No? Then how about the Denafrips Terminator II. Is it a step up from the T+A DAC 8DSD?
I have no experience with Denafrips Terminator series, but I can tell you the T+A 200 series are really good. And since you are familiar with the T+A house sound, you will know what to expect. I have the similar T+A HA 200 (headphone amp + DAC combo) and the T+A MP 200 (streamer / transport) on my headphones rig.
I understand this is not exactly what you asked, but I am chiming in nonetheless. I suspect the Terminator will sound different than the T+A given its completely different topology than the T+A DACs. Whether better or worse to your ears, I don’t know
I have not compared the two but have been reading reviews on the Terminator Plus. I would be curious to hear head-to-head reviews as well. I have a feeling they may be very close tonally, especially because the way Steve Huff compares the Terminator Plus to the Chord Dave is similar to the way the T+A DAC 200 compares against the Dave and Mscaler combined:
One thing my customers and I appreciate about the T+A DAC 200 is that it has a total of six DAC filters that can span a very laid, back organic sound, to a very naturally bit perfect sound to being very punchy and detail-oriented. It’s almost like having six DACs in one and enables the DAC to better adapt with the system synergy. It also means that anyone who compares the two together should comprehensively experiment with all the DAC filters for the most honest evaluation.
In full transparency, I am a T+A dealer. If you happen to be in the upper midwest, drop me a line and I can demo it for you. Happy to answer any questions on the unit.
Good point. And spot on! My T+A HA 200 has the same filters. And unlike similar filters with other DACs I have owned, each filter is audibly different than the others with the T+A. Very easy to hear the difference between the filters, and use what one prefers. The last two filters (out of the six) are NOS filters (no over sampling), which HQ Player users love.
I use HQPlayer with the DAC200. This also opens open your streaming options and setup. Quite a few streamer manufacturers allow you to use their product as a Network Audio Adaptor (NAA). This means you're pretty much using the streamer for it's (hopefully well designed) USB output. You can run HQPlayer on a computer in another room and it feeds the NAA with the music. I was looking at Lampizator, Denafrips, Bricasti, Rockna and a few others. I never got to try Denafrips or Lampizator so I'm unfortunately no help there, but I'm happy with the DAC200 for both the sound and the functionality/flexibility.
Thank you all for your input. I almost purchased a Terminator 2 last week. (Un)fortunately it sold just before my inquiry. But wouldn't you know the very next day a T+ went up for sale. I'm waiting for its delivery this week. I guess the deciding factor was Steve Guttenburg's review. He said "if you are a resolution 1st audiophile, you crave ultimate resolution from your digital music then T+ will make you very, very happy." That's me to a tee.
I had a feeling you would go for Denafrips. Which is totally fine. I get that. We all look for trying new things, different sound, different experiences. It is part of the journey. Which you should enjoy in full. And gain new experiences. Best of luck @mewsickbuff , I hope you enjoy the Teminator, and you come back here with your impressions once you get it. Congratulations on the new purchase!
I've had a few listening sessions with the Denafrips Terminator Plus DAC. I bought it to see how it managed 1024 upsamplling with the Signalyst HQ player. It's marvelous. Speccy shows the temp of my Alienware computer's GPU and CPU stays in the green zone, no sweat handling the 1024 upsampling. Even though I asked about the T+A DAC 200 I don't have one for comparison. So for those who are familiar with the T+A DAC 8DSD, here are a few of the differences I heard.
Not that I didn't hear them before, but now the highest frequencies on some songs (within my hearing range; like those triangles or whatever they are) and the bass was more prominent and succinct. I've always heard the middle frequencies, but they were soft and at times I felt as if I was straining to hear things (like the chimes near the end of Adele's "Hello.)". Not with the T+. I can now distinctly hear all instruments in the mid frequencies plus all drum hits. Bass guitars and drums kits with their cymbals, are placed accurately on the soundstage. Sometimes to the left or right of the lead singer but no longer does it seem the center stage singer or instrumentalist is sitting in the drummer's or bassist's lap. Voices on good recordings remain mellow and sweet, but the T+ is less forgiving of poorer recordings. Example, I have Barbra Streisand's "Memories" CD. At 44k/1024 her voice is etched with some shoutiness, which quickly led to listener fatigue. When the same album was played at 44k/512 Barbra's voice and higher frequency instruments were a tad smoother. At 48k/256 even more pleasant. Being able to hear more, I can listen at lower levels; 12 to 15 is now 9 to 10. On one classical album I could hear depth and separation I hadn't before. I could more distinctly identify multiple horns and multiple strings in their own seated sections. The separation of choir voices and/or instruments was very good on both DACs. The T+ also did a better job of separating duets, trios and larger groups or instruments when recorded that way. Voices or instruments were to the left or right of center stage surrounded by air. On a few songs there were instruments that popped up far outside of my speakers and there was even one song were an instrument seemed to be playing to the right of my chair. As I listen to more of my library I'm sure I'll find more of these golden nuggets.
Even though it came with an HDMI I2S cable, the T+ is connected to my computer by a WyWires Platinum USB cable. My computer has no I2S connection. The T+A DAC 8DSD is an excellent DAC and now has its home in my headphone rig. But the T+ is definitely a few steps up.
