A DAC that crushes price vs. performance ratio

I felt strongly that I wanted to inform the Gon members about a new DAC that ranks with the very best on the market regarding performance, but costs around $2,000.00.  The Lab12 DAC1 SE was compared to three reference level DACS that retail for over $12.000.00 in my review for hometheaterreview.com and was at least on the same level sonicly, if not better.  This DAC from Greece is not just "good for the money" but competes with virtually anything on the market regardless of price!

For all the details about the Lab12 DAC1 SE performance and what other DACS it was compared to take a look at the review.  If you are shopping/looking for a new digital front end to drive your system, you owe it to yourself to check this DAC out, unless you like to spend tons of more $ without getting better performance.
I have no doubt that it is indeed a good piece.... BUT .....my skepticism and resulting resistance for any reliance on such a review for me on this mag review is profound.

(1) Since everything in this crazy hobby is built to a level commensurate with its price-point, I have never yet seen ANY $2K DAC match -- much less "crush" -- a $10K-$12K DAC....full stop. And I’ve attended numerous audio fest paloozas with their A-B bake-offs and comparison shootouts.

(2) This particular mag review is a very select and restricted comparison sample of just three "reference level " (an ill-defined term...) DACs. Since it’s been around since 2014 ... a significant wave of new and technologically improved contenders and pretenders have been ignored. If is indeed the Goliath-killer purported in THIS review (note: Terry London is a staff writer and not independent in its purist form) then why (as just one example among the many) ...do other mags ignore it in their "Best Buys" published lists?

(3) Reviewer comments such as this posted article term of "crushes" is an exaggerated value judgement and a heavily biased personal opinion at best, and flat-out hyperbole at worst. Challengeable extremes such as this term should be avoided.

There are other reviews out there that present a much more balanced opinion such as:

There is a recent prior FYI smoke signal post on AGON that precedes you

I read the major mag reviews for new equipment news and technological improvements, but I always do an in-store or audio fest demo at a minimum; and preferably an in-home audition before a purchase...the mag review is just a first a pedantic first step in the long Yellow Brick Road to Audio Oz.

Audio-GD Master 7 at $2400 is as good if not better then any +$10000 dac I have ever heard. Even more shocking is I am enjoying the LitedacAH as much as my Master 7 and this dac is under $200. Both of these dacs are based on old multibit chips and the master 7 is a R2R dac Both are operating NOS with no digital filters
Really ?
WTF ? Dude.
At least hear it before you comment on anyone else’s review of it .I doubt you will find any other reviews of any equipment comparing it to more than 3 other pieces. Why do you consider the comparisons to be selective and restrictive ? 

I find it extremely odd that a reviewer for a magazine, even an e-zine, would find it necessary or ethically appropriate to "push" a piece of equipment he reviewed--along, of course, with "pushing" the review itself. Many similar boards would not tolerate this.

This is not at all a comment on the component under review; I had never heard of it before.  Moreover I am an advocate of small foreign companies that are pushing the boundaries of performance/price ratios especially in the digital arena.  But the reviewer does his component no favor by making it appear that something "fishy" is going on.
Lab12 has been around for a while, and is known in Europe.  It's now got a couple of toes in the US market.  Mainly tube gear, plus this DAC, plus a very interesting power conditioner that I was very seriously considering.

It wouldn't surprise me if the DAC performed very well for the price, but the proof is always in the pudding (or the eating thereof). OP's motives may be disinterested/altruistic, or not, but there's no way--epistemologically speaking--that we will ever know.
Yes, I failed to mention that the Lab12 power conditioner piqued my interest as well. But alas, it too got great reviews so I guess it must be looked at suspiciously as well.

C’mon guys (and gals), teajay is a professional reviewer but he’s always been upfront about it and what he contributes here is, as I’ve always seen it, as just another audiophile.

Same goes for schroeder. They’re not here to push a product but tune us onto one, as all of us do.

All the best,

@nonoise + 1

First, a big “thank you” to Terry (@teajay) for sharing this information. I wonder how many comments were from folks who actually read your entire review. What some have deemed as “pushing” or “promoting” can rightfully be termed “unbridled enthusiasm” based on one’s actual experience. Nothing wrong with that.

As far as what constitutes “reference level”, I think a $10K piece in service for 6 six years certainly qualifies. So that was the reviewer’s reference point; and what he said was the Lab12 DAC “crushes” the price/performance ratio. In other words, if a $2K DAC performs as good or better than DACs (3 to be exact) costing as much as 10x more, then …

Secondly, it would have been entirely different if teajay had some financial interest or if that was the overarching motivation behind his wanting to share this find with fellow audiophiles. Why do some people feel the need to find something negative to say? The fact that the Lab12 DAC is now in his personal reference system speaks volumes. I had never heard about the Lab12 before now. So again, Terry’s shared experience (there’s that word again) is much appreciated!      

lack of inputs on a $2,000 dac is sad. usb and 50ohm RCA only? why gimp potential performance in such a fashion

@teajay how bad is the NOS roll-off on the top end. i see you made no mention of it in your review
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Hey k4rstar,

You crack me up!  There is no high frequency "roll-off", so the way you asked the question is based on a false and misleading assumption.

