Tube Audio Design TA-DAC DACs

TA-DAC

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!

User Reviews (8)

Showing 1-8 of 8  
joshcloud9   Audio Enthusiast [Mar 05, 2010]

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!

Looks good sitting on a Lian Li computer source.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
David Morgenstern   Audio Enthusiast [Jul 10, 2008]
Strength:

Versatilty (now hooked up to Squeezebox)
Cost
"Tubiness" knob- what a great concept!

Weakness:

Funny-looking, but who cares!

I purchased the 2008 model from Paul without the volume control. First, let me say that I had dozens of questions for Paul. His responses were prompt and to the point. I had previously been running a Music Fidelity DACV3, an X10V3 tube buffer and PSUV3 power supply. The combo was very good with a terrific sound stage. I also own a MAC 352 amp and SSC41 preamp with B&W 803S speaker.

My goal was better imaging and clarity and wow did this odd looking tube dac deliver! I've tried everything to get me to audio nirvana and Paul's TADAC has produced the most significant improvement in my system to date. The soundstage and imaging were a step above the MF product, but what made a huge difference was the addition of what only can be described as analog clarity. The guitar notes are held longer with a crispness and all voice just sounds better.

I wnet a step further and replaced the 12AU7 tubes the unit comes with (which were pretty good) with French Mazdas, which added a bit more sparkle.

All in all, this is one of the best audio components that I have bought over the past 20 years!

Customer Service

Spectacular!!!!

Similar Products Used: Musical Fidelity, McIntosh
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
AJZepp   Audio Enthusiast [May 28, 2008]
Strength:

Tremendous value.
Improves soundstage depth.
Lifelike presentation.
Excellent build quality.

Weakness:

Aesthetics leave something to be desired.

*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.

Customer Service

Paul is a true joy to deal with. He responded to my questions and emails in a timely and professional manner. Look forward to doing business with him in the future!

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
peterlang   AudioPhile [Apr 14, 2008]
Strength:

As mentioned before. Lower priced than most for the quality of sound
Gives you true tubed analog sound without loss of definition.

Weakness:

Same as mentioned before but forgot to mention the on/off switch is at the back of the TADAC and is a very small input selector switch (not hard to reach though and a light in front lets you know it is on).

The optical connection into the TADAC is slightly loose but works well.

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.

Customer Service

Spectacular.

Similar Products Used: As referenced plus Monarchy M24.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
peterl69   AudioPhile [Apr 13, 2008]
Strength:

Wonderful natural full tube like sound without noise or coloration.
Small size good for limited space considerations
Price good for the quality of sound delivered.
Incredible customer service. Paul answered all my questions and then some.

Weakness:

Small peculiar size and shape forced me to give it a shelf of its own in my audio rack (it deservies it!)

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!

Customer Service

Incrediblly good.

Similar Products Used: Musical Fidleity Tri-Vista, X-DACV3, A3.24
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
toobguy123   AudioPhile [Jan 01, 2008]
Strength:

Extremely musical - Detail without digital artifacts - Very analog presentation. Variable tube stage control adds sonic flexibility by increasing or decreasing harmonics and presence. Level output control allows volume matching to other sources, or else can be connected directly to an amplifier (without a separate preamp).

Weakness:

None noted.

(Note: My first attempt to submit the following several days ago resulted in an "incomplete registration" error; my apologies if it gets posted twice.)

After having tried many CD players and DACs in my system over the years, I have to say that the TADAC rates as one of the very finest, if not THE finest, digital source I've ever heard - This little giant with its latest D/A technology and pure tube output stage makes music with any CD, new release or old, sound strikingly akin to analog (compares very favorably to my relatively expensive turntable rig).

A wide & deep sound stage are just the beginning - Talk about "palpable" midrange, the TADAC delivers solidly localized vocals and instruments with three-dimensional presence. Bass is fast, deep, solid and tuneful. An overall clarity of detail without digital artifacts of any kind all add up to one very convincing musical experience.

As icing on the cake, in addition to a top-notch transport feeding the coaxial input on the TADAC, I've connected a Sony 300-CD player via its optical input, thereby effectively creating a high end jukebox. And, in comparing the two sources, I'm pressed to determine even subtle differences between them (the manufacturer claims that due to the TADAC's jitter-free design any CD transport will work equally well, and I can say after listening that this does seem to be the case).

Similar Products Used: Long list of high end CD players and separate DACs over a 20-year period.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
tubeguy123   AudioPhile [Dec 29, 2007]
Strength:

Extremely musical - Detail without digital artifacts - Very analog presentation. Tube stage feedback control adds flexibility in increasing or decreasing the harmonic structure's presence. Level output control allows volume matching to other sources, or else can be connected directly to an amplifier (without a separate preamp).

Weakness:

None noted.

After having tried many CD players and DACs in my system over the years, I have to say that the TADAC rates as one of the very finest, if not THE finest, digital source I've ever heard - This little giant with its latest D/A technology and pure tube output stage makes music with any CD, new release or old, sound strikingly akin to analog (compares very favorably to my relatively expensive turntable rig).

A wide & deep sound stage are just the beginning - Talk about "palpable" midrange, the TADAC delivers solidly localized vocals hanging in space in three-dimensional fashion. Bass is fast, deep, solid and tuneful. An overall clarity of detail without digital artifacts of any kind all add up to one very convincing musical experience.

As icing on the cake, in addition to a top-grade transport feeding the coaxial input on the TADAC, I've connected a Sony 300-CD player via its optical input - I now have a "high end jukebox" at my disposal: In comparing the two sources, I have trouble determining even subtle differences between the two (the manufacturer claims that due to the TADAC's jitter-free design any CD transport will work equally well, and I can say after listening that this does seem to be the case).

Similar Products Used: Long list of high end CD players and separate DACs over a 20-year period.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
jjjbbbssslll   Audio Enthusiast [Nov 03, 2007]

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!!

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
mantube   Audio Enthusiast [Oct 19, 2007]
Strength:

Well made, good warrenty, sounds awesome.

Weakness:

I had a couple of cd's which caused it to clip.Paul added the main volume knob and didn't charge, you can't beat that

This thing is seductive! the longer I listen the more I love it. As a guitar amp tech I have a good ear which is why so many players liked my work, I can tell that Paul also uses his ear as well as his mind. No oversampling, just a superior component with a tube output section that brings the best out. The music just dripps like sweet honey, or a babbling brook! My sony cd player sounded good to me until I added this DAC, now I can hear that it's harsh by comparison. Just buy it! I was lucky, I think I got the last one before he ran out.

Customer Service

Fantastic, Paul took care of things and had it back to me quickly.

Similar Products Used: none
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
george omalley   Audio Enthusiast [Sep 27, 2007]
Strength:

Rich deatiled sound, fullness can be dialed in with tubiness control. I now have a $2000 set up I think you'd have trouble beating for $10,000., I love it! If I ever need more stereo gear I'll probably buy it from paul.

Weakness:

Clipping before volume mod, I suspect this is a rare problem. The volume mod is a good idea, the tubiness mod is a must, the fullness it adds really appeals to me, that part is just perfectly done.

I know a bit about tubes, having fixed a number of guitar amps, but have never been any good at working on ho-fi. When my old dynaco wouldn't respond to all my best efforts I shelled out for one of the cayin 30 watt amps that paul upgraded, paying top dollar for a used amp because people simply aren't parting with them and nothing sounds as good. With my sensitive (97db) klipsh herasys it's a match made in heaven. sweet tone, its a match made in heaven. So when I saw the DAC on Pauls web site, I had to try one;: the 2year warrenty and 21 day trial made it a safe bet. I ordered it wiith the tuniness mod (a must!) and when one cd caused clipping sent it back to paul and he did the volume mod pretty much at cost and had the unit back to me very fast,, He also took care of a loose output jack,for me, I didn't want to void the warrenty by doing that myself, not tp mention the damage I might do. I forgot to mention the optical input jack is difficuly, not a snug fot, but I used a tie wrap tp anchor it to the power cord so it won't move, I may try a different cable.

The sound in amazing,, for comparison purposes I input the dac to the cd input of the amp and the standard analog from the cd deck to the second channell and set the volumes equeal, that way I can turn the selector switch and show people the difference the dac makes.. Its so much more detailed, you can really hear the detail in a way that makes you feel that you're in a room wit the performer. My tastes vary, but I love folk, Jefferson airplane, and some jazz, in addition to "loud: music, like john meloncamp. There is more detail, but thanks to the tubiness knob ithe sound has a sweet strond bottom.

Customer Service

Perfect, I sent the unit and I'm using it 10 days later and it's just unbelievable.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Showing 1-8 of 8  

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