Help choosing a tube DAC

Mblu

New Member
Feb 17, 2021
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I do really like sound and musicality of my Yggdrasil A2 (gen5) fed by an “uptoned” mac mini, PBN electronics and ESL57.
Excellent timbres, fantastic voices, cellos, great transparency and micro dynamics.

The issues come only with poorer recordings, which become harsh except at low volume. 57’s are less forgiving than some other speakers.

My idea is therefore to try a higher end DAC, not at all for higher resolution or any better objective qualities, but easiness to listen to more records.
Lampizator, Sw1x, Aries Helene, are very much liked in this forum.
I doubt I will find the opportunity to listen to those, will rather have to buy one and make up my mind by experimenting.
Also I might start with a used Dac in case I would need to sell it “rapidly”.

Lampizator is the easiest to find on second hand market ... but I am totally lost with the number of models !!
I would like stay below 7k€ except if a few more k€ give access to a different league. Also need balanced output to best use my PBN.
Some people here seem to have experienced many of their Dacs, any advice would be very appreciated :
- are some models a bit outdated even if still offered today ? Big7 ? Golden Gate 1 ? ATL gold bal ? ...
- I am not good at playing with tube rolling, would prefer to stick to standard or go for a well known recommendation
- do all products belong to the sale family or do they have very different personalities ?
- are all qualities improving with higher prices, or are the ones I am interested in (timbres, no harshness, organic pleasure) reaching a plateau before transparency, details etc ?

Looking at lampi’s website, new or second hand models, I could for example afford :
- used GG1 7k
- used ATL gold bal 5k
- new baltic3 5k

or, deserves the extra budget ?
- a GG2 is available, 10k
- a new bal Big7, 9k
- new ATL TRP, 8k

many thanks for your comments!
 

Sablon Audio

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May 22, 2015
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I would suggest looking at the Baltic as it benefits from the new xmos based JLSounds usb input card which gives quite a big jump in SQ over the older Amanero.
 
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Gregadd

WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
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This is quite a conundrum. Good recordings should sound good. Bad recordings should sound bad. The question do the recordings sound bad or does your dac sound bad? Running thru a tube filter may help some but they will still be bad.
Might it be a better approach is to get to the root of the "bad sound."
While i cannot rank it, I find the Amber 3 to be excellent.
 

Mblu

New Member
Feb 17, 2021
13
7
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55
Thank you both,

I don’t expect bad recordings to sound good but not to sound harsh. With other more forgiving speakers it is the case, I am not sure another Dac will solve the issue indeed. I find myself full of hope when I read “no harshness” in tube Dacs reviews ..
Another option is vinyl with original records, but that’s another level of challenge for me ...

Baltic3 seems to receive nice first reviews indeed. Just wondering if because more “audiophile” or more “musical“ or more “forgiving” or more all ;)

thank you
 

Sablon Audio

Industry Expert, VIP Donor
May 22, 2015
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Thank you both,

I don’t expect bad recordings to sound good but not to sound harsh. With other more forgiving speakers it is the case, I am not sure another Dac will solve the issue indeed. I find myself full of hope when I read “no harshness” in tube Dacs reviews ..
Another option is vinyl with original records, but that’s another level of challenge for me ...

Baltic3 seems to receive nice first reviews indeed. Just wondering if because more “audiophile” or more “musical“ or more “forgiving” or more all ;)

thank you
@VoicesInMyHead should be able to give you an unconflicted perspective Mblu as he now has Baltic but has previously owned Golden Atlantic plus I think Amber3
 
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VoicesInMyHead

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Apr 7, 2018
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Baltic3 seems to receive nice first reviews indeed. Just wondering if because more “audiophile” or more “musical“ or more “forgiving” or more all ;)

To me the choice you're standing in front is super easy, Baltic 3 is the way to go. If anything I would call it musical and for 5k I just don't see what could potentially get you anything better. As you're not into tube rolling you can stick with the defaults, they are in no way bad. But believe me I thought I was like you, B3 has opened up my eyes for tube rolling, theres lots of fun options to choose from and when you're ready to go down that path, B3 will allow you to explore. Atlantic TRP could perhaps been a choice if you were MORE into tube rolling. As your first Lampi DAC, I would not hesitate to recommend B3 though, both from price and performance perspective, and to me every Lampi model I have owned has been an evolution and I've watched them become better and better over the years, feel more solid and better overall quality. Check out the B3 thread here if you haven't seen it already, and... welcome to the family! :)
 

Mblu

New Member
Feb 17, 2021
13
7
3
55
Thanks a lot for your advice.
I played a bit with tube rolling in a Zanden 5000 Dac I had some years ago, in Lamm preamp, and many more, but I got a bit tired of playing with too many elements in the system. Now, I love the look of the spherical tubes in some pictures of Lampizator Dacs, look is another “good” reason for tube rolling :)
 
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Al M.

