Review: Audio Mirror D-1 DA converter

Category: Digital

What a surprise is this new DAC by Audio Mirror!!! Audio Mirror makes vacuum tube pre and power amps, and recently came out with a solid state DAC. This is a non over-sampling DAC. I bought this on a hunch, because there are few web comments out about this new to the scene DAC. I was hoping for a DAC that would unify the virtues of an Ack! and a Nixon DAC. Over the past couple years, I've favored non over-sampling DACs, having had lengthy experience with a conrad-johnson Premier 9, Scott Nixon tube DAC+, and a couple Ack! dAck!. My experience finds that the non over-sampling DACs have a more coherent, cohesive sound, without any hyped harmonic detail. Other digital sources that I've spent lengthy time with have been an Ah Tjoeb99, Sony SACD-777es & Cary 308.

This DAC is one of those ear openers: I can't believe digital can sound this good.

First off, fresh out of the box, I heard unusually good bloom in the gradiations of musical emotion: relaxing music sooths, but surprises startle. Spacially, the stage is deep and tall with the very best instrumental placement I've heard. The electronic atmosphere seems quieter than the battery run Ack!; perhaps an electronic haze has cleared. The tonal color of wind intruments it clear and round and liquid, just right in weight, never thin or bloated. I can distinguish orchestra violin and viola, better than ever. Brass shines and shimmers with breath fluctuations (back to visual reality: the unit shines with a gold plateing). Voice is wet and fleshy. But it is the emotion of music, that this DAC allows, which most engages me.

Even after two days of use, I'm convinced. How wonderful will this DAC be when it mellows with age. Perhaps I'll buy a second for my living room system.

Associated gear
Sony DVP-s7700 transport
Gainclone amplifier
Jordan JX92s transmission line single driver speakers

Similar products
Ack! dAck!, Nixon Tube DAC+, conrad-johnson Premier 9.
This is very interesting indeed. I'd never heard of Audio Mirror before. I noticed they're selling a Signature version which is just $499.

I recently bought an Ack Dack! 2.0 to compare to my long time Kora Hermes DAC. It's turning out to be a fascinating comparison because they sound so night and day different. I'd be interested to hear how the Ack! and Audio Mirror compared in your system.

Thanks for the tip, I'll be doing some research now.
Some thoughts from last night while listening to the Audio Mirror D-1 in comparison to the Ack! 1.3 and Nixon TubeDAC+.

Timing: Audio Mirror and Ack! agile to tempo changes; Nixon slow in bass and treble.

Sweep: Audio Mirror and Ack! convey the sweep of orchestral strings, from bass to violin; Nixon makes for violins here, cellos there.

Bass: Audio Mirror by far the most prodigious bass, this rocks; Ack!, a quick bass; Nixon vague and soft, nice jazz bass.

Mids: Audio Mirror good tonal color in midrange; Ack! never comes alive here, very distant; Nixon lovely, round, 3D, liquid, dynamic.

Highs: Audio Mirror treble has detail, yet allows bad recording to be listenable; Ack! very delicate, sweet, detailed; Nixon coarse.

Dynamic Life: Audio Mirror dynamics blossom like spring flowers; Ack! wafts like floral scent; Nixon dynamics like biting into a juicey mango.

Clarity: Audio Mirror color like clear spring sky; Ack! snow melting winter sky; Nixon summery hot and humid sky.

Liquidity: Audio Mirror liquid like a fine wine savored; Ack! an Apollonian tea ceremony; Nixon Dionysian celebration.

Depth: Audio Mirror wilderness landscape; Ack! urban angular landscape; Nixon round portrait intimate.

Height: Audio Mirror floor to ceiling; Ack! speakers; Nixon wide to side walls, just above speakers.

