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Original Message

REVIEW: LessLoss DAC 2004 DAC Processors

Posted by drugem on January 29, 2005 at 11:48:56:

Model: DAC 2004
Category: DAC Processors
Suggested Retail Price: 1500 Euro
Description: Battery Powered 24 bit / 192 kHz Jitterless Master DAC
Manufacturer URL: LessLoss
Model Picture: View

Review by drugem (A) on January 29, 2005 at 11:48:56
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for the DAC 2004

Late this past fall I purchased a LessLoss DAC-2004. This was after much time spent on their very educational website, and after numerous E-mails back and forth. The folks at LessLoss were extremely helpful and patient with me and all my questions. The DAC-2004 can be internally switched to run in either master or slave mode with a transport/CD player. As they explained (on their website), considerably better performance is obtained with the DAC running in master mode. As I have not yet obtained a transport/CD player that can be slaved (a near-future project), I am running the DAC-2004 slaved to an original Rega Planet.

I have two systems: one upstairs in my study, and another in my downstairs bedroom. For the upstairs set-up, please see my review of LessLoss cables. My downstairs system consists of a Sony DVP-S9000ES DVD/SACD player (unmodified) connected to a Jeff Rowland Concentra II integrated amp driving Von Schweikert VR-4jr's (wonderful!). The interconnect (single-ended) and speaker wire is Red Dawn. I also have a Wadia 830 that was originally in my upstairs system (since replaced by the DAC-2004/Rega Planet), but is now downstairs (awaiting future replacement by another DAC-2004). The following is a copy of the E-mail I sent to LessLoss after reviewing it in my downstairs system.

"I just have to let you know how amazing this DAC sounds (not that YOU don't already know that)! I spent quite a bit of time listening to my bedroom system... [as described above]...Sony was input #1 and DAC-2004 input #2. I THOUGHT the Sony sounded good in SACD mode until today when it was humiliated by your DAC! In general, I've found that the stereo layer on hybrid SACD's sounds really good on regular CD playback, but not as good as SACD playback on the same CD. I'm only talking about GOOD SACD's--ones that record straight to DSD from the analog source (live or master tape). Needless to say, your DAC destroyed the Sony in SACD playback, so much so that I couldn't listen to the Sony very long. Some of the hybrid SACD's I used for the comparison were: Handel--Music for the Royal Fireworks/Water Music (Telarc SACD-60594), Harvard Composers/Mendelssohn String Quartet (BIS SACD-1264), and McCoy Tyner's "Illuminations"(Telarc SACD-63599). What really struck me was how much more open, detailed, and balanced (bass not way in the background) the DAC was. You've put me in heaven! I can't imagine how it will be when the DAC isn't slaved to the 5-6-year-old jitter-infested Rega either!"

I have also compared the DAC-2004/Rega combo against my Wadia 830 in my upstairs system. Although the difference was not as profound as vs the Sony, the DAC was clearly (just-smile-and-shake-your-head easy) more detailed, open, and dynamic. Remember, too, that this is with the DAC-2004 running in slave mode to an old Rega Planet. I have yet to hear it in master mode which, according to LessLoss, will confer upon it another 25% improvement in sound. I can't imagine!

I have, in the last week, also changed the set of interconnects in my downstairs system (connecting the Wadia 830 to the Rowland integrated) from the unbalanced Red Dawn to balanced LessLoss cable. The stupendous result was the same as that described in my review of the LessLoss cables in my upstairs system. Since the Sony is not outfitted with balanced outputs, I'm forced to keep it connected via the Red Dawn single-ended cable. Absolutely intolerable compared to the Wadia/LessLoss cable combo. And as soon as I get another LessLoss DAC-2004 for my downstairs rig, there will be a Wadia 830 looking for another owner.

I have done quite a bit of reading all over the place lately about audio. The more I read, the more the importance of avoiding timing errors stands out. Whether by feedback in electronics, signal loss and transmission errors in connecting cable, jitter in DA converters, or driver alignment and phase errors in loudspeakers, timing errors destroy the realism of recorded sound. LessLoss has brought my system a long way from what it was. Now one of my next big projects is the acquisition of a time and phase coherent speaker, such as a Vandersteen, Meadowlark, or the Ultimate Monitor by AudioMachina. I love this hobby/addiction/mental disorder!

Product Weakness: For optimum performance, needs a transport/CD player capable of being slaved to the DAC. Even so, the DAC-2004 is awesome in slave mode.
Product Strengths: Detailed, dynamic, open, very musical

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Rowland Concentra II (integrated)
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): none
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Sony DVP-S9000ES/Wadia 830
Speakers: Von Schweikert VR-4jr
Cables/Interconnects: Red Dawn (all)/LessLoss interconnect
Music Used (Genre/Selections): classical, rock, jazz
Room Size (LxWxH): 15 ft. x 18 ft. x 9 ft. and sloping up right-to-left
Room Comments/Treatments: none
Time Period/Length of Audition: couple days
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): none
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner