Nice review, Teajay, thanks! I just hope to be able to go from the MK-3 to the MK-4 someday.
Nickt, I thought it was apparent in my review that I felt that the Tube Hybrid was a giant step up in over all musicality compared to the MK-4, so unequivocably it worth the extra $3500.00. The only concern would be is someone's system revealing enough to let this digital front end shine through, however I doubt that at this price range that a listner would not have a great system to begin with.
First, I would like to thank you for opening my ears to Accustic Arts digital products(unlike some reviewers I am not impressed with their amps and preamps).
Your review is pretty good one as is your previous ones about Mk-4. But, I still think that tube based DAC is huge compromise and I remain open to change my opinion... My opinion is based on in most areas excellent sounding Metronome tube DAC(and really amazing Kallista transport). The problem is that Metronome sound little bit too warm in already warm systems. I would never reccomend Metronome to somebody who is using Vandy 5A speakers with Conrad Johnson tube amps, just as an example...
IMHO Accustic Arts Mk-4 is almost prefectly balanced sound and it is one of the best DACs on the market up to $10K. So, if new Tube is warmer then Mk-4 then it is definitely not for me. I will audition it with Accustis Arts transport in two weeks so, I will report here my findings.
Since my current reference combo(Esoteric D-03/P-03U/G-0Rb) is(to my ears at least) better then Accustic Arts DAC-1 Mk4/ Drive-1 Mk2 combo I am looking forward to see how much different(or better?) is Tube DAC II.
Hi Branimir, it's good to hear from you, thanks for the kind words regarding my reviews on Accustic Arts digital gear.
If you got out of my review that the Tube Hybrid DAC is "warm" sounding then I failed at conveying it's overall sonic signature to you. As, I mentioned in the review I have never liked the Tube based DACS that I have auditioned because at best I find them "soft" sounding lacking resolution/details/dynamics and at worst I have found them to have a "euphonic/warmth" like older tube gear. The Tube Hydrid keeps all the virtues of the MK-4, but adds a liquidity with more natural timbres/image density which leads to more of a natural overall sonic signature.
So, I don't find the Tube Hybrid to be "warmer" sounding but more "natural" sounding to my ear's. I'll look forward to your experience after you audition it and were it ranks in your viewpoint of DACS.
Great review Teajay, I'm looking forward to hearing this in my system.
Now that you have had this for a while how warm does the unit get?
Does this unit get left on all the time as the MK-4 does?
What's the tube life?
Regarding your first initial listening experience right out of the box and now what type of sonic differences have you experienced?
Hi Dev, thanks for the nice words regarding my review. To answer your questions:
1) The DAC does not even become warm to the touch.
2) There is a tube stand-by option, the SS state stays on while the tube goes to sleep, but I just leave it totally on because, which answers your next question, even if left on all the time the type of tubes and how they are used still means you would not have to retube for at least 3 to 4 years. I just ordered a pair of NOS Amperex 12AX7WA that should raise the performance of the DAC another 10 to 20% compared with the stock tubes from China.
3) This DAC has all the virtues of the MK-4, and I know this is a very subjective way of explaining, and then adds a more natural/organic sense to the overall texture of the music. It just sounds more "lifelike" and real. Not, just smooth or euphonic, it still is detailed with great dynamics, but makes it easer to just relax and get into the music.
Thanks Teajay for the answers can't wait to get mine.
Wow! 10 - 20% raise in the performance just changing the tubes, that's huge. You really feel that there is going to be that much especially due to how and where these tubes are located within the dac design? This is going to be really interesting and I look forward to reading your out come, keep us posted.
Has there been much of a sonic change since you have gotten the unit, if so what?
I went onto the "AA" web site and noticed that they have now put up info. regarding this piece, very interesting design.
Dev, I'm not a "tube dude" at all, however I have now discussed with four tube mavens the differences between great NOS tubes and the best tubes coming from China and they all agree that regardless what the application is you should get a great improvement across the sonic board with changing the tubes. We shall see!
The major change would be it's just opening up more with greater dynamics so far. I have about 250 hours of playing time on it now, and just want to stay home and listen to music.
