This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: 1TB iMac running OSX 10.6.7 with PureMusic 1.8 in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM and AIFF files up to 24/192 plus defeatable Spatial custom profile running inside PureMusic, iTunes 10.2.2, Esoteric UX1/APL NWO-M, Burson Audio HA160D as DAC, Antelope Audio Zodiac Gold/Voltikus, Metrum Acoustics Octave NOS Mini DAC [on review]
Preamp/Integrated: Esoteric C-03, ModWright LS100, Bent Audio Tap X
Amplifier: FirstWatt F5
Speakers: Mark+Daniel Fantasia S
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Audio Event, Entreq USB and Firewire cables
Stands: 2 x ASI HeartSong 3-tier, 2 x ASI HeartSong amp stand
Powerline conditioning: 1 x GigaWatt PF2, 1 x Furutech RTP-6
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review component retail: €3.850 as reviewed

On his Aries-Cerat web pages, Stavros Danos introduces his Kassandra valve converter with transformer I/V conversion thus: "Today's audio industry is overrun by digital processors. In a race to finding the best there's a new DAC seemingly each week. That's also a race about figures, of oversampling at radio frequencies and 140dB of dynamic range. Yet many audiophiles change DACs as soon as the next one arrives. They never find one that just sounds right... Delta-Sigma converters are the standard today. That's not because they represent superior quality. It's because of availability and initial ease of digital filter implementation. The latter became more complex due to the artifacts of delta-sigma modulation. Because of their higher price, R/2R converters are only available in instrumentation converters. They are used for supreme settling times and absence of glitch artifacts. We chose the AD1865*, an 18-bit R/2R that's probably the best sounding to date especially in the AD1865N-K version we use. We run 24 of them, 12 per channel in a dual-differential layout..."

* The monolithic AD1865 chip includes CMOS logic elements, bipolar and MOS linear elements and laser-trimmed thin-film resistor elements. The DACs on the AD1865 chip employ a partially segmented architecture.

The first four MSBs of each DAC are segmented into 15 elements. The 14 LSBs are produced using standard R-2R techniques. Segment and R-2R resistors are laser trimmed to provide extremely low total harmonic distortion. This architecture minimizes errors at major code transitions resulting in low output glitch and eliminating the need for an external deglitcher.

This Cypriot isn't the only one who prefers R/2R to Delta-Sigma conversion. MSB Tech does too. As does Vincent Brien, a French DIYer who's gone semi commercial. Joël Chevassus already introduced him and his fully discrete resistor-network TotalDAC in our prior feature review. My contribution today is a simple second opinion. Having heard a multi-box MSB DAC by comparison and owning Yamamoto's YDA-01, Joël ended up acquiring his TotalDAC review sample. I thus knew going in that the bare cosmetics and ultra-spartan feature set of just one input and output were deceptive.

As regards digital specmanship, I don't wear those spec(tacle)s. Converters from Burson and Yamamoto might seem half blind but perform more than competitively in their respective price classes. There's plainly a lot more to all this than proprietary 64-bit jitter management and exclusive 32-bit/384kHz USB compatibility. But it does little for bragging rights. A TotalDacist's only comeback to queries on how many super chips his machine parallels is, "I ain't got even one." Sniff.