The DAC is your foundation for digitally stored music: the first source of analogue sound in your music system. Simplifying; if the DAC's sonic performance is bad, average or good this is most likely what you going to hear - through your amp into the speakers, your ears and brain. I focused in my work on creating an acoustically exceptional DAC.
Table comparing the digital and mechanical sound storing methods
Mechanically stored music (vinyl record: 33 1/3 RPM, 45 RPM, and rare 78 RPM)
Quality recording on vinyl
CD transport or computer with music playback software
Record player`s rotating plate, mechanism with motor and turntable tone-arm
Turntable stylus with cartridge (MM or MC pickup) and RIAA Electronic Equalization Circuit
|Line level signal output stage||Line level signal output stage|
Ears - acoustic wave to mechanical vibrations to nerve impulses converters
Ears - acoustic wave to mechanical vibrations to nerve impulses converters
Brain - command centre, the mighty translator
Brain - command centre, the mighty translator
I used to be a vinyl man, collecting records and swapping cartridges. One of my first serious exercises in electronics through 1980`s was building tape recorders, RIAA phonostages and making turntables from pre-fabricated parts. The sound from digital was no good to me for quite some time. I also had to learn about it. Every single engineer out there has his starting point somewhere. Mine was in 1990 when I built my first DAC with two ceramic Phillips/SigneticsTDA1540D without oversampling and using simplistic I/V conversion accompanied by totally bonkers, JFet transistor output. The sound was exceptionally good, so good in fact that made me start abandoning the vinyl and reel2reel recordings. I acquired the`digital virus`. However, I wanted more and that`s how the story goes through many years. The problem was that I wasn`t interested in making just good sounding audio. I was extremely interested in making special sounding audio that made me `tick` and feel alive. I finally reached that point. My new DAC is a product for people looking for more than `very good`. It`s for those looking for remarkable sound. Offering it for sale is the logical way: I can`t afford to give one away every time I am asked!
Functionally it is a DAC indeed. But the sound transcends anything else you will have heard before
It took over a year to pass the boundaries of what already was comparable with high end vinyl replay. The reward: a sound where the D/A converter audio signature (whichever flavour) is no longer present and the real music plays, unrestrained by format or conversion method. This may be claimed by everybody- that`s the `new marketing`- but the difference is my project didn`t start for commercial reasons. This quest is personal. I have what I sought now.
The difference in my work comes also from the following:
This is a dual DAC where the PCM is decoded by separate converters and stand-alone DSD playback is fulfilled without digital processing. These two DACs through direct connection share only the valve output stage on a 'one-at-a-time' basis. The 2013 DAC-10 DSD was my first commercial, dual converter. The new Chrysalis and Mystra DAC took 18 months of hardware design and fine tuning, becoming audio product with difference.
DAC auto switches with incoming signal file format- directing DSD to DSD reconstruction filter or PCM to parallel PCM only DAC: This means that you can play your library of different format tracks in their native form, seamlessly and without software format processing, when you feel to do so. This dual DAC will adapt and switch to dedicated for PCM engine or DSD filter playback itself (in milliseconds) using analog signal relays. Very different approach when compared to `all-in-one`ΔΣ chips with transistor logic switching or devices which auto-convert music files from one format to another.
A non-oversampling mode was designed to bring remarkable clarity and emotion to CD recordings and 16 bit/44.1kHz music files. This design effort was made to reveal full music potential of Red Book recordings. We listen to many CD`s and 16bit/44.1 music files. Up-sampling them in their PCM domain or converting them to DSD in computer based systems shouldn't be needed for a real listening joy. So, you have a choice.
The DAC is upsampling free: i.e. the original sample rate of source PCM recording will not be changed (up-sampled). Up-sampling on DAC level is unappealing to me, resulting in sound which somehow fails to bring music to your heart.
Multibit hybrid DACs - instead of plain delta sigma or switched resistors a hybrid method has been chosen, relentlessly perfected since 2012 by me. To bring the most realistic dynamics and boost low-level performance- PCM D/A conversion uses dual (for Mystra) and quad mono (for Chrysalis) architecture
Differential Receiver with jitter rejection - it `fits`here into one sentence, but in real life it took nearly 2 years until it delivered remarkable CD Audio quality- from SPDIF with CD transport or any other compatible signal source. Seriously, it has to be heard to experience the difference.