I want to share that I have had in the AA DAC for about 30 hours a pair of NOS Amperex 1960's "Bugle Boy" tubes, replacing the stock tubes from China, and the results are trully amazing. More transparency, details, liquidity, and a bigger and more airy soundstage, just wonderful results and the tubes are still burning in!
I'll be recieving at the end of next week a matched pair of 60's NOS Telefunken's smooth plates and then will decide what sounds the best in my system.
So Dev, yes the performance of this DAC goes up a great degree with better tubes, and remember I was thrilled with the performance with the stock tubes.
Dev, the DAC uses two tubes, I just recieved the matched pair of smooth plate NOS Telefunkens, however I'm having so much pleasure listening to the DAC with the Amperex tubes I'm going to wait awhile before I try the Telefukens out. Have you arranged yet and audition of this DAC? I'll be very interested in what your experience will be.
Hi Teajay, have you tried your latest new tubes as of yet and if so what do you find the difference being.
Just curious, was there a reason why you choice these tubes?
Can you forward over where you got them, getting matched pairs from a reliable source is always nice to have and I'll need to get some.
I missed out getting a unit because I was out of town but I'm suppose to get one by week end, no demo's units available.
I bought a pair of PASS X600.5's and I'm really enjoying them with my Andra's, I prefer them over my McIntosh 501's.
I'm going to be able to get a pair of the XA160.5's to demo but I'm going to wait for a bit until I have the new Tube dac in my system for a bit, hope I have made the right choice. The MK4 is a reference piece that I really enjoy in my system.
I also read your review regarding the Flora pre., have you ever had a ARC REF3 or Supratek Sauv. (Cortese line stage)in your system to compare? I'm currently running all cables in balanced so to even demo this unit properly will be a task. Few reason; SE section's are not even broken-in along with I will have to then get a RCA cable and really should be the same as I'm use to which is Stealth Indra(with Stealth connectors, their latest version), as you know not cheap actually more than the Flora and it also needs to be broken-in. Just curious if it really is worth all the effort.
Hi Dev, I'll really be surprized if you are not quite delighted with Tube Hybrid DAC in comparsion with the MK4. I agree that the MK4 is still a great piece, however the Tube Hybrid is just that more "musical/natural" sonicly without giving up dynamics or microdetails.
I am enjoying the sound of my system so much I have not replaced yet the Amperex tubes with the Telefunkens. I do not have an extensive tube background, however as I researched the sonics of different tubes and talked to very knowledgeable tube guys it be came very clear to me that I did not want overly "lush/romantic" sounding tubes like Mullards, but tubes that would offer dynamics, extension, details, with maybe a touch of sweetness or warmth, hence the Amperex and the Telefunkens are supposed to be even more dynamic but a little "cooler" then the Amperex.
As far as were to get great tubes and deal with great gentleman, I recommend: Brent Jessee Recording & Supply, Inc.(Brent) 847-496-4546 or Vintage Tube Services,(Andy) 616-454-3467.
I'm a great Nelson Pass fan so I'm glad your enjoying your 600.5's. It would be interesting if you audition XA160.5s if you would like there sonics better in your system. I loved my X350.5 but thought the XA-100's were a step up in my system and made the change.
I have heard both the Ref 3 and the top level Supratek in other systems, but not in a home audition. I really still believe it would be worth the hassle, the single-ended vs xlr, for you to audition the Flora, it's really an amazing sounding linestage and offers world class performance for alot less money then other highly regarded linestages. I did not purchase the Flora for economic reasons, but just based on its superlative sonics compared to so many other linestages I had listened to.
Teajay, Thanks for the info.
Regarding the Pass, I demoed not in my own place but at a dealers 2- X-350.5's with Swan speakers including Esoteric PO-3 combo and Hovland 200 pre. In the same system I heard the XA-100.5's and preferred them. I had the 100's in my system and compared to the X-600.5's and preferred obviously what I have but a fair competitor would be the XA-160.5's in which I will do.
It's looking good, my Dac is at customs so I should have it for the weekend.
Just wanted to share that I replaced the stock fuses in the Tube Hybrid DAC with Isoclean Power audio grade fuses. These fuses are quite a tweak, they significantly improved the overall sonic picture(transparency/dynamics/details/soundstaging)of the DAC.
