Artmindes I wish I had the answer you are looking for but unfortunately I don't neither will any of the other respondents to your query other than those that have heard both but then again it will come down to personal preference in your system. I can say that some of the adjectives that you use in describing the sound of the Havana are right on. There was one though that peaked my interest which is "overly detailed" I'm not too sure if a component can be overly detailed if it resolves musical information without it becoming over emphasized, or in a manner that brings too much attention to a facet of its presentation. If it is detail in a totally whole, believable, organic manner then it isn't too much. This can surely be the case with some components but you are right, the Havana doesn't do this. I happen to love its presentation. I haven't heard the Rega but I can only say that to find out you will have to listen or if this isn't possible take a leap, the risks for either is relatively small. I'm sure both will be satisfactory although one may and probably will be more preferable to you. Good luck in your quest.
Haven't heard the Havana. I own the Rega.
The Rega does a respectable job of detail and soundstaging. They're not the Rega's strongest suits though. If your top priority is as wide and deep a soundstage as possible, you'll probably move on. It's no slouch in either department by any means, but it's the last word in them at all.
The Rega's strengths are exactly what you described.
Tubegroover, thank you for your response.
True that unless I listen to both DACs I will not know for sure which one suit my preferences better.
Regarding the over-detailed issue, I meant the "over emphasized" details. It looks like Havana has this 'good' kind of detail:)
Generally I am looking for a DAC for my headphone rig. It's an interesting thing, but it appears that most people on headphones perceive the soundstage of Havana as deep and wide. However recently I've had a chance to meet a person on head-fi forum, who listens to Havana on speakers. He said Havana soundstage appeared flat to him and also Havana provided grayish sound. I got worried after reading about these two issues. Maybe it was his speakers, maybe something else...
What is your perception regarding Havana soundstage and grayish sound? Are you on speakers only? And have you upgraded your Havana in any way?
Kbarkamian, appreciate your answer.
I like everything what I read about Rega, but this one little issue with soundstaging bothers me.
Deep and wide soundstage is important to me as I listen mostly through my headphones and headphones' inherent weakness is less dimensional sound. I would like to compensate this through the right choice of the source component (DAC/transport).
Otherwise everything about Rega sounds so good to me. Ehhh, tough decision to make!
I've had a Rega DAC (from Signature sound) to audition for the last week and I plan to order one next week. My review of it and comparison to a Cambridge 840c was posted in the review section. Tonight I'll be comparing to a W4S Dac 2 in my system as well.
My observation thus far (the DAC is broken in) is that the Rega improves depth of soundstage and that is it's key advantage. Soundstage width as always been very good with my system. The Merlin speakers are noted to be excellent in this respect. I had previously felt that depth was also good, but adding the Rega made other sources sound flat across the field by comparison.
Sorry that I have not heard the other unit you ask about, but I'd like to once again point out that I find the differences between between good digital sources exceedingly small.
Well Artmindes, Number one, Im not a headphone listener so can give no insight on differences between that and listening through speakers. Actually Kbarkamian's observation concerning the Rega would parallel mine comparing the Havana to other ultimately more resolving budget digital components I have heard and have on hand. No, the Havana is not the last word concerning detail, soundstage width and frequency extension. This became totally apparent after I acquired an Oppo 95 although I prefer the Havana on most music. On much of the music, small scale in particular the Havana is superb with great timing and, tonality. The issue again with the Havana as stated above really shows its limitations on large scale dynamic recordings. What it amounts to is that on some recordings I would prefer to listen to the Havana on others the Minimax a recent acquisition and does provide the things that were missing in the Havana yet more refined and engaging than the Oppo. The Oppo is on transport duty. Another plus which I personally like is that BOTH Havana and Minimax have tube outputs which permits me to tailor the sound to my tastes and system. I'm not really into op-amp output stages which the Minimax has as a standard option, trying to be all things to everyone I suppose. I can get more variation from different tubes.
Now to put all this in its proper perspective many things must be weighed. Since you are listening to headphones only it would seem to me that the Havana or Rega would meet most of your criteria based on your primary listening preferences and for use as a headphone exclusive DAC. Your friends comment concerning a grayish color when listening through speakers is not totally clear to me as to what he means, as in opaque maybe? By that I mean lacking in transparency or resolution but on the plus side, a richer sound. I dont know his speakers or system but would say that the NOS Havana is definitely not the last word again, in transparency, yet it would be sufficient for many listeners, others will want more. I personally want BOTH! This is why it is difficult for me to give a concise answer. I have a system that has basically stayed the same minus the constant tweeking and discovering quite recently the quantum improvements in budget digital products, a real eye opener. My preferences in listening are towards accurate and transparent to the extent that any system is either. Then again there are budget considerations which makes putting together a musically satisfying system which realizes our or at least my personal goals all the more satisfying and rewarding. If it means anything I will say only this, I AM NOT prepared to sell my Havana anytime in the foreseeable future.
Rob, thank you for your impressions.
Thanks to my recent read, i realized that soundstage may be perceived differently on speakers vs headphones. I suppose the two can't be extremely different and some relation must exist, meaning good soundstage on speakers should also mean good one on headphones however it looks it's not always the case. Maybe this is synergy thing...and there are different speakers and different headphones.
Tubegroover, after reading your and many others people's impressions of Havana, i start to believe there is some magic in its sound. This is very tempting to me to try it out myself. Although sonically both Havana and Rega seems to fit my taste. One thing with Havana that bothers me just a little bit l, is that it cannot play HD files, although if it sounds good i dont really mind that much. Well, i could consider the more expensive successor of Havana, which is Stockholm DAC. However almost no reviews/impressions are available yet. I only heard it sounds more detailed, and i am afraid it may mean more ditigal or it may not have the same magic as Havana...
Don't worry. Unless the HD file is mastered differently there's no audible difference between it an a 16 bit file.
I was on the fence about whether to buy the Havana or the Stockholm. I talked to the guys at ALO Audio and they insisted that unless you are playing Hi rez material, that the Havana is the better sounding DAC.
I am still burning in my Havana and waiting on a proper digital cable that arrives tomorrow. I will reserve final judgement until later, but I think it sounds pretty good so far.
Very helpful tips! Thank you Guys.
BTW...I had the W4S DAC 2 to compare and I posted the results in the review section. Long story short....We preferred the Rega when connected to the CD player and the W4S had a very small edge via USB. They were very close. The W4S sounded brighter, the Rega had a deeper soundstage.
I too had a W4S Dac2 and ended up sending it back and settled on the Rega Dac which I'm very happy with. I used a MF v-link for USB to SPDIF conversion, but recently upgraded to an Audiophilleo 2 which is much cleaner sounding.
BTW, I added a Pangea AC-14 power cable to the Rega. I really expected no difference, but the Rega was suddenly AWFUL sounding, bright and almost grainy. The effect was so strong that I switched back to the Rega stock cable to be certain. Since the Rega is in the burn-in cycle I've left the Pangea cord in. After three days it's more transparent sounding than with the Rega cord, but still just a bit bright. I've switched back and forth a few times.
This has been interesting as I was a non-believer with power cords.
The burn in will continue. There is now about 120 hours on the Rega DAC and about 50 on the Pangea powercord.