@mikicasellas I can answer that, though I have owned both at different times. Before I was a dealer, I owned a PS Audio DirectStream DAC which I modified heavily with upgraded transformers, linear power supply, etc. I purchased a brand new Lampizator Baltic 3 and broke it in. One of the reasons I wanted it was because I have enjoyed some other DACs Lampi released, and the Baltic uses tubes similar to many Modwright and Primaluna units of the past which I’ve owned, so I had endless tubes to roll from.
Unfortunately, while the Lampizator Baltic 3 had incredible tone, I found that it lacked speed and definition in the frequency extremes, and this was true regardless of the tubes used. as a result of this. Imaging could be holographic, but a bit softer. The DAC 200 images much clearer. It is warmer and bolder than the PS Audio DirectStream, while having a much larger, holographic soundstage in an effortless way. I demoed a Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC at the same time and sold that as well, as it went by he opposite direction of the Lampi. The Mola Mola may be one of the fastest and detailed DACs I’ve ever heard, also with the lowest noise floor, but at the expense of soul and organic delivery. In my opinion, the DAC 200 does a great job of balancing all of the above.
Please take this as you want as I am a T+A dealer, but this is precisely one of the reasons I became a dealer.
@bhvf - Did you compare the Rockna Wavedream to the T+A 200? I have been meaning to purchase the Rockna for a while, and am very familiar with T+A quality. Now all the positive reviews are intriguing to me - so I would definitely love to hear your thoughts.
@nitewulf Even though I've had both in my house, I had a different amp when I tried the Rockna. My thoughts at the time of the Rockna were that it was slightly less warm than the Bricasti but warmer than quite a few other DACs. The Bricasti was similar to my Teac NT-505, which I really like. Comparing the T+A to the Teac, I hear more openness and resolution with the T+A, in a good way. I like a warmer presentation normally. The T+A is not warm per se, but it's resolution appeals to me in a way that other, more detailed DACs, don't. I would buy the Bricasti all day over the Rockna but haven't compared the Bricasti directly to the T+A so it's tough to give a definitive answer. I'll be comparing them soon. If you haven't already, read through @verdantaudio's thread about DACs. It's very informative.
@bhvf - thanks. I personally tend to enjoy the R2R designs, hence Rockna as an upgrade option. I also prefer a slightly warm presentation, and truth be told, we need to be honest about preferences as well.....if someone says they prefer dead neutral systems, yet listen to only warm recordings, what does that actually say?
I don't think anyone likes cold, analytical recordings, or sterile recordings, but unfortunately a lot of great albums were not recorded well. So if a dac or an amp helps sweeten that, I do prefer that.
I have to check out the T+A, I love the old school look of it, and very familiar with the HV integrated. Unfortunately I can't audition the Rockna.
@nitewulf I had an MHDT Balanced Pagoda, which is an R2R, for a while too. I really liked the sound of it but thought the build quality was a little weak. It also wouldn't work using my Lumin U1 Mini as a volume control while all other DACs did. I would give the Bricasti M3 a try if you could. Where are are you located? New Jersey has a dealer for many of the brands, including Rockna and Bricasti. If you're only looking used, be patient, buy well and you can probably break even.
For what it worth, I wrote this ealier regarding my A/B comparison with the Holo Audio Spring DAC 3 KTE....
My observations on the T+A DAC 200 and how it stacks up against the Holo Audio Spring DAC 3 KTE.
But first, the system used for the A/B test:
Pass Labs XP-30 Preamp
Pass Labs 260.8 mono block amplifiers
Lumin U1 Audio Transport (NOT the Mini version)
Wilson Audio Sasha 2 speakers
SHUNYATA RESEARCH Alpha Speaker Cable
Kimber Kable Select Series Balanced interconnects
Kimber Kable AES digital cable
Cardas Clear USB cable
(2) JL Audio e100 Subs
Power cables from Shunyata, Synergistic Research and Tara Labs.
All digital devices and preamp are plugged into a PS Audio PowerPlant 15 and amps are plugged directly into my Furutech wall outlets.
The system is dead quiet at idle, and I did all listening with the NOS 2 Setting, so no special effect filters involved.
As I write this I have about 50 hours on the new DAC. The Holo Audio DAC has been in my system for a year and is very well broken in and sounding wonderful.
Out of the box and into my system, I fired up some of the tracks I know best and commonly use for system set up. Everything from Zhu, Ray Joseph, Lady Blackbird, SBTRKT, London Grammar to Sohn.
All of these artists have a very clean and well recorded presentation, so I can easily decipher where the fault lies when listening.
The first and most obvious change from the Holo to the T+A was the Bass! Wow… I’ve been wondering where the slam and punch has been in these Wilson’s.. I have tried many solutions to pull the clean bass I love out of this set up. I was getting there, but this DAC has me all the way there!
