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Bryston BDA-3 & Chord Hugo 2 TT

Blumlein 88

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#21
Veri: I had never heard of this DAC, so I checked out its web page. There are a number of reviews there, and I scanned a few, and they seemed not much different in quality that I would expect from a Darko or Guttenberg. Also, even if I decided to pursue this, the only US dealer in in New Jersey, making doing business impractical unless they have a very liberal remote audition policy (I am in AZ, USA), which I highly unlikely. Do you have any experience with the Mola Mola DAC?
Bruno Putzeys design. State of the art performance.

Amir has measured one.
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...-mola-tambaqui-dac-and-streamer-review.10770/
 

VintageFlanker

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#22
So, you really wanna spend 10K, @mcdonalk... ;)

That's OK: your money, your choices. Every DAC mentioned here provide stellar (although indistinguishable) performance anyway. I'm also victim of "useless upgrades without audible benefit" somehow, so I can't argue with that... :p

State of the art performance.
Yep, especially from a boutique/proprietary design. Bruno Putzeys definitely rules at all he does. :cool:
 

Koeitje

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#23
I am aware of the cost of these two units and am specifically interested in experience regarding their performance.
I would just get the Mola Mola Tambaqui in that case, because its performance is known. But if you want real performance differences there are other places to spend your cash: more subwoofers and more room treatment.
 
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pos

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#24
Perhaps in your case it will take a Chord. But then Chord will also come up with new updates over the years :p hence my recommendation of the Mola Mola.
The mola mola and the chord share the same principle of embarking a custom DAC, a high price tag, and (presumably) exemplary performance, but they get a different reception over here, for reasons I don't really get....

The thing is the mola mola will not get any update now, and the problems it might have (slow filter, and very slow sync) will never get fixed (see Bruno post), whereas the Chord still has its designer behind it.
 

Soniclife

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#25
Similarly, I am interested in having a DAC that I will not feel the need to upgrade for many years. Maybe that is not possible with a digital component amidst evolving standards
Never buy hardware for digital formats now, that you think you might need in the future, things never pan out like that.
 

jae

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#26
Based on the prices of the Chord products and their reviews here, I wouldn't dare spend a cent on them out of sheer principle, when chinese products at a fraction of their cost are outperforming them. With chord you are paying for build quality and novelty, based on those reviews.

That being said at this point there is probably zero reason to pay more than $700-800 as an endgame DAC unless you very much desire a feature that isn't present in one of the Chinese offerings like Topping or SMSL, unless you're buying gear primarily for it to look nice in your living room. Hell, even the $700-800 DACs like the D90 are only marginally better than those in the $70-300 range and you're largely paying for features and build at this price point already.

The Topping D90 has you in the 99.99th percentile in terms of performance, so if performance is your primary motivation to upgrade there's no point to think further in my opinion, you're already at the apex. Within the next year or two and probably every year after that there will be a new design and new product that measures marginally better, but the changes at this point are so small in terms of performance that it makes paying a ~1500% price premium almost seems insane. The Mola Mola is obviously a great product performance wise which is to be commended, but it is not a great product for the price when compared to the D90- you're basically paying $9,000+ extra to add a better enclosure, roon endpoint, and ethernet port to a D90.
You can buy a steamer or even build a better one for a faction of that. If you need a streamer built into the DAC for whatever reason, the Matrix Element X for $3000 satisfies that use case and also comes with a good headphone amplifier/preamp built in. You might already be satisfied with your amp/speakers, but putting the extra $ into amplifier, speaker or room treatment upgrades will do a lot more for your overall performance. Even a better hifi rack or speaker stands at this point will give you better performance than 'upgrading' the D90.
 

pos

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#27
But then if you want to be 100% objective about all this you probably don't need a D90 either...
That is the limit of that forum: 99% of the DACs produced in the last 20 years are objectively "perfect enough" for most practical uses.
 

Veri

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#28
The mola mola and the chord share the same principle of embarking a custom DAC, a high price tag, and (presumably) exemplary performance, but they get a different reception over here, for reasons I don't really get....

The thing is the mola mola will not get any update now, and the problems it might have (slow filter, and very slow sync) will never get fixed (see Bruno post), whereas the Chord still has its designer behind it.
My point was just that the Mola Mola probably won't get a yearly update/upgrade thing. with the Chord it will probably get refreshes, eventually. Just for peace of mind ;) that was my only point here. I don't really perceive either brand differently, both are way too expensive for me!
 
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VintageFlanker

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#29
whereas the Chord still has its designer behind it.
My point was just that the Mola Mola probably won't get a yearly update.. with the Chord it will probably get refreshes, eventually. Just for peace of mind ;)
There's no Chord product to my knowledge which received any FPGA "update" by firmware whatsoever (As PS Audio did). There will be for sure: Mojo 2, Quest 2, Hugo TT3 and so on... But you'll have to buy entirely new products then.
 
