Tag Archives: DAC

MHDT Lab Pagoda

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.

Some specs

  • 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.

MHDT Lab

Nice comprehensive reviews can be found at Head-Fi and TNT-Audio.

 

The gear

After more than 2 years using a Bluesound Node 2 I decided it was time to revisit my favorite macOS music players. So, I brought my old Mac mini out of storage, did a bit of housekeeping, and downloaded the latest offerings from Sonic Studio, Damien Plisson, and Jussi Laako. I’m glad I did. Amarra, Audirvana Plus, and HQPlayer have all seen quite a bit of development since I last used them. I’ve also acquired a new DAC and USB/SPDIF converter. So much for being off the merry-go-round.

The basics

  • Mac mini
  • Schiit Audio Eitr
  • MHDT Lab Pagoda
  • Decware SE84UFO
  • Omega Super 3i

Software

  • macOS High Sierra
  • Amarra Luxe and sQ+
  • Audirvana Plus
  • HQPlayer

Cables

  • AudioQuest Carbon USB
  • Black Cat Cable SilverStar! 75
  • Better Cables Silver Serpent RCA
  • DIY solid silver loudspeaker cables

Miscellaneous

  • Bluesound Node 2
  • Chromecast Audio
  • Brick Wall PW8R15AUD
  • Salamander Synergy
  • IsoAcoustics Aperta
  • Sanus Steel Series

Music library and services

  • flac on an Oyen Digital MiniPro via FireWire
  • Tidal
  • Pandora