D1-driver for totaldac d1-direct DAC Arrives at AudioStream

The driving four-on-the-floor beat and overdubbed hand-clapping of Santa Esmeralda’s 1977 12-inch version of the Nina Simone classic “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” hung abruptly in the air like the pre-echo of a rung bell as I hit pause.

I hadn’t realized just how cranked-up I’d had the cut playing until I’d silenced it, and then felt the whole room ring for that millisecond as it soaked up the last traces of the analog waveform into itself. It was jarring like your ears popping on flight and not something I usually ever do on purpose – exactly because of how disconcerting it is – but I had been expecting a package from totaldac of France and swore I’d heard the sound of knocking at the front door.

An album I fist heard thanks to my father's love of a driving beat.

I listened for several seconds. Nothing. I hit Roon's play button on my Apple iPad Mini 2 and slowly goosed the volume back up.

Twenty seconds later there’s a thud behind the beat, that has got to be the door. A ringing silence as unfolding sound pressure waves continue to exit through the half-open door of the listening room after I hit pause again… I cock my head, straining from my seat on the little sofa to catch something in the glaring silence signifying a delivery person. Nothing.

I’m just about to hit play again, but instead I bolt up and stride out of the room towards the main entrance just as another knock echoes through the house scaring the shit out of me. I realize living on the edge of civilization has its major advantages, but man it makes you jumpy at times.

Maybe I was a little wound up too, I get excited about gear from Vincent Brient and I’d been waiting on this drop off for a few days due to a snowstorm and roads being closed in our area, so I was stoked at getting the d1-driver in the house to compliment my reference totaldac d1-direct DAC. What is a d1-driver you may be asking? Brient says it is an answer to the question of whether his totaldac designs are “better with or without a preamp?" Basically, it is an two-channel analog driver with an active gain stage designed to go between your totaldac and a power amplifier or a preamplifier/integrated amplifier. It can be designated to have either 0dB of gain (x1 factor), or 10dB gain (x3 factor).

RCA I/O as standard, XLR available on a per order basis.

It features a high-bias Class A design for “a natural low output impedance and low distortion (0.0025 per cent).” Its circuit path is fully discrete (0.01 per cent VAR Bulk Metal Foil resistors with impedance matching) and an outboard linear power supply as standard. It comes with RCA I/O, but a balanced configuration is available on request. Inut impedance is 1MegaOhm, frequency cutoff at -3dB, RCA output is 2.5MHz.

According to Brient, “the strength of preamps is their active stage more than their volume control. The active stage helps in driving the power amp… the d1-driver is the solution in this case to get the best sound, the lowest noise and the most friendly volume control by using the Totaldac DAC remote. Its drive capability allows the d1-driver to improve the sound of a DAC, improving bass control, articulation, presence, soundstage and life. It has been tested when connected between a DAC and a power amplifier (transistor or tube), but also between a DAC and an integrated amplifier.

“The d1-driver has no volume control because it relies on the DAC volume control. It has been tested in association with the d1-core up to the d1-direct and d1-twelve DACs, with a big sound improvement even with DACs having a 3.3V output and 40ohm output impedance.”

totaldac d1-driver.

I’ll be running the d1-driver in front of McIntosh MC601 mono blocs, a Pass Labs X150.8 stereo power amplifier and a NAIM XS3 integrated amplifier. I’ll also drive into the 601s via a McIntosh C2600 tubed preamplifier, so check back for a full review in the near future.

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