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The NAD goes back home, now for a DAC Comparison

Page 2 - Seeking answers? Join the What HiFi community: the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products.

SteveR750

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Mar 11, 2005
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Spot on Cno. And havi ng just spent half an hour chatting to the nice people at Roksan, I am not going to do anything for 2-3 months, as I think they have lined up exactly the next step I am looking for :)
 

matthewpiano

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Nov 23, 2007
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Yes, it sounds like you have made the right decision Steve. I completely understand your emotional attachment to NAD and I think I would have found the choice very difficult myself, but if you aren't really feeling that you are losing anything by sticking with the Roksan, the expenditure isn't worthwhile. The new Roksan product you are waiting for sounds intruiging. They are another great brand.
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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SteveR750 said:
Spot on Cno. And havi ng just spent half an hour chatting to the nice people at Roksan, I am not going to do anything for 2-3 months, as I think they have lined up exactly the next step I am looking for :)
I've something else for you to possibly consider for your "back burner".....Touraj Moghaddam, the designer of many Roksan products, like the Xerxes TT, is now starting to cause a stir with his Vertere cables: http://www.vertereacoustics.com/

Two of his offerings achieved 5* reviews with WHF.....and all being well, I hope to be going to a musical evening, where their superiority is (hopefully) going to be demonstrated by the man himself....we shall see!
 

jerry klinger

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Jun 26, 2010
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Steve

I've now had a brief listen to the NAD (after using an M2!!) and am not sure I wholly agree with the comments about bass/rhythm etc - yet.

I suspect that the way the NAD interacts with the speakers (and then with the room) has a bearing on this. That is, I can't help thinking that if we both had better speakers we wouldn't have these issues - or, to put it another way, if digital amps of this calibre and dynamic range are going to become commonplace, speaker manufacturers had better put as much into bass control/quality as they have recently into the top end (for hi-res recordings etc).

Meantime - smooth, effortless, detailed and revelatory are adjectives that roll off my keyboard.
 

DavieCee

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Aug 19, 2010
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SteveR750 said:
Spot on Cno. And havi ng just spent half an hour chatting to the nice people at Roksan, I am not going to do anything for 2-3 months, as I think they have lined up exactly the next step I am looking for :)
Oh, you tease! ;)

Give us a hint at least!
 

SteveR750

Well-known member
Mar 11, 2005
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jerry klinger said:
Steve

I've now had a brief listen to the NAD (after using an M2!!) and am not sure I wholly agree with the comments about bass/rhythm etc - yet.

I suspect that the way the NAD interacts with the speakers (and then with the room) has a bearing on this. That is, I can't help thinking that if we both had better speakers we wouldn't have these issues - or, to put it another way, if digital amps of this calibre and dynamic range are going to become commonplace, speaker manufacturers had better put as much into bass control/quality as they have recently into the top end (for hi-res recordings etc).

Meantime - smooth, effortless, detailed and revelatory are adjectives that roll off my keyboard.
I just find the M2 bounces along more energetically, which I like. Plus to my ears the bass is just better - goes lower, more tuneful and more agile, which cannot be a speaker issue. Looks like I'm going to be one of the few who hasn't been totally knocked over by it, maybe I have a duff early sample. I still haven't written it off, it's a NAD after all...

DavieCee said:
Oh, you tease!

Give us a hint at least!
OK, how about a range of DACs, a range of Preamp with onboard DACs (so think K2, M2, and and),
For me, an M2 pre with onboard DAC + 2 x 150Wpc stereo power, or maybe 2 x similarly powered mono blocs.

The Qute / Elements / super DAC is also now suspended pending the appearance of the above. I've just jumped on a used M-DAC for £430 to see what the hype is about just to set a reference without breaking the bank - cold sell on if marginal gains, or sell on the DM+ if I decide to keep it.
 

SteveR750

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Mar 11, 2005
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And so it continues.....

The Qute arrived today - I was intending to ignore it and have it returned to sender, but my ailing PC is well again (It's definitely a W7 update that's causing it to throw it's breakfast up everywhere, that's another project "challenge" so beware all you Viao users...)

