Light Harmonic Da Vinci DAC

Device Type: Digital to Analog Converter
Input: Asynchronous USB Audio Class 2.0 384K /32, AES, RCA S/PDIF
Output: RCA (single-ended) or XLR Balanced
Dimensions (H x W x D): 7.87” X 18.5” X 18.5”
Availability: Authorized Dealers
Price: $20,000

The Da Vinci DAC has been garnering praise from both reviewers and audiophiles alike after first being exhibited at audiophile shows in 2011. Light Harmonic, a new Sacramento California based company, was launched in 2010 by Larry Ho. The Da Vinci resulted from Larry Ho’s desire to create a DAC that fulfilled his notion of what good digital audio reproduction should sound like. Larry is a dedicated audiophile that, among other things, enjoys vinyl reproduction with a tube-SET amp. After the Da Vinci was created, friends encouraged him to offer this product for sale. The result was Light Harmonic and their first product Da Vinci.

Why Da Vinci
Larry has an engineering background and has been involved with hardware and software design. Larry was dissatisfied with the current DACs available, and this dissatisfaction drove him to build a state-of-the-art design utilizing not only his own knowledge, but enlisting other designers from the USA and Germany including [German designer] Hannes Frederick, whose more than 30 years of experience in analog and high speed conversion design made significant contributions to the Da Vinci. Every aspect of the Da Vinci was carefully thought out from its massive 61 pound vibration eliminating / heat dissipating chassis that is constructed from six blocks of CNC milled aerospace-grade 6061-T6 aluminum to 6 dedicated power circuits with more than 40 shunt voltage regulators. Larry told me that the power supplies are discrete and avoid the use of op amps in his design. The Da Vinci is a modular design that allows easy service and upgrades if offered in the future.

all photos courtesy Light Harmonic

The Design
The Da Vinci is a 384K/32 Bit USB DAC with the XMOS asynchronous interface that has a patent-pending USB ground isolation solution to block high frequency noise from the computer. Larry feels that the Asynchronous USB interface offers the lowest jitter and best sound compared to his SPDIF interface. He does provide 2 SPDIF interfaces with an AES/EBU XLR and an RCA phono jack. The SPDIF interfaces are limited to 24-bit PCM at 44.1, 48, 96,176.4, and 192K.

Light Harmonic has chosen to use a non-over-sampling processor that does not employ the use of digital filters. The converter is a bit-perfect R2R type with a patent pending 3- layer buffer. Light Harmonic feels that the use of digital filters can create pre-ringing and post-ringing artifacts that degrade sound quality and contributes to the hard or shrill digital sound heard with some DACs.

The Da Vinci has a 64 bit digital volume control that is controlled by the computer’s volume setting. It recalculates the volume setting when the music server changes the volume ensuring greater precision.

The chassis design employs two decks with the power supply components being housed in the lower deck. The top deck is rotated 45 degrees after installation to allow heat dissipation and stabilization of temperature in the case. The look of these cases with the decorative lighting is something out of Star Wars.

Use of the Da Vinci could not be simpler. A large power selector takes the DAC out of stand-by operation. Turn on the computer with the USB cable attached, and the Da Vinci will indicate a satisfactory USB connection when the display indicates 44.1 to 384K. There are Mute, Polarity, and Music Play indicators. Duet Mode (more about this latter), Low Pass Filter selection, as well as SPDIF inputs are all controlled by a small square aluminum remote or the front panel.

Four feet are provided to help isolate the DAC from the supporting surface. There are interfaces for both wood and metal surfaces. I was also provided 20 documents of measured performance that is specific for each DAC manufactured by Light Harmonic.