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?


Cullen Cables' Crossover 2 Series power cable claims to add a tube like sound to components. They've gotten good reviews. Starting price is about $330.00.

OP, you've received a lot of good advice, I wanted to offer my personal experience.  I like the "lush" tube sound and the detail of digital.  I have been very satisfied with with my Aesthetix Romulus Eclipse model (CD + DAC).  There is also a DAC only unit known as Pandora.  The beauty (and fun) of this was that I rolled tubes until I found the sound that did it for me.  Amperex and Telefunken NOS.  The rest of my system is Aesthetix, and it would be hard for me to gauge how much singular impact the DAC might have for you.  But if you have the ability to listen, I think it would be well worth it.  The Eclipse model would not negate/limit any of the other excellent gear you have.  Good luck

First of all, I would like to apologize for not attacking anyone. Personal attacks seem de rigueur around here these days. Maybe the days of cordial conversation are gone?

5% of your CDs sound harsh? That percentage sounds about the right. I suggest you do some research into the titles in question to find the best sounding versions of the offenders (if they exist). Would be a lot cheaper than replacing components.

Even after doing this I have a few titles that are near unlistenable.

What in the world happened with this thread?  It's gone off the rails and straight into orbit.

I use a Bespoke Built Valve Power Supply Regulated/ Valve Output DAC which has undergone Tube Rolling on the Output Valves. It performs in a manner that I am quite impressed with, but I do have a limited experience in such matters.

I have kept my 'ear to the ground' in relation to affordable Valve DAC's that are seeming to be worthy of being looked into further.     

I think the DAC in the Link is worthy of a consideration, this is a Brand and Model not too commonly seen but is very well respected by those who have been introduced to it.

Sirius DAC | Veridian Utopia

Probably more accurate than sweet but said to be superb: EMM DA2 v2 ! https://www.emmlabs.com/da2v2.php


I want their workingman’s Meitner MA2 ... "only" $10k. Has a streamer (Roon ready) and digital volume control.


I think the EMM retails somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000?

FYI: MA2 now replaced by MA3 at list of $10,500.

@robert1976 After skimming through all the responses thus far I reread your original post. Seems you are happy with the sound quality of your current componentry on the majority of musical content, excepting poorly recorded/mastered rock (ie RHCP). Is that still the issue at hand?.

If so, my take is that you have excellent components (including the Tambaqui) and competent analog cabling/power cords. Most if not all changes you could make will improve some things but will involve tradeoffs in other aspects of sound character that may not be to your preference. This is tricky and gets expensive fast, especially as changing a key component such as a DAC can send you into the spiral of major cabling and even component changes to accommodate.

Although I suspect that there is no truly effective remedy for poor sound quality of a recording, you may be able to improve its tolerability without making major changes. I suggest that you contact The Cable Company or another authorized Synergistic Research dealer and request a risk free trial of a Synergistic Research Galileo SX Ethernet cable. This is my preferred Ethernet cable after testing several, but that is not my point. The unique thing about the SR products is that they provide two “tuning bullets” that are easily swapped out (unplug and replug).to change the sound character from a detailed, high resolution sound (the silver bullet) to a warmer, more forgiving sound (the gold bullet). I use this feature often to adjust for program material sound quality variances or even to compensate for varying AC quality at different times of the day. The gold bullet may well make the RHCP and other poor rock recordings (more) tolerable to you while allowing you to easily swap to the silver bullet for other listening if you prefer. It not, just return the loaner cable.

@dlcockrum Thanks for your input. A few posts ago I elaborated on how I dragged my system from the living room to my 13ft x 20ft bedroom. This room is very well padded and it's RT60 is only a third of my living room. This made ALL the difference. All problems were gone.

So, my echo-y living room is the culprit. I shouldn't be looking at new gear, but try to bring down the RT60 in my living room. Which is what I'm doing now :)

@robert1976 My apologies for missing that key post. Obviously my skimming skills are lacking. Glad that you found a solution. Enjoy!

All systems depended, on who can tell anyone how something will sound in their system. Room (huge) and then what gear used and their mix and matched, power cords used (huge),  Good quality well made DAC from companies that built from the ground up and not using OEM part to build it, this also makes for better long term use problem free. Lastly, a bad recording is what it is is, no matter the format it sucks,...Smile! 

