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Always interested in offers/projects/new ideas. Eclectic experience in fields like: numerical computing; Python web; Java enterprise; functional languages; GPGPU; SQL databases; etc. Based in Santiago, Chile; telecommute worldwide. CV; email.

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DAC Reviews

From: andrew cooke <andrew@...>

Date: Sat, 13 Oct 2012 09:46:24 -0300

I'm surprised that DACs have audible differences, so thought I would report on
what I have foud:

I have three DACs:

 - Audioengine D1
   Very small, USB-powered, with USB and optical input, volume control,
   and headphone and line out.

 - AudioGD NFB3.1
   Large, mains powered, USB, optical and RCA digital input, no volume
   control, line out.

 - Music Fidelity V-DAC Mk1 [Mk2]
   Small, mains poweed, USB, optical and RCA digital input, no volume          
   control, line out.

Note that the V-DAC link is for a later model (which includes asynch USB; mine
is actually used with a separate synch-to-asynch converter, so may sound
similar to the later model).

The Audioengine D1 has by far the least treble.  I like treble - the very high
end (that I can hear, which isn't that high, as I get older!) gives music an
openness that I enjoy tremendously.  That is missing on the D1, where cymbals
really don't shimmer in the same way as the other two.  However, it does have
a very solid lower end.

I currently use this to feed an old Cyrus One amplifier - so old that the
volume control is dead so I've hardwired the input to go directly to the
output stage - and old B&W 602 speakers.  These are in my office with pretty
poor acoustics (close to side walls with little damping).  Before the D1
things sounded too abrasive and tiring; using the D1 makes everything much
more listenable (but I still miss the treble).

The AudiGD NFB3.1 is in the living room, connected to an Arcam Solo and Quad
12L speakers.  That's a much smoother sounding system (the Quads are very
light in the treble) that works pretty well - I would prefer a slightly more
pronounced treble, but it's not a big deal.

The Music Fidelity V-DAC is connected to a headphone amp for listening with
AKG 702s.  If you know those headphones you'll know that they emphasise the
top end, and so does V-DAC.  I am not sure anyone else would like the result,
but for me - at least for relatively short periods - it's a great sound.  Very
open and detailed.

My initial impression was that the NFB3.1 and V-DAC sounded similar.  And they
are, compared to the D1.  But when you do direct comparison (swapping them in
the two systems above) I am pretty sure there is a difference.  Through the
headphones, the NFB 3.1 doesn't have the high-ene shimmer of the V-DAC.
Something like the cymbals in Maiden Voyage really shows this.  In contrast,
the V-DAC with the speakers sounds thin - it's missing something in the

So from the comparisons above, the NFB 3.1 seems to have a more balanced
sound, while the V-DAC emphasises the top-end (incidentally, I can hear no
difference between the various ditial filters that the NFB3.1 provides).

In the end, I think I am using each in the best place I can.  The D1 makes my
"working to music" speakers more listenable thoughout the day; the NFB 3.1
gives a smooth, balanced sound on an evening when I'm in the living room with
Pauli; and the V-DAC is for when I'm sitting by myself listening to details
with the AKG 702s.


Audioengine D1 Bass

From: andrew cooke <andrew@...>

Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2012 08:55:53 -0300

I barely mentioned this above, but the D1 bass is noticeably boosted.  It
sounds a bit like the Arcam Solo with the "bass correction" on - like a
"loudness" button, but it's not particularly bad (not a thudding one-note like
a small speaker trying to sound big).


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