Entech Numbers Cruncher 203.2 DAC DACs

Numbers Cruncher 203.2 DAC

User Reviews (10)

Showing 1-10 of 10  
pangl   AudioPhile [Nov 27, 2006]
Strength:

Redbook CD playback is superb. You would wonder why somebody would sell the units so ridiculously cheap at $75 a pop.

The unit is several cuts below when compare to top-of-the-line DACS (Mark Levinson / Sonic Frontiers / Kora Hermes) but better than MSB Link III (any favor) and not much behind the Perpetual 3A.

(note: I hate Monster products, but Entech is probably the sole exception I'd make)

Weakness:

Only locks signal at 44Khz, so.....if you are using PCM downsampling, make sure you set it at 44Khz or you get no sound. Also, if you wanna have higher rate, this DAC is not for you.

So nowadays you could get a BRAND NEW IN BOX EnTech 203.2 in eBay for merely $45 plus shipping, what a deal!

But what's better is the EnTech 205.2, for merely $75 sans power supply. Now this is tricky. The 16VDC 650mA power supply is not easy to find. If you happen to check out AudioAsylum.Com, you won't be alone. So an impatient idiot like me did many experiments. Tried the Channel Islands (CI Audio) VAC-3 which produces a measly 9VDC, but at least it works, and the sound is comparable to the analog output of the California Audio Labs CL2500 DVD player (Stereophile Class A, $2500 MSRP) when playing red book.

But you really need to get an 16VDC power supply. You should hear the high kinda smear when using inadequate power supply (same deal with 12VDC transformer that I got from RadioShack).

****

I happen to purchased that $45 EnTech 203.2 as well and did an A/B, and I think the 203.2 tends to be too forward and grainy. The 205.2 sounds forward as well but not as harsh nor grainy. As I said earlier, playing 44Khz redbook yeilds amazingly good results, almost as good as the CAL CL2500 or even the Perpetual 3A 24/96 DAC (also Stereophile Class A rated)

The problem is the 205.2 (and like 203.2) locks the signal only at the 44Khz frequency. So if you pop in any classical music DVDs, you will hear major differences between the CAL2500 and the EnTech, as those DVDs either output 48Khz or above, or the PCM down-sampling could go as high as 96Khz.

So, only buy this Entech for redbook CDs if you are a discriminating listener, or you wanna buy this as an "transitional" DAC before the format war settles.

Similar Products Used: Mark Levinson 36 and 360, Sonic Frontiers Processor 3, MSB Link II / III (regular, Gold, Nelson), Kora Hermes (still the best DAC I ever owned), Classe DAC1, too many others that I forgot since they ain't that good......
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
4
dugsbid   Audio Enthusiast [Nov 10, 2006]
Strength:

Detail , bottom end and deletes the harhness from CD"s. Very pleasing to the ear !!!

Weakness:

NONE WHAT SO EVER

This is the second one I've owned , I sold my first one and regretted it very much.I'm using a REGA planet as a transport and this combination works very well.The detail and bottom end is quite noticable compared to the REGA on it's own.Dollar for Dollar you would have a hard time beating this Dac for the money and I would highly recommend it to at least try it out , I bet you'll end up keeping it !!!
I've owned the 205.2 and I think the 203.2 sounds way better by far !

Use decent cables on it and the rest is history.

Similar Products Used: Entech 205.2 , Bel Canto 1
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
boniccie   Audio Enthusiast [Aug 09, 2005]

WOW WOW WOW this is an amazing dac. I used CI audio vda-1 one before and it is a very good dac but after i listened to the entech i can honestly say it is better than most 24/96 sub $1000 dac in the market. The entch is a keeper and i will be enjoying it for long time. Do yourself a favor and buy one give it some break in time and start listening. You will not beleive what you are hearing.

Similar Products Used: CI vda-1,MSB link III & Bel canto I
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
analogmaster   Audio Enthusiast [Aug 05, 2005]
Strength:

Very warm analogish sound, alots of detail, no edginess, no brightness, and it really brings out the soul of music. If Entech was selling it for $799.00, I will call it a bargain, but at the list price of $299.00, I think they are giving it away, and at the price I paid I have won a jackpot.

Weakness:

Non whatsoever.

