I compared my existing DAC, a Soundstream DAC-1 designed by Krell to this DAC and the results were identical, so I'm keeping the X-DAC and selling the DAC-1. It is a very good DAC and will improve the sound of most CD Players costing less than £350. A snip if you can get one second hand.
this thing sucks! when people come to a hifi shop for a better dac to upgrade their own cd player, they often asked more from it. otherwise, why bother??? indeed, if u tried the Rotel951 cd player, u will give up the idea of purchasing this Musical Fidelity DAC immediately. they two share the same HDCD decoder/digital filter and the d/a coverter version which is made by BurrBrown--pcm69 dual single bit wiht the same resolution as 18 bits. the difference occur in the out-put stage. i used to do some ab listening between these components. honestly, i cannot distinguish. in holland, Rotel is priced 1150 gulden while Musical Fidelty 1250. the chioce r urs.
I just set up and broke in a Pioneer DV-414 DVD Player/Musical Fidelity X-24K DAC, and have now carefully played a half dozen Chesky and Classic Audio DVDs. I got the DV-414 for $359 from SoundCity, and the X-24K for $399 (after a $100 trade-in on an old Audio Alchemy DDE1 DAC) from Audio Advisor. I used an Illuminations D-75 digital cable to the DAC, and an Audioquest Ruby analog interconnect to the preamp. I am also using the Musical Fidelity X-PSU upgraded power supply which powers both the X-24K and the Musical Fidelity X-DAC that I am using with my Rega Planet. The X-PSU can power four of the Musical Fidelity units, and is powering only these two units. Comparisons to CD are via my Rega Planet/Musical Fidelity X-DAC (HDCD Compatible), which uses the same quality digital and analog cables as listed above for the DVD rig. Clamp-On Cylindrical Ferrite RF Chokes are at each end of every wire and cable in both digital setups, to reduce the liklihood of common mode RFI.
Comparisons to Analog LP are via my vintage Thorens TD-125 MKII (Wein-Bridge Oscillator for Freq. Stability) which has an upgraded power supply, a Thorens Acrylic Platter, a Thorens "Stabilizer" Record Weight, a custom acrylic armboard, a Helius Aureus Tonearm and a Sumiko Blue Point Special HO Moving Coil Cartridge. The Helius Tonearm utilizes Pederson wiring and cables. The Analog LP rig is mounted on a custom isolation wall shelf, and LAST products are used for record care.
My preamp is a Classe Audio Thirty and has a built-in phono amplifier section. Its source selector is configured with the Analog LP rig on "PHONO", the CD rig on "CD", and the DVD rig on "VIDEO".
My bi-amped Power Amplifiers are a home built Push-Pull 6550C Vacuum Tube PA for the tweeter amp, and a home-built Push-Pull MOSFET PA for the woofer amp. The interconnects are Audioquest Ruby. The Loudspeakers are Sonus Faber Concerto, with two runs of Kimber speaker wire to each. The medium size listening room has excellent acoustics, with varied reflective/absorptive surfaces, and dedicated 20 ampere service for the hi-fi equipment.
On the CD rig the addition of the Musical Fidelity X-DAC to the Rega Planet improved both the smoothness and presence of the mid-highs/highs and also the image height. The addition of the X-PSU to the X-DAC improved the bass impact and depth and also the soundstage width. The X-DAC/X-PSU also added full HDCD compatibility to the Rega Planet, which when playing HDCD encoded discs adds some additional improvements. I now own over 35 HDCD encoded CDs. There are over one thousand HDCD encoded CDs out there (just check http://www.hdcd.com), with many more being added each month. The improvements that HDCD gives are very worthwhile, and include generally better soundstage imaging, harmonic texture, and bass.
I needed to drag a TV set with a video input into my listening room to set up the DV-414. It comes with some of the wrong audio settings, including one which outputs no higher than 48 kHz data from the digital output. Once I got everything set up I noticed that there is an added value to leaving a video monitor connected in a high quality two channel hi-fi system. The "Super Audio DVDs" all include a still image for each track and text showing the track title and menu. The DV-414 also has some text of its own on the screen to tell you what's going on. When I finally had to return the TV set to its normal room I actually missed having the video monitor capability. I am considering adding a small video monitor to my hi-fi system in the future to return this capability. Maybe this would be a good application for a little flat screen LCD computer video monitor…
I compared my half dozen new "Super Audio DVDs", to some well recorded/mastered HDCD encoded CDs, some well recorded/mastered standard CDs, and to some well recorded/mastered LPs. All CDs were played on the CD Rig, and not on the DVD rig, since the X-24K cannot take full advantage of the HDCD encoding. Generalizations are somewhat difficult since so many recordings were listened to, but here we go:
1. All well recorded/mastered recordings on all three formats are worthwhile to own, worth having in a music library, worth maintaining playback equipment for, and are enjoyable to listen to. 2. LPs have a "you are there" transparency which is only matched by, and sometimes exceeded by, DVDs. 3. LPs fall short of the bass response of HDCD CDs, standard CDs, and DVDs. LP bass is generally somewhat lacking in impact and depth, and somewhat fuzzy when compared with the other formats. 4. LPs have an inherent element of noise that we have trained ourselves to listen through, but objectively this noise is a shortfall when compared to the digital formats. This noise also draws attention to the lower dynamic range of the LP format, as compared with the digital formats. 5. HDCD CDs fall somewhere in-between standard CDs and DVDs, with respect to transparency, imaging, and detail in the midrange and high frequencies. 6. HDCD CDs and DVDs both have better bass impact and depth than standard CDs. 7. HDCD CDs sound noticeably better overall than standard CDs. This improvement is about the same order of magnitude incremental difference as how DVDs sound noticeably better overall than HDCD CDs. This order of magnitude incremental difference is clearly noticeable, and much greater than the perceived difference I have ever heard between digital cables, analog interconnects, and speaker wires. LPs fall somewhere in between DVDs and standard CDs, overall. 8. Standard CDs and HDCD CDs are the most pleasurable to operate, jump between tracks, program, etc. DVDs are a step backwards in user friendliness, since some of the now very familiar CD maneuverability is missing. LPs are clearly the least user friendly. 9. DVDs present greater detail and soundstage imaging than HDCD CDs and standard CDs. 10. DVDs combine the "you are there" transparency of LPs, with the low noise, dynamic range, and full frequency response of the other formats. In essence, DVDs give you the best characteristics of all three formats, without any of the negative characteristics.
In conclusion, the new "Super Audio DVDs" offer a very high level of resolution that is very enjoyable to listen to. This $760 DVD rig was capable of outperforming my more expensive CD and LP rigs. There is unfortunately not much DVD music available to pick from yet, and there are still some risks as to what will happen with the DVD audio format, but as far as the technology goes the future is now for audiophiles. I can't wait to pick up some more "Super Audio DVDs". DVD has not, however, rendered my CD and/or LP rigs obsolete, since I will need them for a long time to listen to the bulk of my music library. Now, do I really want to put a small video monitor in my hi-fi system? I guess it wouldn't be so bad if it was small and unobtrusive enough…