SMc Audio Ultra DAC. Thoughts and Opinions?

Greetings fellow A'gon members.
Recently an SMc Audio Ultra DAC has become available here for sale. I've read the review an older SMc Audio Ultra DAC revision on 6moons.

I was wondering if members could share their thoughts on the SMc Audio Ultra DAC. Either if you own or owned it or have listened to it previously I'd like to know your thoughts (Positive or negative) on the music it makes.

What DACs does it compare too? Do you need high-end gear to get the most out of it?

The reason I ask is that even at the lowered asking price of $1500 the SMc Audio Ultra DAC represents a significant expenditure for me and will be the most expensive piece of audio equipment in my entire chain. (More to follow.)
Most of my gear is considered by many to be "mid-fi" and/or older quality gear from yesteryear.

I'm wondering if the SMc Audio Ultra DAC is too good for my system or would expose that my gear isn't high-end enough. Maybe it would show me that it isn't a synergistic match as well.

I know a lot of A'gon members here have pretty serious systems and $1500+ on a DAC is not much to spend but for me it is. Also from looking through the net I've seen the SMc Audio Ultra DAC being paired up with some serious and expensive gear. I'm wondering if what I have will match up well. I wish I could audition the Ultra DAC but the seller is cross country in CA.

What I have currently in my 2 channel stereo system.

Kavent S-33 preamp or a McCormack TLC-1 Deluxe (I'm still debating which to keep)
Oppo BDP-83 as a CD transport
DAC: Audio Alchemy DTI 2.0 to a DDE V3.0
Digital ICs: McCormack Wonderlink J cables
Amps: Red Dragon Audio Amp-1 Monoblocks
Speakers: Rebuilt KEF 104/2 speakers repaired by SG Custom Sound or KEF Q-90 (I'm still debating which pair to keep as well)
ICs: Outlaw Audio PCA cables
SCs: Zu Audio Mission
Power cords: Atlona Power 10 or 12 AWG cords.
Power conditioning: 1KVA Topaz Ultra Isolator and Tice Audio Power block.

Thanks in advance everyone. For some reason I could not post this entire message the first time.
DACs change with new technology more quickly than any other component except for computer/streaming sources. Also, due to Moore's Law, the cost of the new DACs with newer technology is often less expensive.

This is one area where it might be wise to buy a new or near-new component, unless there's some specific feature of the older DAC chips that interests you, i.e. non oversampling or non upsampling.
If you find a DAC with a design that is implemented correctly with a good chip chances are it will be competitive within its price range. Older DACs can be made much better (the better designed ones) with a few mods like new clock and power supply and transformers. I have auditioned plenty of DACs over time and I usueally find differences but not to that large of a percent. Probably because all of my gear is modified. Adding transformers to a DAC can change the sound for the better but it is always an experiment because it does not always work universally to the same degree.

I do like the newer DACs that stack their chips but my tech built mine so the cost for me is much lower then purchasing a manufactured product. It is all in the design and implementation. The Lampinzator DAC was very good and his implementation is very different from my DIY DAC in cip selection but he uses chokes in the DAC like I do meaning there is good implementation to his design.

Happy Listening.
Thanks both of you for chiming in. You definitely have me thinking about different types of DACs. I'm also following that other recent thread about new DACs and older DACs that you both have chimed in on as well.

I guess there aren't many members who have the SMC Ultra DAC or have listened to it and care to share their thoughts.
My apologies I wasn’t able to post this yesterday like I stated in my e-mail to you on Thursday, I had a few things to take care of before the snow came in today. Anyway back to the question at hand.

So you’re considering the DAC Ultra, just doing the numbers in dollars make cents (pun intended) with the average price for the DAC-1 plus upgrade you talking $2100 easy add to that shipping and you’ve already saved over $600.

Now the question on sound quality, you can never go wrong starting with the best sound quality you can obtain, the further up the chain you start the better your chances of success in the end because you can only make it worse as it goes down the line. Can you tell I’m in a punny mood today.

What do I think of the SMc Audio DAC Ultra, well let me state my bias up front. I am a McCormack Fan, not only because it’s a very synergetic match for the Vandersteen system that I use, but also because you get some of the best bang for the buck in the equipment along with some of the best support any company can offer. Now off the soap box.

The DAC Ultra is one awesome CD playback DAC, by that I mean it will only reproduce 16/44.1 files. But redbook CD’s sound so good thru this thing, it is better than my almost twice as expensive tube modified Sony 9000es that was supposed to be a very good CD player on the market (I let you do the research to see which one use the external tubed power supply and tubed outputs). The DAC was so good I order $400 worth of cryogenically treated tubes for the Sony just in case the tubes that originally came with the Sony were going bad, which by the way brought the total cost of the player to twice the price of the DAC Ultra.