Anyway, it's sat on my table, behind the PC out of sight which is a shame as it's a thing of intrigue if not beauty. I like the coloured lights, but then I'm easily pleased. Takes but 2 minutes to set up - upload the USB driver from the CD that's supplied, connect the USB cables up, and the phono out to the M2, set JRMC to Kernel Streaming (this is the first DAC that doesn't use ASIO in USB mode, if that has any relevance). Interestingly, Chord recommends the use of J River Media Centre, so that's cute...sorry.

First impression, out of the box, cold and certainly not run in are favourable. The smooth top end of the NAD, that silky sheen to cymbals is back, none of the splashy vagueness of the Dacmagic+, and detail, detail and more detail, again much like the NAD. It also has that organic analogue vinyl LP12-a-like sound to it, that makes harmonies sound rich and inviting.
The bass end seems just a little less precise than what I have become accustomed to with the DM - maybe this is the strength of the cambridge audio DAC although the WHF found it be not so dynamic and little flat. In fact, it occurred to me last night, that had I blind tested the NAD against the M2+DACmagic I would have guessed them incorrectly. The latter sounds like I expect a NAD amp to sound, big, majestic almost and totally in control with a huge bottom end slam, yet it seemed the more polite and slightly vaguer of the two.

So, back the Qute first impressions, which are very positive. One thing for sure, in my universe there is a big difference between these two DACs - I'm listening to a 16/44 version of Rock n Roll Damnation, and the cymbals and tambourines are clearly defined with much less harshness than I am used to, the maracas clearly distinguishable from the drum kit, that's novel.
Onto Keb Mo, Slow Down the tack A Better Man and I'm in the studio with them, the imaging and focus is really very good. The hi-hat is planted firmly in space, and tom rolls are easily positioned relative to it. Does it add to the music? Maybe not, but its interesting.

I'll leave it running overnight, and all day tomorrow to give it some time to run in a little and then see how we get on, but I can see straight away why there is a bit of interest in this DAC.
 

SteveR750

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Mar 11, 2005
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Hmmm. Hmmmm

Well, the M-DAC arrived today. NIce looking unit, feels well built and looks good in its matte black finish. Download the manual off the website, no sign of any specific ASIO USB driver...well OK, follow the instructions and all that. Took a while to set up (about 5 times longer than the Chord), buty eventually hooked it all up.

First off, USB is a disaster. It;s frankly foul, its burbles and buzzes with ground hum like no DAC I've tried. Where the NAD was deathly silent this is untenable, even for rock music. I bought an new PSU for the Sony, which hasnt made a jot of difference (despite another forums advice to the contrary).

So, disappointingly, that's async USB useless in my system, plus I wasn't sure what setting to use, although Audiolab suggest downloading ASIO4ALL I'd expect a bespoke driver for £600 if Cambridge can do it. It alsoc lciked and popped on WASAPI setting, so it would have taken a bit of fiddling about to get rid of that, but because of the mains interference it's not worth the hassle. There was also a sample rate compatibility issue using WASAPI, so clearly JRMC wasn't happy at all.....

So, over to optical, JRMAC set to WASAPI Event, and there is at least no hum, and no clicks / pops. Initail impression is where the hell has the music gone??? After the chord it's a bit dull, a bit lifeless, all the sparkle has gone, the PRAT gone. I'm messing around with the filters, doing ir properly by blind listeing. The detail is there for sure, and it's wonderfully smooth, no splashiness or graininess on most of the settings, but it's all a bit underwhelming. Imaging isn't great either, it's lost focus compared to the Chord.

I had high hopes for this DAC, a sensible £ upgrade but so far a bit disappointing - I'd expect it to be a bit slicker in its set up and operation, have a foolproof USB connection.

I've also just discovered installing it has somehow resulted in all my music files being to a wma extension, and doubled them all up, my JRMC library now has twice the number of files with the wrong association! This alone is enough to convince me it's probably not a keeper.

I'm very unimpressed, in my opinion this no giant killer on many levels.
 

