Of course it must be said at this point that no chip makes a DAC. The ultimate sound quality of any digital-to-analogue converter is the sum total of its conversion method, the robustness of its power supply, the engineering behind the input/output stages, the overall craftsmanship behind circuit type and layout. When all ingredients are right, sonic awesomeness is available no matter the chip. Then, just like a great chef, the skills of a gifted engineer can take all those fresh and lovely electronic ingredients and make for a tasteful digital dish that may surpass more mundane offerings. At this stage I'd like to confirm the profound gifts at hand in the TotalDAC kitchen. In the pursuit of some further background to the d1-core, I ran some Qs past Vincent Brient.

• TotalDAC is different to 90% of DAC manufacturers by choosing to use a network of discrete resistors rather than Delta-Sigma chips or even the less used multi-bit chips. What appeals to you regarding this methodology and what do you think Delta-Sigma technology lacks?
Yes many other DACs are based on Delta-Sigma chips. Some are also based on multi-bit chips sometimes called R2R chips but they are different from a DAC made of ladders of discrete resistors and even more different from a DAC made of ladders of 0.01% discrete naked Vishay foil resistors. This choice was made after listening tests. I achieved more natural more real instrumental tone with this discrete R2R topology. Many TotalDAC users still have this feeling also with the d1-core. Delta-Sigma chips are often more artificial sounding, more processed and harder.

• What are the challenges in implementing multiples of resistors to achieve the conversion, especially in light of higher resolution formats like DSD and high-rate PCM like DXD?
The ladder must be accurate to allow high resolution, with a very low noise floor. Anyway, low noise and high accuracy were the start point even for CD resolution. This is a key point for neutrality and to remind the listener of real instruments.

• What are some of the innovations of the technologies developed for the d-1 core DAC?
The d1-core takes some technologies of our top DAC like the d1-twelve-SE but with fewer discrete ladders in parallel. The d1-core also gets some new regulators and a new output stage designed to get the same musicality at a lower price than some other TotalDAC machines. Many analog components were tested and the best chosen for their sound and good measurements. A <€5'000 price was the target and at the end of the project I myself was surprised to get this sound at that price.

• What are the performance aims when designing your products?
Sound quality is by far the first and last criteria much before and after any written specifications. This is also why TotalDAC invested a lot in reference systems including speakers, amplifiers, cables, power cleaners and so on. And, each d1 DAC must be upgradeable to the highest-end TotalDAC model, the d1-twelve-SE.

So, Brient made it clear that, although the review configuration provided a whole battery of connectivity and capabilities, the ultimate aim was to provide a DAC that stands within the highest realms of sonic performance.