I had auditioned many very good sounding DACS, this history can be reviewed on my thread, Reference DACS: An overall perspective, before finally settling on the Accustic Arts DAC1-MK3 for the last year in my system.
I then became aware recently that the designers of Accustic Arts had been working on for the last year a totally new DAC that would be the first to use an upsampling rate of 66/1536! Accustic Arts is a German company and you can see the craftsmanship in the build quality of the MK4. My MK3 was very much a reference piece for me, it's performance was terrific across the board, as I shared when I posted a review here on the GON last year. However, I was quite curious/excited to find out what this totally new design would offer in comparsion to its older sibling in the Accustic Arts stable.
I prefer not to spend alot of time sharing details regarding the technical aspects of the piece I'm reviewing because you can go to the manufacturer's
website and gather those aspects on your own. As I stated above, the quality of the German engineering can easily be seen in the visual beauty of the MK4.
On to the most important part of any review, what was the sonic performance of the piece being auditioned. So here it is.
1) The MK4 developed the largest soundstage I have ever heard in my system. It also offered wonderful natural layering on this "stage" with air around each individual player. Not a "HIFI" perspective, but a very three dimensional portrayal of the players in real space.
2) Timbres are very important to me because I mostly listen to acoustic Jazz. The MK4 offered more lifelike timbres then the MK3, which was pretty damn good at this in its own right.
3) The top end offered more "air" and even greater details that allowed my MG-20's ribbon tweeter's to really sing.
4) Microdynamics and decay trails were more easily heard because of the total transparency/clarity that the MK4 has to offer.
5) The MK4 has a much improved sense of slam/macrodynamics over the MK3.
In my system this extraordinary DAC offered many of the virtues of details/clarity/dynamics that I have heard in other great digital front ends, like Meitner,Ensemble,Esoteric, with the musicality/organic/natural "flavor" of the non-upsampling references such as Audio Note and Zanden. It's the best synthesis I have heard with my own ear's so far. I'm not saying this is the best DAC in the entire world of reference digital front ends, but deserves to be put on that praiseworthy list now. It's a great piece and I hope that other Gon members will have a chance to audition it as more become available in the near future here in the states. Associated gear Click to view my Virtual System