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Sep 10, 2013
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Thank you both,

I don’t expect bad recordings to sound good but not to sound harsh. With other more forgiving speakers it is the case, I am not sure another Dac will solve the issue indeed. I find myself full of hope when I read “no harshness” in tube Dacs reviews ..
Another option is vinyl with original records, but that’s another level of challenge for me ...

Baltic3 seems to receive nice first reviews indeed. Just wondering if because more “audiophile” or more “musical“ or more “forgiving” or more all ;)
e best
thank you

I agree with Greggadd that the best way is to get at the root of "bad sound", or as you describe it, harsh sound. I have the same Yggrasil DAC that you have, and agree that it is excellent. I also have unforgiving speakers (Reference 3A Reflector monitors), and I think covering up the problem with a tube DAC is not the way to go.

Instead, I have gone to the source of the problems that caused harsh sound, and dealt with improving room acoustics, and other reflection and resonance control (e.g., moving my main rack further away from the speakers, better isolation footers between my monitors and stands, putting rubber mats over the reflective gloss paint of my subwoofers). The improvements that I was able to achieve go far beyond my expectations.

All that with an increase in resolution of sound, rather than a decrease, as would likely be the case with trying to cover up the problems. That means that also the recordings that I previously judged as "good" now sound better than before, and not by a small margin.

The Yggdrasil DAC is clearly not the culprit, a bunch of other things were. The DAC is incredible.
 

shakti

Well-Known Member
May 9, 2015
1,021
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Cologne, Germany
Having had many tube DACs at home (Lampi 5, 6, 7, Atlantic, Big7, GG1, GG2, Pacific, Aqua LeVoce, Formula, Brinkmann Nyquist II, Yggdrasil, BAT Rex, and even more) I currently ended up to listen music to a Lampizator Baltic 3.

The Baltic 3 plays (depending on the set of tubes) on the warm side of neutral, has a lot of weight and energy, very nice vocals.
(EML 274, Psvane CV181T, Telefunken ECC82 is my current set up)
Changing to a Kron 5U4G and some modern ECC82 will give a more analytic and contoured sound, but still on the warm side.
Even if the technology is more close to Pacific, the tonal balance is more close to Lampi GG1, which I still like.
You can improve the standard tubes by ease and for a fair budget. But the standard tubes a nice as well.

I am not using the USB input (My K50 prefers the AES/EBU output)
 

marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
2,130
1,743
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United States
I do really like sound and musicality of my Yggdrasil A2 (gen5) fed by an “uptoned” mac mini, PBN electronics and ESL57.
Excellent timbres, fantastic voices, cellos, great transparency and micro dynamics.

The issues come only with poorer recordings, which become harsh except at low volume. 57’s are less forgiving than some other speakers.

My idea is therefore to try a higher end DAC, not at all for higher resolution or any better objective qualities, but easiness to listen to more records.
Lampizator, Sw1x, Aries Helene, are very much liked in this forum.
I doubt I will find the opportunity to listen to those, will rather have to buy one and make up my mind by experimenting.
Also I might start with a used Dac in case I would need to sell it “rapidly”.

Lampizator is the easiest to find on second hand market ... but I am totally lost with the number of models !!
I would like stay below 7k€ except if a few more k€ give access to a different league. Also need balanced output to best use my PBN.
Some people here seem to have experienced many of their Dacs, any advice would be very appreciated :
- are some models a bit outdated even if still offered today ? Big7 ? Golden Gate 1 ? ATL gold bal ? ...
- I am not good at playing with tube rolling, would prefer to stick to standard or go for a well known recommendation
- do all products belong to the sale family or do they have very different personalities ?
- are all qualities improving with higher prices, or are the ones I am interested in (timbres, no harshness, organic pleasure) reaching a plateau before transparency, details etc ?

