The Naim DAC is a true high-end product that can deliver an audiophile and, more importantly, a musical performance from virtually any digital source. It is also a truly convenient way to access music.
I’ve been following the suggestions and informative comments of JS on the Naim Forum for a good while. JS appears to be very knowledgeable about digital audio and computer audio. JS has been suggesting that the best way to get low jitter S/PDIF digital audio out of a PC or a MAC is to use the TC Konnect 8.
It’s around £200, if one shops around, so I decided to risk it. I also purchased a cheap PC Express to IE1394 card to fit my HP2133 netbook. Lots of fiddling around and finally all the drivers matched up and were running.
My best DAC, or at least the best that will do anything above 48kHz, at the moment is the Cambridge DacMagic so I tried it it with the output from the TC.
Very interesting, the combination delivers the best computer audio sound quality I’ve achieved so far. It has a rightness and a feeling of grip that is so much better then the shiny chromium plated sound that it’s so easy to get.
Huge amounts of listening to do and many experiments to carry out and hopefully a Naim DAC to play the Konnect through in a month or so.
More as I get time to listen
Over the past day I’ve had a chance to listen to the comparison in two systems, both this time, using the coax S/PDIF input. Overall I prefer the Cambridge DacMagic. The DM is a little more even handed: on first listen it sounds a little flatter than the V-DAC but after a while it’s obvious that vocals are a little more intelligible even though they are further back in the mix. The MF has a litte more LF energy, a slightly more forward vocal area and is a little better at the 3D stereo stuff : it recreates reverb tails with far more authority. What it doesn’t do it hang music together in such a strongly cohesive way as the DM.
OK, these differences are not huge and you may think that the extra hundred (ish) quid for the DM is just too much for the small differences. Have a listen for yourself then you can judge.
For those interested in upgrading the power supplies of the MF V-DAC I compared the supplied walwart supply with the Maplin and although there were differences with the Maplin having a touch more weight and grip, the differences were smaller than a change of digital cable might bring.
The Musical Fidelity V-DAC arrived early this morning so after about six hours running in impatience got the better of me and I tried my first comparisons. The Cambridge DacMagic was powered by the Maplin AC-AC converter, the snappily coded L54BR, and the V-Dac by a Maplin VN10L AC to DC adapter set to 12 Volts. The reason for using the Maplin PSs is that the MF looked as if it was a SMPS and they really affect my system. SMPS and Naim systems don’t really mix well.
The two DACs are pretty close; in fact I’ve not drawn a conclusion yet. The MF is initially very enticing, it has a very direct quality as if a veil has been removed from in front of the speakers but at the same time it wasn’t quite as cohesive. The DacMagic – set to my preferred Minimum phase setting – was a little more relaxed, laid back in presentation but the bass was together with the rest of the band. The MF, although it timed, somehow managed to sound a tad slow on bass lines.
Lots more listening to do with coax S/PDIF as today was with optical. More soon.