@robert1976 Rob, I think you’re on the right track - addressing room acoustics is extremely important and without getting that done you’ll be chasing ghosts by swapping your components. I just started paying more attention to it as well and it is already paying off. Also, once your room is more or less tuned consider experimenting with network switches and filters. Depends on how sensitive the Tambaqui is to the quality of the incoming Ethernet signal, you may further improve the sound of your system as you run your Ethernet cable directly into the Tambaqui. I know it’s somewhat a controversial subject and I’m potentially opening a can of worms here by bringing it up, but it can help further improve the presentation and let your digital components do what they need to do much easier without having to deal with the electrical noise, RFI, EMI, etc. You may be surprised by the improvements. Again, depends on how your digital components deal with noise and how noisy your router is.

Some additional info and education on the subject with few examples here…

Network Acoustics Eno

Network Acoustics Muon

The sound of network switches

I have the Scala Utopia, which, offers somewhat similar challenges as the Stella Utopia (albeit on a smaller scale). It sounds harsh and revealing with some equipment.

After a lot of experimentation, I’ve settled onto this for musicality:

1. A basic $5k R2R DAC (Holo May)

2. (Very important) a musical, euphonic preamp (I’ve had McIntosh tube preamps before but nothing beats my current Hegel P30. Feels like I am using tubes but with none of that noise / distortion at higher volumes)

3. (Very important) ‘warm cables’. I moved from silver-based power cables to copper based ones (AQ Hurricane)

4. Hegel H30 amp to match my preamp

Very musical, with ‘meat on the bones’ type presentation.

I have a Roon Nucleus Plus, with an Ayre Acoustics QX-5 Twenty DAC, Pakedge switch, top end shunyata ethernet cables, Audioquest power cables, JPS Labs speaker cables, Revel Salon 2 speakers, powered by an Hegel H390 integrated and an Audioquest Niagra 3000 line conditioner/ surge protector.  The sound quality I'm getting via #1, Qobuz, Tidal and from my internal hard drive is extraordinary!!!  But, the greatest and most crucial contributor to the stunning sound quality I'm getting out of my system come from my Reference level Ayre Acoustics DAC.  All associated equipment that makes up a top notch streaming system in order to achieve the best sound must be...."Top Notch."    Roon Nucleus  included.  No more cd's or vinyl for me.  Just me and my lovely iPad.  Ain't life grand!!!    

I forgot to mention that my Ayre Acoustics QX-5 Twenty DAC is a streaming DAC.  I use the DAC as a  streamer  My DAC along with my Roon Nucleus Plus renders amazing and marvelous results.  I am overwhelmingly pleased with this combination.  Before opting for the Roon Nucleus Plus, I went through an extensive auditioning process that included most of the high end brands servers, streamers, in various combos there of.  After hearing the Roon and a stand alone DAC in a system at one of my High End Audio dealers, and after being absolutely floored by what I heard out of that system, base on that, I decided to configure my system in the same manner.  So, the Roon was the right solution for me and what I desired to accomplish in my own system and I've been very, very happy with the results.  Well, to each his own.  So glad I was able to find my little slice of audio heaven.  Happy listening.         

+1 @chayro 

I used to think an awesome stereo would make everything sound...awesome. Wasn't the case for me, sometimes the music just isn't that good and no amount of lipstick is going to change that pig. 

How are you connecting the Roon to your dac, hdmi or usb?


@treynolds155 - I just spin CD’s with a transport. I’m sure streaming is fine, but I don’t feel like dealing with it.  I think that many people are so influenced by what they read that they don’t want to admit to themselves what they really like to actually listen to. All these complaints of harshness are caused by people chasing detail, which can become very tiresome when you want to listen long term. Don’t buy a Ferrari when you really want a Bentley. 

Chasing details and slam can be a side trip. My system allows all but the worst recordings sound as good as they can. It took me a long time (35 years) to get off the details - slam path to realize this was not the route to fidelity and real sonic enjoyment.

On the other hand achieving outstanding musical sound can be done with vinyl, CD, file streaming and internet streaming. You can have one or all. The choice is yours… it takes effort and commitment. Happily I have achieved great musical reproduction in vinyl, CD, streaming on my main system and in my headphone system… it can be done. But I agree with @chayro that chasing details is not the way to get there. You have to prioritize the music… rhythm and pace, as well as balance and appropriate emphasis of details.

