totaldac d1-seven

Device Type: Digital to Analog Converter
See Specifications
Availability: Direct
Price: €19,000 incl VAT, €17,450 excl VAT. D1-six to d1-seven Upgrade: €5,050 excl VAT

I first reviewed a totaldac, the d1-Dual DAC, in September of 2014 wherein I said, " end up with a presentation that sounds so natural, so life-like, it leads you directly to the music being played with very little reminder that you are in fact listening through a hi-fi." In 2016, I gathered up the funds to buy a totaldac d1-six. Here's what I said about that, "...I am meaningfully delighted, over and over again." As we all know seven is bigger than six, which leads me to believe the d1-seven...

Vincent Brient, the man behind totaldac, is (typically) succinct about what makes a seven a seven and not a six. Here's Vincent:

The d1-seven DAC has been created for the seven-year anniversary of Totaldac. It was made to be the far best sounding one-box DAC in the Totaldac range, making something very special in the Totaldac range.
If you check out the Specifications page, you'll get a bit more info on the changes some of which have to do with making the d1-seven's innards quieter. Remember, bits may be bits when they remain in the digital realm, but when digital gets converted to analog, you can't ignore what goes on in the analog domain. Like noise. But here's a tip—the more time you spend thinking about why a DAC's design makes it sound the way it does, the more energy you spend trying to pin sounds to aspects of design, the further you get from the real reason (hint: it's everything).

The d1-seven's resistor ladder DAC contains the same 300 pieces of Vishay 0.01% VAR Bulk Metal Foil resistors as my d1-six and it also shares most of the six's design right down to the chassis that holds everything together. One of the things I appreciate about totaldac is the fact that if I had purchased that d1-dual back in 2014, and believe me I wanted to, I could have it upgraded to a d1-seven today. Nice.

The review sample d1-seven arrived about a month ago and before it got warm from its winter journey, it was sitting on my rack playing music. And it pretty much hasn't stopped since.

I start working on a review weeks before I write a word. As I listen, I begin to construct ideas and words around what it is I'm hearing—how best to convey to you my experience. By the time I sit down to type, words pretty much rush out like water through a break in the damn. That said, the rate of flow varies from review to review but when writing about every totaldac I've written about, the real trick is in deciding how much not to say.

The d1-seven improves on the d1-six's ability to communicate a recording's acoustic (that word, acoustic came into my head early on and never went away). What I mean by that is the improvements I heard were not confined to a single, or even a few, aspects of reproduction. Rather, the entire musical presentation now breaths with more natural and meaningful life.

The d1-seven is by far one of the most stunning DACs I've had the pleasure to hear my music through. As chance would have it (not really) , I also have dCS Rossini DAC here for a follow-up review and while it's too early in its stay to talk about any meaningful comparisons, I'll get to that in the dCS review, I will say these are two of the finest DACs I've heard. Period.

The totaldac d1-seven excels at reproducing music's life, energy, and delicate nuance. Many DACs, most DACs I've heard, get many things right but they tend to ride roughshod over nuance. Some DACs appear to be more concerned with a first impression, wanting to impress with some aspect(s) of sound which in my experience grows wearisome over time. In the worst case, a brash and bold DAC can make me want to stop listening to music. That is bad.

Every totaldac I've heard has made me not want to stop listening to music. Sometimes, when I'm doing things other than sitting in my red Eames LCW, I'm doing so because I have other things to get done. With the d1-seven playing, the red Eames LCW draw was more compelling, more demanding, than it's ever been. Once seated, there's a lock-in into the space and time of the recording that is at once addictive and entrancing. Every aspect of a recording—space, sounds, movement, texture, color, meaning— are conveyed with an uncanny realness. Come to think of it, rightness may be the better word.

Forceful music, like Raime's "Coax" from Tooth is even more forceful through the d1-seven as compared to the d1-six. The sound has more body, more weight, more drama and more impact. Delicate music like anything from Félicia Atkinson is even more delicate, more nuanced, and more touching through the d1-seven. Acoustic voices, from quartets to symphonies, are given as broad a spectrum of tone and color as I've heard from files. While we're here, tone and color, people who enjoy listening to records know exactly what I'm talking about—the voice of the real, the voice of natural. Something some/most digital has a hard time holding on to without tweaking it out of proportion.

The sound image is also more relaxed, more spacious, and better defined as are the various elements within. This allows for an easier time following a bass line or a violin or a cello or a voice or a buzzsaw within a larger group context. At the same time, the larger group context is a more cohesive whole and the various voices within are more distinctively their own. It's as if Vincent took the d1-six and added more acoustic, more of what makes music music.

The d1-seven, as is the case with every totaldac I've heard, loves all music in all formats. It's not picky in any way, shape, or form. totaldac's are also very democratic in that they really don't care very much about formats or resolution as everything from CD-quality on up are reproduced with the same qualities. This is very important for me as my tastes in music are guided by music, not formats.

