T+A DAC 8 DSD

Device Type: Digital to Analog Converter/Headphone Amp
Input: USB, 4x Coax S/PDIF (RCA), 1x Toslink, 1x Coax S/PDIF (BNC), 1x AES/EBU
Output: 1x Coax S/PDIF (RCA), unbalanced RCA, balanced XLR
Dimensions 9.5 x 27 x 27 cm
Weight: 4 kg
Availability: through authorized dealers
Price: $3995.00
Website: www.ta-hifi.de

Skip The Bits
"Hey, you put DSD in my DAC! You put DAC in my DSD!" The buzz surrounding the T+A DAC 8 DSD is all about octuple-rate DSD; DSD512 (512 times that of CD)/22.5792 MHz. The idea being you use Signalyst's HQPlayer software to convert all of your music to DSD512 before sending it to the DAC 8 so that the latter's "True One Bit DSD Converter" can work its magic. Yea, magic.

The DSD buzz began about 5 years ago, reaching its first zenith at RMAF 2011. Since then, many naysayers have scoffed at DSD, pointing to the lack of content, i.e. music, released in the format. There's also the sticky wicket of PCM (DXD) creeping into the DSD process whenever you want to, you know, do some post-processing. Others question the basic claim that DSD material sounds better, resting their tech specs on DSD64 so they can conveniently point to DSD's supposed shortcomings north of 22kHz. Sigh.

photo credit: T+A

As with most arguments, this arguing completely misses the point and that point is—DSD can sound fantastic. As Tyler said to Roach after he said surfing was more exhilarating than sex in the original (and much better) Point Break, "Maybe you're not doing it right, Roach."

The T+A DAC 8 offers two completely separate signal paths for PCM and DSD. PCM takes the bit-train trolley through a "quadruple arrangement with eight 32-bit converters from Burr-Brown in a double symmetrical circuit." Users can opt between 4 T+A-developed digital filters; Bezier interpolation, Bezier/IIR, a standard FIR filter, and a short FIR filter. From T+A:

All 4 filters were developed in-house, including even the standard FIR filter. All of the filters are programmed into our high speed oversampling processing engine, which uses deeper registers / calculations than available OEM chipsets, which our design team feels make both of the FIR filters a bit more accurate than commonly available options, albeit still with the known pre-and-post impulse behavior of all FIR filters.

Noise, another digital bugaboo for the technically narrow-minded, is addressed in part by galvanic isolation of the digital section from the analog section, "...using extremely fast digital isolators made by Silicon Labs in the DAC 8 DSD. The result is to prevent any interference from the source devices finding its way into the analogue section. Computers, in particular, generate enormous levels of interference noise which would ruin the superior sound qualities of the audiophile output stage without this measure."

photo credit: T+A

The DAC 8 is loaded with digital inputs, while offering single-ended and balanced output and a headphone amp/jack up front. As with every piece of kit that I've ever seen from T+A, the DAC 8 is beautifully built, sandwiching a matte black chassis between two sheets of appropriately-thick aluminum. The unit weighs in at a convincingly hefty 8.8 pounds.

There are a series of buttons up front including power, input selection, phase, PCM filter options, volume up/down, and "Wide Mode". What what? "Wide Mode"?

The frequency limit of the DAC 8 DSD’s analogue reconstruction filter can be switched between 60 kHz and 120 kHz; the "ultra-wide" 120 kHz setting is the key to perfect frequency response and phase characteristics when used with power amplifiers with a broad-band output—such as those in the T+A range. The phase linearity and signal fidelity of the "ultra-wide" circuit also has a perceptible effect in the audible range, and allows an open sound image with phenomenally clear positioning and ultra-lively dynamics.
Well, we'll just have to see about that!

Associated gear for this review included my reference system; sonicTransporter i5 running Roon Server/Core, microRendu/UpTone Audio UltraCap LPS-1 power supply, totaldac d1-six DAC, Ayre AX-5 Twenty integrated amp, DeVore gibbon X, Tellurium Q Black cables with all audio powered stuff plugged into an AudioQuest Niagara 1000.

