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Audio Note DAC Kit 1.1 Awesome!

24.49.8.172

Posted on March 27, 2000 at 13:05:05
This DAC is amazing! All those qualities I thought I would probably never get from 16/44 CD are there. That sense of life, real people playing real instruments. A sense of ease and musical flow. No listener fatigue here. Weight and dynamics. Wholeness and continuity. Incredible detail naturally integrated into the music, not etched or in your face. You know, the stuff you love about live music. Forget about the expensive, and elusive new formats. Get this and rediscover all the great music in your CD collection.

Here's the kicker; price. for around $700 US you can get the kit and assemble it yourself (I understand it is fairly easy.). For $200 more you can get it assembled like I did. Michael Kerster of Audionote North America is a good guy to deal with. If he assembles it, he'll give you a 10 day return period, but you won't be sending it back!

How do they do it? Basically they have eliminated the oversampling and digital filtering.
I have certainly not heard everything out there, but I seriously doubt you can find something else like this at anywhere near the price.

 

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Re: Audio Note DAC Kit 1.1 Awesome!, posted on March 27, 2000 at 13:38:59
Mike


 
I you could, tell us what you have heard and what you were using preveious to the DAC 1.1 that you are compareing to.

thanks.

 

Re: Audio Note DAC Kit 1.1 Awesome!, posted on March 28, 2000 at 07:20:05
Bill


 
I sent mine back. It was rolled off and lacking in dynamics in my system. The sound was very smooth and the tonality was good and vocals were absolutely grain-free. But the music lacked life and sparkle. It sounded closed in and much less detailed and dynamic compared to the MSB link DAC.
I called AudioNote and there was some question about impedance matching. The Dac 1.1 has a 6300ohm output impedance due to it's use of a single 12au7 with no transformer or cathode follower. I thought my amp had a 40k input impedance which, according to AudioNote, is not a good match for the DAC 1.1. But a phone call to the manufacturer of the amp confirmed it was actually 100k which should have been a better match.

I tried the DAC 1.1 with an active pre and ran into the same problems. The pre I used was an ET Foreplay which, in all fairness, is not the final word in detail retrieval or dynamics. I switched interconnects, rolled the tubes using Amperex, Sylvania, and RCA Clear tops, and tried plugging the unit into different outlets and was not able to get the sound I wanted.

Again, this is just my experience and is limited to my system. Maybe a state-of-the-art pre would have let the 1.1 shine.


 

If foreply can't do the job,, posted on March 28, 2000 at 23:14:14
samm


 
very few pre can do the job. I do not have foreplay but none of AA members complained of the pre so far.

 

Re: If foreply can't do the job,, posted on March 29, 2000 at 06:29:14
Bill


 
The foreplay is definitely a good pre and for $200 a bargain to end all bargains. I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. It just has some relative weaknesses in dynamics and resolution compared to it's other strengths.

I'm just baffled by the performance of the DAC 1.1. and just trying to speculate as to the possible causes of the problem as so many others have had more favorable results. Based on the ETM review I was expecting to be blown out of my listening chair.

 

Re: Audio Note DAC Kit 1.1 Awesome!, posted on March 29, 2000 at 08:03:18
To answer Mike's question, I was using an old Aragon D2A heavily modified by a friend of mine. He added larger, higher quality caps, sorbothane everywhere, a huge power supply designed by Walt Jung, and probably other things I don't know about. For a transport I was (and am) using the Radio Shack 3400 portable CD that was all the buzz a few years back. Another friend built a power supply for it. I would like to get a "real" transport, but have found it more difficult than I thought to find something that will better the Radio Shack. Any suggestions? I tried the Rega Planet in my system figuring it would be better either as a stand alone player or as a transport. No dice. I have also heard the Rega Jupiter/Io combo at the store. The Audio Note is in a different league from any of these. A better comparison is to a good turntable. I have not heard any of the new upsampling DACs. I was considering the Bel Canto DAC 1 but opted for the Audio Note. Here is a quote from an email correspondence I had with Peter Qvortrup, for what it's worth. (He seems like a pretty straightforward guy. He answered my email within an hour of my sending it.):

"Oversampling or upsampling, it is still signal manipulation and in our opinion undesirable, as the experience with the DAC5 clearly demonstrates, I have a sample of the latest DCS with upsampler two and it struggles
sonically (in my personal opinion, with which everyone will not necessarily agree) even against the cheaper version with 1x oversampling that we make.

I believe that it can be easily demonstrated that any attempts to manipulate the time continuum in which a music signal lives is doomed to failure, feedback in amplifiers or over/upsampling in the digital domain, all damage the integrity of the signal and given a sufficiently good application without these, that is easily demonstrated."

My understanding of upsampling is that it is interpolating data in order to fill in information that is missing from 44/16 digital. My ,and others, experience with the Audio Note DAC would seem to indicate that the information is there, but is being obscured by the oversampling and digital filter.

