dB Audio Labs Tranquility SE DAC w/Jupiter Cu Caps

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roscoe65

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Re: dB Audio Labs Tranquility SE DAC w/Jupiter Cu Caps
« Reply #20 on: 10 Jun 2018, 01:51 pm »
the Tranquility SE is a thing of beauty for music, if not detail lovers.  I have had a dozen DACs through my system and my choice for musical enjoyment is the SE.  It is my wife’s choice, too.  For me, after listening to all of the “super” DACs I choose the Tranquility for my system.   :thumb:

Which DAC’s have you listened to?

Jonathon Janusz

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Re: dB Audio Labs Tranquility SE DAC w/Jupiter Cu Caps
« Reply #21 on: 10 Jun 2018, 02:08 pm »
Jonathon, perhaps the Tranquility DAC can be modded to accept XLR(?).  :dunno:

Michael, in the case of my upgradeitis itch, it isn't just swapping connectors for RCA to XLR that I would be looking for, but going from a single ended to balanced design, as others have mentioned my pre sounds very good and debatable better running fully balanced from source to amps.  This would also lead me to shopping for amps and so the rabbit hole goes...  I've been happy with my Tranquility SE for years and because I've never nor have any intention to move on from redbook, and the general DAC market has more or less passed me by, the only compelling need to change I could see is if I were to move from the mac mini as a source on to something else, which at least for now is also a non-issue.

What your thread here has done is make me vaguely consider finding another Tranquility SE on the cheap to send to Eric to put some Jupiter caps in,  though.  :lol:  It is kind of cool that we are talking about such an "old" DAC again with enthusiasm considering the way tech generally marches on.  Although unassuming, I said years ago and still believe today that even if it doesn't ever end up the end-all of DACs, this DAC will some day end up being talked about as one of the truly classic pieces of audio gear.

trianglezerius

Re: dB Audio Labs Tranquility SE DAC w/Jupiter Cu Caps
« Reply #22 on: 10 Jun 2018, 08:51 pm »
Don't forget his mods for the Mac Mini. I had him mod mine and what a huge difference it made to the imaging and soundstage with more air around the instruments and vocals.

OzarkTom

Re: dB Audio Labs Tranquility SE DAC w/Jupiter Cu Caps
« Reply #23 on: 10 Jun 2018, 09:08 pm »
A used one for $700, great price. With upgraded caps about a year ago. Jupiter's?

http://www.usaudiomart.com/details/649438117-db-tranquility-signature-edition-nos-usbdac-possible-trade/

Cheytak.408

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Re: dB Audio Labs Tranquility SE DAC w/Jupiter Cu Caps
« Reply #24 on: 10 Jun 2018, 10:27 pm »
Which DAC’s have you listened to?
PS Audio Direct Stream, Mytek, Wyred, Buffalo, Schiit (several), Border Patrol, Cambridge... etc. 

The Border Patrol and dB Audio Labs are our favorites

mresseguie

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Re: dB Audio Labs Tranquility SE DAC w/Jupiter Cu Caps
« Reply #25 on: 11 Jun 2018, 04:08 am »
Don't forget his mods for the Mac Mini. I had him mod mine and what a huge difference it made to the imaging and soundstage with more air around the instruments and vocals.

Hi, Trianglezerius.

I've read a couple people's comments about this. I've considered buying a second hand Mini and asking Eric to mod it. It's not alway convenient to use my regular Mini for music because my desk is usually in a different room. Thanks for the recommendation.



OzarkTom:

Good find! Perhaps someone reading this thread will snag it.

Michael

jMelvin

Re: dB Audio Labs Tranquility SE DAC w/Jupiter Cu Caps
« Reply #26 on: 11 Jun 2018, 05:37 pm »
What a pleasant surprise to see this review and subsequent discussion. Well done Michael.

I've often wondered if anyone still uses their Tranquility (original or SE). l still use my non-SE Tranquility, which was upgraded (Gold Level Mods) by Eric about 5 years ago, and still sounds wonderful.

The Tranquility DAC falls into the category of equipment that values music over ultimate sizzle.  One increasingly popular path toward the ultra high end values musicality over the artificial detail that many mainstream high end designers have sought.  This sound was big in the 80’s and 90’s, with German manufacturers being the worst.  It is an extension of the “East Coast vs. West Coast” sound of the 1970’s.  If you want the West Coast Sound, choose speakers with hyper detail, amplification with flat frequency response, and HiREZ DAC’s.  If you prefer the East Coast Sound, you may choose single driver speakers, Altec Horns, Volti, Audio Note, Devore, or other speakers voiced to be a little laid back.  You may like “forgiving” tube amps, likely single ended.  Your Dac may be NOS like the Tranquility, or another laid back option like Chord.

