It takes significant time to really study and learn any audio product, at least it does for me. So I have been venturing into the world of tubes seeking a particular sound that is very enjoyable to me. And of course, I have been trying to do so on the cheap. I would not be me if I did not at least try!
Try#1 - Audio by Van Alstine Transcendence DAC8. Picked up relatively inexpensively on Audiogon, and figured, why not? This is a big box, easily identified as "craftsman" work and not made on a big assembly line along with motorcycles, small cars, guitars, pianos, and DVD players. It is limited, in that it can only accept 16/44.1 input, but for the price I paid, I could live with that. It came with a matched set of Mullard tubes from England, and after giving it a few days to warm up, I tried listening to it.
In tone, it sounded almost exactly the same as the Wavelength Proton, but with a wider soundstage and a slightly warmer tone. That "warmer" tone, upon further listening, was, I believe, a type of distortion. It was a pleasing distortion however, and we liked it.
Try #2 - The above results led to step two, which was the purchase of a Jolida DACII from a vendor I respected. At the list price of $449, it was well within my once a quarter pricing for acceptable risk factors. (grin)
The Jolida would supposedly accept input up to 24/192K and had a similar sound. Found it it does not handle 176K input, but decided to let that pass for now. After about 100 hours of burn-in, - oh wow.
The sound was great. Very close to Wavelength Proton, but different. Better in some ways, and not as good in others, but all in all, vastly appealing and enjoyable.
Using JRMC to drive three DACs at the same time, we were able to level balance and A/B/C between them to highlight the differences. The Jolida, when connected via optical to the Mac Mini, provided very appealing sound. Judging between the Jolida, the Proton, and the AVA-T8, the Jolida produced a richer - almost lush - sound compared to the Proton and AVA-T8.
Provided - as in the past tense. At the 45 day mark, the Jolida started to fail. Indeed, it started to sound like music listened to over two tin cans and a string. At this point, I have been unable to get a response from the factory about warranty work. It's a fine sounding little device, but it almost seems that once you buy it, you are on your own - at least as far as the manufacturer is concerned. Or it may be that I just them at an off time, or have been unlucky enough to encounter a unusual support situation.
Can't recommend buying one of these to anyone, at least not at full price. If you can find one used that is guaranteed working, it might just be a low cost delight.
For me it is back to saving for that CoSecant...
I'll provide more details in a later posting.