TAD Evolution Series D1000MK2 Disc Player (Black Edition)

Device Type: CD/SACD Player/Digital to Analog Converter
See Full Specifications
Availability: Authorized Dealers
Price: $14,995.00
Website: www.technicalaudiodevices.com
US Distributor Website: MoFi Distribution

"It's her nose." Imagine reading a critical analysis of da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" and said analysis of the painting's enduring popularity was pinned on her nose. Ridiculous right? (the answer is yes, that's ridiculous). Imagine reading a review of a DAC and the critical analysis pinned its performance on the D/A chip. That's equally ridiculous.

When I listen to an expensive piece of hi-fi gear I admit to having an attitude—"For that price, it had better..." It had better sound good, really good, be built well, really well, and the overall experience of living with and using the expensive piece of kit had better be good. Really good. After living with and listening to the TAD D1000MK2, I've come to the conclusion that it is good. Really good.

If you read the D1000MK2's page on the TAD website, you'll read about the care and attention that went into its design:

PRECISION
To convey all the emotion and passion of the original source, reproduction must be precise and pure. A natural consequence of TAD’s relentless pursuit of this audio philosophy, the Ultra-High C/N Master Clock UPCG is combined with high-quality, parallel connected, dual differential independent D/A converter ICs for both the left and right channels. To reduce residual noise, even at high sample-rates, a discrete I/V conversion circuit is utilized. D/A conversion with virtually flawless accuracy is now a reality.
Based on my listening impressions, "pure" is as good a word as any to describe the D1000MK2's overall sound quality. There is absolutely no sense of confusion with the TAD's musical delivery. Some DACs, many DACs, offer up a musical presentation that asks our brain to interpret—to fill in what the DAC leaves out and/or messes up. To put a finer point on it, an many DACs offer an unnatural sound. I don't know about you, but when I listen to music I don't want to first have to translate the sounds into music before getting on with the music.

In my experience, there are now three DAC's that make no such demands on the listener; the totaldac D1-six which I own, the dCS Rossini (review), and the TAD D1000MK2. The funny thing is, they do not all sound the same. Funny because this reality flies in the face of a popular misunderstanding of the way things work, i.e. all competently designed ____ sound the same. That is a belief based on superficiality and/or fear.

The TAD D1000MK2 is more focused and precise than my totaldac. While the overall sound images resemble each other in a superficial way, when I focused in on the TAD's sound, which can only occur over time, I found myself seduced by the sheer clarity with which my music was presented. All of my music and even music that was new to me. It's worth clarifying that some DACs can give a great first impression along similar lines—"Wow! That's so detailed!" As with many things, first impressions of "wow" are not always a good thing. With DACs that immediately impress with a wow kind of clarity, I find I grow tired of listening to them very quickly. It's like taking a photo and tweaking the sharpness beyond naturalness where you begin to focus on all kinds of things that have nothing to do with the original and everything to do with qualities of reproduction. In a word, icky.

Another funny thing about comparing the TAD to my totaldac was, after listening to just the TAD for a few weeks and then switching the totaldac back in, I was not disappointed nor was I giving myself high five's for my purchasing prowess. Listening through the totaldac's more voluptuous way with music I found myself peacefully pleased at the beauty of difference. In other words, I was happy, very happy, listening to both. I could live with either. The same with the dCS Rossini. I'm going to leave out any comparative comments on the dCS because it's been too long since it's been here, and it may be here again soon with some new features for a follow-up review at which time, we'll talk comparisons.

Some people believe spinning discs sound better than files. Here are my thoughts on this subject:

The beautiful thing about owning a device like the TAD D1000MK2 Disc Player is you don't have to worry, you just have to be happy. I did spin some shiny discs on the TAD's disc spinner and they all sounded good. Really good. Better than the file? I wouldn't say better but if you own lots of discs, CDs and perhaps more importantly SACDs that you don't plan to turn into files, you can rest assured that the TAD will serve them very well. For my personal listening preferences, the TAD TAD-DA1000 DAC ($10,995) makes more sense because the physical music media I enjoy is of the vinyl variety but part of me really loves the sexy silent machined smooth beauty of the D1000MK2's disc mechanism. It certainly plucks at my lover-of-lovely-things heartstrings.

smoldering sexy Aeonflower by Paper Dollhouse

For those of you whose noses are itching, the TAD D1000MK2 employs a pair of Burr‑Brown PCM1794A DAC chips run in parallel but TAD handles I/V conversion with its own in-house solution. If you want to play files with resolutions greater than 24/192, you'll have to use its USB input. I spent much of my time listening to the XLR input fed by my dCS Network Bridge for two reasons; it sounded better than my microRendu's USB output1, and I don't have any music I listen to whose sample rate exceeds 192kHz. As a matter of fact, most of my music is regular old 16/44.1.

The TAD can also control volume and my Leben CS-600 offers a "Preamp In" input which bypasses everything but the volume control (which when used in this mode I set to max) turning the Leben into an amp. The included remote, which controls volume, mode/input, and CD playback functions, is a lovely thin sliver of a thing. With the TAD in control, the sound seemed a bit less full bodied, a bit less fun. Or if you prefer, a bit more matter-of-fact. How much, or how much less, you prefer the TAD as preamp will depend on a number of variables including your amp and your preferences. In a big picture, general kinda way, I typically prefer a preamp in the picture. YM(as well as your opinion)MV.