I also have the Sound Galleries SGM server here for review which runs Roon and HQPlayer so I used it to send the DAC 8 nothing but DSD512.

The Sum Of All Fears Parts
The T+A DAC 8 is one very fine sounding DAC. It is so fine sounding, that I could easily live with it forever. And I say this whether its sent music in all of its varying original resolutions or just DSD512. That being said, if you want to hear the T+A DAC 8 at its best, get yourself HQPlayer and send it nothing but DSD512.

Let's talk native playback first since we cannot expect everyone who owns a DAC 8 to use HQPlayer. Using my reference rig, the DAC 8 played all of my music and all of the music I ingest daily from Tidal HiFi with aplomb. There was no digital edginess, no digital flatness, while there was natural ease, nice tone color, wonderful control from bottom to top, and a general "what shall I play and enjoy next-" ness.

I recently discovered that Tom Waits' Blue Valentine was not in my digital deck; either owned or Tidal. WTF? And I say WTF for a few reasons but mainly because that means I haven't thought about listening to Blue Valentine in years. WTF? So I pulled out the LP and listened while I hunted down the digital download (I found & bought it from Qobuz). Waits' cover of Somewhere from West Side Story pulls at my heartstrings, even more so after all these years of abstinence. With the DAC 8, the opening strings sing cinematically and when Waits' gravel comes in the contrast is startling and damn well sad. His first whispered "somewhere" conveying all of the hope/hopelessness that word can convey.

With digital replay, nuance is often the thing that goes missing. Nuance can get glossed over, literally, making music harder-sounding than it is, an unnatural sheen hardening music's softer edges, lulling some listeners into a false sense of detail. This kind of sound can sound like "wow" at first, but I find it often grates on my ears soon thereafter. The more insidious kind of digital noise may take weeks to creep into consciousness but once it does, it never, ever, goes away. The DAC 8 lived and played in-Barn for weeks on end and never once irritated or called itself into question.

I mated the AudioQuest NightHawk, my favorite 'phones, to the DAC 8 and was greeted with a nice, deep, warm, organic sound. While I'm not inclined to shut out the world so forcefully, headphone enthusiasts should be well served by the DAC 8. I also connected the DAC 8 to the Ayre's balanced input #2, which is set for Pass Through mode (although why anyone in their right mind would want to bypass the Ayre's volume control is beyond me), and the DAC 8 didn't suck at controlling volume. Of course, this kind of thing, how well a preamp/DAC will mate with your amp is about as clear cut as how well misty666xoxo from Zoosk will mate with your mother.

So yea; if you're looking to buy a DAC in the $4k and above ballpark, and you own lots of music in all flavors and you want to listen to it and enjoy it, you should listen to the T+A DAC 8. If you want to take its wonderful performance to another level, like past 11, introduce the DAC 8 to HQPlayer and nothin' but DSD.

I have to be careful. Talking about and focusing on HQPlayer and DSD512 while ignoring the Sound Galleries SGM server would be a silly, misleading mistake because the SGM does not sound like the other servers I've listened to (and even they don't sound like each other). So the extent to which the DAC 8 surpassed my reference rig's (sonicTransporter/microRendu) performance is not solely due to HQPlayer and DSD512. The annoying part, for me and I'd imagine for you too, is that I cannot, at present, separate the two because I do not have another machine in-Barn that can run HQPlayer at DSD512 and Roon.

Since some readers will think something like "I can build something much better for under a grand" while others will feel that "The SGM will offer an approximation of a less expensive server so let's have it", it makes perfect sense to dig in.

Joe Surdna reminded me to listen to Jackie Lynn, Holy Fohr of Circuit des Yeux's country persona record. I happen to love Fohr's voice which is in full sway as Jackie Lynn. What happens to her voice when sent through the SGM and HQPlayer's digital filtered magic?

