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?


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. 

+1 duckworp,

This thread makes me believe (more), that audiophiles are more interested in throwing money and stuff on the wall and hoping it will stick than delving into the source of their problems so that they can intelligently fix them.

Why would you be so sure about a tube dac when you have a nucleus and solid state amps? Why go tube here? I don’t understand the logic there at all. Yes a great streamer is king. My Wadax Atlantis streamer changed the whole sound in my system. A great streamer is first before considering a great dac.

How many times does this type of post have to occur with pretty much the same responses every time?


i seriously don’t understand why you are so bent on a tube dac. The Essence are not tube, the nucleus is loud noisy and simple. Why would you not get a great server and build the system on that. I had a nucleus server. I now have an SOTM switch and linear power supply by nordost with DC cable connected to a Wadax Atlantis server via V2 ethernet cable and it simply transformed my system from noise to music. Yes a wadax server is 24k and I also have a dedicated line, fantastic cables a  a VTL S-400 2 and other great components. It seems you want a great dac without a great source. It simply seems out of order. Think of a great server as food for a dac. And if you have 40k a wadax atlantis Dac used will absolutely crush anything else. Or just get a tube dac if you are sure on that.

@dancarlson10 I'm open-minded and not 'bent' on a tube DAC. Just an initial thought, followed by me asking for opinions in this post.
Thanks for pointing out the server/streamer is the first component in the chain. And how the Nucleus is a good candidate for an upgrade.


that audiophiles are more interested in throwing money and stuff on the wall and hoping it will stick than delving into the source of their problems so that they can intelligently fix them

Me posting here and asking for feedback is *exactly* that: delving into the source of my problems. I’m open-minded and not fixated on one particular solution or the other. Yes, my budget is substantial, but that does not mean I want to throw mud against the wall and see what sticks. I started this topic to learn.

I use REW to measure the room myself.

The best dac’s I owned/had: Metronome Technologie “Le Dac” / C6 signature/ C8+ ,Ear Yoshino DAc 4 , and Audio Note dac 4.1x ( all dac’s with tubes!


i guess there are just several things i would address before a dac. Perhaps you have already addressed them. Dedicated line was great. Good on you. So many don’t have a clean source. Ignore the slamming of this. It is so important. Also you are building a great system. Most of what you already have. Synchronicity is so important and trust that. Use your gut instincts on that. They are probably right. I have found that set up by a great system set up guru is so key. It was a whole new system after I had a top set up person come out here. Changed EVERYTHING. For the better. Build the system bottom up and enjoy. Yes though, please consider a great speaker/system set up person. Game changer and maybe the best component I ever added to my system.

With your budget, you really need to clean up your USB connection between the Nucleus server and the DAC. Think Singxer SU-6 or similar (or better). That is your current weak link and will continue to be no matter how much you spend on a DAC. 

Try a Musical Paradise MP-D2, get the DAC chip upgrade, Jupiter Copper Foil caps, GZ34 rectifier and 6SN7 tubes. That ought to do the trick.

@x5owner1 I don't use USB. The Nucleus connects to a wireless access point via ethernet. The Tambaqui DAC is a Roon endpoint and connected via ethernet to the same wireless access point. The Nucleus acts as a server only, the playing/rendering happens in the DAC.

are you nuts or something? you want to get rid of the mola mola dac? that's one of the best sounding dacs on the market, get rid of those crappy cables those are ofc junk get OCC single crystal wire it's far superior to anything ofc at any price and also your focals can be a little bit edgy with that beryllium tweeter as well.

Same issue, but different solution. You need to clean up the jitter which in your set up means an ethernet switch. Think SOtM sNH-10G or similar. Maybe adding optical modules from Small Green Computer (systemOptique) etc.  Again, given the budget, you should have these devices anyway, so start here first. If they do nothing, sell them. 

If I wasn’t clear, the Ethernet switch goes between the wireless access point and the DAC. 

I have two stellar dacs that fit your sonic requirements - Holo Audio Springs DAC (modified by ASi Teknology) and the Audio GD R7 DAC. The latter is stock and both check all the boxes - very natural sounding, great imaging, detail without harshness, beautiful tone colors. Just lovely sonics.

Add a grounding cable to your system and everything snaps into beautiful focus.

I second Audioguy85. I use Border Payrol DAC & really enjoy it on a good system. You can return it if you don’t like it. Sometimes you don’t have to spend big $ to get what you want.  Great small company owned & operated by Gary Dews.he’s very knowledgeable & provides excellent service! 

