Totaldac D1-Driver, the (pre)amplifier driver

I am not in the habit of starting threads unless I feel a product is of significant enough importance to do so. The Totaldac D1-Driver is such a product. The official product description states D1-Driver, the amplifier driver. I have deliberately added (pre) in the thread title.

The Totaldac website description reads:
The d1-driver is an analog driver. It is usually connected to the output of the DAC.
It is an answer to the endless question "is it better with or without preamp?".
The strength of preamps is there active stage more than their volume control. The active stage helps driving the power amp.
It was designed for directly driving a power (or integrated amplifier!) using the built in Totaldac digital volume control:
Its drive capability allows the d1-driver to improve the sound of a DAC, improving bass control, articulation, presence, soundstage and life. It has been tested when connected between a DAC and a power amplifier (transistor or tube), but also between a DAC and an integrated amplifier. The d1-driver has no volume control because it relies on the DAC volume control.
Around 6 weeks ago we travelled to Slovenia to deliver a SGM Extreme server to Matej Isak for a review. I ended up leaving being deeply impressed by the liveliness and dynamic range of Matej's reference system. Upon asking Matej told me something about the importance of proper gain matching. I did not give it much further thought until we visited forum member Mike Lavigne a few weeks later where he played a few tape cuts with a similarly shocking display of brute force dynamic range. Every since returning I have been searching for explanations for this particular phenomenon. Until I received a pair of Totaldac D1 drivers from Vincent last Friday.

I need to add a bit of history context to this now as I was not unfamiliar with the D1-driver. I have tested an older version before, the current D1-driver is in its second generation now. At that time I was impressed by its dynamic range and transparency, but found it lacking in refinement and micro detail rendering compared to my AudioNet Stern (Euro 35.000) preamplifier. If I remember correctly my commentary to Vincent was "a diamond in the rough". It also did not manage to match the Stern's sound staging abilities, upon which Vincent commented I would probably need a pair to get there. I shipped it back and did not give it much further thought, therefor the penny did not drop until Vincent told me he had a MK2 version of which he was confident it would solve my "issues" and if I would be interested in trying a pair of them. This turned out to be a totally different ballgame. Not only does it manage to match the Stern's sound staging abilities, refinement and micro detailing, it has also improved upon its previous strengths with even better dynamics, and an "Iron grip" control over the lower registers which sounds like it has doubled the already high damping factor of my AudioNet Heisenberg power amplifiers. It has incredible control and slam, at first I thought it was lacking low end extension, but after some back and forth switching it is just much better defined and controlled turning a mass of "1 tone bass" into a variation of cues and pitches. It does give me the eagerly desired dynamic range I found my system lacking of after hearing Matej's digital and Mike's tape. Therefor I consider it to be a substantial product worthy of its own thread.

Using both the Stern and D1 drivers in a DAC - Driver - Preamp configuration does preserve most of these qualities with just a slight decrease in overall transparency, clarity and a loss of ultimate "control". Inserting the Stern creates a slightly more distant, slightly more laid back perspective, where just the drivers give you a closer more direct perspective.

Matej Isak has reviewed the D1-direct and D1 driver here, worth a close read:

https://www.monoandstereo.com/2019/09/totaldac-d1-direct-d1-seven-d1-driver.html

I will copy a few relevant snippets:


d11.JPG

d12.JPG

d13.JPG

To summarize, this is a product to seriously consider, not just to combine with a Totaldac DAC, and not only to replace a preamplifier. But consider trying it with any brand DAC and/or any Pre-amplifier.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Comments

Taiko Audio

Industry Expert
Feb 10, 2017
1,297
1,506
210
The Netherlands
taikoaudio.com
#2
A photo of mine, I bought them without second thought:

IMG_4062.jpg
 
Likes: CKKeung

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 18, 2011
1,865
1,080
238
Hong Kong
#3
Hello Emile,
Your two posts above is poisonous! :eek:
I am now very eager to audition a pair of the xlr version Drivers.
Shall persuade my local Ttoaldac trying to get a pair of demo,


BTW you prefer the silver aluminum face-place?
Does it have any sonic advantages over the black acrylic one?
Thanks!
 

