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.
I had the Accustic Arts DAC 1, Mk IV, but replaced it with the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC. Although the AA DAC is very good, to my ear the BAD Alpha DAC is the biggest leap forward in audio that I have heard in over 30 years in this hobby. It also has a remote volume control so you can go direct to your amp and eliminate the preamp -- improves the sound no matter how good your preamp is.
Now I am looking for a possible upgrade to my AA Drive 1. Would be interested in any suggestions you or others might have. I listen only to classical and violins are the ballgame: the key to me is resolving the problem of aggressive or bright or over analytical or too forward highs. I would want to avoid any transport that would exacerbate that basic problem with redbook digital reproduction.
Dcgraves, congrats on your Berkeley DAC I'm glad you are enjoying it. Take a look at my comments on my system regarding the reference MBL transport that just replaced its baby brother in my system. I can honestly say, and I have heard virtually all of the most highly regarded red book transports there are, that the reference MBL is the best I have ever heard. The sonic concerns you stated would all but be gone, and other virtues would be added by this transport.
teajay have you tried a good analogue turntable setup ? have you tried feeding a good computer hard drive rig to your accustic arts dac ?
Hi Doggrell3000, here's the answers to your questions:

1) I just recently listened to a very highend analogue front end, I know this is heresy to some, I liked my digital front end better.

2) Nope never tried a hard drive in my system.
Teajay, I am not sure if you mentioned it earlier, but have you had a chance to hear the BDAC? I was that close to getting one before I went for the EMM single-box, but the BDAC does seem to be getting many good comments, and hard drive connectivity does seem like a possibility down the road. I know you hear a lot of great gear, has this one crossed your path?