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Looking for DAC with balanced out to replace ZH1ES


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My stereo amp (Marantz PM-10S1) has balanced in, and these are supposedly better than single ended inputs, my DAC only has single ended output, hence I am looking to upgrade to take advantage of the above and make a step forward.

 

Current Streamer:

Eversolo DMP-A6ME (using internal SSD storage or AssetUPnP or Apple Music), signal out via USB to DAC

 

Current DAC:

Sony ZH1ES (a headphone amp with single ended pre-out, i am also using it for driving my MDR-Z1R headphone; FPGA based 1-bit native DSD decoding, PCM signal gets converted to DSD; excellent build quality; upsampling features and digital filters etc)

 

I am considering the following DACs with balanced out:

(a) RME-ADI2-DAC FS (ESS converters) + KECES P3 12VDC LPS (existing equipment) 

(b) SPL Diamond (may not be true-balanced design; AKM converters) + external clock MUTEC MC3+USB

(c) HoloAudio Spring 3 Level 3 KTE - R2R DAC

(d) TEAC UD701N + external clock such as MUTEC MC3+USB or TEAC CG-10M-A - can ditch the A6ME

(e) HoloAudio May Level 3 KTE - R2R DAC

(f) T+A DAC 200 (Burr Brown converters for PCM or FPGA based native DSD decoding <== this is a very attractive feature to me)

(f) Esoteric N05XD (FPGA based native DSD decoding) - can ditch the A6ME

 

Big price span from (a) to (f), I want to know what position the Sony sits in and the possible upgrades that can make enough difference or not, seeking suggestions.

 

Music preference - diverse: pop, vocal, orchestral, chamber.

 

Many thanks!

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Ah yes. Haven't tried that yet, have been using the A6 as a streamer from Day 1.

 

As I streamer, I think its interface is very easy to use compare to other upnp renderers I tried, and sound quality is very decent. I wonder how would the A6 rank in that list above.

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What is your budget? 

 

Suggest trying the A6 as streamer/DAC. And if you insist on the interface, go up to the A8.  But if you are open to changing, and have the budget, look at the NAD M66.

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My budget is $6 to $8k for this DAC with balanced out. Quite curious about the R2R DACs and see what are the differences between this and chip based /FPGA based decoding that people are talking about.

 

Others options also include those CD/SACD players that has USB-DAC function:

- Yamaha CDS-3000 (ESS chip)

- Marantz SA-10 (over budget for this one), and SA-12 is RCA only (both are FPGA based decoding)

- Luxman D-03X (BurrBrown/TI chip)

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T+A 200 and Holo 3 KTE for sale here at $7.5 - $8k as you would have seen.

Also consider Aqua La Scala, tubes in the XLR output stage and hard to beat with upgraded NOS tubes. Spend some money on the USB cable which makes a big difference if the rest of the system is up for it… so much choice!

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So many variables and the usual answer SHOULD apply - you need to hear the DACs for yourself.

 

With that out of the way, the two I would probably put to the top of the list would be the Holo May and the T+A (which I own myself).

Check out Goldensound's videos on Youtube - some good discussion about these two in particular.

 

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Thank you all for your suggestions, a lot of nice products out there. There seems to be a lot of new streamers and DACs coming into the market and are very competitive, with development cycles becoming shorter, this also may mean the shelf-life becoming shorter, it is a difficult decision. At this moment, I am still leaning towards T+A or Holo May.

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You are right, but I do suffer from indecision a lot of the time, even when having the opportunity to AB test in a similar price ranges 😂, especially when the differences are subtle, and/or equipment A/B have different design approaches or offer different features.

 

Shortlisting a few pieces will shortern the time spent on searching and researching I guess, therefore i try to limit my choices to those I feel comfortable with the references, test data, functionality, visual, and design approach, AND I rather not know that some equipment out there is better for say 20% more money (that will give me upgrade bug very soon).

 

Anyway, I had the impulse, so I bought a HoloMay off a nice gentleman here, and so far I am very happy with it, in terms of the features, the design approach, and most importantly, the sound. Comparing to the ZH1ES, separation is much enhanced, pace and rhythm is faster, smoother and on top of that, the overall presentation sounds much more effortless and less manipulated.

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  • 4 weeks later...
8 hours ago, Meez said:

As you're making your mind up, the DMP-A6 Dac section is supposed to be very decent so give it's balance out a try for now maybe.

 

Keep a look out for this as an option! -

 

WANDLA GoldenSound Edition

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCg1hiDSNsQ

 

Yeah. Since the WANDLA has preamp capability, I was already quite interested in the original non-tuned version before, but i wanted to try out what the hype is all about on R2R type decoding, thats why I went for the May KTE, and so far I am very happy about it, except that I either have to switch on the unit 1 hour before listening or leave it on all the time.

 

With the May working with A6's USB output, i have the confidence that there is no or very little jitter and associated interference/noise reaching the decoding stage. I like the user friendly control interface on the A6, and that I can use the local-storage for payback while being able to use Apple Music. 

 

Coming from a Naim system where they always tell people to upgrade "source" or "upstream" first, i now have a "source" that I will be happy for a period, next I will look at preamp.

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3 hours ago, Sifuzi said:

 

Yeah. Since the WANDLA has preamp capability, I was already quite interested in the original non-tuned version before, but i wanted to try out what the hype is all about on R2R type decoding, thats why I went for the May KTE, and so far I am very happy about it, except that I either have to switch on the unit 1 hour before listening or leave it on all the time.

 

With the May working with A6's USB output, i have the confidence that there is no or very little jitter and associated interference/noise reaching the decoding stage. I like the user friendly control interface on the A6, and that I can use the local-storage for payback while being able to use Apple Music. 

 

Coming from a Naim system where they always tell people to upgrade "source" or "upstream" first, i now have a "source" that I will be happy for a period, next I will look at preamp.

 

Oh I see. So long as you're happy with what you hear, that's all that matters.

 

I'm looking for an end-game DAC myself, but I can't be bothered with warm up times and such. That being said, having owned a hybrid tube DAC (Copland DAC215) for nearly a year now, I love how it sounds, but with all the hassle that comes with tubes, it's not worth it. I had both tubes develop noise in the first 3-4 months, luckily they were covered under warranty. I can't imagine the anxiety I'd feel owning a full blown tube component with potential incessant tube related issues. Just my 2cents on tubes.

 

Anyways, would love to hear a May one day! How much better is it compared to the Sony TA-ZH1ES?

Edited by Meez
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In comparison with the ZH1ES or playing SACD/network streaming on Technics SL-G700 mk 1, I find the May KTE to be:

  • More focused imaging, and seems to be able to extract more details (or the details not being smudged)
  • Lower distortion and smoother edges
  • Pace and rhythm sounds faster
  • Overall I have been listening to music with it loud than before and feel very comfortable in long haul sessions. I am finding listening to my old CD collection to be much more interesting.

I was considering also Marantz SA-10 SACD player as the player and the DAC also, but now I don't have that urge anymore.

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On 06/02/2024 at 9:53 PM, Sifuzi said:

My stereo amp (Marantz PM-10S1) has balanced in, and these are supposedly better than single ended inputs, my DAC only has single ended output, hence I am looking to upgrade to take advantage of the above and make a step forward.

 

Whatever dac you get with balanced outputs, make sure it is  "real" balanced out and not "pseudo" balanced which there are many, and they sounds worse than the rca out, as it's just 2 extra opamps in the signal path (converting the rca to balanced) which the rca output wont have.

 

You have to look at the circuit diagram or ask the manufacturer if the output is real (XLR) balanced or converted from a single ended dac or i/v  source . 

 

Cheers George 

Edited by georgehifi
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It is interesting that you have listed the TEAC UD-701. It is not available here but from reviews and the few pictures available on the web, its internal is very similar to the Esoteric N-X05XD though not as tidy and well build. Their specs are interestingly similar too. I have heard its smaller brother, the TEAC NT-505 with AKM chips (not ESS) and I would characterise the sound as analog, powerful and dense. We ran this with a LHY external word clock.

The reviews on the TEAC UD-701 has very similar sound description. It would appear that the UD-701 output is fully balanced with twin DAC chips, three toroidal transformers and a streamer board that is almost identical to the esoteric. 

The SPL is not fully balance as they have the extra two op amps for their balance outputs (according to the specs description provided by reviewers). The Word Clock input for the SPL only works on the S/PDIF and AES output.

 

Cheers.

 

Thim 

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Hi, you could consider the NAD m51. Has balanced out as well and sounds very nice. They are listed for sale on this site as well for around $ 700/750 ish.

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