The scott-nixon DAC: One man's opinion - diyAudio
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Old 3rd February 2004, 04:13 PM   #1
3moons is offline 3moons  United States
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Default The scott-nixon DAC: One man's opinion

I'll cut to the chase for those who hate long reviews, opinions and posts. I've not been so excited, so... *UP* on an audio product since I rebuilt my first tube amps over 15 years ago, salvaged Dynaco MK III's with good Genelex KT88's on board. This little black box has transformed my CD collection of hundreds and hundreds of discs. Of all those, I had, at most, a selection of 20 or 30 favorites. Of these, one or two that might find their way to the transport's tray on any given day. After the DAC had burned in for a few days, things got really nice. I would say that my desire to listen to only 10 or 20% of my CD collection has gone to an estimated 80 or 90%. I began going through CD's to simply test the sound of this DAC against my other two DAC's and upsamplers, a CAL Sigma II 24/96, Assemblage D2D upsampler and an MSB III with upsampler. It wasn't long before I decided to sell all my other redbook gear. So out went the CAL Sigma II with 24/96 chip and Assemblage D2D-1 processor/upsampler. The MSB III may stay to translate DVD video and audio. The CD tests bogged down as I found myself sitting and listening to whole CD's through the scott-nixon. In comparison, the CAL Sigma II had a pleasant but forward sound that was, for the most part, bland, inoffensive. Even more so when upsampled through the Assemblage. Not irritating, just no that musically involving. The MSB III gave more of the same with or without the upsampler engaged, except it wasn't as forward in it's presentation as the CAL. I have grown used to these DAC's and consciously had accepted that this was as good as redbook CD was going to get (at least on my budget) but unconsciously I was still hungry. So for Christmas I bought myself the scott-nixon DAC. With the scott-nixon DAC in place, things turned upside down for sure. All of a sudden there was much more life to the music. Toe tappin', *I didn't know this CD was this good*, musically involving sparkle and excitement. The music didn't just play in front of or between the speakers any more but I was presented with a larger, more lively, more open sound with a real sense depth. This DAC couldn't save really bad recordings any more than a super phono setup can save poorly recorded records. But, it has proven to me that much more of my CD collection is worth listening to than I had ever imagined. Certain music with piano or flute, two instruments hard to get right in my head through digital, finally came through fine or at least much more acceptable. I will stop here with the *reviewer speak* type lingo and tell you what happened last night. I had spent most of yesterday listening and enjoying CD's. My wife came home after working a long shift and crashed on the couch. Julia Fordham's CD, Porcelain, was playing. My wife sat there and listened a while and finally commented, "She sure has a beautiful voice. Who is she?". I just snickered to myself. I've owned and played this CD for over 10 years and my wife had never "heard" it before. Heard it done right that is, the way this new DAC translates it. The scott-nixon DAC version I chose was his most expensive tube DAC. $475. There are versions from blank boards to no tube output to the version I bought. There are only two brands of DAC using this concept that I am aware of below $1200 or so. This scott-nixon and the Ack!dAck. Which I also bought and it arrived last night. No opinions on it for a month or two. Besides these two brands, whose costs float around $500 or even less with Nixon's options, I know of no other competition except for DIY projects. I do know that Audio Note, 47 labs and a few others offer the same basic concept for $1200 to $50,000. But I'm thinking there are some serious diminishing returns here! Even if there are improvements at all!. I was very skeptical when I first started reading about the 0 oversampling concept. It just seemed the biggest draw was, they were easy to build for the more DIY adept. But finally, I took the plunge and am glad I did. Redbook CD's may be all I'll ever need or want. Especially when you think what it costs to get into SACD, THEN try and make it sound *just right*. Another uphill, money sucking climb, IMO. The system used to test the DAC's is on the Asylum in *Inmate Systems* under 3moons, The Lounge. Link below. Thanks for reading. 8:-) jim...
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Old 4th February 2004, 07:40 AM   #2
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I am happy for you that the Nixon dac provides you with the Music. Congratulations!

I completed a DDDAC last night...similar in topology (NO oversampling) and was knocked over by the rightness of instruments and voices....I got a goose bumps for the first time in a very very long time...playing Pavarotti... And I agree piano (and other instruments) sound absolutely wonderful...they sound like real instruments...I am just like you *UP* ...these NOS DAC'S are landmark products in terms of musicality...

Enjoy the music!

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Bas
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Old 4th February 2004, 10:24 AM   #3
AKSA is offline AKSA  Australia
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Bas,

Try playing some complex, layered music.

Cheers,

Hugh
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Old 4th February 2004, 10:29 AM   #4
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Hallo Hugh,

I have! Then I hear some distortion..
BBC sessions..Led Zeppelin...with some complex passages...I heard some distortion...but I thought that that was just my speakers not being able to handle the dynamics or that it had not been played in properly..(Guess my ears are not deceiving me after all)

Is that what you mean? That is why I specifically mentioned musicality..in my previous post...

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Bas
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Old 4th February 2004, 10:35 AM   #5
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Hi,

Quote:
Try playing some complex, layered music.
Nothing to do with OS or NOS IMHO...YMMV.

Cheers,
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Old 4th February 2004, 10:37 AM   #6
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Hi Frank,

Maybe it has to do with the 5 paralled 1543's?

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Bas
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Old 4th February 2004, 10:40 AM   #7
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Hi,

Quote:
Maybe it has to do with the 5 paralled 1543's?
Nope...

Power supply has though.

Cheers,
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Old 4th February 2004, 01:23 PM   #8
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From Pedja's site

Quote:
TDA1543 is obviously a rougher performer that additionally could get into the saturation by the sonic content
What would be the cause of this? Because that is actually precisely how I would describe what happened last night with Led Zeppelin...

I am not too concerned because for 98 percent of the time this dac playes pure unadulterated MUSIC. I can live with that.

Cheers,
Bas

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Old 6th February 2004, 08:18 PM   #9
Pedja is offline Pedja  Serbia
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Hello Bas,

To clarify, that sentence actually applies to the ultimate resolution that one or the other (1541A) chip can deliver. I still do not consider 1543ís performance in this domain any bad (not at all), but it can be heard if it is put beside the 1541A.

From your description of the problem (the audible distortion that appears on some recordings/notes/frequencies), I guess it is related to the fact the DAC is non-o/s and if it is so, it is almost certainly related to the first image or set of images (which, most simply talking, means no way out of this using any acceptable analog filtering). The system actually distorts downstream (check the tweeters for the start) and not in the DAC.

Pedja
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Old 8th February 2004, 09:45 AM   #10
mb is offline mb
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bas Horneman
Hi Frank,

Maybe it has to do with the 5 paralled 1543's?

Regards,
Bas
Hi Bas,

I've only just built up my 1543 dac, and as I added additional dacs, I hit distortion precisely as you described. I needed to adjust Ibias so that the voltage at IL and IR is more or less midpoint of supply voltage, and output Vpp is not too high. Otherwise, you get to clipping real fast.

Hugh: my dac has no problems with complex music. If anything, when adjusted correctly, it handles complex, layered music very well. Battery power helps, I think...
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