I heard an E.A.R. DAC from Tim Paravincini (sp?) that was very impressive at CES last year played through an 80 watt E.A.R. tubed stereo amp; top pre amp and Martin Django speakers. I heard the same DAC in a real world system and again it was superb. I am partial to VAC tube gear and love Kevin Haye's tube DAC. I also heard it with VAC system at CES and for the money is superb. One of my audiophile buddy has a ten year old VAC DAC that I'd put up against any digital system today; it's superb.
I would suggest the Jadis JS2 processor.
I have the MKI version but it is not the latest version available.
They are very well built pieces of art and the sound is, well phenomenal.
I will not try to describe the sound, I would just suggest you audition one if you can, I do not think you will be disappointed.
I have the Ayon CD5S which is IMHO one of better tube DACs in the market.
But I've been listening to a Lenehan Audio PDX Level 2 and I think that thing might have a lead on the Ayon. You don't pay for fancy metalwork (though it does look decent) but what you do get is the PCM1704UK (highest grade they could source) and a great tube output stage.
I doubt you will find a 'consensus' here, either. I have a new Aesthetix Romulus CDP, which is quite impressive. The DAC-only version is the Pandora. Mine is still breaking in fully, but the sonics are very nice. Superb tonality of instruments, excellent imaging, and very pleasing to listen to. Also top build quality from Aesthetix.
Thank you for your responses; I welcome more. In the meantime, I will start my research on the above that were already mentioned, I now have a starting point and this helps a lot.
here is another opinion:
first, i have been attending ces exhibitions for fifteen years. i have also attended many shows in nyc. from those listening experiences, i would try to find the original zanden dac, not the current version.
Do you have a model number for the zanden dac?
You may want to consider the Concert Fidelity DAC.A used model is well within your stated price range.It`s exceptionally natural with wonderful tonality.
It seems to me that tube DAC technology may not have caught up with the current sampling rates currently on the internet.
Perhaps there is a limitation of hi rez music available; I will need to check that.
Two of the suggestions above have limitations regarding the sampling rate. I have no CD collection right now; I am starting from scratch. The plan was to use downloaded hi rez files from the internet and store this on a server. My thinking was that I would get a better sound quality.
I am not opposed to making an investment in cd's; I just thought that I was going backwards with CD's. Your thoughts?
i do not have a model number for the original dac. i don't think they use model numbers.
I am seeing the model # as 5000; there was a successor of 5100 but which went up to 24/96, but they still kept the 5000 as their "signature" model.
My only concern is the low sampling rate of 16/44.
The Audio Logic DACs, especially the Model 34, are superb tube DACs, even if they have the transformer upgrade that replaces the 12AU7s in the unit (it still has two 6922/6DJ8/ECC88 tubes in it that can be rolled to change the sound). Sadly, the maker and designer of these units, Jerry Ozment, has passed away, so they are no longer made and may be tough to find service for (my 8 or so year old unit still works just fine), but his design is alive and well in the Mk I version of the Jadis DAC mentioned earlier, which is pretty much the same circuit but with different parts. I agree with that poster, both the Jadis and the Audio Logic have a sound that is difficult to describe; maybe a little fat in the bass compared to my EMM Labs unit, but it shines in the midrange and still really seems to make the music come to life, to my ears.
Yes, go out and buy an old, used Zanden. When it tanks, you can send it to Mr. Tennis for repair. I would not buy a Zanden product without reliable dealer backing, as you can't exactly drop them off at the local fix-it shop for repair. IMO.
Do you have other sources hooked into the Romulus? If so, what are they? Tks
the owner of audio logic,jerry osment passed away a few years ago ,i had his 52 that was fantastic but all good things come to an end
when i heard the original zanden i was not apprised of the model number.
with any older dac, there may be a risk if the product needs repair.
however, as far as tubed dacs are concerned that is my favorite.
i have not heard any current dacs that i would prefer to the original zanden.
I do not have any other sources running through the Romulus, although it is possible. I have heard computer-sourced audio running through 2 different Romulus units, and it sounded very nice both times, enough for me to purchase my unit. Mind you, I do not care if my CDP is tube or SS, as I made this choice based upon sonics, price, functionality and ease of service. It definitely weighed heavily in my decision that Aesthetix is largely a Southern California product, and that the potential for service would not be too daunting, if required in future. I don't feel comfortable offering too much of a detailed 'review' until I spend more time with it. But I really, really like it. I have a pretty kick-ass analog rig, and this unit compares favorably. If you are truly interested in more details while in the midst of a purchase decision, I will offer more in an effort to help you. Good luck.