HQPlayer settings screen shot with thanks to Edward Hsu and Larry Mitchell for the tip on these settings

Her voice becomes more touching. It touches me more. There's more focus, body, weight, texture, and nuance. Sent bits as such, the T+A DAC 8 approaches the best DACs I've heard; "best" meaning the DACs that bring me the most enjoyment, the most engaging connection to my music. I'm talking mostly about an emotional connection that goes beyond reproduction, moving into the realm of production.

While the totaldac d1-six remains my all-time favorite music-maker, the T+A, when fed nothing but DSD512 from the SGM server, moves into the same arena of reproduction. All digital barriers to entry are removed, providing a clean, clear, path to the performance. In my experience, the other DAC that betters the T+A is the dCS Rossini, putting this little magic 8 into some very fine company. In deed. "Wide Mode" through the Ayre (with a rated Frequency Response of DC - 250 kHz) seemed to improve on the already fairly stunning sense of dimensionality and liquidity of DSD512.

In DSD-only mode, every single piece of music sent to the DAC 8 flows out of my system and into the barn's air equally effortlessly, as it does with my totaldac. Where the d1-six pulls out ahead is in terms of ultimate clarity and a superlative sense of touch and voice. The totaldac simply brings me that much closer, that much more connected, that much more engaged with the performance. But let's be clear—I'm not talking a game of miles, I'm talking about a game of inches. Important, meaningful inches, but lacking a direct A/B, who's going be the wiser?

I'll also go out on a limb and suggest that with any capable server, HQPlayer/DSD512 will offer an improvement over sending the DAC 8 your music in its native resolution. You can call this an educated guess, a deduction, an extrapolation, or flat-out fancy. Seeing as the DAC 8 does so well with PCM, the only question is—how much better?

A Magical 8
I got to hear the T+A DAC 8 DSD/HQPlayer/SGM server, albeit an earlier incarnation, combination in Munich last year. While impressive, this system/room/music didn't quite grab me. Now, mixed in with my favorite bits in-Barn, the T+A grabbed me, shook me (well that was actually the music's domain), and didn't let go. Consider the DAC 8 DSD highly recommended for a very long term audition of your music's guts and glory.


Also in-use during the DAC 8 review: totaldac d1-six, Sound Galleries SGM server

Associated Equipment

COMMENTS
ukiro's picture

I had to google Zoosk.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Don't tell anyone but I Googled the most popular dating sites and liked that name (and that it was not obvious ;-)
DH's picture

For those of us without servers capable of upsampling to DSD 512, do you have the ability to upsample to lesser DSD rates?
It would be interesting to know how much, if any, is lost at those rates.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...allows for a near-infinite number of options including upsampling to whatever resolution your heart and server desires.

For owners of the DAC 8 who are not currently using HQPlayer, I'd recommend downloading the free trail and trying it out.

hifial's picture

I have used HQ Player for several years and with a few DAC's.

In all cases going from DSD128 to DSD256 was a worthwhile improvement and easy to hear.

About six months ago I bought a T+A DAC 8 DSD and built a PC specifically to do audio and be able to up-sample all rates to DSD512 using HQ Player. Keep in mind this was not your typical PC.

I expected a small improvement, if at all, from DSD256 to DSD512.

BOY, was I WRONG! It is NO SMALL improvement! It was a larger improvement then from 128 to 256. Really, until you experience it you can not appreciate it.

I heard this improvement on another DSD512 capable DAC though not quite at the same quality as the T+A.

I also had a few audio buddies hear the T+A play just DSD256 files that were either native or up-sampled files by HQ Player and we all thought it did an excellent job and better then what we compared it too.

Since then I had the chance to hear the SGM by Sound Galleries in not only my system but in a few others and can say it is in another league. I have recently bought one and will be an Ambassador for the SGM.

Hope this helped.

audiodoctornj's picture

Dear Michael,

You made my day with this review! Audio Doctor is the East Coast dealer for T+A, www.audiodoctor.com, and before your review we were recommending that people experience the magic of DSD playback on this dac and you have confirmed our experiences which is great to see.

The Dac 8 when feed a DSD 512 signal goes from a very competitive $4k dac to a dac which rivals $10k+ digital front ends.

