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External DACs -n- Tube Buffers

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jjptkd

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SILVER-7 TUBE AMP

Posts: 2857

Joined: Wed Sep 22, 2010 4:50 pm

Location: Snohomish, WA

Post Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:49 pm

External DACs -n- Tube Buffers

I've recently purchased a Grant Fidelity TubeDAC 11, PS Audio Digital Link III (DAC) and a Grant Fidelity 285 tube buffer. My system includes a Sunfire Cinema Grand 225x5 as the main amp driving my Klipsch Chorus II's. Preamp is alternating between the TGP-IV & Ultimate Receiver II. This is going to take quite a bit of time to really give an in depth evaluation / comparison.

Initial impressions: The Grant Fidelity sounds very nice, even with only a few hours of play time. The PS Audio DAC is amazing! Very smooth, clear detailed sound right out of the box, very impressive. Also, switching from the TGP-IV to the Ultimate Receiver II as a preamp with either DAC the sound stays the same. This contradicts previous experiences without an external DAC.

I first plugged in the Grant Fidelity directly into my 225x5 and didn't like it, switched mid song to the TGP-IV as the preamp and noted an immediate improvement but that was with zero play time on the unit through the tube output.

I still need to burn in the Grant Fidelity and do some more equipment swapping before I do a real evaluation. One thing for sure though, both DACs seems to be a notable improvement over either Sunfire pre.
Sunfire TGP-III
Sunfire 200x5
Klipsch KP 250 II
Samson SX3200 (750x2 Sub Amp)
(2) 18" Klipsch KP 480 Subs
Klipsch RSW 15
PS Audio DL-III DAC
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tinpan

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TFM-45

Posts: 531

Joined: Tue Jan 05, 2010 7:48 am

Location: Spotsylvania, VA

Post Tue Jan 29, 2013 3:57 pm

Re: External DACs -n- Tube Buffers

I really like the GF Tube Dac, it's hard to go wrong with those. I have not tried the tube buffer. Have you noticed much of a difference with those?
Tinpan

HT - Sunfire TG IV, Sunfire Cinema Grand Sig. 400 x 5, Oppo 93, Klipsch LaScala (3), Cornwalls (2), SW-12, Sony 60" LCD

2 channel - AN L2 Pre-amp, Carver Cherry 260's, AN 2.1 DAC, Oppo DV-981HD, Klipsch Epic CF3

2 channel - AN Interstage Mono Blocks 300b PSE, AN Sig. DAC 3.1 , AN Sig. Phono Stage, Sota Comet TT, Lowther Medallion Speakers PM5a driver, Rythmik F15 Sub

2 channel - Carverfest Mono Blocks, Grant Fidelity DAC, Klipschorns

2 channel - Audio Note Kit 1 300b SET, Audio Note DAC 2.1, Lowther Allerions DX-65 drivers
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jjptkd

User avatar

SILVER-7 TUBE AMP

Posts: 2857

Joined: Wed Sep 22, 2010 4:50 pm

Location: Snohomish, WA

Post Tue Jan 29, 2013 4:15 pm

Re: External DACs -n- Tube Buffers

The tube buffer won't be here til Saturday and I just got both of the DACs yesterday. So far I've only used the "tube out" on the GF versus the PS Audio. Both are improvements as stated but the PS audio is clearly better as of yet. I know its not really a fair comparison because the PS Audio had an original MSRP 3 times the cost of the GF and I've only run the GF through the "tube out" and its not nearly broken in yet. I bought the tube buffer used and its coming broken in with after market tubes and the originals. I'm going to try the buffer post DAC to pre first them between the pre and front 2 channels of the amp.

I'm really liking the improvements of the DACs so far, not sure how I missed the importance of these little devices.. :? :?
Sunfire TGP-III
Sunfire 200x5
Klipsch KP 250 II
Samson SX3200 (750x2 Sub Amp)
(2) 18" Klipsch KP 480 Subs
Klipsch RSW 15
PS Audio DL-III DAC
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elgrau

SILVER-7 TUBE AMP

Posts: 2857

Joined: Wed May 31, 2006 9:33 pm

Post Tue Jan 29, 2013 4:16 pm

Re: External DACs -n- Tube Buffers

JJ wrote:
"One thing for sure though, both DACs seems to be a notable improvement over either Sunfire pre."

With my current DAC (EnTech), I then run its output thru my preamp. Is the tube DAC you have ALSO a preamp? i.e., I've always thought that an external DAC simply replaces the "onboard" DAC inside your CDP....but I guess some external DAC's also have a built in pre-amp (or their analog output is at the same level as what comes from a preamp....not the low level signal from the DAC inside of a CDP)?