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Thread Starter #30
Thanks, everyone, for an excellent discussion. The question arises on how I shall recognize the DAC for which I am searching. I don't have a lab bench setup, but here is now I summarized my initial evaluation criteria in a recent email to some friends:

How will I know when my DAC has arrived?

When Kraftwerk’s “Tour de France” exhibits the same depth of movement, front to rear in the horizontal plane, that it used to. I shall elaborate.

In the mid ‘90’s, on our last audio buying spree, we bought a Proceed (Madrigal’s introductory product line culminating in Mark Levinson) CDD (CD transport) and matching DAP (DAC).

In recent years, I noticed the following with regard to “Tour de France” using these components:

  1. In the composition “Tour de France,” the electronic “echos” of the main rhythm riff flew rapidly from the foreground to the background, while swaying slowly from left to right. This gave the impression of rapid movement of some point of reference towards the listener, which is what I think was Kraftwerk’s goal, given the subject matter.
  2. In the composition “La Forme,” The rhythm riff which opens the composition slowly moved in a circular motion, in the horizontal plane. That is, it moves from left, to front center, to the right, to the rear center, etc. Its reverberation opposes it on the direct opposite of the circle.

At least the above is what I used to believe that I heard. These are among the reasons that I love Kraftwerk.

When the CDD and DAP were replaced with the Oppo BDP-105D several years ago, the front-to-rear depth collapsed dramatically. I no longer heard the movement of the echoes in “Tour de France” from front-to-rear echoes. And the “circle” in “La Forme” changed to a line from left-to-right.

This loss of dimension is noticeable on other recordings as well, but I can remember these Kraftwerk effects well, and I can use it as my reference.

The BDP-105d seemed to exhibit greater detail overall, but some nuance had obviously been lost. It is my theory that what is missing is ambience and is below the threshold of measurements in normal audio testing. But, Madrigal knew what they were doing. But, Madrigal is no more, and Mark-Levinson is now owned by Harmon and doesn’t make a standalone DAC.

I have closely listened to this recording on the Topping D90 closely, and I sense some depth, but the image moving through it is not well placed.

Maybe I am chasing an observation that I will never reproduce, but I think that these phenomena were unimagined, were fairly distinguishable, and were the intent of the artists, and when I hear these phenomena again, I will know that my DAC has arrived. I just hope that it is not too expensive. (The DAP was $2k in the late 90’s, I believe.)
 

q3cpma

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#31
Thanks, everyone, for an excellent discussion. The question arises on how I shall recognize the DAC for which I am searching. I don't have a lab bench setup, but here is now I summarized my initial evaluation criteria in a recent email to some friends:

How will I know when my DAC has arrived?

When Kraftwerk’s “Tour de France” exhibits the same depth of movement, front to rear in the horizontal plane, that it used to. I shall elaborate.

In the mid ‘90’s, on our last audio buying spree, we bought a Proceed (Madrigal’s introductory product line culminating in Mark Levinson) CDD (CD transport) and matching DAP (DAC).

In recent years, I noticed the following with regard to “Tour de France” using these components:

  1. In the composition “Tour de France,” the electronic “echos” of the main rhythm riff flew rapidly from the foreground to the background, while swaying slowly from left to right. This gave the impression of rapid movement of some point of reference towards the listener, which is what I think was Kraftwerk’s goal, given the subject matter.
  2. In the composition “La Forme,” The rhythm riff which opens the composition slowly moved in a circular motion, in the horizontal plane. That is, it moves from left, to front center, to the right, to the rear center, etc. Its reverberation opposes it on the direct opposite of the circle.

At least the above is what I used to believe that I heard. These are among the reasons that I love Kraftwerk.

When the CDD and DAP were replaced with the Oppo BDP-105D several years ago, the front-to-rear depth collapsed dramatically. I no longer heard the movement of the echoes in “Tour de France” from front-to-rear echoes. And the “circle” in “La Forme” changed to a line from left-to-right.

This loss of dimension is noticeable on other recordings as well, but I can remember these Kraftwerk effects well, and I can use it as my reference.

The BDP-105d seemed to exhibit greater detail overall, but some nuance had obviously been lost. It is my theory that what is missing is ambience and is below the threshold of measurements in normal audio testing. But, Madrigal knew what they were doing. But, Madrigal is no more, and Mark-Levinson is now owned by Harmon and doesn’t make a standalone DAC.

I have closely listened to this recording on the Topping D90 closely, and I sense some depth, but the image moving through it is not well placed.