This also highlights the importance of system matching.  One of my amps is a little dark sounding, and even my most neutral sounding amps (ironically tube amps) are ultimately somewhat forgiving.  I can only be satisfied with this amp while using my “sharpest” DAC.  I otherwise sounds too rolled off.  My other amps are all compatible with all my DAC’s.

One thing that listening to some modestly priced but still fairly high quality equipment from manufacturers like Omega, DB Audio Labs, Dennis Had, Oliver Sayes, and Chord is that I needed to recalibrate my expectations of extension and detail.  I think may of us are very impressed with the “detail” a resolving system presents.  But that detail seems to arrive on the leading edge of transients, almost like a sharpening filter in Photoshop.  In contrast, with DAC’s like the Chord Mojo, Schiit Bimby, or Tranquility the leading edge seems a little softer, the presentation ever so slightly rolled off by comparison, but there is an increase in detail from within the music itself.  Rather than applying a sharpening filter, both the focus and depth of field have been increased.

roscoe65 .. you really nailed it with this post.

Triode Pete

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Re: dB Audio Labs Tranquility SE DAC w/Jupiter Cu Caps
« Reply #27 on: 11 Jun 2018, 09:24 pm »
PS Audio Direct Stream, Mytek, Wyred, Buffalo, Schiit (several), Border Patrol, Cambridge... etc. 

The Border Patrol and dB Audio Labs are our favorites

The BorderPatrol & dB Audio Labs DACs have a lot in common! Just sayin'... both are great!

gregfisk

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Re: dB Audio Labs Tranquility SE DAC w/Jupiter Cu Caps
« Reply #28 on: 11 Jun 2018, 10:00 pm »
Don't forget his mods for the Mac Mini. I had him mod mine and what a huge difference it made to the imaging and soundstage with more air around the instruments and vocals.

Do you recall what the mods consist of and what they cost?

This has me very intrigued as I've been wanting to do more to my macmini to see if I can improve my source a bit more.

Greg

db audio labs

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Re: dB Audio Labs Tranquility SE DAC w/Jupiter Cu Caps
« Reply #29 on: 13 Jun 2018, 07:34 am »
Hey Guys!

Thanks for the invite to this discussion about the Tranquility. I will attempt to answer everyone's inquiries as there are quite a few here for sure! -

Tranquility's digital section

The Tranquility uses an NOS 1543 chipset that is powered, regulated and configured very different than most other NOS DACs using this chipset. Historically in the past. other DACs using this chipset. They were always known to be smooth and relaxed but not very dynamic nor on par with more modern chipsets on handling complex music either. All of that was solved with the Tranquility design as this chip can be seriously improved with the correct surrounding supporting circuit surrounding it. Just takes tons of experiments that go beyond the typical "measurement" criteria that most DAC manufacturers think is all they need.

The "old stuff" used in digital designs today


One of the things rarely talked about in reviews and by "the experts" in audio is how many of the newer chipsets don't really sound nearly as relaxed or really like a good turntable compared to the old NOS designs. What they seemingly don't realize is that many of the newer chipsets are designed from the outset to perform high resolution digital as their main goal. The problem that occurs is that these chipset designs just assume that those chips will also do Redbook 44.1 CD rips just as good. This is an unfortunate assumption. It's anything but this simple when you do comparative listening tests of different DAC chipsets both "old" and the newer "it will do all resolutions". Along with this unfortunate assumption is the filters for the high rez playback are not very good on lower CD rips either. Those filters for high rez are not optimized for CD rips either! As a side note, the Tranquility doesn't have to use any digital filters whatsoever as it is native 44.1. Another thing that even the "old" designers didn't realize they could avoid using altogether and get much more liquidity. Great filters are very difficult to design without stripping out some of the overtone harmonics and decay that allow a much more relaxed sound that is much closer to analog or the original master tape.

The Tranquility winning at shows I did with Danny Richie

We won best digital for the money and best digital cost no object at our very last show (Absolute Sound). And this was all done playing ONLY Redbook CD rips! This was no accident mind you. I've been tackling the entire digital chain and finding a myriad of weaknesses. So many that needed to be addressed in order to make this achievement happen. As those parts of the chain were addressed, I found that Redbook can contain FAR more information from a CD than most could imagine. It's just quite a bit more fragile. There are about 50 areas that need to be tackled in the design chain, from the computer type, to the way it's powered, to the connectivity and the DAC and of course the power and a myriad of other small things as well. Once those are addressed, Redbook CD rips can seriously give analog a run for the money. Who would have thought that CDs could sound so good. Not even me! I now am helping my customers with the entire digital set-up, not just selling DACs. That's where the real magic is IMHO. Knowing what to do that keeps the digital chain from truncating delicate harmonics, overtones and decay which analog usually does so much better than most digital, even today. Yet this lofty goal is achievable, with an understanding of the entire configuration Server to the DAC!