Taiko Audio

Industry Expert
Feb 10, 2017
1,297
1,506
210
The Netherlands
taikoaudio.com
#4
Hello Emile,
Your two posts above is poisonous! :eek:
I am now very eager to audition a pair of the xlr version Drivers.
Shall persuade my local Ttoaldac trying to get a pair of demo,


BTW you prefer the silver aluminum face-place?
Does it have any sonic advantages over the black acrylic one?
Thanks!
I prefer the silver faceplate for looks. I cannot say if there is a sonic difference as I have not done a relevant A/B comparison. They are much better then the previous driver I had here which had an acrylic faceplate, but that was the MK1 version, and "just" one..
 

Taiko Audio

Industry Expert
Feb 10, 2017
1,297
1,506
210
The Netherlands
taikoaudio.com
#6
Emile,
did you notice any SQ drawbacks of using software VC ?
Thanks

Matt
Hi Matt,

If you are referring to the software volume control in Roon, unfortunately audible yes. Even just enabling without using it is audible. Of course a preamplifier volume control is audible too. Interesting thought, I may look into this when I have a spare moment.
 
Likes: matthias

heihei

Active Member
Jul 24, 2017
159
98
43
#7
This is very interesting given how good the Stern / Heisenberg combination is! My problem is that my Lamizator GG2 is fixed volume output so would need to get that amended.
 

ketcham

Industry Expert
Feb 29, 2016
70
39
48
#8
Excellent Thread!

I also have one that I purchased on recommendation from Vincent. I now have a second one on order to separate the channel and have dedicated power to each and true isolation. That said I opted for zero gain version. This was intentional. My system has too much gain as is.

My signal path is as follows: Waversa Systems Wrouter, Wcore (roon), TD streamer>reclocker>TD12>driver>Allnic OTL/OCL Linestage>Allnic M311-PX25 mono>Daedalus Zeus, Allnic ZL cable loom.

Allnic's proprietary 61-stepped constant impedance attenuator making very high resolution constant at any level. It also minimizes phase shifts and eliminates the sweet spot at any volume. Presentation remains the same throughout volume range.

This is the first preamp linestage that made me understand how truly important the preamp is in any given system. It is a significant choke point if poorly implemented. The driver is truly a wonderful piece. I will be adding a second as stated above.

1. has anyone opted for the 6 dB gain on their D-1 driver?
2. for the OTL/OCL Allnic design, using the balanced outputs added in a transformer and when used looses the magic it offers. So unless your system components are truly balanced circuitry, run unbalanced cables. I run 10 meter cables between D1 Driver to the Preamp. Previously from Preamp to amps. This is without issue, with cables designed well. So how you configure your D1 Driver depends on upstream and more-so downstream components.
3. Even with the Allnic's constant impedance attenuator, I still prefer Vincent's volume control by a wide margin. Any volume control upstream is detrimental.

Anyone considering TotalDac but at a more financial middle ground - I anticipate the D-1 Direct is a stellar sweet spot.
 
Likes: CKKeung

totaldac

Industry Expert
Aug 17, 2012
244
161
125
France
www.totaldac.com
#9
Vincent,
I like what the d1- driver does.
There are people who can not or do not want to use software VC.
Do you have plans to offer a hardware VC solution?
Thanks
Matt
The volume control in the Totaldac DACs is not software nor analog hardware, it is hard wired in the FPGA. This is the best volume I could experiment with, so I would rather recommend using this one as long as you play digital media.

If another DAC is used, which has no or no good volume control, the d1-driver can be placed between the DAC and a preamp.

Another possibility, the Totaldac reclocker can be placed before the DAC. The reclocker gives a good volume control. It will also rebuild the signal based on an internal clock, so it will improve the sound.
 
Likes: Kris

Kris

Active Member
Mar 4, 2019
250
104
43
#10
Emile and Vincent
this is great thread.
It sounds we have very well designed product from Vincent again !
If you add our top experts opinion ( Emile and Matej ) then everyone should take it serious
including me :)
I hope I will be testing this in my system sometime soon.
 