I also finally put in my matched pair of NOS Telefunkens, instead of the NOS Amperex "Bugle Boy's". So far I find the Telefunkens seem to be more dynamic/transparent/detailed but are slightly less "sweet/warm" compared with the Amperexs. I like the way the DAC sounds with both sets of tubes, which are both quite better then the stock tubes from China, but have not decided which set of tubes I like more yet.
Well aren't you having fun, fuses and tube changing. Teajay I finally got my unit and all I can say is WOW! WOW!, your review says it all.
I don't think others really realize just how fantastic this unit is until they actually get one into their own system and they better be ready to pick-up their jaw from the floor.
I am looking forward to changing the tubes and fuses as you have but for now I'm just going to enjoy. I already picked up a match pair but will wait to install.
I exchanged my Supratek Sauv. line stage out of my system and put my ARC REF3 back in prior to putting in the Tube dac and defiantly preferred the REF3. but then I put the Tube dac in, I don't know if it's a synergy thing happening or what but I am just in awe with what I'm hearing.
Hi Dev, congratulations on your new AA Tube Hybrid DAC! It really is a terrific piece and I'm glad it lived up to what you were expecting. The MK4 is still a great DAC, however the Tube Hybrid goes to another sonic level.
I have come to a decision regarding which set of tubes I like more in the DAC. After another listening session with my dear friend Bob, who I refer to as the "Golden-eared" one we both came to the same conclusion, the Telefunkens offer power/dynamics/microdetails and finally unbelievable 3-D imaging in a very large soundstage which we both admired, but, he and I felt less "attached" in an emotional way to the music compared to the Ameperex Bugle Boys. The Telefunkens are not overly bright or etched sounding, however I think the word I would use to describe my experience of them in this DAC would be somewhat relentless and tonally cool, but boy on some types of music the balls to the wall dynamics and 3-D precise imaging was quite seductive, however the Bugle Boys for me sound more like real music with more natural timbres and an easy quality that allows you to relax into the music. Both tubes sound great in the DAC but different, and it really again comes down to personnal taste and system synergy.
Hi Teajay, here are two more tubes for consideration that were recommended to me; NOS Telefunken cira 1962 with rib plate and BRIMAR B.V.A. from England.
What is the correct size of Isoclean fuses?, what are your thoughts of HiFi Fuses I'm sure either would be better than the stock fuses. Have you also changed the fuses in your Pass amps?
I am still restraining myself from changing the tubes in the dac for right now even though I can't wait to do so, instead I'm just absorbing the musical upgrade over my MK4 dac which is a wonderful piece.
Dev, here's the information regarding the fuses:
Fuse holder 1A gets a 1A fuse. Fuse holder 102 gets a 1.6A. The arrows on the fuses face toward front faceplate. I have never tried HiFi fuses compared to the Isoclean's, so I don't know how they compare, but I do know that the Isoclean fuses are terrific in their effect sonicly. I will be putting them in my MG-20's, Flora, and XA-100's in the near future.
I have a hunch that the Telefunkens that you mention will have the same sonic signature as the one's I have and the other tube, Brimar, I have no idea regarding their sonics. In the context of my system I love how the Amperex Blue Boys help the DAC just produce beautiful music.
Would you share what your hearing in your own way what the Tube Hybrid offers that is different compared to the MK4? I find it interesting how people use different language to describe what they hear, so it would be great to hear your version regarding the DAC. Finally, when you get your NOS tubes and put them in, I think you will be amazed at how the performance improves, which is pretty terrific with the stock tubes already.
Thanks Teajay for the info. regarding the fuses and I will share my personal thoughts but in the near future as I want to let the unit break-in along with putting in some different tubes.
You really are great at writing reviews and after reading yours I don't really know what to add.
I had a friend over last night who has a very good ear and system and has heard my system many times as I have his, he could not believe the difference and said he thought my system was great before but now is just lost for words.
Hi Dev, was just curious about how its going with your DAC regarding overall satisfaction and if you did put different tubes in and if so what were the sonic results?
