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I'd love to see measurements on a NOS DAC that was all the rage 10 years ago

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#1
These days multibit is very trendy, back 10 years ago similarly NOS DACS became the flavor of the month and tons of people on headfi were going on and on about how "natural and musical" NOS DACS were.

I bought into the hype and picked an MHDT Paradisea+ Tube DAC, it was $650 dollars, to this day the single most expensive audio purchase I have made. You can read a review here:
http://www.enjoythemusic.com/magazine/equipment/0406/mhdt_laboratory_dac.htm

Sadly the thing sounded absolutely horrible. The worst sounding piece of gear I have owned. My then flagship X-FI Elite Pro completely trounced it in every way possible. I had a non-audiophile friend check it out. With no prompting from me she said "it sounds like there are parts of the song missing, its weird".

I quickly put it on head-fi and sold it for $600 so I was only out $50 and some of my time. Thankfully my Modi Multibit sounds a lot better but I would love to see the numbers from another MHDT DAC or any other NOS dac especially with a tube. You can see their website here:
http://www.mhdtlab.com/
 

Wombat

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#2
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#3
I think there is a Monica dac (maybe II or III) in my attic. Added buffers and other items. I am sure it measures much worse than it sounded. Did not sound that great either.
There were a lot lot of overzealous supporters of these cottage dacs.
 
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#4
I think there is a Monica dac (maybe II or III) in my attic. Added buffers and other items. I am sure it measures much worse than it sounded. Did not sound that great either.
There were a lot lot of overzealous supporters of these cottage dacs.
Oh yeah hearing the Paradisea+ DAC was my first real "emperors new clothes" moment being an audiophile. It literally did nothing well. If it only had 8 bits of resolution I wouldn't even be shocked.

In fact I was afraid to sell it on headfi. I thought the new owner would message me in a rage when he got it because it sounded so terrible..........nope he thought it was grear.
 

Veri

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#5
I saw measurements of the Kitsune Holo Spring Dac on a chinese(?) blog and it had all right linearity and SNR. It costs like $1.5K though not sure what it's supposed to do better.
 
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#6
Speaking of the state of DACs 10 years ago, at that point in time I was managing a list of every known DAC available. The last update occurred some time around 2010. Have a look at this time capsule:

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/all-the-dacs-money-can-buy-pt-2.325941/

Each DAC is ordered by price and broken out into all of the major info I could find, from the lowly Burr-Brown PCM2702-based USB DACs all the way up to DACs with 10 or more Burr-Brown PCM1704-K chips. Who knows where they would rank now?
 
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#7
Speaking of the state of DACs 10 years ago, at that point in time I was managing a list of every known DAC available. The last update occurred some time around 2010. Have a look at this time capsule:

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/all-the-dacs-money-can-buy-pt-2.325941/

Each DAC is ordered by price and broken out into all of the major info I could find, from the lowly Burr-Brown PCM2702-based USB DACs all the way up to DACs with 10 or more Burr-Brown PCM1704-K chips. Who knows where they would rank now?
Crazy you maintained that list. I am on laptop only these days and have not owned a desktop computer in 8 years. I would love to find a DAC that used the Quad CS4398 setup the X-Fi Elite Pro used. On that list I see a Dual CS4398 DAC buts its $2,000, yikes! Vs the $400 I paid for the Elite Pro back in the day.

My Grace Designs SDAD / Modi Multibit is working for me but there was something about the X-Fi sound I really dug.
 
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#8
Bear in mind that in multichannel sound card setups like the X-Fi Elite Pro, the implementation of the four CS4398s probably equates to the 8 channels of a 7.1 surround setup, so the main stereo output is likely only using one chip (unless literature out there states otherwise). In that sense, it sounds like the Topping D30 might be right up your alley. Of course, implementation is everything; the DAC chip only indicates a theoretical maximum.
 

restorer-john

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#9
The CS-4398 is hardly a multibit in the traditional sense is it?

And NOS doesn't necessarily mean 'no output filter' either.
 
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#10
Getting back to the topic at hand, is it possible to make a Philips TDA154x-based DAC that competes in terms of measurements with the current crop of DACs?
 
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#11
Getting back to the topic at hand, is it possible to make a Philips TDA154x-based DAC that competes in terms of measurements with the current crop of DACs?
Good question. I am not an EE and unlike a lot of posters I won't pretend to be one. I'd like to see the best of the old school NOS DACs run through the paces tho.
 