Ack! dAck! 1.2 & 1.3; Nixon TubeDAC+ with dozen & 1/2 tube trials. Amps: Decware; Consonance PP 2a3; Cayin A30; various chip amps, Shigaraki and Gainclones; Transports: Sony DVP-s7700 & s7000; Shigaraki. Speakers alway Jordan JX92S fullrange singles.
This is also my brief review of the Audio Mirror D1. I'm not a very good reviewer so this is going to be short. I sold my Bel Canto DAC2 after comparing it side by side with the Audio Mirror DAC. The Audio Mirror to my ear sounds more organic more neutral, detail and stronger buttom end. I bought another one for my second system using a cheap Pioneer DV-578A-S universal player as a transport. Now I have a killer universal player for a mere $650 total. Before the Bel Canto, I was using Benchmark DAC(I bought it because of all the hype) but to my ear the Bel Canto DAC2 is better. At one time, I also used to have Esoteric DV-50 that I sold because I wasn't happy with it's redbook performance either. This is not another hype. Go get one and listen for yourself. I think there is a 5 day trial so you got nothing to loose. BTW. My main system consist of: Sony SCD-C2000ES changer use as a transport, Sonic Frontiers Line2 SE+, Gamut D-200 MK3 and Verity Audio Parsifal speakers.
Finally, I do like all 3 of these DACs very much. Each have there own distinctive virtures. The Ack!'s virtues: with the battery supply, it seems that there is a bottomless well of power to draw from, crescendos never feel the least bit of strain; there is a sense of smoothness; it is agile to musical changes. The Nixon has a really glorious midrange in which voice and brass have an inner tube glow; when coupled with a tube amp, the Nixon really is unbelievable; it does not have a digital etched sound, and the coursness in the treble is like what I often hear with tube amps, and by coarseness (perhaps crassness?), I mean a lack of melodic insight in the treble of massed orchestral violins. The Ack! and Nixon seem to be polar opposites following the traditional debate of solid state vs. tube, head vs. heart, classical vs. romantic, Apollonian vs. Dionysian. The Audio Mirror seems to have unified the virtues of both.
Very interesting and inciteful findings.

I've been comparing the Ack! Dack! 2.0 with my long time Kora Hermes for the past month and it does seem to mirror your comparison of the Ack! 1.3 to the Scott Nixon Tube DAC. Where would you place the Audio Mirror in relation to them? Which has the largest presentation and soundstage? I ask because the Kora creates a much bigger soundfield in my system than the Ack!

Nice review Skyboy...the Audio Mirror sounds like a very good Dac and even better that Royy backs this up. I've been looking for something that had some of the traits of the SN-Dac and Ack Dac in one package...this is an interestig new Dac.

A friend brought over his CAL Alpha 18-bit tube (Telefunken tubes) DAC last night. I used my Sony CDP-77ES player as the transport. I was, in general, very impressed. There was a great smoothness, prehaps too smooth. The bass was strong but perhaps not as deep or awe inspiring. I'm still trying to sort this out. We were on a second bottle of great California wine at that point. My speakers are 16 ohm older P6M Lowthers, power amps are Atma-Sphere MA-1's (with reduced tube count so as not to kill the Lowthers), and the preamp a moderatley upgraded Audio Research SP-3A-1. While I like the Sony 77ES on its own merits, there is some rawness in the treble area that sometimes is appropriate and other times not. I was stunned by what a difference The CAL Alpha made in making an audio experience different. I'm wondering if my next move should be the Audio Mirror DAC and just forget trying to find a used CAL Alpha for $100 less.
I have just purchased an Audio Mirror D1 and I am in the process of burning it in. Thanks Skyboy and Royy (wink). I'll update in around 100 hours...
The Audio Mirror DAC is hands-down the finest sounding DAC that I have heard "Bench Mark, Birdland, dACK!" to name a few, dont even come close in my opinion. The strength of the Audio Mirror is in it's ability to resolve and separate all instruments at all frequencies in a most natural and realistic way, not mention the truly analogue sound with not a hint of harshness anywhere at anytime.
To all Audio Mirror D1's owners, I am sold on the virtues of this NOS DAC but can't seem to get a response out of Vlad to my request to purchase one. All I get back is an autoresponse that my email was received....but that's did you all contact Vlad? Is there a phone # or other contact method? Obviously, finding a used D1 for sale in Audiogon is a rarity, so, I seem to be at a dead end here while some users are talking about picking up their second D1's. he out of stock which is why he's not responding? Also, what's the definitive word on the price? Is it still $499 and the website has a typo? Tks. for any info!
I bought an AM DAC several months ago. I sent Vlad several e-mails during the ordering process, and he usually got back within a couple days. Hope this works out well for you. It's a wonderful piece!
Tks. for responding. I guess he prefers to work through emails ...from what I'm hearing on this thread, I'm sure that the D1 is worth the wait. I'm using an unmodded Sony SCD-1 as source, The DAC will flow into a Supratek Cortese tube pre which feeds 2 H2O M250 Signature monoblocs >>> Aerial Acoustic 10T speakers. All great performers imho but I believe that the D1 could be the missing link. Later!
Just got in touch with Vlad...internet access had been down. I've placed my order for an AM D1 this morning and will follow up with listening impressions on synergy with Supratek Cortese pre, H20 Sig. amps and Aerial Acoustic speakers soon. Got a feeling that this is going to be a very special audition! Thanks for your posted reviews on the D1 and feedback received from some of you on contacting Vlad.