Hey Robert you have really fine set-up. Your dac isn't the problem. I have the same dac and it is a really good dac. Try some room treatments if you can it makes a big difference. Your Focal speakers can be a little bright with bad recordings. 

Maybe try a better server or a high quality 6sn7  based tube preamp which you can tailor the sound to your liking.

Post removed 

Are you trying to get a dac in place of DSP? Sounds like it. Get a top notch dsp and save your 40 grand! It only gets so good with 1 and zero. I would have to imagine a 40k tube dac measures like sh.t. It has to for it to sound all cozy. 

Oh yeah it doesn't have nothing to do with tubes being more linear than transistors 

I’m saying from the OP:


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

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

A company that sells this would never send it to a reputable reviewer with measurement capabilities cause it would measure much worse than a top notch 2k dac. At that point it’s mostly a very expensive tone control. Can’t name a model but let’s say 10k on a crazy expensive dsp would get a lot further IMO and be super transparent. Not talking vinyl and tube amps which I understand more. I’m not saying it wouldn’t sound great. I’m sure it would. 

I'm not saying this would solve OPs dilemma but might be something to consider.

Try to get an Aethetix Pandora Eclipse DAC into your system just to check out.

You might like it and it's way below the money you originally quoted.

I tune out whenever I read the words "full loom" in a hi fi discussion. That's just me.

@verdantaudio Thanks for your input. Between Antipodes Oladra and Pink Faun Ultra, do yo feel there's a clear winner? Or more or less at the same level, making it about taste and preference?

Is Pink Faun's clock better than Oladra's? But then Oladra separates server from player on different computer boards while Pink Faun uses one. Not sure what reaps more benefits.

Dual Pink Faun Ultra is more than I'm willing to spend.

I have not had the two units side-by-side to listen.  I am hoping to do this later this year and also get a demo with the Taiko at a customers house.  

you are spot on.  Two computers in Oladra vs better clock in Pink Faun.  You also have a great software solution with Oladra matching Roon Core with Squeeze Light.   Alternatively, Pink Faun had a proprietary software that is an upgrade vs Roon.  

These are VERY similar.  

Hello @Robert1976,  this is my second response to you so I may repeat some things.  You have gotten many helpful responses and the expected skeptical ones as well.  Recall I have Nucleus+ on my network and Tambaqui DAC with revealing SS electronics and incisive (but natural) speakers.  When I got my Tambaqui, I certainly thought I was done.  But as you state, many recordings sound a bit harsh, while most sound amazing.  Yes the Tambaqui is a Streamer and DAC, so I did not think I needed a separate streamer.  BTW, I have taken the small steps as well.  LPS on my Nucleus.  Using Supra Cat 8 cables.  Upgraded Switch - Silent Angel Bonn 8 (I am sure there are better),  EtherRegen in front of the Tambaqui and now also Muon Filter in between EtherRegen and Tambaqui.  Everything helped some, the Muon #1 and the EtherRegen #2.

But the addition of a separate Streamer was a bigger improvement.  @Verdantaudio is a great resource and he has helped me by phone.  I like the Antipodes stuff, but went another way, keeping my Nucleus+ and adding the Auralic Aries G2.1 streamer.  It is. not cheap but lots less than some you may be considering.

Aurender has great reviews and following, but not a Roon device and I am into Roon for good.  The Innuos Statement looks nice..check out the power supply upgrade by Sean Jacobs.

When you look at the expensive digital stuff, it all has very enhanced power supplies. So following the lead of another contributor here, I modified my Aries with a custom Sean Jacobs power supply and custom K-S umbilicals.  This was not cheap, but adding the power supply to the Aries G2.1 was less than other top end streamers, and I wanted to keep my Nucleus so I did not need (example K-50) a Player and streamer.

OH MY.  When I first hooked up the new power supply to my Aries it was incredible.

I did not know how much better my system could sound.  Much more engaging, better soundstage, fuller and more emotionally involving (if I can get away with saying that), more lifelike and SMOOTHER.  I went back to some of the harsher recordings and they were so much more listenable (Californication, Chicago Beginnings).

I kept the Muon filter in the system, but found with the new power supply, the EtherRegen was not such a big deal and put it in my other system, along with another Muon filter I like it so much).

I also love my smooth Kubala-Sosna Elation Cables (including USB and power), but have not heard yours. Of course room treatments help as well, but you can only do so much sometimes.