DSD playback without digital processing, this is gaining more popularity now: I've developed and applied this method in early 2013 for DAC-10 DSD. Chrysalis and Mystra DACs employ much improved form of this untouched by digital processing circuit resulting in DSD playback which truly moves your heart.
Innovative multiple choke filters: these were designed for ultra clean power for the converters. Substantial choke filters for D/A converters are special to my design. The `air` and `breath` presence in the sound are more realistic with this approach (if you know what I mean)
Valve circuit is a true- no negative feedback topology with bias reference generator and no phase inversion. Signal amplifier is designed without valve cathode resistor. Such resistor would cause degree of degenerative negative feedback and affect the revealing openness of SE triode sound.
Active triode load is implemented in the valve circuit. This is a purist, elegant solution where one valve triode works as a current source to another valve triode. It is a more coherent, symbiotic relation and this is good for the music.
Match for any amplifier: low impedance (209 ohm), high current drive audio outputs. Something that need no explanation for the audiophile. Yes, it is a good thing. Signal outputs directly from the valves through Jensen copper film capacitor.
Analogue relay switches which are jitter free and non-saturating are used for all signals. Cmos, mux transistor signal switching is not used. This is to keep pure and simple path for the signal, without `veiling`it with any semi-conductors where these can be avoided.
All dedicated circuit boards are manually designed with my own human eyes, brain and hand (over long weeks). Software support of auto-routing and automated options were avoided. The complete architecture was optimized to create a unique circuit coherence. This design approach (laborious as it was) is proven to be the best for the sound
Film capacitors are used in the converter's power filtering and where size matters also organic polymer, silmic and wet slug tantalum. Certain top quality capacitors and their locations were chosen for the sound based on listening tests. Cheap electrolytics are not used.
4 mains transformers supply the circuits for pure power separation. This method, although more expensive, vastly reduces power fluctuations and cross-talk through power supplies. Effectively the 3D soundstage and dynamics are boosted through better channel separation as the interference's are minimized using this approach .
Soft start (turn ON delay), gives time for the valves to warm-up. During this warm-up time, signal outputs are muted. Audio comes-on automatically after 70 seconds. This circuit also automatically switches off the outputs when you power-off the DAC.
Strictly linear, ultra low noise power supplies were designed. All capable of high current delivery. Separate power rails with dedicated decoupling to each individual power consumer. Digital, analogue, left and right channel share none of the power supplies leading to channel separation of 120db and remarkable clarity of the sound.
The casework is a three Faraday cages joined together, providing an exceptional EMI shielding. It also has full vibration damping. This method of preventing the noise to interfere is superior to any other and leads to revealing more in the music
The build quality and reliability matches the best. The DAC is hand-built in the Heart of England, quality control rests with the designer, parts are sourced from British craftsmen and companies
Custom options such as rare wooden fronts, copper plates and matching wood remote handsets are offered. Those options can make your DAC a truly one-off machine
Veracity DAC prices start from £6200
You can choose how we build your DAC using variants in the shop.
5 years of my life`s passion and know-how. The DAC is made using coachbuilder methods, all by hand. It takes 36 to 38 man-hours to make the Mystra range DAC. It takes 46 to 50 man-hours to engineer Chrysalis DAC. All parts are hand assembled and components are soldered by hand with approx.650 soldering points. All parts are absolute top notch, custom made or handpicked by me for the sound. The complex chassis is special and it does contribute to the sonic performance. This chassis is not cheap. Custom front and custom remote and a set of good valves comes in play too. Parts and components are made or sourced in the United Kingdom
My personal love for valves started when I joined short-wave radio club at my college. Valves were absolutely dominant there and all circuits we made had them. The professor running the club was an old school engineer (Wroclaw University of Technology graduate) with enormous theoretical and practical knowledge in thermionic valves and what`s best, a passion. What I learned then lasts a lifetime and made me want to study more, which I did.
...back to the subject: When was the last time that we heard a designer saying: “We`ve made a valve circuit which sounds as good as a transistor” John Broskie`s TubeCad. Transistors- maybe in a different product. For this DAC nothing sounded better than the valve circuit designed specially for it. Saying this I dislike the so called `tubey` sound-i.e. coloured with `syrupy` signature. My valve circuits are clear of that. Simplifying; with innovative circuit topology and super clean power supply - the valves will sing, transparent and natural, just music.