I bought this online for $120.00 shipped to my door, brand new in the box, when it arrived, I opened the box to see what this DAC looks like and then I put it back in its box, and it sat there on the shelf for about a month or so. Then on one Friday eve, I decided to give it a listen. The cd player I have does not have digital output, so I had to get my kid's DVD player which has a digital output on RCA. Before I go any further, I have to tell you that I am not a big cd "Sound" fan, to me all cds sound the same, it has some really bright character, which I feel is always there regardless of the kind of cd player I used, and I have used some really good gear, I had Meridian 562 plus 563 including a 518 processor. The sound of this setup was good but not enough to keep me up at night a listen to one cd after another, this bright character of cds always remained. I tried changing amps, speakers, MaCormack, YBA DT, White Audio Labs etc, speakers Totem, B&W, Mission, and Energy. The only time I enjoyed music was when I listen to analog records, so the point here is that I never enjoyed the cds sound, I am not an audiophile, but I am the fussiest person on this planet when it comes to reproduce sound. My gear at this time, is Naim Nait 5(this amp is really something, sounds really musical and has alot of sparkle) , The cd player is well.....I better not name it, but it a very high end as well, the speakers are Thiel CS2(They simply sound superb), the anolog setup is Nad 533 with Rega RB250 and arcrylic plater, with Sumiko Blue Point Cartridge, this sounds really good, you have to here it to believe me. So here now that you know what I have had and have now, I will go on with the review of this Entech DAC. So I got my kid's DVD player, using as a transport, and I used a MIT video cable 75ohms to carry signals from dvd to Entech 203.2, and non-fancy cable DIN to RCA from 203.2 to Nait 5. It is pretty simple to set up, since there is no on/off switch on the 203.2, you plug it in and leave it on, the manual says that the initial break in period is about 24hrs use, but it will be at its full capacity within a month. Well I can honestly say to you, this little box is truly amazing, the people who designed it must be very honest and intelligent. For the first time, I heard cds, no matter what cds, they sounded very much analogish, you know the warm character, gone was the brightness that I was so sick of listen to, and wealth of detail was there without being "in your face"(you can tell what audio mag I have been reading, you know who you are, I have learned alot from you guys 5 yrs of subscription..Thank You Very Much), and music sounded so natural. I really tested this little unit, I tried those cds which had an ultra-bright sound, now they all sound really smooth. And great recordings sound even better. Without this Entech 203.2 in the chain, the music sounded if you are sitting in the very front row of a concert hall, with 203.2 in chain, now you are in row H centre. I liked this unit so much that I bought one more for my bedroom. Hats off to all those folks at ENTECH, who are responsible for such a great product. The audiophile on a budget list has names like NAD 2030, Regar Planar TT, Grado MM cartridge, Mission M60 speakers, Paradhigm Atom, Grado 60 headphones. On the other hand you have products which were made with "Price No Object" in mind, Mark Levinson, Threshold, YBA, Classe, Krell et. This Entech 203.2 can fall, and I say it without any hesitation, under any of those two catogories. If you have tried everything else in the audio market, now is the time to try this dac, you will be really surprised and will keep this in chain for years to come. I listen to alot of things, Rock/POP, New Age(Patrick O'Hearn, Tangerine Dream, Steve Roach etc., )

Similar Products Used: Meridian 518, 563, Nad 502, Marantz CD63SE, Micromega Stage 3.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
xxhanhxx   Casual Listener [Feb 13, 2002]
Strength:

Gives a poor man''s stereo system a jumpstart into an audiofiles experience.

Weakness:

none for the price

Superb!! I bought this DAC two years ago, and its just been sitting on the shelf, because I was too cheap to purchase the optical cables. Upon recieving my IXOS TOSlink cables, I immediately hooked up the 203.2. Suddenly, lower bass freqencies appeared shaking the walls, highs sounded natural with less harshness, and the mids produced subtle voices, which contributed to an overall natural musicicalatity.

Similar Products Used: Next hook up to the Recievers DAC
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Rory Duncan   Audiophile [Aug 06, 2000]
Strength:

pretty much everything

Weakness:

i wouldn't mind a digital out for md

Mine is the 205.2 which is £200 more than the 203.2

Using this from a optical output of a Sony 530 minidisc and a coax out of a Pioneer Precision cd player. Optical cable is Sonic Links digital optical cable (£25) and coaxs is QED Qnectds (£50).
THe dac is brilliant. Fantastic. Just more of everything. Transformed the md to the cd standard (when through Sennheiser 580 headphones) but when through my £2000 Mordaunt Short Performance 860s, there is quite a bit of bass detail difference.
Give me a mail for more.
The 205.2 differs in the fact that it has optical and 2xelectrical whereas the 203.2 only has 1xelectrical.

Similar Products Used: MF XDac
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Hank   Audio Enthusiast [Oct 23, 2001]
Strength:

Price and performance

Weakness:

Will not accept DVD Dolby Digital (24/96)

I know that the 203.2 does not accept DVD Dolby Digital input (DVD movie sound) so there was no surprise there. It will work when you play audio CD, however.

Hooking up was easy. I used the Toslink to connect to my CD player and the Digital Coax to my DVD player. Both types function flawlessly, achieving positive lock as soon as the CD/DVD was turned on. Interfacing with my mediocre CD player (a $250 Sony system), the improvement was striking. For the first time I was able to "hear" the sound stage as well as minute lows and highs of the music. It was almost as if I have heard the CDs for the first
time. Listening to the audio CD via the DVD (a $200 Pioneer) using the 203.2 also offerred significant improvement, beating the DVD's built-in 24 bit/96 kHz DAC hands down.

I'm extremely pleased with the system and I heartily recommend it. I wish I could afford the the 502.3 which can also decode DVD movie sound but then I'm more interested in improvements in music CD anyhow.

