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?


@robert1976 There's nothing wrong with your DAC it's the Nucleus.

Get a decent streamer/server, preferably one you can attach a master clock to, like Aurender N20/N30 or similar.

Many rock recordings have a hot top end. Ever been to a rock concert? An accurate DAC should be transparent to the source. If it adds its own sonic signature it is POOR quality - and not worth using. 

Thanks @lordmelton, I should do in-home demos to see what a difference that makes.

I remain a bit sceptical because Stereophile said about the Nucleus "JA found that the sonic differences between the Nucleus+ and the considerably more expensive Innuos Statement server were small."

Also, Jay's Audio Lab found zero improvement with his MSB Select II between streaming from his laptop and using a Taiko Extreme: https://youtu.be/k0SDLQJDrG4?t=199 

I suspect it's highly system dependent and should be tried in one's own system. Which is what I'll do. Thanks again.

@jasonbourne52 Isn't that a highly personal thing? Not everyone aims to get as close to the "truth" as possible. They might prefer a slightly more relaxed presentation because that allows for longer and more easy going listening sessions. By definition, all recording equipment, audio components, and rooms add distortion and colouration. Nothing wrong with wishing to mellow things out a bit if you're in a large untreated room.

Hi Robert, reviewers get paid to say nice things. It takes a long time to build a great system, do your own comparisons and listen to DSD files if you can.

You already have great components they are going to need tweaking to get them sounding their best in your environment and for your taste.

Uhm what? 25 to 40k budget for a dac?

All you need is a 1200-2000 dollar border patrol dac.

I have never heard the Tambiqui but it gets great reviews.  What don’t you like about it?  And the Gryphon Amps, are those tubed or transistors?

@mahler123 it's not that I don't like the Tambaqui per se (it's great actually). I'm curious if I could sweeten up the overall sound a bit. And I thought I may achieve that with another DAC.

Gryphon amps are transistor based pure class A.

You have very revealing amps and speakers that are going to expose every flaw in the recording.  I think it’s going to be tough to alter that characteristic with another dac. I see this a lot. People spend a fortune on “accurate” gear and another fortune trying to dial it back. But in the price range you are shopping, I would think dealers would be lining up to bring over a dac for a home demo. 

Why not just use the equalizer function within Roon?

He needs to spend $25k so the Trinnov fulfills plus it can do more. 

Hi Robert, how did you conclude that it is the DAC problem?  Might be the amp and speakers being too revealing like what chayro said.


Perhaps a Conrad Johnson or Acoustic Research tube preamp would be enough to "flatten the curve", so to speak.



If rich and relaxed is your preference, it is hard to beat Audio Note.  They have terrific sounding DACs, although the prices on top models are quite scary.  The less expensive models are more of a bargain--they give you much of the Audio Note sound, with only a little sacrificed compared to the very top.  I heard a three way shootout between a 3,4, and 5 (sorry, I don't know the particular models within these three basic designations), and I liked the 4 because it gave one most of what the 5 offered but was not as crazy high in pricing.  I did get to hear the 6 and its companion transport, but, I only heard it in a setup used to test and burn in those items before they went into a super system.

I would also endorse the recommendation to at least look at different servers.  It seems a bit unbalanced to have your kind of components and not have a high end server.  It is a bit of a tricky matter of system matching--I know someone who hates the Aurender in his systems--so it might make sense to work with a dealer with options and the technical skills to optimize the system.  A local dealer is really big on specialized switches for his network.  Some day I will borrow the switch to see if it makes a difference (he uses Ansuz).  I don't have a personal recommendation because my server, DAC, CD ripper and storage is provided by a single brand that sort of combines these things (NAIM 555 server/Uniti Core ripper and NAS).  


All in all, there's nothing wrong with your total system. Rock recordings played at HIGH volume is your REAL problem, most of this genre pretty poor recording quality, compressed, no sense of natural timbre. I'd say your system was reproducing these recordings exactly as it should. I don't know that any of my or previous suggestions will help, except those for less system resolution.


Loud rock music played at loud volume is best left for live concerts at large venues.

So I've now listen to a Nucleus vs Innuos and found VERY little difference YMMV. I kept the Nucleus and am very happy.

