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TotalDAC d1-tube-mk2 | REVIEW

by Grover Neville in Digital

Like me, you probably recognize TotalDAC d1-tube-mk2 and the TotalDAC brand (website) in general, but you may know very little about them. This French company has a stellar reputation for making high-end converters, but I’ve not had the pleasure of reviewing or even hearing one of their units until now. As such, a little homework was in order on my end. TotalDAC, it seems, is an adherent to one of my favorite DAC technologies: the R2R ladder DAC. This type of converter uses a series of [...]


  • Denafrips Pontus II DAC | REVIEW

    February 12, 2021 // 8 Comments

    I’ve been on a hot streak lately with getting components to review that have sounded excellent despite the current difficulties in hearing something beforehand. For a reviewer, it’s one of the many great things about hi-fi shows. So when our fearless PTA leader Scot Hull put out the word amongst the troops for who wanted to take a shot and review an affordably-priced DAC from the Chinese electronics firm Denafrips (website), I thought sure! Why not? And then something strange happened [...]
  • The Best DACs, Servers, Streamers, and Disc Spinners [Editor’s note: Welcome to the Part-Time Audiophile Buyers Guide for 2021! This year we decided to mix it up a little by breaking up the Buyers Guide into sections, which makes it a far more manageable read. And oh, we know what you’re thinking–the best DACs and digital gear? Sorry, but I’m a vinyl guy and have no time for all the new digital thingamabobs. Not even sure what a “network streamer” does. [...]
  • Merason DAC-1 | REVIEW

    October 4, 2020 // 0 Comments

    From The Outside, Everything Looks Right I was reminded of what I love about Teutonic design aesthetics when I first opened the box and removed the flagship Merason DAC-1. Have you ever gone to the part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC and seen the display of medieval armor and weapons? Even a millennium ago, the armor and weapons used by knights and crusaders in battle had a very nationalistic vibe. The French suits of armor borrowed their look from a Parisian palace for the [...]
  •   The Naim Audio Mu-so changed the way I listen to music. That’s not hyperbole, a ready-made pull quote that Naim can use in their print ads. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to borrow a Naim Mu-so QB, the smaller cube in the line-up, for a few months. I wasn’t that excited about the Mu-so when I first encountered it. To me, it was a fancy table radio. It did a lot of cool things, but these were mostly the things in audio I didn’t do at the time, like digital streaming. That Naim [...]
  • Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC | REVIEW

    September 25, 2020 // 2 Comments

    Before I jump into the Mola Mola Tambaqui, I have to share a delightful tidbit of deadpan humor from my roommate. While amusing on its own, it ended up more prescient to the little DAC on review here than I expected. I’ll preface this by saying I have an unfortunate habit of stress-buying exotic furniture, an idiosyncrasy my beleaguered roommate has grown well-accustomed to at this point. “I don’t think we could have vegans in our house again if we bought this,” I said as I [...]
  • BorderPatrol SE-i DAC | REVIEW

    August 8, 2020 // 8 Comments

    Whenever the talk of my distaste for digital audio comes up among audiophile friends, there are usually two things mentioned. First, I’m asked “What DAC are you using?” The second thing commonly said is “You should hear that BorderPatrol DAC.” Well lucky me, I finally got to spend some time with a BorderPatrol SE-i. I hear music in digital form just about every dang day while I’m working in the studio. I’ve gotten used to it. It’s almost an [...]
  • The availability of streaming devices is endless, offering convenience and friction-free listening. We have become accustomed to a quick tap or voice command and the tunes start flowing. Although I am blessed with an incredible reference listening setup, it’s complicated. A mass of components, platforms, and cables working together to create a symphony. I’ve been on the hunt to find something simpler. Something that I could recommend to friends and family who are looking to build a small [...]
  • When’s the last time you heard a new CD player and thought wow, this sounds terrific? I’m not talking about digital in general or a DAC, but a one-box CD transport/DAC playing just a redbook CD. That happened to me with the very first CD I listened to with the Audio Research CD6 SE. When we talk about advances in digital technology, in most cases we’re talking about DACs. We’ve seen plenty of innovative DACs over the last few years, usually employed in conjunction with high-resolution [...]
  • Innuos Statement Music Server | REVIEW

    April 26, 2020 // 6 Comments

    Filed Under: Things that shouldn’t matter Staring at the Innuos Statement (website), a $13,750 dedicated computer audio server, I’m reminded of a long-ago period in the evolution of digital audio. If you’ll cast your thoughts back to a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth (okay, fine: it was about 10 years ago), the big debate on the Computer Audiophile forums was about jitter. Nothing mattered but jitter. Jitter was the thief of dreams. Jitter was the enemy. Jitter was the thing that [...]
  • dCS Bartók DAC, Part 2 | REVIEW

    April 12, 2020 // 1 Comment

    Last I checked, there were over 450 documents labeled “review” on my computer. Of those docs, many qualify as either digital components or straight up DACs by today’s standards. Of those DACs, many qualify as what most audiophiles refer to as “Delta Sigma” with a few less considered to be of the “Multi-bit” variety. Longtime high-end digital company dCS calls the brain of their growing list of digital products (and even their latest creation) a “Ring DAC”. The digital [...]
  • McIntosh MCD600 SACD/CD Player | REVIEW