Hopefully my PS Audio III DAC will soon be here as well...from what I'm hearing (here), I can't wait! =P~
Family room: 400 disk changer with PS Audio Digital Link III DAC; Technics SL-1100A TT. QED Quenx1 IC's from DAC & TT to Adcom GTP-602 preamp/Tuner. AudioQuest King Cobra IC's from preamp to M1.0t mk-II opt2. QED Silver Spirals 4M wires to EPI 1000’s.
Living room: AudioQuest Black Mamba 8M IC's from family room preamp to Barcus-Berry 2002R Sonic Maximizer to GlowPower Zyxt IC's to Sunfire 300x2 to Nordost 6M bi-source wires to AOS 28" MDF spherical speakers using six 8" woofers and eight 1" dome tweeters symm. arranged around the surface.
SS system: CX-995V DVD to AV-705x 5 channel amp (center/rears) & M1.0t mk-II opt2(fronts).
Garage: TLM-3600 CDP to MXR150 Receiver (pre) to TFM-42 to EPI 400 speakers.
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jjptkd

User avatar

SILVER-7 TUBE AMP

Posts: 2857

Joined: Wed Sep 22, 2010 4:50 pm

Location: Snohomish, WA

Post Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:02 pm

Re: External DACs -n- Tube Buffers

The Grant Fidelity has a built in Preamp and headphone amplifier along with the DAC. It can also be used as a stand alone DAC which bypasses the preamp section but unfortunately it also bypasses the tube output. The Grant Fidelity does have many more uses then just a DAC, which really makes it an excellent value for the price. I haven't given up on it yet in my system but since I switched to the PS Audio I'm having a hard time talking myself into switching back. I think you'll be very happy when yours arrives. :D
Sunfire TGP-III
Sunfire 200x5
Klipsch KP 250 II
Samson SX3200 (750x2 Sub Amp)
(2) 18" Klipsch KP 480 Subs
Klipsch RSW 15
PS Audio DL-III DAC
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tinpan

User avatar

TFM-45

Posts: 531

Joined: Tue Jan 05, 2010 7:48 am

Location: Spotsylvania, VA

Post Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:14 pm

Re: External DACs -n- Tube Buffers

You can really tell the difference on the low power stuff i run. I couldn't believe the difference a DAC made, it was like where did this sound come from.

When you open them up you really can see the difference.

Image
Here is my Audio Note 2.1, probably my favorite. Great price verses performance

Image
Here is my Audio Note 3.1. see the tantelum resistors, Black Gate caps, Coppee Foil caps verse tin foil, etc. . This one is s.wee.t but it's twice the price of the 2.1

Lots of options for tune rolling
Tinpan

HT - Sunfire TG IV, Sunfire Cinema Grand Sig. 400 x 5, Oppo 93, Klipsch LaScala (3), Cornwalls (2), SW-12, Sony 60" LCD

2 channel - AN L2 Pre-amp, Carver Cherry 260's, AN 2.1 DAC, Oppo DV-981HD, Klipsch Epic CF3

2 channel - AN Interstage Mono Blocks 300b PSE, AN Sig. DAC 3.1 , AN Sig. Phono Stage, Sota Comet TT, Lowther Medallion Speakers PM5a driver, Rythmik F15 Sub

2 channel - Carverfest Mono Blocks, Grant Fidelity DAC, Klipschorns

2 channel - Audio Note Kit 1 300b SET, Audio Note DAC 2.1, Lowther Allerions DX-65 drivers
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elgrau

SILVER-7 TUBE AMP

Posts: 2857

Joined: Wed May 31, 2006 9:33 pm

Post Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:26 pm

Re: External DACs -n- Tube Buffers

Tinpan wrote:
"You can really tell the difference on the low power stuff i run. I couldn't believe the difference a DAC made, it was like where did this sound come from."

I 2nd that: several years ago when I got my current DAC (EnTech), it was like "wow, what a difference!". That was a relatively cheap DAC vs (I'm sure) the REALLY cheap DAC inside a Sony CDP! But I'm hoping for an equally noticable "wow factor" with this new PS Audio DAC (vs. the EnTech). IF you don't want to go "full analog" and/or "tubes" (for whatever reasons), then you REALLY need to get a good (at a minimum...) external DAC..a no-brainer..IMO!
Family room: 400 disk changer with PS Audio Digital Link III DAC; Technics SL-1100A TT. QED Quenx1 IC's from DAC & TT to Adcom GTP-602 preamp/Tuner. AudioQuest King Cobra IC's from preamp to M1.0t mk-II opt2. QED Silver Spirals 4M wires to EPI 1000’s.
Living room: AudioQuest Black Mamba 8M IC's from family room preamp to Barcus-Berry 2002R Sonic Maximizer to GlowPower Zyxt IC's to Sunfire 300x2 to Nordost 6M bi-source wires to AOS 28" MDF spherical speakers using six 8" woofers and eight 1" dome tweeters symm. arranged around the surface.
SS system: CX-995V DVD to AV-705x 5 channel amp (center/rears) & M1.0t mk-II opt2(fronts).
Garage: TLM-3600 CDP to MXR150 Receiver (pre) to TFM-42 to EPI 400 speakers.

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