Borderpatrol Dac SE

I've been seeing this DAC mentioned a lot everywhere lately, hearing that it performs way above its price class, etc.

I took the leap and bought one.  Mind you I've only broken it in for 48 hours but I'm at this point I'm not sure it will ever open up.

So far it has really soft and closed in treble with no air or decay.  Mids are okay, bass is a little soft without great definition or extension.  Imaging is ok but feels a little confused.

To be honest it's getting smoked by my current Fostex HP-A8.  The Fostex is the design antithesis of what's gaining traction:  a delta sigma AKM chip.

Owners:  does this thing ever open up, or has the Sopra unmasked another pretender?  If this is "analog" sound, I think I'll pass the next time I hear that descriptor.


Sotm Sms-200
Perla Audio Sig 50
Focal Sopra 2
Give it more time for sure 48 hours isn’t very long and leave it on at all times. It’s certainly possible you don’t like the sound but it likely just needs more break in. I’ve heard, and liked, the DAC but in a show setting not at home. Which input are you using? Is it possible to try the other input to see if it sounds any differently? Just to try and ascertain if its functioning properly. Also try reaching out to Gary Dews and tell him what your hearing he may have some ideas. Good luck and hang in there!
Jond is right. And 48 hours is not nearly enough run-in time for a component. Let us know how it sounds after 100 or 150 hours.
I'll report back in a few days.  It's going to have to undergo one heck of a transformation.
I've heard it in a friend's system and assuming yours is working as it should, its one of the best sounding DACs I've heard. It does have a more rounded sound compared to my Schiit Modi Multibit but everything about our systems is different so that doesn't mean much. I also don't recall him complaining about the sound when new but I heard it after he had it for at least 6 months and he leaves his system on all the time mainly because he works from home. I'll ask him.
I wonder if the SMS-200 with the Border Patrol is the problem? I think I read several reviews that described the SMS-200 is warmer and rounded, and with the same DAC characteristics...... too much of a good thing perhaps?? Take it out of the loop and test it without if possible. Just thinking out loud.
More hours for sure on the unit but you should start to hear more definition as the tubes start to burn-in around 75 hours and will continue to improve as well as the circuits. A Mullard Square Getter and a fuse change will also improve things quite a bit...

Also, try turning the unit off for 15 mins and back on for the next couple of days.

Thanks guys, I'll continue the burn in for a couple of days then give it a clean slate to evaluate it.  

I am extremely interested to read your final thoughts in couple of days @emcdade. I am trying to decide between BP Dac Se  , Holo Spring L3 and Gumby and have the same speakers as you..
I have had the BP SE in my system for 6 months and it is one of the most analog sounding DAC’s I have ever heard. I actually have a friend with a Lampi Atlantic and the BP gets awfully close. Superb DAC for the $$$. 
Your amp has 50k input impedance so that shouldn't be a problem.  I'd run it in a little more and then contact Gary Dews if you're not satisfied.  The good news is I saw one sell here yesterday in about 20 minutes.
Also, dont forget to ensure the settings on your computer and roon are optimized. The Border Patrol is an exceptional dac, I have one in my office system (audio research in my main system). Cycle it on and off a couple of times a day, also do the same with the tube rectifier.
It's been burning in in my office system all week.  I'm going to warm it up in my main system tonight and have another listen.  I may even get out my Umik-1 and take a few measurements to see if they confirm what I'm hearing.
Check out this post on another forum:

This user had the same kind of experience, and apparently Gary’s advice to turn the tube on and off periodically worked wonders.
Very interesting, sounds identical to my experience.  I have been giving the tube a break here and there and have been in touch with Gary.  

Kudos to Gary for giving a 14 day period to audition it.
@whoopycat nice find there! And I see you're selling an AN Sig-3 did you transition to that from your YDA-1? If so you followed the exact same path as me! I hope whatever your next move is proves satisfying. Apologies to the OP for the brief thread drift.
Hi Jon,
No way, the Yamamoto is staying put! :-)
Actually although I did like the YDA-01 better than the Sig 3, I wasn't comparing them per se as I have two systems.  It's nice but it didn't wow me like the Yamamoto did.  Someday I would like to give the Border Patrol DAC a try though.