Uhm what? 25 to 40k budget for a dac?

All you need is a 1200-2000 dollar border patrol dac.

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.  

@chayro I live in Malaysia and unfortunately there's no MSB, dCS, Lampizator, Aries Cerat DACs to demo, let alone for in-home demos.

I'm not unhappy, just curious if I can chop off that bright top end with certain recordings. 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.

It's just occasionally bright. With 90% of recordings, and at 80-85dB, the transparency and detail are actually a benefit.

Why not just use the equalizer function within Roon?

@deludedaudiophile I tried that and Roon’s equalizer distorts the sound to the point I can hear the difference. Piano sounds off, for example. Having a highly resolving system is a two edged sword.

@xboom the occasional brightness is the result of the entire chain. I've considered VAC amplification. But my DAC is currently the cheapest component, hence my thought to upgrade to a better DAC. And not only better, but also a DAC known for a sweet and smooth presentation.

@rsf507 good for you, the proof is in the pudding. In-home demo is the only way to really decide if a new component makes a difference. Saved yourself a good bag of money there.

The Gryphon Essence is very neutral and revealing, as is the Focal's (maybe even a little bright to my ears!). As another post stated, I think your best bet is an Audio Note DAC. The Aries Cerat Kassandra is one of the best DAC's in the world, but the sound is not as "tubey" as an Audio Note. I too had a similar situation and had narrowed my choice between Audio Note and AC. I purchased the AC Helene which I should have in 6 weeks! I will utilize an Aurender N20 as a streamer.


I too had been using my Roon Nucleus with Sbooster LPS as a server/streamer; in my case via Curious USB cable into a Chord Qutest.  The sound was good, certainly on par if not a smidge better than my Node 2i. Then this past February picked up a Bricasti M5 which I am now utilizing as a Roon endpoint in the same system. No comparison, a big step up from the Nucleus functioning as its own endpoint. Quieter, wider sound stage, better dynamics.  The Nucleus is functional as a server/streamer, but a quality endpoint such as the Bricasti or some such, especially in a system at your level, in my opinion will definitely reap sonic rewards. 

I’m going to zero in on something else in your system. The cabling —which is actually the cheapest component in your system, not the DAC. Your brand is a great bargain for SQ, even for systems costing much much less than yours. Their power cords and speaker cables are nice for the money and I use both. But the interconnects do not seem to perform the same…but are certainly ok for their price. Some cables can perform differently system to system, but in my system, these ICs produced unclean/noisy high frequencies and I can see how this might contribute to your issue… A high end, high resolution system deserves very clean and clear signal cables. Not to mention some absorption somewhere! Even if just at first reflection, you may see a drop in glare that you don’t even know is there.

A curse of a highly revealing system.
How long is your USB cable from Roon nucleus to DAC and what cable cable are you using?

Have you tried stock power cords on amps and DAC now that you lived with the TWL loom for a while?

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.

I like the build quality of Aries Cerat better. I have liked the sound of systems with Aries Cerat DACs in them better than when I have heard the Lampizator. That said, I personally have never done a compare of the two in the same system.

Regarding server, when you see a device is "Roon Ready" like the Mola Mola it is a DAC and Renderer/Player when you connect to it via ethernet. This means that the renderer/player duties are not being handled by the Nucleus. This is optimal as this stage does not require a lot of processing power and noise can be introduced with too much processing power.

When you connect via USB, the Nucleus is performing as player and server. This is where it tends to underperform and sound mediocre. If you have a USB cable lying around, try connecting the Mola Mola to it via USB.  I bet you will hear a significant degradation in sound quality vs your current ethernet setup. 

The Nucleus is a stunning value when used as a server alone.  Best upgrade from a Nucleus for people connected via USB is not to get a higher end single box server but to get a separate player renderer.  

This is because even the best servers are not at their best when performing both tasks. It is just the nature of Roon to perform best when server/roon core are on a very high powered computer and the player is on a medium to low powered computer. This is why Antipodes adopted a dual computer approach and why Pink Faun recommends two units for absolute best performance.

