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This Saturday  was  spent playing around with Dacs with @juventino

A few months ago I changed my speakers from Monitor Audio to Proac,
After that  I played around with different amplifiers  Valve , Solid state , Class A , Seperate amps (same preamp)
Different valves. The changes were always small. I could easily live with either amplifier. The audio Analogue Maestro sounded so close to my separates, The Sugden class A was so beautiful ( I am not a fan of integrated amps so i went in biased) But alas  one has to admit when something sounds good. Anyhow my point was that the differences were so small  that I could fail blind tests.

So Dacs Thanks to Georgev, Juventino And Air I had 4   dacs
The Aqua Lavoce S3 , T&A  DAC 8 (non DSD version) And The Holo Spring 2 Level 2  and my own Soekris  Dam1021

We were not looking for a winner, We were just curious to how they sounded. I  can easily live with any one of these Dacs.

The Holo was in Nos Mode it has other filters but due to the limited time We had with the units We did not mess around with filters. The Holo has this amazing  black background and almost romantic feel to the music. It is  really engaging. It puts the vocals in the back, My room is small, my speakers are about 2.5m apart and I sit about 2.8m, so it's almost near field type listening. The holo pushes gives these small pin point vocals creating this air of space giving the illusion makes me feel like my space is bigger than it is. Its so nice it got Juventino using words like "it sounds so smooth"
Bass is tight and fast, it's so engaging made me wanna play every song until the end.

The Aqua La Voce S3 The differences were remarkable it brought me to the conclusion that the things that bring the most change are source and speakers (A discussion for another thread) The Aqua is forward  the Vocals were big and forward the Bass Went deeper than the Holo but the Holo is tight. I would have thought with the forwardness of the Aqua it would be bright but it was not, it  was faster than the holo. On some tracks it was almost like listening to a different song. Dire Straits you and your friend 96khz Version and Keith Dont Go Nils Lofgren Sampler

T+A dac 8 is still one of my favourite dacs.This we did play with the filter settings are the buttons are right on the front. First filter the sound stage was like in between the holo and the Aqua
Second Filter the sound was on par with the holo. only difference being the holo has a lot more detail

So my conclusion to all of this was that at the end of the day it boils down to personal preference and system matching

Sent from my XQ-AT51 using Tapatalk

The the transformer in the middle thats my Soekris board

Wish i could have shown you what is possible with the soekris. Stock it is just ok, didn't wow me With a few mods it is friggen amazing. Do yourself the favour and spend the R1800 to take it to exceptional

@scrarfussi. Did you try to upsample Redbook to 352.8kHz and feed a T&A  DAC 8? It has old-fasioned filters, maybe it is why you like it.

Although not directly in a comparison like you did I also obviously had the opportunity to listen to all these DACs in the past year. Times spent with the Soekris was briefer and therefore perhaps not really gave me a good indication of what it is capable of.

My own observations and impressions are aligned with @scrarfussi shared. I might frame it differently so what it worth here is how I see it:

The Aqua, Holo and Soekris are R2R dacs and although I am not sure whether the Soekris is a NOS dac, the other 2 are primarily designed to listen to as such. The Holo does give an OS option as well. So these dacs, all share for me the following: The tone and textural density are superb. It uncovers the harmonic structure of the music very well. It also sounds alive and what I really like about the R2R sound in NOS mode is how it avoids any hardness and digital artefact sound that I hear from DSigma dacs. I find the speed and transients, microdynamics to be very good.

In terms of the specifics, I would say the Holo is the winner when it comes to detail, the blackness of the background and it is slightly better than the Aqua to lay bare the harmonic richness in the music. As Talib said the focus is very good. It sounds very linear and in a way neutral and hence the soundstage is between the speakers or even slightly behind the speakers. The bass is very informative and tight.

The Aqua La Voce share many of the R2R traits but it has a relaxed and smooth presentation and detail is perhaps not 100% on par with the quieter holo. It does have a fuller midbass voice than the Holo and therefor the music sound more "pushed into the room" also why the bass sounds stronger. Once again the Holo is just a bit more linear and the music stays behind the speaker. Keep in mind that it has Italian blood! so it deals blossomed with passion and drama. Interestingly the more expensive Aqua's are a bit less so. Also the PCM1704 based S2 is also between the current S3 and the Holo Spring 2, level 2.

The Soekris also sounded good, once again in comparison to other R2R NOS dacs that I had available but it was not as sorted and refined. I thought much more work was needed in the power supply and perhaps with the gain stage. We listened to it with our without an opamp and in both instances, I got an impression of more roughness around the edges. I think with solid engineering, a very good power supply and maybe a good gain stage it can sound good.

The T+A impressed me when I listened to it at the time. It was clear that I prefer the softer filter settings and the more brick wall filters, although sounding cleaner made the dac sound more like a typical modern dac.. Good detail but lightly edgy and brittle..and in the end it rob the ebb and flow and harmonic richness of the music. I did like it, however, and enjoyed having it in my system.

I agree that it will come down to personal preference especially in terms of presentation(aqua or holo) but for me there is only one option and that it the R2R NOS route, the rest is, well not to my liking but at the same time I acknowledge that at uber prices one can probably get decent sound from a Delta Sigma design.


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