+1 for converting your ethernet line to optical in between the server and streamer if you haven't already. x2 converters, x2 transceivers, and an optical cable costs $100, and place a low noise power supply of your choice on the optical converter nearest the streamer. That should remove some graininess. Might push the sound in a direction you'd like. 

If you’re looking for a tube Dac the Nagra tube Dac might be an excellent choice it is worth trying!

Best of luck 


There can be huge discrepancies with recording quality. The majority of the worst recordings I’ve heard are rock, particularly early early cd recordings using DDD engineering. If you tell me Dark Side of the Moon sounds like crap then there is something amiss in your system. Please be specific regarding which recordings you expect to sound good that instead sound harsh. Throwing more money into your system isn’t necessarily the panacea.

I would suggest those incisive speakers and amp will negate DAC change. It is always happening that pursuit for clarity where suddenly the musicality seems to have gone and you spend listening time finding the faults rather than enjoying the music. I'm at a place now whwith tannoys and luxman that I like. There is clearer there is more transparent but I find myself lost in music more now compared to when it was all pres and monoblocks and a spaghetti junction. 

If I started over probably a 6w valve amp feeding klipschorn

@parker65310 When playing loud, cymbals become harsh and bright for this recording of Californication by Red Hot Chili Pepper: 


Robert congratulations on one hell of a system.

That said, I would look to your own words for guidance.

"Nothing wrong with wishing to mellow things out a bit if you’re in a large untreated room."

Transparent system, beryllium tweeters, rock music, loud.

I would spend my money on room treatments first so that you actually know what the system sounds like. Not the room.

My 2 cents

+2 on optimizing the room first. So much time and $$$ on a fantastic system and so little effort with the most important component. The room. Happy listening 



I use REW to measure the room myself.

Why not use it to EQ the offending frequencies? You could use room treatments but in this case I suspect it needs some attenuation at certain frequencies. Much easier to do.  

@robert1976 That recording (and most all of them) of Red Hot Chilly Peppers sounds compressed. It’s the stuff you listen to in the car, in the gym with headphones or as background music at home. Unless I’m missing something myself I never heard the RHCPs sound good on any version of the system I had over the years. That’s just not a good benchmark and your system is basically telling you that. 
Just my $0.02

Hello OP,

I have Nucleus+ > Tambaqui > Audionet PreG2 > Audionet Max amps >  YG Hailey 2.2s.

Changing my cables from (first cheap cables with silver) to Audience AU 24 SX was a big improvement in fullness and warmth. 

Then changing to Kubala Sosna Elation was a huge improvement (full loom).

I thought I was finished.  But I decided to try an Auralic Aries G2.1 as streamer, between my Nucleus + (on network) and now usb to Tambaqui.  this added better imaging, warmth, and seems more lifelike.  Very easy to install and set up, and also easy to compare.  Yes I used all K-S cables on the new streamer (power and usb).

Are you near Maryland?  Ken

Me posting here and asking for feedback is *exactly* that: delving into the source of my problems. I’m open-minded and not fixated on one particular solution or the other. Yes, my budget is substantial, but that does not mean I want to throw mud against the wall and see what sticks. I started this topic to learn.

I use REW to measure the room myself.


I did not mean you, I mean all the effectively "random" suggestions that amount to throwing money at the problem but fortunately sprinkled in, a few suggestions to attempt to get to the heart of the problem.

You already have (assuming working properly) about as perfect a DAC as possible. Anything else will add distortion, frequency response issues, etc. Looking at the ASR test, about the only issue is the slow filter.  If I understand things right, that is only an issue with a flawed recording. Others can probably pipe in better on that. Cymbals have lot of power at high frequency.

How does your REW plot look?  Are there any obvious peaks in the mid-range or high frequencies?

Here is an interesting page with cymbals and a discussion of frequencies with samples. It may be good for trying to isolate the issue.


I listened again to Californication (from that album). The whole track has an edgy sound. I can't say any worse loud or quieter though. It does not sound like the best recording.

Also to consider is if perhaps there is something wrong with your amp or speakers that is highlighted with this music at high volumes. I have had issues in the past that only came out at high volumes (mid-range was failing).





I don't know anything about streaming.

Do you have the same source in LP, CD, HiRez Stream?

Is the LP more involving than the CD?

IOW, can you isolate the Streamer from the System Sound?

Have you considered a Tube Preamp?

Robert1976 - Perhaps you might audition the DCS Vivaldi (either with or without the Master Clock and/or Upsampler).  I recently made the upgrade and found it to be free of harshness and offers tremendous detail and richness.


