The 2007 released TA-DAC (Tube D/A Converter) s Paul G’s best tube audio product to date! Burr-Brown meets Tube Audio Design. The Tubyness control knob and Preamp Volume control along with Phase Switches and the unique 12AU7 tube analog audio stage make this the best sounding DAC I have ever tried! This DAC is for up to 96k, 24-bit digital audio sources, but uses a new segment verification 192k BB chip inside. Makes regular CDs or any digital source including PC audio data, HD radio data, Satelite radio data sound sweet as analog LP records. My 2nd TAD review!
This Dac absolutely blows anything away I've tried to date.
I swapped out the cheap Chinese tubes for some NOS Vintage Tung Sol 12au7's; Huge leap in clarity. Highly recommended. Currently trying some black glass variants to see if they're worth the extra cost.
Another bonus with the upgraded tubes is you can use the "tubiness" knob without any intrusive distortion creeping in. The original tubes didn't seem to do the dac justice.
Very open and natural sound, amazingly insightful.
Compared to some good dacs it's a winner - if you can find one!
*Note: This is for the 2008 model. I wasn't able to choose that option from the menu for some reason.
I just finished a weekend of critical listening with my new TADAC. I thought I'd post some initial impressions and then follow up down the road for comparison.
I've been putting an outboard DAC on the back burner repeatedly for months. This is the first one I've owned, and it was very difficult for me to make a decision. I had been going back and forth among the Van Alstine Ultra, the Monarchy NM24, and the TADAC. I'd also considered several other DACs, but these are the three that were consistently on my short list. Other upgrades just seemed to be more clear cut, so they would take precedence and the DAC would wait until a later date.
With the purchase of my Squeezebox Duet, I knew it was time to just make a decision. I was happy with the rest of my gear, and I felt very comfortable with the effort I'd made to take the room acoustics out of the equation to the greatest degree possible with 15 GIK panels and some Mapleshade speaker plinths. I was very close to pulling the trigger on either the AVA or the Monarchy DAC, but I happened to read a very convincing review of the TADAC on the day I was really wanting to spend some money. I put the order in over the Tube Audio Design website, and waited for my new DAC to arrive.
Now I would never avoid buying a superior product because I wasn't happy with the aesthetics...but let's face it, this isn't the most attractive piece of gear on earth. That being said, the build quality is very solid, and I was pleased with both the turnaround time and the effort to provide for safe shipping. Paul recommends about 30 hrs of break-in time, so I was happy to oblige. When I sat down to really do some critical listening last night, it had close to 48 hrs of break-in, so I figured it was ready to go.
Right off the bat, the most striking improvement (over the analog outs of the Squeezebox Duet) was a significant increase in soundstage depth. I had a nice width to the presentation already, as this is one of the DeVores strengths, but never before had I had such a 3-dimensional image. The next thing I noticed was twofold: Voices had a more natural timbre, and the instruments were much more clearly delineated. With my amp and preamp, I'd been mindful of choosing gear that incorporated tubes, but that did not get overly lush and "too tubey". I love transparency, and I wanted to maintain that while incorporating a touch of warmth and richness that I sometimes find lacking with solid state gear. To that end, I felt that the TADAC was assisting me to further achieve that goal.
I've noticed that some of the best recordings I've been purchasing have been from less mainstream musicians. It seems counterintuitive, but artists like Jack Johnson, Ingrid Michaelson, and Tyrone Wells, all sound fantastic compared to some of the more popular performers I have in my collection. Anyway, I've always loved how strings have sounded on the DeVores. The TADAC has taken it to a new level, for sure. I honestly don't know if I'd be able to tell the difference if someone was strumming a guitar in the room, or if it was being played as a recording. The detail and richness of string instruments is absolutely amazing. I sat there and listened to my new Tommy Emmanuel disc from beginning to end, just mesmerized by the presence that this music was creating in my listening room. Very nice!
Something I've been playing around with a bit since picking up the Squeezebox is internet radio. There is a service called "Radio I/O" that has about sixty stations, and I really enjoy having it on in the background. I happened to flip over to it last night after finishing up my listening session, and was surprised to find that it sounds REALLY good! There is an "ambiance" station that is very relaxing, and running through the TADAC makes it all the better. I kept it on for a couple of hours while I went about my business online. Relatedly, one thing I have noticed is that the few MP3 files that I've downloaded from Amazon are much more distinguishable from the Apple Lossless files that compose most of my 3000 song collection. With the analog outs of the Squeezebox, there have been times when it was more difficult to really hear the differences, but now it's much more discernible.
In conclusion, I'll simply say that I've focused on putting together a 2-channel system that represents strong value at a modest price point. I've focused on achieving and maintaining transparency, detail, richness, and presence, while also trying to buy American made products whenever possible. The results are in - the TADAC was the last piece of the puzzle - and I'm very pleased with the sound.
I just wrote a review about the TADAC and wanted to clairfy a point. First off, I was writing about the 2007 TADAC without any of the seeminlgy sought after options now built into the newer TADAC which incidently is now 100% US made. While the Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista 21 DAC I compared the TADAC to is indeed a tubed DAC, I found the overall sound to be more like solid state than the standard tubed gear is. I can only imagine the smaller more accurate military Tri-Vista tubes, while they do add something, it is just not quit as much as the type of tubes in the TADAC.
