My thoughts on SW1X DAC II Special with USB

Fsonicsmith

Well-Known Member
Jun 25, 2015
39
23
88
I am not a huge contributor to this Board with maybe a dozen posts, likely less. I used to be a regular on AudioAsylum dating back to '95 or so and then on A-Gon forums. I live in Columbus OH, am a lawyer, and have zero connections to the audio industry.
So with that out of the way, my custom SW1X arrived ten days ago-the model in the subject line ordered through Joe Cohen of Lotus Group. Photos of my system are attached. As you can see, I like to swap out the DeVores with a pair of Spendor D7.2's every six months because I love both, and they play to different strengths. That said, I am not sure I need the strengths of the Spendors any more but I am getting ahead of myself. I grew up as a kid in the 70's with a high-end system in the house and my dad's friends all had hi-fi systems too. It was more prevalent back then for educated middle class households. Within a week of my being born my dad bought a Thorens TD124 and an SME 3009 arm and that TD124, rebuilt and modified, is my system today. I bought my first pretty decent system when I was a senior in high school in 1977.
The SW1X went into my system in place of a perfectly functional Abbingdon Music Research DP777 I bought new about seven years ago. My music is stored to the internal hard drive of an Aurender N100H and my USB cable is a WW Starlight Platinum 7. 95% of my digital files were burned from CD with the rest being so called high definition downloads from HDTracks.
I am here to to tell you that the SW1X made a more significant change to my digital playback than any previous upgrade or change.
After four and half days of constant play, I settled in to listen.
What struck me first-for the first time since getting floorstanders in place of B&W 805 standmounts-was soundstage depth, width, and height all expanded, with instruments and voices clearly localized.
Second, the music sounded more forceful and fluid, with more meat to the bones.
XTC's "Nonsuch" is not well-recorded. It is bright, brittle, and dry. For the very first time in my system, the opening track "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" sounded truly rewarding/satisfying. Ambient cues in the first five seconds of the intro were vivid and startling-I had not heard them clearly before. Andy Partridge's voice sounded real for the first time-I could hear his chestiness for the first time. The previous grating glare was of the recording was completely gone. Kenny Burrell's Midnight Blue and the cut "Mule" displayed new touch and tone to the prominent bass in the intro that I had not heard previously. The same album's "Wavy Gravy" now featured bite to the guitar not heard before and there was newfound depth and space. Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage gave me goosebumps with touch to the piano not heard before, shimmer to the cymbals not previously heard and a minute thirty into the track the sax that comes from the left was startling in it's immediacy-the microdynamics and macrodynamics are unprecedented-at least as far as my system experience goes.
And for bass, I listened to a little known gem, Black Grape's It's Great When You're Straight-Yeah and the opening rowdy track "Reverend Black Grape" which now demonstrated a level of propulsive funk, tone, and 3-D space to the overall presentation not present before the swap of DAC.
Do I have any negatives at all? Well, I find it necessary to adjust the volume much more frequently than in the past. I believe this is due to more dynamic range though I am hard-pressed to explain the phenomenon. And one little nit with the internal USB to SPDIF converter-due to it being tube based, when powering up the DAC II Special I have to disconnect and reconnect the USB cable on one end or the other about sixty seconds after the DAC has warmed up before the Aurender and the DAC II Special can "shake hands" with each other. Other than those two minor things, my only cavil is that the pleasure the DAC II has given me forces me to think about an audition of a customized DAC III. And last, Joe has been absolutely great to work with. I could not ask for more from him. Slawa too has been great to exchange messages with. I don't know that I understand much of what he has to say, but I sure trust that he is onto something many of the rest of us have trouble grasping.
 

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Saturntube

Well-Known Member
Feb 8, 2011
81
1
411
Great review, I enjoyed reading it. I have not listened to the DAC II special yet. The DAC III is a fantastic DAC, everything is there and you would be hard pressed to find a better DAC, the main difference between the DAC III and the DAC III special is a certain luminosity on the sound, highs are crispier, the mid range is more alive and every instrument just seems to get more light from the reflector as if you were on a live venue.
 
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Joe Cohen

Industry Expert
Jun 10, 2012
89
61
358
Great review! We are able to understand the rightness of Slawa’s approach from your description of the sound vs. your AMR, and a further valuable insight from Saturntube above about the relative differences between the DAC III and the DAC III Special which highlights the importance that Slawa places on choice of parts. First and foremost a DAC must be a musical instrument and no amount of computing power is going to make up for that if it is not present in the design.
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
11,761
625
658
Great review! Congrats and enjoy. Look forward to reading more about this design.
 