All non-oversampling designs suffer from sinus(x)/s loss resulting in more than 3dB reduction at 20kHz. 
 Hey k4star,

I have no idea were you came up with the assumption that non-oversampling/upsampling DACS have a 3dB loss at 20khz.  The Lab 12 DAC1 SE had an extended/airy/ detailed top end in the three systems it was tested in.
I read the review and IMO it is way over the top for a review. What top quality dac uses those chips? I went out and reviewed other threads on those dac chips and here is an example of what I found:
The TDA1543 chip is a budget chip and was designed as such back in the medieval times.

This TDA1543 DAC, or any 1543 DAC, really, is only worth considering if you want a cheap, entry-level, non-oversampling DAC to try and are curious about that old school Philips sound. 

The dac that that was used as a reference wasn’t a top notch dac IMO. If he would have compared it to the DCS or ps audio DS dacs and came out ahead without blasting “it crushes” these dacs, then maybe he is on to something.

if the dac doesn’t use FPGA, or support hires/dsd/MQA, then it’s old technology and wouldn’t be on my list to review

@teajay,  I was completely on board with your view of the Concert Fidelity tube NOS DAC-040 as you gave it in a review here some years ago. How does this DAC compare to that in your opinion? Thanks. 
Hey rbstehno,

My oh my, ignorance has no boundaries in this fun hobby of high-end audio.

1) This NOS Phillips DAC chip is extremely held in high esteem by many listeners/designers because if used in the right way it offers an analog perspective regarding timbres/colors and great 3D imaging compared to more recent DAC chips.  Have you ever personally heard any of these "medieval" based DACs?

2) I have had in my system DACs from DCS (full stack) and PS Audio's DAC, along with the top notch DACs mentioned in the review (Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Series MQA and the Playback Design Dream Player MPS-8) both can do DSD/MQA formats.  I agree that the higher resolution formats sound different,but necessary better.  So much "kool aid" has been drink believing higher and higher sampling rates get you superior sound,  just ain't necessarily so. 

I always find it amazing when someone comes to the conclusion that a piece of gear can't be any good, even though they have never heard with their own ears.
Hi agriculturist,

As I stated in my review the Lab 12 DAC1 SE completely out performed my Concert Fidelity-040 hybrid DAC, my reference for over five years, across all sonic parameters. 

If you loved the sound of the Concert Fidelity, you would be very enamored with the sound of the Lab 12 DAC. 
The comment about the Phillips chip is spot on. No DAC technology can overcome the limitations brought about by a lesser chip. The 1543 is ancient and never came close to performing at the level of its very worthy predecessor the 1541A. I feel DAC discussions really begin with a comment about the chip(s) employed rather than perceived SQ.
Personally, I would prefer it if professional reviewers stayed away from user’s forums.  Anyone who wants his opinions can read all about them in his rag.
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Mr Don here,
I recently purchased a Prism Sound Callia. Now, much to my dissatisfaction i now hear there is a far better DAC, hands down for 2,000. I'm definitely new at this audiophile-ness but i don't think i want to jump up and sell my newly acquired DAC in favor of a totally unknown DAC. Can the writer of the review guarantee the item is superior to the Callia? Thats my question of the day for teajay.....
PS, you don't notice me now but I've been reading "The Complete Guide to High-End Audio (Robert Harley) and will soon be able to comprehend Hi-fi, lets just say, better..    
Hi mrdon,

I never comment on things I'm ignorant about.  I have never heard your Prism Sound Callia DAC.  If your totally satisfied with what it does for your system, then by all means enjoy it.

I have no idea what other DACs you have heard/auditioned in your system.  I know I have auditioned some of the highest regarded DACs, regardless of price, to come to my conclusion regarding the Lab 12's performance.  So, can I "guarantee" you will like it better then your present DAC, is kinda a silly question.  If you share what other DACs you have listened to, I then could give a reasonable perspective of what you might expect from the Lab 12 that would be different and maybe better then your present piece.
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Teejay, one must question your motives and possible industry wide biases.

This dac virtually unknown is now crowned by you the greatest thing since sliced bread the same way you came out on the Tektons and a couple of other items.