You have a great DAC.  I am sure there are amazing tube DACs, but I think many discussed are inferior to the Tambaqui.  As someone told me once here, you have a Porsche of a DAC but are feeding it cheap gasoline.  The front end of digital prior to the DAC is hugely important.  And, having a Nucleus as player, a good streamer with USB to a great DAC gives you the flexibility to change any of the three of them down the road, or simply try other USB DACs to see!

Thanks again @verdantaudio Where does the Grimm MU1 fit in?

Grimm MU1 reviewed as:
Neutral, clean, fast, transparent, resolving with high resolution. More convincing than K50 with more precise imaging.

K50 reviewed as:
Full, smooth, liquid, lush and relaxed.

Same reviewer deemed the Pink Faun 2.16x drier, tighter, more accurate and more clinical than the K50. He preferred MU1

MU1 is supposed to have good synergy with my Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC (Bruno Putzeys designed the Tambaqui and co-founded Grimm).

All should be seen in the context of my soon-to-arrive Boulder 3010 and 3060, with Focal Stella Utopia EVO speakers.

I have not heard the Grimm and have no POV.  I would bet the Oladra is a better compare.  It is definitely better than the K50 on a technical basis.  

Not sure how you feed the DAC, but the Innuos Phoenix USB has transformed my system. It creates a wonderful warm analogue sound

Robert1976 - are you replacing the Essence electronics with Boulder? Only that’s where I’d say your issue lies. I’m going through same situation with Essence right now. Did you ever try Tambaqui direct to amp? Sound is considerably more relaxed but lacks the dynamics rendered by the pre. In my room, I’m considering doing what I did with an earlier Naim 252/250 combination which suffered the same issue - replacing the pre with a tube pre. This gave a beautiful result. Tambaqui is not a ’bright’ dac. It’s incredible resolution, though, accentuates the inherent nature of a system’s sound signature. Essence is uber neutral and high energy. Focal tweeters can be ’bright’, too. I had to replace Sopra 2’s in the old Naim system because they made my ears bleed.

Reimyo 777 or 999.  These dac's are relaxed and "tube" like or sound similar to Audio Note DACs.  They only do cd redbook but holy smokes they sound holographic and warm and like music

Love this stuff


Not read the whole tread, but your room is probably a problem with your speakers that are very revealing. Are you up for changing the speakers?

@eagle3333 earlier in this thread I wrote how room acoustics solved the entire problem. It’s no longer bright/harsh at louder volumes. Adding enough absorption did the trick.

I received my Boulder 3010 and 3060 and they’re amazing.

I’ve also upgraded my Roon Nucleus to a Grimm Audio MU1. And I have a Lampizator Horizon on the way to replace my Mola Mola Tambaqui.

@gryphongryph I managed to solve the issue by adding absorption to the room. I had too much echo in the room, which made it sound bright, harsh and messy at high volumes. All good now :)

@robert1976 :

received my Boulder 3010 and 3060 and they’re amazing.

I’ve also upgraded my Roon Nucleus to a Grimm Audio MU1. And I have a Lampizator Horizon on the way to replace my Mola Mola Tambaqui.

Holy schiit! Lots of changes since last time you posted here. You don’t fool around 


OP on a lesser system, I was dealing with the same issue. My solution was a new DAC (Weiss 501) plus using a fiber connection between the Roon core and DAC. The DAC and fiber immediately took the digital edge off the music.

Not sure if this is the case for you or not, but my glare was only present through my digital source—not my turntable—which led me down my path.

I also have a tube pre-amp; tube rolling offers a lot of possibilities to tune the sound.

And most of my ‘80s rock alway sounds horrible!





If by now you’re still thinking of getting rid of that Mola Mola DAC, please send it down across the causeway where I live. HAHAHAHAHA


Anyway, just this 11.11 sales, I bought a cheap China brand DAC (about USD500), runs on dual ESS9038 Pro chips, and had lots of fun swapping op-amps, and I am very happy with the sound now. Sweet, relax, rich, wide soundstage, good focus, warm, fluid, dynamic, attack... you name it! Some people coined this term "very analog" sounding. I never knew I’ll say this BUT I don’t feel like turning it off!! Hahahaha~

For Solid State, The Playback Design Dreams Series, Super Smooth, Relaxed, Fatique Free. No Hassle of tubes, Plays music with out bleeding headaches.