Review DB Audiolabs Tranquility DAC

Category: Digital

Tranquility USB DAC
Well, I have been using my tranquility usb dac for over a year now and I just wanted to post how pleased I am with it. My set up has the dac paired with a mac mini with my music files on a firewire connected external hard drive. The mac is headless and I use an ipod touch to control everything. Redwine Audio Signature 30.2 provides the amplification into OHM Walsh speakers.
To my ears, this is a great sounding combination that is incredibly user friendly to use. I have used itunes for the majority of listening time but recently I started experimenting with Pure Music and Fidelia. Both sound slightly better than Itunes to my ears, and the latter is becoming my favorite with its great interface. As others have posted, the tranquility dac has a very liquid midrange and excellent sweet top end. Soundstage in my system is deep, wide, and layered. From time to time, I have compared the dac directly to my Marantz SA8260 SACD player and I always prefer the tranquility dac. It also replaced an MN24 tube dac which I also thought was a very good sweet sounding dac.
My experience with DB Audiolabs has been very good. I was one of the early purchasers of the dac and Eric was quick to respond to my questions about the dac and how best to set it up for optimal sound. Recently, one of the channels on the dac went out of balance and I had to send the dac back to DB Audiolabs for service. I have to say they were very responsive. I received instructions from Eric about shipping on the same day I emailed him about the problem. The dac was returned to me within a week, repaired and making great music once again. I have been tempted to trade up to the SE version, but for now, I am happy with what I hear via the standard dac. I keep thinking how much better can it get when it seems that it is excellent now? Anyway for the near future, I am focused on expanding my music collection and trying out the ever expanding array of MAC player software that seems to be coming out each day. What a great time for computer audio.
I agree completely with your comments about the Tranquility DAC and my experience with Eric and everyone associated directly with dbaudiolabs. They are very interested in helping Tranquility users make the most of their DAC and related systems.

I must admit that when the first accolades for the Tranquility appeared on Audiogon I was very, very skeptical, and if you look, you will find my generalized disbelief regarding the various testimonials. Much later, a Tranquility came available on the 'gon used, and I bought it. Was I ever surprised. Surprised and genuinely humbled. The first thing I did after listening to it for a few days was to call Eric Hider and apologize for my published bad attitude toward Tranquility users/reviewers and my comments directed toward the various testimonials here and elsewhere about the DAC. In fact, if you are one of those who received my harsh skepticism, I offer my apology here, right now. I couldn't have been farther from the truth making those remarks.

All I can say to you is... when you can afford to do so, get a Tranquility SE model... just as you were very pleased and surprised by the basic model, I think you will be very pleased with the SE version. When I received mine, it was a considerable surprise to the upside in all respects. I was, quite literally, astonished, and even though I've had it for several months, particular passages on particular tracks absolutely amaze me with its sound stage, point sourcing, musicality, detail, and general pleasure. I have a very high annoyance level with sibilance, and unless the recording is a poor one, the Tranquility minimizes that irritant, not by suppression, but by extension.

And I agree, Pure Music is a perfect partner with the Tranquility. Also, I strongly suggest buying the very best USB cable possible (Ridge Street Audio as well as dbaudiolabs come to mind) as well the best power cable you can afford (I have a RSA Poiema!!! on my SE). I also recommend the Oyen peripheral MiniPro HD with a 2010 MacMini... quite a synergy overall.

Thanks for starting this thread, as I hope that other Tranquility owners will step up and share their opinions and experience.

:) listening,

I just posted this on AudioCircle and I thought I post it here as well:

Asynchronousity...? The QB-9 vs. the SE

I had an interesting experience recently. I had a chance to pick up a slightly used Ayre QB-9 DAC at a very fair price. Having read many positive reviews on the Ayre and the "obvious" benefits of asynchronous technology, I bought the QB-9 so I could compare it head-to-head with my Tranquility SE. After about 8 weeks of A/B comparison, the Tranquility SE emerged the clear winner.

We (my wife and I) would be hard pressed to single out any aspect of the QB-9's presentation that we preferred over the SE. I don't know, perhaps the bass was a tiny bit more articulate? But we preferred the SE in every respect. Overall, we both felt that the SE had a far more organic nature. I don't know how else to explain it. My wife said the Ayre, while very good, very accurate, sounded like a "computer"; too clinical. I could not disagree.

To be honest, I bought the QB-9 expecting that I would prefer it to the SE, which is why I held on to it for 2 months! I actually wanted to prefer the QB-9. I felt that the Ayre's ability to handle hi-rez files and the fact that it was an asynchronous DAC would surely make it the better choice. But every time I placed the SE back in the rack it was an effort to listen critically. I found that I'd tend to end the analysis and start enjoying the music. The SE exhibited more air in its presentation, better imaging, cleaner and clearer highs and that fabled Tranquility mid-range. It is both liquid and detailed in nature. Note that the SE took 100's of hours to get to this point. I've never experienced a longer break-in or more profound metamorphosis in any piece of equipment I've owned.

When I finally decided it was time to part with the Ayre, I received the usual "why are you selling" inquiries from interested parties. Whereby I would explain my impressions and experience with the Ayre vs. the Tranquility, HiFace, modded HiFace and a CA 840C I used to own. It's interesting that the gentleman who bought my QB-9 could not fathom the idea that any DAC lacking asynchronous technology could possibly sound better than an asynchronous unit!

But then again... that was me... roughly 2 months ago.
I've only had a Tranquility for about a month, i bought an open box dac from db audio during a recent audiocircle sale. Even though this is my 1st dac (recovering vinyl junkie) i'm blown away at the performance. I really didn't think this is how it would be.

For many, many years i pursued vinyl cuz it sounded great, and got me deeper into the music...into the recordings. The sound produced from my new Mini + Tranquility DAC is astounding & trounces my best analog set up. Songs i've heard a thousand times now sound like Master recordings, like some special version. this level of playback for a vinyl rig would be quite expensive.

At some point i'll pay for the SE upgrade, but i'm in no hurry.

Eric with DB audio has been great.