Van Alstine Omega IV DAC DACs

Omega IV DAC

Digital to Analog converter

User Reviews (8)

Showing 1-8 of 8  
vrsola   Audio Enthusiast [Apr 27, 2002]
Strength:

gets little more closer to live, but not there yet

Weakness:

none

OmegaStar DAC I really didn’t know much about DAC till this purchase. I never owned or heard a separate DAC. Few reviews of previous versions of AVA omega 3 and FET valve DAC are available at Audio review com and Avahifi.com websites, But none about this latest version. I am not comparing this to any another DAC. This decision to purchase AVA OmegaStar DAC (avahifi.com) is based upon the trust & the reliability and performance of my earlier purchases from 86-1990 from AVA. Be prepared to wait for 8-14 weeks+. I evaluated Omega Star DAC together with few of my friends who are experienced listeners and their spouses (bean counters), with our DVD and CD collection. We played several CDS we are very familiar, listen often with our family, Female and male vocals, choral music Jazz fusion, and instrumental music such as violin, guitar and DVD movies. No audiophile or test discs are used. We spent few weekends, and evenings evaluating the $1110 DAC (20% discounted as I purchased pre and power amplifiers from AVA). Questions? (1)Does to my Outlaw receiver (mid fi) set up? (2) Whether this DAC is really necessary with well performing hifi Omega Pre and power amplifier + good speaker system? (3) About the cost- performance-benefit ratio for bean counters (our spouses) (4) Will it enhance the HT DVD listening pleasure? (5) Will it improve the quality of sound from our poorly recorded CDS? I seeked the opininion of my friends in evaluating this equipment to minimize my personal biases. It weighs 11 pounds, Heavier than my DVD/CD player (7 pounds).Connecting it is rather simple. It only needs very few hours of use to break in. The red lighted power switch is rather a distraction in a dark room, but it is not complaint as it can be covered by a piece of tape.after few days I did not notice it at all. With (midfi) receiver Marginal reduction in harshness Connected to the receiver in the by pass mode ( direct in puts), which by passes its DAC and DSP processing. The improvements are marginal. Probably psychological knowing 1140$ DAC is connected. With a double blind test no one is sure when the DAC is in circuit. The inability of this receiver in handling complex musical passages and speed are more obvious The DAC that comes with mass market Panasonic RP 56 DVD player sounds harsher than the DAC that comes with the receiver. With OmegaStar pre a

Similar Products Used: none
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Dean Kayser   Audio Enthusiast [Jan 19, 2000]
Strength:

Sunningly accurate. Well made. Worth the money.

Weakness:

I wish it had a selector switch for several digital inputs.

"I've known Frank Van Alstine for 17 years. He first sold me a modified Grado cartridge in 1982 and was willing to spend the time to set it up properly. The attention to detail I received in that first encounter, along with the quality of product received, is what has made me a loyal AVA customer over the years. I have heard or owned every AVA CD player series along the way, including the Omega III DAC. I compared the new Omega IV to an Omega III DAC in my system.

The Omega IV DAC was shipped to me two months ago, (around 8/99) so I've had a fair amount of time to spend listening. I am a music lover first and equipment collector second. My audio system includes a Philips CD transport with digital coax out, an AVA omega III preamp, current generation Fet-Valve AVA amplifier, and Biro L/1 speakers. When the Omega IV DAC replaced the Omega III DAC, there was a dramatic (really dramatic) improvement from top to bottom. The sense of dynamics was just profound. The elusive "you are there" quality was there in every way. It sounds as though a layer of "crud" has been removed from the audio chain. It is extremely resolving. Violins sounded like violins.Voices (check out Renee Fleming on her new Strauss disc) are produced with a sense of realism that I haven't heard before through audio equipment. Before the DAC IV had been in my system long, there was a stack of 30 or so CDs on the floor. I wanted to hear my favorite discs again. I felt that, for the first time, I had equipment capable of extracting all of of the music out of my compact discs. This is not just good, pleasant sounding equipment. Instead, it strikes me as profoundly accurate and musical sounding stuff.

Similar Products Used: Omega III dac
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Barnet Feingold   Audiophile [Nov 13, 1999]
Strength:

I've had an AVA Omega IV DAC in my system for almost three months. I was amazed at the difference it made when I first hooked it up and am still stunned by its ability to retrieve information I never suspected was there.

I've had the opportunity to compare the Omega IV DAC with a variety of CD players (owned by friends who participated in listening tests) and with AVA's previous solid-state DAC.