The musicality and transparency are way more realistic with well designed valve circuit than with equivalent solid state. This DACs dual powered, dual mono, SET valve output operates in pure classA and without feedback. It has my own design topology. There isn’t a circuit like this in existence anywhere else. It is also hum and microphonics free.
Valves in Chrysalis and Mystra DACs are set to operate at 30% of their max current capabilities. This empirically extends their nominal life-span more than threefold. Expect 8.000 - 14.000 hours of listening from a good - excellent set of audio valves. Rectifiers: approx. 5000-7000 hours. We guarantee the valves supplied with the DAC for 90days from electrical failure not because they last that time. The precaution is because the valves are mechanically fragile. Once they are set in your system - serious longevity applies.
The design of our valve circuits guarantees that in case of valve failure- nothing happens to the D/A converters or the rest of your system (amplifier , speakers etc.) Replacing the faulty valve is all what would be needed.
*Option 2 and 3 - please email before ordering with your selection for an update
Note: Valves are supplied in pairs, three pairs, six valves in total.
Table 1. Valve complement differences between Mystra and Chrysalis
|Location (as seen from the DAC front)||MYSTRA DAC is supplied with valves selected from the options below:||CHRYSALIS DAC is supplied with valves selected from the options below:|
|FRONT PAIR 6SN7 double triode, audio driver valves||
|MIDDLE PAIR ECC82 double triode, audio output valves||
|BACK PAIR CV574 full wave rectifiers||*NLKS CV574 foreign made for British military||*NLKS CV574 UK made or *NOS 6X5GT Brimar|
|Location (as seen from DAC front)||Equivalent replacement valves (vacuum tubes) as listed below|
|Front pair of 6SN7 drivers||6SN7GT , 6SN7WGT, 6SN7WGTA, 5692, VT231, CV181, ECC32, 6N8S*|
|Middle pair of ECC82 output valves||ECC82, E82CC, ECC802S, 12AU7, CV4003, 6189, 7316, CV491, 5963*|
|Rear pair of CV574 rectifiers||CV574, EZ35, 6X5GT, 6C5S|
You can `roll` - experience the sound- with any of the replacement valves listed in the table above and also *Russian metal base 6N8S which is a v.good valve and replacement for western 6SN7. 5963* dual triode now makes also excellent output driver in Veracity DACs.
I designed with valves which are proven to be truly fantastic sounding and reliable. You can also buy them brand new from several reputable makers. The fun of sound personalizing with valve `rolling` just gets better this way. Much of the best valve audio gear ever made uses 6SN7, ECC82. Many designers (including me) committed years of life to work with these tubes. Are we barked up the wrong tree? Sure not, I don`t think so, neither do they. The application is what matters most of all. Otherwise a `one fairy tube for all` and Orwell`s 1984 would be the reality.
The Sound. Try it, it will become your friend forever. The look may count for something too.
The voicing and tests were concluded over 12 months in systems put together for real musical pleasure. I am sure many of you who love music own such systems no matter their price tag.
Real life examples of systems where the new DAC was tested-on:
Upgraded (re-wired new+solid Ash wood curved baffle frames+stands+new crossovers) - Magneplanar MG2.7QR speakers + Linaeum supertweeters + Hypex NCore monoblocks (x4, bi-amping)- DAC driving power amps directly
Snell E speakers (custom built to original plans with extended bass and external crossovers), Mund 6C4C (6B4G) parallel SingleEnded amplifier or Allnic T1500 300B amplifier- DAC driving Mund or Allnic amp directly
This system was also used at 2016 Scalford HiFi Wigwam Show- with all the people coming for listen in our room liking it very much
Stacked Quad ESL57 speakers (OneThingAudio rebuilt-upgraded) with Townshend Maximum supertweeters and Rel Stentor 3 sub with Sakuma 845 monoblock amplifiers (845 parallel single ended) - DAC driving 845 amps directly, then through Silvaweld Aphrodite preamplifier and also through Leben RS28CX preamplifier
Klipsch La Scala speakers with re-engineered crossovers + B&C supertweeters + Avantgarde Acoustic Pro 217 active subwoofers (pair) with Allnic T 1500 SingleEnded 300B amplifier (EML 300B Mesh LongPlate, Mullard PCL86) – DAC driving the Allnic directly and through Silvaweld Aphrodite preamplifier
(Moderately priced, yet great sounding): Celestion 66 speakers (mint) + Denon POA4400 monos- DAC driving power amps directly
Carfrae Big Horns speakers (original ones-built by the creator) with Vavac EC300B power amplifer. Original Kondo M7 preamplifier and Vavac PR-T1 preamplifer. DAC driving Vavac EC300B amplifier directly and through Kondo M7 or PR-T1 preamplifier.