SteveR750

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Mar 11, 2005
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no, nor a ground terminal like the Chord to earth to the amp.

I'm warming a bit to it's sound, it's similar to the NAD in some ways. It's not as smooth as the Qute, though the detail is all there.

If I can fix the USB connection, and more importantly my music library then I'll be a bit more inclined to keep it until Roksan launches something.

Somehow though I find myself thinking about the NAD. It's a big itch as I suspected it might be. It's beautifully made, and just works so perfectly and seamlessly well. This M-DAC is like some home made device in comparison.
 

CnoEvil

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Very interesting.

Sometimes, when you find the brand that just sounds "right" for you whenever you hear it, everything else can seem to fall short.
 

matthewpiano

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Nov 23, 2007
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CnoEvil said:
Very interesting.

Sometimes, when you find the brand that just sounds "right" for you whenever you hear it, everything else can seem to fall short.
I think I've experienced that each time I've veered away from NAD, which is why I would be very nervous about trying something else again.
 

Overdose

Well-known member
Feb 8, 2008
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SteveR750 said:
no, nor a ground terminal like the Chord to earth to the amp. I'm warming a bit to it's sound, it's similar to the NAD in some ways. It's not as smooth as the Qute, though the detail is all there. If I can fix the USB connection, and more importantly my music library then I'll be a bit more inclined to keep it until Roksan launches something. Somehow though I find myself thinking about the NAD. It's a big itch as I suspected it might be. It's beautifully made, and just works so perfectly and seamlessly well. This M-DAC is like some home made device in comparison.
My only suggestions are an ISOLATOR, or use the optical connection. I stopped using USB to eliminate just this problem, though it obviously varies between computers and DACs depending on designs.

RE the WMA extensions, providing you don't want any of the WMAs, do a search for all locally stored WMAs and delete, then refresh the library. This should do the trick.

On a slightly unrelated topic, have you tried a Linux OS and medi player? Just wondering, as I haven't had any faff related to drivers with any Linux install. They can be dual booted if you didn't already know.
 

SteveR750

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Mar 11, 2005
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Overdose said:
My only suggestions are an ISOLATOR, or use the optical connection. I stopped using USB to eliminate just this problem, though it obviously varies between computers and DACs depending on designs.
RE the WMA extensions, providing you don't want any of the WMAs, do a search for all locally stored WMAs and delete, then refresh the library. This should do the trick.

On a slightly unrelated topic, have you tried a Linux OS and medi player? Just wondering, as I haven't had any faff related to drivers with any Linux install. They can be dual booted if you didn't already know.
I'll try that cleanup.

But you lost me after Linux.....
 

SteveR750

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Mar 11, 2005
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Re-installed the Qute again just to be sure, as the M-DAC has become impressive indeed on further listening; The Wall in particular sounded fabuously detailed with a smooth but incisive sweet treble.

Big mistake. The sound simply snaps back into an altogether higher level of focus with the Qute, the sweet top end is still there, bit is not as bright, less shouty. It's not smooth in unexciting, it's just there. Detail, in particular the acoustic ambience is much more obvious, you can hear the echo added to Waters' voice so easily that it's obvious an added effect and not at all natural. The clarity of voices are such it's easier to understand the sound and spoken lyrics.

I managed to prise the earbuds out of the ears of one of my sons, who has no interest in hi fi at all and uses his ipod happily could tell straight away there was a difference, bearing in mind he had no idea which was which. His first words were its much sharper on the vocals.

Placebo, self delusion; whatever, and totally irrelevant since to me the difference is a great as that between the K2 and M2, maybe even greater. I had hoped the difference would have been smaller, £500 or so smaller.....

EDIT, another isolator:

https://www.olimex.com/Products/Modules/Interface/USB-ISO/
 

Craig M.

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Mar 20, 2008
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SteveR750 said:
I had hoped the difference would have been smaller, £500 or so smaller.....
Maybe, just maybe, it would be if you listened 'level matched'. A quick google shows Chord are still using quite a high output level.

Anyway, whatever, enjoy your new dac.