A friend was very interested in comparing his new Meitner CDP compared to the AA Tube Hybrid DAC on redbook. Well, lets just say the AA was way better in my system on that day. The Meitner sounded both "dry" and did not throw any were close the soundstage/air around players like the AA.
Hi Teajay, well my unit was really just getting broken-in and I sold my Andra's but I was still really enjoying it. They are being replaced with a new pair of MBL 101E's which I'm awaiting to receive, should get them in about 2-3 weeks time. I did remove the Chinese tubes and put in the Brimar, very silky mid and highs voices to die for and scary real if you go to Andy's tube description describing the sound of these tubes is bang on. The experience was like wiping off a smear on glass that you are trying to see through, everything was just that much more focused. I really am enjoying this unit, one of the nicest pieces I have ever had.
I placed an order for the same tubes you have and waiting for their arrival to compare, thanks for the contact I placed my order with Andy.
I'm sure my system components, amp and pre might be changing down the road since I'm getting the 101's but I'm in no hurry and will be doing comparisons. I read some where you were at a friends and he has the MBL 6010D and you really enjoyed it.
Just wanted to share that I just got through auditioning in the AA Tube Hybrid DAC the last of the great "three european sisters" tubes, the other two are the Telefunken smoothplates and the Amperex "Bugle Boys", the last "sister" being the Mullard longplate square getter 12AX7.
Well, the Mullards lived up to their sonic reputation, warm, lush, romantic, yet still offering clarity/transparency with a big open soundstage and air, but they are not as extented on the top and bottom compared with Amperex Bugle Boys and are to creamy for my sonic taste. Certain things like cymbals and brass instruments that should "sparkle" and have "aliveness" were just to soft in the context of my system. If someone is either enamored with the sound of type two DACS like the Zanden or SET setups they would love how the DAC sounds with the Mullards.
So, after sonicly dancing with these three famous NOS 12AX7's, I'm sticking with Amperex Bugle Boys that are just about sonicly in the middle of Telefunkens and Mullards and to my ear's make the Accustic Arts Tube Hybrid and my whole system sing closer to what real music sounds like to me.
My last post stated that after trying Telefunkens and Mullards I came to the conclusion that the Amperex Bugle Boys offered the best of all sonic worlds when used in the Accustic Arts Tube Hybrid DAC.
Well, I just tried Amperex Bugle Boy 50's Long Plates, instead of my Amperex Bugle Boy 60's Short Plates and have got a new reference in tubes for the following reasons:
1)Greater transparency/clarity with more microdetails.
2)More air around players with a greater sense of 3D images in the soundstage.
3)More powerful dynamics and punch in the bottom end.
Yet, these Long Plates still keep the liquidity/easyness and warmth of timbres of the Short Plates with the above stated sonic improvements. I always find it amazing when you can get this rare combination of ease and resolution at the same time, which leads to a higher level of musical enjoyment.
It's been a while since someone posted here. I tried the AA Hybrid Tube DAC this weekend, and I also was mightily impressed with it. I used my Emm as a transport and connected it with a digital Wireworld Gold Eclipse XLR. Had some functional issues, like it doesn't play SACD signals, only RB, and everytime I changed a CD the digital error lght came on and the unit started clicking loudly. Any experience like that? But the sonics were to die for, just like you described in your review. I haven't heard anything digital sound this analog, including the Accuphase P800/D801 combo I listened to yesterday at 3X retail. I know I raved abbout my Emm and thought it much better than any Accuphase, but this tops them all easily in my system. Intreresting reading about the tubes/fuse tuning too. Personally I'd rather have fuses not designed into the signal path, like my Darts, but the overal sound the the AA Tube DAC was very convincing.
Thanks Teajay for the interesting review.
Mtkhl567, in the context of your world class reference system, it's quite a compliment you are giving to the sonics of the AA Tube Hybrid DAC.
I have recently talked to someone who had recently listened to all the top rated digital front ends, Dcs, Esoteric, Metronome, Zanden and he still felt that the Accustic Arts Tube Hybrid was the best of the bunch. And to think all the other DACS retail for at least $15000.00 to $20000.00 more then the Tube Hybrid!
