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.
 
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Comments

totaldac

Industry Expert
Aug 17, 2012
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#21
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
For my 4 demo speakers (Magico M6, Totadac d150-anniversay, 105dB horn and Camerton bookshelves) I am using:
-d1-twelve-mk2 DAC with 1.6Vrms max output voltage
-d1-driver with 0dB gain
-Amp-1 amplifier with 28dB gain
-speakers, 87dB for Camerton, 91dB for M6, 97dB for d150, 105dB for coax horn

This electronics system works fine with all these speakers, without ever getting saturation from the amplifier and with analog sound on the 105dB speaker.

You say "In my case I listen with the volume pot of the preamp at 9h" but maybe you have an extra gain in the preamp? Preamps can have up to 15/20dB gain.
Also 9h doesn't mean much in term of dB attenuation, it depends on the type of potentiometer.
 
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Taiko Audio

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#23
Emile,
I am curious:
Did you try:
D1-12 > Bespoke > D1-Driver > Heisenberg with full output from D1-12?
Thanks

Matt
No but probably will.

I am actually thinking of trying another pair, as crazy as it may sound.

DAC -> D1-drivers -> pre-amplifier -> D1-drivers -> power amplifiers.
 

Taiko Audio

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#24
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.
I think it's important to not focus on volume control, I am pretty sure these will improve your system performance even when you use them in between Stern and Heisenberg. But I will put this to the test myself in the next few weeks.
 
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CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 18, 2011
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#25
No but probably will.

DAC -> D1-drivers -> pre-amplifier -> D1-drivers -> power amplifiers.
Eagerly waiting for your audition report!

Using 2 pairs of xlr Drivers is crazy!
Haha
 

Taiko Audio

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#26
Eagerly waiting for your audition report!

Using 2 pairs of xlr Drivers is crazy!
Haha
Yes it may appear crazy, but I'm not sure it really is that crazy :) It may just make perfect sense. Even from a cost point of view, how much are the interconnects we usually use? I build my own as it happens to have a degree of control over what I'm doing, but otherwise I would be using 10-15K interconnects ;) I would bet money on a pair of drivers with cheap interconnects doing a better job.
 

totaldac

Industry Expert
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#28
The d1-driver is a great device!
However I would prefer to get it with the option of an analog VC.

Matt
I already tried it, and preferred the Totaldac DAC volume control, especially when the total gain of the full system is well chosen.
I even tried a big Shalco selector with high quality resistors.
 
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Taiko Audio

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#29
I already tried it, and preferred the Totaldac DAC volume control, especially when the total gain of the full system is well chosen.
I even tried a big Shalco selector with high quality resistors.
I actually did test the volume control before, decreasing the volume on the Totaldac while increasing the volume on the AudioNet Stern. Especially the highest range is virtually undetectable. FWIW.
 

totaldac

Industry Expert
Aug 17, 2012
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#30
I actually did test the volume control before, decreasing the volume on the Totaldac while increasing the volume on the AudioNet Stern. Especially the highest range is virtually undetectable. FWIW.
Yes, and removing the potentiometer makes a real difference.
 

matthias

Active Member
Mar 14, 2019
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#31
I already tried it, and preferred the Totaldac DAC volume control, especially when the total gain of the full system is well chosen.
I even tried a big Shalco selector with high quality resistors.
Would it be possible and make sense to get a d1-core with output directly from the ladder for use with d1-driver?
Thanks

Matt
 

matthias

Active Member
Mar 14, 2019
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#32
You say "In my case I listen with the volume pot of the preamp at 9h" but maybe you have an extra gain in the preamp? Preamps can have up to 15/20dB gain.
Also 9h doesn't mean much in term of dB attenuation, it depends on the type of potentiometer.
Hi Vincent,
I checked the specs of my amps.
There seems to be at least 10dB gain in the pre amp, the power amp has 26dB gain.
So one of your DACs and the d1-driver with 0dB gain seem to fit perfectly into my system.
Sorry for causing confusion.

Matt
 

totaldac

Industry Expert
Aug 17, 2012
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#33
Would it be possible and make sense to get a d1-core with output directly from the ladder for use with d1-driver?
Thanks

Matt
No sorry the d1-core doesn't have the voltage shift to make a direct output. Also 3 R2R ladders are better for a direct output, even to the d1-driver
 

Kris

Active Member
Mar 4, 2019
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#34
Hi Vincent,
I checked the specs of my amps.
There seems to be at least 10dB gain in the pre amp, the power amp has 26dB gain.
So one of your DACs and the d1-driver with 0dB gain seem to fit perfectly into my system.
Sorry for causing confusion.

Matt
Matt
I understand you trying to find the best way to optimize our totaldac experience.
I was the same way untill I got my TD 24 DAC from Vincent.
He is one of the most talented person in the audio industry
and if there was a better way to do it he would certenly do it for us.
So far he keeps impressing all of us with his new ideas .
I hope to try drivers soon in my system :)
 
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Thieliste

Well-Known Member
Aug 31, 2014
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#35
Hi guys, reading Emile's experience with and without Stern in the system i was wondering what would be the outcome regarding D1-Twelve > CH L1+X1 > CH M1.1stereo VS D1-Twelve > D1-Driver > CH M1.1stereo.
Would L1+X1 still make a difference ?
 

Taiko Audio

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#37

BF38

Active Member
Nov 1, 2017
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#38
Hi guys, reading Emile's experience with and without Stern in the system i was wondering what would be the outcome regarding D1-Twelve > CH L1+X1 > CH M1.1stereo VS D1-Twelve > D1-Driver > CH M1.1stereo.
Would L1+X1 still make a difference ?
hi mister,
I hope you are well... the harvest also !

For your question, it seems to me that Alon Wolf (Magico boss) compared this CH combo with a d1-driver (d1-twelve mk2 in source) for his US
official showroom and he left the totaldac driver at his place. If that, can give you a first idea before you can maybe experiment yourself.

See you in music.
 

Kris

Active Member
Mar 4, 2019
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#39
Emile
is that brutal force / dynamic range with TD drivers simmilar to the active speakers presence?
(like 8 amps after active crossover. 4 L and 4 R. each running separate speaker).
 

matthias

Active Member
Mar 14, 2019
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#40
is that brutal force / dynamic range with TD drivers simmilar to the active speakers presence?
(like 8 amps after active crossover. 4 L and 4 R. each running separate speaker).
Kris,
my experience so far with set-ups according the Source First principle let me appreciate the impact of the pre amp.
So I would always prefer a passive set-up with a superior pre amp over an active set-up with an inferior preamp.
How Emile describes the d1-driver tells me that it is a pre amp which is most desirable to have in a set-up.
The other thing is that a passive set-up with a superb pre amp is in most cases less expensive than the active alternative with an inferior pre amp.

Matt
 

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