California Audio Labs Alpha-DAC DACs

4.91/5 (23 Reviews) MSRP : $1495.00


Product Description

California Audio Labs has designed the Alpha 96k DAC for the true music lover. Featuring extensive digital input options, a cutting-edge digital-to-analog converter, and a standard-setting processing stage, the Alpha represents the culmination of CAL's relentless pursuit of exceptional sound quality.


Review Options:  Sorted by Latest Review | Sort by Best Rating

Reviews 1 - 5 (23 Reviews Total) | Next 15

User Reviews

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Brian Haddock a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: August 17, 2012

Bottom Line:   
I'm running with a Denon DCD-2560 player which has a decent DAC. The alpha just sounds more natural and open. If you like CDs this DAC will let you love them all over. Upgrade the tubes and you will not regret it. After all a stereo is the sum of all of its components, and will only sound as good as its weakest link.

Expand full review >>

Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   1997



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by colin a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: September 28, 2009

Bottom Line:   
What a surprise. I moved up from a heavily modified Zero DAC coupled with a Darkvoice 337 pre/headphone amp which outputs into a pentode tube triple western electric transformer amp. Puts out about 10 watts cost me 5000. This dac's value is huge, even today. Bested my Zero easily and the tubes are a great compliment to my already extensively tubed system. Soundstage just blossoms, and everything is just liquid smooth. No more harsh digital extremes, everything seems as if it is being played through butter. Textural imaging is wonderful, it moves beyond just details and into instruments themselves. The listening here's the reverberation of the notes off the instruments as well as the actual notes. Amazing. All in all this is a wonderful buy, mine is the 96/24 version, and I would recommend it for a tube lover. What really holds the dac back are the original tubes, take the advice of the really long review and get some other tubes (Tungsram 12AX7)!! This bad boy will sing!!!!

Expand full review >>

Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   1998



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by magnawhite a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: September 6, 2006

Bottom Line:   
I got this DAC from a local ebayer. For a 24/96 version, the price is pretty good. The original owner changed the tubes to military grade ones (Svetec ?). The reason I bought tis dac is to improve the harshness of my Pioneer T-07A and the haziness of Luxman D-105u. Both are good cd player in their own right but felt wanting. The Alpha 24/96 improves soundstage dramaticly. It adds depth and focus. Smooth out the edge but maintain the resolution. I was considering getting a Sony cdp-555esj but found this dac at the same cost. After reading trevious reviews, I decided to go for the dac. I also tested a used Musical Fidelity A324 DAC. It had more resolution but not musicality (at twice the price). Thank you all who post reviews here.

Expand full review >>

Used product for:   1 to 3 months

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Price Paid:    $450.00

Purchased At:   ebay



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Kenr a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: February 3, 2006

Bottom Line:   
I bought this DAC to use with my Squeezebox. My reference CD player is a 15 year old CAL Aria. I still enjoy listening to it especially compared to my denon DVD player. I hadn't heard the Alpha but based on the reviews here and my prior experience with the Aria I thought that the Alpha would be a great match for the Squeezebox. Surfice it to say the Alpha/Squeezebox is a huge improvement. This DAC has just the right amount of warmth to tame digital stored music. I will post more later after I have had more time to listen to the combo.

Expand full review >>

Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   Pre 1995

Price Paid:    $415.00

Purchased At:   Audiogon



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by nurxhunter a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: December 17, 2005

Bottom Line:   
Used in excellent condition these go for $375-$475. Add $200 for 24/96. The ratio of 18:24 models that come up for sale is around 1:4.

VERY musical DAC. Mates VERY will with tube gear. Nice soundstage. A good value still today. The 24.96 unit is more transparant than 18 bit--but--not a huge difference. What will make a huge difference is NOS tubes.

You are short-changing this DAC with generic tubes; you really are. An older Alpha will better the higher bit with the right tubes in it. In order of my preference (will depend of course on your other components in the chain and your taste).

Prices for tubes are average at this writing (12/17/2005). Unless noted, I did not track exact variant within class.

1- Tungsram 12AX7 (70s issue, I think) for transparency AND balance. Some feel best 12AX7 ever made. Get the yellow-print, made in Hungary--not elsewhere. Rare. $70-100/pr NOS

2- Mullard CV4004 (Early 1980s issue)if you like warmth. Solid presentation and beat all others, until Tunssgram, above. Nice extension. A bit vieled and less lively compared to Tungsram or the 5751 below. The most balanced of the lot. Available. $100-$120/pr. NOS.

3- Raytheon 5751 3-mica blackplate--a great all arounder. Will sound great in any piece. Superb midrange, excellent bass. Rare. $100/pr NOS

4- GE 5751 3-mica (1950s), 50:50 with the Rays. Toss-up and depends on taste. A bit more lively. Available. $50-$100 NOS.

5- Sylvania 3-mica gray plate (1964 milspec). Nice vocals and mids, airy highs. Vary lively. Missing a bit of body, but a nice tube. Worthwhile $50 N-NOS.

Telefunken 12AX7 (60s)smooth gray plates. Available. $40-$60 used. Well balanced. Nothing stands out across freq. curve. Would depend on other components. Good with bright SS electronics, I feel. These sound quite nice in my Sherwood 5000II.

JJ Tesla ECC83S for current tube. Supeisingly good and cheap @ $10 each. Solid body, somewhat veiled, though--more so than Teles.

GE JAN 5751 1980s. Quite available. $30/pr NOS. Entry-level 5751.

Sovtek 12AX7LPS. Would be good with dark-sounding equipment. Foe example, in my Sherwood, the Rays are the best for feeding outputs and the Sovteks mate beautifully in tone positions--better than Mullards! So it all depends, sometimes.

I have queued Amperex 12AX7 (Holland Med. Grade)and RCA 5751 3-M-B-1956. Debating whether I will buy Sylvania GB-5751 @ $120/pair.

Trust me, tube roll with NOS. You'll hear the difference. Fun. Like wine tasting or gourmet cooking.

All tubes used were either NOS or Near NOS.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:
http://www.audioasylum.com/audio/faq/joes-tubes.html#12AX7

Dr. Joe is more or less spot on. Pricing is outdated. Too bad DJ did not review the Tungsram 12AX7--it really sounds more like a NOS 3-mica, blackplate 5751 with respect to transparency and extension.

Expand full review >>

Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Price Paid:    $420.00

Purchased At:   Agon




Reviews 1 - 5 (23 Reviews Total) | Next 15

Review Options:  Sorted by Latest Review | Sort by Best Rating



PSB Speakers:



Award-Winning Axiom: