Linear Tube Audio Aero DAC

I would be extremely interested in how this sounds once released. Small write-up below from PTA below which can be found here:

I was on the hunt for the new Linear Tube Audio Aero DAC ($3,600) on CAF Day One and spoke with founder Mark Schneider. Mark explained that they really hadn’t intended on designing a DAC, but fate, technology, and a key supporting cast presented itself. With a steep learning curve, outside help, and alignment of the universe the Aero DAC was born. This R2R ladder DAC uses the ZOTL output stage, zero negative feedback, and isolated power rails. I’ll report more on how this reasonably priced tube DAC sounds in the Day 2 show report once I track it down.


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This is a very interesting entry into the DAC market. I have heard the Linear Tube Audio ZOTL Ultralinear+ amplifier and there's a clarity without harshness to that amp which is what I'd want in a DAC. I recently ditched my MHDT Orchid because I wanted more clarity from the source (I have tubes further down the chain), so I'm a bit reluctant to have tubes back in the source but if LTA is achieving the same clarity with this DAC as with their amps, then it might be a winner.

A friend who is an expert repair person and an audio equipment designer made an interesting comment about the details offered so far: "What they don't say makes me notice, there is no mention of how they are handling the USB input, only that it has one. The I/V converter with no resistors seems all but impossible to me. It says discreet, that's great but one cannot build a discreet transistor or tube circuit without them. I suspect they mean not using a resistor directly for I/V conversion, but how it's written sits poorly with me. It may sound great, I cannot say. Certainly it can't play high bit rate music, but most stuff is 16bit."
I can't pretend to understand the technical details of his question, but the fact he has them makes me curious.

@cetla416 I had modified my Orchid as well but when (thanks to @decooney ) I compared it to the Schiit Bifrost 2/64, I realized how much detail I was missing. This was not just a matter of a certain kind of tonality ("clear" or "shimmery" or "brighter") but rather one where the non-tube DAC actually was revealing notes and instruments I didn’t know where in the recording.

Of course, there are various views on this -- a lot depends on the actual DAC, how well it’s designed, parts quality, etc.

For me, this member comment ultimately rang the most true:


The question was, do tube dacs make sense, not can I buy a dac with a tube to distort the sound to my liking. The whole engineering concept of a DAC is to convert the digital to analog as precise without distortion as possible. From that perspective adding tubes and other filters to mess with the output makes no sense. If you want colorations, to me it makes more sense to buy a transparent dac for $200 and do the signal degradation with preamps or amps or EQ. It’s cheaper and in the OPs case it makes even less sense he’s already using a tube preamp

This is the direction I went. In short, I want my sources to provide the maximum amount of neutral information and I’ll season further on in the chain.

+1 @hilde45 Very well stated. In a similar vein I’ve also found I want my best and least colored cables more toward my source components and do more “shaping” of the sound more downstream. Like Linn says (heavily paraphrased), you can’t replace what’s not there in the first place. Makes sense to me.