The differences between the analog outputs of all tested CD players and my (bottom of the line) TEAC-Omega IV combination were overwhelming.

1. The Omega IV DAC allows listeners to easily hear the "bodies" of instruments and singers and the acoustic environments in which they were recorded. By comparison, the analog outputs of CD players portrayed performers as two-dimensional and disembodied. A piano that the analog outputs of CD players reproduced as a tinny upright was revealed by the Omega IV CD player to be a magnificent Steinway Grand. A violin the analog outputs of CD players portrayed as barely worthy of a second violinist in a high school orchestra was revealed by the Omega IV DAC to be one of the world's great instruments. The CD players stripped a woodwind quintet of hall sound; the Omega IV brought the ensemble to life and allowed listeners to convincingly place the quintet in the hall in which the recording was made.

2. The Omega IV DAC rendered the tonal characteristics of instruments and voices much more accurately. While it was easy to identify most instruments when listening to the analog outputs of CD players, their sound had a shrill edge. No instrument ever sounded vaguely "real." With the Omega IV DAC in the circuit, instruments were often convincingly present. Similarly, human voices sounded unmistakably more realistic, expressive and musically interesting through the Omega IV DAC.

3. It was often difficult to tell the difference between violins and violas through the audio outputs of CD players. The Omega IV DAC made these differences (and many others) easy to determine. Differences between "instruments" ranging from singers' voices to drum sets were much more striking with the Omega IV DAC.

4. The Omega IV DAC revealed much more high frequency and transient detail than the analog outputs of tested CD players. While none of those players came close to convincingly resolving the sound of brushed cymbals, snare drums, trombones, saxophones or bowed violins, the Omega IV DAC shocked my friends with the realism and drama with which it resolved the complex attacks and decays of these instruments.

5. Unlike the analog outputs of CD players, which sounded "crisp" most of the time, the Omega IV DAC never sounded "crisp" when reproducing unamplified music. However, live performances of such music never sounds "crisp;" the "crisp highs" lauded in stereo advertisements are a form of distortion. The Omega IV DAC could sound "crisp" when reproducing electric guitars or amplified voices, which can be "crisp" as a result of tone control settings and amplifier characteristics. In fact, the Omega IV DAC resolved this "crispness" -- when it was on recordings -- much more clearly than the unaided CD players did.

6. The Omega IV DAC made music much more enjoyable. Music that seemed boring through the analog outputs of tested CD players was often fascinating when played through the Omega IV DAC. The Omega IV DAC allowed listeners to hear the subtle ways musicians expressed themselves. These same details were "lost" by the CD players' D-A converters and/or analog circuits.

Differences between AVA's previous solid-state digital to analog converter (which I had owned) and the Omega IV DAC were much less striking. While far superior to any of the unaided CD players (and both tonally accurate and easy to listen to), the Omega III DAC was no match for the Omega IV's resolution of hall sound, instrumental "body" sound, musical dynamics and -- most important --

Weakness:

One input. Would prefer to be able to use it with two or three devices.

Audio by Van Alstine's Omega IV DAC is an amazing piece of work. I couldn't be more pleased. It compares with speaker upgrades in its musical importance and cost-effectiveness.

Similar Products Used: Have owned two modified CD players and the AVA Omega III DAC mentioned above. Friends, at whose homes I listen carefully and at length, have also owned a variety of DAC's.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Matt   Audio Enthusiast [Nov 05, 2000]
Strength:

Everything?

Weakness:

Its still not live.

I didn't know what to expect with this unit. I just got it because it was time to upgrade. Straight out of the box I noticed it wasn't as heavy as the Fet/Valve and didn't have the big toriod power transformer. But I figured if there is no need for "excessive" parts, why put them in there. So it doesn't appeal to the immature side of alot of us audio-aficiandos who really don't know anything about engineering aside from some scattered tid-bits.
I put it in the system and fired it up just to let it burn-in/warm-up awhile while I did other chores. I noticed the difference just walking around the room. The soundstaging was better as I walked up from *behind* the speakers (there are these french doors between the speakers that lead into the living room from the bedroom.) Its a nice DAC and I even like listening directly in front of one the speakers now. Of course it still sounds much better in the sweet spot. It cured the soundstaging problems I was having. The sluggishness in the low frequency driver was cured too, from a visual standpoint. The Fet/Valve was a little wooly down deep. Overall a very nice piece and I have no reservations about giving it a five rating.