May 30, 2010
16,454
1,356
420
Portugal
#11
Am I missing something when I say that the D1 Driver is an active preamplfier without volume control?
BTW, the big capacitors in the MonoandStereo photos are output coupling capacitors?
 

totaldac

Industry Expert
Aug 17, 2012
244
161
125
France
www.totaldac.com
#12
Am I missing something when I say that the D1 Driver is an active preamplfier without volume control?
BTW, the big capacitors in the MonoandStereo photos are output coupling capacitors?
It is like a preamp without volume control but its active (amplifying) part is unique, no other preamp use this one.
It has no volume control sound limitation, no input selector sound limitation, no wire, no internal connector, no relay... It is optimized for its amplifying part only.
The big capacitors are for the signal.
 

totaldac

Industry Expert
Aug 17, 2012
244
161
125
France
www.totaldac.com
#14
Vincent,
is this VC lossless at low volumes?
Thanks
Matt
It is not lossless at low volume. I don't know any lossless volume (for listening tests), else I would use it :)
A potentiometer, resistor + relay, LDR, resistor + rotary switch, analog chip, DSP, transformers with multiple outputs... none is fully lossless.
I chose the best to my ears for real life use.
 
Likes: CKKeung

totaldac

Industry Expert
Aug 17, 2012
244
161
125
France
www.totaldac.com
#15
Vincent,
is this VC lossless at low volumes?
I ask because I have high sensitivity speakers.
Thanks

Matt
I use high efficiency speakers too, 105dB/1W/1m even in bass:

totaldac_coax_horn_side_1200.jpg

totaldac_coax_horn_1200.jpg
 

matthias

Active Member
Mar 14, 2019
230
72
28
Germany
#16
It is not lossless at low volume. I don't know any lossless volume (for listening tests), else I would use it :)
A potentiometer, resistor + relay, LDR, resistor + rotary switch, analog chip, DSP, transformers with multiple outputs... none is fully lossless.
I chose the best to my ears for real life use.
Sorry, my question was not accurate enough. You are right there is no lossless VC because even pure analog VC involve parts which get in the way of the signal.

So I would like to ask if it is a refined but typical digital volume control which has a higher resolution at high volumes and a lower resolution at low volumes.

Thanks again

Matt
 

totaldac

Industry Expert
Aug 17, 2012
244
161
125
France
www.totaldac.com
#17
Sorry, my question was not accurate enough. You are right there is no lossless VC because even pure analog VC involve parts which get in the way of the signal.

So I would like to ask if it is a refined but typical digital volume control which has a higher resolution at high volumes and a lower resolution at low volumes.

Thanks again

Matt
It maintains a resolution larger or equal to 16 bit downto almost -50dB, then you get less than 16 bit but at for example -60dB the level is so low that the ear is not sensitive, and you approach the electronics noise floor and/or room noise floor. The best resolution must be for high level where the ear is very sensitive.
 
May 30, 2010
16,454
1,356
420
Portugal
#18
It is like a preamp without volume control but its active (amplifying) part is unique, no other preamp use this one.
It has no volume control sound limitation, no input selector sound limitation, no wire, no internal connector, no relay... It is optimized for its amplifying part only.
The big capacitors are for the signal.
Thanks - are you you considering including this special "part" in the input of a power amplifier?
 

matthias

Active Member
Mar 14, 2019
230
72
28
Germany
#19
It maintains a resolution larger or equal to 16 bit downto almost -50dB, then you get less than 16 bit but at for example -60dB the level is so low that the ear is not sensitive, and you approach the electronics noise floor and/or room noise floor. The best resolution must be for high level where the ear is very sensitive.
Yes, but this low signal gets amplified between 20 to 30dB in the power amp and then to HE speakers......
In my case I listen with the volume pot of the preamp at 9h and it is very loud.

Matt
 

totaldac

Industry Expert
Aug 17, 2012
244
161
125
France
www.totaldac.com
#20
Thanks - are you you considering including this special "part" in the input of a power amplifier?
No I am not planning including it in the amplifier, because as you can see the d1-driver + its external power supply is quite big with its transformer, power supply capacitors, copper plate, main electronics schematics...

The Amp-1 amplifier is already quite full internally.
 

About us

  • What’s Best Forum is THE forum for high-end audio, product reviews, advice and sharing experiences on the best of everything else. A place where audiophiles and audio companies discuss existing and new audio products, music servers, music streamers and computer audio, digital to audio converters, turntables, phono stages, cartridges, reel to reel, speakers, headphones, tube amplifiers and solid state amplification. Founded in 2010 What's Best Forum invites intelligent and courteous people of all interests and backgrounds to describe and discuss the best of everything. From beginners to life-long hobbyists to industry professionals we enjoy learning about new things and meeting new people and participating in spirited debates.

Quick Navigation

User Menu

Steve Williams
Site Founder | Site Owner | Administrator
Ron Resnick
Site Co-Owner | Administrator
Julian (The Fixer)
Website Build | Marketing Managersing