OP, please report back with your results.  I'm curious to see how it works out for you.  
Whoopycat very cool in my one system my AN Sig-3 was better but only very slightly to the Yamamoto. As they say horses for courses. Happy listening!
I bought a used BP DAC SE 5 weeks ago. The previous owner said he put 50 hours on it. It made a good initial impression on me, with excellent 3-D presence and a full bodied sound. The bass is weighty, just right to my ears. As I put more hours on it, the highs seem to be getting more articulate.  The soundstage is very natural to me with no artificial spotlighting of instruments/performers. 

I am also a YDA-01 owner. I was using it with a Mac Mini and an Empirical Audio Off Ramp USB to SPDIF converter. The Yamamoto (stock, no mods) with the Off Ramp and a Dynamo linear power supply seems to have a more realistic top end and has better bass definition, but the Border Patrol DAC using the USB input is a lot of fun to listen to and it is just one box versus the three box Yamamoto/OffRamp/Dynamo setup. It has more presence, and it has more heft in the bass.

Also, changing USB cables on the BP made a noticeable, easy to hear, difference. Lots more clarity and articulation just from changing cables. I also enjoy the SPDIF input, it is excellent IMO.

Hope things improve for the OP. I'm a toe tapper and head bobber, and for me the Border Patrol DAC has been right up my alley, but I can see how others would prefer a different sound. 
Quick update:  it no longer sounds broken, and now sounds broken in.  Hard to believe how much better it sounds frankly.

I'll post more details tonight after I've gotten to know it better.  First impressions are that it's got good musical flow, nice full bodied mids, but still lacking in air and treble refinement.

@emcdade- can you tell us what you've concluded after having had more time to run in the Border Patrol DAC?
I ended up returning it thanks to Gary's generous return policy.  No complaints about the DAC in general, it just didn't work in my setup.  My amp is a little sweet on top to begin with and the BP sweetness pushed it over the edge.

I'm starting to feel Dacs are a little overrated in my setup, or I just really like the sound of the Fostex.  I have a Directstream dac in house now and really the Fostex is just as resolving and smooth.  To be honest I experienced a much larger jump in sound quality moving from PC to SOTM renderer than I have with any DAC.  Ymmv

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I purchased the Border Patrol SEi DAC back in July 2019. Upon initial setup I hated it. It sounded thin and lifeless right out of the box. I immediately had buyer’s remorse and wanted to send it back. I put some thought into it and decided to burn it in for a couple of weeks then revisit.

In the meantime I bought a Schiit Yggdrasil. I figured that based on the design and reviews I would likely be satisfied with it. And I was. The Yggy is very versatile and does a lot of things right. I put the BP back in line and things were much better. Warmer, more depth, more dynamic, and fuller bass. The Yggy still seemed to top it in my overly analytical mind. I sent the BP over to my father in law’s place to put into his system.

While enjoying listening sessions with my father in law I grew envious of what the BP was doing for his system. There was this undeniable sweetness to the presentation that brought you into the music and made you want to listen all day. There is some fine detail loss with this DAC, and it does struggle with fast transients. But heck, for most of the music I listen to it is very satisfying. But nonetheless, my logic kept pulling my back to the Yggy. After all, how could the BP be better in any way? Too small, too light, simple design, old outdated Phillips chip.

Fast forward to April 2020 and I am revamping my system due to Covid-19 isolation boredom. I sold my Primaluna Evo 300 integrated, a Primaluna Prologue Premium integrated, a Rogue Audio Sphinx, and....(more to follow) to make room for my newly acquired First Watt F7. I am also waiting on a new Linear Tube Audio MicroZotl preamp. I am looking into a new transport as well (Either Jay’s CDt2 MkII or Project CD Box Rs2 T).

Anyway, yesterday I grabbed the BP from my father in law’s place with the intent of doing a A/B comparison between it and the Yggy once my LTA preamp arrives. Last night I put my only remaining amp into my system (Onkyo Tx8050, 80w, $299) and started playing music through it and the BP. The BP made this cheap amp sound fantastic, more so than the Yggy. In an ideal world I would keep both DACs, but I decided to let the Yggy go. I listed it on A-gon last night and it sold this morning. More money for my transport!

I know, some of you will think I am crazy for letting the Yggy go in favor of the BP. Well, for once my heart is victorious over reason. And the Border Patrol touches my heart in a way that the Yggy could not.


Your post is an interesting and insightful read. I completely understand your decision to choose the Border Patrol DAC over the Schitt. Your final paragraph sums it up clearly. I would have done the same. Listening to and interacting with music is an emotionally involving experience. You have to follow your heart in this situation.


I had Gary Dewes upgrade my BP DAC to the SE-i version.  As great as it was it's now even better.
Just purchased the SE-i and out of the box it sounded AMAZING! The best DAC I’ve owned. In a nutshell smooth, natural sounding with huge power on the low end. One of the best upgrades in my system and highly recommend to anyone looking at the this unit.
Had mine for over 2 years... Gary says upgrade to i version makes it sound more organic. This will not help the bass issue, its way too soft and boomy even with a fully treated room of GIF panels. Another member suggests I should but the Audio Mirror. I’m looking for a natural sounding DAC with a very tight and deep bass, up to 5k new or used, any suggestions?
The T+A DAC 8 DSD I have now makes the BP sound just like it measures:  broken.  Especially when you let Roon convert everything to DSD to feed it.
I have had it in my system as well, it's not worthy of all the praise. It was very slow, unfocused and colored in the sound. I think people who like it are in it for the overly warm colored sound.
Owned one for around a year. It never really opened up. Lacked air and dimension. It was a pleasant sounding DAC, but nothing really special in my opinion.
I felt it never really lived up to the raves it got in audiophile press (although there were some naysayers).

I'm not sure what the disconnect is. The BP is utterly life changing for a digital front end. For the last 20 years most dacs have relatively similar shortcomings and sonic signatures due the fact of using basically the same ICs for digital filtering and OS. Then came delta sigma, with everyone falling into the crack pipe like oversampling hamster wheel. (It sounds better so I over-sample, so it sounds better, so I over-sample more, so it...)  It didn't matter if the unit was $500 or $5000 they all sounded... digital.

Compared to any other DAC under $5k the Border Patrol is the first to provide actual textured nuanced bass instead of the relentless granulated single note thumping sound that has me running to the laundry room thinking someone put the cat in the dryer.


I improved my Border Patrol SE by installing a Valvo EZ80 tube.  The BP tube has a significant effect its treble.  I would suggest tube tube rolling.

I'm new to my BP dac purchase. I installed a SR purple fuse and a mini watt ez80 tube. I'm the 2nd owner of this dac. It has only the digital coaxial input. I like it because it is a straight up musical dac. Simple hook up and has a very natural life like sound quality to it. The BP dac is replacing a Eastern Electric mini max dac that died on me. The BP dac is much more natural sounding than the EE dac was. The BP dac for me is a dac that gets out of the way of the music. 

BP Se-i here.

A few comments : 

1) 100 to 150 hours (break-in) is a must (it is horrible out the box)

2) A good power cable is very important (mostly to address the bass issue)

3) Ditto for a good usb cable


The BP doesn’t sound impressive at first glance like other dacs, it simply sounds right / natural and I realized that ‘sounding right’ is probably more important than the last bit of resolution (at least for me). If you want to listen to your system, it is probably not the best Dac but if you want to listen music…

I rolled in a Bugle Boy Holland ez80 rectifier tube. This definitely woke up my BP dac. I read that different rectifier tubes won't make much difference in sound quality. That is a false statement. 

My Border dac was new, 3 weeks only in system. 

Outperformed my another 6000$ dac from the first 

moment. More so after break in... Amazing dac.

Try Furutech Flux-50 filter on dac power input.

Not cheap but this thingy improved everything

connected considerably.



For the power cord I'm using my trusted Cabledyne 10 gauge pure silver cord. It's plugged into a Audioquest Niagara 5000.