    February 2, 2020 // 8 Comments

    Before I discuss the McIntosh MCD600 SACD/CD player, I have to tell a story. Just a couple of weeks ago I overhead a conversation between two audiophiles who were discussing the continued role of compact discs in their lives. “I’m very tempted to get rid of my CD collection after I rip everything to a server,” Audiophile #1 said. Audiophile #2 responded, “You know that in a few years CDs will become the same niche market as LPs, and I’ll have to listen to you bitch endlessly about [...]
  • It’s good to be king, or so they say. For me, that’s precisely the vibe that exudes from the Bricasti M12 Platinum Edition Source Controller. With a name like that, this august device seems more than comfortable mantled in royal attire. It wears well. For the record, I’ve been a fan of Bricasti gear since I first laid ears on the Classic M1 DAC, which I got to review a year or so ago. I really liked it, and I told Scot Hull as much. Long story short, that unit became mine, and since then [...]
  • Aurender A30 Music Server | REVIEW

    December 15, 2019 // 0 Comments

    Adventures in … Consolidation? Simplicity. If I have to summarize what I believe we ought to be talking about with “lifestyle audio products”, that’s what I have in mind. Not all-in-one compromises, not tiny speakers on stalks, not active-speakers, not any of that. Or, better, not necessarily that. All I mean is ‘simplicity’. I like simplicity. Not that my office space resembles anything close to that, but I can surely admire it anyway. So long as ‘simplicity’ isn’t just a [...]
  • dCS Bartok DAC, Part One | REVIEW

    October 13, 2019 // 4 Comments

    Every once and a while, a product will turn up at the house for review that is so special, it changes what I understand to be possible for an audio component. And let’s face it; most of us don’t have anything resembling “unlimited budgets”, so finding something magical at a price you might (barely/one day/maybe-possibly) afford can make for a great day. For me, I found the dCS Bartok DAC to be just such an animal. I started reviewing DACs in the headphone space many [...]
  • Sparkler Audio Spiral, Ether | Review

    August 11, 2019 // 8 Comments

    A Box of Sparklers My introduction to the wares of Sparkler Audio (website) was through the 2017 and 2018 Capital Audiofest shows. There, I’d made note of Sparker’s quirky Spiral compact disc player, which had been featured in both the Charney Audio and VK Music rooms. Given that I had really enjoyed the sound in these rooms at both shows, I was determined to put Sparker Audio on my “to do” radar. That little CD player just kept tugging at me, as I had been considering getting a disc [...]
  • TotalDAC USB Gigafilter | Review

    August 4, 2019 // 2 Comments

    Digital is dicey Looking at the totalDAC USB Gigafilter, you ask questions. Digital is supposed to be straightforward: ones and zeroes coded as “Hi” and “Lo” voltage signals, all marching forward in a straight line like kindergarteners to the bathroom. That’s pretty much it, right? The complexities of vinyl playback, in contrast, are easy to understand. Move that cartridge in any direction, and you affect the way the tip of the stylus hits the grooves … Which in turn affects the [...]
  • by Steve Marsh Introduction: Cocktail Audio X45 Pro I spend most of my time listening to vinyl rather than digital.  I have a lot invested in my analog front end and the musical satisfaction I get from it is quite complete.  The one big drawback, of course, is that a lot of new music is not available on vinyl.  At the beginning of my efforts to switch from the dying CD player technology to a more modern digital solution, I dabbled with computer audio, purchasing Amarra software and playing [...]
  • Bricasti M1 Limited Edition DAC | Review

    March 22, 2019 // 7 Comments

    Before I start, I should just confess that the Bricasti M1 Limited Edition (aka, The Golden Gun*) has been my personal DAC reference for the past two years. It is, quite simply, the best-sounding all-around digital converter that I’ve had in-house. To anyone who says otherwise — it’s pistols at dawn. As you may or may not recall, computer audio is how I got into this mess got started with this website in the first place. My first stand-alone digital converter was a heavily-modded [...]
  • Audio Fur and the Border Patrol DAC

    January 6, 2019 // 17 Comments

    The Dissenting Opinion Stereophile’s Herb Reichert posted a letter on the web version of an “As We See It” column written by his colleague Jon Iverson. I’m reposting it here (with linking and attribution) for several reasons, but mainly because I want to use it as a map to work out my … feelings. The TL;DR of this (rather long) post is summarized pretty much entirely by Mr. Reichert’s comments. I have taken the liberty of then beating said horse past [...]
  • Ever since I reviewed the dCS Network Bridge a year ago,  I’ve been enjoying a lot more digital music. YES, I still prefer dropping the needle but the convenience of a dCS Network Bridge + dCS Vivaldi DAC + ROON is tough to beat. I find myself re-discovering CDs I ripped years ago, but more often on the hunt for more high resolution music.  Its been a bit of a disease, each Friday around 4pm, heading over to to look for what new music was released that week.  [...]
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