I recently received these questions and answered them. It occurred to me that these answers may be helpful to anyone considering a DAC DAC that is unsure if they'd like the TL or the HS version better....
Is there a significant difference between HS and TL? Would most wives notice a difference?
Depends on the wife. Women do have better hearing than men in many cases, but they are not as likely to have "trained" ears enough to spot specific differences. I have women listen to systems occasionally, mostly to get a better/not-better reaction or just a flat out "how do you like THIS?". Almost every woman I know has heard a demo on my system at least once! I haven't done any DAC comparisons with female listeners for that purpose alone, so let's put it another way....
HS sounds very precise and just as clean at any level. That's why it's particularly good for systems that skip the preamp. TL sounds rounded when the music's loud but pretty much like the HS when it's not. The HS is a touch quieter (blacker background), too. By turning the volume down that feeds the DAC ("media player" volume), and turning the preamp gain up, a TL can sound nearly identical to the HS version, but not as quiet. The ratio between "digital gain" and preamp gain determines the amount of tube effect. Full scale digital data (0dB digital attenuation) results in maximum tube effect, and if feeding the amplifiers directly, has the tendency to make the system sound like you're using tube amps which also sound cleaner at low levels, but "smoother" at high levels. The DAC DAC TL output level is tuned to produce just the right amount of tube effect per level when used with Maraschino amplifiers. The new MEGAschino has higher gain ---- in line with the increased output power, so it sounds like you're using a higher power tube amp when coupled with the DAC DAC TL.
Which do you prefer and why? Which one sells the best?
I personally use the HS nearly all the time. It's just that it's as close to perfect as I've experienced with any DAC (mine and others). Beyond quiet, and so very clean. The TL version sells better, probably because it's unlike any other DAC on the market.
At RMAF, we had a demo going on the second day after switching DACs to the TL. A few people commented that the system sounded better on day one. We switched back to the HS and agreed the sound was better. Note that this was with the DACs driving the amps directly, so the tube effect was effectively at "maximum". With a preamp, we could have tuned down the tube effect by attenuating the digital stream and amplifying the analog to the amps.