DACs

Neko Audio D100 Mk 2 Stereo DAC

ARTICLE INDEX

Setup

Connecting a DAC is pretty simple as audio components go but still you get all the permutations, especially when you are compelled to try different cables. I tried the D100 in my main system both using both a balanced and an unbalanced connection. To connect unbalanced I used the XLR to RCA cables provided by Neko Audio. Switching to balanced with some Analysis Plus cables that I typically use for my phono stage did not provide as much of a difference as I have experienced with other components but it was still better in my judgment so that is how I did most of the listening for the review. Similarly on the input side this DAC does not seem as sensitive to how it is connected as some others (such as the Naim DAC that I also have on hand for review). Using the RCA to RCA cable that Naim provided with their DAC provided a slightly warmer sound with less air around instruments (or a less black background if you prefer) than using the optical connection. Connecting optically with the Ixos Ixotica DX1 provided the blackest background of all but the sound seemed a little etched compared to an older Wire World Supernova that I've had lying around so I settled on that as my favorite. I don't think these cables, especially the optical ones should sound different but they do. If you feel like your system needs an upgrade consider playing around with interconnects. Competition has finally set in and the prices are not all outlandish or otherwise inexplicable. A competent local stereo shop can be helpful, if they are audiophiles like us (and not just the type to sell you stuff). Ask them what sort of cables they like with the different brands they sell and why. They should know what sounds best with what they sell.

At the driving end of the digital interconnect I used both an old, old, old Marantz CD63 MkII and the new, new (new!) Emotiva ERC-1. The Emotiva won this contest hands down. I'm not particularly fond of this fact either. This DAC, like pretty much all DACs now, has some heroic anti-jitter technology, which in the end amounts to some way of buffering up the data. So, unless there are out and out errors over the S/PDIF I don't think the difference should be as dramatic as it is. Doesn't always matter what I think though.