Maybe I am chasing an observation that I will never reproduce, but I think that these phenomena were unimagined, were fairly distinguishable, and were the intent of the artists, and when I hear these phenomena again, I will know that my DAC has arrived. I just hope that it is not too expensive. (The DAP was $2k in the late 90’s, I believe.)
Probably cheaper to do a blind testing and realize that this isn't reality.
 

Angsty

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#32
But then if you want to be 100% objective about all this you probably don't need a D90 either...
That is the limit of that forum: 99% of the DACs produced in the last 20 years are objectively "perfect enough" for most practical uses.
I own a 20 year-old embedded DAC in my Bryston preamp and a brand new Modi 3 into its CD input. I found the audible differences to be small with speakers, somewhat bigger with headphones. Both in favor of the newer DAC, but not a wholesale difference.

I say this to emphasize that DACs can make a difference, but the difference can be a whole lot less than other changes in the audio chain (including room acoustics).

Amir said that the D90 was of a performance level that it could be used to test analog audio gear. So, I’d doubt that any changes you’d hear from changing out from a D90 would be due to a deficiency or non-neutrality contributed by the D90.
 

Vintage57

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#33
Currently, I am using a Topping D90, but I wonder whether I can do better. Two units have caught my eye:

1) Bryston BDA-3: all the IO that I could need, including HDMI for SACD playback, from an engineering organization of solid reputation
2) Chord Hugo 2 TT: has received consistent positive opinion-based reviews (to which I pay passing attention) and measurement-based reviews that include listening observations. (I tacitly accept that gratuitous design addes to the cost.)

Both units benefit from domestic support and can be had from sources that offer audition periods of one kind or another. Other than advice about ABX testing, I am interested in enlightenment on these two units.

thanks
I've had a Bryston BDA-2 for a few years and am very happy with it. Bryston is a world class company and stands behind their products like few others. I belong to the "all DAC's sound the same" but I'm going to buy one in my budget that I have other reasons to own. Such as manufacturing quality, ease of use, stability of company, warranty, curb appeal.
 

Jimbob54

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#34
I've had a Bryston BDA-2 for a few years and am very happy with it. Bryston is a world class company and stands behind their products like few others. I belong to the "all DAC's sound the same" but I'm going to buy one in my budget that I have other reasons to own. Such as manufacturing quality, ease of use, stability of company, warranty, curb appeal.
How did you measure it's curb appeal? o_O
 

Vintage57

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#35
How did you measure it's curb appeal? o_O
Easy, I look at how it matches the other equipment in my rack. A Bryston preamp, a Bryston power supply, the Bryston DAC, a Bryston digital player and a Bryston CD player. Which all match the Bryston HT processor in my HT.
The speakers are Neumann.

Looks good from where I'm standing and sounds great from where I sit. ;)
 

Jimbob54

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#36
Easy, I look at how it matches the other equipment in my rack. A Bryston preamp, a Bryston power supply, the Bryston DAC, a Bryston digital player and a Bryston CD player. Which all match the Bryston HT processor in my HT.
The speakers are Neumann.

Looks good from where I'm standing and sounds great from where I sit. ;)
I suspect I may have misinterpreted what you meant by curb appeal :p
 

Angsty

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#37
Easy, I look at how it matches the other equipment in my rack. A Bryston preamp, a Bryston power supply, the Bryston DAC, a Bryston digital player and a Bryston CD player. Which all match the Bryston HT processor in my HT.
The speakers are Neumann.

Looks good from where I'm standing and sounds great from where I sit. ;)
I love my Bryston stack and I originally thought of buying a used BDA-2 or BDA-3 to replace the ancient DAC section of my BP-25DA. However, given the economics and advancement of the Topping D90, I can’t pull the trigger on another Bryston purchase at today’s pricing, even used. I did come to this thread with the idea that I’d see more about BDA-3 performance relative to others, though. My heart is with Bryston, but my head (and wallet!) is with Topping!

Chord is out for me given price/performance ratio.
 

LTig

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#38
Just to clarify my intent: although I welcome all helpful comments, I am primarily interested in direct experience with these units, or references to reviews that you consider reliable. My situation is that it is possible that I have the last amplifier that I will ever buy, and I have the last speakers that I will ever buy, and I like it that way. Similarly, I am interested in having a DAC that I will not feel the need to upgrade for many years. Maybe that is not possible with a digital component amidst evolving standards, or maybe the D90 already fills that role. I don't know, hence my original query and appreciation of your replies.
Since it has not been mentioned yet let me throw in the RME ADI-2 DAC, especially if you do not use room EQ. The RME 's EQ is what let it stand out here. Performance, build quality and features are SOTA, and you get an excellent headphone amp as well. No HDMI input though.
 

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