Tranquility performance with a renderer?

As of today, we still are finding that a properly set-up Mac Mini, with all the tweaks myself and many of my customers have discovered still cannot be eclipsed by any other digital delivery system. Somehow, it has been lost on the audiophile world that the Mac Mini offers a much better delivery of digital code. What I am saying here is that the Mac Mini is still the best sounding computer anyone could use for delicate, harmonic analog like extraction! My entire direct customer base in 22 countries are all in agreement and many have tried other much more expensive high end audio servers and custom computers only to find the Mini is the king of delivering the most delicate information as other servers don't do nearly as well. Nor any laptop either mind you! (I may have to start a whole thread on the Mini itself as I have identified much of the actual architecture that Apple managed to bring with this design, by accident for us crazy audiophiles. So much to write about that I have discovered that would take many pages to really explain).

Playing High Rez through the Tranquility

The Tranquility can play high rez as it just tells the computer to send it 44.1 prior so those files are playable. The funny thing about this is how well it does compared to many "high rez" labelled DAC offerings. I have received dozens of phone calls over the years from guys who contact me with this comparative against a true native "high rez" DAC. They start by saying, how is it that the Tranquility had better depth and air and was more musical compared to this XYZ high rez DAC we just compared it to. I thought you said it wouldn't play high rez at native, but we like it much better? I then ask them questions like - Did the XYZ high rez DAC have a heroic output stage, not using Op Amps? What about the power supply? And did the designers know to not use steep filters that truncate depth and air? What about the quality of the components too? All of these things were addressed in the Tranquility to the point where even high rez. reconfigured into 44.1 can sound way more musical. Of course, if the "high rez" DAC design had everything addressed entirely from end to end in it's design, then it would sound superior comparatively. It's just not typical for complete thorough end to end serious parts and topologies in most of the "high rez" designs to see this done under the $5,000 price point.

Is Noise even an issue?


There is not an issue with noise, even with these "old" NOS DAC chipsets if they are configured correctly. When we first launched the DAC, there were direct comparatives done, outside of my control against "modern" award winning DACs that where touted as having "much better Signal to Noise" as their improvements. The DACs which the Tranquility won against by listener panel comparatives at events were the well regarded Berkley, PS Audio and Ayre. All costing much more and noise was no different to any of the listeners between any of these DACs. What people are forgetting is that Signal to Noise ratios in virtually any decent DAC design are ABOVE the threshold of the recording itself. I still see tons of advertisements by DAC manufacturers implying that 140 dB is better than 120 dB etc. It's like saying my speaker can play out to a million hz! Why are we even worried about noise when our device is way above the hearing threshold. BTW - If you really are worried about getting those heroic Signal to Noise ratios, you better sell all your tube gear immediately!  ;-)

Hyper detail, is it really the judge of great sound?

Roscoe65 does great job pointing out issues of system matching with hyper detail from some DACs and dealing with this potential issue. My point with the Tranquility design and supporting server (Mini) is to just bring the listener very close if not identical to the master tape harmonic structure or a great neutral turntable sonically. If somehow the digital configuration sounds more hyper detailed or clinical or sharper than even the original master tape itself, then it is changing the original configuration of the original recorded music overtones. That is something that some audiophiles adore. My intent is just to get the sound back to the master tape. In particular, the overtones, decay and correct sounding high frequencies that we hear so easily on analog. For me and most my customers. that is where the soul of the music actually exists.

The Mac Mini mods

There are quite a few things to take a stock Mac Mini up scale in terms of liquidity and more analog like overtone extraction. This will most likely require me to start another thread for me to explain the hows and whys of those tweaks, etc. For anyone who owns a Mini, please feel free to call me and I will explain the various options I have found to make it state of the art sonically. And for Tranquility owners who bought directly from me, I provide a huge list of tweaks (over 20) that anyone can do to their Mini. There are other things that can be purchased mind you. But my goal is to help everyone achieve the most sound for any budget, always pointing them to the most cost effective upgrades. Not everyone has crazy money in this hobbie. But everyone wants the best sound for their hard earned dollar, right?

