SW1X DAC II Standard First Listen

Joe Cohen

Industry Expert
Jun 10, 2012
89
61
358
We have finally had our first opportunity to listen to the SW1X DAC II Standard - our first listen to any SW1X product. My intuition about this designer, Slawa Roschkow, and my willingness to bet on him could not have been more spot on. As you can see from the setup we are using an ordinary Oppo player as our transport. I should mention that at every one of our show demonstrations throughout the years we have borrowed very expensive digital front ends from well known manufacturers. In every case we have found our analog front end to be more engaging and more musical, and we would spend the majority of our time demo-ing the analog source as that's what we felt put the best foot forward. This has in large measure shaped my opinion about the nature of digital reproduction and in some sense anchored my belief in the superiority of analog. This DAC, which retails for $3275, run off of a consumer level transport, has to a degree shaken my previous convictions. It does so many things so well that it's hard to believe that it costs this little. It is only one step up from their entry level model.

Here is a list of attributes I have noticed:

• Beautiful tone reproduction - Instruments sound natural and authentic
• Excellent sound stage - proper placement of instruments in three dimensional space, front to back, top to bottom and side to side.
• Three dimensional volume of the singer and instruments very palpably delineated
• Excellent layering
• Each note of the piano is laid down properly with the correct amount of weight
• Tuneful articulate bass
• Serious Slam and articulate growl
• Complete lack of congestion on orchestral crescendos

If the DAC II Standard (basic model with no upgrades) is this good, what will the higher level versions and models bring? What happens when we pair it with the SW1X CDT II or CDT III Transport (The CDT II and III are all tube servers.) We will soon find out what the higher models bring as we are awaiting the arrival of a DAC III with multiple upgrades and a DAC V also with multiple upgrades.



DACII !st ListenC.jpg
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
11,761
625
658
Very interesting architecture. TDA 1541 Double Crown chips. NOS design, no digital filtering, etc. As a big fan of Zanden 4-box digital...I like what I read! ;) Would love to understand how the 2 designs might be similar...and also might differ.
 

mresseguie

Well-Known Member
Feb 26, 2016
8
3
83
I've owned a SW1X DAC III Standard for nearly two years, and I concur with your assessment. My model is right now being upgraded to what Slawa referred to as DAC III +, I believe. I'd love to upgrade to the DAC IV, but my dear wife just doesn't appreciate Slawa's genius as much as I do. I look forward to your thoughts on the DAC III with multiple upgrades.
 

Joe Cohen

Industry Expert
Jun 10, 2012
89
61
358
I've owned a SW1X DAC III Standard for nearly two years, and I concur with your assessment. My model is right now being upgraded to what Slawa referred to as DAC III +, I believe. I'd love to upgrade to the DAC IV, but my dear wife just doesn't appreciate Slawa's genius as much as I do. I look forward to your thoughts on the DAC III with multiple upgrades.

We received a DAC II Special today which has M6 grain orient EI core mains transformers and choke, 2 x Audio Note Copper Foil, Mylar in Oil signal output decoupling capacitors and a Directly Heated vintage 5Y3GT rectifier tube (from the 60s) in the PSU as upgrades from the Standard. Yours, I believe, will have higher level transformers and choke other higher level goodies. It was easy to tell, right out of the gate, with zero warm up, that the DAC II Special was superior in every regard to the Standard. CDs that have always sounded flat came alive both in terms of texture and three dimensionality. Great sounding CDs became super present, yielding ambient and timbral cues that had been buried. And pace...I simply could not sit still in my seat. This thing has groove. It will be better tomorrow and will continue to improve for a while. Simply stunning. Your DAC III + will be all that and much more. Congratulation!
 
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kodomo

Well-Known Member
Apr 26, 2017
680
755
170
We have finally had our first opportunity to listen to the SW1X DAC II Standard - our first listen to any SW1X product. My intuition about this designer, Slawa Roschkow, and my willingness to bet on him could not have been more spot on. As you can see from the setup we are using an ordinary Oppo player as our transport. I should mention that at every one of our show demonstrations throughout the years we have borrowed very expensive digital front ends from well known manufacturers. In every case we have found our analog front end to be more engaging and more musical, and we would spend the majority of our time demo-ing the analog source as that's what we felt put the best foot forward. This has in large measure shaped my opinion about the nature of digital reproduction and in some sense anchored my belief in the superiority of analog. This DAC, which retails for $3275, run off of a consumer level transport, has to a degree shaken my previous convictions. It does so many things so well that it's hard to believe that it costs this little. It is only one step up from their entry level model.

Here is a list of attributes I have noticed:

• Beautiful tone reproduction - Instruments sound natural and authentic
• Excellent sound stage - proper placement of instruments in three dimensional space, front to back, top to bottom and side to side.
• Three dimensional volume of the singer and instruments very palpably delineated
• Excellent layering
• Each note of the piano is laid down properly with the correct amount of weight
• Tuneful articulate bass
• Serious Slam and articulate growl
• Complete lack of congestion on orchestral crescendos

If the DAC II Standard (basic model with no upgrades) is this good, what will the higher level versions and models bring? What happens when we pair it with the SW1X CDT II or CDT III Transport (The CDT II and III are all tube servers.) We will soon find out what the higher models bring as we are awaiting the arrival of a DAC III with multiple upgrades and a DAC V also with multiple upgrades.



View attachment 69935

How did you connect the Oppo, through digital? so no dsd and max 192khz pcm, or does it have an hdmi input? I have the same transport and I could only use bryston via hdmi to get dsd.
 

Joe Cohen

Industry Expert
Jun 10, 2012
89
61
358
How did you connect the Oppo, through digital? so no dsd and max 192khz pcm, or does it have an hdmi input? I have the same transport and I could only use bryston via hdmi to get dsd.

RCA to RCA SPDIF, no DSD, 24Bit/96kHz max. Slawa Roschkow, the designer, does not believe that higher resolution files are the answer to great sound, rather he believes in simple elegant circuits, tubes, of course, super high quality parts and final harmonic balancing of all the individual parts in a circuit, that there is much more low level signal hidden in Redbook CDs that is normally experienced even in very expensive Sigma Delta based components, and that the D to A conversion is most direct and most accurate using R2R or resistor ladder designs.
 
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LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
11,761
625
658
RCA to RCA SPDIF, no DSD, 24Bit/96kHz max. Slawa Roschkow, the designer, does not believe that higher resolution files are the answer to great sound, rather he believes in simple elegant circuits, tubes, of course, super high quality parts and final harmonic balancing of all the individual parts in a circuit, that there is much more low level signal hidden in Redbook CDs that is normally experienced even in very expensive Sigma Delta based components, and that the D to A conversion is most direct and most accurate using R2R or resistor ladder designs.

Very interesting...particularly their observations/convictions around R2R/resistor ladder and its superior ability to pick up low level signal hidden in RBCD.
 

Joe Cohen

Industry Expert
Jun 10, 2012
89
61
358
So this happened today: A customer of mine who has ordered an SW1X DAC V Special has a SW1X DAC II Standard on loan until the V arrives, but he was having some issues that were negatively impacting how the DAC II sounded in his system. We got the issue sorted out and everything now works perfectly. (There was nothing amiss with the DAC II, but there was a detail about his preamp that we overlooked. As I said, all sorted out.)

