MHDT Labs Orchid DAC review

Just thought I'd leave some notes on my experience with the. MHDT Labs Orchid DAC.
This is a DAC based on the well loved TDA1541a chip manufactured from 1988 to 1998. It is not a delta sigma chip. They are sought after and sell for good money for the preferred versions of the chip. Nostalgia or quality driven? 
I'd been using a bluesound node 2i for streaming. Integrated amp is a primaluna Evo 400 with kt150's. Speakers are IMF RSPM MARK IV.

I'd read lots of DAC reviews but decided I didn't want a DAC with multiple menus and modes and wanted to keep it simple. The Orchid has a tube buffered output so there's a little wiggle room there for hobbyist variation. I also decided to forego MQA even though I use tidal. The decision there, in part, was to stop obsessing over formats and bitrates and certifications. I just wanted a nice sounding robust system. 
Was the Orchid going to be a significant upgrade from the node? That was my greatest fear. 
The Orchid was twice the price of the node delivered to be in Australia.
Anyway, it arrived double boxed. No power cord (but any cord that fits a PC could do. Unless you want something special). It also came with ann optical cable and in my case a second valve (tube). The spare was a nice TESLA 6CC42 pinched waist. The was no instruction sheet but didn't really need one.
So, I fired it up..... The front face is perspex and on startup the input selector lights (inside the unit) can be seen flashing and cycling back and forth till the valve warms up. Then bingo it's right to go. 
Comparing old and new systems is like a dream. When you wake from a dream sometimes the details are so clear, but then as the minutes go by the details fade, memories disappear... slowly at first then quicker, until what seemed so clear is suddenly less than a shadow.
So it was with this new DAC. The differences to the node were at first obvious and substantial. Then as songs went by it grew more difficult to remember what came before.
However, my immediate feelings were this.
Listening to some well recorded female vocals ...Morning Sun - (Melody Gardot), then Love Song -(Melody Gardot) then followed with Kiss in Blue - (Yello) and Listening Wind (talking heads) then Over Fire Island -(Eno) and finally some Blue Nile and a few random tracks, The Frames, B52s, EBTG, Talk Talk, The The. 
The bass response was smoother and lower with the Orchid that the Node. The detail in the upper frequencies was cleaner. I was at one point gobsmacked by the pinpoint imaging and realism. I think it was during Love Song (cover by Melody) that I could sense that voice a few metres in front of me... right THERE. I could almost see her face, the imagined condensation from her breath as she sang into a microphone. There was something happening here that wasn't happening with the node (even though that sounded good). The Orchid really brought the artists into the the room. The subtleties are no doubt minute, but enough to bring the senses just that much more reality. At times my ears were pricked as I heard new details emerge. The speakers revealed instrument separation like the node couldn't do. Mind you the node is plenty good in my view. The beginning to Blind-Hearted by Sara K dug so deep I could feel the transmission line IMF's moving my insides. 
The musicality of the Orchid made me sit up from my slouch a few times. At one point I started to madly go from one well known track to another wanting to see what the Orchid could reveal. 
Slowly, as the songs played on I found it harder to remember the differences to the node. A new standard had been set. 

The Orchid is a nice looking DAC. No fancy display or menus but it's based on rock solid hardware and you won't spend forever wondering if you've got it in the right mode, setting, filter,  and won't be dazzled by bright lights or display. I like the simplicity. If I had too many choices I'd not relax and keep fiddling.
Turnn it on and off you go. I like it that way. 


@redwood What would you think is the lowest-price audiophile-grade streamer? Thanks.
The Orchid is a really nice entry into the world of digital music beyond the Sonos/Bluesound type gear (not that Bluesound is bad).  I recently took my DAC game to another level and moved the Orchid to a second system, but lived happily with it for quite a while.  It's detailed, but very easy to listen to.  I would not describe it as "rolled" off, it just doesn't have the "digital edge" that many DACs do, especially many of the ESS chip designs. 

Jiun is a prince.  I bought my Orchid 2nd hand and the USB connection wasn't working.  I contacted him about getting it repaired and he sent me a new board at no cost, even knowing that I was not the original owner.  If that's not standing behind your products, I don't know what is.  
Nice review. 
Most DACs will outperform the stock Node 2i. The ESS in my Parasound P6 (optical or coax) does a decent job, and easily sounds better then Node 2i. 
The charm of the Node is the simplicity and with some limitations, the app interface. 
Snd for what I use a streamer for, it’s not critical. 
Why settle for imitators like MHDT when the original is available: Audio Note?
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