Author Topic: My Thoughts On The KillerDac  (Read 6041 times)

Offline gamve

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My Thoughts On The KillerDac
« on: December 17, 2011, 02:47:40 PM »
Hi All,
Have lived now for some time with Steven's brilliant KillerDac in my music system and thought it's about time I left some feedback in the testimonial part of this site.

As mentioned before I was always an analog lover as I found I could sit and listen to my favorite records all day if I cared to. I could never do this with my digital equipment, after a few hours the dreaded digititus would set in and I would either change back to analog or turn the system off.

I tripped over another member of this fourum some years ago totally by accident on SNA ( BTW the only good thing ever to come out of SNA for me  ;) ) We got to talking and I was told about the KillerDac. The rest they say is history.

Needless to say my ten year search for listenable digital music reproduction is now at an end, entirely because of Steven's genius at voicing and tuning these things to sound so much like you would expect things to sound like in real life. Now just to get the rest of my system up to scratch.....Doh

My Dac has now been slightly modified by the fitting of a GEC Genalex U52 rectifier and a Holland double crown TDA1541A chip. My experience is that everybody, and I mean everybody that hears this thing agrees without reservation that the digital reproduction is the best they have ever heard. People that have heard the Dac include several audio nut buddies, other non audio nut friends, she who must be obeyed and even me mum.

I loaned my Dac to a friend for a week while I was visiting the creator in Sydney. My friend said he contemplated moving house while I was away and not leaving a forwarding address. This was one of several plans I've just started to hear of including trying to convince me I had Alzheimers (Old Timers) disease and that I had actually taken my Dac home...Honest. There were a few other plans that apparently involved 6 foot holes in the ground etc.....Yikes
This friend...mmmm has now ordered his own KillerDac but only after I retrieved mine with great difficulty.

I'm not going to waffle on about the sound of this unit as I not nearly up to the task to provide an adequate description. I just do not have the words or the skill to describe the utter enjoyment that this piece of brilliance provides me.

My closing comment is as follows.
I ask are you a music lover?  If you reply YES
Then the KillerDac is a must have item. I state without any reservation that this is the best piece of audio equipment I have ever purchased and possibly the best piece of audio equipment available at any price anywhere. Glowing bet. Get yourself in front of one, give your ears a treat and you will understand.

Offline Jehuty

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Re: My Thoughts On The KillerDac
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2011, 07:54:53 PM »
Hi all,

Firstly as a bit of an introduction and some history of my music obsession.

I have been a music lover since I was a teenager and have spent a lot of time listening to varied music styles. I have also been on the Mid-Fi Hi-Fi merry-go-round for more years than I care to count. I have experimented with literally a ton of components and have learnt a lot of useful lessons but alas when I review my experiences I realise that I am going around and around in circles. I guess I have reached a reasonable level of understanding but my progress towards my goals is slow and frustrating. In the last few years I have decided that I need to be more serious about my direction in this addiction.

I spent some considerable time studying different peoples thoughts and methods regarding sound reproduction. I have searched out and found several people that share my passion/experiences and to my great pleasure I have found them to be open and honest and willing to help me along. I have conversed with these people for some time and have actually had the chance to meet and spend some time with these persons and develop some friendships.

I have been conversing for some time now with stevenvalve regarding upgrading my current system to a standard higher than what I have now with my current setup. I suppose I am typical of most maturing music lovers in that my music tastes are slowly changing/evolving and some refinements are required for me to fully enjoy these new found musical interests. Steven has been nothing but helpful in helping me understand what needs to be done to achieve my objectives and I am grateful for his time and patience in guiding me.

I have watched the threads here on SNA with some interest/dismay and I recently decided that I needed to satisfy my own interests by arranging a visit to Steven's home to have a listen. Steven has generously given up some considerable amount of his time to accommodate my request. I just thought I would like to share this experience from my viewpoint.

I have been listening to Steven's music now for an extended period over several different sessions. Please note that I did say music not system. Steven has music preferences and has built his system around the sound he needs to archive to satisfy his musical tastes. It is important to recognise that no one system does everything perfectly. This system will play rock, blues etc but it's forte is voice and classical reproduction for which it has been very carefully voiced to suit.

I needed to listen to a variety of music before forming an opinion of what I was hearing and must admit that it did take some time before I could sort of understand what I was actually hearing. The music reproduction in Steven's room is confronting. I can honestly say I was not prepared for a CD player, low powered SET amplifier running into a single full range driver to be so full bodied, tonally beautiful, fast, articulate, and with such a being there live type presentation. This playback system delivers the emotional content of the music like nothing else I have ever heard (tear in the eye stuff). This to me is the most important function a music playback system and my ultimate goal in my music journey.

