Which DAC ??? - Aesthetix Pandora Eclipse OR Bricasti M1 SE?


Fellow audiophiles, hope you are all well. I need your advice on my next DAC upgrade!!!

 

I recently acquired a Aesthetix Pandora DAC (base model) to replace my PS Audio Perfectwave mk2. I feel that the Pandora is a substantial improvement over Perfectware mk2 with sweet treble, solid mid and powerful bass. The vocals sound much smoother and there's more meat on the bones. For me, the sole task of music is to convey emotion and Pandora does this wonderfully! I feel that it brings souls to my music collections. Very musical DAC that I can keep listening for hours without any signs of fatigue. As compared to Pandora, the Perfectwave sounds analytical, flat and lifeless.

 

I like the Pandora so much that one month after I acquired it I'm thinking of upgrading it to its top of the line edition, the Eclipse edition which costs substantially more than than the base model and is in the same price range as the well-known Bricastsi M1 SE. The problem is there's no place in Sydney to audition the Pandora Eclipse or the Bricasti M1 SE, not to mention a home audition.

 

Now here comes my questions: Could you please kindly share your experience if you listened to the either Aesthetix Pandora Eclipse or Bricasti M1 SE before? The sound that I'm chasing is open, live, 3d and most importantly, musical and engaging. Bricasti M1 SE is a world class DAC and most of the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. However, there are still a few people saying it can be bright therefore fatiguing at times. Is it true? OR should I take a totally new perspective and upgrade other components to maximize the SQ improvement e.g. a dedicated server like Antipodes DX?

 

My humble system comprises:

Mac mini with Uptone DC-Conversion / Linear Fan Controller Kit (MMK).

Aesthetix Pandora DAC (base model)

Aesthetix Calypso Preamp

Aesthetix Atlas Monos

Magnepan 1.7i

IC: Entry level Chord XLR

Speaker cable: Clearday double shotgun

 

Please help me make an informed decision. Your opinion is highly appreciated!!!!!

Thanks.

Steven


steven365
Hi, Steven,
I have Eclipse versions of the Calypso and Atlas stereo amp.  I cannot compare with the Bricasti, but can compare Calypso base model with the Eclipse version which I had done last summer.  Presumably the difference with the Pandora would be comparable.  I feel the Eclipse upgrade is a lot better and worth the money, but again do not know how it compares with the Bricasti.  It's really a different level SQ than the base model.  Based on this experience, I'd also recommend upgrading your Atlas to Eclipse, although since I bought it at Eclipse level I cannot compare before and after. 

As it happens, I also bought an Antipodes DX and recently had it upgraded to Gen3.  I like its sound better than the Aurender base model it replaced, but that is to be expected at nearly three times the price--I did like the Aurender.  My impression--not based on direct comparison, except for the Aurender--is that the DX is among the higher performing streamer/renderer/rippers, and the convenience of its internal storage (I got 2TB, and it is SSD) is appealing.  As you probably know, it  does not contain a DAC.  It's also Roon Ready.  I will say the Antipodes customer service is excellent.  Good luck with your explorations.
Jim Heckman (Pennsylvania, USA)
Hi Jim, thanks for the info, much appreciated.

The price of the Eclipse upgrade for Pandora is a whopping $6,500 USD. I'm having a hard time justifying the cost for a couple of exotic capacitors, new power supply and new feet. With $6500 USD I could probably find a used Bricasti M1 SE with Network Card which is a much better known DAC and their upgrade price has always been acceptable. 

If I have to choose between upgrading Pandora and buying a Antipodes DX server, which one do you believe will bring the most improvement in SQ? Also do you feel that the Antipodes DX gen 3 is much better than gen 1? Some one told me that gen 1 sounds more relaxed and organic, is it true? 

