SOtM sDP-1000 DAC and Pre-Amplifier

Device Type: Digital to Analog Converter/Preamplifier
Input: Asynchronous USB, 2 RCA Coax S/PDIF, 1 BNC Coax S/PDIF, 1 Toslink S/PDIF, 1 AES/EBU, 1 pair analog XLR, 2 pair analog RCA
Output: RCA (single-ended) or XLR Balanced
Dimensions (H x W x D): 360mm x 240mm x 68mm
Weight: 6.5kg.
Availability: Through Authorized Dealers
Price: $2,900.00
US Distributor's Website: tailoredtechnology.com
Website: www.sotm-audio.com

SOtM "Soul Of the Music"
The battery-powered SOtM sDP-1000 DAC and Pre-Amplifier has a host of digital and analog inputs, it can handle up to 32-bit/192kHz PCM files as well as single rate 64x DSD, while offering both RCA and XLR outputs. It can, therefore, act as the heart of a hi-fi system handling a number of sources including a turntable as long as you add a phono pre into the mix. It wraps all of these functions into a very nicely designed aluminum-wrapped form.

There are actually two batteries inside the sDP-1000; one charges while the other powers and it switches between these functions automatically. You just need to plug in and forget about the fact you're running off batteries, the only reminder being the sDP-1000's silence. According to SOtM, there are, "...high performance oscillation circuits that include an ultra-low jitter clock and active noise canceller" and the USB input is asynchronous further removing system-induced jitter from the equation. Or so the theory goes. The analog inputs bypass the digital section of the sDP-1000 and volume is controlled in the analog domain. The DAC inside is the Asagi Kasei AK4399 which handles PCM and DSD duties the latter via DoP and SOtM has opted to bypass the AK4399's digital volume control.

In an exchange with May Park of SOtM, which is based in Korea, she emphasized one design aspect of the SOtM DAC:

As you know, 'USB audio sound' is the SOTM's strongest point, and the high performance clock is the main factor in the digital audio. The USB input on sDP-1000 has installed 'the specially designed high performance super clock', so it can present the various range of resolutions in detail and this feature is much better than any other brand devices, so if this review will be going without this strong point, the readers will miss the main point of sDP-1000.

The front panel houses an on/off button and a blue-lit display that shows the volume level, signal lock status, selected input, the sample rate of the music being played, and the batteries status. There's also a quartet of buttons for up/down volume, source selection, and mute on the unit's right hand side. All of these controls plus a Menu button that allows you to adjust left/right balance using the front panel volume buttons exist on the remote. The remote, as you can see, is a nicely made matching aluminum wand and a welcome reprieve from the plastic doohickies that seem attached to most components regardless of price. The sDP-1000's chassis design is somewhat unique, and handsome imo, in that the top of the unit is actually a separate top plate with a 1/8" opening between it and the rest of the body. While I find this design aesthetically pleasing, it also provides a clever ventilation solution.

I mainly used the sDP-1000 as both DAC and preamp connected to my Pass INT-30A via XLRs and on the other side my MacBook Pro served as server so I did not need to install the SOtM Windows drivers. We'll be talking about the matching SOtM SMS-1000D Media Server in a separate review where we'll also cover the whole SOtM package. I also used a SOtM supplied SOtM dCBL-USB-S USB cable ($600/1M) and the prototype (it came in a Media Server chassis) SOtM SPS-1000 Linear Power Supply ($1,000). The Pass was tethered to my DeVore Fidelity The Nines.

Delicacy, Nuance, and Detail
The SOtM sDP-1000 DAC and Pre-Amplifier is one clean-sounding machine. I'd say it tips toward the cool and dry side of the overall presentation scale, serving up your music with an exacting sense of pace and stride. There's also an undeniable quiet, a deep silence behind the music that makes sounds stand out in stark contrast. There's no lingering or bloat to be found in the sDP-1000, rather its more in line with just the facts. Micro-detail is portrayed with striking exactitude regardless of your music's complexity and the overall sound image is big, solid, and very well defined.

While I've heard richer and more complex tonal pallets, there was still a nice sense of timbral difference and distinction. Another overall sonic trait worth pointing out is I found the sDP-1000 to lean toward the fleeter and lighter side. Other DACs that have been through here have delivered a greater sense of body and while hardly a fair comparison, the much more costly Totaldac D1-Dual DAC (see review) delivers a more complete sound picture. Comparisons aside, I found the sDP-1000 to be capable of engaging my full attention regardless of the music being played.

