Which DACs are known to be sweet/rich/relaxed?

System is nicely transparant and detailed, but tends to get bright and harsh with certain (rock) recordings and at higher volume levels.

Nudge the system towards a sweeter, richer, more relaxed presentation.

Proposed solution / first step
Upgrade to a (tube based) DAC, budget $25-40k.

Current chain

  • ROON Nucleus
  • Mola Mola Tambaqui
  • Gryphon Essence pre amp
  • Gryphon Essence monoblocks
  • Focal Stella Utopia EVO
  • Full loom of Triode Wire Labs cables
  • Dedicated power line straight into Puritan PSM156 mains filter
  • System resides in the living room with some diffusors but no absorption other than sofas, chairs, and some rugs.

On my radar
Lampizator Pacific (or Golden Gate 2 since I heard it's more "tube-like")
Aries Cerat Kassandra 2 Ref or Sig

— What other DACs should I consider?
— Do you think upgrading to another (tube based) DAC will achieve that sweeter, richer, more relaxed presentation?


My experience is that if you use a Nucleus or Nucleus+ as server & player, it tends to be mediocre.  Just as a server (which I assume is what you are doing with Mola Mola), it performs at a very high level.  The issue is the processor is too powerful to serve as a good player.  

Where I find there is significant improvement is if you introduce a master clock like what you see from Antipodes or clocking between server and DAC can be synchronized.  This happens with I2S connections or when there is a dedicated clock connection.  

My most common upgrade in servers is customers who go from a Roon Nucleus or Nucleus + to an Antipodes K50.  

You are on the right track with Aries Cerat or Lampizator.  Both are very, very good though I tend to like Aries Cerat better.  Personal taste though.  

The obvious other two options to me are the MSB Premier and the Playback Designs MPD-8 Dream DAC.  There is a slight sweetness to both with a complete lack of brightness/sibilance that is quite shocking and enjoyable.  

Theoretically, those four units should do the job and will all be a touch warmer than the Mola Mola while delivering the same of better levels of detail.  

@jriggy you are absolutely right, thanks for zooming in on that. I tried Nordost Valhalla 2 speakers cables and interconnects. Different but not per de better. Later I found out these cables are on the bright side.

also tried Tellerium Q, one level below top of the line but not interconnects. Sounded good but never pulled the trigger.

Any suggestions for cables that match well with the rest of my system? While keeping in mind my goal to make things a little smoother.

@verdantaudio thanks for your recommendations! Worth looking into.

I however don’t understand you remark about using a Nucleus as a server & player vs. just as a server. I don’t have local files, I play/stream from Tidal using Roon. My Nucleus is connected to a wireless access point with an ethernet cable. And my Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC is also connected to that same access point with an ethernet cable. I don’t use USB.

What makes you prefer the Aries Cerat (Kassandra?) over the Lampizator (Pacific)?

@audphile1 I don’t use USB. Nucleus and Tambaqui are both connected to the same wireless access point via ethernet. Cables are just 2-3 feet long.

I have not used the stock power cords. The Triode Wire Labs power cords I have, The Obsession, is supposed to be quite good.