While we were trying to solve the issue, I had a chance to listen to the DAC II as reported above. So I have a good fix on its sound, which by any standard would range from very good to excellent. Yesterday I received a DAC II Special ($4595) destined for another customer. I was able to understand the difference in sound between the two, and it is substantial. The Special has way more resolution and musicality. It had me seriously tapping my foot and involuntarily moving my body during a number of cuts. The original plan was for the customer to photograph and pack up his dCS gear and listen to the DAC II until his DAC V arrived, assuming the DAC II would at least be generally listenable, which was, for a time, in question. That way we would get a jump on selling the dCS. When he hooked the DAC II back up in the correct configuration last night he was able to simultaneously use the balanced output from his dCS stack and switch back and forth between DACs in real time with the preamp remote. He reports that they are about sonically equal except that the dCS might be slightly warmer (and slightly louder). BUT...He was using a cheap RCA SPDIF cable in and cheap RCA cables going out of the DAC II to the pre and he’s using is our top of the line PranaWire Nirvana ICs and AES/EBU to his dCS system. I am using the same Nirvana IC here. Just to test, I listened to a lesser cable going from the DAC II Special into my preamp, and the differences were prodigious. So this wasn’t even a fair test to the DAC II. He reports: The $3275 DAC II Standard using cheap interconnects and digital cable is more or less the equal of the $80,000 + three box dCS Vivaldi stack using a world class IC and input cable. I have no doubt that with the Nirvana ICs that the DAC II Standard would prevail by a wide margin, and, the DAC II Special easily outshines the Standard that he is comparing to the dCS stack. I can't begin to imagine how the V will sound. The dCS Gear is being packed up as I write this.

DAC II.jpg
DAC II Special
 
Last edited:
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LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
11,761
625
658
Fascinating...how much is the SW1X DAC V? Is there also a special edition of it?
 

Fsonicsmith

Well-Known Member
Jun 25, 2015
39
23
88
Ummm, I don't know for sure but I am thinking that the DAC II Special also has a built in USB to SPDIF converter and it retails for $5,500. Just an educated guess.
 

Joe Cohen

Industry Expert
Jun 10, 2012
89
61
358
Ummm, I don't know for sure but I am thinking that the DAC II Special also has a built in USB to SPDIF converter and it retails for $5,500. Just an educated guess.

You can order the DAC II Special without the USB input. The above mentioned price ($4595) is the cost without. Add $1150 for the USB Tube Master Clock Input. What’s interesting about the USB input is that you actually need to use an RCA cable to jumper from the SPDIF output to the SPDIF input as the designer, Slawa Roschkow, feels that a switch will degrade the sound. This means that technically you could use the USB to SPDIF converter on an outboard piece of gear while simultaneously using the SPDF input of the DAC II Special with USB.
 

Joe Cohen

Industry Expert
Jun 10, 2012
89
61
358
Ummm, I don't know for sure but I am thinking that the DAC II Special also has a built in USB to SPDIF converter and it retails for $5,500. Just an educated guess.

For the sake of clarity, The Lotus Group now represents SW1X (as you can see in our banners at the top of this page). We carry all of their products and will be reporting on their new Level Three Phono Stage (currently in development) and other products as we receive them. Please call or email us if you are interested in acquiring any of their products or if you simply want to learn more about them and the designer etc. Thanks.

joe@lotusgroupusa.com
415-897-8884
 

Joe Cohen

Industry Expert
Jun 10, 2012
89
61
358
Today we have to pack up the DAC II Special that arrived this week for another customer. It has been in the reference system for a couple of days during which it has been improving continually. Last night I was in something of a state of shock at its performance. I will be posting some videos in a new thread later on for you to listen to. It is utterly musical, phenomenally dynamic, has lightning fast, articulate and nimble bass and is supremely tuneful. You know a component is really great when you just want to spend the entire night listening to CD after CD and sometimes listen from beginning to end. Is it as good as the analog rig? Is that a fair question? The cartridge costs more than this DAC. Are there things the analog rig does that this doesn’t? Of course. But... I am listening using an Oppo player as source. Neither the DAC nor the player have been optimized for vibration isolation. The phono stage, on the other hand, Is resting on our PranaWire Annapurna Collector/Platform which was a watershed moment when it was installed that utterly transformed the sound. This all begs the question what will all this sound like with the DAC III Special that is on its way to us? What will the DAC V sound like, and how will the addition of the SW1X CDT II or III Transport (Server) alter the equation? What I can say without hesitation is that the SW1X (pronounced S one X) DAC II Special is a package that anyone in their right mind would be content with for quite a long time. Sure, if you listen back to back compared with a III, IV or V will it reveal some lack, some “deficiency” by comparison? You know the answer, but this level of sound quality at this price, $4595, is not something I have come across before. Listening to Bela Fleck and V.M. Bhatt on Water Lily Acoustics’ ‘Tabula Rasa’ checks all the right boxes: rich round tunefulness of instruments, accurate placement in the stage, 3 dimensional volume of each instrument easily discernible. K.D. Lang’s ‘Save Me’ on her album ’Ingenue’ has excellent separation, layering and delicacy. Eric Clapton’s ‘Running On Faith’ from the ‘Unplugged’ album is more transparent and sonorous than I have ever heard. Everything is taken In with deep pleasure. I hate having to pack it up and let it go.
 