Looking at lampi’s website, new or second hand models, I could for example afford :
- used GG1 7k
- used ATL gold bal 5k
- new baltic3 5k

or, deserves the extra budget ?
- a GG2 is available, 10k
- a new bal Big7, 9k
- new ATL TRP, 8k

many thanks for your comments!
I wouldn't presume to suggest an answer to your question since, to begin, I think the selection of a DAC needs to be made in the context of your system as a whole. Your system is not described. I would however, point out that among your choices, you list some models that are balanced while others are not. One wonders if you really need a balanced unit? Not only are tube costs obviously higher, but you might be able to economize a bit by considering a single-ended design which uses less costly circuity and can sound just as good, thus your dollar (Euro?) may go much further. As an aside, I chose a Lampi GG2 for several reasons, but one that resonated with me is that Lukasz thinks the GG2 is "superior to a GG1 in every possible way" so I am inclined to think that the modest price difference you have shown between these units would be money well spent.
 

Mblu

New Member
Feb 17, 2021
13
7
3
55
Instead, I have gone to the source of the problems that caused harsh sound, and dealt with improving room acoustics, and other reflection and resonance control .

...

The Yggdrasil DAC is clearly not the culprit, a bunch of other things were. The DAC is incredible.

All good points for sure.
True that the room acoustics does not help, I also have a piano in the room, and some notes create some resonance as well and I avoid playing forte.
i know I also have to improve power, will try a plixir transformer soon.

Still, good records sound very good with the system, therefore my search, which should come on top of the basics.

thank you also for the great feedback on Yggdrasi.
 
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Mblu

New Member
Feb 17, 2021
13
7
3
55
Having had many tube DACs at home (Lampi 5, 6, 7, Atlantic, Big7, GG1, GG2, Pacific, Aqua LeVoce, Formula, Brinkmann Nyquist II, Yggdrasil, BAT Rex, and even more) I currently ended up to listen music to a Lampizator Baltic 3.

The Baltic 3 plays (depending on the set of tubes) on the warm side of neutral, has a lot of weight and energy, very nice vocals.
(EML 274, Psvane CV181T, Telefunken ECC82 is my current set up)
Changing to a Kron 5U4G and some modern ECC82 will give a more analytic and contoured sound, but still on the warm side.
Even if the technology is more close to Pacific, the tonal balance is more close to Lampi GG1, which I still like.
You can improve the standard tubes by ease and for a fair budget. But the standard tubes a nice as well.

I am not using the USB input (My K50 prefers the AES/EBU output)

amazing experience !!
and very encouraging for the Baltic 3 !
I still have ECC82 in stock, a nice opportunity to try them :)

many thanks !
 

Mblu

New Member
Feb 17, 2021
13
7
3
55
I wouldn't presume to suggest an answer to your question since, to begin, I think the selection of a DAC needs to be made in the context of your system as a whole. Your system is not described. I would however, point out that among your choices, you list some models that are balanced while others are not. One wonders if you really need a balanced unit? Not only are tube costs obviously higher, but you might be able to economize a bit by considering a single-ended design which uses less costly circuity and can sound just as good, thus your dollar (Euro?) may go much further. As an aside, I chose a Lampi GG2 for several reasons, but one that resonated with me is that Lukasz thinks the GG2 is "superior to a GG1 in every possible way" so I am inclined to think that the modest price difference you have shown between these units would be money well spent.

My electronics, PBN Olympia LX pre-amp, PBN olympia HRX, definitely work better with balanced input.
i had many different amps in the past, KR, Audio Research Reference (so many tubes ... ), Lamm, etc. But PBN is incredible. Very lively (macro & micro), great timbres, and capable to drive anything, including the 57’s. But they are not on the warm side.

GG2 must be a great option, maybe a possible upgrade ...
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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Having had many tube DACs at home (Lampi 5, 6, 7, Atlantic, Big7, GG1, GG2, Pacific, Aqua LeVoce, Formula, Brinkmann Nyquist II, Yggdrasil, BAT Rex, and even more) I currently ended up to listen music to a Lampizator Baltic 3.

The Baltic 3 plays (depending on the set of tubes) on the warm side of neutral, has a lot of weight and energy, very nice vocals.
(EML 274, Psvane CV181T, Telefunken ECC82 is my current set up)
Changing to a Kron 5U4G and some modern ECC82 will give a more analytic and contoured sound, but still on the warm side.
Even if the technology is more close to Pacific, the tonal balance is more close to Lampi GG1, which I still like.
You can improve the standard tubes by ease and for a fair budget. But the standard tubes a nice as well.