I second the general opinion about your server. Your system is excellent, the weakest link is the Root Nucleus.

I'm a big fan of Audio Note (my system is all AudioNote). My Server/Dac was not. I did audition the AN 4.1x dac with room nucleus at my home and it was a disaster. Not impressed by any means so did not spend the money. A couple of months latter visited the local Dealer for an audition with a Inous Statement and a HiFi Rose as servers. Completely blown out. So much so that I purchase the Dac, waiting for it to be delivered with a Rose as server.

I would not change your Dac before testing  a dedicated server in your system.


@robert1976, You answered your own question in my opinion. “I used to have a Dan D'Agostino Momentum Integrated. I'd use the tone controls and simple cut treble 1 or 2 dB. I don't have that flexibility any longer.”

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best. As others have noted, recordings of rock music are often not the greatest, especially recordings of live concerts. What no one has mentioned is that the level of distortion produced by the gear used to play rock music, the amps, specialty pedals, speakers, cables, everything, are generating loads of distortion, some of it intentional. 

You have a wonderful, neutral and highly revealing system. Do you listen to much acoustic music at high volumes? If so, do you find the high frequencies of symphonic music, string quartets, acoustic guitar, that is, classical, jazz, folk, bluegrass, etc. equally edgy? If not, it’s the recordings.

If rock is not your sole interest and the system sounds great during most of your listening, look for a different software approach or purchase a high quality equalizer that lets you cut the treble a bit for those recordings that require it. 

Someone will always want to sell you a $20k something. You noted you tried Roon’s equalizer and didn’t like what it did to the rest of your music. You will likely have to adjust for the specifically annoying recordings only no matter what solution you select. Find someone who can suggest simple high quality software or hardware to reduce treble output at the frequencies where you find it annoying. Perhaps other Audiogoners can suggest some options. 

Post removed 

The OP does seem to have achieved insightful, accurate sound, but now seems like he wants a change.  He doesn't necessarily need to focus on the DAC; if he tubes any link in the chain, pre/power amp, source, he will probably get what he wants

I love when digital people want analog sound.

I love when people don't understand digital sound is analog all that is different is the recording mechanism.

Have you tried experimenting with digital signal processing?  If not, you might want to start with what is available in Roon (including equalization and upsampling).  To take it up another level, with a correspondingly higher learning curve, take out a free trial of HQ Player. HQP integrates nicely with Roon, once you've figured out how to work the settings. 

You also might want to try measuring your room frequency response with REW. Identify the bright spots, then focus DSP (or room treatments) there.


I was on a similar journey, Naim streamer/DAC to dCS Bartok with Oppo 205 Modwright DAC as an option, then to a dCS Vivaldi Stack, and very happily to a Grimm MU1 streamer/storage/upsampler with a Lampizator Pacific DAC. You might want the GG2 over the Pacific as the GG2 is designed for a fun big sound. The Pacific seems to be showing off that like ARC's recent designs that both companies can design equipment that casts off the "old" tube sound and competes with the best of SS designs, but also includes that "tube thing" . Do not underestimate the Grimm MU1's part in my sound system. I listened to an in home demo and it took me 15 mins to decide that the Grimm was contributing in a positive way that the Vivaldi Upsampler could not match.

Lots of good ideas already posted. One is that all DACs sound alike and just get a reasonable one and that's all you need. I have found this is "sort of true" depending on the resolution of the host system and hearing of the listener. About 5 months ago for fun I ran my dCS Vivaldi DAC/upsampler/Clock (75K retail) against the DAC/streamer in my $1300 retail MiniSHD I use  it to crossover my subs and for Dirac. Long story short the $1300 multifunction DAC was WAY too close to the sound of the 75K Vivaldi. CLEARLY the Vivaldi was better, but the law of diminishing returns on DACs sets in very quickly. Many of us can't settle for good enough without not feeling good about our systems, and that is why I ended up with the Grimm/Pacific combo. I'd also like to comment on the rate of improvement of Digital and the reasonable expectation the gear will get better AND get less costly. I sold my dCS gear, bought the Grimm (new), the Lampizator used,  and after selling my dCS gear and buying the other two components I was able to put 25K back into my stereo fund and ended up with a digital system I find way more musically engaging.  There is no question that in 2013 dCS changed the trajectory for Digital sound reproduction with the Vivaldi DAC, but time and technology move forward. Further I do not sense that I gave up any resolution moving from the Vivaldi DAC to the Pacific DAC, which was my primary concern in moving to the Lampizator. The new APEX for Vivaldi dCS DAC was not out then. I expect it is more musical than the one I had. 