Hey we've heard the Tekton's they are suberb loudspeakers for the price however, they do have a few serious flaws that in our opinion keeps them great at the price rather than being the giant killers that you say they are.

Unless many other "reviewers" come out and say the same thing your pronouncement looks like a paid endorsement for you to help create the same kind of frenzy you started with Tekton and with a few other products.

We agree that professional reviewers should stay off these forums, the fact that many reviewers don't pay a dime for their equipment as it is on "extended permenant loan" speaks a lot about the veracity of the industry or if they pay for their gear they pay a tiny fraction of what a dealer would pay. 

Have you guys ever wondered how a few writers in this industry without wall street jobs manage to afford $200k worth of high end gear?

Nuff said.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ

@audiotroy As you know, I’m supportive of you and I have gone to bat for you when I’ve felt you have been unfairly attacked.

I find your post (above) out of line.

Each reviewer has a style and preference all of their own and I’ve found Terry’s to be about finding components that punch above their price point. I see his mission as bringing attention to products that those with ’lesser’ budgets can build amazing systems around.

I know you to be excited and proud of the product lines you carry and unrestrained in your advocacy of them. I RESPECT that.

Just saying to consider respecting the same from another person within the industry.

Having said that, I appreciate what both you and Terry bring to the forum, in your own unique ways. Your and his contributions are valued by this member.
Hey we've heard the Tekton's they are suberb loudspeakers for the price however, they do have a few serious flaws that in our opinion keeps them great at the price rather than being the giant killers that you say they a
. What serious flaws are you talking about?
"in our opinion" Are you speaking for others here , or do you mean "your opinion"
Have you owned the Tekton DI ? 
You also say "we agree, that professional reviewers should stay off of the forum "
who is we ... you ?
We agree that professional reviewers should stay off these forums ...
Professional reviewers are permitted to post here, just as dealers such as yourself are allowed. The reader can decide for himself the value of each post and contributor.

I agree that teajay’s breathless promotion here is a bit odd.
Cleeds there is a major difference between a reviewer and a dealer.

A dealer has to spend his or her money to purchase display product, I don't know too many people that purchase products they hate sure a dealer is going to be biased to their products, as they choose them in the first place.

A reviewer has 0 skin in the game and many times gets the review product for free, I don't know about you but I would love to get a pair of $3,000 loudspeakers for free, or a $2,000 dac or a $90k turntable for a pitance of its retail price and so on.

Many reviwers will then sell the product they got for free and so it is to their best interest to promote said product to encourage a future sale.

It is sad but believe it many of those glowing reviews in the press may be colored by outside factors other than just the products merits.

The bigger mags and on line zines,TAS and Stereophile and Soundstage tend to be more reliable, but we do wonder how Mr. Fremmer managed to afford a $90k Caliburn turntable? 

The sad state of the review industry is how few products that are being discussed are being compared to their major competitors in the same price range, which is why we encourage people to visit their local dealers to actually listen to a variety of products that most dealers will have on display.

What is also distressing with these tiny companies with newly minted rave reviews is how stable is the product? Break downs, repairs, driver issues etc?

Cavet Emptor, the Emperor's often times new clothes have holes in them.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ

It is sad but believe it many of those glowing reviews in the press may be colored by outside factors other than just the products merits ... What is also distressing with these tiny companies with newly minted rave reviews is how stable is the product? ...
Audiogon's terms of use allow reviewers to post here just as they allow you - a dealer - to post here. It's just that simple. If you don't like it, your complaint should be directed to the moderators, not to me.
To address some of the concerns raised by Audio Doctor NJ:

1) As a professional reviewer I do get the industry peak at buying at a reduced price the piece of equipment I have evaluated.  However, for you to imply that I'm "on the take" or am beholden to any company is an attack on my honesty/integrity.  You have ever right to make this claim.  Anything I have ever written as a reviewer or GON member is based totally on how I hear what a piece of gear has to offer, not because someone is buying me off.

2) Your response to my opinion on this DAC reminds me of the same BS that was leveled at me regarding my review and GON posts on the great Tekton Design Speakers.  Companies, retail stores, and some owners of other gear hate when a competing product comes out for a lot less money then their's which is at least as good if not even a better performer.  I don't know what DACs you sell, but I'll bet you are not a Lab 12 retail dealer, therefore you have the personal interest to protect your sells, not me.

3) I had been a long time Gon member way before I got into reviewing.  I consider this my "home" to share and help/befriend other members looking for ways to improve the sound of their system.  My greatest pleasure is to share, through my reviews/posts killer performing/well built gear that cost pennies on the dollar compared to the "big boy" companies that can afford to advertise and inflate their prices to bizarre levels.  My role model for this is Sam Tellich, the Audio Cheapskate, who is now retired from professional reviewing.  It's been a joy to review and share information on Tekton Design, AricAudio, Linear Tube Audio, Backert Labs, all great people and gear for music lovers sold at sane prices for blue collar folks like me.  
@nonoise + others.  When the Lab12 Gordian achieves some wider market penetration, I think it may then be recognized as a true sleeper in the product category.
I left out one more comment that was leveled at me by the boys at the Audio Doctor NJ.

