Curious about older "world class" D/A converters

Good day, all.

Recently, I’ve become a little obsessed with the idea of purchasing/employing an older DAC. The few that’ve been swirling in my mind are the Mark Levinson 360s, dCS Elgar and Spectral SDR-2000/Pro. Here’s what I have in place now (and I’ve been through many systems over the years):

- MacBook Pro / SSD / AIFF’s, over the air
- ModWright Transporter (Emission Labs 5U4G / 50’s Sylvania 6SN7’s)
- Duelund DCA20GA
- Line Magnetic 218ia (Shuguang 845B’s, Gold Lion KT-77’s and 12AX7’s)
- Kimber 4PR
- Omega Super 7XRS

I listen to all types of music (99.9% of my digital library is Redbook), favoring acoustic anything - as much as possible, I attempt to get the effect that the instruments are in the room. As is, everything is dialed in pretty darn nicely, but I feel as though I could use just a bit more focus - if I could have a sharpness dial... Anyhow, you get what I mean. And just so you know, I chose the Transporter over a Berkeley Alpha 2 (had both in the system for 8 months or so, with the former feeding the latter via AES). In the end, I feel there’s just something organic about the Transporter. The Alpha certainly did everything right, but the Transporter just seemed more "natural" (for lack of a more elaborate description). I will say, though, that in some cases, depending on the material - if I’m being completely honest with myself - I wasn’t able to tell them apart and actually got them mixed up in my own exhaustive comparisons.

So, all that said (and sorry for the long-windedness) would any of the three I mention above be worth a shot? I will admit that I’m smitten with the engineering, design and build quality of these pieces without even having an idea of what they might sound like.

Thanks for your time,
Mark (ballywho, since 2003)
In real only 16 bit base TDA1541 and TDA1545
  and1545A and denser bit you are less.
bigkidz -

This is what I’m getting at: these older "world class" DAC’s were built to such a robust degree, that I’ve become curious as to whether that equated to a sound that has simply been forgotten, but possibly betters modern designs. And I don’t need or want a device that can process anything higher than 16/44.1 (when it all comes down to it).

As I said, I had the Alpha 2 (I also had the 1, for that matter, a couple years prior) - I ran some Reference Recordings through it and was actually quite shocked at the level of detail and air I was hearing. I really got the sense that the proverbial veil had been lifted - it was genuinely fascinating! However, with the other 99.9% of my material, I felt (and feel) the Transporter just sounded more real/natural - there was more of a presence, if you will. 2psyop above attached a link to a YouTube review of the latest Shiit DAC that included some of the reviewer’s thoughts on older designs. He goes on to bring up the fact that he grew up with a piano in the house and so "knows what that sounds like." We have a grand at one end of the room and our system at the other. So, I’ll put on the likes of simple solo Gould recordings and then match volume as best I can, and then take note of what I’m hearing - that is, how close is the one getting to other (relatively speaking, of course). Going back and forth I felt the Transporter had the more palpable sense of a real object in the room - pretty cool if you can get it right. Well, as much as I was able to "achieve" that (or as close as I felt I can come with the equipment I have), I feel that I just need a tad more resolution. Of course all things are subjective: Some of you might sit down and go, "What else could you possibly ask for?" Others might say, "This is pretty darn pedestrian." Now, I realize that this conversation went from "should I check out an older world class DAC" to a more general "what improvements are you looking to achieve" in a hurry. I guess I would ask, "Can I achieve what I’m looking for [in my above terribly long-winded ramblings] in one of the older ’world class’ designs? Or should I ditch any such thought and go for something modern, such as the EMM (etc) mentioned?"

Thanks a ton for the responses.

- Mark

I just read the following on another forum:

"I sold my DCC2 2 years ago and regret doing so. At the time the DCC2 was far better than any DAC I auditioned. I had both the DCC2 and my current Modwright Transporter at the same time and while the DCC2 presented more detail, I kept the Transporter for financial reasons. I doubt DAC technology has improved to the point where the DCC2 is inferior to any DAC except the most costly."


- Mark
Thanks for muddying the heck out of the waters, teo_audio!  ;)  That's some list!