We have also run the full gamut of signals through the dac and the difference that full DSD 512 makes is truly a stunning improvement. The increase in air and sound staging at 512 creates a sound which clearly rivals a good vinyl playback setup.

We showcased the DAC 8 DSD's bigger brother the $22k PDP 3000 at the recent New York Audio Show, and now we are testing out a Baetis Reference computer to enable DSD 512 playback on this system as well.

The Dac 8 DSD is a remarkable achievement a compact affordable dac that contains a truly state of the art playback engine that sounds wonderful for PCM but sounds truly magical on DSD and is also a very good headphone amp and a good little preamp as well!

We would love to have you come in for a visit to hear the reference PDP 3000, it takes the sound quality to a truly remarkable level. Thanks again I was so thrilled to see someone who knew how to setup a computer based system to get the most out of this piece.

a25105's picture

HI Michael,

Is it true that PS Audio DirectStream DAC also converts everything to DSD for playback? and no need to use software like HQplayer for conversion, correct?

hifial's picture

While I am sure Michael will give you his take allow me to add my 2cents.

The DirectStream DAC up-samples all incoming files to 10 times DSD. BUT then down converts it to 2 times DSD just prior to passing on to the analog section and playback.

Also the processing power that is available in the DirectStream DAC is very limited compared to what one can use in a PC.

So with HQ Player you have choices of what filters and modulators to use that could not only work best with a particular DAC but also what sounds best to you and in your system.

Then there is the fact HQ Player has more sophisticated algorithms that would need to be run on a PC and not a FPGA, which is what is in the DirectStream DAC and many others. Nothing wrong with FPGA depending on its use though.

So with the T+A and HQ Player you are up-sampling all file rates to DSD512 or 8 times DSD off load in a PC and passing it direct to the T+A. There is no down-sampling/conversion before playback.

With the DirectStream it up-samples all file rates to 10 times DSD but then down-samples to DSD128 or 2 times DSD before playback.

Hope that helped.

a25105's picture

Hi hifial,

Is it true that you can only get DSD512 from the Windows version of the HQplayer? I am not against adding a computer to the sound system but I already have a Mac for that. Don't really want to add another PC if I don't have to. I am just in the market for a good sounding DAC but do not want to add complexity to it. Preferably a DAC that does all the processing by itself and in the price range of the T+A DAC8. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. thx.

hifial's picture

Well its not so much DSD512 only from the Windows version of HQ Player. It is that you can NOT get DSD512 from Mac.
Like when I had my exaSound. exaSound wrote their own Drivers for Mac so I could do DSD256 without using DoP. So to do DSD512 the wrapper for Dop can not fit the DSD512 file in it.
While you do need Drivers for Windows they are available by the manufacture and can be used without using DoP in most cases, as in the case of DSD512 T+A.

So HQ Player does not care. It is a function of the OS limitation.

Ya, I hear you. I felt the same way. I was a BIG Mac user and really liked my tricked out Mac Mini with my exaSound. Still think they are both really good sounding.

BUT!! Then I heard all files up-sampled by HQ Player to DSD512!! And the T+A!! Game over!! No, seriously, I was not even looking to make a change at the time. I even heard DSD512 in another DAC at the time and while not at the same level as the T+A it still showed how good DSD512 is.

Yup, I was bit...and bit hard. The Audiophile bug got me good. It was like that kiss you just can not get out of your head. So after a few weeks I decided to make the change and investment. It just sounded so good.

Here is another thing. ANY DAC that does ALL the processing by ITSELF will NEVER sound as good as a DAC that does NOT and uses HQ Player to due ALL the processing in the PC.

That is based on an apple to apple bases.

YES, an EMM LABS sounds great and does ALL its own processing but in order to sound that good it needs a lot of money spent on things like RFI/EMI mitigation, custom designed filters/modulators etc. But now we are at another price point.

But You can spend a lot less and get all or most of the performance.

