Author Topic: New Killer DAC  (Read 4135 times)

Offline Mark OTL

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New Killer DAC
« on: January 07, 2013, 09:20:59 PM »
I'm long overdue to post my findings on my new Killer DAC recieved just after the Sydney Show; thanks for the delivery Graham. I first became convinced the KD was something special when Graham loaned me his high spec unit while he was visiting Stevenvalve. I had it a week and by weeks end, was desperately trying to think of reasons why he couldn't take it home to Tassie. Theft, stage a fire, just not be there when he was coming through. Then I thought, .....once I get mine, I know I couldn't live without it, so I better give it back. Damn my ethics!
It took a year to get mine, Thanks Craig C, thats not a complaint by the way, I know how long it takes to source these hard to get NOS bits. The result was well and truly worth the wait.

My memory of the sound of this work of art had faded after a year, and yes I had heard KD's on serveral systems over that year, including the Syd show, but nothing compares to plugging it into your own system, which you know so well and being blown away all over again. I use OTL power amps, and very fast pre feeding Osborn Epitomes, and any hint of dynamic restriction is bluntly revealed by this chain of componets. My CD player is a Droplet, Delta Sigma DACS, and dual triode outputs (super tubes no less), so a very competent player indeed. The dynamics of the KD went well beyond the Droplet, allowing the full speed and attack of acoustic guitar, piano, drums, and orchestral crescendos to be rendered in a truly lifelike manner. So easy to say, .....so hard to do!

Another area I found intiguing was the accurate  developement of the depth of the sound stage. CD replay tends to have a 2 dimesional view of the stage, very little depth. so the performers are "painted on a banner" from left to right. But the KD renders the 3rd dimension convinicngly allowing you to "walk around the stage" and place instruments and artists in 3D. So much more involving. I used the Droplet player because it developed the 3rd dimension better than a lot of players, but it's not a patch on the KD.

I could equally talk about the beautiful, open, silky midrange, but I think the KD's most valuable performance characteristic is it's remarkable timbral accuracy. I occasionally have wonderful references right in my music room, that is my wife and friends, who practice/play violin, and cello regularly in the same room. So I'm used to the body and string resonances from the real thing, in the same room as my system. My system now replays well recorded violin/cello and doulble bass with uncanny realism, allowing me to "see" right into the body of the instrument and savor the resonance, and picture the strings singing.

I won't rave on much longer, except to say that the combined effect of these performance characteristics is to convincingly connect me to the emotional content in a recording. I can never remember any digital anything, connecting me emotionally to the heart of the music like this diminutive DAC does. Audio gear comes and goes over the years,.....a killer DAC is for life.  :D

Cheers, Mark.
Best learn from other peoples mistakes, you'll never have time to make them all yourself!

Offline gamve

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2013, 09:30:54 PM »
Ahh, Great read Mark. Glad you are enjoying your music with help from the KD. There are a few more areas to explore as a lot of people are finding but for digital the KD is the dogs bollocks.

Offline kajak12

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2013, 09:57:20 PM »
Good to hear mark where are the photo's :D
still discovering the link between electronics and audio reproduction.so much to learn and so little time

Offline ozmillsy

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2013, 10:51:58 PM »
Good write up Mark.

The new units certainly are state of the art.

The timbrel beauty is sometimes hard for some to fathom.   It's all too easy to get caught up in ultra detail, convince yourself it's more accurate,  but lose that real body and soul in the process.     



It's all about the music,, not the equipment.

Offline Mark OTL

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2013, 10:02:01 AM »
 kajak12  "Good to hear mark where are the photo's?"

Craig was well aware that I would design/build my own chassis for the KD, so he's supplied a very plain, functional chassis. In time, (so much under development at present, including the turntable project), I'll design/build a flash chassis to complement the extrodinary performance of this unit. It will be special, cause this DAC's a keeper. I could post some photos of my new bass traps that have transformed my system recently! They are bassed (pun intended) on Auralex LENRD units and I made up truss frames from Alloy so I didn't have to glue them to the corners of the room and can move them around or just ge them out of the way if I need to.

Cheers, Mark.
Best learn from other peoples mistakes, you'll never have time to make them all yourself!

Offline Davey Willo

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2013, 10:45:53 AM »
I would be interested in seeing pictures of your bass traps please

Offline Mark OTL

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2013, 09:43:00 PM »
Hi Dave, at the risk of boring everyone else, I've attached some shots of the bass traps I designed and built about 2 months ago. I knew I had a serious problem with bass, as the Osborns have 2x10" subs and 2x10" bass drivers, and they move a lot of air, combined with a smallish room, and reflex ports firing signals backward against the wall, so I had terrible bass slap coming out of the corners, and signal smearing. I looked for various solutions, Chris Brady's DIY ACS traps, real ASC traps, and Real Traps in the US, which looked really good until I found out Aust is the only place in the world where you have to buy from the local importer, and his prices are truly stupid.

