My Next DAC - European Market - Suggestions Please :)

Hello all! Firstly, thanks for stopping by :slight_smile:

For the past few weeks, I’ve been comparing my speaker setup to my headphone setup strictly in terms of detail retrieval and resolving capability. I live in an apartment, so I can only listen to the speakers until 9pm, then I have to switch to the headphone rig. Having done this for a period of time, I’ve come to the conclusion that my Headphones outresolves my floor standing speakers by a large margin, which shouldn’t be the case imo. So I analyzed the gear chain:

Headphones:

Tidal -> Auralic Aries Femto -> Chord Hugo2 -> Tube Buffer -> Auralic Taurus MkII -> Hifiman Ananda

Speakers:

Tidal -> Auralic Aries Femto -> RME ADI-2 DAC FS -> Mark Levinson No.27 -> Canton Reference Jubilee

I think that the Mark Levinson power amplifier is the weak link here, because it is from the 90’s, and maybe the caps have lost their original capacities. The speakers image very well and the staging is so awesome that when I close my eyes, I can imagine the room the music is played in, but the details just aren’t there like when I listen to the headphones. Of course, headphones do tend to resolve better than speakers, however, given the price disparity between the Hifiman and the Canton, I would expect the Canton to be able to resolve at least as well as the Hifiman.

I listen to Jazz (Stacey Kent, Michael Buble, Cheryl Bentyne, Chantal Chamberland, Lisa Lovbrand), EDM (Saib, Virtual Riot, Caravan Palace, Lemaitre) and Rock (Eagles, AC/DC, Dire Straits). I prioritize the impact of drums and Vocal clarity the most.

Now to the two solutions that I’ve been able to come to:

  1. Take apart the ML No.27, order replacement caps, then replace the old caps with new ones.

  2. Buy a new speaker amp

Regarding 2), I am open to any amp in the 1500 to 4000 Euro range that would drive the Reference Jubilees to their full potential. As of right now, I’m looking at these two, as I’m in Germany and European audio equipment tends to be well-priced here.

  1. Pro-Ject Power Box RS Mono + Power Box Amp LPS

  1. SPL Performer S800

  1. Musical Fidelity M6s PrX

  2. Musical Fidelity M8s500s

I would especially appreciate recommendations that are given with the biggest strengths of the amplifier. I only need analog inputs to speaker taps. No Pre outs, no Phono Stages, no integrated DACs or anything. Two XLR inputs would be great though, not a must.

Edit: Sooo. DACs it is. Any thoughts on the SPL Director MkII?

Vichy

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So I’m going to be honest, imo your amp is solid, but I think you might be overdue for a dac upgrade imo, you can get more than you would think by stepping to the next tier of dac

This really stands out to me as a pointer imo, as I really think that this is coming from your dac, as the amplifier can only do so much but it can’t add detail to something that doesn’t have it in the first place

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Hey M0N,

Thank you for reading through all that.

Since I see that your opinions are very well respected here in HFG, and I can send back any DACs that I order from the internet, I’ll bite. A large part of this hobby is experimenting with new gear anyway :smiley: I’ll do something I think Mr. Wave Theory would appreciate real quick: change the title so that it matches the current problem.

So which DACs would you recommend for my preferred sound signature, which is Vocal Clarity and Drum/Bass Impact? I really don’t care much for technicalities, as I’m only listening to relax. I really like it when I can hear the Bassline in the background behind the singer’s voice.

If you could rec 3-4 (or more if you feel like it) DACs up to 5000 Euros for me to look into.

For the time being: I’m going to use the Hugo2 + Tube Buffer as the Preamplifier for the ML No.27. Here’s a pic of the internals of the tube buffer just for shits and giggles :smiley:

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Hmmm in your setup, something like a lampizator amber 3 sounds like it would fit really well imo, I have heard a lampi with a canton actually (although different power amp) and it fit really well, very technically capable, but nice organic sound, great natural impact, and something that isn’t fatiguing at all imo. Also great spatial recreation as well

Another good pick might be a holo spring 2 imo, that’s going to be a bit less full sounding than the lampizator but it will sound quicker while still being slightly warmer and smoother imo

The schiit yggy does sound like a good pick here in terms of the sonic signature you might enjoy, but I might worry that it’s not as technically capable as the other 2 options mentioned (still a step above what you have now imo)

A primaluna evo 100 dac would be something good if you want something very smooth, very relaxed, very thick, but I worry it might be a bit too colored in that setup imo

Edit: ah and a denafrips terminator is pretty sweet and easily worth a look for something sweeter and warmer sounding but still pretty capable

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I watched this video and bought a lottery ticker right afterwards. Did not win though…

This looks also interesting

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Right. The Amber 3 for the price just looks like so little. Just a metal box with “Lampizat0r” written on it. I’ll read more on the Spring 2.

