Van Alstine Insight DAC DACs

Van Alstine Insight DAC DACs 


The Insight DAC is designed using the circuit simulation and math capability we have been developing for the past 15 years. Thousands of hours of original advanced math and circuit analysis programing went into modeling the complete circuit from digital input to audio output. Our results show, more clearly than ever before, every nuance of the circuit performance.

This allowed us to understand all significant (and not otherwise predictable) non-linearities, and then model improvements into the circuit. After multiple iterations of improvement, testing, modeling, and analyzing, we are convinced the circuit is as perfect as possible. Thus was born the Insight DAC, easily the best piece of solid-state audio equipment we have ever designed, and likely the best at any price from any audio manufacturer.

It provides a source for your audio system so pure and real that it makes any system all new again and gives you music more lifelike than you ever thought possible. Musicality and inner detail are breathtaking. You must experience the performance—intelligibility, space, definition, absence of fatigue, and purity of voices—to believe this kind of music from digital. Gone are the grainy and hard artefacts that have come to be associated with digital audio. What remains is an utterly dynamic, liquid, and pristine look into the music.


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[May 15, 2009]
tone depth
Audio Enthusiast

Frank Van Alstine recently identified an OP-amp replacement called the Insight+ upgrade to the Insight and Ultra DACs, which drops the noise floor, removes residual solid state "dryness" and results in improved sound stage, transparency and detail. All Insight DACs are shipping with the new OP-amps.

I'm using the Insight+ DAC as a replacement for the HDCD electronics in my Denon CD changer, which is now used just as a transport, and can attest to the performance of this outboard DAC. My CDs are now much more listenable for hours on end. The clarity and transparency move my system much closer to state of the art, and I expect to be happy with the performance far into the future, until even greater improvements are developed.

[Dec 19, 2008]
Audio Enthusiast


Strength's are crystal clear sound, excellent base and treble, transparency and sound stage.



blackraven has a spectacular aura aboutblackraven has a spectacular aura about

Reviews of 3 Van Alstine DAC's
After doing in home Auditions of all 3 Van Alstine DAC's I thought I would post a review on each one.

VA offers a Solid State DAC called the Insight for about $900, an all Tube DAC called the T8 for about $1400 and a hybrid tube/ss DAC called the Ultra for about $1700.

Let me say this first. I liked all 3 and they all had a similar sound to some extent because they use many of the same electronics. Frank VA's philosophy is to produce music as naturally as possible without distortion or coloration and this can be found in all his equipment. In addition, his equipment does not come with all the bells and whistles that you may find on other brands. He keeps things simple as possible.

Now for the reviews-

1. Insight SS DAC- This DAC is a real bargain. It produces excellent tight bass with out muddiness. Treble and high frequencies are crisp and clear with out any congestion. Midrange is very smooth. It has great transparency and presents a large sound stage. It sounded much better than my Cambridge Audio 840c CDP which was my reference player. I was able to directly do AB comparisons. Out of the 3 DAC's, this one produced the deepest bass and most pronounced treble but it did not have the same depth of transparency, resolution or sound stage as the other 2 DACs. The sound was very neutral and natural. There was no grain, digital glare or fatigue.

2. T8 DAC- This was the most analog sounding of the DAC's but it was not overly warm. It still had more of a neutral sound but was definitely warmer than the Insight. It had greater transparency and a larger sound stage than the Insight but treble was softer as you would expect from an all tube design. Bass was tight but not as powerful (but not anemic by any means) as the Insight. The sound was very smooth and liquid with good detail and resolution. You could listen to this DAC all day and not get tired of it. My only complaint about it is that I like more prominent treble. This would be a great DAC if you had a brighter system or you liked to listen to a lot of older Cd's that tended to be on the bright side.

3. Ultra Hybrid DAC. This is the most expensive of the 3 DAC's and is well worth it. It gives you the best of the other 2 DAC's. Its a neutral sounding DAC with a hint of warmth.
It has tight bass, better than the T8 but not as pronounced as the Insight. Treble is excellent, not as soft as the T8. It is also extremely liquid. The virtues of this DAC are its dynamics, clarity, resolution, detail, quietness, huge sound stage and transparency. The sound stage is so large that I thought I was sitting in a concert hall listening to music. It also has the most transparent sound that I have ever heard. You feel as if you could reach out and touch each instrument. It also had the most natural sound and made music sound live. Now part of this could be my Magnepan MG1.6's which make just about all music sound like a live performance, but all 3 DAC's, especially this one, made the music sound like a live performance.

One last comment, I got an email from a guy on the Audio Circles forum the other day asking me about my Magnepans. We got to talking about DAC's and CDP's. He owns the Insight DAC. He said he had owned the Benchmark DAC, the PS Audio Digilink III DAC and the Cambridge Audio 840c CDP but that the Van Alstine Insight DAC blew them away. I still have his Email if any one is interested in talking to him.
Parasound Halo A21
Adcom GRF-700 AV receiver
Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
Van Alstine Ultra Hybrid Preamp and Ultra Hybrid DAC
Magnepan MMG's
Monitor Audio S1 speakers
AudioQuest Coral IC's, Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
Modified Music Hall CD25.2 CDP, Monster m1000i IC's
Denon DVD 1910, Sony BDP 300 Blu-Ray
B&W center speaker LCR3
Velodyne CHT 8 sub
Sony 52" XBR4 LCD TV

Similar Products Used:

Van Alstine Trancendence 8 Tube DAC and Van Alstine Ultra Hybrid DAC

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