Just one more thing. When it arrives, be patient with the burn in. What you hear out of the box is nothing like what you hear after 50-100 hrs of burn in. I got the first glimpse of what what coming after about 8hrs, but I played a CD on repeat for about 3 days straight. That pretty well was all it needed.

Brownsfan, good advice on that burn in timetable. Unfortunately, It's like waiting for a pot to boil but if I can just get a taste after 8 hours, that would be great. Will probably just let the system run straight through the first week before I settle down for some of those all night listening sessions. For now, I'll start by stocking up the bar. Will let you how it turns out. Tks.

Congratulations on the purchase of the D1. It is a great DAC. As Brownsfan says let it burn in and you will be rewarded nicely. My burn-in period seemed be to a bit longer than 100 hours. I noticed improvement up to about 300 hours. In any case after you have settled in with the stock D1 for awhile, if you want to take it to an even higher level send it to TRL for their modifications. Cost is $550 and burn-in is about 500 hours, but seriously, the difference will astound you. Read my review or email me for more information.

BTW - TRL thought the stock D1 was astounding and they couldn't believe the price was $500. They felt it was one of the best DACs that came through their shop for mods, and they have modified a lot of nice DACs.
Clio09, I had read your review of the stock D1 vs. the TRL-modded version and it was one of the many reviews that convinced me to buy this DAC...nice job on the comparison of the 2 versions. As someone else said on this thread, it's rare to find a review with AB comparison of a stock version vs. a modded version, because most people will part with the stock version to get it modified, but you had both on this was a very interesting review indeed. It's great to know that there's another level of performance that can be attained above and beyond the already eye-popping performance from the stock unit. We live for this...knowing that what you have can be improved even more, and the price of the mod is not to painful, relatively speaking. I will definitely put this info in my back pocket for future reference. This is exciting stuff! Tks.
I own an Audio Mirror D1 and use it alternately with a Bel Canto SET40 tube amp and a BAT VK200 solid state amp. What would you like to know?
Hi Gunbei

Does it matter what kind of cd player is being used? Mine is an older Adcom GCD-575.. 16 bit player with sampling up to 176.4 khz. Essentially a very good transport and a nice sounding cdp.

I'm concerned whether the Audio Mirror D1 would sound edgy in any way up top in the treble for instance. Brightness, any smearing of sound, any over-coloration. Also how would one characterize it as Cold, Warm, Neutral? Used with a tube amp does it have much of a transistor/ss sound added to it? If you know what I mean that transistor buzz/hum that solid state gives with a flatness to the sound (IMHO).

My main listening is with Classical piano, Good Singers (mostly classical and Dusty Springfield, Tim Hardin, Maria Bethania, Erna Sack, and suchlike). A piano conerto or 3. That sort of thing.

Sorry I'm getting lost here trying to explain my concern. Does the Audio Mirror impart a more 3 dimensional imprint even though it's not a tube dac?

Thanks Gunbei
In stock form the Audio Mirror D1 Signature is very analog sounding. It mates well with a tube amp as I used mine with a Cary V12i. The highs and mid range are very smooth and the bass is excellent. I have since had mine modified bt TRL and used it with the Cary, and now the TRL D-225 solid state amp. See my review for more details as I was able to compare the stock and modded unit side by side.
Those of you looking to improve your Squeezebox3 sound will greatly rewarded by picking up used a D-1. I was stunned at the improvement over the stock SB3. The D-1 signifigantly smoothed most of the harshness of poor files, cleaned up the bass and added considerable depth and detail. Simply one of the best "bang for the buck" upgrades I've ever made.
As the original reviewer, some 2.5 years back, I'd have to say that a more recent Scott Nixon tube dac or even non-tube dac improve upon the Audio Mirror.