Post by audiobill on May 10, 2018 13:08:52 GMT -5
I titled this thread Observations rather than Review because it will not follow the usual form of features, bass, mids, treble etc.
After owning many great dacs over the past 5 years, including the DC-1, the PS Audio Perfectwave, the NAD M51, the Grace m920 and the Theta Gen V(a), I have become increasingly aware of the importance of the power supply and analog output stages to the sonic quality of a dac. And while all these are great sounding dacs, I had a real revelation listening to the Theta, my first multibit dac. Mike Moffat from Theta also started Schiit who has led the way forward to multibit dacs.
So, knowing that, for me, tubes are just plain better at creating wonderful images and soundstages while sounding impressively musical, I was intrigued by the Audio Note 4.1 LE, which I built from the kit. While not inexpensive at $3,100 (the assembled version in the UK is 13,000 lbs UK or about $17.000 USD so quite a bargain in kit form) , it includes these goodies:
-Tube rectified and regulated power supply with very substantial transformers
-Multibit AD1865 dac chip - considered among the very best
-No upsampling or oversampling, sidesampling, reconstruction etc etc anywhere - just clean digital to analog conversion
-Transformer coupled I/V and C-Core transformer coupled output
-Tube output stage
As for parts quality, each resistor, capacitor, transformer, circuit board, jacks, and even stainless steel screws are among the best money can buy. No skimping, exploding capacitors, noisy smd resistors to be found here. I love knowing, part by part, I've got the best. Take a look:
Parts Complement includes:
2 x Triple C-Core Output Transformers
2 x I/V Transformers
Toroidal Digital Transformer
Signature Digital PCB (pre-assembled)
TAKMAN 1W Resistors (power supply PCB)
Audio Note 1W Resistors (output PCB)
Mundorf Silver Gold Oil Film Caps*
Elna Cerafine Bypass Caps (output PCB)
PTFE Silver Plated Hookup Wire
Audio Note Silver RCA jacks
I considered the Schiit Yggdrasil, but if you look at the inside pics on their site compared to the Audio Note 4.1 you will feel that you're looking more at a computer than an audio component. Remember, the power supply and analog output stage are critical to great sound. Just gaze at the Audio Note transformers and remember this is a dac....not a power amplifier!
As for the sound, all this attention to design and detail comes through. For example, the bass is so solid that I disconnected my subwoofer, and the harmonics on bass instruments are clear, solid and satisfying.
The clarity, transparency, and overall presence are nothing short of amazing. I find myself surrounded by the musicians, with no thought of fatigue, irritation or discomfort. Just the music, and how!
I really don't want to engage in an engineering analysis, and will leave that to others. You can buy specs on the cheap, but I've learned they don't always translate to the best sonics.
Simply put, if you can afford and seek this level of sonics and musical satisfaction I know you'd be as overjoyed as I am with this dac.