Thank you for your response. I am currently leaning towards the Romulus in order to get to have the CD option. I have plans to add some sort of music server/computer to complete the system. I am located in Honduras and will not have the opportunity to audition any DACS and service will be an issue. I am relying on the reviews from the various forums. My decision will be based upon on sonics, reliability, functionality. Please keep me posted on your break-in period as I will be making a decision within the next few days.
First, the Romulus has a recommended break-in of 400 hours, but after the 50-hour mark (of playing), mine opened up and started to shine. First, the sound is rich and full (a bit more so than my analog). I would not say it is 'phat', but it leans in that direction (with the factory tubes). Overall sonics are very pleasing, and it does sound remarkably analog in its reproducton (no hint of digital sonic traits). Second, instruments are reproduced faithfully (more easily said than done in many systems). Piano sounds like piano; saxophone sounds like sax; cymbals sound like cymbals. Those instruments are tests for me. Next, imaging is exemplary. Huge, wide and deep soundstage, with good placement of images (although not pinpoint). Here is where I proceed with caution, as these categories are picky, delicate, subjective and my unit is still not fully broken-in. And, I strongly suspect that swapping with NOS tubes would change or eliminate any concerns (but I have not tried that yet until full break-in).... My analog rig and the rest of my system are so very good that these items only present themselves with repeated, critical A/B listening.......Macrodynamics are very good (but not a 10). But they are realistic, and I have heard digital rigs that do rate a 10 in dynamics, but they are over the top and are not realistic. Microdynamics are excellent(but not a 10). Air and space between instruments are also quite good (but not a 10). Now, please understand that these are very, very picky points which would definitely change with different tubes. Even if they remained, the Romulus would still be my choice, as it is sooooo nice to hear playing. It is only that the rest of my system is so on-target that these minor things are noticed IF I listen for them! I hope to expand on these preliminary results in a few months and after trying some NOS tubes. This is just my attempt to help you make your decision.
My System: Tyler Woodmere speakers; CODA 15.0 Amp; Purity Audio Designs Ultra GT Preamp; SOTA Cosmos Vacuum TT; Graham Phantom Supreme Tonearm; ZYX Universe Cartridge; CODA 06P Phono Preamp; Purist Proteus Provectus Tonearm Cable; Purist Venustas Interconnects and Speaker Wires.
IMHO, the best DACs in the actual market are the Concert Fidelity DAC-040 tube vacuum d/a converter
and the Wavelength Audio Crimson HS USB DAC (with silver transformers)
I know that with the first you cant run Hi-rez file and the second is out of your budget, but the solution (IMHO) It could be the wonderful Metronome Technologie C2A that you can find used for about 7000USD.
I hope this help you.
Thank you for your comments. My aim with this DAC is to bring some warmness to the music since every other componet is digital. In regards to the CD player; does it full fill your expectations?
Hi, I haven't heard the Jadis JS2 tube dac, but i did hear the Jadis JS1 tube dac with the separate power supply that has tubes in it. That is one of the most analog sounding tube dacs.
I think that Jadis dac might have been designed by Jerry Ozment who sadly passed away 2 years ago.
I also love the Audio Logic 34MXL tube dac designed by Jerry. That Audio Logic Dac sounds sweet.
Some other tube dacs i'v heard that i like are the Audio Aero Prima tube dac. 6moons did a good review on it.
I also like the Accustic Arts Tube dac.
My friend used to have the Kora Hermes tube dac about 7 years ago which was a really good tube dac. I dont know if Kora still distributes here in the U.S.
Here's a good thread on here where people compare Accustic Arts Tube dac to the Audio Aero Capitole tube cd player.
The Audio Aero Prima dac is the same tube dac used in the Audio Aero Capitole cd players.
Yes, the Romulus absolutely fulfills my expectations. Full, rich, warm, pleasing with plenty of natural-sounding detail. The sound invites the listener to keep listening. Just guessing here, but I would think the only folks who may not be enamored with the Romulus would be those seeking the ultimate in bare-knuckle resolution, music be damned. It is funny that not much has been published yet about the Romulus or Pandora, although I suspect that some good reviews are coming before long. Let us know what happens.
Many thanks to all for your advice on this matter. It was a huge help to me in narrowing down the list.
I have decided to go with the Romulus.
I appreciate all your comments concerning your experience with the Romulus. Keep me posted on what you do on the tube end.
Glad I was able to help. I will post back as requested, and I hope that you are able to favorably post back after your unit has broken in.