Upgraded Martin Logan Sequel II speakers + upgraded/re-engineered Yamaha P2200 studio amplifier- DAC driving Yamaha amp XLR inputs directly
Harbeth Monitor 30.1 speakers on dedicated Skylan stands + Allnic T1500 amplifier and KT66 PP UL amplifier, D.T.N. Williamson circuit principle, triode-connected. DAC driving the amplifiers directly
SD Acoustics SD-1 speakers with upgraded crossovers and custom built 2x15" Altec Lansing loaded bass sections + Leak TL12.1 monoblocks (fully restored with upgraded parts). DAC driving Leak monos directly.
CD Transports used in tests:
TagMcLaren CD-T20R, Shigaraki Lab 4716, Denon DVD-A1X, and Pioneer DV-747 (upgraded)
Computer music files sources used in tests:
Selected high quality computers (Dell Precision series, Apple MacBook Pro, etc), stock and custom built units. All computers were configured for audio only with dual or quad core processors, at least 16GB RAM (memory playback), Solid-state system drives, clean storage drives (music files only), ASIO or WASAPI mode
Music playback software used in tests:
Cables, interconnects: Mostly custom made at our lab- silver plated OFC copper, solid silver, Gore Teflon insulated. Silver plated OFC copper shielded- twisted pair core method used with the cable shield not participating in signal conduction. Nordost Valhalla range and Kondo "AN-Vz" and "AN-SPz" cables were used as reference and for comparison in systems with stacked Quad ESL`s57, extended range Klipsch LaScala`s and Carfrae Big Horns speakers.
Special thanks to the people involved in tests to name just a few:
Andy Patel, Steve Forrest, N.Frederic Long, Malcolm Williamson, David Harding, Emmanuel Benazeraf, Matty Jones, Dylan Jones, Andrew Harrison
Couldn`t you do something more affordable?
Yes, I could. With a number of targeted compromises and shortcuts in design.
But the aim was for 100% music and as much as we could hear and feel that is right. Only a non-compromise effort would achieve that. I had to follow through to prove it
One can`t really describe sound with words- it quickly becomes a cliche, but I hope that the below expression approximates my goals- I worked to achieve a true detail and sheer musicality, in other words: the `heart and soul of music`. The music currently available in `super number hi-rez` didn`t convinced me enough to replace the music I love . Despite this, I strongly experimented with 32bit/384/768kHz ΔΣ platform and up to DSD x8 digitally filtered playback. Problem was that, both `super number hi rez` decoding `engines` were somehow killing the soul in music- for lack of another expression. Everything was there, but it didn`t sound right (to my ears anyway). The `digital signature` in sound was still present to certain degree with number of recordings. Long experiments to `lose it` through the valve stage resulted in a `syrupy sound` (if you know what I mean), this kind of sugary coated rounding to musical notes- felt fake and I didn`t want it. The inevitably more complex solid state circuits- were serving mostly the `numbers` I concluded, they didn`t serve the music well enough to justify their existence. So, a conscious design choice was made for a hybrid 24bit/192kHz pcm which I was perfecting since 2012 and digital free dsd up to 128. These gave me and my friends the best sonic experience and playback so close to analogue sources that nobody could tell the musical difference. It`ll do it for you too (even though your experience with `numbers` could be different) try it and listen for yourself.
There was a design choice to make: output capacitor or output transformer? My new DAC has low impedance, high current outputs. I have chosen capacitors as the sonic results from selected audio capacitors were better in final testing than from limited number of custom made transformers. After listening tests totaling 650 hours with the best film capacitors in place from 6 brands (Audyn, AudioNote, Duelund, Jensen, Jupiter, V-Cap)- the Jensen top range copper foil signal capacitors were chosen.
