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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.