I also believe, please no disrespect on my part, that the Meitner transport is not one of the better sounding trnsports to mate with the Tube Hybrid DAC. A dear friend has the Meitner reference DAC and uses a CEC TL-0 for redbook because it sounds significantly better then the Meitner transport with his Meitner DAC. So, I believe you would get even a higher level of performance with a different transport. If you heard the DAC with the stock tubes you would be amazed at the sonics with the best NOS tubes that I discuss on this thread.
Thanks Teajay, I have no experience with expensive DACs, so I can only say what the AA machine did in my system. Which was pretty wonderful. It just was tonally so right, soundstage wise hugely improved. Listened to some more types of music last night, and just confirmed that it's not only with Jazz and Orchestral music, but also pop and rock, female voice.
I agree with you on the transport of the Emm, it's not a strength... did you know AA are coming out with a new transport this year? What do you think of their current transport?
Mtkhl567, I use the AA transport MK11 in my system and think its a great match with the DAC. I haved tried two other very good transports and did not hear enough of a sound difference to make the change. Yes, Accustic Arts is coming out sometime this year with their new reference level transport to match the Tube Hybrid DAC, I'll be auditioning for sure when it does come out.
Mtkhl567 I agree with you the AA Tube Hybrid DAC is a marvelous piece and I suspect there isn't much being posted because anyone who happens to own one is just enjoying their library of music. As Teajay has mentioned changing the two tubes most defiantly improves a already supurb piece. Two areas I have also noticed differences are different transports and via digital connection.
Currently I have two Stealth Sextet digital cables, AES and BNC and there is most defiantly a difference. Using one the images are much more focused but at the same time gives up body and texture. Bass response on one lets you hear the most hidden inner detail notes while the other is more congested clouded over.
Teajay I believe you are using a Stealth Sextet digital cable also, what connection are you using? Have you directly compared using the same manufactures cable but different digital connection? You should because you will be in for a surprise as there most defiantly is a difference in my set-up any ways using the the Oracle as the transport. You mentioned in your post above that a friend had the CEC transport have you had a chance to hear it with your dac? That would be a real interesting piece and I would have interest in your thoughts.
Can you believe it I still have not got around to replacing the two fuses I'm just enjoying the piece so much and keep forgetting to do it, is there that much audio difference?
Hi, Dev thanks for the information you left me regarding the Stealth Dream speaker wires, I hope to getting a pair to audition at the end of this week.
Now on to your questions:
1) I use the Stealth Sextet with BNC connections. I have never heard the XLR version in my system. Please share which cable produced which result when you ran the experiment.
2) I have not heard the most current CEC TL-ox with this DAC. Richard a fellow GON member who also owns the Tube Hybrid uses the CEC TL-ox and is enthralled with the results. He also has NOS Amperex Long Plates and the upgrarded fuses in his DAC.
3)Yes, the fuses make enough of a difference to make a difference to put them in.
Hi Teajay your welcome, will be interesting to read your findings once you have tried the Dream speaker cables within your system.
Stealth Digital cables:
1)I will do a more detailed evaluation and post it, I have to say that I was a bit taken back and shocked at the same time when I removed one and installed the other and heard the differences, instantly you could hear the floor noise being substantially lower and everything just seemed to open up. Actually what happened was a couple of friends were over to hear the CAT's and I had one of the digital cables just sitting off to the side and was asked to install it so they could hear if there was a difference or not. You should get the XLR version (AES)digital connection to evaluate your self because there is most defiantly a difference, this could be easily heard in my system with my trans (Oracle) and dac (AA Tube Hybrid) combo.
1)Your friend Richard what is his GON name?
2)What differences did you hear from your trans and his CEC, there is a substantial difference in cost.
3)Regarding the new AA trans. do you have any info. pertaining this unit that you care to share? Design differences, cost.
Tubes and fuses:
1)I will get the fuses.
2)The Long Plate tubes, I still have not been able to get a pair any thoughts where I can get some.
Dev, Richard's Gon moniker is Hamburg. He went from a Levinson transport not a Accustic Arts to his CEC-TLOx in his system. When we talked regarding the differences it was across the board, soundstaging, dynamics, extension, liquidity, etc., and brought the overall sonics of his system to a higher level.