I am looking forward to spending a few more days here enjoying Steve and Jens wonderfully hospitality and some further listening to some fantastic music.


I like the one on SNA too gamve, I hope you don't mind me quoting it into here  :)

Not all that matters can be measured, not all that can be measured matters.

Offline gamve

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Re: My Thoughts On The KillerDac
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2011, 12:56:02 PM »
Cheers William,
I try to be as honest as possible in my posts. Just hoping someone is having similar experiences and that my feelings are expressed in a way that might 'strike a chord' and be helpful to someone.

Offline treblid

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Re: My Thoughts On The KillerDac
« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2011, 02:38:16 PM »
Congrats.. This is what this hobby should be all about... Happy... Euphoria even.

While money can't exactly buy happiness. But for some (maybe even me eventually), this will be bloody close!

Offline ozcal

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Re: My Thoughts On The KillerDac
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2011, 07:26:46 PM »
"delivers the emotional content of the music like nothing else I have ever heard (tear in the eye stuff) "
When all is said and done surely thats what listening to music on a good system is all about and it really doesn't matter what approach you take as long as the music brings a tear to your eye.
Great read G.
Listening with my ears :)

Offline audiophool

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Re: My Thoughts On The KillerDac
« Reply #5 on: December 25, 2011, 08:26:39 PM »
I enjoyed reading this update, thank you for your thoughts Graham.
Oh, merry christmas etc too.

Offline kajak12

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Re: My Thoughts On The KillerDac
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2011, 11:52:22 PM »
what lech thinks
Just thought I would put a post up now I have had a good chance to listen to the killerdac. I didn't want to post anything straight off the bat as I really wanted to give it a good listen before casting an opinion which may (or may not) be taken onboard by others.

The one that was played at the shootout was built for me and is partnered with a highly modded marantz cd94 running i2s bus directly into the dac (ie NOS). The DAC I got is the 'high end, fully tweaked' version of the killerDAC as I would much rather rely on Stevens obvious expertise than trust myself with a mad-dog ebay account and a pair of pliers.

Steven, and the people helping him in his craft, are absolutely lovely to deal with. Steven is a gentlemen and a scholar who has both an immense understanding of music and a wealth of practical knowledge in getting the absolute best out of his units. The type of knowledge he has only comes from neverending testing, evaluating and listening of a myriad of different combination's of parts to get something that performs spectacularly as a whole. All through the process, Steven was extremely generous with his time and knowledge. Hats off for an amazing amount of knowledge and a simply wonderful and inspiring way of imparting it to others around him. A true music lover through and through.

What I asked for:

I am sick of cd. I listen to them all the time and while they are marginally better than what I can achieve from my HTPC via lossless and a tweaked soundcard, it still is just not up with what I have heard from turntables and much more expensive Cd players. Turntables "for me" just don't seem a smart solution to reach the next level. I can understand the love that comes with the process and the pride many people take in vinyl, the sound quality certainly deserves the fuss, but it is not for me. I hate the pops/crackles as that alone removes the analog and resolution benefit. The sheer amount of work to get the most out of them just seems prohibitive to me. Just to clarify, I have heard some spectacular sounding turntables along the way including the amazing demo setup at SGR (incredible!), but it is horses for courses and I still hold (perhaps naively) to the idea that digital can work if its given enough love.

I asked Steven, many times (heh), for a 'no compromises' approach to building my killerdac. I wanted the best parts, the best connections and if a bare wire was better than a socket/plug, I wanted that too. I wanted to see exactly what I could get out of this unit to save me going the turntable route for some of the analog goodness. Steven was very clear that this would take some time to source parts etc and that was fine as I had things on my end to sort out too and was definitely in no rush. This is why it was used for the shootout as with little notice, it would have been difficult to have one ready to go. A long story short, Friday afternoon it arrived with much anticipation and thanks to Stevens help, It was all up and running in very short order.

Build Quality:

The DAC was supplied in was a very nice rackmountable case which looked much sleeker than I thought it would. Definitely happy to have that on the shelf. When I opened the case to take a peek inside, and to remove some additional internal packing protection (really nice touch), I was blown away with how neat Steven and Pauls work is. There was simply not a wire out of place. Everything was neatly and securely positioned inside the case with nearly all the wiring run out of sight. Very impressive. The layout of the major items was very good. Easy to get in and do things if needed with no clutter. Every part in this DAC simply reeks of quality. This was indeed the no compromises approach I had asked for!

Keep in mind I was not fussed on cases and instead wanted something more industrial. Flemo made a beautiful timber case for his one which just looks gorgeous but for me, this works extremely well.

