U.S. Loaner Program

General discussion of the D100 24-bit Stereo DAC.

Re: Customer Reviews

Postby hmen on Thu Oct 01, 2009 11:52 pm

Associated equipment
Transport - Pacific Valve Vanguard
Preamp BAT 31VK
Amp Atma-Sphere MK60 (mid and Tweeters)
Amp Wyred4Sound SX 250 (woofers
Speakers - VMPS RM40
All Interconnects – Straley Reality Cables

Wesley sent me the D100 MKII as part of the audition tour.
The DAC is very easy to hook up and compact enough to fit in a single space next to my Vanguard transport. For the audition I was replacing the Benchmark DAC in my regular system. Before listening I put on a long CD and went out to the store to give the tubes a chance to warm up. When I got back the first thing I played was Telemann’s Concerto for 3 Trumpets played by Musica Antiqua Coln. I immediately noticed the deep sound stage and was struck by the fact that I could actually hear all three trumpets separately, each in its’ own space, even when they played in unison. The harpsichord was distinct and clear, with excellent transient response. The overall sound was coherent but very well spaced and the soundstage was both deep and tall. Moving on to Clarinet and Recorder concertos I noticed the same thing, instruments well spaced, excellent transient response and almost no hint of harshness.
I then put on Frank Zappa’s Burnt Weeny Sandwich. On Holiday in Berlin the xylophone was crisp and sharp and seemed suspended in midair. Guitars, harpsichord and piano were all crisp, clean and airy. On Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark vocals were well centered and forward of the speakers.
While listening to Holst’s The Planets conducted by James Levine I noticed what I considered to be the unit’s one weakness. On large orchestral passages there was a lack of dynamics when compared to my other DACs and a slight weakness in the lower bass region. The melodic passages in Jupiter were clear and smooth but the percussion in Mars, while extremely crisp and clean, lacked the impact I’m used to hearing.
I found that this DAC was extremely resolving. Minute details which were previously hidden stood out clearly. Instruments and vocals were well placed and the image was very stable. Compared to the Benchmark the Nikko D100 MKII was more musical, with less harshness and grain. It was more revealing of details and had a great, stable soundstage.
The one area that I had a problem was that the DAC didn’t provide enough gain for my system. In most cases this wasn’t a problem. I simply turned up the volume. However, on some large orchestral pieces the dynamics were lacking and I didn’t get the room shaking bass I usually get on some rock tunes.
Overall, there is a lot about this DAC that I really liked. It’s smooth, musical and not at all fatiguing. l particularly enjoyed it on chamber, jazz and softer rock. I hope Wesley would consider making a higher gain version (perhaps with a big potted transformer on the top) that would be a better match for my system.
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Re: U.S. Loaner Program

Postby emoore44 on Thu Oct 29, 2009 6:16 am


I decided to get to the bottom line first, so I came back up here after I finished writing my full review below to tell you this so that you can skip what follows if you are inclined to do so:
I absolutely loved the D100. It is musical, revealing, and has beautiful, full and rich tonality. I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed two weeks of marathon listening sessions the way I have the last two weeks spent with Neko Audio’s D100 dac.
Definitely 5 Stars! *****

When the Neko Audio D100 arrived on my doorstep, I immediately unboxed it and, bypassing the main system, took it into the home office where I spend much of my time and where I do most of my listening these days. This meant I would be using the D100 with components that are best described as “modest” though pretty darn resolving and certainly pleasurable. I have a Sota Comet turntable on the top shelf of a Target audio rack and a Denon 1940 universal player on the shelf below it. On the next shelf is a modded Oppo 970 universal player followed by a Music Hall Dac 25.2. Next down on the bottom shelf is a modded Onkyo 9555 integrated amp. Paradigm 7seMk3 speakers and a Hsu Research subwoofer are also part of the system. I use a combination of isolation devices including the Magic Pillow, Black Diamond Racing Cones and Regal Dyna Feet. On some cds I use the Herbie’s Audio Lab “Black Hole”. Sometimes I use the SID (Sound Improvement Disc) but recently I have begun using the carbon fiber cd mat from Event Horizons to great effect. During almost the whole time that the D100 was in my system, I had four Black Diamond Racing Cones #3 under it.