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 18, 2011
2,178
1,452
535
Hong Kong
I am not a huge contributor to this Board with maybe a dozen posts, likely less. I used to be a regular on AudioAsylum dating back to '95 or so and then on A-Gon forums. I live in Columbus OH, am a lawyer, and have zero connections to the audio industry.
So with that out of the way, my custom SW1X arrived ten days ago-the model in the subject line ordered through Joe Cohen of Lotus Group. Photos of my system are attached. As you can see, I like to swap out the DeVores with a pair of Spendor D7.2's every six months because I love both, and they play to different strengths. That said, I am not sure I need the strengths of the Spendors any more but I am getting ahead of myself. I grew up as a kid in the 70's with a high-end system in the house and my dad's friends all had hi-fi systems too. It was more prevalent back then for educated middle class households. Within a week of my being born my dad bought a Thorens TD124 and an SME 3009 arm and that TD124, rebuilt and modified, is my system today. I bought my first pretty decent system when I was a senior in high school in 1977.
The SW1X went into my system in place of a perfectly functional Abbingdon Music Research DP777 I bought new about seven years ago. My music is stored to the internal hard drive of an Aurender N100H and my USB cable is a WW Starlight Platinum 7. 95% of my digital files were burned from CD with the rest being so called high definition downloads from HDTracks.
I am here to to tell you that the SW1X made a more significant change to my digital playback than any previous upgrade or change.
After four and half days of constant play, I settled in to listen.
What struck me first-for the first time since getting floorstanders in place of B&W 805 standmounts-was soundstage depth, width, and height all expanded, with instruments and voices clearly localized.
Second, the music sounded more forceful and fluid, with more meat to the bones.
XTC's "Nonsuch" is not well-recorded. It is bright, brittle, and dry. For the very first time in my system, the opening track "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" sounded truly rewarding/satisfying. Ambient cues in the first five seconds of the intro were vivid and startling-I had not heard them clearly before. Andy Partridge's voice sounded real for the first time-I could hear his chestiness for the first time. The previous grating glare was of the recording was completely gone. Kenny Burrell's Midnight Blue and the cut "Mule" displayed new touch and tone to the prominent bass in the intro that I had not heard previously. The same album's "Wavy Gravy" now featured bite to the guitar not heard before and there was newfound depth and space. Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage gave me goosebumps with touch to the piano not heard before, shimmer to the cymbals not previously heard and a minute thirty into the track the sax that comes from the left was startling in it's immediacy-the microdynamics and macrodynamics are unprecedented-at least as far as my system experience goes.
And for bass, I listened to a little known gem, Black Grape's It's Great When You're Straight-Yeah and the opening rowdy track "Reverend Black Grape" which now demonstrated a level of propulsive funk, tone, and 3-D space to the overall presentation not present before the swap of DAC.
Do I have any negatives at all? Well, I find it necessary to adjust the volume much more frequently than in the past. I believe this is due to more dynamic range though I am hard-pressed to explain the phenomenon. And one little nit with the internal USB to SPDIF converter-due to it being tube based, when powering up the DAC II Special I have to disconnect and reconnect the USB cable on one end or the other about sixty seconds after the DAC has warmed up before the Aurender and the DAC II Special can "shake hands" with each other. Other than those two minor things, my only cavil is that the pleasure the DAC II has given me forces me to think about an audition of a customized DAC III. And last, Joe has been absolutely great to work with. I could not ask for more from him. Slawa too has been great to exchange messages with. I don't know that I understand much of what he has to say, but I sure trust that he is onto something many of the rest of us have trouble grasping.
Hi Fsonicsmith,
Thanks for sharing!
Nice dac & system.

A humble suggestion for your consideration :
Wireworld usb cables are rather hifi-ish. Please consult Joe again for trying another usb cable which is more musical in your system, such as TellQ or Vertere. You will like them.
:)
 

Joe Cohen

Industry Expert
Jun 10, 2012
89
61
358
Hi Fsonicsmith,
Thanks for sharing!
Nice dac & system.

A humble suggestion for your consideration :
Wireworld usb cables are rather hifi-ish. Please consult Joe again for trying another usb cable which is more musical in your system, such as TellQ or Vertere. You will like them.
:)
PhotonCoilSm.jpg

The PranaWire Photon is what we recommend. Cryogenically treated pure silver wires with multiple shielding and noise absorbing layers. Very natural and organic sound.
 
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mresseguie

Well-Known Member
Feb 26, 2016
8
3
83
Thank you for the nice write up. I can appreciate how you described your reactions to listening to familiar songs with this new DAC. I've had Slawa's DAC III STD for about two years now, and love it. My model is in Slawa's hands right now because I chose to upgrade to DHT, better quality caps, better transformers, and a few other improvements - just because! ;) Hahaha. Actually, I felt my money would be much better spent by upgrading my DAC with Slawa than buying some other NOS DAC. I anticipate receiving my 'new' DAC in about two weeks. I can barely wait.

Michael
 
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Joe Cohen

Industry Expert
Jun 10, 2012
89
61
358
Thank you for the nice write up. I can appreciate how you described your reactions to listening to familiar songs with this new DAC. I've had Slawa's DAC III STD for about two years now, and love it. My model is in Slawa's hands right now because I chose to upgrade to DHT, better quality caps, better transformers, and a few other improvements - just because! ;) Hahaha. Actually, I felt my money would be much better spent by upgrading my DAC with Slawa than buying some other NOS DAC. I anticipate receiving my 'new' DAC in about two weeks. I can barely wait.

Michael
I will look forward to your report on the upgraded DAC III STD.
 
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Fsonicsmith

Well-Known Member
Jun 25, 2015
39
23
88
I will be giving the DAC III Balanced a try. Actually more than a "try" since I am buying it. I still love the DAC II Special but Slawa says the DAC III Balanced is at an entirely different level with a midrange that is amazing. I will have no choice but to upgrade my source to something that outputs SPDIF as Slawa says the DAC III Balanced can not be built with a USB/SPDIF converter due to the number of transformers in the III Balanced. Any comparison I end up sharing will, as. a result, be questionable due to a change of source as well as DAC but I will share my impressions anyway in three months or so.
 

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