All you need is a DAC like the T+A DAC 8 DSD (be careful as the prior model is just DAC 8), HQ Player, Roon and a PC that is purpose built just for music. Bare bones. Add a program like Audio Optimizer to optimize the W10 Pro OS and you are in business.
You can go headless and use a tablet which is like having a remote and a monitor all in one.

My suggestion is if funds are limited is get all of the above but delay the T+A. Spend $550 on the iFi Black Label DAC that just came out to hold you over till funds are available for the T+A DAC.

The iFi does DSD512 and sounds really good at DSD512. Not as good as the T+A but good enough to hold someone over.

You mention not wanting to add complexity.
I can honestly say that the setup I now have is the EASIEST and MOST ENJOYABLE I have ever had or seen anywhere. While the SGM server is a HUGE part of that both in sound and ease of use, you can get some of that on a lesser scale with what I mentioned above.

Just another point. Wait until Michael reviews the SGM,LOL!

And as always, YMMV and the above is IMHO and experience.

Cheers and I hope that helped.

a25105's picture

Hifial,

Thank you so much for your inputs, I will seriously consider going that route:)

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Sure - while it's true, I would suggest that the devil is in the detail; The manner in which these two DACs process data, as hifial mentioned, is quite different. We also have to take into account, well, everything from input to output including power supplies, etc.
daniel strohmeier's picture

Can you share how you are able to get authorized to purchase from Qobuz?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...Qobuz may be under the impression I live somewhere else.
RollerX's picture

Thanks for the great review!

How would you compare the DAC 8 DSD to the PS Audio DSJ? The DSJ converts everything to DSD while the DAC 8 DSD can do DSD 512 (and it seems like everyone is feeding it upsampled DSD 512). Would be very interesting to hear from the view of a reviewer who's heard both. Thanks!

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...I can say that I prefer the T+A DAC/HQPlayer/DSD512. The degree to which the T+A approaches my favorite DACs, totaldac and dCS Rossini, is remarkable given the price difference.
audiodoctornj's picture

I have to agree with Mr. Lavorgnna, the Dac 8 DSD when feed correctly, sounds like a much, much, more expensive dac!

In our tests the DAC 8 DSD hits a level of sound quality much more in line with a $10k plus dacs, we have tested many, many dacs, vs the DAC 8 DSD and have yet to find anything even close to the DAC 8 DSD, especially for the price and great feature set,so I am not surprised at all that Mr. Lavorgna feels that the DAC 8 DSD rivals the DCS Rossini and the Total Dac.

What one of the other posters didn't understand is that the DAC 8 DSD does not convert PCM to DSD or DSD to PCM and in fact has completely different decoding engines for both PCM and DSD. PCM signal feed natively sound great through the DAC 8 but so far I have yet to hear a PCM recording vs a DSD 512 file that was as magical, the PCM decoding section is really good, however, the true magic is the DSD 512 playback even the difference between Double rate DSD and Quad Rate playback is very audible.

We have found that the speed of the computer's processor is crucial and we recommend an Intel Core 7 latest spec, and 16gb fast Ram, we are currently getting some great results with a Baetis Reference computer.

The quality of the USB cable is also crucial we have found and the use of a good power cord makes a huge difference as well.

Shredder's picture

Hey, I am very intrigued by the ability to upsample to DSD 512 especially with the impending release of a new player in Roon 1.3 (I have been more than bit intimidated by HQP).

Anyway, I have a brand new Mac mini on which I run Roon and nothing else other than a backup app. It is the middle mini-2.6hz processor, i5, SSD, 8gb RAM. I think I can upgrade to 16 gb RAM if necessary, As you can imagine, I do not want to buy another mini solely for the purpose of playing DSD 512. Is there any prospect for 512 upsampling with Mac (I read here that the Mac OS can't currently do that)? And, if so, do I have enough processing power? Will adding the extra Ram be enough? Or, am i just behind the curve?

Thanks in advance for any responses.

hifial's picture

Shredder, I am sorry to say you are out of luck, at least using HQ Player. It is not just the OS in your case. And it is not the RAM. But besides the OS your Mac Mini does not have the processing power to handle DSD512. You need a Quad Core with around 4ghz, like an i7 6700K.

