Help choosing a tube DAC

PBM

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Feb 21, 2012
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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
You're right - there is some objectively really bad-sounding digital out there: from older classical recordings badly digitalised, through the casualties of the loudness wars, to simply badly engineered horrors. I run an analogue mastering studio and have resorted to re-mastering favourite works which are superb on vinyl and dreadful on digital transfer - Quartetto Italiano on Philips, for example.

The studio uses Esoteric K-01 as the monitoring DAC and I've found that it has flexible enough filters to tame a surprising amount of harshness whenever I'm listening for pleasure, but we're looking at other options for a new dedicated client listening room (opening if lockdown ever ends).

One option that appeals is a valved DAC (Lampizator, Aries) but perhaps also nice valves in the amplification ... And there's always the cheaper & cheerful option of Cardas Golden series interconnects ... Please report on what you find in your researches.
 

Mblu

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Feb 17, 2021
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Thanks for this confirmation.
I am continuing to investigate.
I have 2 more DACs “in stock” to test (Resolution Cantata and Schiit Gungir) to help feeling the impact of the DAC in my system+acoustics.
Then I am following up carefully the feedbacks here about the Baltic3 and Aries Helene. Not the same budget, but I am not willing to change after 6 months. To make-up my mind I will try to listen to the Aries and possibly bring my cantata (Yggdrasil sounds bad when cold ; cantata also improves after a few days, but the character is ok from cold).
Will take some time unfortunately...
 

christoph

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Dec 12, 2015
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Thanks for this confirmation.
I am continuing to investigate.
I have 2 more DACs “in stock” to test (Resolution Cantata and Schiit Gungir) to help feeling the impact of the DAC in my system+acoustics.
Then I am following up carefully the feedbacks here about the Baltic3 and Aries Helene. Not the same budget, but I am not willing to change after 6 months. To make-up my mind I will try to listen to the Aries and possibly bring my cantata (Yggdrasil sounds bad when cold ; cantata also improves after a few days, but the character is ok from cold).
Will take some time unfortunately...
I also own a Resolution Audio Cantata and as much as I like it, all Lampis from the Atlantic Plus and up sound better than my trusty Cantata.
The Atlantic Plus with a proper rectifier tube sounds a little better than the Cantata and already the Altlantic TRP with decent tubes sounds massively better than the Cantata. These are my experiences directly comparing and owning those DACs in my systems.
 
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Mblu

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Interesting feedback ! Especially from someone owning a cantata, KR and Lamm amps ... I owned these brands and loved them.
 
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christoph

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Interesting feedback ! Especially from someone owning a cantata, KR and Lamm amps ... I owned these brands and loved them.
Then, the probability is very high that you will also love Lampi DACs :D
 

morricab

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Apr 25, 2014
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Thanks for this confirmation.
I am continuing to investigate.
I have 2 more DACs “in stock” to test (Resolution Cantata and Schiit Gungir) to help feeling the impact of the DAC in my system+acoustics.
Then I am following up carefully the feedbacks here about the Baltic3 and Aries Helene. Not the same budget, but I am not willing to change after 6 months. To make-up my mind I will try to listen to the Aries and possibly bring my cantata (Yggdrasil sounds bad when cold ; cantata also improves after a few days, but the character is ok from cold).
Will take some time unfortunately...
I think you will like the sound of the Helene DAC...it has a powerful, dynamic sound, with plenty of resolution, deep wide soundstage with palpable 3d imaging with strong structural elements (instruments in space are well grounded in the stage) and natural timbre (instruments exhibit their full tonal palette without editorialization).
 

wisnon

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Dec 12, 2011
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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
Its a killer Dac (sounds far greater than the asking price and may be best value in the Lampi range), that's all i can say and I have not even had to chance to find the best tube match. Wish I had VT99 to try as well as Sylnavia/Raytheon 6sn7.
 
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Mblu

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Feb 17, 2021
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I also own a Resolution Audio Cantata and as much as I like it, all Lampis from the Atlantic Plus and up sound better than my trusty Cantata.
The Atlantic Plus with a proper rectifier tube sounds a little better than the Cantata and already the Altlantic TRP with decent tubes sounds massively better than the Cantata. These are my experiences directly comparing and owning those DACs in my systems.
I could bring the cantata to this system. Needs at least 24 hours warm-up time. Also much better with an external usb-spdif converter (I should have brought the pont-neuf usb-ethernet converter as well). Tonal balance is warmer (neutral) than Yggdrasil (cold side ?) and, with the spdif entry, sounds significantly better in this system as well.
This test confirms that the 14 years old cantata 2.0 is excellent and that the Dac is a key component in my system.
Could you characterize the “massively better”than cantata : timbres, dynamics, tone balance, scene, details, ... ? I would like to keep a similar tonal balance and any increased musicality, liquidity or natural would be a plus ...
thank you
 
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CKKeung

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christoph

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I could bring the cantata to this system. Needs at least 24 hours warm-up time. Also much better with an external usb-spdif converter (I should have brought the pont-neuf usb-ethernet converter as well). Tonal balance is warmer (neutral) than Yggdrasil (cold side ?) and, with the spdif entry, sounds significantly better in this system as well.

With warm-up time, do you mean the Cantata being hooked up to the power and in stand-by or fully on?
What kind of an external USB-spdif converter do you use? Is that better than the spdif outputs on the Cantata itself?
I dont have the pont-neuf but isn't the pont-neuf an ethernet-USB converter, rather than the other way around?
Do I understand you correctly that you prefer the Cantata over the Yggy, right?