Tranquility Mods and current customer support

I have been finding quite a few improvements over the years for the entire digital construct. The majority of improvements are centered around getting closer to analog with better depth, decay and relaxed long term musicality, without euphonic coloration or frequency tilts. Some would call this "a purist approach". I am just attempting to get my customers the sound of a $20K turntable done right. For all my original customers, I offer big discounts on various mods and tweaks that have been discovered, year over year. My research is always part of my musical life. And, many of my customers contact me with their findings as well. When truly double blind verified as improvements, I add those to the list I can offer my customers. For those who have already purchased updates in the past, I offer many free updates to bring their Tranquility to the most recent iteration.

Many thanks to all the kind and thoughtful overviews by various posters and owners. I am hopeful we can all educate the audiophile world in the mine field of mis-information and unfortunate technical assumptions thrown around these forums in regard to digital playback. You guys rock!

Eric Hider - dB Audio Labs  www.dbaudiolabs.com

roscoe65

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Re: dB Audio Labs Tranquility SE DAC w/Jupiter Cu Caps
« Reply #30 on: 13 Jun 2018, 11:38 am »
Thanks for the detailed rely Eric.  I own two of your DAC's (original Tranquility and SE) which I purchased secondhand.  They are both wonderful and hands down one of the greatest bargains in digital audio.

While I don't see myself putting more money into the original Tranquility, I am interested in upgrades to my SE (within reason) as well as my Mac Mini.

Randy

Tomy2Tone

Re: dB Audio Labs Tranquility SE DAC w/Jupiter Cu Caps
« Reply #31 on: 13 Jun 2018, 01:53 pm »
Excellent stuff Eric, thank you. There was a Tranquility SE that was for sale here late last year for $500 and I remember thinking of just grabbing it to try out but didn't...dag nabbit

roscoe65

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Re: dB Audio Labs Tranquility SE DAC w/Jupiter Cu Caps
« Reply #32 on: 13 Jun 2018, 03:25 pm »
That's a decent deal and the probably the going rate.  Resale on these DAC's is very low, so buying secondhand is a real deal.  Unfortunately, the market for these is small, so finding them on the resale market is tough.  It also doesn't help Eric pay his mortgage if no one buys his products new.

I paid $295 for my Tranquility, and $600CAD ($462USD) for my Tranquility SE.

I'm thinking of contacting Eric to inquire about upgrades to the SE.  I am also thinking about cracking open the case of the original Tranquility and see it there is room for a potentiometer.  With >2V output from the FET stage, I think this would be great directly into an amp.  A Tranquility feeding a Pass ACA feeding a pair of Omega's would make a killer compact system.

JLM

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Re: dB Audio Labs Tranquility SE DAC w/Jupiter Cu Caps
« Reply #33 on: 13 Jun 2018, 04:02 pm »
A new Tranquility SE might be attractive compared to used plus modifications if the new has the mods already included.  You'd gain a warrantee plus feed Eric and avoid aging capacitors/buying used worries.  Wonder if he could do the same with a Mac Mini.  If such a great pairing why not Eric?

Regarding the volume control, check to see if impedances with your chosen amp are a good match.  Beyond that being old and lazy I'd need a remote volume control.   :oops:

roscoe65

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Re: dB Audio Labs Tranquility SE DAC w/Jupiter Cu Caps
« Reply #34 on: 13 Jun 2018, 07:49 pm »
A new Tranquility SE might be attractive compared to used plus modifications if the new has the mods already included.  You'd gain a warrantee plus feed Eric and avoid aging capacitors/buying used worries.  Wonder if he could do the same with a Mac Mini.  If such a great pairing why not Eric?

Regarding the volume control, check to see if impedances with your chosen amp are a good match.  Beyond that being old and lazy I'd need a remote volume control.   :oops:

While I am more than happy to help Eric pay his mortgage, I am more concerned about paying my own first.  I own two of Eric's DAC's.  If I sell them both and buy a new one from Eric I am still about $1,000 in the hole.  His stock SE does not come with boutique capacitors or other tweaks.  I would argue that Eric would rather I pay him for parts and his labor to mod my existing DAC rather than spend the money on a new board, PS, case, NOS chips, etc.

OzarkTom

Re: dB Audio Labs Tranquility SE DAC w/Jupiter Cu Caps
« Reply #35 on: 13 Jun 2018, 11:18 pm »
A used one for $700, great price. With upgraded caps about a year ago. Jupiter's?

http://www.usaudiomart.com/details/649438117-db-tranquility-signature-edition-nos-usbdac-possible-trade/

This one is now marked sold. Hoping someone here snatched it up. :thumb: