October 21, 2021 at 8:58 am #998
In another thread “I am surprised there is so little activity here” was posted. So not to hijack that thread, I created this one.
I’m happy to talk and read about Sound labs, I love my SoundLabs and I’m happy with my system: Schiit Yggdrasil A2 -> Pass Labs XP-30 -> Pass Labs XA-160.8 -> Sound Labs Prostat 922.
The only thing I think may be changed in 5 years is the DAC. I’m not unhappy with my DAC, I think it can be improved. I’ve had a Bricasti M3 in my system and preferred it for Bass focused music, though for female vocals I preferred the Yggy. I’ve heard a DCS DAC before, though it was in an unfamiliar system (Audio Research amp and Wilson’s). I want to hear other DACs in my system. I should be hearing a Bricasti M21 in my system at end of month, so I’ll see if I have any preference to it.
October 21, 2021 at 4:29 pm #1000ACHiPoParticipant
If you get a chance to listen to a Holo Audio May DAC I think you’ll be impressed. It replaced my modified Gustard U20, which was pretty darned good. I’ve also heard very good things about the Lampizator, Bricasti, Benchmark, and Border Patrol DACs (pretty wide range of price there!)
October 22, 2021 at 7:07 am #1001
I thought about a Holo Audio Spring before I bought a second Yggy (older A1 model is in my office system). I never heard it.
The Holo May is on my list of DACs I want to hear. Along with MSB Discrete and Premier, Rockna Wavedream, TotalDac.
I’m quite interested in hearing the Bricasti M21.
November 2, 2021 at 10:04 am #1004
After the listening sessions, I want to hear more DACs, though I’m quite tempted to get the M21. Below is a short summary.
Chord Hugo TT2, similar to Yggy but crappier.
Bricasti M3H with MDX, better than Yggy and definitely better than without MDX.
Bricasti M21 with MDX, much better than the M3H and Yggy, excellent DAC.
November 9, 2021 at 5:42 pm #1017
If you’re thinking of waiting to change DAC’s in 5-years or so, it’s difficult to predict what will be the latest and greatest then, at your price point. Digital is obviously changing at a much faster rate than any other hardware components.
Regarding my front-end sojourn, my first high-end CD Player was a Meridian. From it, I moved to a Wadia CDP, followed by PC Audio in 2006, with the purchase of a Wavelength Audio Brick (Silver). Since then, I have owned a: Wavelength Crimson, Lampizator Big7, Lampizator Golden Gate and presently a dCS Rossini.
The Lampizator’s were wonderful DAC’s. However, their care and feeding was for me, a bit more tweaky than I wanted at this stage in my life. Plus, really great tubes (4) for the balanced DAC that were newly produced were quite expensive and not that dependable. The same could be said for switching between CD sample rates and upstream USB devices and cables. I wanted something that required zero care, babysitting (if you will) and tweaking. The dCS Rossini with its Ethernet input and my use of Roon, ticked my robust, turn-it-on and just play it box. Plus, I really love the Rossini’s sound. It’s more detailed than my Lampizator’s, yet not fatiguing. I’m running it direct into my Atma-sphere MA-1 amps and that seems to do it for me.
At any rate, I’ve read and heard good things about the aforementioned DAC’s in this thread and I’m sure are all good, especially the Bricasti, which I’ve heard with SoundLab U1PX’s. But as with everything in this hobby, your flavor may not be my flavor and an-in-home DAC audition if it can be done, is pretty much mandatory.
November 10, 2021 at 7:27 am #1019
It isn’t so much wait 5 years to change DACs, but the only think I may change within 5 years, as I’m very happy with my pre, amp, and soundlabs. I thought that before I heard the Bricasti M21 in my system for 2 days. My love for M21 was immediate and continued throughout the weekend. I was most surprised that when I replaced my Yggy back in the system, I was still happy with the sound, I didn’t feel an immediate need to replace the DAC.
You’ve gone through several tube DACs, I can understand the desire to leave tubes. I’m surprised DCS was the choice after tubes, as several reviews imply the sound is very detailed, though kind of sterile sounding. This is essentially the opposite of what I envision the tube DACs provide.
Do you remember enough about the Bricasti you heard to compare it to your DCS Rossini? Now I want to hear the DCS.
November 10, 2021 at 8:54 am #1020
With the exception of perhaps some speaker types, I would find it virtually impossible to select a single piece of equipment in a foreign system and attempt to make an analysis of just it, without A/B’ing several other like pieces of equipment. The Bricasti DAC I heard was many years ago, in a SoundLab dealer’s U1PX, SoundLab room. Primarily, I made the 3-hour drive there, to hear Atma-sphere amps — the MA-1 and MA-2 – with SoundLab’s.
Compared to my CAT/SoundLab room at the time, I really liked the SoundLab dealer’s room. Was it better, perhaps? I can’t say. What I can say is that the dealer’s room was damn good! So, the Bricasti was indeed doing its job as were the dealer’s other components. However, the insightful bit was when the MA-1 amps were replaced by the MA-2’s. Now, if a similar experiment were done and I had my DAC on-hand and replaced the Bricasti with it (like how the amps were done), I would have at least had a point of reference to make some sort of DAC conclusion, but unfortunately I didn’t.
Any comments about tube verses non-tube DAC’s is an obvious generalization, much like tubes verses solid state amplifier generalizations. I have never heard a large enough sample size of (really well designed) tube amplifiers verses (really well designed) solid state amplifiers at any one time, to confirm that generalization. And even if I did, I fear that conclusions would be speaker dependent, unless again several and many different types of speakers were on hand and trialed. The same holds true for pre-amps and DAC’s.
However, with the amplifiers I have auditioned, I have preferred tubes over solid state with my SoundLabs. Yet, I’m uncertain whether that’s because of the tubes, the transistors, with just the SoundLabs, or because of the designs implemented by the amplifier’s engineers. My guess is that it’s a combination of all of these things. Variables, permutations and combinations make conclusions, let alone causality, quite difficult, to impossible to ascertain. When dealing with our subjective hobby, that premise is especially true.
What I can say is that I have enjoyed all of the DAC’s I’ve owned and both tubes and non tubed DAC types. In fact, I still have my Wavelength Crimson in a second system – a surround sound one –employing Martin Logan speakers. I have never tried it, but it would be an interesting experiment to take the Crimson to the SoundLab room and swap it for the dCS Rossini. What that test would tell me is about these 2-DAC’s in general. But I’m unsure how that would relate to the question of tubes vs non-tubes, as many other variables would be at play. This then sort of defines my view on tubes vs solid state. I believe that each equipment type is designer dependent. And that each equipment type can provide the best traits of the other, if designed to do so.
With that said, my Lampizator Golden Gate and dCS Rossini DAC’s sounded damn good but different, which is no revelation. Because I now own a Rossini, I obviously liked what I heard and I believe I like it better than the Golden Gate, which I traded-in. However, I find neither DAC more musical, or less or more sterile, nor over time, more listenable than the other. I do find what I believe to be more detailed information from the Rossini with no downside, which is a trait that I favor over the Golden Gate. This is to say, by using a well-aged distilled spirits analogy: some folks like bourbon whiskey, others like Scotch whiskey. Each whiskey type is quite different. But I like both, with generally a preference for Scotch. Moving from blends to single barrels, things change. But then moving from Bourbon to Scotch, I find more variability with Scotches in general than Bourbons, which is a fact that I favor. But that’s me and my taste. Every one else’s taste will vary and thankfully so; because it would be a dull, bland world otherwise.
November 11, 2021 at 6:34 am #1021
Thanks. I’ve wanted to hear the atmasphere amps also, mostly due to all the good things i keep hearing about them. Though I’m happy with my Pass amps and don’t want to start dealing with tubes.
I understand all the variablility and how difficult it is to hear a component in unknown systems. I started the audio journey with headphones. Headphone meets really helped with listening to components and the added benefit of our systems are relatively light and portable, thus when I first heard the Yggy DAC on a system, it sounded special, though I also could easily bring my headphones in to remove a variable and then I asked if I could bring my amp into the system to compare and I was allowed. Thus a fairly direct comparison.
My personal history is that I’m a trained research chemist, therefore I feel like I need to research everything. There are very few comparisons of Bricasti DACs (particularly the M21 that I loved) to other high end DACs. Last year i heard Bricasti M3h without the MDX upgrade and this year the same DAC with the MDX upgrade and it made a huge difference, from I liked the M3h better than Yggy on one song to it is an upgrade to the Yggy, much more detail and better presentation of mids (I love female vocals and strings). The M21 just makes the M3h sound like a crappy version of itself, no where near as much detail in all freq ranges, and without the magic in female vocals and strings.
November 11, 2021 at 9:35 am #1022
Using your known headphones as a baseline to remove variables was a prudent plan. Not using headphones, I wouldn’t have thought of it. I assume using them would provide a superb idea of detail retrieval, perhaps even better than speakers.
Years ago, I did something similar to remove variables. Prior to my SoundLab’s, when auditioning amplifiers at an out-State dealer, I took my CD Player to use with the Martin Logan speakers I owned and the dealer had, to try to create a similar baseline as you did with your headphones. From that audition, I ended up buying my first truly high-end amplifier, a Mark Levinson 336.
From reading threads here and elsewhere, I believe a Pass class A amplifier like your XA160.8 may prove to be a worthy replacement for my Atma-shpere’s. A distinct luxury and the best of both worlds may be having both amps on hand.
Because of a combination that you’re happy with, I can only assume that your XA160.8 has sufficient power to play your SoundLab’s at the SPL you prefer. That would be my only hesitation in considering the XA160.8. But my new SoundLab 845PX panels and backplates make the speakers a much easier load then when I had my first pair of M1 SoundLabs. So if you’re happy and with the XA160.8, my guess is that I would probably also be.
Speaking of happiness, did you audition a non Class A Pass with your SoundLab’s, like the X350.8? Also have you compared a XA-200.8 to your 160.8 with your SoundLab’s? When I auditioned the Atma-sphere MA-1’s against the MA-2’s, the latter had more gravitas for lack of a better description. But they had nothing resolution or enjoyment wise, that would cause me to plop down the much higher cost, let alone dealing with 40 (verses 28) output tubes. My former CAT JL3 amps had 32 6550’s later changed to KT120’s. A new mortgage on the house was needed to re-tube those bad boys (grin). But they were simply super sounding amps with the SoundLabs.
Speaking of Convergent Audio Technology, the newer CAT JL5 stereo amp at 120 W/Ch, would I assume, be a perfect competitor to my Atma-shpere’s and your Pass. The first CAT amp I tried with my old version non-PX, non-present blackplate, SoundLab M1’s was the JL1 mono. At only 100-Watts per channel, I couldn’t believe they would drive my SoundLab’s at the time. But at 190lbs. each, I begrudgingly drug them home anyway. Compared to my Mark Levinson 336 at 350W/Ch., I was floored and immediately recognized that the CAT’s wouldn’t be leaving my audio room. The CAT’s not only drove the SoundLab’s, they controlled them! The Parasound Halo’s I also took home with the CAT’s, handled the SoundLab’s much like my Levinson did, but for less money. In fact, they may have been better than the Levinson. However, I didn’t do a lengthy comparison using the Halo’s however, because the CAT’s were simply the CAT’s meow:-)
November 11, 2021 at 10:36 am #1024
I live in rural TN, so I need to drive quite a ways to find a good audio store, Atlanta or Chicago most likely. Most of my real listening is at headphone meets that I host. This is how I had the M21 at my place.
I have a huge room, about 15’x30′, 14′ ceiling and open to kitchen and dining room. I had Quad 2905 in there before and moved them to my office when I acquired the soundlabs. Quads now have bass in the office.
When I first acquired the SoundLabs, I drove it wish Pass XA30.5, mostly due to that is what I had. Bass was lacking, not really controlled, so I was wanting more power.
TWB drives his soundlabs with xa60.5 and the smaller soundlabs with x260.8. http://www.soundlabowners.com/forums/topic/atma-sphere-ma1-3-2-vs-pass-xa60-8-amp/#post-402
I would also like to hear the x350.8, but my preference to class A and TWB’s opinion that 60.8 was powerful enough and reading lots of reviews, I planned on getting XA100.8. I found a used pair of XA160.8 for a good price and was happy to have more power to the SoundLabs. The XA160.8 definitely controls the bass. I kind of dream of XS300 or XS150, but they are very rarely on the used market and not inexpensive. I don’t think the XA200.8 would sound much different. I think I have plenty of power now. I usually listen at a relatively low volume, though I can turn it up quite loud and it still sounds exceptional. I also have the SoundLabs 922 (22 degree dispersion), thus my speakers are effectively more efficient due to not dispersing 45 degrees.
I remember reading a review of your CATs with Soundlabs, I found a pair that I was quite tempted with, though I think they were 240V and I would have needed to add new circuits to my listening room to accommodate them.
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