 

Re: If foreply can't do the job,, posted on March 29, 2000 at 09:37:09
JayD


 
I tried the DAc 1.1 and also returned it. I thought it was fine, but overall preferred my current CDP, an Audio Refinement Complete. Perhaps part of the problem for me was expecting to be "blown away", and not having that experience. I thought it had a very nice bloom and presence, but seemed less smooth in the presentation as compared to the Complete, and not quite as good in the microdynamics. Maybe I didn't "live' with the Audio Note long enough. Another reason I sent it back is that in my system it added some noticeable hum to my amps which are usually very quiet.

 

Re: If foreply can't do the job,, posted on March 29, 2000 at 10:00:14
Bill


 
Yeah, I noticed the hum too but it was too loud. I guess I'm not the only one.

 

Re: Audio Note DAC Kit 1.1 Awesome!, posted on March 29, 2000 at 13:02:35
jshort


 
I own a DAC 1.1 and love it. Regarding the persons below who say that the unit is rolled off, I am curious how long their units were burned in. I had the same issue when I first listened to the unit, but it opened up significantly after about 80 to 100 hours. Not the last word in extension, but I think the fact that it nails tonality makes up for it. I run the DAC 1.1 straight into an Audio Note Kit One with a volume pot (no preamp).



 

Correction: was=wasn't (nt), posted on March 29, 2000 at 15:42:01
Bill


 
.

 

Oversampling, posted on March 30, 2000 at 07:51:55
Rodney Gold


 
Is used to allow a gentler filter so that the effects of DAC etc (lots of hash) can be removed in a better way.
It doesnt add info at all.
DSP is not destructive ,despite Qvotrups claims to the contrary , if it were , things like de jittering units etc wouldnt be popular. Dither is a form of DSP , I can assure you that no amount of semantics can negate the positive effects it has on a digital signal
I think his statements have more to do with marketing than basis in fact.


 

Re: Oversampling & DAC 1.1, posted on March 30, 2000 at 10:48:12
Robert


 
Actually, his statements have to do with sonics. Read Haute Fidelite's review of the DAC5 (they called it the best they've ever heard - the first DAC that outshines analog) and Hi Fi News & Review's review (they said measurements suck, don't know wht it works, but sound is amazing).

Have you listened to it before making these comments??? Like the Hi Fi News review says, they had to throw out all their previously held views on digital design when they heard the DAC5.

By the way, I have the DAC 1.1. It's not in the league of the DAC 4 or 5 obviously, but is really very natural sounding. I use the Sakura Flatfish as a transport. Previously I used the Anthem CD player and later the top Sonic Frontiers. The Flatfish used as a CD player blows away both hands down. No glare, very full detailed rich sound, deepest bass from CD I've heard, extremely natural. The standard DAC 1.1 isn't really a useful improvement over that, but I upgraded it by changing all the 1 watt metal film resistors to either Tants or Rikens, all the Digi board and Analog board caps (except the Wimas) to Black Gates, and the power supply caps to Black Gates and resistors to Mills or Yamamuras. Tremendous lowering of the noise floor, increase in ambience, naturalness and tone, and effortlessness.

 

Re: Oversampling & DAC 1.1, posted on March 30, 2000 at 12:15:58
Rodney Gold


 
I didnt comment on the sonics or the sound of any dac in particular , I was commenting on the "signal manipulation is bad issue" (which it isnt)
Some stuff in digital design cant be thrown away , as much as you would like to , without stuff like jitter management , dither etc most cds would still sound like early 80's poorly transcribed stuff

 

Re: Oversampling & DAC 1.1, posted on March 30, 2000 at 13:16:51
robert


 
Again, listen to the DAC 1.1, or even better, the DAC 3, 4 or 5 - it DOES throw away that stuff, and all of a sudden digital sounds good - real good - and the other high priced 'by the book' stuff doesn't.

 

You're misreading Rodney's posts, posted on March 30, 2000 at 17:43:41
Rob Bertrando


 
or else you don't know what you mean. Just because the Audio Note DACs don't oversample doesn't mean they don't benefit from dither added in the recording process, or that they won't sound better with a low-jitter transport (IMO, this is why they included an AES/EBU digital input in a relatively low-priced DAC, to allow for the inferently lower jitter of that connection).

 

Re: Oversampling & DAC 1.1, posted on March 30, 2000 at 21:54:32
klepp


 

The AN Dac 4 Signature ain't cheap. I think it retails for US$18,000.

 

Re: Oversampling & DAC 1.1, posted on March 30, 2000 at 22:04:29
klepp


 

For example take the cd "THE POLICE every breath you take- Classics"

It has been remastered using a dithering process and it sounds a lot better than the songs on the "Syncronicity" cd.

 

Re: You're misreading Rodney's posts, posted on March 30, 2000 at 22:27:56
robert


 
EVERY DAC sounds better with a low jitter transport - the better the data stream, the better the results. I didn't misread Rodney's posts and I know exactly what I mean. I simply said LISTEN to the DAC - I didn't comment on any of the issues you raise.