I could not believe my ears when I got it hooked up and started playing music through it. My first thought was so this is what Redbook CD’s are supposed to sound like; it sounded that good right out of the box. So I let it burn in for 24 hours a day for an entire week. I sat down to listen that Sunday; I spent the next 8 hours listening to my CD collection. I could not believe my ears, this was a revelation for me because I have never been able to sit and listen to CD’s for more than and hour or so without getting up and finding something else to do. Everything sounds just so right and there’s clarity to the sound that has never been there before. Take for example the Opus 3 SACD “Showcase” track 4 “Talk of the town” there is a piano that’s outside of the left speaker, with the Sony it was always there to the outside but vague and not clearly focused. With the DAC Ultra this piano is not only clearly focused but also clearly placed within the soundstage, it’s actually diagonally behind the left corner of the left speaker in its own space. In my listening room that is a wall but when the recording permits that wall now disappears. That was something I had never noticed before because it just wasn’t that well focused before. This clarity isn’t bright and harsh at all just clear, take for instance when a triangle is struck it just rings true with a decay that is just unreal, just like you would hear in real life.

Something else I noticed was drums; if you pay close attention to a large bass drum, you can actually hear the thwack of the skin as the drum is struck. I’ve never been able to hear this before and the first time I heard it through my system I had to back up the track and listen to it again to make sure what I had heard. This is something that I don’t usually listen for, have heard before in real life but never heard it in my system. By the way that happened several times that Sunday, backing up to see if I had heard something correctly, I knew then that this DAC was doing something right. There are several other areas that I could go into but then this would get long winded and turn into the review I’m planning to write.

Just so that you have a comparison the new tubes for the Sony improved everything and brought the player to a new level but the SMc Audio DAC Ultra is still better when playing redbook CD’s. I can only listen to the Sony for a little while before finding something else to do. The Ultra DAC is the equal and sometimes better than the Sony when paying SACD’s, using the DAC output on the Sony for the DAC Ultra. I only own a large handful of SACD’s but no longer need to worry about them because the Ultra DAC is that good.

I wish I had the vernacular to wax lyrically about the SMc Audio Ultra DAC but there’s a reason I’m an aircraft mechanic and not an audio literary artist, I just do not have the words to paint with. But you can rest assured of one thing the SMc Audio is a new benchmark for me, if Redbook CD’s can sound this right and this good then I expect that the higher bit rate music should be out of this world if done correctly. With that said there is one other player I’ve been using and that is my Denon DVD 3800 BDCi as a transport to compare BluRay Audio to the Ultra DAC. BluRay Audio through the Denon is still my reference for sound quality, but only the 2 channel LPCM mix. The Ultra DAC is not the equal to this but not real far off. There’s a lot more subtle information in the BluRay sound. If only there was some way to get all those bits into a DAC with this kind of quality I would consider myself in heaven. I wonder if a UDP-1 Deluxe could have a coaxial or optical input added to it?

Well I hope this has given you something to think about. In my view the DAC Ultra is a worthwhile investment if you have quite a few CD because there are a lot of good CD’s on the market with very good music on them. Hope this helps.
Sorry this got so long winded, just wanted to make sure you got a pretty good picture.
Happy Listening.
After reading through what I have written here I would like to add some clarification.

The differences between the Sony playing SACD's and DAC Ultra are subtle but still noticeable. After writing the above information I sat down a listened to the two again to get a grasp on how big the differences. The DAC Ultra was audibly better in its presentation. In the Opus 3 recording I have listed above there is a vibraphone and an upright bass playing individual solo's with some very nice brush work going further back in the stage. When the vibraphone and bass transition from one individual solo to the other is where the problems start to occur, through the Sony the notes become combined together within the same plane without any separation, while with the DAC Ultra there is a very good since of separation and layering between the three instruments.

It's the small subtle little details that make the difference between two that make such a large difference to me. I hope this helps with what I was trying to convey above.

And if you guys don't mind I will start writing my findings here to give further clarification and information for anyone considering one of these.

Happy Listening
Having recently heard it, I was so impressed with it. This thing has more detail in redbook recordings than I have ever heard, period. It is the best redbook dac I have had in my rig. Unfortunately, it is only on loan as I don't have the $ to secure it currently. Too bad, it is worth every penny SMC asks for it. Of course, YMMV and this is only my opinion. Thank you.