The last point about ideas others shared is that I used to use cables to tune my system, often for me to solve a sibilance issue. I used to do that, but I now work really hard to get components that work together in the first place, then look at cable changes to make IMPROVMENTS  in SQ, not as filters to fix problems, It's a paradigm change that costs money to make component changes and potentially buy better gear, but it has helped my system improve to my ears. This changing out of components has been made possible by Audiogon and the other websites. It's  a fantastic tool, we are in the golden age of being able to try different gear in our houses!!!! Good luck in your journey!



I have a Tambaqui and in my system I would describe it as “sweet, rich, and relaxed”. Although sometimes “sweet” is not so “relaxed” when it comes to musical enjoyment!

After reading this article from Blue Jeans Cable, I decided to try a few of their CERTIFIED Cat6e Ethernet cables. Prior to installing these my streaming was occasionally harsh and distorted. But never since. I have also found I prefer Audioquest Red River XLRs to several 4 figure cables, which also were sometimes a little non-sweet. 

Not a huge investment and heartily recommended. 

Good Luck!

Thanks for all the input guys. Apart from all the advise on equipment, I start to realise:

— When a system is highly resolving, it will expose recordings that are bright and harsh. It's actually a good thing. Over 95% of recordings sound wonderful, it's only harsh/bright with certain older (rock) recordings and at high volumes >85dB.

— My room is large and not heavily treated. Playing music loud will overload the room: at 80dB the reflections make up, say, only 15% of what reaches my ear. At 90dB that could be 30 or 40% (numbers here are for the sake of example).

Further, I don't really have side walls and thus hardly any first reflections. My right side wall is 9' / 2.7m away from the speaker (floor to ceiling windows with thick curtain). My left side wall is also 9' / 2.7m away but it's only 8' / 2.4m long, it then opens up to a large open kitchen. Rear wall is 13' / 4m behind listening position. Half of it opens up to a large study area.
Only first reflections are floor (covered by rug) and ceiling. I'm looking into absorption panels for the ceiling now.

@wokeuptobose thanks for sharing your journey, very valuable lessons.
Could you elaborate on what the Pacific does better than other DACs you've had? What do you like about it? And what are any weak points or trade-offs?

@tobes The OP has a top class system, I doubt he wants to go from a DAC with ~22 bit resolution to one with ~10 bit resolution.

Most of high end or even lower end DAC could process 24-32 bit rate up to 768 khz signal depending upon the input, AND the DSD playback support up to 512 times the CD sample rates (> 22 mHz). You do not need to spend 25k-40k to have a hi-rez processing DAC.  Although the differences between bit depths are inaudible and not really worth the hype, the system OP has may be revealing enough to discern those differences.  In addition, I guess OP has already spend that much money on the rest of the system, the DAC musst fit in the same scale. You do not normally hear someone having a pair of $150k loudspeaker paired with $2k DAC, right?


”When a system is highly resolving, it will expose recordings that are bright and harsh. It’s actually a good thing.”

Well, it depends. Highly resolving can mean highlighted details… with it typically come a harshness and noise. The noise is not the kind you hear directly it just is pressure on your ears (higher noise floor). But the accentuated details cover the details in the bass and is frequently accompanied by a loss of rhythm and pace… the musicality / emotional connection.

I struggled with this for years until I was able to walk the very tight line of keeping the details (but not unrealistically emphasized) and midrange bloom and musicality. Over time one after another of my components became tubed. Now my system is really emotionally compelling, has no hint of sharpness, and has all the details with the correct emphasis. All albums generally sound there best.


In my opinion your comment highlights a problem that needs to be solved not a necessary consequence.



— My room is large and not heavily treated. Playing music loud will overload the room: at 80dB the reflections make up, say, only 15% of what reaches my ear. At 90dB that could be 30 or 40% (numbers here are for the sake of example).

@robert1976 I always like a good problem. When I first read this, my first thought was "sound does not work that way". It is a saying with audiophiles, but unless your walls are falling down, you are not going to physically overload a room. I am not an acoustic engineer, but I am a physicist, so I get the basics.

Then I remembered loudness contours. Cymbals have a lot of energy at high frequency, 3 - 10KHz. Look at the chart below. At 80db (1KHz), 10KHz has to be 10db louder to sound as loud. At 100, it only needs to be 4-5 db louder to sound the same. I have to expect that is what you are experiencing.