This test confirms that the 14 years old cantata 2.0 is excellent and that the Dac is a key component in my system.
Could you characterize the “massively better”than cantata : timbres, dynamics, tone balance, scene, details, ... ? I would like to keep a similar tonal balance and any increased musicality, liquidity or natural would be a plus ...
thank you

I do still like my Cantata a lot because it is really good sounding, small and pretty :cool:

BUT, my Lampis just sound better:
Better tone and timbre, the sound is just liquid and organic, a lot more palpable and most of all, more alive.
The stage is huge in all dimensions (also farward from the speaker pane into the room if this is on the recording) and more 3d with reach around tangibilty :eek:

I think you should give the Lampi DACs a listen, you really might love them as they improve over the strengths of the Cantata that you already like :D
 
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Mblu

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With warm-up time, do you mean the Cantata being hooked up to the power and in stand-by or fully on?
What kind of an external USB-spdif converter do you use? Is that better than the spdif outputs on the Cantata itself?
I dont have the pont-neuf but isn't the pont-neuf an ethernet-USB converter, rather than the other way around?
Do I understand you correctly that you prefer the Cantata over the Yggy, right?



I do still like my Cantata a lot because it is really good sounding, small and pretty :cool:

BUT, my Lampis just sound better:
Better tone and timbre, the sound is just liquid and organic, a lot more palpable and most of all, more alive.
The stage is huge in all dimensions (also farward from the speaker pane into the room if this is on the recording) and more 3d with reach around tangibilty :eek:

I think you should give the Lampi DACs a listen, you really might love them as they improve over the strengths of the Cantata that you already like :D


I meant Cantata being fully on. I already noticed that it becomes even better after a few days (like Yggy by the way).

I used the cantata with 3 different entries :
1- USB : usb cable from the PC into the dac
2- Pont neuf : usb output from the PC to Pont/neuf conversion to ethernet, ethernet cable to Cantata (worked very well, but did not try recently)
3- mac mini -> usb -> singxer F1 converter to usb -> cantata USB input

3 is much better than 1.

Yes I do prefer the Cantata over the Yggy With the ESL57. Yggy is more analytical, even if without the direct comparison I was not thinking it is analytical. With other warmer speakers, Yggy was better.



I will give Lampi a try :)

thank you !
 
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christoph

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I meant Cantata being fully on. I already noticed that it becomes even better after a few days (like Yggy by the way).

I used the cantata with 3 different entries :
1- USB : usb cable from the PC into the dac
2- Pont neuf : usb output from the PC to Pont/neuf conversion to ethernet, ethernet cable to Cantata (worked very well, but did not try recently)
3- mac mini -> usb -> singxer F1 converter to usb -> cantata USB input

3 is much better than 1.

Yes I do prefer the Cantata over the Yggy With the ESL57. Yggy is more analytical, even if without the direct comparison I was not thinking it is analytical. With other warmer speakers, Yggy was better.



I will give Lampi a try :)

thank you !
Thanks for your further infos.

May I ask what USB cable you use on the Cantata?
I used a Light Harmonic Lightspeed 10G (double stranded, seperate signal and power strands) USB Cable which improved the sound a LOT (I guess due to the separation of the power strand from the signal strand)

Later I got to know the FTA Callisto USB cable which bettered the LH 10G cable by a big margin (and was also considerably less expensive than the LH 10G). I still use several FTA Callistos on all my DACs, also on the Cantata ;)

Please let us know how you like the Lampi DACs :cool:

Btw. where are you located?
 

Mblu

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Feb 17, 2021
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Thanks for your further infos.

May I ask what USB cable you use on the Cantata?
I used a Light Harmonic Lightspeed 10G (double stranded, seperate signal and power strands) USB Cable which improved the sound a LOT (I guess due to the separation of the power strand from the signal strand)

Later I got to know the FTA Callisto USB cable which bettered the LH 10G cable by a big margin (and was also considerably less expensive than the LH 10G). I still use several FTA Callistos on all my DACs, also on the Cantata ;)

Please let us know how you like the Lampi DACs :cool:

Btw. where are you located?

I use a Phasure Lush cable.
Didn’t compare, only followed opinions read on forum. I guess it also impacts the sound quite significantly.
I will look for info about FTA callisto.

thank you ! (From Luxembourg)
 
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wisnon

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I have a long Phasure Lush USB cable. Great cable, but in my system, the FTA Callisto is even better.
 
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christoph

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I have a long Phase lush. Great cable, but in my system, the FTA Callisto is even better.
The Light Harmonic 10G was clearly better than your Lush and my Curious Cable but I prefer the Callisto over all of them :p
 

Mblu

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Feb 17, 2021
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I finally got the opportunity to buy an Aries Helene.
I was somehow surprised with the changes.
No systematic coloration, but the ”harshness” of some disks is mostly gone. Poor disks are still not great of course, but I can listen to some with real pleasure now. primary objective is achieved.

Timbres are sometimes quite different from what I was used to. Very rich and natural, I think.
I mainly listen to classic and jazz music, also because rock disks are often rather “empty” and I simply don’t enjoy the poor sound. The combination of dynamic, tone balance, transforms the experience.
Good disks are great.

What surprises me is that this DAC brings similar changes as my high end PBN Olympia pre-amp compared to the others : dynamics, realism, tonal balance, bass (even with ESL57). Sound is very transparent and open. Music is richer, balance between instruments is different, I hear more melodies from each instrument.

I see 2 “drawbacks”:
- I tend to play louder, to a more realistic sound level (risky with esl)
- there’s a lot of information to digest for the system and the room. I feel it requires further optimization : balanced power, diffusor panels, USB cable. Also maybe the “uptoned“ mac mini would deserve an upgrade (?).

Thank you for the advices received. other options might have been excellent as well, Baltic3, abbas, sw1x. I don’t need to know :)
 
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morricab

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Congrats on getting a superb DAC! You will find that it brings realism to the party and not just a nice tone.
 

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