I am with Doggiehowser on this. I also have a PDX and have compared it to tons of stuff and nothing bests it so far. The only one that may do it is a Killer DAC which I have on order. I have heard it on a few occasions and know it is very good but haven't done a direct comparison to a PDX. That DAC was compared to a number of uber expensive DAC's by people whose ears I trust including an Audio Note and top of the line DCS Stack. The others were quickly eliminated leaving the Killer and DCS. It was a tie - the DCS was quicker with fantastic detail but the Killer simply sounded more natural and real.
To find out about a PDX check here:
To Find out about the Killer check here:
When I get the Killer I will be doing a detailed comparison as well as lending it to guys I trust such as Doggiehowser so they can do the same.
Bob,The PDX looks like it cound be something special.Pasive resistor I/V straightforward output stage and wow, Duelund VSF capacitors with the level 2 mod(very interesting). What`s the output(volts) of this DAC and does it avoid the use of opamps? How stout is the power supply?
My tried and true recommendation: Audio Note.
I have yet to hear a DAC I prefer.
It's strength is the orgnanic, natural quality of voice and instrument timbre, dynamics, and dimensionality. It has great frequency extension with clear highs and satisfying bass.
Only two downsides I can think of:
1- Essentially no USB support. If you need USB you will need a USB to SPDIF converter.
2- The DAC chip only supports up to 18/96.
Even with those limitations it is the most natural digital music experience I've ever heard.
I've heard the Aesthetix Pandora VC being feed from a PS Audio PWT into the AES input and a Auraliti PK 90 into the USB input. I agree with Rtilden's Romulus comments on break-in and sound quality with 16/44.1 recordings, but hirez from the PWT/PK90 takes it to another level,especialy when connected directly to your amps.
I have a level 2 PDX with Bybees all over the place as a special order. Like I say its the best DAC I have heard so far with one exception (aside from the Killer which may be better) - a Playback designs DAC I have on DSD - but only DSD - via PCM the PDX easily bests it - and of course its not valve.
Each DAC is hand built by the designer, Clay Geisner, to order, and the output resistor is adjusted to the input sensitivity of the amps being used. This is to make for easy direct connecting to the amps and using the volume control on the computer which myself and others found sounds the best. Its a bit better than the version with the volume control even though the particular volume control used is very transparent using LED's and not a pot.
No op amps or anything like that. The power supply is a special linear supply that plugs into your outlet and connects by a special supplied chord.
If you want to know more simply drop Lenehan Audio a line. The guy that runs it, Mike Lenehan, is really good to deal with. I am fortunate to live only about 30-40 minutes (so does my mate Doggiehowser) from the factory and know the guys there pretty well.
With the amount you have to spend I would look at the version I have with Bybees all over the place (on the power going in, from the DAC chip to the amp, and on the output). Its not on the site but just mention it to Mike and I am sure he will arrange for it.
Anyway good luck on your search.
No op amps,seperate power supply and Duelund caps,I`d like to hear this Lenehan PDX one day.
Yea you and tons of others would love to hear the DAC. I am fortunate in being close to where they are made. Trouble is to keep costs down it is sold direct. If it was sold through a dealer network it would cost a lot more. That's the trouble with selling direct - you save - but you take a punt.
Checking in to see how the Romulus is working out for you.
You might want to add the AMR DP-777 to your list.
I have been away on vacation for nearly 2 weeks, so nothing new to report currently. I will let you know in future.
Just following up with my listening impressions after further break-in and tube swapping. Amperex 6922 and Telefunken 12AX7 have made my Romulus a virtual match for the sonics of the rest of my system. More liveliness and emphasis on the high frequencies and less bloating in the midrange and upper bass. And it maintains all the analog sonic qualities that I prefer. This is the last stop for me, as I am very pleased.
if you can find a wavelength dac in your price range , grab it.
Lampizator 4 will hit the spot!
My strong recommendation would be Audio Note DAC 3.1. I have been using Audio Note DACs for about 8 years, and the sound is superb, really natural and very close to vinyl.
Aside form very high quality parts and great design of the circuits, a major factor in the organic and natural sound is going against the grain and NOT using Oversampling OR Filtering. AN UK did extensive research and discovered the common Oversampling route pushed onto everyone since 1990s is fundamentally flawed.
If you ring Peter at Audio Note UK, he will explain the philosophy and the levels of Audio Note models in your price range.
Audio Note DACs are designed around 2 channel traditional stereo (CDP fed). It is an easy job to purchase a USB convertor to then go down the PC Audio route, which can rival or surpass traditional transports.