Regular readers know I'm a fan and user of Roon. When people ask, "Does Roon sound better than..." I have to stop them because Roon has made the entire experience of listening to file-based music as compelling as listening to records. And that's big. Besides, it sounds good too. When Roon radio took over what music I was listening to, it had no problem jumping around in ways I wouldn't have thought (I love that). This includes going from music on my NAS to Tidal and back and forth and on and on (I love that, too). Never, not once, did I think, "Oh, that's Tidal and this is 24/96." Never. That's the goal of every DAC, imo. Of course you have to have the rest of your system and network in order in order to get there but that's another story. My Leben CS600/DeVore Fidelity gibbon X and dCS Netowrk Bridge feeding the totaldac via AES (because it sounds best) are a match made in heaven (and you know they have one hellofa band).

Imagine a technology that could take the music you own and the music you get from streaming and make it all sound better. Obviously, noticeably better. In every way, shape, and form. You wouldn't have to re-buy music you already own or focus on a particular format like DSD or MQA to get there. And by better, I mean more engaging, more moving, and more essential. Sounds great, right?

In my experience, which is now 6+ years at AudioStream and a few decades before that, listening to digital replay hasn't always been good. At times, it has truly sucked so bad I stopped listening to music. I was frustrated, unsettled, and generally not at all happy with digital. That's bad.

Thankfully, digital replay has come a long way. Roon has managed to bring meaning and discovery into the file-based music experience and some DACs, like any from totaldac, bring meaning and discovery back into the listening experience unencumbered by digital's many shortcomings. If you want to hear your file-based music at its best, at the peak of its acoustic power, I recommend the totaldac d1-seven as your guide [footnote 1].

1. I will be sending my d1-six back to France so Vincent can transform it into a d1-seven—a true tune up. I expect my red Eames LCW will also transform from chair into seat of my pants music transport.

Also in-use during the d1-seven review: totaldac d1-six

Associated Equipment

MrMoons's picture

DAC's in for review this month. I particularly liked this one.

As a Totaldac user, I am also just enamored by the very finely tuned nature of the Totaldac products. He has managed to get the very most out of the R-2R design, with absolutely none of the R-2R shortcoming reputations floating around. What does that leave?

Acoustic is a great descriptor. I hear all of the space in that recording with my Totaldac, with the body and actual sound of the instruments. I hear them in their place, not mine.

Hard to review something you can just..... You nailed it ML.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
It's a tough job but somebody's gotta do it ;-)


en1omb's picture

I love reading your TotalDac reviews. the enthusiasm just oozes out (and in to me!). Makes me want one even more, although the seven is definitely out of my reach.

I have been thinking about what I want from a DAC recently and it basically boils down to making me want to dance and making me cry. Sounds like that transfer of emotion is exactly what you have here. Glad you are going for the upgrade! Got to have happy reviewers!

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Yes - all of the things we talk about when talking about gear are, for me, all about a connection with the music. The more emotion, the better.


Alex Halberstadt's picture

Wait... so you like it?


Michael Lavorgna's picture
ohlins's picture

As a totaldac d1-dual owner, I could appreciate this review so much better .....

But if there were relative comparisons, other readers can have a better understanding how the seven performs against strong competition ...

Key point is I like this review, thanks!

Michael Lavorgna's picture most DACs that have come through here that are anywhere near its price. As regular readers know, I've found I prefer it to just about all of them, which is why I own one ;-)

I will be talking about the d1-seven and the dCS Rossini in the upcoming Rossini review.


bjp691's picture

I'd love to here them back to back. I'm a Formula owner, largely due to the superb customer service offered. Total was less willing to support an audition. So I went with the manufacturer that wanted to earn the business. I am very happy with the Formula overall (having heard several others that were highly rated) but would like to find the next level of emotional engagement. Wish TotalDac had more of a presence in the US.

SoundsCrazy's picture

What's the best way to secure MQA TIDAL & TOTALDAC is it via a Roon-Server TotalDAC combination? Is this the only way? I dream of such a combo...thanks ahead for your advice.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...MQA titles from Tidal will get the 'first unfold' up to 24/96. This can happen in the Tidal app or in hardware. If you are happy with the Tidal app, you're all set.
readargos's picture

You get what music listening is about. I continue to appreciate that you use analog, as well. That Denon DL-103 cart just makes music.

I'm still running a long-in-the-tooth Musical Fidelity A308 CD player. I think it helps that Antony Michaelson was a clarinet player. The Musical Fidelity gear of that vintage also transport the listener to the recorded acoustic.

And yes, cables make a difference.

Passion drives this hobby. Glad yours in intact.


MrMoons's picture

Hi Mike,
Since your digital system is based on this for transmission from the Endpoint to the DAC, could/would you review some AES/EBU cables?