evening I could detect a discernable improvement only on a couple of recordings. Changing IC from Panther Audioquest to Sky made instead a quantum leap improvement.
And one question: has anyone gathered any info about the brand new Esoteric P03/D03 combo?