Reference DACS: An overall perspective

There has been many threads the last few months regarding the sonic signature of some of the highest regarded reference DACS (Dcs,Meitner,Ensemble,Audio Note,Zanden,Reimyo,Accustic Arts) here on the GON. I have been very fortunate to audtion many of these wonderful pieces in my home or friend's systems. I wanted to share, in a systematic way, my impressions/opinions with you GON members for a two reasons: 1)That my experiences might be helpful to fellow members interested in audtioning these DACS. 2)Starting an interesting discussion regarding the different "sonic flavors" of these reference digital front ends. I totally agree with the statement, "if you have not heard it you don't have an opinion". Therefore, I have no comments regarding DACS from Weiss,Goldmund,Audio Aero and Burmester because I have never had the pleasure of audtioning them. I would love to hear from members who have and share their experiences with us. My overall impression is that these DACS(Dcs,Meitner,Ensemble,Audio Note,Zanden,Reimyo,Accustic Arts) can be grouped into two molar categories regarding their overall sonic signature. By the way, all of them can throw a large/deep soundstage with excellent layering in the acoustic space with "air" around individual players on that stage. However, than they start to part company into two major categories. Category #1) These DACS "flavors" revolve around pristine clarity, fine sharp details,speed,very extended top/bottom frequencies,and great PRAT. These DACS never sound "etched" or "in your face" but are more "upfront" then "layed back" in their presentation. The DACS, to my ear's, that go into this bracket are Dcs,Ensemble,Meitner. My personnal favorite in this group is the Ensemble, which I owned for two years. These DACS remind me of the sonic signature of speakers such as Wilson,Thiel,Dynaudio, Focal/JM Labs. Category #2) These DACS "flavors" revolve around a "musical/organic" sense, natural timbres,and an easy flowing liquidity. Their "less forward" presentation my give the impression of less detail, but I think in this case its an illusion fostered by their more relaxed/organic manner. The DACS, to my ear's, that go into this bracket are Audio Note,Zanden,Reimyo,Accustic Arts. I did find that the tube DACS did not have the top/bottom frequency extenstion and PRAT of the SS DACS in this bracket. For me, the Accustic Arts DAC1-MK3 gave me the best of both categories, therefore it is now the resident DAC in my system. These DACS remind me of the sonic signature of speakers such as Magnepan,Von Schweikert,Sonus Faber. Well, it's all just my opinion regarding these digital pieces, but I hope this post was at least informative/somewhat interesting and would lend itself to other GON members sharing their impressions, not about what DAC is the "BEST" in the world, but your personnal taste and synergy with your system.
How would mating a Accustic Arts Dac 1 Mk4 with a ML 31.5 transport work out? Is this a good combo? The ML reclocks the bits to eliminate jitter as does the Accustic Arts Drive 2 according to the descriptions. Would each component lose some performance because they are met to team up with each mfg.'s complimentary component?
I will be able to tell you how the following combos compare in my system in a couple of weeks:

1. Accustic Arts Dac 1 Mk4 with a ML 31.5
2. Accustic Arts Dac 1 Mk4 with a Accustic Arts Drive 1 mk2
Exlibris, have you received your JISCO re-clocker yet? I'm looking forward to your comments on how it performs with the Zanden dac.
Sabertouch, at one time I had the ML-31.5 as my reference transport, but it was replaced by an Ensemble reference because it offered better performance in my system. However, the ML-31.5 is still a great transport and very competitive with other transports on the market today.

My hunch is that the ML-31.5 with the Accustic Art DAC-1 MK4, will sound very good indeed. However, in my system the Accustic Arts DAC-1 MK4 with the new Accustic Arts Drive 1-MK2 offered a higher level of refinement/synergy then with my Ensemble transport. I believe Accustic Arts mainly came out with the Drive-1 MK2 in order to get the ultimate performance out of their new reference DAC.

It will be interesting to see what Exlibris experience will be in his system.
I did receive it and it is wonderful. It did everything for the Zanden that it did for the Attraction DAC. Everything sounds fuller, deeper, and more spacious. It isn't a matter of flavour, it just sounds more right and more real.
It is my belief that getting the timing right in the digital domain (reducing jitter) will lead always lead to these attributes. I believe that the thinness and lack of bottom end in many digital products is largely the result of jitter.
A couple of very critical listeners who are vinyl aficionados have heard my system through its various progressions and right now they really like what they hear.

I fully agree with your hunch.