Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?

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divertiti

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Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« on: 21 Jun 2018, 05:41 pm »
Hi there, I'm looking for a DAC and perhaps a bit of feedback. I do like a little warm tube magic in my music, especially on instruments and vocals. However I also listen to EDM and my system also doubles for home theatre. From past experience, I'm a bit wary that tube will be too soft/rolled-off for HT as well as slow/soft for electronic music.  In your experience, how do tube dacs (like Jolida) fair in those situations? Would it be better to get a more neutral DAC and add a tube buffer (like ifi) for better flexibility?

I'm running Dynaudio Focus 380s with Mcintosh MC7270 amp, interested in hearing your recommendations. Thanks.

mresseguie

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Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #1 on: 21 Jun 2018, 07:09 pm »
What’s your budget?

Do you want XLR or RCA out?

Do you listen to a lot of hi-rez music or CD quality?

What is your usual source (CDP, computer, etc.)

Regards,

Michael

divertiti

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Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #2 on: 21 Jun 2018, 08:31 pm »
What’s your budget?

Do you want XLR or RCA out?

Do you listen to a lot of hi-rez music or CD quality?

What is your usual source (CDP, computer, etc.)

Regards,

Michael

All good and relevant questions. My budget depends on the sound quality I guess, but ideally under $1k. I don't have a need for XLR now, so it's only a nice to have for future proof. I listen to flac and Tidal streaming the most. I also have a turntable so a dac/pre combo unit would be a bonus but not a requirement. Hope that helps.

JLM

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Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #3 on: 22 Jun 2018, 11:35 am »
What DAC/preamp are you running?  What digital formats are you interested in?

Buffers exist to color the sound or resolve pre/power amp impedance incompatibilities.  In 40+ years I've never had impedance issues and personally don't like coloring with source or electronics as speakers usually have plenty of colorations.  And colorations color everything, do you want everything to sound like warm syrup/etc.?  The key would be to find a tube that adds magic (palpability, image density, tonal saturation) without softness/warmth.  I might try looking at the $549 Decware ZBox tube buffer.  I've heard and been impressed with the magic their integrated amps can add (but one of their integrates added bass flab).

I had an Eastern Electric DAC years ago that could run with or without it's tube, even bought the relatively expensive recommended tube (still stayed in your price range).  Wasn't terribly impressed, couldn't hear a difference with/without the tube.  A friend has a highly modded version ($4k) in a very nice system that I've never been impressed with either.  So results can disappoint.  Was on a tour with an iFi iTube2 that could act as a tube buffer, but wasn't impressed either - too much of a good thing (see my review in the Critic's Circle). 

WireNut

Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #4 on: 22 Jun 2018, 01:17 pm »

Decware ZBox tube buffer. 


Thanks for the info. I didn't know about this buffer  :thumb:

http://www.decware.com/newsite/zbox.htm


WireNut

Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #5 on: 22 Jun 2018, 01:21 pm »
Found this tube dac for sale here on AC.

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=157320.0



I.Greyhound Fan

Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #6 on: 22 Jun 2018, 03:40 pm »
Hi there, I'm looking for a DAC and perhaps a bit of feedback. I do like a little warm tube magic in my music, especially on instruments and vocals. However I also listen to EDM and my system also doubles for home theatre. From past experience, I'm a bit wary that tube will be too soft/rolled-off for HT as well as slow/soft for electronic music.  In your experience, how do tube dacs (like Jolida) fair in those situations? Would it be better to get a more neutral DAC and add a tube buffer (like ifi) for better flexibility?

I'm running Dynaudio Focus 380s with Mcintosh MC7270 amp, interested in hearing your recommendations. Thanks.

Why don't you consider a DAC with a more analog and warmer sound like a Chord 2Qute or the newer and better Qutest.  The Hugo2 is just a slight step up.  Another slightly warmer analog sounding DAC is Aqua La Voce.  Also consider a Musical Paradise tube DAC.  There is a lot of praise for this DAC which is ultra configurable with your choice of caps, DAC chip and tubes.

http://www.musicalparadise.ca/store/index.php?route=product/category&path=61

The IFI tube buffer works pretty good for a buffer.  It all depends upon your system and the tube or tube variants the any piece of tube gear uses.  A friend brought one over to try and it did warm things up a bit and added a little bit of bloom.  Coloration yes, but that is what tubes can do and why some people love them and some hate them.

By the way, not all tube gear rolls off high frequency.   I own several pieces of tube gear, including my preamp which uses 8 tubes.

As always, YMMV :D

stwombly

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Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #7 on: 24 Jun 2018, 05:04 am »
Border Patrol makes a great tube DAC that you can take the tube in and out of the circuit. I listen to it more than my Mytek Brooklyn. Hard to beat the sound with the tube in the circuit to my ears.  There are lots of reviews on the web and Gary is a great guy to deal with.

roscoe65

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Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #8 on: 24 Jun 2018, 01:14 pm »
I am of the opinion that people choosing a tube buffer or DAC to make the sound smoother are missing the point.  You ar better off getting a DAC that is properly voiced than to try to cover its sins with a lower resolution output stage.  The Border Patrol DAC is wonderful, but its smoothness is due to its NOS Ladder
DAC, not necessarily because of its tube output stage.  I own a DB Audio Labs Tranquility SE, which is topologically similar to the Border Patrol, differing largely in PS and output stage.  Rather than the tube rectified PS and tube output stage, the Tranquility uses a SS PS and a Fet output stage.  I can confirm that the Tranquility is similar to the Border Patrol in voicing and smoothness.