As of right now, I’m interested in two offers:

There’s a used Metrum Acoustics Adagio DAC/Pre from early this year available for 3700 Euros. Too good to be true, or a good deal? https://www.ebay.de/itm/264802164349

  1. A used SPL Director + SPL Performer S800 combo for 3300 Euros.
    https://www.ebay-kleinanzeigen.de/s-anzeige/spl-director-und-spl-performer-s800/1483100220-172-5520

I found a Lampizator Gen 4 Level 4+ Digital Preamplifier for 1800 Euros used, and I’d be willing to pay that price for an unassuming little silver box.

I can’t decide between the Metrum Acoustics and the SPL combo right now. A bit tempted to buy both lol

Thank you! Very interesting videos on R2R DACs you posted here.

Oh it’s not little lol, it’s pretty dang large and heavy. Although I do agree that it’s not the fanciest looking dac out there, but it’s got the performance to make up for it

So personally I don’t think this would suit your preferences well, that’s going to be a more forward almost analytical dac in some respects, imo was pretty technically capable, but can get harsh or aggressive. Personally I actually prefer the newer sonnet morpheus (same guy that did metrum) because imo it’s almost as resolving but way more natural sounding, the adagio is more capable but doesn’t really sound as organic and that bothered me (timbre was off, felt unnaturally quick, could get too aggressive and forward at times for me)

Honestly imo that would be a step down or side grade from what you have now, also it would be more leaning neutral and reference sounding, so not quite fitting your preferences

On the amp side of things, imo it might be worthwhile to set your heights higher for the speakers you have. While it is worthwhile to try and experiment with other amps in a similar range, the 27 was and still is a very high preformer, and still easily holds up today. Honestly I would suggest sticking with that until you go higher end on your dac, and then from there explore other options

That’s an alright dac, but personally I would suggest you try to go for one of their more modern dacs instead as imo they are decent improvements over their older lineup

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The Amber 3 is anything but small, that box JUST fits in a 2U rack.
Several people on the board have them, I think I was the first one to pick one up, there is an impressions thread on the board.
Strengths are in imaging and Timbre, quite resolving.
I really like mine, would recommend at the price point, but I haven’t done extensive testing of all the competitors.

This should give some idea of the size

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I am also another Amber 3 owner. The size is quite large and would describe it equivalent to an AVR (and I think it weighs about 25 lbs/11 kg). I also opened mine and the insides were quite intricate and well-built.

Coming from a Bifrost 2, the initial and stand-out improvement is imaging. The BF2 had a very wide, tall, and big sound, but the Amber 3 can match that and have you point directly at sources of sound. When you close your eyes, you can imagine what it would be like to walk around the vocalists, instruments, etc.

As for timbre, I felt the Amber 3 added timbre to my bass as well. BF2 had great bass slam, but the Amber 3 gave it texture. You are more likely to be tricked to hearing plucking from a double bass or the impact of a grand piano.

If you have any further questions regarding this product, feel free to reach out, but like Polygonhell, I haven’t dabbled in other DACs in a similar tier.

Lastly, the Trade-Up program is pretty nuts. I’ll have a tough decision to make in a year or two if I ever have the itch to upgrade again.

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Another Amber 3 owner here. A lot has already been said by @Polygonhell and @Veritas and I 100% agree with their assessments of this DAC.

I find the amber 3 to be fairly neutral but not overly analytical. It just presents sounds as they are and tries to recreate the staging as if you were there in the space. My favorite thing about this piece of gear is the depth and layering of the instruments in the stage, It sounds really great imo.

It has a very natural timbre to the sound that just feels right and true to life, It honestly makes listening to music I’ve been familiar with for years sound like a whole new experience to me.

