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.
 

 

128x128Ag insider logo xs@2xtoro3

@bhvf

LTA used to use and sell the MHDT DAC’s, which are great for the money.

Yup, I remember this.

Me trying to make connections while daydreaming at work: I’d be curious if MHDT was consulted at one point of the process. From the PTA article:

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.

And taking it further, I’d be curious if there were similarities in sound signature to some of MHDTs historical offerings, but with a little more speed. From the product page:

After trying various options, we chose the Analog Devices AD1865 R2R DAC chip, which is sometimes called the “vinyl DAC,” for its organic sound.

The preorder is definitely something to think about. February is right around the corner.

Great thread ....  I was looking at the LTA web site and it appears you are able to preorder their Aero DAC for February delivery.  I can't wait to hear the reviews early next year on this DAC from fellow forum members.  

I agree with @decooney that it depends on your preamp and amp… for me adding the last piece (tube DAC) absolutely sent my system over the top good. Since my preamp and amp were already Audio Research tube equipment the synergy with an Audio Research tube DAC was simply spectacular.

When you are dealing with different companies “house sound” you can have a problem of consecutive subtraction (this is the way I look at it… it may not be an accurate reflection of the world). Let’s say your DAC is a bit forward and lacking in bass, and you match it with a preamp that is warm (a positive combo), meaning it is a bit soft on top and accentuates the midrange, and finally you combine with a amp with great treble and bass. The combination may sound good tonally, but the amp cannot amplify bass that did not come from the DAC, and the amp isn’t getting the treble and bass the preamp didn’t send. so each piece of equipment is acting like a filter.

OK, it is more complicated than that… but this still points to why mixing and matching components is so hard. However, if you find a company that has the house sound you love… then each of their components will be “tuned” the same… no loss or shifting of characteristics between components. A straight path to the signal.

This explains why dropping the Audio Research DAC in between my Audio Reseach preamp and amp was so very synergistic and was not for @decooney.

When many of us old farts got into high end audio there was synergy in getting the very best amp (for me Threshold ((Pass))) and the best preamp (for me Audio Research)… and a phono stage. So, this started the… best of class choosing. It goes on today… but I bet very often to the detriment of the audiophile. Today, companies like Audio Research, Boulder, dCS, Conrad Johnson, and others have a design teams with very specific goals. Note I did not mention Pass… they make spectacular amps. My feeling… and maybe it is is just me… but still do not produce preamps to the level of their amps.

 

So, I think my thought is, if you can find a company that has the house sound you love, you can save yourself a lot of trouble by getting all your components from them and then climbing the ladder.

 

I tend to believe the choice to (tube or not) in your DAC can also depend on what you are using for your preamplifier and amplifier.  

In my case with a tube preamplifier and mono tube amplifiers in my primary system, also having a tube in the direct signal path within my dac was a bit much.

Now, however, if I had a solid state preamplifier and/or solid state amplifier both, I'd potentially lean back towards a having a tube in the signal path of my dac.  

Currently I split the difference and went with a dac that has a different design - with a single tube in the power supply part of the dac rather that directly in the signal path.  The design offers the ability to switch the tube on/off too which prouduces a different type of sound in each mode.  

@roxy54  "

It's funny that they chose to name it Audio Aero as that name was previously the name of a French company that many audiophiles will still remember. I wonder if it's even legal."

 

Since the name of the company is Linear Tube Audio I don't see a problem calling the model Aero

 

I had the opportunity to hear the prototype of this DAC in my system months ago. I was very impressed by how analog-sounding it was, so very musical. I'm told it's been tweaked and improved since then. I can't describe it as a tube DAC since the Berning ZOTL output stage is so incredibly clear and transparent. The lack of traditional output transformers in this tube stage means crystal clear sound. Anyone who has heard an LTA amp knows what I mean. I am high on the list to buy this DAC so I will report further once I get my hands on it.

Just recently I replaced my Tubadour dac with a solid-state dac.Comparing them directly there was a little more detail but I could have remained happy with the Tubadour. I kept the Denafrips simply because already having tubed pre and amp it was one less pair of tubes to fuss over. The front end will remain stable and it is a  feeling of relief, if that makes sense.After needing to replace my transport I was motivated to try a new dac.The Jays transport was huge upgrade, more so than the dac.

I like LTA products and will be interested in how owners feel about the dac.

@hilde45 @soix @lalitk  I conquer with your assessments. 
 

m I always thought, a tube preamp is probably an appropriate place to add coloration, if at all. 

+2, @hilde45  one of the prime reason for me to not consider a tube DAC upstream. It’s a matter of choice as to how one choose to fine tune their system sound to their preferences. I always thought, a tube preamp is probably an appropriate place to add coloration, if at all. 

+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.

@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:

djones51

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.

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.

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.

I heard the Aero in two different rooms at CAF. Pure magic says I, who is luke warm at best to digital sound reproduction. Heard it twice in the Daedalus room which is a very familiar sound for me—excepting the new LTA monos which were new to my ears. Also in Clayton’s room, also sounding very analogue in terms of visceral engagement. Very promising debut!

It’s using the Analog devices 1865 Multibit dac chip 

one per channel would be optimum , Mojo audio take it to the limit 

on their upper dacs for comparisons  ,different topologies though 

ithought maybe LTA would offer Lundahl transformers like they do in their preamp 

as a option but guess not , Mojo does ,and uses the same Bellison regulator 

forgery clean power , for sure itwill be smooth and detailed , your choice of 6 sn7 

tubewill dictate some of its tonal balance ,since millions of these tubes were made .NOS, it should be interesting .

I heard it at CAF as well.  I thought the room sounded great, but like the poster above I can’t suss out the sound of the DAC apart from the system.  That said, the system sounded very musical to me.  Not harsh; no glare.  I could have stayed in the room enjoying the sound for a good long while. 

I own and know others with their products and great design mind of David Berning many times to assist in engineering . I f they are using Lundahl transformers 

then it would be very good ,but I am sure it will sound very musical 

tube output stage I would think .

Why not! I always held LTA in very high regard. Looking forward to end user feedback. I still got few vintage 6SN7 tubes in my stash. 

Better image below and further info from PTA:

I was on the hunt for the elusive new Linear Tube Audio Aero DAC that I learned about on Friday. I found one in the headphone area, and I put on some cans to listen. The DAC sounded clean, but headphones aren’t my primary listening mode so I couldn’t comment too much on the sound as all the gear was unfamiliar to me. But I definitely enjoyed the playlist from the headphone crowd as it was a departure form the typical two-channel rooms.

 

It's funny that they chose to name it Audio Aero as that name was previously the name of a French company that many audiophiles will still remember. I wonder if it's even legal.

I'm really interested also.  LTA used to use and sell the MHDT DAC's, which are great for the money. If that is the sound they like, this should be outstanding. I saw and heard it at CAF in Clayton Shaw's Caladan room. The amp was the only thing I'd heard before in there so no idea what influence the DAC had on the sound, which was quite good.