In my review I forgot to mention that I have tried the Monarchy M24 DAC/Line DAC(I read if an offshot of Lite DAC). I liked it, but sent it back because I found the bass a little soft and mushy. Having a Musical fidelity Nu-Vista Amp with superb bass definition, and I simply did not want to give that up, although I liked the midrange and treble through the M24 (perhaps but not certainly as much as the TADAC), the loss of bass definition made the M24 a no go for me.
Since I was not able to do a in house comparison between the TADAC and the Monarchy M24, the only thing I can comment on with certainty other than liking the midrange out of both in comparison between the two, is the loss of bass definition with the M24 which did not occur with the TADAC.
I wanted to prefer the Monarchy M24 over the TADAC although it costs more because it is a half height full width and depth component and I wanted it ito fit well in my home stereo rack. It also has an on off switch and source selector at the front (TADAC is in back) and has a silver front which would match the rest of my components.
However, I found the sound of the TADAC superior overall, so I am letting this odd-sized non-matching component sit by itself on my stereo rack until I find a small vintage tubed FM receiver which is also not so wide to sit beside it and give it company. I simply have spent too much on my current gear to buy a compnent like the M24 for an appearance advantage albeit with decent midrange and treble, which actually limits the potential overall sound of my system with mushy bass. The TADACs overall sound was superior. Midrange and treble were at least as good and perhaps better from the TADAC, and the bass definition and authority from the TADAC was far superior.
I had been searching for a DAC to give me the highest quality sound out of my digital music server and cd player and I hit the jackpot with the TADAC.
I have a Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista M3 with an expensive high end CD player and recently purchased a digital music server and wanted to match the sound out of it to that from my CD player. To that end I failed. The TADAC didn't match the sound, it exceeded it!
My current DAC is a Musical Fidleity Tri-Vista DAC which I selected over the Musical Fidelity A324 and X-DACV3. The Tri-Vista is a wonderful DAC and at $3,000 new should be. However, it simply had an edge on other solid state DACs out there and sounded similar. I wanted a DAC that would make a quantum change in the sound and move away from the cold Digital sound of every day CD players and DACs and would make my music sound more rich and full and less cool and digital. I also wanted to avoid the sound I heard with some of the Jolida gea,r which although rich, had a lot of annoying noise and peculiar coloration mixed in.
The TADAC delivers in spades in all areas. I did an AB switch between the same song direct from my high end CD player and my digital music server, the TADAC sounded superior. I then did an AB comparison from my music server running through the TADAC and my Tri-Vista. Again by my ears and for the sound I was looking for, the TADAC won out over the Tri-Vista. It simply had greater soundstage and sounded richer, more natural, and relaxed without annoying coloration or noise. Not only were the mids lush and the highs extended without fatigue, the bass was also accurate and authoritative and not spongy or weak.
I liked the TADAC better than my $3,000 Tri-Vista! Out went the Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista on my audio rack, in went the TADAC. I couldn't be more pleased!
I was thinking about buying a new cd player and was looking at the Rega Apollo cd player. I went to Paul's webpage and saw the TADAC and started doing some searches on it. One owner has the Apollo hooked up to the TADAC! So since he is using the Apollo for a transport and I bought my tube amp from Paul I gave the TADAC a try. Glad I did!!
I got both the gain volume control and the tube knob. I think he is putting both on the next batch and they are both great to have and worth the extra $200.
I've had it about 2 months now and ran the analog left right from my cd player to the preamp and then ran the digital opt to the TADAC to my preamp. I was able to switch back and forth between my cd player and the TADAC will the songs were playing. The difference between the two was not small! The TADAC just take every aspect of the music to the next level. I could use all the typical Audio "file" words but instead I'll try and explain what the tube knob sounds like.
Now the tube knob can be adjusted from 7:00 to 5:00 depending on how much extra tube sound you want. The extra tube sound gives the music more of a 3d, richer, fuller, harmonics sound to the music.
This works really great with vocals, acoustic music, jazz, etc I have the tube knob between 11:00-1:00 and this is where I really here the added benefits of the tube knob. With anything like rock I have it set at 7:00 all the way down. With rock and anything that is meant to be played really loud the benefits of the tube knob are not as noticeable to me.
The tubes that came with it to me have a very good detailed sound and left them in for a couple of weeks before putting in some Mullard CV4003 12AU7s that keep the detail but sound smoother in the midrange.
Paul suggested buying a Sound Blaster Live! 24 bit External sound so I did. I use EAC to record cds to my hard drive and use Foobar to play back. I run a USB cable from my computer to the Sound Blaster and then run a digital coaxial( but it also has optical) to the TADAC and then to my preamp.
I have not had a chance to do a lot of a/b tests between my computer and my cd player as transports but so far I think the computer sounds better. But I am not sure I could tell you which one is which if i did not know.
And for me the last selling point for the TADAC was it has balanced XLR outputs. I have the balanced inputs on my preamp but never owned anything with the balance outputs. Again I hooked the balanced cables up to the TADAC and ran the analog cables from the TADAC to the preamp and did the A/B test. Balanced sounded much clearer and detailed to me.
Also if you have any SACDs with the cd version it will play on the TADAC.
So I am very happy with the TADAC and highly recommend it! If you are curious about tube gear but don't want to replace your preamp/amp then this is a great way to try some tubes in your system.
Also Paul has first rate customer service!!
This as always with audio is MY OPINION in my house with my system!!