Secondly, it’s got to be the clarity of the vocals. Yes, the Holo Audio is amazing in this regard, no doubt. However, this new DAC has taken the clarity and intelligibility of lyrics to a new level. Its also responsible for revealing small details in tracks that I know VERY well to a new level. There are several tracks from an artist named “Tusks” where lyrics are amazing but sometimes feel a bit mumbled and there are ambient sounds all around you. This DAC pulled out sounds and echoes that I never noticed before, and those mumbles are easier to understand as actual words! Mind you the speakers and speaker cable’s I use are incredibly good at revealing detail. This DAC has exposed new details I was unaware of, which is one of the things I love about this expensive hobby.
Next, it’s got to be the widening of the soundstage. The sweet spot in my room has been pretty limited since I installed the Holo Audio DAC. The sound has been amazing, but I do need to make sure I’m dead center to get the whole experience.
The T+A has broadened the soundstage and made it (sorry) more holographic. I hear better separation of sounds and it makes the listening more engaging, while allowing me to sit off center and still enjoy a great listening experience (yes dead center is still the best, but now I can have a friend sit next to me and we enjoy the same experience!)
The burn in process continues, and I do notice small improvements when I go downstairs to check in after a whole day of burn time. So I expect to hear more details as the hours pass.
Another key point to mention, is that many times when I hear a “cleaner” more revealing system, it comes at the expense of annoying high frequency glare from cymbals or female vocals. The kind of stuff that can drive you nuts and force you to turn the volume down. Thus far, I have not experienced this with the new DAC. This was something I did experience with the Holo Audio at times and figured it was just a poor recording situation.
Interestingly, I went back and forth between the AES and USB connection between my transport and the DAC, and the difference was subtle at best. With the Holo Audio, I much preferred the AES connection to the USB. I think I still prefer the AES connection at this point. I do not stream content from a PC as many do.
Mind you, in the end I have absolutely no dog in this fight. I would have gladly accepted that the Holo Audio DAC was “just as good” and happily retrieved my $7,000.00 dollars from my dealer. I have 45 days to return this new T+A DAC…. But it appears that the new DAC is staying in the setup, unless something changes drastically in the negative direction.
One observation that I did notice that I think the Holo does more consistently is pull vocals forward, which I like. With some tracks I did notice that T+A presented voices a bit further back with instruments. It was weird, because on some tracks the voices were up front and almost startling in how real they presented themselves. So it’s not an across the board experience. Not a huge deal, but it was observed.
From a more personal taste perspective, I absolutely LOVE the look of this DAC in my system. I think T+A did a great job with the fit and finish. The dial is made out of Aluminum! YES!.. the dial is not plastic, nor are the buttons. The set-up menu was super easy to navigate. This is a super high quality piece of gear, much like the Holo Audio DAC.
I know people will say “but you only have the Spring DAC 3 KTE, not the MAY”. This is true, so I can only say that you will need to speak with others who have made that comparison (and ignore those who say the Holo is better with no real expereince hearing both side by side). This mini review is intended for those who have the same set up as I do and are on the fence as to which way to go as they contemplate the upgrade path.
As I continue the break in process, I will share updates if warranted.
thanks for the review. I have the May KTE Dac and love it (also have the Serene KTE pre). I spent the past couple years experiencing a lot of great dacs (PS Audio, Lampizator, SW1X, Denafrips Terminator, Berkeley Alpha, etc....), but when I got the May my search ended. However, I am interested in this T+A and might contact my dealer to see if they'll let me audition it at home. I'm also curious to hear the new PS Audio DS mkII. Keep your comments coming, very interesting!
I have owned, in order, the May KTE, Lampi Baltic 3, and the T+A Dac 200. Never really got along with the May KTE - just bland compared to the vivid sound of the Baltic 3. Thought I would stick with Lampizator for good. But I got excited about the DAC 200 due to the built in quality volume control/preamp. I think that @blisshifi has summed up the differences accurately. The Lampi might have a bit bolder tone at times and is a bit more forward (both likely due to the tubes) but the T+A beats it in most other regards and is just a superb device. Great weight, density, imaging, separation, and most importantly not fatiguing. Build quality is also no contest - one of my pet peeves with Lampi. Lampi still a great sounding device nonetheless.
Just revisting this post to see whats new. So glad to see others are having the same positive experince as I'm having with the T+A DAC 200. I now have over 100 hrs on the new DAC and the listening experince has only gotten more detailed, More dynamic and incredibly well controled! Every type of music I play through this DAC, is amazing. I finally have a DAC that can play everything from Classical to TOOL! Another level was achieved when I upgraded my AES cable from the already good Kimber Kable Orchid cable to the Synergistic Research Level Three AES cable. I have absolutley no desire to look at another DAC, I'm done.
Did you ever do the comparison of the 200 to the Bricasti? I currently have the M3 and I am thinking about the PS Audio DS Mk2 or the 200. I am not unhappy with the Bricasti and should probably have my head examined, but here we are.
Anyone else want to comment on a comparison of these three?
I have not. I still might but I've been told I'd need to step up to the M12 to compete. My taste doesn't always coincide with more expensive is better so I'm not 100% convinced. I'll probably go visit the dealer soon and bring my DAC and listen to a handful of different ones. I still occasionally listen to my Teac NT-505 and realize I could easily still live with it and love it. The Bricasti was so similar to me, just slightly more refined.