Similar Products Used: Audio Alchemy DAC In The Box
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Keith Chan   an Audio Enthusiast [Jul 24, 1998]

I just got this 20-bit DAC on a recommendation by an audio magazine editor over similarly priced CAL Gamma and Musical Fidelity DACs. The DAC definitely brings up a lot more detail and information than my former CD-player, despite right now I'm only using a cheap TOSLink input into the DAC. It tends to be a little bright; the cymbals on various classical pieces tend to show more. Human voices are on certain recordings (Sarah McLachlan "Surfacing") was brought more forward, and the pronounciation of "sh" and "c" sounds are stronger. The imaging and soundstage of this DAC is very good; for the first time I was able to visualize exact placements of instruments among the three rings of an orchestra in my music. Being a giant-killer DAC for $299, make sure your system/environment is well-tuned to bring everything out of this DAC -- it sure makes everything sound a lot more real, whether it's from the coarseness in human voices to the woodiness of clarinets. A definite must for those budget systems with digital out. Oh did I mention this DAC has a great output stage? :)

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Keith Chan   an Audiophile [Jan 01, 1999]

This is a second look at this DAC which I reviewed below:
I had the opportunity to play with the Meridian 506.20, a well-respected $2k cd player in my system. At first, I used the Meridian as a coax transport (using the Max Rochlin memorial digital cable) to the Entech DAC -- the improvements brought upon by this better transport was phenomenal! Not only was the imaging much more in focus, but the sound was a lot less congested. The tonality and realism improved by several notches; the music had a lot more life to it. In short, even using a transport which costs nearly 10x as much as the DAC, the atmosphere, mood, and feelings from the music was still conveyed well with this little DAC.
When I used the Meridian cd player by itself, it bettered the DAC in marginal ways. The background was much darker, the music even less congested, and the music was overall a bit more fun, more enjoyable and lively. However, it seemed more laidback and less pacy than the Entech. Switching between the Meridian by itself and as a transport did not prove to be too painful; I was quite happy listening to either one.
For two hundred dollars, the sonic qualities from this DAC is quite remarkable. I honestly do not expect to find the sheer level of tonality, realism, and naturalness in such an "entry-level" digital front end. Pair it with the best transport you can find, and it should prove itself to be one of the best values for money you can contribute to your entry-level system!

For additional readings, look for:
Robert Harley's review of this DAC, at www.sunshineaudio.com
and
Brian Damkroger's review of this DAC, in the Dec '98 Stereophile.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Raul   Audio Enthusiast [Jul 04, 2001]
Strength:

Price, size, performance, straight to the point: DA convertion = no gimmicks

Weakness:

Tricky toslink input, doesn´t lock always at first time

This is my very first outboard DAC and all I can say is: outstanding!
It needs, as every DAC, some burn-in period before enjoying its job (this is not for acustoming your ear to the sound, but to let it "socialize" with your transport and cables and please, select at least the better cables you can get, your system will pay you back), which is actually done pretty well!

The very first surprise comes just after seeing the tiny size of the box, but don´t be fooled by it because, as in computers, you don´t need a mega sized component in order to have great performance from it.

It will work great with CD software and some, less common, DVD software with stereo PCM audio soundtrack in 16-20Bit/48kHz and yes, it can decode not only 44.1kHz fs but also 48kHz as it always comes in up to 20 bit and PCM.

I have had the chance to hear some other brands of outboard DACs (such as the Bel Canto DAC-1), which also have additional features, but they are often pricey and I don´t think that the performance, specially on CD playback, is 5 to 6 times better just comparing their prices with the NC 203.2

By now (and it is my humble and personal opinion) I don´t think it is really important to have 24Bit/96kHz capabilities in an outboard DAC, unless you can also decode DD and DTS from it and enjoy those formats in stereo mode (which I think is a downside as these fomats were originally conceived as multi-channel), or have a considerable collection of 24bit recordings of, for example, Classic DADs or some Chesky's. As you always fed the DAC with original 16Bit/44.1kHz signal, the extra bits of capability just gives the DAC a little more "space" to work with the signal, but not necesarily transforms or adds something to the signal. To do so, you will need an extra device for doing that job, and it generally means extra money, with results varying from one manufacturer to another (it depends highly on subject sonical tastes too) and it will please you having an improved signal through upsamling or dithering or both or DSP-ing.

The sound that the unit presents is, in a word, huge! You can actually feel the depth of the recording room; the sound of whatever you heared before is still there but the sense of space is present, you can also hear some details that you could´t before and this is not that the DAC is adding something else in the recorded signal, it is simply that it does its job better than the same job done by the internal DAC of your CD or DVD player.

The comparison between internal DACs and the NC 203.2 could be similar to the one you get on video from a LD compared to a DVD. The LD video was very good, but the DVD is excellent. From other perpective it is like comparing a bi-dimensional presentation of sound, in which you have both height and width, with a tri-dimensional one, which includes depth.

If you compare it with other DACs, you will find out certainly better ones, but you can swear, as I did, that the performance is not several times better the one you get with this unit; perhaps, it will improve by some fractions but they won´t surpass the 30-50% while the price will increase up to 10 times.

My advice is if you have the money, spend it and get the best you can buy, but if you are conscius about price/performance ratio, you won´t be dissapointed at all with the NC 203.2

Similar Products Used: Bel Canto DAC-1
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Showing 1-10 of 10  

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