SPL Diamond - Review

I have had the pleasure of having the SPL Diamond in the house for a couple of weeks now and I must admit that I have fallen in love with it’s seductive sound in spite of the lack of remote control capability even for the volume. Before we dive into the details let me digress.

I was talking to John over at JM Audio Editions about how to tune my XTC 2.5’s he was building for me, which are amazing by the way. We settled on linear, detailed and slightly on the warm side - just the way I like it. I then asked him what he thinks about the LSA HP-1’s that I have, which have gotten glowing reviews. He responded that he was not a big fan. When pressed he opined that they are not “organic” sounding. I was puzzled. What may this organic sound be? When I received my XTC 2.5’s I think I understand what he meant. It is that illusive, seductive timbre that sucks you into the music. It is more of a sensation than a sound. It is soothing and lets you listen for hours just wanting more.

I am going to take a little different approach to this so rather than trying to describe the performance of the Diamond by endless descriptions of how certain songs sound I will try to describe it in terms of some other DAC’s I own and also love for various reasons.

Hegel HD30 - The most dynamic DAC I can think of with a dynamic range of 150db. It throws a huge sound stage with wonderful natural sound. A true reference DAC.

Benchmark DAC2 & 3 - The pro heritage is evident. Detailed and analytical, while still maintaining musicality.

Bel Canto DAC 2.7 & 3.7 - As one audiophile friend put it they are the most musical and analog sounding DAC’s. Some may call the sound on the lush side. People who love them usually have several the sound can be that seductive - me included.

So how does the Diamond fit into this venerable bunch? It borrows a little from each. It takes the dynamics from the Hegel and combines it with the pro heritage of the Benchmark while borrowing a little of that musicality and analog sound from the Bel Canto. It all adds up to a silky smooth, dense analog sound with amazing dynamics or something one may call “organic”. Linear, detailed and slightly on the warm side - just the way I like it.

Combine the Diamond with a SPL Performer amp and you may never look back. It is worth the walk to adjust the volume.


Here is the system it was in:

Auralic Aries G1


SPL Performer S800

SPL Phonitor XE

Acoustic Zen Adagio

2 X Anthony Gallo Classico 12” Subs

Custom braided Western Electric 1970’s new old stock interconnects and speaker cables


I had to read all the way to the middle of your review to find out that you were talking about DACs. Not everyone is verse in all these names that you alluded to. But I am still not clear on your insistence that you control the volume through the DAC. Don’t you have a preamplifier?  The DACs that I have used (Marantz NA11S1, Nuprime Evolution, LUMIN X1) don’t have a volume control either. 

I use the outstanding pre-amp in the DAC. With its 135db dynamic range you would be hard pressed to find a pre-amp that can keep up except maybe the Benchmark. The volume has to be controlled manually. 

I have the SPL Phonitor 2 for a preamp and Gold Note PA-10 GaN class A amplifiers in bridged mode and I am in heaven. SPL is often overlooked, great German engineering. 

I am told by Will and Stef, their new North American team in Montreal, that they are coming out with a full size line that will allow them to cater to us audiophiles even better with more input/output options and I am told even higher levels of sound quality - hard to imagine how it gets much better, at least to my ears. Got to know them well solving an issue I had with one of my units. They have now taken everything in house rather than being represented by Focal-Naim so after sales service and support is excellent. 

Trying to think of another way to describe their house sound it would be reminiscent of combining the characteristics of a tube amplifier with a high end Class D amp that has insane dynamics. 

Thanks - it was not hard! Not so sure about the spoon in a honey jar reference they make in regard to the volume knob though! It does the job. 😎

The preamp in the spl is not that good , on any good preamp it has either a good resistor ladder ,or relay control forthe volume attenuator ,

the $20 Alps blue velvet is the cheapest way you can get, it’s a silver round can 

with 2 plastic wipers and a conductive spray on the wipers,you are robbed of a lot of detail   
vs a true Quality separate preamp ,or a dac with analog preamp built in with volume mentioned above , same goes for passive preamps ,built in .

I am just saying the truth , even spl separate preamps the same low quality Alps volume pot , for the money Linear TubeAudio , or even the Schiit freya+ preamp

are solid low cost tube  preamps , which too would be a plus .

a Solid state amp,Vacuum tube preamp is a classic combo. 

Here is a perfect example of why a Quality preamplifier is needed  as well as a High Quality volume attenuator is needed this is a spl preamp very good until you get to the $20 Alps volume pot ,Being in Audio ,having owned a Audio store and modding for many years Why would you go through all that then take a short cut to cut costs and ultimately your resolution ? Prima Luna does this too on a $5k preamp totally makes no sense ,IHave worked with some of the best electronics engineers in the business ,I just wanted to point this out ,


@spenav    +1
People who use abbreviations, acronyms, or incomplete descriptions of what they are talking about eg. SPL Diamond (Spl Diamond what?), XTC 2.5 what?, are totally inconsiderate of the reader.  All it takes is having the initial reference name or acronym written in full or defined for the reader to understand.  After this full description, abbreviations can be freely used. This is not Twitter with a length limitation.  The reference must be typed out.  
Some who do not give the initial full descriptive meaning are either oblivious to the needs of their readers, don’t care that their readers do not instantly know what they are discussing, or enjoy a sense of faux superiority over those who can not instantly read their minds.
The readers on this platform and most social platforms have an extremely wide range of knowledge about the topics discussed.  Some are just starting their learning journey and others have over 50 years of dedicated experience.  At the very minimum, topics need to be discussed in a manner that all can comprehend. IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) this is just common sense. 

Hello I am just giv8ng you a absolute viewpoint from a technical electronics viewpoint. For sure  it can still sound good ,I was just pointing out short comings in the design theyshould not have done just to save $$monies .

as I stated many times speaking with companies and engineers having owned a Audio store Electrons and Loudspeakers on average only 25% of the cost actually goes into the product including packaging ,the rest R&D overhead and markup.

that’s why youhave Modwright or other design modifications to improve upon the design with higher parts quality in key area. 
in Loudspeakers which I have been modding over 20 years the Xover even in $25k 

speakers the inductors are usually pretty good but $3 resistors when you can use 

world class Path audio, or Mundorf Ultra resistors which are $30 retail $15 their cost , and many use the cheaper mid grade Mundorf Evo capacitors which are white ,when in fact their best are their Black Supreme line , Why to save monies $$ 

there are many better parts to use ,and most never even compare many capacitors
Tony Gee of Humble homemade hifi capacitor test helped me  20 years ago 

and is a great Loudspeaker designer .

There should be a rule, as many others have expressed, that you cannot comment, good or bad, on a specific component unless you have actually spent some serious listening time with it.