Also that trade-up program is a amazing gesture from this company especially when you consider it applies to even secondhand units. Here in a few years I’m gonna have to have a real long discussion with myself over whether I trade up for one of their more substantial offerings or not… looking at you Atlantic 2 TRP :smiley:

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Right. I’ve given myself until early September to decide on a DAC. As of right now, I’m interested in the Spring 2 KTE, the Audio-gd HE7 and the Lampizator Amber 3 with balanced pre outputs. I’ve no doubt the Amber 3 is an amazing DAC, but the silver internal wiring and transformer of the Spring 2 KTE and the regenerative PSUs in the HE7 sound very alluring. And the Amber 3 costs At least 1000 Euros more than the other two.

What are your thoughts on the HE7 from Audio-GD? MagnaHifi offers a internal cabling upgrade to OCC Silver for 125 Euros, which I feel is pretty worth it. Still, the HE7 is 1000 Euros more than the Spring 2 KTE. Which DAC would you go for in my position?

Dang. That looks huge. I take back saying that it’s an “unassuming little silver box”, as it is the polar opposite xD Which DAC did you use before this and how big of a difference in enjoyment did you perceive from this upgrade?

What is an AVR? Sounds like some very robust military equipment.

That sounds like a very compelling improvement that the Amber 3 bought to your system. Might I ask, what components are in your system?

I disconnected the ADI-2 DAC from my system and connected the Hugo2 to the No.27, and heard something similar. The bass has a more prominent body, and any given singer’s voice sounds more in front of the Bassline.

I googled this and 10% under 6 months, 20% under 36 months… It is great. Unfortunately, it’s Lampizator USA’s Trade-Up Program and thus it is inaccessible for me in Germany :frowning:

Thank you for offering to answer further questions :slight_smile:

Man, you guys make the Amber 3 sound very, very promising. I’m wondering if it’s worth the 1900 Euros more than the Spring 2 KTE.

“Tube Rollers Paradise” What a name! I’ve always marveled the signature look of Lampizator DACS. The Atlantic 2 TRP definitely has that flair!

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Personally not a fan. Generally imo I find them to be pretty dang unrefined for the price. While the design is good in concept, it’s pretty poorly implemented that leads to some strange harshness and naturalness that really can get to me. The signature is going for a warmer more fun response, but it can sound really sloppy while doing that which isn’t the best for a dac at this price range imo. To be honest I’m prob being a bit harsh but I really haven’t liked any of the audio gd stuff I have tried over the competition (and I have a friend who is a fan of audio gd and gets stuff in from them often, so I get to listen to their new stuff lol, in hope they can make something that I enjoy). And this tends to be the case throughout their higher end and entry stuff, imo it just doesn’t tend to stack up with what’s out there now imo

Easily the spring 2 kte imo, it’s a much more capable dac than the he7 from my experiences with the he7 (although I didn’t have too much time with the he7 and didn’t hear it directly against the spring 2)

So while I do think the amber 3 is higher preforming than the spring 2 kte, I don’t think it’s prob as good of a value as the spring 2 is, the amber is worth the extra money imo but if it’s really pushing your budget the spring 2 kte might offer more bang for the buck (since I know adding balanced and the preamp adds a decent amount)

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An AVR is an audio-video receiver. Basically something used for a home theater system. You saw Polygonhell’s picture to scale, so you can see that it’s a pretty hefty box.

My stereo setup now is LampizatOr Amber 3 DAC --> Parasound P6 Preamp --> Cary Audio CAD805AE monoblocks to Harbeth C7ES3 40th

LampizatOr has a European site as well, https://www.lampizatorpoland.com/. It has its own trade-in program, I think -1% trade in per month. It also has a garage sale page, which sounds pretty appealing in my opinion.

Also, it’s great that you are putting an emphasis on electronics. Once you have the speakers/headphones that can handle it and scale well, I feel that you start to get big improvements with electronics.

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I had a Gungnir A2 I was using prior to getting the Lampizator.
I also have a Bifrost 2, and while I prefer the Gungnir to that, it’s close.
Value is a hard thing to quantify, I’ll say the step up was at least the same as stepping up to the Gungnir from the multiples $100 and $200 DAC’s I own.
As I said worth it to me.

