Review: Digital Amplifier DAC4800A Amplifier

Category: Amplifiers

I was delivering a pair of Quad esl 57s when I was introduced to Tommy O'Brien. He is the Chief Technical Officer at Digitalamp (.com).In his basement he had a pair of Apogees hooked to an amp he had just finished building that morning. The sound I heard for the next 30 minutes was impressive. But in a foreign room with unfamiliar equipment who really knows what to contribute the sound too. But it intrigued me enough so that 2 days later I called Tommy and he made me an amp. By the equipment list you can tell, I am a tube guy. I love female vocals and an accoustic guitar, Mid range and warmth. I like my lows firm but not overbearing and my highs clear and crisp. Digital and SS have always left me feeling hollow. I played the DAC4800A along side my Cary Slam100's.
The DAC4800A has a power button in the back and a standby button in front. It is to be left in standby mode when not in use. When in stby it has a single blue light on the front panel. When in operation green lights are on either side of the blue. There are Balanced inputs on the back and speaker posts that take various adapters. The unit is well constructed, solid and heavy. It was very easy to connect to the Shanling T200A SACD player as well as my ohm speakers.
I started with Red Rose Music vol 1 track 6 - twenty-third psalm. The japanese and Korean temple bells were vibrant. They hold a long single vibrating sound. The DAC produced it clear from beginning to end. I could feel Shane Cattralls lips as she spoke each syllable. Granted it is an excelelnt recording and you should be able to hear these sounds. But the DAC did not sound shallow or hollow or tinny.It was very similiar to the Carys in fullness. The bell vibration actually sounded a tad duller from the SLAMs. Next The Belfast Harp Orchestra playing Earth Water Wind and Fire. The clarity and seperation of each note was clear. The strumming of the harps was full. The SLAMs added more texture to the notes and that warm feeling was evident. Tack 5 of the McIntosh Test Disc is "Voices of Angels". The DAC was able to seperate voices in the choir and I could hear the finishing of words with the"tse" sound.The SLAMs did th same. On the David Manley recordings #8 Cantos de los Gitanos the Depth of percussion the clarity of the piano and the smoothness of the violin were evident. A violin will often sound screachy with a poor SS unit. It grates on me . Not on the DAC or the Carys for that matter. The sound stage was deeper with the DAC on the I went on to play Diana Krull,more jazz,piano by Tsuyoshi Yamamoto, and complicated tracts by the Boston Pops and Cincinnati Orchestra and of cours some Pink Floyd at loud volumes. The DAC delivered clarity to each instrument and when a punch was needed it delivered it. Side by side to my Slams I found the DAC very similar. It was clearer and slightly less warm. But it had a fullness to it that is missing from most non tube amps.
The ohm speakers need a lot of power to open up. There was a marked improvement with the DAC4800A over the Carys. I found myself running the SLAM's at the higher end of there output to get a wider soundstage.
The one area that the SLAMS clearly outperformed was in listening to Eva Cassidy. Eva does jazz and solo acoustic guitar incredibly well. I found on "you take my breath away" that the DAC was not as warm or engaging. Dare I say a little harsh in the vocals. But that is only because of the beautiful reproduction by the cary's. Hard may be a better word than harsh because I still found the sound pleasing. And the difference could be that of the recording, a burned cd from my computer. After 2 weeks of side by side listening I have to say I am impressed and enjoy listening to the DAC4800A. So impressed that it is now part of my system. I will be listening to it as much as my Carys. Tommy has done a great job. If you get a chance to listen to one take it.

Associated gear
Shanling T200A SACD Player
Ohm5 mkii speakers
Advent lg speakers
Bose sub/sat system

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It has been 3 months since I started using this amp. I use a Bel Canto pre3 so I can switch between my Shanling t200a and Bel Canto pl-2. This amp is very impressive. It is very clear and "warm". It powers 2 sets of speakers easily (ohms 5mkII'S,BRSE HR-1s) Classical, Jazz, Rock ,new age, lows, highs you name it this amp is very clean and delivers the oomph needed. If you get the chance listen to one. This is a small operation. In the summer months I am using it exclusively in place of my tubes. Any one out there tried one of these great amps? I would really like some other opinions.