I've also heard DSD sound more stunning. The Auralic Vega (see review) does a remarkable job with DSD and by comparison the sDP-1000's way with DSD was a tad flat. To put it another way, there was not as much difference and distinction between PCM and DSD as I've heard from other DACs. The sDP-1000 delivered DSD with same sense of cool delicacy that it imparted to PCM and again there was that wonderful deep silence from which music emerged. Considering the SOtM's price and feature set, it is to my way of thinking keeping a fairly close pace with some very good company.

a stack of SOtMs: from the top the sDP-1000 DAC and Pre-Amplifier, the SMS-1000D Media Server, and the SPS-1000 Linear Power Supply

I took the SPS-1000 Linear Power Supply in and out, and while this was not a quick A/B since it required powering the sDP-1000 down/up/down/up, careful listening offered no real hint as to which was which. The real value of the Linear Power Supply, imo, comes in when you add the SOtM SMS-1000D Media Server since the Linear Power Supply can power both the DAC and Media Server. We'll talk more about this in the upcoming Media Server review.

SOtM USB Cable

I also took the SOtM USB cable in/out replacing it with the Light Harmonic Lightspeed cable. While for the most part these two cables sounded similar, I felt the Lightspeed cable added some welcome heft and weight. I was more aware of bass in a good way without any sense of boom or bloat. The Lightspeed cable costs $999/.8M which is roughly a third again more than the SOtM USB cable and whether or not this perceived difference is worth it is up to the individual listener. I'd add that I find it interesting that the 'voicing' of the SOtM DAC and USB cable tended toward detail and delicacy which certainly compliments certain kinds of music more than others. Namely large-scale classical and complex electronic music sounds particularly stunning through the SOtM setup and the better the recording's quality, the happier the SOtM gear and you will be.

Coax and My Big Oops!
Nearing the end of this review, the USB input on the sDP-1000 apparently stopped working (it really didn't but it took me some time to figure that out). It's as if it had had enough of my poking and prodding and simply went silent. I initially could not trace this problem to any obvious event and all appeared to be working just fine but there was no output with the USB input connected to my MacBook Pro. Just silence. So I used the loaner Resonessence Labs Concero HD (see review) in USB to S/PDIF mode and did some more listening. I would not say there was a dramatic difference with the Concero in the picture which speaks well for the USB implementation in the SOtM. Now for the oops part—it turned out the issue I was having was with the USB output from my MacBook Pro which was due to the fact that the output for the SOtM DAC had been set to "Mute" in my AudioMIDI setup (I'm assuming by gremlins). An embarrassing solution to a non-existent problem but I will also add that the people from SOtM were very patient and helpful throughout this non-issue.

Quietly Resolving
The SOtM sDP-1000 DAC and Pre-Amplifier has a lot to offer. It can serve as a true preamplifier providing a number of digital and analog inputs as well as an analog remote controlled volume, a 32-bit/192kHz and 64x DSD-capable DAC, all wrapped up in a very handsome package with a matchingly handsome remote. Add in the super-silent and smooth auto-charging battery power supply and you have yourself a nice chunk of technology. More importantly, the sDP-1000's sonic performance is at once delicate, nuanced, and finely detailed with stunning low-level resolution offering a clear window onto your music.



Associated Equipment

Also on hand and in use during the SOtM sDP-1000 review: Auralic Vega, Totaldac D1-Dual DAC

COMMENTS
sauerball's picture

Now I can like mine better.  

Kidding, of course.

Other than some difficulty getting DSD to work with my Mac mini (although no problems with a Windows 7 machine) and the writing on the remote flaking off, I have been very happy with the sDP-1000.

Audreal's picture

Hi "sauerball",

I am not sure what country you are in but I would be glad to help you with your remote control issue.

You can send me a personal message with the contact button at http://audreal.us/

Eric Hudgens

Tailored Technology

OU812's picture

I auditioned oppo bd-105. mytek 192-DSD and the much hyped Auralic Vega. I heard very little difference between them. The SOTM was easy to distinguish and my loudspeakers "disappered" when playimg back music. Ony con is the np dsd128 support and batteries.....overall much better than Vega..much more transparent, playback with cd's were oustanding! the remoet control was much better than the Auralic

Archimago's picture

Is the upsampling using a minimal phase filter vs. tranditional linear phase filter for example such that the sound may be affected?

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