All told, the TAD D1000MK2 Disc Player joins the ranks as one of the 3 best-sounding DACs I've heard. If you value all of the things the TAD has to offer, you will enjoy it well beyond its price.


1. I have the Bricasti M5 network player in for review and while Bricasti prefers and recommends the XLR output on the M5, this unit's USB output is a measure better than the microRendu. There will be more on this topic in the M5 review.


Also in-use during the TAD D1000MK2 review: totaldac d1-six, Sonore microRendu, Bricasti M5 Network Player

Associated Equipment

COMMENTS
mrgcrouser's picture

...& wondering what this has got to do with computer audio ?

whell's picture

"I spent much of my time listening to the XLR input fed by my dCS Network Bridge for two reasons; it sounded better than my microRendu's USB output1, and I don't have any music I listen to whose sample rate exceeds 192kHz. As a matter of fact, most of my music is regular old 16/44.1."

Michael Lavorgna's picture
You can stop scratching now ;-)
mrgcrouser's picture

I got that. Enjoy !

Lifer's picture

I appreciate that you are personally reviewing this and other dac's, but many of us don't share your dismissal of any files above 24/192, so perhaps your approach should include the concerns of these readers as well. I have about 240 albums on my nas that exceed your self-imposed limits and would be interested in how good dsd sounds for instance.
Thanks.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...in whatever form it comes. It just so happens that the music I like is not typically released in hi-res. Maybe 24/48, rarely 24/96.

This is not a dismissal of hi-res, it is simply my listening habits/preferences.

I still have the TAD here so I'll round up some DSD and see how it goes.

Lifer's picture

I look forward to it.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
I'll get back to you on this early next week.
Michael Lavorgna's picture
I spent some time, over a few days, listening to a wide selection of 24-bit and DSD titles. I should mention that I had listened to some of these titles during the review but did not make note of it my notes (you can see a photo where the display is showing "DSD").

I am happy to report that the TAD DAC is superb with all music formats, and as is the case with all DACs, the better the recording, the better the sound.

Here are a few of the records I sampled (pardon the pun); Chet Baker "Baker's Holiday" (192), Eriks Esenvalds "The Doors of Heaven" (88.2), Miles Davis "In A Silent Way" (96), Eric Whitacre "Sainte-Chapelle" (192), Bob Dylan "The Freewheelin'..." (DSD64), David Abel & Julie Steinberg "Sonatas for Violin & Piano" (DSD64), Krystoff Pendercki "Concerto for Horn and Orchestra" (DSD64)."

As you can see, there's a mix of 'native' hi-res recordings and analog re-masters in this mix, and this is just a sample, but the TAD is so good with delicate and subtly nuanced music that well done hi-res recordings really shine.

I hope that answers your question.

Cheers.

Lifer's picture

It sounds like you enjoyed the extra work - I hope it is so.

knud's picture

Hi Michael,

Great review, thanks. Rumour has it that the Denafrips Terminator resistor ladder DAC may fit into your category of music makers but at 1/4 of the price. Do you have any plans to review this DAC?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...contacted Denafrips for a review but they did not have review samples available. We will follow up as there's some nice positive buzz about this DAC.
hltf's picture

Michael:
I am asking this question here even though it might seem a bit off topic since you mentioned the importance of proper setup of computer audio in order for it to best CD playback. Recently, I have been trying out ferrite snap-on chokes - an inexpensive way of killing EMI/RFI on SMPS power cables etc it would seem. I have certainly been getting good results with a fairly large number of these things on various SMPS cables - namely, my modem power cables, USB drive power cable, computer power cable. Things so far have seemed better to me in every respect. Pretty much every time I add more of these things, the sound seems to get better in every way - tighter cleaner etc and more details become apparent. One downside of ferrite chokes etc that I have read about in blogs is that eventually the chokes get magnetized with sound hardening and then need to be degaussed (I assume that means demagnetized). Another one is potential impact on high frequencies, which as best I can tell so far (it's still early days for me) I have seen no sign of. I wonder if you have any experience or views on the effectiveness of ferrite as a tweak particularly for computer audio.
Thank you.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
The longer answer is I've separated/isolated my hi-fi from all of the 'network stuff'. Check out the Connectivity diagram of my set up for a detailed explanation.

While the use of ferrite chokes can provide a reduction in noise, electrically isolating your hi-fi from the noise makers by using optical isolation (fiber media converters) is less of a guessing game.

Cheers

hltf's picture

I will try the isolation scheme you have in the near future. I am using Acoustic Revive LAN Isolators currently and will add your Gigabit Media Converters and Tripp Lite Duplex Multimode 62.5/125.

hltf's picture

I have Verizon FIOS at home but the cables look like regular white-sheathed coax cables. Do you know if I can use the converters referenced above that you also use?
Thanks

Anderson987's picture

I chuckled at the da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" reference. Great review, thanks Mike!

Close to $15k is a bit too expensive for me now, sadly...

Regards, Lucas

EricKadison's picture

Michael, Did the MicroRendu link properly with the TAD? Linking with a some DACs has been a problem with streamers that use Linux as the underlying OS.

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