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?


Audio Note DAC4.1x. They manufacture their internal components including C-core transformers and caps. 

The company is well represented in the Far East including HK, Singapore, and possibly Malaysia. Their philosophy is to test for  performance results and then adjust by listening to the components. That's why they don't have stellar measurements on the bench.

No affiliation, just an owner and a fan.

I would recommend an Aurender W20SE streamer… giving you a spectacular and natural / quiet input. Then an Audio Research Reference DAC9 or Reference CD9se. I own the later and had a Berkeley Reference Alpha DAC in my system for several weeks… the ARC was a touch warmer and pretty much just as detailed.


I have been a real fan of Audio Research preamps and phono stages. I just never thought of Audio Research as company that had a great DAC… until my dealer bright one over and said, “listen to this”. When I did… I sent him a message within a minute to order one for me.

These two changes will give you a world class natural sounding front end. I think that will improve every aspect while taking the edge off. If there is any residual brightness.. switch to Cardas Clear Beyond interconnects and particularly a Cardas power cord for your amp.


As I have gained more experience in what music actually sounds like and how to match components to reproduce the emotional connection as well as detail and slam I have moved step by step into more Audio Research tubed gear. I have been able to keep the detail and add the emotional connection (rhythm and pace, midrange bloom) to the music… even in the digital realm. So my digital end has the detail and soul of my great analog end.

I think your problem is the Focals. In the UK they are known to have a very bright signature sound. When Focal and Naim combined it was unfortunately not a good marriage from a Hi-Fi view - Naim has a very forward presentation and mixed with the Focal it makes for uncomfortable listening for many. If the Gryphon has this very detailed Naim sound then the amp-speaker combo you have will be the cause of the harsh top end.

I’ve had these issues before, harsh sounding systems, and I really think that changing the DAC will not really help, and changing the streamer less so.