Robert look at your source cabling , at times it easy to correct bright issues by trying cables that are not too revealing, Audioquest most do have good tonal balance. Agree Tellurium Cables are good.

If Iam not mistaken Audioquest has the diamond model for the Ethernet cabling.

@robert1976 yes the TWL Obsession are good cables with excellent connectors. 
@verdantaudio provided some excellent thoughts on DACs and streaming with Roon.
I would also throw in trying a good Ethernet switch, as well as to try and upgrade Ethernet cable from wireless access point and or switch to DAC. I noticed a good improvement when I switched from standard cat5 to Supra CAT8 just as an example. 

@verdantaudio thanks for explaining. So if I’d get a Lampizator Pacific or Aries Cerat Kassandra, or any other DAC that isn’t a Roon endpoint, I have to connect over USB. This will turn my Nucleus into both Roon core server AND player, which causes performance to drop. This may even undo the positive effect of using a better DAC?

Moving to a non-Roon endpoint DAC means I should get a separate player? Meaning Nucleus > Player/renderer > DAC?

What player/renderer should I look into? This machine will not have storage space for local files and not run Roon core operating system correct?

You are absolutely correct.  Move to a DAC that is not Roon Ready and using Nucleus as renderer and player might actually deliver a regression in sound with the upgraded DAC.  These are the best players I have heard in descending order in terms of price:

Antipodes Oladra or K50 - these are server, player and clock solutions that are not inexpensive but will deliver elite levels of performance.  This is the sort of elite solution that would be at home in your system.  $25K or $17.5K respectively

Antipodes K22 - Clock and Player portion of K50 and can be paired with any server.  $9K

Weiss DSP 501/502 - this unit has a variety of DSPs including room correction.  There is an argument simply adding this in the chain and applying a DSP would resolve your issue with 100% certainty as either the d'esser or vinyl mode would likely add the warmth you are looking for.  $7.5K/$8.5K

Bricasti M5 - this is a pure player and is an awesome value.  Nothing fancy.  No DSP.  Just a high quality player.  $2400

Chord 2Go/2Yu - This is particularly interesting due to its high level of flexibility and wireless capabilities.  That being said, it is not at its best via Wireless.  It is at its best wired and is equally good compared to the Bricasti M5 via Coax though harder to setup.  $2240



@deludedaudiophile I tried that and Roon’s equalizer distorts the sound to the point I can hear the difference. Piano sounds off, for example. Having a highly resolving system is a two edged sword.


Looking at the Stereophile revies of the Audionote DACs, one thing they are not is resolving. Don't get fooled by the price. From what I learned of acoustics, your lack of absorption will also greatly reduce the resolution of your system. Perhaps Roon does have issues with its equalizer, but I have not found that the case and that does not seem to be a comment I have read. Good headphones may not have perfect frequency response, but they are far more resolving due to their very low distortion. If you were trying to use Roon with the Audionote, that may have created issues due to the Audionote's simple architecture. You may be better with a low distortion DAC and using Roon in your particular setup. 


@verdantaudio you said earlier:

Best upgrade from a Nucleus for people connected via USB is not to get a higher end single box server but to get a separate player renderer.

The reason you’re recommending the single-box Antipodes K50 is because internally it’s devided into two computers: one for Roon core server, one to play/render the music file.
Should I look at Pink Faun 2.16 (ultra) too?

Upgrading to a non-Roon Ready DAC comes with the additional cost of a separate player/renderer, or upgrade to 2-in-1 box like antipodes K50.

BTW, the Lampizator Pacific can be configured with a Roon Bridge (although I’m not 100% sure if that means the playing/rendering is taken away from the Nucleus and into the Pacific).

That is correct.  The Oladra or K50 have two computers in one box (with separate power supplies) along with an elite clock.  

My understanding is the Pink Faun Ultra is very, very good but their top performer is a "double ultra" which is $47K which is one Ultra as Server, one Ultra as Renderer.  With Pink Faun, it is all about the clocking and they have superior clocking to just about everyone.  I am considering adding Pink Faun as a brand but haven't personally demo'd it yet.  

I work with the North America importer for Aries Cerat and Pink Faun and I know they work well together. 