 

Tweaking the DAC 1.1, posted on April 3, 2000 at 03:13:02
Robert,

>>>...The standard DAC 1.1 isn't really a useful improvement over that, but I upgraded it by changing all the 1 watt metal film resistors to either Tants or Rikens, all the Digi board and Analog board caps (except the Wimas) to Black Gates, and the power supply caps to Black Gates and resistors to Mills or Yamamuras. Tremendous lowering of the noise floor, increase in ambience, naturalness and tone, and effortlessness.<<<

Thanks for the updates. i, too, am going to be going the way of Black Gate, silver wire, and other tweaks. Aaahhhh, the next level in getting the most from this kit. :-{)

Enjoy the music,

Steven R. Rochlin


 

Re: Oversampling & DAC 1.1, posted on April 3, 2000 at 03:19:42
Klepp,

>>>The AN Dac 4 Signature ain't cheap. I think it retails for US$18,000.<<<

How much does the Levinson, Wadia, Theta and Meridean go for? Guess what i am trying to say is that there are many expensive DACs. This is why i wanted to review the DAC Kit 1.1 for my e-zine as it was VERY reasonably priced and VERY tweakable :-{) . Anyone can review and give a rave review to a $10,000+ product. Findinf those inexpensive jewels is another issue.

Of course i LOVE my Clearaudio Insider Reference cartrige so i have sinned a thousand (or is that 10,000) sins.
Damed if you do, damed if you don't.

Enjoy the music (Alan Parsons "Damned If I DO" on vinyl right now),

Steven R. Rochlin

"I ain't got a heart of stone
I'm hurtin' more now than I've ever known
If you mean the things you said
I'm gonna wind up outa of my head

Can't sleep alone at night
I just can't seem to get it right
Damned if I do
I'm damned if I don't but I love you..."

 

Re: Tweaking the DAC 1.1 - another tip, posted on April 4, 2000 at 21:19:11
robert


 
To completely blow you away, after changing to Black Gates, tants and rikens, hexfreds, etc.. I changed the tube from 12AU7 to E80CC - a complete shocker. Increase in bloom, bass and dynamics is devastating. Next to go is the power supply, one of the weak links in this kit, maybe later - transformer coupled filtering a la DAC 5.

Lastly, Black Diamond cones really help -

Have fun!

 

Re: Tweaking the DAC 1.1 - 12AU to 5814 to E80CC to ???, posted on April 5, 2000 at 02:57:06
Robert,

>>>...To completely blow you away, after changing to Black Gates, tants and rikens, hexfreds, etc.. I changed the tube from 12AU7 to E80CC - a complete shocker.<<<

Oooh, i have one of those tubes here somewhere (as i start scratching my head trying to remember which storage space they are at). Just found a pair of 5814. Hmm, maybe i'll try those too. Have you tried the 5814 yet???


>>> Increase in bloom, bass and dynamics is devastating.<<<

i agree the overall very large scale dynamics could use some enhancement. i LOVE the micro dynamics and analogue-like ease i am currently getting.

Enjoy the music,

Steven R. Rochlin


 

Re: Tweaking the DAC 1.1 - 12AU to 5814 to E80CC to ???, posted on April 5, 2000 at 06:58:08
robert


 
Yes, tried Tungsol 5814A's (a very good tube) and it was better than 12AU7's - but nothing compared to the E80CC - and just as an indicator of how good, I started out with a Mullard 10M ECC82 in there - and an E80CC which I believe to be a US made Philips (not the best of the E80CC's by any stretch) completely outclassed it!
A better choice than the 5814A, I think, is the Tungsol 5963, or even the RCA black plate 5963. Not up to the E80CC, but close.
When you swap the caps to Black Gates, keep the Jensens in there now, as well as the Wimas, and watch out for the sizes - there is not enough real estate on the DAC 1.1 boards for some of the best Black Gates. There's no point in changing the existing carbon film resistors in the stock unit as they are quite good, but getting rid of the rest and going to Tantaliums and Riken carbons is a big step forward.
You are right, I find the DAC has terrific pace, and with the improvements I've done so far, the analog like qualities are enhanced and overall the DAC becomes bigger, quieter and more rounded. Detail is abundant, but so is the warmth and tone, as well as a very rhythmic quality.

You should hear Pink Floyd's new live Wall set on this baby!

 

Re: Tweaking the DAC 1.1 - 12AU to 5814 to E80CC to ???, posted on April 5, 2000 at 07:14:35
Robert,

Thanks for the GREAT info dude.

>>>...You should hear Pink Floyd's new live Wall set on this baby!<<<

S U R E... Make me jealous. :-{)

Enjoy(ing) the music (Pink Floyd Japanese vinyl of the "The Wall" right now),

Steven R. Rochlin

"...and the worms ate into his brain...
.
.
...YOU! Yes YOU!
Stand still laddie!!!!...
.
.
...i have become comfortably numb..."

 

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