Similar Products Used: Van Alstine Fet/Valve DAC, I've owned others but they aren't worth mentioning.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
JACK OTT   Audio Enthusiast [Mar 05, 2000]
Strength:

EVERYTHING YOU HEAR IS FINALLY DONE RIGHT WITH DIGITAL!

Weakness:

YOU DON'T WANT TO LEAVE THE HOUSE!

ATTENTION: AUDIOPHILES AND NEUROTICS. THIS REVIEW IS GOING TO BE SHORT AND TO THE POINT AS I AM NO COMPOSER. I HAVE KNOWN MR. VAN ALSTINE APPOX. 15 YRS. AND HAVE BEEN TAKING HIS ADVICE SINCE. BEFORE I HOOKED UP WITH HIM I WAS LIKE MOST REVIEWERS AND AUDIO-FLAKES, SWITCHING FROM AMP TO AMP, SPEAKER TO SPEAKER LOOKING FOR THE HOLY GRAIL OF SOUND AND NEVER QUITE FINDING IT. NEUROSING ALL THE TIME AND LITTERALLY SPENDING THOUS. OF WASTED DOLLARS ON SOUND I JUST COULDN'T LIVE WITH. IT DISTURBS ME WHEN 'REVIEWERS' SAY THEY HERE SUBTLE DIFFERENCES WITH HIS EQUIPMENT. I BELIEVE TO ACCURATELY REVIEW AN AUDIO PRODUCT YOU HAVE HAD TO LIVE WITH A SYSTEM LONG TERM THAT YOU ARE HAPPY WITH. A (REFERENCE) IF YOU WILL. I HAVE LIVED WITH AVA ELECTRONICS FOR 15 YRS. AND A PAIR OF B&W LOUDSPEAKERS FOR 11 YRS.,LONG ENOUGH TO KNOW HOW IT SOUNDS. WHEN THE OMEGA 4 DAC WAS INSTALLED WOW!! WOW!! AND WOW!! THERE IS NOTHING ~SUBTLE~ ABOUT THIS PIECE AT ALL. THIS IS NIGHT&DAY BLACK&WHITE DIFFERENCE, ABSOLUTLY NO 'GREY' AREA. I NOW OWN A COMPLETE BRAND NEW SYSTEM WITH OVER 400 BRAND NEW CD'S TO LISTEN TO ALL OVER AGAIN. GUY'S AND GAL'S TRUST ME ON THIS, BUY IT, AND LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER. END OF STORY.

Similar Products Used: UPGRADED MAGNAVOX CD PLAYER
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Scott Minick   Audiophile [Dec 26, 1999]
Strength:

ABility to create live sounding music in your home.

Weakness:

Haven't found any.

With this new DAC unit, it is as if the live music is in my house. The clarity of each instrument and the placement of it on the stage creates a genuine 'you are there' experience. While my system gave me much enjoyment before and a great deal of realism, I now find myself just listening to the pure music and not analyzing what I am hearing to pick out the elements of realism. I could go on with all of the usual audiophile BS, but that would not do justice the realism that I am enjoying in the music. I think that is really the key point with this new DAC - it really opens up a pure sensory experience. With this new DAC, I do not think in the usual terms of "tight bass" and "open, airy highs". In fact I don't find myself thinking about the system at all, just the music. Congratulations to AVA on an outstanding achievement.

Similar Products Used: Auditioned a variety of other DACs
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Brian   Audiophile [Jan 29, 2000]
Strength:

The most "real" sounding conversion of bits to analog I've heard.

Weakness:

none

Some years ago I decided to try something new and retired my EAD unit and bought the Rotel separates -- the RDD 980 transport and the RDP 980 DAC. Detail retrieval was very good with the Rotel, but I soon realized that I was suffering from listener fatigue because of this combination. I kept fooling around with interconnects and a variety of power conditioners for two years. Some progress was made, but the problem was never eliminated.

Enter the MSB Link DAC. For $350 I figured I couldn't really lose and I didn't. There was a little less apparent detail than what I was used to, but I gained a much more pleasant sound and presentation. Listener fatigue went down, but, unfortunately, was not entirely eliminated. After a lot of reading and some email exchanges, I purchased a Monarchy DIP Mark II to go between the Rotel transport and the MSB unit. Hallelujah!! Everything was sweet, and the dreaded listener fatigue was finally gone.

Of course, being a good audiophile, I almost immediately started to wonder if there was some way I could keep this really pleasant sound but gain more detail and definition. (why can't we just leave things alone??) Enter Van Alstine.