I had this link from when I was looking at acoustics before hiring someone. A lot of materials like glass, some wood floors, drywall (plasterboard) reflect more at high frequencies.

It sounds like volume and your room are combining to make you unhappy. I don't have a solution, but the high quality equalizer that can be switched in and out may be best. Perhaps it is not the room that is overloading, it is your ears at higher frequencies? Any experts on hearing out there?  I know when I am at concerts, if the room is reflective it is grating.



A very rare chance to commit to an objective test in a subjective reality:

Everything you have here has the electrical signal (we call it ’electrical’, which is a huge misnomer, it’s obscenely pidgin and incomplete), and all of it has to deal with the problems of how a signal in a delta state has to work with the ’wire’. Which is inordinate complex when we look at the quantum aspects of electron transfer.

Everyone is looking for the better, cleaner, more detailed and sweeter and I can assure you that a lot of that ’final frontier’ of elusiveness is contained in the errors encountered when trying to use wire for electrical signal transfer.

Liquid metal cables were created to get rid of the majority of the major problems in using wire for high end audio attempts. To get rid of the inherent problems in using wire for signal transfer.

It is the only place in the world, the only way in the world.. to sidestep this wire problem while still remaining in the electrical realm. To try them out is to be a fish in the water, who finally, for the first time it it’s life, understands what water is. To finally form a perspective that shows and illustrates what water --- is.

This is due to the electrical signal being handled totally different than it is with wire. I’d love to lay it out in fine detail, but we get haters if we explain.. and we get haters if we don’t. Ignorance screams it’s presence, if we have the sense of mind to understand what such noise is actually about.

Since the information is obvious at the high end and cutting edge physics level, and not quite known at all... at the high and audio level... and not well understood in the high technology level, we explain nothing. Nothing at all.

The information and the lore and the look down the road ---is far too valuable for that.

So, if you run into the ’noise over signal’ problem that all high and audio attempts eventually run into, you’ll find yourself in front of true fundamentals, and a huge fundamental, not well recognized, is that conductive elements (periodic table) are a good item to use in electrical signal transfer, but upon deeper reflection and deeper looks, problems arise. Limitations arise.

Problems that are inherent in the medium of the device itself (wire made of elements and alloys), and only some other tactic or method or medium that commits to a different transfer method will get this issue objectively clarified and separated out.

The liquid metal audio cables provide that avenue for the first time ever and probably the only time ever.

When the OP gets to the area that they are in .. they are really engaging in hard limits, true ceilings, and getting further down the road involves questioning all fundamentals, in total re-assessment.

(FYI the basic Liquid metal cables were tested at the highest levels of the TI (Texas Instruments) technical campus, and found to be notably anomalous in expected electrical norms. This, from their top man, who has an IQ of 196)

Some may call this an unwarranted advertisement, but no, I’d call it a wake up call.

We are a very small company who does not sell a lot of product. but.. we were told quite clearly (by a major cable manufacturer), in 2009, that we scare the hell out of all the top cable manufacturers. Too bad that never came to fruition. I guess they all gave their customers too much credit and they attacked too hard, for us to become the technical and quality threat that we really are. They were seriously worried that we’d take a good chunk of their sales away from them. All of them were worried (as we were told), as we are the holders of ’the next level’ of audio cables. (*)

It’s my personal fault, really. I wanted audio to be better, so I went after questioning the fundamentals, the real fundamentals. So we changed the full on physics fundamentals in use, in electron transfer, in high end audio.

It only changes a few percentage points of articulation of fine detail but we’ve all got the other 98% and this changes the 2% you want changed, which was previously out of reach and not known in it’s character or nature, as the fish could not and cannot realize or know of the water it is in....

Which makes it a really big deal when the chase, the attempt... is aiming at the impossibility of perfection.


(*) why are we not as successful as we might be? well, it’s simple. we’re the first, the orignal and the only. And acceptance, and understanding, takes time. and there has to be more than one provider, there has to be multiples in the market, for a thing to go forward. there must be market presence. THEN it can take off. So, even if we are the best in the field, where all the orignal innovations and incremental advances in the technology involved -are created whole cloth by us...there is, in the market record...scant chance that we’d ever succeed. When the patents expire and more players get involved, it might have a chance. But none will likely approach or make it to our lore and application level, as the original thinking involved in the core innovation speaks of deeper knowledge than that of the dilettante.

Cutting edge is cutting edge and in that definition and reality, very few people make it there. Eg, how many climb Everest, even though billions know it’s name and image, and billions have an opinion?

Who you gonna trust, the noise or the signal?