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Another EU option…

https://vitusaudio.com/

Kinda stepping out of main line but…

Why not try modernize this ^^ chain in a more simple one?
Like: Tidal -> Auralic Aries Femto -> “MysteryBox” -> Hifiman Ananda
Just taking the music in digital signal directly in a modern headphone amp and to headphones.

It just looks so wrong to me like something some headphone users do, cause they can.
Amp a amp to dac the dac the amp/dac to amp a dac with giszmodisco and purifiers and shit.

Personally i would even aim for Tidal -> “MysteryBox” -> Hifiman Ananda if possible.

I see. Damn I didn’t know what AVR stands for :joy:

You have some awe-inspiring gear there :wink: I would love to hear what those monstrous tube amps can do in a system, especially with finessed speakers like the Compact 7ES 40th.

I read up on this, and it is easily a viable option. How would this stack up against the Spring 2 KTE in your opinion?

That’s true. This morning I connected the Hugo2 directly to the Taurus MkII into the No.27, and BOOOM! I could hear more raw detail, even at low volumes. It’s fascinating and I’m beginning to wonder how big a leap the Lampizator or the Spring 2 KTE will be from the Hugo2. If they’re even worth the upgrade. @M0N since I see you also have a Hugo2. Would you say that the difference between the Hugo2 and the Spring 2 KTE/Sonnet Morpheus is worth ordering it and possibly sending it back?

Value is hard to quantify. I agree; it’s different for everyone. I’m kinda asking myself if the Spring 2 KTE or the Amber 3 vs the Hugo2 would be like a Modi to your Gungnir A2.

Looked them up. They’re beautiful, but out of my price range xD

Always appreciate the input :slight_smile: This morning I took the tube buffer out of the signal chain and I think it improved the sound. The speaker system though, and not the Ananda. Thanks for the tip.

Some do it just because they can, I agree, however some just put in and take out things like Tube Buffers just to see how such components affect the sound. I did it with this one and It worked wonders on another system. Apparently not on mine :smiley:

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Hmmm so I didn’t get too much time with it, but so far I would say the sonnet is a bit more neutral leaning than the spring, it’s a bit more forward with its detail, the holo has better timbre but the sonnet might actually be quicker, the holo is a bit smoother and more forgiving, honestly both are on a similar tier with just a different sound, personally my preference for something a bit smoother and warmer thicker sounding is with the holo but if you are looking for something more neutral and capable but also not harsh for fatiguing the sonnet is great. Regarding soundstage and imaging I thought the holo was more spacious sounding, but the sonnet might have a bit better imaging. The holo might have a bit more impact here as well

Nice, the hugo 2 is a surprisingly solid dac for being a portable ish lol, honestly I might rank it higher than the adi 2 tbh, it’s more resolving, faster, better spatial recreation and separation, with a bit better dynamics and punch imo

Yes, I do think you can get more out of the kte or sonnet imo. In terms of signature the sonnet is going to be closer to the hugo 2 as both are going for more neutral and resolution forward, but the sonnet is going to be making the larger jump technicality wise and is also going to be a bit more natural. The kte would add a more touch of organicness to the sound and smoothness, while maintaining it’s resolution, and give a bit more holographic sound imo. It’s really hard to put into words what the differences would be, mainly because you are absolutely working in the realm of intangibles, but I can tell you that it’s absolutely a worthwhile step up to get the most out of your system

Going off @Veritas here, my main living room setup might look very off balance at first, the electronics are much much higher tier than the speakers themselves, the speakers aren’t on the same level as my electronics are, but that’s ok actually. From my experience once I found a speaker I really liked, any upgrades in electronics have gave great benefits to the speakers, even where I can justify spending on electronics that cost like 5-6x what the speakers do, and still fully appreciate the returns. IMO if you really love those cantons, in the future I would suggest you go even higher on your source gear and reap the benefits. Once you get into the higher end speakers, it’s no longer a game of trying to find the most performance for the money, it’s trying to find the best match for your system and your preferences, since for speakers for example sometimes spending more on a perceived “better” speaker doesn’t mean it’s going to be better for you, mostly anything in the high end side of things is going to preform competently, you just want to try and find what you like to listen to the best, even if that means going with a cheaper speaker that you really like and going nuts on electronics for it (but again this can depend on the situation and setup at hand), as that can keep the sound you are happy with but elevate it further

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