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Digital Drive: REVIEW: Prism Sound Dream DA-2 DAC Processors by Todd Krieger

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REVIEW: Prism Sound Dream DA-2 DAC Processors

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Model: Dream DA-2
Category: DAC Processors
Suggested Retail Price: $8000
Description: Professional D/A Converter
Manufacturer URL: Prism Sound
Model Picture: View

Review by Todd Krieger ( A ) on January 02, 2005 at 16:22:26
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for the Dream DA-2

The Prism Dream DA-2 has been my reference DAC for two years (replacing a DA-1 that I had for three years), and recently, I made a discovery that compelled me to write a review of this product.

As you may (or may not) know, I've tried some respected DACs, to see how they stack up against this particular processor. While all this time, running it in "slave" mode. And while I found nothing that equals it, I still heard flaws in regard to "ultimate resolution" and microdynamics, when compared to vinyl playback. (But before the "discovery," I thought it was Redbook "maxed out.")

On a whim, after someone emailed me suggesting trying something different, I played the DA-2 in "Master Clock" mode. Now I am not totally sure what is going on, and the "Master Clock" light blinks (which the user manual says is poor "synchronization" between digital source and DAC), but I never thought I'd get even better performance than what I've had. For the first time, since maybe listening to the Wadia 7/9 combination at a dealer, I heard digital playback that had a sweetness and lack of "strain" that to me was unprecedented... Things like the decay of cymbals almost sounded analog, with a huge soundstage and dynamic gestalt that reminded me a little bit of Telarc/Soundstream digital LPs. Recordings that I thought were bad (Bon Jovi- "Slippery When Wet") now sound decent. It was a revelation. And most-importantly, the Prism DA-2 is one of *very* few DACs that can be listened to for hours without fatigue.

I will also say too bad this processor is both hideously expensive and not well-known outside the pro audio industry. (I was very fortunate to find one used- I would not have been able to obtain one for full price.) I also wish Prism, like Lavry, would make a "budget" DAC that can be had be more audiophiles. (The DA-1, while less-expensive, is still five grand. And maybe a worse value than the DA-2!!) But if one can afford the Prism DA-2, it will be the last digital processor you'll ever need.

There are not many audio components that stand out from the pack- The Prism Sound DA-2 could be one that does. For those fortunate to hear one, it could spoil you. And it could also frustrate you, when it comes to trying to approach its performance with alternative products.

Product Weakness: Not the most-immune to transport jitter. Dynamics could tax a system that cannot handle it. Will not "fix" poor recordings. (But very few recordings should poor through it.) In "slave" mode, loses a little microdynamics, ultimate resolution, and "air." Lacks unbalanced outputs- Requires either adapters or an isolation transformer. Must use Toslink or balanced AES/EBU digial cable to attain maximum performance. And the unit is very pricy. (The Wadia 9 may still be a better processor, but I've not heard one in a long time. The Zanden and Weiss processors, which I have not heard, may also provide at least comparable performance.)
Product Strengths: In "Master Clock" mode, it extracts information off the CD in a resolute, transparent, yet relaxed and musical fashion- The closest thing I've heard to "vinyl playback" from a DAC. Unmatched for Redbook playback (save maybe the Wadia 9), especially in regard to "information density." Can be listened to for hours at a time.

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Symfonia Opus 10
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Sonic Euphoria PLC
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Paradox JVC XLZ-1050 transport, Teres-Redpoint turntable/Schroeder One Arm/Transfiguration Temper W cartridge
Speakers: Von Schweikert VR-4.5 Mod 5
Cables/Interconnects: VdH Optocoupler Toslink digital cable, Belden 88281 ICs, Silverline Audio Biwire speaker cable
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Everything
Room Size (LxWxH): 19 x 16 x Vaulted
Time Period/Length of Audition: 3 years
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Tripp Lite, Bybee, and Zero Surge conditioners
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Prism Sound Dream DA-2 DAC Processors - Todd Krieger 16:22:26 01/2/05 ( 9)