So, I found an alternative by Auralex in the states. Their LENRD foam bass traps worked well for the frequency range I was intersted in (500hz and below), and demonstrated good attenuation. I was able to buy direct from a Califronian dealer and had them at my doorstep for about $550 (that's 8 corner blocks of foam). They need support and are designed to glue to the wall direclty which didn't excite me, so I set about designing a free standing frame from extrusions avail at Bunnings. The frame is a truss style arrangenet and is strong and light, and has 2 feet which makes the traps "lean" into the corners.

I expected something in performance gain, but I was shocked by what was actually delivered. The bass is now a tonely correct single pulse, rather than a series of meshed bass waves given a bass pulse like a tympani strike, or a double bass pluck. There's no overhang. Abrupt starts and stops. My enjoyment of bass as part of the entire spectrum has never been this intense before. Visiting audio nut friends typically say something like, holy crap, thats killer bass, its just so tight! Buit wait,..theres more!! Bass smearing also effects a lot of the midrange, and the midrange and even further up the scale seem to be far cleaner and detailed. The sound stage has also become better defined.

I would recommend anyone with pretty punchy bass and front corners, ....so thats probably all of you, to at least try some bass traps of some sort to assess whether they help with cleaning up your bass.
I was gobsmacked, .......and my gob is not easily smacked!

Cheers, Mark.
Best learn from other peoples mistakes, you'll never have time to make them all yourself!

Offline Davey Willo

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2013, 11:55:22 PM »
Not sure about everyone else but you won't bore me Mark, I am a huge convert and believer of room treatments,  what you have done is very interesting... My room  in particular suffers from just about every problem a room can have from slap echo, room modes and the resultant standing waves etc, and I have played with and experimented with treatments even down to taking slabs of 1200x600x50mm Roxul 200 and cutting them into 840-ishx600x600 triangles as superchunks and stacking them in the corners which worked a treat, however they actually possessed Anti-WAF, my missus was close to killing me so they are gone and I'm now installing DIY broadband panels 1200x600x100 on the walls which will be covered in some sort of decorative material to make them a feature.

But like you I still want to treat my corners with bass traps and have decided to try making some tubular bass traps, I have talked to the insulation company that I bought the Roxul from and they can supply me with tubular rockwool pipe cladding which is not 'formed' in the usual manner but is cut from blocks of solid stuff, weird but looks bloody great, so I can actually dictate any size I wish, any OD, any ID, giving any wall thickness that I desire, the waste from this cutting out is then ground into a finer material which is then sold in 20k bags, so my intent is to get something like 400mm to 500mm OD, 75mm-ish wall thickness, the resulting internal area will then be packed with the softer stuff which I'm told will increase the efficiency quite a bit. These will then be covered in a nice looking material and capped both ends with routed MDF, stained to suit and hopefully will be not only effective but ever so slightly wife friendly.   :D

Thanks for the pics Mark, If the tubes don't work as expected I may be back in touch for close ups and building instructions.... Ssshhhh here comes the wife




Offline Jehuty

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2013, 01:32:43 AM »
Hi Mark,

Excellent write up as always, I'm glad you've been enjoying the KillerDAC like we all do here. I never forget when I went up to your place with Graham, your room is certainly one of the most comfy music rooms I've ever been to...and with the chihuahuas I could live happily ever after there  ;)

Happy listening.

Cheers,
William

PS: I agree with Davey Willo, room treatments are important and your post about the bass traps didn't bore me one bit  8)
« Last Edit: January 09, 2013, 01:34:48 AM by Jehuty »
Not all that matters can be measured, not all that can be measured matters.

Offline Mark OTL

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2013, 07:50:39 PM »
Hi Dave, if you ever need to build these bass traps, I still have the model and detail dwgs I can send you. I've got to say, my wife is very sensitive to audio stuff cluttering up the music room, and once I put the bass traps in place without frames, ...just glued together and leaning precariously in the corners she was quite unimpressed. But, after the frames were in place, and they looked a little more,....purchased, rather than home made, she was quite happy. She even commented that her violin sounds better in that room. All good.

Hi Will, I remember you were quite horrified with the bass when you visited with Graham,..and rightfully so. It's a very different system now days, not just from the traps but a variety of significant changes including the KDac. I hope you can drop in again sometime and give me your thoughts. Melb Audio show perhaps.

Cheers, Mark.
Best learn from other peoples mistakes, you'll never have time to make them all yourself!

Offline Jehuty

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2013, 11:09:11 PM »
Hi Mark,

Thanks for the invite, I will not pass an opportunity to have another listen to your beautiful system. Will be in touch when I go down to Melb someday.

