Tube DACs

I am looking for a very good tube DAC that will give me the tube mid-range magic (not too much bloom) but that alive sound, with deep bass and a wide soundstage. I tired the Electrocompaniet SS DAC on my Sony SCD-777ES and it threw a very wide soundstage with very deep bass, and great details. I am looking for a DAC that will add some of the tube maigic to the mid range especially for vocals.

I know of the CAL Alpha, Sonic Frontiers and the Audio Logic tube DACs, do you have any experience with these or any others?

Thanks for your input and Happy Listening.
Try an Audio Note Tube DAC. The DAC One 1x Signiture is an excellent tube DAC at a reasonable price. I had a problem with my B&W's being too bright until I put the Audio Note into the system.

Its worth a shot.
Try auditioning the Musical Fidelity TRIVISTA-21 DAC. Simply amazing!
I second the Audio Note DACs. I have the 2.1x balanced, purchased used. I also have the Wavelength Audio Cosine DAC which is very similar in design and concept (tube output, zero sampling) that I use in a headphone system.
If you don't mind saving a lot of money, check out where the "TubeDac," and matching power supply are on sale new for a price so low it might be hard to take the DAC seriously. After pioneering the tube output consumer DAC, this is the master's less is more purist approach which ended up being a bargain. The only way to make it cost more is to choose some rare, single NOS tube. My older Anodyne ATAS uses four tubes, where the cost of NOS tubes alone can equal the price of the entire, new era TubeDac. With all the money saved, you can run wild buying CD's.
I have a Cal Alpha in my main system (w/a BAT DK5) and a Sigma II in a 2nd system and use them regularily so long as I'm not looking for the ultimate audio adventure (great resolution and soundstaging). They are warm and musical - they are a bit forward in presentation but not bright or glassy (assuming you've tubed them correctly). They are more forgiving of problems in CD's and for casual listening I actually prefer them to the BAT. What I would love to find is a CDP or a DAC which has the tonal balance and upfront presentation of the Cal Alpha, but with the resolution of the BAT. Anyone know of such a beast?
I use my Audio Aero CD player's DAC for my DVDs (two channel), Satellite and it does a great job playing CDs as well. Since it has a volumn control I find that it serves as a preamp as well.
Not to take this thread off track, but in response to Newbee's comments, I would suggest a CEC transport in front of that Alpha. I will say that took care of the "forwardness" you're describing. I'm running that combo now with an Orchid cable and the results are fantastic. In regards to tube dacs for Bigkidz, I would look into trying something like an Audio Aero Prima DAC or a Manley or VTL tube DAC. Like to find a loaner for myself, actually !
Bigkidz, the tube magic you are looking for, you
might consider your sony for tube mod, I know
I mentioned this before,Modwright did my Sony
9000es,My friend just listened to my system, and
was very impress on what the sony mod did on my system.
Mine has volume control.Cost $1700
Peter: jeffcott here (Holleys and Cragars). I am currently using a CEC TL2 and Audio Logic M34 combination. This combination has shown me the deficiencies in my system which I am currently in the process of correcting. IMO, this combination raises good Redbook recordings to the level of good HDCD. In truth, I must say that by itself a good DAC has not made as much of a difference as a good DAC used in COMBINATION with a good transport. For me, purchasing the CEC has been an eye opener: not black and white, but much clearer shades of grey. In terms of singing the prowess of Audio Logic, I would hope that Rcprince would chime in on this thread. He has experienced Jerry Ozment's handiwork two generations ahead of me, and can speak with polished experience of the differences between the AL products. Wish you lived close by, I would gladly bring them to you to experience with your system. All of the above has been with VERY modest tubes in the DAC. I am just now getting ready to improve things in that area.
Jeffcott, I have been to Rcprinces home and heard the AL DAC and I will probably get one this week to hear in my system versus the Electrocompaniet DAC. I also want to hear the Audio Aero DAC to compare and I am trying to locate one or an audition. I also want to hear the Tube Technology DAC if I can find one of those also. I also remember our previous stories. If I get them in to compare, I will let you know what I hear and maybe even see if Russ wants to take a listen to for a second opinion.
You may consider having your Sony modded. Modwright has turned my Sony into an exceptional player. The mod included an added tube section. It surpasses the Sony/Audio Note 3.1x sig. as well as Cec TL1x/ AN.
Let me put in a third vote for the Dan Wright mod. The absolute truth mod of my XA-777ES surpassed the performance of my previous Sonic Frontiers P-3.
Although Audio Research is not known for their digital equipment, the DAC 3 MK II is a superlative DAC. It uses 4 6922 tubes and is the best I have had in my system. My dealer loaned me a CD-3 for audition, which bested the DAC 3 in the bass, but not in the mids and highs.
I would highly recommend the Kora Hermes 24/192 or even better, the new Hermes II. I owned the original Hermes (with the Auricaps upgrade) and I now own the Hermes II. Both are amazing and will give you the harmonic richness and midrange liquidity, but they also sound very dynamic, tight on the bottom and smoothly detailed.
I'm sure you would be happy with the Auricapped Hermes, but I think you should try hunting down the Hermes II: it takes all the strengths of the previous model to yet another level of refinement and musicality. Also, it offers practically endless tweaking possibilities: the Hermes II uses either 6922 triodes or, with a different jumper setting allows for using the 12au7 family.
Give it a try!
I've been using a 24/192 Kora Hermes DAC [version 1] for almost two years and am very happy with it.