Van Alstine has intrigued me for many years and I've considered their products when going through various upgrades, but never quite made the decision to go with them. They seemed to be extremely proud of their new DAC and, on a whim, I called one day last fall and ordered. A few days later I nearly called them back and cancelled because I started to think that this impulsive decision was not justifiable. How was this $1,000 DAC going to be that much better than what I was already getting from the $350 MSB?

When the Van Alstine unit arrived and after about a 50 hour break-in period, I started comparing it to the MSB. Detail revelation is just wonderful. For the first time, I have the strong sense that I'm hearing absolutely everything that is on the CD. And, of even greater importance to me, the presentation is entirely natural. Everything feels right.

During the comparison period, the MSB seemed to exhibit a slight euphonic warmth and a consequent diminishment of micro detail. Instruments did not have the well defined edges and positions in the sound stage that the Van Alstine was revealing. I almost immediately had the sensation that the Van Alstine was telling me the "truth, and nothing but the truth."

The Van Alstine won't make a poor recording listenable, but it will likely let you know exactly what it is that's wrong. The top end is extremely well defined, but not harsh or exaggerated in any way. The middle, like the top, is entirely natural with great "see through." The bottom is the best I've personally experienced -- very deep and very, very well defined.

Can I say anything bad about this thing? Well, I've listened to some really big-buck DACs at a few local showrooms, but I can't say that I "know" these products and won't attempt to make such comparisons. CDs with real performance or production problems (I own about 1,700 CDs and have a "few" in this category, haha) are sometimes a little easier to take on the MSB for the reasons mentioned above.

Bottom line, I'm extremely pleased with this piece of equipment. I have an extensive CD collection that I expect to enjoy for many, many years. Although other formats are coming and I may add them at some point, there is no way I'm going to give up the wonderful pleasure I get from my two channel system and the music I've accumulated over many years. The Van Alstine unit is a terrific enhancement to this enjoyment.

Van Alstine, like MSB, is a small company. It's good and necessary to support these businesses by trying their products. Audiophiles are an adventurous, independent lot and we need to occasionally remind ourselves that some of the best ideas and products come from the "little guys" out there who are just like us.

Best regards and happy listening to all of you who participate at Audio Review!

Similar Products Used: EAD, Rotel, MSB Link DAC
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Edward Goss   Audio Enthusiast [Nov 12, 2000]
Strength:

Smooth but Dynamic, Detailed but not Harsh, Absolutely non-fatiguing. Brings a level of musicality to CDs that I have never heard before.

Weakness:

The power-on lighted switch is too bright. OK it's a stretch, but that's my only complaint.

My Letter to Frank Van Alstine:
Hi Frank. Since I've owned the Omega IV DAC for about three months now, I thought I should check in with you and let you know what I think about it.
The short version: It is by far the finest sounding digital audio component I have ever used, or heard, regardless of price.
The rest of the story: Upon receiving the unit I hooked it up and listened as background music for a few days to let it break in. But it was immediately apparent that I had something special in my system and I was forced to listen to it paying more attention. I caught myself playing CDs I had not played in a while (because I thought they were poorly recorded) just to find out what they really sounded like. My system is a kinda' laid-back, non-aggressive sound, and I initially thought the DAC was a little weak in the top, making my system even more laid-back, almost to the point of not having enough top end to make it "exciting." Further, continued listening revealed that this was not so. What I was hearing was the lack of harshness I had come to be used to in my system that I passed off as my "normal" system's sound. As weeks went by, and the Omega IV got more and more "broken in"(what a horrible audio term - why would you want something that had to "break" to sound good?) I noticed that everything seemed to open up even further. Now I listen as if this is the way it should be: smooth, extended detail without a trace of harshness. I now own my last digital audio system component. My friends are amazed, even die-hard vinyl fanatics (I have a world class vinyl system as well) have to admit the CDs have merit, and when the time comes for them to start listening to CDs, they will have to give The Omega IV DAV serious consideration as their DAC of choice. I've volunteered to let them borrow mine (for a VERY short time, mind you) so they could hear what it's like in their own systems.
Congratulations to both yourself and Aado for a job well done. I just wanted you to know that you have a VERY satisfied customer here in The Nutmeg State.
All the best, Ed Goss

Similar Products Used: CAL Tempest II SE Tubed CD Player, Pioneer Elite PDR-99 CD Player, CAL Sigma II DAC, CAL Sigma II 96/24 DAC, Naim CD-3 CD Player, Arcam Alpha One CD Player
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Showing 1-8 of 8  

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