Wombat

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#14
I am the only one who put up measurements of an old DAC(16 y.o.). I would love to see how it compares to 10 y.o. ones.
 
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#15
you can set the RME ADI-2 (Pro) to NOS...
I had no idea. Not in any rush to spend that much on a DAC, not sure how much I would hear over the SDAC.
 

jsrtheta

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#17
As an old fart (stop reading if you've heard this one), I have survived numerous battles of this type.

For a while, ladder DACs were, like, it. The PCM63PK reigned, and Theta and Enlightened Audio Designs rule the roost. But this was the day of 20-bit superiority, and 24/96 was but a dream. Not an improvement, mind you, but a dream.

I will give credit to Theta for continuing to produce 18-bit machines in a 20-bit age (the Prime and the Progeny), but it all reflected an obsession with bit-depth. 24-bit DACS didn't really hit their stride until the MSB Link, which was 24/96. And, frankly, was audibly indistiguishable from 20-bit (or 18-bit), to be honest. But there was a mania for this shit, and a lot of money made, alas not by me.

To my ears, the resulting bit-and-sample rate revolution has yielded few, if any, changes. This became clear to me when I bought (used, and at a killer price) the Theta DS Pro Gen Va. Outrageously expensive, and the so-called "state-of-the-art," the DS Pro Gen Va (such was its nomenclature) was top of the heap, to many. After buying it, I compared it to the PS Audio DL-1 DAC based on PCM1702 20-bit DAC chip. To me, strikingly, no difference.
And nothing to justify the price of the DS Pro Gen Va. The sound was indistinguishable. The cost? The difference between $500 and $5,000.

One phrase I've noticed in Amir's reviews: "not an audible concern." And this is the current bottom line: We are fighting over difference without differences. It's like fighting over phono preamps that have a .000001 difference between them in distortion. Can you really distinguish between this shit? No. Is it good to know? Sure. What is the better made stuff? Who is paying attention to what they're making? These are valid questions.

But franklly, I suspect the 18-bit Theta Pro Prime II sounds no different than the 20-bit DS Pro Gen Va, sounds no different from, say, the 24-bit Topping D20. They are all well-engineered. The Pro Gen Va is way overpriced (and overengineered). the Pro Prime II is well engineered and overpriced, and the Topping is not audibly different, but well designed and engineered, cheaper, and capitalizes on truths discovered later.

Do multibit chips sound better? Doubtful.
 
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#18
@jsrtheta, agreed, we're basically at the point where the top DACs should be indistinguishable from each other in the vast majority of listening situations.

That said, it would be nice to have a visual of where we came from in terms of DAC product accuracy. How accurate were those uber-expensive units? Is it possible that they were using, as Audio-gd claim, intentional 'bespoke' coloration and distortion in their designs (i.e. a "house sound")? One could argue that was the purpose of practically all tube DACs.

The real innovation right now seems to be happening in the amplification world, ex. THX AAA.
 

jsrtheta

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#19
@jsrtheta, agreed, we're basically at the point where the top DACs should be indistinguishable from each other in the vast majority of listening situations.

That said, it would be nice to have a visual of where we came from in terms of DAC product accuracy. How accurate were those uber-expensive units? Is it possible that they were using, as Audio-gd claim, intentional 'bespoke' coloration and distortion in their designs (i.e. a "house sound")? One could argue that was the purpose of practically all tube DACs.

The real innovation right now seems to be happening in the amplification world, ex. THX AAA.
Yes, though it really should be concentrated in transducers. My uninformed opinion, of course.

It's funny - I would really like to get my hands on something like, say, a Theta DS Pro Prime II DAC, an 18-bit machine, fairly representative of '90s DAC engineering (except for the 18-bit part - 20-bit was more the norm), just to hear one again (I owned two over the years) and compare it to my current rig. I find that on the used market, these things get offered for about what they retailed for new, and I refuse to pay that much. (IIRC, the Prime II listed for around $1500 US.) That was when multibit ruled the roost, the BB PCM63PK being considered the ne plus ultra of dac chips. (I owned a lot of DACs with that chip, too.)

My suspicion is that old Enlightened Audio Designs and Theta DACs (and most others) would probably sound fine. Though if you ever get to take a look inside the Theta DS Pro Gen Va, do so. Amazing how many parts went into making a DAC that sounded no different than almost all the others made at the time.
 

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