If the Lampi Pacific has a bridge available that is great.  I do not know how it compares to the others mentioned above.  I will say this.  I feel that Antipodes K50 player and clock outperforms the Weiss Player in the DAC 501/502.  It may be that that K50 (or Pink Faun, etc..) might outperform the network bridge in the Pacific.  



I still say the Trinnov Amethyst would be your best investment if you’re determined to spend $25K. You can create settings to your particular tastes for different types of music. It would do much more than wires or tube DACs or overblown servers.

The Tambaqui is a very neutral DAC and you are actually hearing the recording artifacts. Higher model Lampizator is not going to sugar coat a bad recordings, which most of the rock albums are. Those DACs will be more detailed and are supposed to bring more than life like images. You might be able to change the flavor by changing tubes.

I would suggest two things:

1. Try a Weiss 502 or 501. They have filters, like a vinyl emulation, which can tune the sound and the DAC is slightly on the warmer side which will favor rock music.

2. Change the Nucleus into something better. The Nucleus is not upto the snuff with the rest of your gear. If you are into Roon, try a Innous or a Lumin u1.


@robert1976 I am in a similar boat. My system is also very enjoyable but, tends to get bright and harsh with certain (rock) recordings. I don't listen at higher volumes so that is not an issue. I too am not unhappy, just curious if I can chop off that bright top end with certain recordings.

I was thinking about taking a slightly different approach. Purchase a less expensive Dac that would only be used for poor recordings. Something that tones down a hot top end. Dacs I am considering are a used PS Audio direct stream or Lampizator Baltic 3. I will also look at used Audio Note Dacs.

So what I am looking at is an Aurender 200 feeding a Berkeley Alpha USB then AES to a Berkeley Reference 3 and SPIDF to the new Dac. Both DACs will be connected to my preamp.

I did compare the Berkeley to the MSB Premier and preferred the Berkeley. One caveat is the new Dac must have balanced output.

Are there any other DACs I should be considering that will only be used for about 10% of the music I will be listening to?

I really think this is all barking up the wrong tree. Instead of spending 25-40K that may or may not work, spend $500-1000 to start for an acoustic engineer/technician to come to your house and measure your room / system. Without a baseline to know if your system is a bit bright of not, you are just throwing darts. An experienced set of ears may pick up on the flaw you hear, but cannot clearly identify the cause for. Just basic windows software on a PC can do equalization with absolutely no distortion. I am listening with headphones <0.01% distortion at high volume. That is lower than your DAC. All the equalization does is change the tonal balance. No distortion.

Ordering Aesthetix Pandora for my self soon to go with my Aurender N10 demo it in my system it was glorious 

++++++ Aesthetix Pandora, running a signature for years in a resolving and musical system….

The Brinkmann Nyquist II is also excellent.


hello op

we have a ton of experience with Roon as well as other servers and streamers.

First We were aureder dealers then an innous dealer the Innous sounded far better we tested sotm lumin and many others.

The Stereophile comment is very wrong the statement sounds far better if you are using usb and yes demoed that way the difference is very audible via ethernet there would be no difference.


fast forward we found a thread New to the forum: high end music server with Roon Core and 3 x dedicated linear power supplies | What’s Best Audio and Video Forum. The Best High End Audio Forum on the planet! (whatsbestforum.com)


the poster found the 5k 432evo Aeon sounded nearly as good as theese 10k euro servers



The Aeon has a very rich and Musical presentation. and we have compared it to the nucleus and the Aeon sounds far better.

may/ june Absolute Sound Andrew Quint reviewed 432Evo Aeon and found the Aeon to be best sounding server I have heard. in fact he purchased the sample..

as per dacs the Aqua hifi dacs are very musical and are fully modular and upgrad able as they are ladder dacs they are very smooth and natural sounding.


Dave and Troy

Audio intellect nj

US importer 432Evo music servers AQua hifi rdealer focal dealer





I'm totally onboard with verdantaudio, Antipodes is very nice, they know how to optimize both ports and power supplies, K50 would be my first choice for off the shelf not insanely priced servers, K40 or 41 for running another brand streamer.  And yes to running Roon with core on server, endpoint on streamer.

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.