Nelson Pass can make solid state devices sound more tubelike than tubes.  Conversely, I own three tube amps, all of which have “modern”, i.e, neutral voicing.  My smallest (4wpc) amp is my 421A SET.  This amp uses ancient tubes, modest components, and vintage capitors (PIO PS filter caps, Vintage Jensen PIO coupling) yet sounds cleaner and more modern than almos any tube amp I have ever heard with extended highs and ridiculous bass. 

OzarkTom

Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #9 on: 24 Jun 2018, 01:40 pm »
The IFI Itube 2 worked wonders in my system. I now own the IFI Ipro Ican preamp, just a small stp-up from the Itube 2. You can use the IFI as a pre if you are using digital only. They are $500 new and quite a few AC'ers are now using one. An added bonus is the 3D circuit that will enhance some of your poor recordings.

If you buy this from Music Direct, they have a 60 day return policy. Trying it in your own system is a must for me.

roscoe65

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Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #10 on: 24 Jun 2018, 02:21 pm »
I will also add that a “DAC” that is detailed yet has a warm, tubelike voicing is the Chord Mojo.  I use this DAC/HP amp in rotation with my Schiit and DB Audio Lab DAC’s.  It costs less than $600 retail is one of the great bargains in audio.

It is about the size of the pack of Luckies, is powered by a battery that lasts for hours, has dual outputs (albeit 3.5mm, so you’ll need custom cables or adapters) and variable output up to 5.7 volts, so it can be used as a DAC/preamp.  I’ve used it directly into a SET  Amp and a pair o stereo subwoofers.  It’s sounds slightly rolled off at first, until you realize you’re actually hearing a lot more detail, just with less sizzle.

David C

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Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #11 on: 24 Jun 2018, 08:29 pm »
To each his own but I really enjoy my itube2. I have a bryston 14bsst2, pmc pb1i speakers and benchmark new DAC  (dac3L) ,which I absolutely love and recommend ,that I also use as a pre and the Itube2,which to my ears , is a keeper

AllynW

Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #12 on: 15 Jul 2018, 12:53 am »
Found this tube dac for sale here on AC.

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=157320.0

I had one for years. Nice DAC until it quit.  It has "Cold War" tubes in it.  They are soldered to the IC board.  I've read that they are good for something like 10,000 hour.  I am not sure what died in my unit.

The North American Authorized repair outlet was in Canada at the time, even before Trump shipping and receiving up there was a pain. Who knows these days.  I did try to talk to the tech but I don't speak French and he didn't or wouldn't speak English.  In any case he was a jerk and I drop the DAC in the trash. 

fredgarvin

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Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #13 on: 15 Jul 2018, 02:38 pm »
I would fall in the anti-tube buffer camp. if you want tube sound, get a tube preamp. If that's not in the works for you go with a nice DAC, some have been mentioned. NOS types often have a less digital sound, AKM chips such as used in the Nuprime and Schiit DACS are noted for warmth. For a couple hundred more bucks than one of those buffers you could get a Nuprime DAC09, for instance.

garyalex

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Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #14 on: 15 Jul 2018, 02:52 pm »
Border Patrol makes a great tube DAC that you can take the tube in and out of the circuit. I listen to it more than my Mytek Brooklyn. Hard to beat the sound with the tube in the circuit to my ears.  There are lots of reviews on the web and Gary is a great guy to deal with.

+1 on the Border Patrol DAC.  I have the BP DAC SE.  I love it.  I also prefer the sound with the tube rectification enabled.  I wrote a quick review on Audio Asylum.  Unfortunately some of the AA members were more interested in the making fun of the name than in discussing the unit.  It's part of the reason I no longer log in to that site.  Anyway you might want to consider the Border Patrol.

https://www.audioasylum.com/audio/digital/messages/18/186795.html

rollo

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Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #15 on: 15 Jul 2018, 07:11 pm »
 Keep it simple a tubed DAC would be my recommendation.



charles

raindance

Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #16 on: 3 Aug 2018, 12:43 pm »
Tubed DACs are mostly gimmics with a tube cathode follower, the worst sounding tube circuit, tacked on after an op amp to color the sound. A cathode follower doesn't add the even harmonics that a gain stage does.

Now, Jolida claims that they connect the output from the DAC straight to a tube gain stage, which theoretically should work well, but their choice of a 12ax7 SRPP with gobs of feedback doesn't deliver either.

The EE minimax unit sounds better through its op amp output. The first generation is a silly design with the output taken from a 100K pot - this high output impedance probably flavors the sound more than the tube does...

My suggestion is a decent tube preamp, even if you simply set it for unity gain and use it as a "buffer". Note that a well designed tube preamp will not roll off the highs, it will just add some harmonic enhancement. That said, most low priced tube pres are compromised designs that will roll off the highs and perhaps loosen the bass, plus they are VERY sensitive to load impedance which can cause bass rolloff issues.

My 2c worth - a preamp with (gasp) tone controls...

I'm not a tube hater, in fact I build, modify and repair tube gear, but cheaply implemented tubes do nothing useful that tone controls can't achieve. You may get lucky and find that the item you select gives you the sound you want, but it's a crap shoot.

WireNut

Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #17 on: 3 Aug 2018, 01:33 pm »

My 2c worth - a preamp with (gasp) tone controls...


 :thumb: Which are hard to find. The only company I know of that makes one is McIntosh. Van Alstine use to make  a tube pre with tone controls.

raindance

Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #18 on: 3 Aug 2018, 02:07 pm »
Quad solid state preamps, like the Quad Elite or its predecessor. They have useful tone controls. Or an AMC CVT1030 which is a tube unit. Most of the AMC units will need repair though. Oddly  enough I have one of each that I'd like to sell :)

witchdoctor

Re: Tube Dac or Tube Buffer? Recommendations?
« Reply #19 on: 3 Aug 2018, 03:23 pm »
A tube buffer because you can always switch it off if you get tired of it.