Tube DAC Advice Needed

These days I'm doing 90% of my listening through a computer-based system using a Squeezebox 3 directly into my SS integrated (a Plinius 8200 MkII). While the internal DAC in the SB isn't terrible, I'm sure everyone would agree it's nothing to write home about--the sound is somewhat closed in and lacks "midrange magic" to use a cliched term. So I'm shopping around for a DAC with a tube buffer in the $1000 range new or used.

After sifting through the posts and reviews, it seems as though at least three fit the bill--the TADAC, the Monarchy M24 and the Paradisea (or Havana). Unfortunately, all three of these are direct order and therefore I'm unable to demo them. So I'm appealing to fellow Agoner's who have heard one or more of these units for help. What would you say are the relative strengths and weaknesses of each, and which would you recommend? Many thanks!
I use an Apple TV to a dac, and that set up made me get rid of my modded Denon 5910 the sound was so good. I started with a Bel Canto Dac III, then tried a Benchmark, then a PS Audio (best of that bunch) finally I got an MHDT Havana and I love it. I upgraded the tube to a WE 396a, and I run it through a Cary Audio SLP98p F1, with Cary 500 MB to Maggie 3.6R's. I love it. I am set for a while on all of my gear. The Havana has been great. I wanted to try a TADAC first but I could never get a response from the guy who builds/sells them, I tried 4 times, so I guesse they couldn't be that great. Happy with the Havana though.
The Havana is the Paradisea's new big brother so it may compare slightly better to the Monarchy. That said I have the Paradisea+ non-USB using the Bendix Redbank 6385 tube.

For lack of a better term, it has a nice analog sound to it. I also find the soundstage better than my Nuforce processor. So for $600 or less not much to complain about.

I just received my second TADAC this week (bought one locally and one from TAD). For the money I have not heard any CD player or DAC that comes close (IMHO). I run them in two systems with Prima Luna Dialogue IIs. They replaced my Cal Audio Alpha DACs. I also use Apple TV along with NAD and Rotel CD players for transports. The TADAC simply lets the music through. The high resolution and detail caught me off guard at first. My Dali Helicon 400s are very revealing of any change to my system and right away the additional music was noticable. I was hearing another layer of music that was hidden by my other DACs. Kind of the same results when I went from Audio Quest cables to Acoustic Zen. Just more of the music I had never heard. Once my neighbors Bel Canto Dac 3 breaks in I will borrow it for a comparison.

Also, the built in volume control is a great feature. I still prefer the preamp section of the Prima Luna but if I needed to use the TADAC with a amp it is not a big step back. I thought the "Tubiness" knob was kind of a gimmic until I used it. It really gives a "phono" quality to recordings. I use it a lot with older CDs. I played Abbey Road and Brothers in Arms and was shocked at how they didn't sound digital anymore and how the "hidden" layers came through. I highly recommend the TADAC. The one down side is not being able to go audition it unless you live in the Chicago area.


I have been dealing with Paul at TAD for years and he has always responded within a few hours to my emails or calls. I am not sure what your issue was but I have always felt he had some of the best customer service in the industry. He has always taken the time to answer my questions and give insights even on basic tube and amp questions. He has always come across as someone who truly loves audio and what he does and never as someone just looking to sell you a product. I'll admit that his product descriptions on his web site can be a little long winded and pushy but that is not how Paul comes across on the phone. I am not alone in my opinion of Paul (check other posts). I am sure your experience is the exception not the rule.


I have the Havana, and it is SUPERB! Ordered it directly from MHDT Labs' Ebay page, and it arrived in 2 days. Great customer service, beautiful sounding product, highly recommended.
I used to own the Monarchy. Great DAC for the price and then some. You can actually demo it as there is a return policy with Monarchy subject to a restocking fee.

The DAC is very balanced tonally although you can tweak it a bit with tube selection. Bass is strong and tight. Highs have a smooth texture to them. I really can't think of a weakness with this DAC. It could be more revealing I suppose, but it just does so much well that you're too busy enjoying the music to notice.
I've owned the current version with volume control of Paul's TADAC for about 6 months. Previously owned MF DAC. The difference is significant. I also have replaced the tubes that Paul shipped with the TADAC with some vintage NOS Mazdas. Just can't rave enough about this unit.

I've found Paul very responsive to all my emails.
I had the Paradisea a while back and am now using the Monarchy NM24 with a squeeze box source. The Monarchy is superior all around. It has great bass, midrange magic, and smooth highs. It is very well built as well. Some say the preamp is its weak point but that is not my experience. If you can live with the rather high gain, it adds another dimension to the sound. I have found that pairing the tube dac/ preamp of the Monarchy with solid state amps is a great combination. I have used it with a Redwine Sig 30, PS audio HCA-2, and NAD 320BEE (amp stage only) and it works great with all of them. I like the newest Monarchy as you have the flexibility to use the tube dac only, the tube dac with preamp, the solid stage dac with or without preamp. I don't think you can't go wrong with it. The reviews are right on.
Does the Monarchy have USB input? I can tell you the USB functionality on the Havana was important to me, and it performs superbly.
The Monarchy does not have USB, only Toslink & Coaxial.
HUGE apology needed to Paul on my part. I just found 3 messages from him in my "Junk email" folder. He had responded, quickly every time, but Outlook routed them there for some reason. Sorry for the confusion. Everyone buy a TADAC!!