Now when Roon releases their update with the new DSD up-sampling of their own design we might find you are not out of luck, at least when it comes to processing power. But, there is always a but...

I like the guys at Roon, very much. Very smart and talented. But I highly doubt that their DSD up-sampling engine will be at the same level as HQ Player. And I would be surprised if it does DSD512.
IF, and that is a big if, the DSD up-sampling in Roon can do DSD512 AND do it in MAC (do not hold your breath) AND your processor can handle it, I DO NOT expect it to be comparable to HQP. So you would only get an indication, at best, of what up-sampling to DSD512 with HQP can bring to the table.

I would like to address your "intimidation" of HQP. With the ability of integration of Roon with HQP your intimidation should be at a minimum. You basically make your up-sampling settings in HQP and then use the ROON GUI/interface from then on. You use Roon to pick your music and control it. If you need any hand holding just go to the forums for HQP on Computer Audiophile and Roon. Ask for Miska, the handle of the designer of HQP. Plus both forums are very friendly.

I do not want to discourage you. Instead I encourage you to make the effort, both in time and money, to pursue DSD512 by HQP, even if it means replacing some equipment.

Look, Roon should be releasing their big update in the next 3-6 weeks, give or take. So see what they release first and go from there.

mlgrado's picture

Thanks for the review! I confirmed via e-mail with the company that the primary DSD filter is a multi tap FIR. A very short one for the best impulse response. What I am not sure of is if that filter is the one that is switchable, or if its the downstream second RC filter that is switchable. That is what they seemed to indicate in the e-mail, but here is sounds like it may be the former filter that is switchable.

Of course, BOTH the filters work in tandem to ultimately realize the reconstruction, so speaking of the entire system as a single filter may be what they are doing for the sake of simplicity. The other factor that makes me think this is so is there high end SACD player, which has a third option for the filter of 'off', allowing the highest amount of ultrasonic noise in. Well, you can't turn the FIR filter 'off', since it is the very mechanism that does the conversion. So, I am thinking based on that fact, and my conversations with them, that the initial FIR filter is very, very short, and is fixed, and its the downstream filter that is switchable to 60khz, 120khz, (or off in their other product)

All my own speculation though. I can be and am often very wrong, so carry on.

Ultimately it does not matter, but its these little details I find both enjoying AND frustrating the research. I just like to know what is going on inside the 'black box' haha.

And again, ultimately the analog FIR filter that uses shift registers to delay the 1 bit DSD signal and 'overlay' multiple streams of it (these are the taps) to multiple on off switches (whose voltage values represent the coefficients) whose outputs are summed into the output signal is the way pretty much everyone does 'real Native DSD'.

Burr Brown was the first I think with the DSD1700 chip. All current DACs that process DSD with a Burr Brown chip function similarly. And all the other native DSD DACS do something similar.

Shredder's picture

Hey Michael. I keep coming back to this review and the possibility of upsampling all my music to 512 (to do that I am looking at a Sonictransporter). In that vein, I was wondering how you thought the T+A compared to the Lampizator Lite 7 you reviewed (which is a fair bit more expensive especially with the 512 upgrade)? Given your comments, I assume you prefer the T+A. However, I am more interested in a comparison of their respective sonic charactersistics than a statement of preference. I do like tube sound (I have a Cary SLP_07 pre and my current DAC is Modwright tube modded Transporter) and am also wondering whether a tube fan is likely to love the T+A? Your response will be much appreciated, thanks,

Shredder's picture

Anyone?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
So I cannot offer a meaningful direct comparison to the T+A. In these instances, where you'd like to know what I think about DAC A vs. DAC B, I would suggest that the best approach is to read the reviews and pay attention to the language used.

I'm not very good at hiding my enthusiasm ;-)

If you would like me to recommend a particular for *you*, please send me an email where we can have a conversation.

Cheers.

Shredder's picture

Thanks so much. I really love you reviews. I always feel like I get a good sense of what things sound like as opposed to just raves.

