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.
Although I now sell the product, I have heard the Ps audio Directstream sound excellent from its release and then continually evolve as new operating systems are released which creates a new circuit design In the field programmable gate array they use.  It's truly worth hearing.   There is also a new OS in beta that users are finding astonishing. There is a DS junior out as well for lower cost that includes a network card. They both play DSD natively, which can sound more at ease than PCM. The improvement over the PWD mkii is lightyears in comparison and I like that the sound keeps improving as free upgrades are released. The best comparison is reel to feel- it’s extremely analog sounding and the built in volume control is extremely transparent, and will sound better than going though all but the very best preamps.

I had owned the MSB Diamond DAC IV Plus and had the TotalDAC D1 Dual on loan.

If you are after AN kind of sound, I would definately look into the TotalDAC. The MSB is much more resolving, but less saturated in the midrange.

At the time I prefered the MSB for its overall transparency, but a fellow forum member from New Zeland that visited me at the time, much preferred the TotalDAC.

Since then I have sold the MSB and moved over to Lampizator Big 7, and now Golden Gate. Their sound signature is similar to the TotalDAC, but to my ears thay are even more real and palpable sounding.
@teajay great post! I am in the second category. 

I don’t care about perfect this perfect that. Super highend, amazing clarity, detailed, etc. etc. I don’t care how amazing their measurements are. 

I am after a system where it glues me to the chair and make me stop do critical listening. I just want to enjoy music regardless of their price, measurements, etc. 

I have heard and owned many systems (probably not as much as you do:))
I stopped when I heard Harbeth speakers (not crazy about their current line, I think Alan Shaw is going towards that “hifi” sound). I would love to have Magnapens again. I had to sell because of space issues. And another unit I was forced to let go, Pass Labs Aleph 3. 

I gave up on brands that don’t pull me into music.