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

Offline Davey Willo

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2013, 10:27:36 AM »
Hi Mark

Thank you for the offer mate, I'll take you up on it if I may, email address is davey dot willo at bigpond dot com

Cheers :)

Offline onthebeach

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2013, 01:46:47 PM »
Great read Mark and wonderful to hear all is sounding satisfyingly fantastic in your listening room. You are very lucky being able to listen to some decent live violin and cello. What a perfect way to keep your ears tuned in. You have built your own super duper transport haven't you? I'm sure you have and there is probably a whole thread on it here somewhere. If there is one thing I've learnt from my experience so far with my Kdac its that the transport is ultra ultra critical to the joy coming out the other end. It doesn't tolerate mediocrity very well. SG has said as much to me many times since I first spoke to him but to hear it and confirm it myself is something else.

I was using my Bryston CD player as the transport which wasn't great but once I isolated it a bit along with my amps (with some much appreciated help and ideas :) ),things improved substantially. It has recently shorted out so is being repaired hopefully under warranty so for the past few days I've been using my newly purchased Oppo 93 as the transport and I tried to convince myself all was ok. Last night I realised I just couldn't really listen to it any longer. Not with enjoyment anyway. So I'm really not too sure how a decent transport will actually sound in my system. I've recently purchased a Wadia though that is being modded for I2s down in the mountains so when I take delivery of that and get things going I'll be back on track to extracting the audio Nirvana we are craving.

Have you compared the Droplet as the transport?

Cheers

Nathan
« Last Edit: January 12, 2013, 02:56:33 PM by onthebeach »

Offline Mark OTL

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2013, 08:52:10 PM »
Hi Nathan, good to hear from you. My CEC-TL1 is still in bits believe it or not!! So many projects at present and not enough time. So all my observations so far re the KDac are using the Droplet as a transport, and this it does very well, ....but I still expect an improvement when all the CEC mods are done,.,.power supply upgrade, new laser, better wirnig and co-ax plug, custom vibrapod feet, new belts & a silent bearing.
I would have expected the Oppo player to be a better transport than what you report, quite a surprise really. The Wadia should be very faithful to the source disc, I think it's what Steve uses if my memory serves me correctly.

Dave , I'll send off the dwgs and some detail photos so you can reproduce my Bass Traps, stay tuned.

Cheers, Mark.
Best learn from other peoples mistakes, you'll never have time to make them all yourself!

Offline onthebeach

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2013, 04:21:53 PM »
I was a bit suprised myself that the Oppo 93 was a bit ordinary as a transport using its coax out. Maybe the 95 is better I dont know. I have had joy though with SACD playback via HDMI into my Integra DVR though. That was a suprise as well and a very pleasant one. My 2 channel system has been out of action for a few weeks now so my SACDs have been getting a good workout. Hopefully I tale posession of my new Wadia in next weekend.

Mark it will be interesting to hear your observations when you get the fully modded CEC up and running. Are you planning to use its coax spdif out to feed the Kdac?

Offline Mark OTL

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #15 on: January 21, 2013, 02:11:46 PM »
Hey Nathan,
Best learn from other peoples mistakes, you'll never have time to make them all yourself!

Offline Mark OTL

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #16 on: January 21, 2013, 02:18:30 PM »
Hey Nathan, yes I will be using the SPDIF Coax out to feed the KDac, just as I do with the Droplet. I use a "me made" Silver (yes silver) core Coax from Furetech, their premium cable, with 75Ohm DH Labs gold over copper RCA's. I will never use gold over brass anything,...ever again, after recent tests!! If you have any plugs or binding posts that are gold over brass, replace them post hence, or forever burn in audio hell!!

Cheers, Mark.
Best learn from other peoples mistakes, you'll never have time to make them all yourself!

Offline onthebeach

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #17 on: January 21, 2013, 04:31:02 PM »
I remember hearing Craig declaring that anything brass will kill the sound. Forever burning in audio hell sounds much more descriptive though. The binding posts on my big VAFs are brass so that might need to get sorted one day.

Offline kajak12

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #18 on: January 21, 2013, 08:24:48 PM »
Hey Nathan, yes I will be using the SPDIF Coax out to feed the KDac, just as I do with the Droplet. I use a "me made" Silver (yes silver) core Coax from Furetech, their premium cable, with 75Ohm DH Labs gold over copper RCA's. I will never use gold over brass anything,...ever again, after recent tests!! If you have any plugs or binding posts that are gold over brass, replace them post hence, or forever burn in audio hell!!

Cheers, Mark.
Very true brass is good for trumpets not for audio connection had my lesson 8 years ago.............
still discovering the link between electronics and audio reproduction.so much to learn and so little time

Offline vitavoxdude

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Re: New Killer DAC
« Reply #19 on: January 21, 2013, 08:43:24 PM »
Brass  :o , yup not too clever but better than steel  :-X which a lot of resistor lead out and capacitor leads out can be made from.  Some actually like the 'edge' or hardness it can bring but they usually like it loud too and are not to concerned about timbre or naturalness.
V
We all like different things so lets all agree to disagree and if any common ground is found then worship it.  Mine is the KD hence being present on this forum.