MHDT Istanbul vs Orchid

There are many discussions on Orchid, but there are only a few on Istanbul. Therefore I want to post my experience when comparing them.

First and foremost, they are more alike than different. They are from the same family, using almost the same design and components. You won't be surprive when they have the same MHDT signature sound. You cannot go wrong from either of them.
I am a fan of MHDT, I had Havana back in the day, and also had balanced Havana. One can say that Havana made MHDT famous. Istanbul is the sutble evolution of Havana. Havana --> Stockholm --> Stockholm 2 --> Istanbul. Every time, it improved a little bit over the previous generation. Why do I like MHDT signature sound? It is hard to explain. If I have to explain in words, I would say silky smooth, less digital, and it conveys the romantic of music, similar to the experience of vinyl. In addition, it plays ALL music well. I mean all, even not audiophile standard music. I had tried some hi-end DACs, they are very 'accurate', and good for high standard or audiophile records. But I can't bear it with so-so recorded music. In the end, I don't want to limit myself to listen to only a few audiophile records.

Back to Istanbul and Orchild comparison, I have not emphasize enough they are more similar than different. Actually I wonder, the differences of changes tubes may have more effects than the differences between these two DACs. I would say Orchild has a little bit more details, and a bit more natural, but Istanbul is a bit more musical and romantic. I like both. But if I have to pick, I compared them in two different systems, and I like each one for different reasons.

In my bedroom system, I sit very close to my speakers (Cabasse Feralla 401), 3 ft away without peramp, I like Orchild more. It has more details, and I like it more, because it presents music more natural and real in the very close distance listening.

In my main system, I sit 24 ft away from my speakers (KEF Reference 203) with Freya+ preamp. I like Istanbul more. Because of sitting far away from the speakers and no acoustic treatment in the room, I don't hear the edge of details from Orchild. While I feel more of the music from Istanbul, it presents music more musically and romantically in that setting.

For the reference, I had the perfect score in measurement RME-ADI-2 DAC. It is a very good modern DAC. It can do anything, and did many things quite well. If you have it with PC, upsample all the files to DSD and play, it sounds very good. But I sold it, because a) I don't use many of its features, b) even it is accurate, but I just enjoy music more with MHDT.

i have both (and stockholm 2 also) ... the tube choice is more shaping of the sound than the two dacs themselves using the same tube

6sn7 and 6dj8 adapters are important to widen the choice

rme sounds robotic compared to mhdt musicality, to my ears...
I had been using a Border Patrol DAC SEi for about a year or so, and I loved it and had no urge to change - until I picked up an Istanbul on a whim, because I had always wanted to try an MHDT unit and the price couldn’t be beat. Well, the Border Patrol got sold the next week and I haven’t looked back.

The Istanbul is a real sleeper in the MHDT line, and it’s strange it doesn’t get more attention. I have been astonished at how good it is. It resolves just enough detail to distinguish it from a more rolled off unit like the Border Patrol, but it never gets into the edgy territory I often experience with "modern" sounding DACs. I find it extremely holographic and, as you say, romantic sounding, but without losing air and detail. I absolutely love it.

I installed the 5670 to 6922 adapter and rolled a 1970 Siemens E88CC/6922, which gave it a little more flavor and bite. Great combo, I highly recommend doing this.
Nice post @ccheung. I had a good long look at both before ordering the Pagoda. Ultimately, the Pagoda’s ability to output 24/192 without decimation was the deciding factor for me. If I were in need of another DAC I wouldn’t hesitate making another MHDT purchase and it would likely be the Istanbul.

The Istanbul is a real sleeper in the MHDT line, and it’s strange it doesn’t get more attention.

I feel the same way about the Pagoda. Funny, it seemed after a couple of good reviews the Orchid quickly became the darling of their line. It’s too bad in a sense because their other DACs seem largely ignored, and they shouldn’t be. Love mine.