After skipping 1.3.0, which brought the LDAC codec (among other tweaks) to the ES100, I decided to apply the latest update via my Mac mini. Fortunately, Radsone has improved the instructions for entering DFU mode and it worked perfectly.
Once finished with the update, the LDAC codec was automatically selected and I must say, it sounds fantastic paired with my Pixel 2. For those unfamiliar, LDAC supports 24/96 over Bluetooth. Bravo!
Mr. Cramer’s tone is just superb on this wonderfully moody set. Slow paced (mostly) and intricate, this album is perfect for a late night listen. Released in 2002.
If you’re a jazz guitar fan this incredibly talented young man should already be on your radar. Sounding Point is Mr. Lage’s 2009 debut as band leader and well-worth a listen. A nice review can be found on All About Jazz.
MHDT Laboratory Audio Devices has been producing their line of affordable NOS (non-oversampling) DACs since 2002. The Pagoda was introduced in 2014 and is a bit of a departure for MHDT Lab with its use of dual PCM1704 R-2R DAC chips. These chips are legendary (bordering on cult status) for their superb sound quality. It’s most unfortunate the PCM1704 family of chips are no longer being manufactured.
- 4 digital inputs (BNC, USB, RCA, Toslink)
- 24/192 max on all inputs
- no digital filter
- no op-amps
- no feedback
- tube buffered output (GE5670 3 mica)
- output level is 3.0v
With the current breakneck pace of DAC development the Pagoda might seem a bit long in the tooth for those who seek extremely high-res PCM and DSD rates. Obviously, this DAC is not for them. This DAC is for folks (like me) who find the NOS approach to sound more natural and engaging. Good design and implementation is key, of course, as it is with any audio component and my ears tell me the wizards at MHDT Lab know exactly what they’re doing.
With the vast majority of my music files being CD rips, getting 16/44.1 right is of utmost importance to me. Additionaly, I’ve explored the high resolution landscape in earnest over the course of several years and have acquired some nice downloads ranging from 24/44.1 to 24/384 and a smattering of DSD titles as well. I’ve found anything beyond 24/192 (or maybe even 24/96) is lost on me, as is oversampling to extremely high rates. I don’t care about DSD and care even less about MQA. Horses for courses.
While there’s been quite a bit written/shared regarding various DACs in the MHDT Lab line, the Pagoda has seen little online chatter. IMO it deserves better. The Pagoda paints a wonderfully analog sonic picture with gobs of detail, great dynamics, and no digital harshness. The sound isn’t mushy, soft, rolled-off, or “tubey” in any way. There is a certain rightness to the sound that is just remarkable regardless of bit depth/sample rate.
If you’re in the market for an affordable R-2R DAC you might want to give the Pagoda a listen.
Nice comprehensive reviews can be found at Head-Fi and TNT-Audio.
Terrific lineup. Equally terrific album from the trumpeter/flugelhornist.
I’ll say it up front .. Schiit Audio’s $179 USB-SPDIF converter is the best bang-for-the-buck audio component I’ve come across. In fact, I would say the same if it were 3 times the price. If you’re in need of a device such as this, don’t hesitate to order one. They offer a 15 day return policy (15% re-stocking fee) if you don’t like it. Find it here: Schiit Eitr.
From their FAQ:
Eitr does three things:
- It offers electromagnetic and electrostatic isolation from the USB source via a unique transformer-coupling method. This, we’ve found, is superior to optocouplers, which are inherently high-jitter devices.
- It eliminates any connection between the USB power and ground and system power—Eitr’s low-noise and reclocking sections are completely self-powered.
- It provides much higher quality, independent crystal-based clocks for the USB input and SPDIF output, operating at both 44.1 and 48kHz multiples.
Piano trio fans may want to give this album a listen. You can read a nice little review on Jazz Weekly.