The qualities Markxiii mentions are what I realized when I replaced my Bel Canto DAC 1.1 with the Kora. The Hermes didn't sacrifice any dynamics, and I gained musical richness and soundstaging dimension.

Being that the Kora uses two 6922 tubes, it has allowed me greater ability to tune the sound according to my changing taste and when I need to equipment match.
This is very interesting, I like the idea of being able to tailor your sound for whatever reasons necessary (although some may disagee in that respect). How this dac would compare to the Audio Aero Prima (dac) and the Audio Logic is what Bigkidz and I would like to know. I was going to post another thread on this, but sheeesh, we're already on topic with this one,...... I hope Bigkidz does not mind me chiming in here !
Rx8man, you can tune the sound you want with virtually any tubed DAC (or anything with tubes, really); if you have an earlier Audio Logic without the transformer upgrade, you have 4 tubes to play with, 2 if you did the upgrade. The problem of course is unscrewing all those little Allen screws in the chasis, getting the unit where you can make the change, and reconnecting and reconstructing everything. A true PITA!

Peter, you should hear the new version of the Audio Logic if you can (you can make a return visit if you want), it is quite good, and you might want to hear a Modwright modded Sony if you can, that is not a bad suggestion, given my experience with Jerry O's mods to my Sony--certainly saves on digital cable, will improve the SACD playback as well as CD and the shorter signal path can't hurt.
Rcprince I am getting the AL DAC (newest version) in a day or so. I am also getting the Wavelength Tube DAC to compare. If you want I can maybe swing by over the weekend with the Wavelength if you want, it has to go back sometime Sunday unless I buy it. I will email you if I think it competes.
I attended an Analog show in San Francisco several months ago and i did get a chance to listen to the modright Sony Cd player. I probably will get their version of a DVD player. I will stay with my Audio Aero Cd player which has recently been upgraded to the 5.4 chip. It sounds really good and I continue to use it for 2-channel DVDs.

Modright is an interesting route to go and these guys should not be ignored when looking into the CD/DVD format of a DAC and preamp. I really do believe this is a wonderful route to go considering what a really good Cd player sells for compounded with a really good pre and then added to a top-of-the line DAC for digitsl Satellite or even for digital HDTV antenna signals. I want a really nice DVD player that has a really good progressive scanner. The only question is one of making sure I don't already have almost everything I want in audio with my Audio Aero and if I am just duplicating. Otherwise, I shall go with an independant processor and jsut find myself a decent transport and stick to the Audio Aero for the listening side.
I have had Audio Note, Zanden, and several tube players. All have been exceptional, but if money is an issue I would strongly recommend the Exemplar/Denon 2900 universal player which has a tube analog stage. I heard it compared with the Modwright Sony at VSAC, but could hear too little to make a comparison.
As an update, I have listened to the Wavelength and Audio Logic tube DACs. The AL is not a typical tube type of sound becasue it does not add the fuller/thicker mid range that I normally associated with tubes. It is extremely natural sounding, very nice soundstage that creates more depth to the music. In my system the backing vocals actually seem to be coming over the shoulder of the front vocals (more than any of the other DACs I heard). It is also clearer and does not compress dynamics or smear up the sound (muddy it up) and with P Barbers Wood is a wonderful (whatever that song is called) you can really hear the multiple voices better than any of the other DACs which each sound excellent but with the AL DAC, the voices come form all over the place, really nice! The Wavelength is also very natural and while it has slightly more mid bass tube sound, it is still not as much as what I normally consider that type of fullness with tubes. It also is very naturla and clear (slighlty more fuller notes in the mids than the AL) but it lacks the bass that the AL DAC offers. The AL DAC has some weight to it also as a sinble box unit and the Wavelength is light weight in comparison (for what that is worth I do not know about parts quality, etc.). They both worked very well with my Sony SCD-777ES SACD/CD player and that is my first priority. The other option is to have the Sony modified but I would prefer not to at this time because I may nto like the overall outcome of the modified player.

I just got the Chord 64 DAC in to audition and I have to tell you that this may be up to the task of giving the AL a run for the money. I will give them a few days and then compare them to each other.

Happy Listening.