Edit: apologies if you think I'm being a c**k, it's a disease... :)
 

SteveR750

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Mar 11, 2005
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Craig M. said:
SteveR750 said:
I had hoped the difference would have been smaller, £500 or so smaller.....
Maybe, just maybe, it would be if you listened 'level matched'. A quick google shows Chord are still using quite a high output level.

Anyway, whatever, enjoy your new dac.

Edit: apologies if you think I'm being a c**k, it's a disease... :)
Not at all, as it happens, I've put the Qute in the box to be returned. I can't justify such an expenditure on what is quite a small change in the overall scheme.

I'll fiddle with the M-DAC to try to find the optimum filter / decorrelation setting (too much choice??) and wait until Roksan launches its new toys and the furore over the NAD has died down a bit and some appear on the used market.
 

Craig M.

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Mar 20, 2008
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I told Roksan they should release a dac (or at least put digi inputs on a cdp) years ago, when I was considering buying a Caspian cdp. Good to see they were listening, I'll have to chase them for a consultancy fee.
 

jaxwired

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Feb 7, 2009
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Craig M. said:
I think a part of the reason I'm so happy with what I have is down to realising (to my own satisfaction) that there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and it is getting caught up in some of the dodgier upgradeitus (or believing what you read in mags/forums) that leads to dissatisfaction with one's own kit. So far, every time I've 'gone' with the objectivists, I've been happy. The other part, just to contradict myself, is actually finding the pot of gold. ;) Good luck with the search.
Well, I do respect your quest for the truth. I share that goal and have spent a lot of time contemplating what really is the truth about sound quality in hifi. I use what I would call very affordable cable. I plug my equipment directly into the wall. I currently have my amp sitting on a $50 ikea coffee table. I use a $99 digital streamer. I try and view all hifi claims with a skeptics eye. But I still reject the objectivist purist view that nothing matters but speakers.

I can understand being happier with your current stance since you are basically eliminating the most subjective, unreliable, and fickle tool in your toolbox, you own ears. Just relying on the science and the stats to make an educated choice does simply things and it's much easier to be satisfied that you are in fact achieving great sound. Relying on your ears and subjective opinions definately has no end-game. That's a never ending tail chase. A game that cannot be won. Still fun though...
 

Native_bon

Well-known member
Nov 26, 2008
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18,595
If I must add, I too bought the Qute & had a demo for a week & could not justify the extra cost. Was a little clearer to the Audio lab M-dac. But as a result of a clearer sound I was not enjoying the music. I found the top end a bit thin with the Qute. Having said that this may well depend on which system the Chord Qute is used with.

Since then I have also explored the Rega dac. Arranged to have a listen in a Hifi shop comparing with my audio lab & it was a very big surprise to me why the Audio lab was so purpolar. As at the time I had a demo of the audio lab on its own it sounded Right. But having compared I found the rega much more musical, & also richer in sound. Got the rega in my system now for a week & its not goin back. Must also add the Audio lad has got balanced output a display, pre-amp, headphone amp & a remote. The rega has got none of these. It was about the music for me.

Also the sales guys at the Hifi shop mentioned they had a demo of the bigger brother dac Of Chord.. QBD76 & they did not like it.

There is something am begining to notice time & again. REVIEWS seem to favour detail over enjoyment of music. I may be wrong but thats the feeling am getting. Anyway the audiolab is going on eBAY Anyone?
 

SteveR750

Well-known member
Mar 11, 2005
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well, look at my sig.

This eve myself and a friend did some semi (wine) critical listening. All along after I switched from the NAD back to my original system I suspected that the Dacmagic wasn't as evil as it's thought to be, after all; a bunch of mag reviews and a trillion forum opinions must count for something right?

Well, hey; shock: the dacmagic is back in. Its better than the M-DAC for me, why? Simply because it makes everything bigger, bolder and makes you part of it. The M-DAC is probably more accurate (on it's own measured in a lab); its treble is sweeter and smoother, its more detailed, but man it's zzzzzzing. Three very different DACs each with their own subtle distinct signature, and cost, but it's all about system matching of course.
 

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