Audio signal output capacitors options table:
|Jensen Copper foil Paper in Oil in a Aluminium can, silver lead-outs capacitors - quad.||Jensen Copper foil Paper in Oil in a Aluminium can, silver lead-outs capacitors - pair.|
|Jensen Copper Foil, Paper in Oil in a Paper can, silver lead-outs capacitors - quad.||Jensen Copper Foil, Paper in Oil in a Paper can, silver lead-outs capacitors - pair.|
|Jensen Copper Foil, Paper in Oil in a Copper can, silver lead-outs capacitors - quad.||Jensen Copper Foil, Paper in Oil in a Copper can, silver lead-outs capacitors - pair.|
Table 2. Architecture and parts differences between Mystra DAC and Chrysalis DAC
|Dual D/A converters for PCM 16 and 24bit/44.1,48,88.2,96,176.4,192kHz||
Quad D/A converters for PCM 16 and 24bit/44.1,48,88.2,96,176.4,192kHz
Chrysalis has double the number of PCM converters compared to Mystra in ladder D/A part
|DSD 64, DSD128 reconstruction filter without digital processing||DSD 64, DSD128 reconstruction filter without digital processing|
|Axicom HF signal relays||Takamisawa and Axicom HF signal relays|
|Panasonic MKT film capacitors in converter power supplies||Wima and Epcos MKP film capacitors in converter power supplies|
|Super low ESR polymer capacitors in digital circuits||Ultra low ESR polymer capacitors in digital circuits|
|Long life capacitors in valve banks- Nichicon KXJ||Ultra long life capacitors in valve banks- Vishay Extreme, Epcos LL|
|100uF of film capacitors in anode filtering||250uF of film capacitors in anode filtering|
|Dual 10H choke filtered valve power, twin rectifiers||Dual 15H choke filtered valve power, dual rectifiers|
Jensen Copper foil Paper in Oil, silver lead-out audio output capacitors. One per stereo channel - pair
Jensen Copper foil Paper in Oil, silver lead-out audio output capacitors. Two per stereo channel – quad
|Dale, Fukushima and PRP PR9372 - audio resistors||AudioNote tantalum, Allen Bradley and Holco - audio resistors|
|Silver plated copper audio signal links (converters to valve)||Solid 99.999% silver audio signal links (converters to valve)|
|Silver plated copper in Kapton power wiring||Silver plated copper in Teflon power wiring|
|Weller copper/silver solder thorough||Felder Lott High Silver solder and MBO Sn/Ag thorough|
|Tin plated PCB pads with tin plated ground plane and blue board colour||Gold plated PCB pads with gold plated ground plane and red board colour|
Automatic oversampling. Oversampling control as an option
|Oversampling control- User controllable in three levels: x8, x4 and NOS-Non Oversampling for 16bit/44.1, 48kHz|
|No upsampling||No upsampling|
|Custom implemented linear phase digital filter.||
Custom implemented linear phase filter. Filter free NOS mode
|Headphone output 32-300ohm/150mW (front plate, 6.35mm stereo Jack socket)||Headphone output 32-300ohm/175mW (back plate, 3.5mm mini Jack socket)|
|Aluminium top cover, polymer coated in black||Hand linished, hand varnished copper plate in valve part (option extra) + polymer coated aluminium top cover|
|Aluminium front panel (silver or black anodized)||Hand finished wooden front- made to order, including rare wood species (responsibly sourced)|
|Handmade in black acrylic remote handset (when remote version chosen)||Custom handmade remote handset in matching to front panel wood|
|Machined, anodized aluminium controls||Turned brass or bronze controls, hand varnished|
|R2R network/relays stepped attenuator analogue volume. Alps RK27 blue velvet potentiometer in volume control as an option||R2R network/relays stepped attenuator analogue volume control as standard|
|Manual controls or remote control for volume and inputs option||Remote control for volume and inputs as standard|
|Veracity metal nameplate in Silver or Gold||Veracity metal nameplate in chosen colour: Silver, Gold or Copper|
|Three mains transformers||Four mains transformers|
|Turn ON delay, slow start- 70sec.||Turn ON delay, slow start- 70sec.|
|Double wall (cardboard), double box with protective foam forms - shipping box||Aluminium flight case lined with protective foam+ double wall, double box (cardboard)- shipping box|
|3 years RTB Warranty||5 years RTB Warranty|