I have gotten no information yet regarding when AA will release their new transport or what they will be doing regarding the mechanics of it compared to the MKII transport.
On the new transport I was told by the only German dealer that carries the whole AA line that the new transport really is only a special Cable Kit installation (from the US) that is easily installed on the current transport afterwards. No definite timing known just as yet.
Any of you have experience with the AA power strips and power cables? I was trying to compare to the PS Audio premier. I know not the same product, but on my amplification the AA strip was better than the premier.
Teajay, just like Moniker, it brought my whole RBCD playback to a higher level across the board. I preferred it much over SACD on my CDSA-SE player. Don't understand why there is so little discussion out there on this wonderful DAC.
i heard that the new drive 1 transport (mk2) is just the same, with the upgraded cable as described above.
however the all new reference transport(drive 2) will come out in april with world premier at "High End 2008" in Munich
also can anyone tell me how long the dac 2 takes to get fully burned in, as mine is still harsh compared to the reimyo dac.
I can confirm the new transport (drive 2) will come out at the Munich High-End show end of April. No pricing known yet.
I ordered two Aktiv 6 power strips with some of their power cables. These will probably burn in within a week or so, not sure about the DAC II, most electronic components take 100+ hours of playtime at least. Use a burn-in disc, that would accellerate the process.
Last information about the new AA reference transport Drive 2 is that pricing wise it will be slightly above the DAC II, at least in Europe. This thing better be worth it at about twice the Drive 1 price!!! I'm starting to wonder about the AA value proposition here... as most of the excellent sound comes from D/A conversion IMO
Just manage to find a picture of an Accustic Arts setup at the Munich show. I wonder is that a new Reference transport at the top of the rack? It looks like the lid has changed to a clamping mechanism from a sliding one???
Accustic Arts with Monitor Audio(yucks)
I was hoping that 6moons post a picture of it on their review of their show (11pages) but they stopped short after posting 40% of their photos (they said they still had 60% left). The rest of the other websites, Enjoythemusic and soundstage add together do not even have as much photos as 6moons, such a shame.
I received my AA Drive 1 mk2 SE and TubeDac2 today. These are my first impressions as I wrote them in my system's page on Audiogon:
"Accustic Arts combo is functioning. It really blows away my previous Metronome Technologie combo ! Even 'right out of the box' the AA gives a tremendous organic and 'analog' sound, without loosing detail or without loosing crispyness. Ofcourse the AA needs burning in, but right now all I can say is that it completely outperforms Metronome (which BTW after all is way overpriced). Compared to the AA combo, the Metronome sound is 'thin' and less involving, has less 'flesh around the bones'. I'm waiting for the AA digital XLR cable to arrive, which is especially made as ideal connection between the Drive 1 and TubeDac2. Will get back later on."
Mattheus, congrats on your new toys! If you look at what has been posted on this thread regarding tube rolling in the Tube Hybrid DAC, replacing the stock 12AX7's with NOS tubes the performance will even go to a higher level that you are enjoying as the pieces are burning in. So let us know what's happening regarding the new XLR cable from AA and other fun details. Enjoy.
I also have a matched pair of Mullard cv4004 cryotubes which I used in the Metronome C1A DAC and who had a very big/positive impact on sound. But I will first enjoy the standard tubes (what brand are they?) before I start 'rolling' :-)
My brother in law came over and had a listen yesterday. His words to describe the sound of the AA are: 'it sounds just like a good turntable' ! Knowing he uses a VPI - Manley - Usher system, this means a lot.
It's as you describe: the combination of 'hyper'detail, realism and full analog sound really is amazing. My brother in law stated it this way: it's as if the AA does not have a charcteristic sound, but you only hear the music as it is recorded.
I have a question: is it necessary to have a cd in the drive when it is not playing?
Mattheus, unless AA did something radically different in the new transport there is no reason to leave a cd in it when you are not playing it. I never do, I just leave the puck/clamp off the spindle and close the top.
Do you have any idea if the new transport has a different puck/clamp compared to the MK11 drive as far as size or weight?