Review: VALAB 8x TDA1543 NOS DAC DA converter

Category: Digital

I have had my NAD C541i CDP for a few years and have modded the output with upgraded caps and opamps. The presentation =has a good amount of oomph and presence. It is still a bit congeseted and smaller in display vs the vinyl front end. So I researched what a 'vinyl' sounding dac might be and found the VALAB 8x TDA1543 NOS dac.

The 8x paralled NOS DAC was reported to have a very analog or vinyl like presentation and at $180 it was not too much of a risk to ebay it from Taiwan.

All music is up for play, classical, jazz, small band /w vocals, whatever. Gotta have bass, can forgive a non-extended topend if the midrange is a real winner.

I have had this product for a day. Too soon for a review? If break-in will make things only better then this is low end of the curve. And is it any good?

The show went from congested to open in less than an hour. Vocals are eerily pleasantly realer. The biggest change, especially in regards to HDCD, is that the propulsive impact is lessened. It is not as lush as HDCD but lusher than CD. It hits the 'mean.' HDCD discs are more open and relaxing. Redbook CDs lose their staid congestion and open up. New CDs are represented with all the bass they can pack. Nice bass when it is on the recording. Less sparkly topend vs the teflon caps I was going through but the topend is calmer and more cohesive.

The whole presentation is more relaxed with more air around instruments. Previously I was hit with an impact from the sound that I did like but was strong with it's come on. Now you get more than a wave of impact. What I am hearing is more detail served up with ease. No edge. No over the top energy. There is nuance to vocals, etc.

I could go on and on.

The VALAB ebay seller is a fast shipper. My DAC got here within a week from Taiwan. Packing was humble but sufficient to protect the DAC from any hard. Several wraps of bubble wrap with styrofoam pads at four sides.

There are several of these type DACs being built on the market but the VALAB looks to be the best thought out. The heatsink is sorely needed as the TDA chip will distort when hot. Nice to see Russian PIO caps for coupling. The output caps are Electrolytics and maybe switching to Blackgates is something to think about but the sound is so good as is I think I will leave this one piece of equipment all alone.

The big convincer for me here is that this little DAC beat HDCD and I thought that would be the acid test.


Associated gear
Hagerman Clarinet
conrad-johnson SA250 sonographe
Paradigm Reference Studio 100v2
Gadfly - see my review on the Keces 151. Different DAC but really spectacular.

But I love the idea of I2S so I've got one of these on the way. Looking forward to having some fun A/Bing!

Just think - one costs 50% more then the other LOL
Now Valab has a newer version that I may try one day. Can't go wrong for the money.
I have this DAC (Dec 08 version) and in my system, beat the Bel Canto DAC3 in terms of musicality. The DAC 3 was full of details and top end energy but lacking in mid range warmth and tone, thereness w/o edgy highlight.

Now I am burning in the 2009 model w/ upgraded board. Check it out here:


I have had my Valab NOS DAC for a couple of weeks now and it is very detailed and accurate. It is 2:30 in the morning and I am playing a lot od cd's and also playing a lot of ITune files. The unit is not fatiguing in the least.
I am very satified with my purchase. It leaves me in a quandry over whether to use it or the MF Trivista, I really like the USB port on the Valab, and now miss it on the TriVista.
Bypass the output caps with some .22uf film caps such as the Abbligato then sit back and laugh at the high priced stuff. Make sure to burn it in for 180 hours.
Really ? This will be my first attempt at swapping out discrete components in any audio equipment. I was a scope dope years ago and have built Dynaco Pat systems years ago. Would you be able to provide a good source for some Abbligatos, or perhaps suggest something equivalent or superior to them?
If it wouldn't be too much of an imposition, may I ask for a little help in the installation of them also? It's been years and I am more than rusty.
In any case - THANKS for the tip.
Can someone verify the Obbligato capacitor that was mentioned i this thread? When I found a picture of the Valab DAC Obbligato mod, it looked more like an oil film cap instead of the .22uf cap mentioned.

Can anyone suggest a source for the correct caps also?
I sometimes forget I am listening to digital....

Mod info is at this link. Everything you need to know...

I have replaced the output coupling caps on my early version of the 09 model. I will be doing more soon....
I own the early 2009 version and couldn't be any happier. Mine replaced a Paradisea +.