Since my review on the Double Impact Speakers there has been over seven five star reviews all over the place agreeing how terrific Eric Alexander's break through designs are and how they compete with anything on the market.  I guess I'm part of the "DARK WEB" conspiracy to get you and the president.
In the hands of a skilled designer who loves music, the 1541 and 1543 DAC Chips with NOS or filtering yields a more natural sound similar to vinyl without the added artifacts.

More skills are required in implementing a robust power supply, passive or active I/U or I/V conversion stages, tube selection and mating the correct receiver to the DAC Chip.

It appears that even DS designers are going back to the drawing boards with R2R/NOS but SW1X Audio Design, Audio Note, Border Patrol and Lab12 have done their research and are giving these $10K+ DAC companies something to think about! 

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I don't really care if reviewers and dealers both post, but they should all post a little less, and be more respectful of each other, as well as being mindful that actual customers post here. This is not really a forum for selling your stuff whether it is review clicks or equipment.

After reading all of the BS on these forums from both parties, here and on other threads, I could care less about reviews from teajay and would not buy anything from audiotroy. You guys should take it outside to PM instead of embarrassing yourselves publicly.

Have a great day and chill out.
Jperry, we are very respectful of all people just sick of the relentless buy of the century posts. On products that we sell we have never claimed that product x beats the stuffings out of way more expensive speakers.

We have said that in some ways a properly set up pair of Pardigms can be compared to and in certain areas can outperform certain really expensive speakers, but if you compare a $35k pair of Paradigms to a $70k pair of Wilsons that is not the same thing as  saying  a $5k speaker is crushing a $70k one, we have yet to experience that or anything like that. 

Also in 30 years of professional sales experience we have seen products that have performed well for less money like the Auralic Vega but again that was a $3,500 dac that matched in some ways a $7,000.00 Meitner but again, not a $2k dac that is sounding close to a $10k one. 

Whether or not you want to purchase anything from us is fine or read another TJ review we are just calling for a bit more restraint from hailing some cheapie unknow product as the buy of the century until more people have confirmed the same thing. 

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ

D2girls what is your problem?  We are hardly hypocrites we carry many of the world's best brands of gear and are constantly bringing in new products. 

We might just try one of these new miracle dacs to see if it actually meets the hype and to see if Tejay is correct or not.

Dave and Troy

Audio Doctor NJ
Audiotroy calling out any dealer, reviewer, or poster for grandstanding is the ultimate in hypocrisy. 

Nobody struts around the forums like a rooster thumping his chest any better. 

Here’s some advice “doc”. It’s wiser to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove it. 
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Reviewers, Dealers- in either case it’s a conflict of interest waiting to happen. Obviously, anyone can put up a post, with or without a statement of their ties to the industry. But I submit that this forum is for end-users (audiophiles and music lovers), who buy/sell/trade gear.
I personally believe that your motive in starting this thread was to share your excitement about the performance of the Lab 12 DAC, and your belief that it would save interested members a lot of money. Period.
If I am considered gullible for that, fine.

Thanks for taking the time to post and share with us here on Gon. I have been doing research on dacs and what may be my first purchase of a dac is the ’LitedacAH for under $200’. All because of the post made here by @ahendler.

Some of us here or should I say a lot of us here on Gon don’t have as much disposable income as others and It’s something I can buy for not a lot of money an educate myself on what a dac is and how best to use it and at a later date maybe upgrade.

I have been fortunate enough to have found out about some not to expensive ’giant killers’ here on Gon such as the Parks Audio Budgie Phono preamplifier for $399 and the matched pair of NOS Telefunken E88CC/6922 vacuum tubes I got for the Budgie cost more than the Budgie itself! But the total cost, was less than $900.

Just 2 weeks ago here on Gon I bought 1 pair of clear day cable interconnects and 2 pair of clear day cable 8’ double shotgun speaker wire for less than $500! And I would have never even heard of clear day cable if not for audio/hifi enthusiasts like teajay the op and ahendler posting here on Gon.

So please forgive me for not staying on topic as I appreciate it very much when someone takes the time out of their busy life (as in get a life!) to share with us here - some positive (as in not negative!) audio/hifi vibes, indeed.

PS: I'm still looking for 1 more pair of clear day cable interconnects. So if anybody out there in Gon land has a pair for sale...PM me!☺