Thanks.
@jimski 
Sorry, forgot to at you...
I have the Pandora Sig not the Eclipse. In I guess a fairly resolving system...I am certainly a fan of your components. I am holding off on any further Aesthetix investment until they clarify where they are headed w MQA. I will move to Brinkmann soon IF they keep sitting on fence....
having said that the sig with nos tubes is a sonic wonder
Inhave heard a previous rev level Bricasti, hyper detailed, etched but I can see why people like it, system synergy....
you might contact Andy at Vintage Tube ( Jim White recommended him to me ) for about $600 and a cable upgrade you might be very suprised, add a power cable and HRS Nimbus couplers ( which are better than the HRS feet that Aesthetix use and you might be shocked....
Greetings Steven
 I have heard the comparison
 The Bricasti is an excellent DAC and I would say its at its best with components voiced like itself higher feedback amps with more control
 Think Levinson the clean and clear crowd question here is how di both do justice Nina Simone's voice in the Midrange etc.

The Aesthetix Pandora Dac would be my first choice with your gear.
The Atlas amps and Calypso follow a no feedback design approach.
While the Pandora will seem to have a better tonal balance in your system e preserving the overtones with a significant improvement.

The Aesthetix Eclipse Romulus CD and Pandora Eclipse DAC, by comparison, are of a much more musical engaging experience.
 Something to not overlook on Eclipse Dac besides power supply and chassis isolation is the expensive special exotic Caps
 At this level and in my listening experience make the Eclipse even a better value at its asking.
 .
 Best
 JohnnyR
  
@tomic601 Hi Tom

thanks for the info. May I please ask which tubes did you purchase from Vintage Tube?

I’m thinking of upgrading to the Eclipse edition but feel the cost is quite discouraging. Nowadays everyone is talking about streaming believing better sound quality can be achieved via Ethernet than via USB. Maybe I should give the DAC/streamer option a go, like the Ayon S-10? I’ve heard great things about the Ayon S-10 and the gentleman who sold me the Pandora highly recommends it.  
@audioconnection 

Hi John

nice to see you again. Thanks for your advices via WhatsApp. I purchased the Aesthetix Atlas Monos and Pandora based on your recommendation and I am indeed impressed. 

Just wondering if you have compared the Pandora Eclipse with Ayon S- 5 or S-10 DAC/streamer which are also no feedback design? 

Thanks



Steven
 Thanks for your comments
  Ayon is using a 6H30 output stage.
Aesthetix is optimizing their set up with 6922/12Ax7 the same tubes your Calypso Pre amp and will voice/ match in an obvious way when you hear it.
 I would suggest you stay the course all the way through w Eclipse
I think once you experience Eclipse level you will then be confident and know you have an excellent matched system enjoying the music instead of writing to us pen pals here.
 Best
 JohnnyR  
Very thoughtful and wise counsel from Johnny R. The context must be the entire audio system and the overall sonic result. Johnny R. has addressed the situation from this approach. His comments regarding NFB(negative feedback) compared to zero NFB designs is noteworthy. It depends on the type of sound you’re seeking from your system. I lean toward the  zero NFB concept  however  many people are happy with components utilizing NFB as well.
Charles
OP Motorola 7058 and Amperex in the 6DJ8 / ECC88
Andy probably has best tube test equipment on the planet...
I dont disagree with @audioconnection  Johnny R
just providing an alternate path to upgrading your already excellent Pandora....and one you might consider even with Eclipse....

back to Nina....and the music....
on the subject of low NFB...that design principle dominates my system along with time and phase correct filters and speakers....
Steven,
This response to your Aug. 28 questions is so late it will probably go unread.  I suppose one shouldn't jump into discussions if one isn't going to monitor them with some regularity.  Also this response will mostly address peripheral considerations, although meaningful.  And maybe you've made decisions by now.
At any rate, your question re upgrading Pandora to Eclipse for $6,500, or buying Antipodes DX (Gen 3 with 2TB SSD storage is $9,150) is a tough choice.  I do think the Gen 3 upgrade for the DX is better, and I know it handles Roon/Tidal much better (no more delays and interruptions in streaming).  As for Aesthetix, I have total confidence in their performance and honesty in pricing, meaning I feel the Eclipse upgrade will be well worth it.  I think I'd opt for the Pandora upgrade, feeling it would have more impact on overall SQ than the Antipodes, especially if you're listening to digital other than streaming.  If you desire a streaming upgrade, there are good streamers available at much lower price points, like the Aurender N100H that I had and replaced with the Antipodes.  I did like the Aurender's SQ, ease of use and customer service.
It does sound like the range of choices you are considering are all good, so in that sense you can't lose.
Jim Heckman