The Well-Tempered Computer, an introduction to computer audio

Equipment reviews

Digital Audio Blog's reference DACs

We will no longer write reviews on the Weiss DAC202 and the Audio Note DAC 3.1x since these are well-covered by other professional reviews and we will be focusing on less-covered products.  These two DACs will remain our references, as a "bar" where newer equipments are measured against.  Since they are easier to audition, and opinions are easy to find on the internet and in audiophile circles, readers will have a good idea what our reference level equipments sound like and thus can related to newer, less-known, equipment reviews. 

Here are short synopsis of the two DACs, which represents different extremes of digital conversion philosophies.  The Weiss being ultra-modern technological tour-de-force, while the Audio Note takes an old-school conservative approach.

  • Weiss DAC202

The Weiss 202 is extremely well-rounded DAC with extended frequency extremes, both high and low frequencies.  It has extremely good detail reproductions.  The sound stage width and depth are state of the art, three dimensional, extending well beyond speakers.  It has a magic portray of the soundstage no other DAC can do, the speakers simply disappear. To summarize in two words are "resolute" and "refine".  It has all the functions one would have hope for, fit and finish is first rate.  Firewire input is a must to squeeze out all the goodies in this excellent DAC.  It is not lush or sweet or syrupy as some of the others, but with its unmatched neutrality and palpability of the soundstage, this is undeniably one of today's ultimate reference quality DAC.   
  • Audio Note DAC 3.1x Balance

Our DAC 3.1x/i balance is heavily modified with original signature Audio Note parts (black gate capacitors, upgraded resistors, 496C I/V transformers, no analog nor digital filters) so that its specs is equal to an AN DAC 4.1.  It is a tube DAC, but there are no tube euphony or mellowness.  The sound is not "warm" but there is a "glow" to the presentation.  Highs seems to be slightly rolled off compared to the Weiss, but the presentation is more meaty and liquid.  I would say this is a more analog sounding of the two DACs with rounded notes and transient impact very much like the Tranquility SE DAC, but with a less forward presentation.  To summarize in two words that would be "definition" and "liveliness".  This DAC to me is a classic example of an excellent engineered multi-bit non-oversampling DAC.  Although it can accept files up to 24/96 but it down samples to 18bit resolution (with its vintage AD1865 chip), so not the best DAC for high resolution files.  Important to note that Audio Note is unique for not having any analog filter but uses custom transformers to filter out any out-of-band digital nasties.  It does not have USB nor firewire inputs, so please note that when stream music from computers (as we do when we listen and review), you need to rely on a good USB to S/PDIF converter.  Our reference converter for that purpose is Halide Design's The Bridge.