Fsonicsmith

Well-Known Member
Jun 25, 2015
39
23
88
The DAC II Special referenced above is mine. My system does not match Joe's, but it ain't bad. ARC Ref 6, ARC Ref 150SE, Devore O/93's. Cardas Clear beyond, Analysis Plus Apex Silver IC's, Auditorium 23 speaker cable with Cardas Clear Beyond speaker cable as a back up. I mostly listen to vinyl, in fact 95% of the time. I won't go into the details of my vinyl rigs since it is not pertinent, but I have about 100K invested in my two turntables, tonearms, cartridges, phono stage, cabling, and Symposium racks. The SW1X will be replacing an Abbingdon Music Research DP777 fed by an Aurender N100H via WW Platinum Starlight 7 USB. Dedicated listening room with extensive room treatment. Sometimes when I want a bit more of a hi-fi sound I swap out the Devores with a set of Spendor D7.2's. The Devores are more deft, warm, and timbral while the Spendors do the imaging thing. My loudspeaker choices are driven by rather smallish room of 16 by 18 with eight foot ceilings, which opens into an adjacent room.
I suspect some may question Joe's neutrality. I have three weeks to audition the SW1X and judge whether it bests the AMR and by how much, and in which respects. I will report back if anyone is interested.
 
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LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
11,761
625
658
Great system...and definitely please report back!
 

LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
11,761
625
658
For the sake of clarity, The Lotus Group now represents SW1X (as you can see in our banners at the top of this page). We carry all of their products and will be reporting on their new Level Three Phono Stage (currently in development) and other products as we receive them. Please call or email us if you are interested in acquiring any of their products or if you simply want to learn more about them and the designer etc. Thanks.

joe@lotusgroupusa.com
415-897-8884
Great...I have emailed you yesterday.
 

Joe Cohen

Industry Expert
Jun 10, 2012
89
61
358
The DAC II Special referenced above is mine. My system does not match Joe's, but it ain't bad. ARC Ref 6, ARC Ref 150SE, Devore O/93's. Cardas Clear beyond, Analysis Plus Apex Silver IC's, Auditorium 23 speaker cable with Cardas Clear Beyond speaker cable as a back up. I mostly listen to vinyl, in fact 95% of the time. I won't go into the details of my vinyl rigs since it is not pertinent, but I have about 100K invested in my two turntables, tonearms, cartridges, phono stage, cabling, and Symposium racks. The SW1X will be replacing an Abbingdon Music Research DP777 fed by an Aurender N100H via WW Platinum Starlight 7 USB. Dedicated listening room with extensive room treatment. Sometimes when I want a bit more of a hi-fi sound I swap out the Devores with a set of Spendor D7.2's. The Devores are more deft, warm, and timbral while the Spendors do the imaging thing. My loudspeaker choices are driven by rather smallish room of 16 by 18 with eight foot ceilings, which opens into an adjacent room.
I suspect some may question Joe's neutrality. I have three weeks to audition the SW1X and judge whether it bests the AMR and by how much, and in which respects. I will report back if anyone is interested.

I do tell it like I hear it, but yes, don't just take my word for it. There's no question that the Lotus Group Reference System is something else again. I do believe that in this context if a piece of gear has strong points they will be fully represented as will the down sides.
 

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