Getting it plugged in and ready for use:

Plugging in and turning the DAC on is painless thanks to the standard power switch at the back of the unit, similar to just about every other piece of equipment I have. Wiring up the I2s bus from the marantz was a piece of cake thanks to Stevens detailed labelling and the whole thing was ready to roll in minutes.

As a note when turning it on, something strange happened which had me worried for a while. The unit was dead quiet, no tubes getting whipped into action, no clicks hums or anything out of sorts, just a gentle warmup glow from the tube heaters. A little bit different from some of the tube gear I've had in the past where turning it on was a light dimming experience and felt like a rough downgear into 1st  

So. How does it sound?

It's been a long time since I have enjoyed music like I have this weekend. I have had the DAC playing cd after cd (with the exception of the grand final - eyes rolling) with some of them getting a repeat cycle pretty much all weekend. By about lunchtime Sunday, I had listened to enough music to finally banish the last dying mental voice of the critic I thought I would be about this DAC.

Upon hitting play friday night for some background noise to our conversation, both myself and my lady stopped talking and just listened to what was playing out before us. The sense of immediacy, the transparency and presence this was putting forward was simply stunning. Just so engaging, emotive and just plain beautiful. We listened to almost an entire CD in silence before stopping it to have a discussion about it, and before we spoke, we sat silent for a couple of minutes trying to put it into words. We listen to a lot of music, and it is very rare to be drawn that far into the music on initial listen. As such, it struck a very serious chord with us.

A quick note on my lady too, She actually has a very good natural ear herself and tends to translate good music much faster into emotion, ie happy, dancing, singing etc. Putting it simply, she does not bop along with anything that sounds average and instead, will leave the room to get away from it. If its to the point where she is actually choosing what to play and taking an active role in it, it is really doing something special indeed.

The output of the killer is just super tight and accurate to the recording across the entire frequency range. Everything integrates so well and it just spins molten gold out of the sound. Gorgeous honey vocals, tight bass, sweet highs, I just have no idea really how to describe it as anything other than completely natural, beautiful music. I kept double taking on certain instruments (a snare drum for one, a trumpet solo another) which just sounded so real. So many times we re-listened to tracks just to digest the amount of detail that was being put forward.

Importantly for me, there is just no point for me in going the turntable route. Listening to good quality cd's, with the transport I have, and finally the killer, there is just no trace of digital anywhere in the sound. Gorgeous staging, fullblooded sound, analog bliss. For me, it effectively has all the strong points of analog, without any of the downsides and definitely no pops/cracks/hisses.

As I said to Steven on the phone, I have no idea how the hell this is as good as it is and honestly, I would rather just think of it as a little piece of black magic I am fortunate enough to own. His response? oh so you like the dac. I can see why this won the shootout and why people were blown away by it.
still discovering the link between electronics and audio much to learn and so little time

Offline Drizt:)

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Re: My Thoughts On The KillerDac
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2011, 11:56:02 PM »
Does leck still have his killerDac ?

Offline gamve

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Re: My Thoughts On The KillerDac
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2011, 01:19:06 PM »
Mark's comments in an email to Stevenvalve.

I was not aware of this email till recently but I thought I would share this with the group.
I pretty sure Mark will not mind me posting this as it is relevant to my particular KillerDac

Hi Steve,
After spending a week with the high spec version of your ďKiller DACĒ (thanks Graham), I thought Iíd forward some listening impressions.
I fed the unit from a Consonance Droplet CDP-5.0 player with itís very competent Philips CD-Pro2M transport, via coax connection.
After warming the unit and initial listening, I was somewhat unsettled by the presentation of familiar music. The sound was somewhat alien
to me. The more I listened, the more I realised this is not ďHi FiĒ sound at all. You donít tick the boxes and score itís sound out of 10.
You simply relax and let it draw you into the music. Itís presentation is that lifelike.
Iíve never heard Redbook CD create a sense of depth with any degree of believability,..until now, width yes, depth no.
Itís timbrel accuracy is stunning. my wife is a violin player, and her sister a cello player, I hear these regularly in the same room as my system.
I probably have the best reference possible for these instruments. Your Dac interprets these revealing instruments with uncanny realism and timbre
accuracy. Dynamics,..just as real as it gets. I use OTL tube monos driving Osborn Epitome dynamic speakers, and any slowness in source components
is revealed ruthlessly by this combo. No such problem with your Dac. It produced lifelike attack and excellent rhythm at all times.
If this isnít the most accurate red book Dac on earth, Iíd like to know what is!
Iím putting my hand up for one of these masterpieces right here and now.
Cheers, Mark.