I am not using the USB input (My K50 prefers the AES/EBU output)

Wow, shakti! This is a very persuasive endorsement for a Baltic 3!

And here I have been thinking that at least the DAC I get some day (Yggy 2 or Holo May KTE) would be the one place I don't have to mess with tubes. o_O
 

wisnon

Well-Known Member
Dec 12, 2011
3,318
438
540
Having had many tube DACs at home (Lampi 5, 6, 7, Atlantic, Big7, GG1, GG2, Pacific, Aqua LeVoce, Formula, Brinkmann Nyquist II, Yggdrasil, BAT Rex, and even more) I currently ended up to listen music to a Lampizator Baltic 3.

The Baltic 3 plays (depending on the set of tubes) on the warm side of neutral, has a lot of weight and energy, very nice vocals.
(EML 274, Psvane CV181T, Telefunken ECC82 is my current set up)
Changing to a Kron 5U4G and some modern ECC82 will give a more analytic and contoured sound, but still on the warm side.
Even if the technology is more close to Pacific, the tonal balance is more close to Lampi GG1, which I still like.
You can improve the standard tubes by ease and for a fair budget. But the standard tubes a nice as well.

I am not using the USB input (My K50 prefers the AES/EBU output)
Hi Shakti,
I was able to roll the gold base Psvane 6sn7 and the supplied Sylvania 12au7 and ONLY used my own GZ480 rectifier. I only had a soviet 6H8 and it did no beat the gorgeous gold base 6sn7. I found the Sylvania virtually equal to my Tungsram and Phillips Delta Code ECC82 and slighly better than my Adzam ECC82. Unlike DHT rolling, I did not find the changes due to rolling as very significant. A pal in Serbia did some rolling and found some changes he liked.
See quote: "I also have plenty of russian 6H8S which is 6sn7 equivalent. They are standard tubes in BAT amps and I uderstand why. They have aery energetic sound. With them, BAT amps sound more solid, not overly warm. Put two Sylvanias in BAT and sound became too tubey, slow and too warm for my taste. So I was combining Sylania and Raytheon. Raytheon is sophisticated version of 6H8S (my current favourite), more details but also very dynamic and fun to listen tube. All imho"
 

shakti

Well-Known Member
May 9, 2015
1,021
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Cologne, Germany
Hi Shakti,
I was able to roll the gold base Psvane 6sn7 and the supplied Sylvania 12au7 and ONLY used my own GZ480 rectifier. I only had a soviet 6H8 and it did no beat the gorgeous gold base 6sn7. I found the Sylvania virtually equal to my Tungsram and Phillips Delta Code ECC82 and slighly better than my Adzam ECC82. Unlike DHT rolling, I did not find the changes due to rolling as very significant. A pal in Serbia did some rolling and found some changes he liked.
See quote: "I also have plenty of russian 6H8S which is 6sn7 equivalent. They are standard tubes in BAT amps and I uderstand why. They have aery energetic sound. With them, BAT amps sound more solid, not overly warm. Put two Sylvanias in BAT and sound became too tubey, slow and too warm for my taste. So I was combining Sylania and Raytheon. Raytheon is sophisticated version of 6H8S (my current favourite), more details but also very dynamic and fun to listen tube. All imho"
shall we copy and continue our conversation into the dedicated Baltic 3 thread?,
as I assume helpful for Baltic 3 readers.

 
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Jazzhead

VIP/Donor
Aug 26, 2012
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Having had many tube DACs at home (Lampi 5, 6, 7, Atlantic, Big7, GG1, GG2, Pacific, Aqua LeVoce, Formula, Brinkmann Nyquist II, Yggdrasil, BAT Rex, and even more) I currently ended up to listen music to a Lampizator Baltic 3.

The Baltic 3 plays (depending on the set of tubes) on the warm side of neutral, has a lot of weight and energy, very nice vocals.
(EML 274, Psvane CV181T, Telefunken ECC82 is my current set up)
Changing to a Kron 5U4G and some modern ECC82 will give a more analytic and contoured sound, but still on the warm side.
Even if the technology is more close to Pacific, the tonal balance is more close to Lampi GG1, which I still like.
You can improve the standard tubes by ease and for a fair budget. But the standard tubes a nice as well.

I am not using the USB input (My K50 prefers the AES/EBU output)
Formula a tube DAC ?
 

shakti

Well-Known Member
May 9, 2015
1,021
1,223
375
Cologne, Germany

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