Search as I might, I cannot find your email address. i assume it is right ion front of my face, but still can't track it down. Would you mind sharing?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
I'm about to get some 'home chores' done so I may not respond today.
wisnon's picture

Hi Shredder,

I cant help you on sonic différences, as I dont know the Dac8.

However, if its DSD512 you need, you can get that on the Amber, The Atlantic, the 7 Series and the Golden gate. All very different pricepoints, but its an option on all and indeed, there is the Atlantic DSD512-only model for the same price as the basic Atlantic which has R2R ladder PCM and DSD256 as standard.

If yyou get the DSDonly Atlantic, you can add the 2 families of Superclocks for $500 and it will cost about $4500 in total.

Shredder's picture

Thanks Wisnon. I have actually been looking hard at the DSD only At;antic. After $4k, my budget gets pretty thin. What are the benefits of the superclocks? As between superclocks and tube rectification, any idea which would have a bigger impact?

Thanks so much for the input.

wisnon's picture

I saw you over at another forum as well and answered there.

As Lampi DSD relies solely on USB, Balanced and Superclocks are the way to go as a minimum. See what Fred and Rob can do on pricing...or even if there are demo units and trade in units at even better prices.

T+A Dac8 should be good too for DSD up sampling.

GOODATTIDUDE's picture

Hey Michael,

Great review! Thanks to you, I purchased the DAC8 DSD without hesitation after reading through your review.

However, I found your HQplayer setting could be set better. Modulator could be set to AMSDM7 512+FS (the heaviest load modulator designed for DSD512+FS), and if you uncheck the auto rate family so as to make the T+A upsample to 24M6 instead of 22M6, I found the sound got improved further in my case.

I don't have a mighty SMG, but I do use USB regen tweak chain like this : PC- Intona- Sbooster Vbus2 - Uptone regen (Powered by LPS-1) - Sbooster Vbus2 - T+A DAC8 DSD.

I find those USB tweaks can bring the sound into another level based on any PC. Since you have also reviewed Uptone regen and its LPS-1, have you tried these things on the SMG as well? Will those things improve SMG's performance further?

I have sent you an email regarding these possible tweaks for T+A'S further improvment but maybe you are too busy to reply.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

hfman's picture

I am trying to determine if I need to purchase a preamp to get the most out of the T+A DAC8 sonically. I am building a new 2 channel system with balanced connections and want a DSD512 capable system so I can upsample. Now does the volume control sound? I appreciate your comments in the review but can you comment further?

GandalfTheWhite's picture

It may be helpful to mention that the SMG sever is about 16k Euros. When reviewing a $4000 DSD DAC, getting it's full potential with a server that costs 4x as much doesn't seem like a fair review. I grant that demonstrating it's maximum potential is of value to readers. But so to is reviewing it with a server in the price range that most people are likely to use.

With that said: Mine arrived 2 weeks ago. I am using it with an i5 quad core iMAC and Audirvana+ 3. I have downloaded a free trial of HQplayer and will try that as well. I understand that Mac OS X limits DSD to 128 with DOP. My plan is to try BootCamp and load Windows10 and then try HQplayer for up sampling to DSD512.

For now: The PCM par to the T+A DAC 8 DSD is good indeed (better than my previous built in DAC in the Parasound Halo P5 pre-amp). Is it night and day? Not sure.

DSD 128 up sampling with PCM files both 44/16 and 96/24: There is an obvious three dimensionality to the sound stage (more depth) that is very obvious. With 96/24 files it sounds the best. With 44/16 files (AIFF CD rips), there is a 'thinness' to the sound. What is gained in depth for the sound stage is counterbalanced by a loss in 'saturation'. For 96/24 files, it sounds damn good (Pink Floyd Division Bell).

Audirvana doesn't upsample DSD files so I don't have much for comparison. DSD64 sounds crisp and clean. I only had one album (Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances) and it was very pleasant. Hard to judge the 'wow' factor because the composition itself is a bit relaxed and without 'punch'.

Will be trying out HQplayer soon...

X