Since the Onkyo amp doesn’t have a sub-out connection, I use the high level setting on the Hsu sub, running a pair of Mapleshade Golden Helix speaker cables from the amp to the sub and come out of the sub to the speakers with a bi-wired pair of Nordost Super Flatline cables. I use JPS labs solid core cables between components and amp.

My taste in music is eclectic, but rock is my go to music. I have a large collection of music, but classical and jazz are relegated to when the mood hits me, so most of the listening I did with the D100 was rock and pop. One might assume that a rock aficionado would not be happy with a passive unit, but that would be an a priori assumption and incorrect. There was never a problem with gain or rhythmic drive as the D100 MII seems to have fully addressed any problems with lack of gain that the original unit might have had in some systems.

I have really been enjoying my music since I added the Music Hall Dac 25.2 to my system. It has provided me with a great deal of satisfaction since I added it and began rolling tubes which you must do to get the most out of this dac. Just after buying it, I began reading some glowing reviews about the Neko Audio D100 and so looked forward to comparing it with the 25.2 even though the D100 costs a little more than twice the price of the 25.2. I made it a point not to go back and reread any reviews as I did not want anyone else’s subjective impressions to color my own.

After I got the D100 hooked into the system I punched “play” on the Oppo to make sure that everything was working correctly and heard the opening bass, drums and guitar of “Birthday” from the Beatles Mono box set that has been in heavy rotation since it arrived. It sounded good, but I didn’t have time to listen so I turned things off and left.

When I returned home I brought with me a couple of thrift store finds that were new (for me) cds, Rickie Lee Jones’ “Traffic From Paradise” and The Commitments, “Volume2”. I listened only through the D100 on this occasion. I had never heard either one of these discs even though they have been around a long time, so I was completely open as to whether I would enjoy the music. I did. I enjoyed each one immensely. “Traffic From Paradise” was not like the earlier Rickie Lee Jones I was familiar with i.e. the jazz flavored “Chuck Es in Love”. This Rickie Lee Jones effort is quieter, more introspective and personal, more acoustic and folk tinged. Many guests musicians are present, most notably Leo Kottke who plays on all the cuts. On songs like “Running From Mercy” the ambiance of the recording venue was in evidence with plenty of space and air around each instrument - the acoustic guitar, the electric bass, and the drums. RLJ’s voice was in the room as were the background voices of Lyle Lovett and John Leftwich. Very nice acoustics on this one and very engaging through the D100.

When the disc ended, I was ready to keep listening, so I popped in The Commitments “Volume2” which opened with Otis Redding’s, “Hard to Handle”. This disc was high energy with a huge soundstage that stretched across the front of the room. Andrew Strong’s vocals were front and center and the backup singers Angeline Ball, Maria Doyle and Branaugh Galagher were centered squarely behind him. Things got even funkier and more heated up by the time the old Joe Tex song, “Show Me” rolled round. Man, listen to that baritone sax on this cut! I actually had to get up and dance a little when the band hit full tilt on Lieber and Stoler’s “Saved” which leads me to mention that the rhythm and drive of this dac is amazing. If PRAT is the agreed upon expression of this attribute, then it can be said that the D100 has it in spades. It is VERY musical. But how does it compare with its more economical rival, the 25.2? I did a lot of listening in the following days to find out.

One disc that I had duplicate copies of was Paul McCartney’s “Wingspan”. I put the identical disc in one or the other transport and cued the players to start simultaneously. I used the remote for the 9555 amp to toggle back and forth between the two settings. At first I wasn’t sure what I was hearing. There didn’t seem to be much difference at all, which I thought spoke really well of the 25.2 especially given its lower price. The soundstage thrown by the 25.2, in this case using an Amperx NOS Bugle Boy tube was wider and more laid back than the soundstage cast by the D100. Don’t get me wrong; the soundstage thrown by the D100 is wide, but the soundstage thrown by the 25.2 is insanely wide, again, that is when using the Amperex NOS Bugle Boy tube.

But there was a more important difference happening and I determined to keep listening until I discovered what that difference was. Finally it hit me; then it became crystal clear.

Both dacs were resolving, but there was an indefinable something that kept drawing me back to the D100 for long, satisfying listening sessions. Well, I finally defined it. The thing that makes the D100 ultimately SO satisfying is its tone, the harmonic rightness of it coupled with the definition and wholeness it gives to each note. The notes are indeed fuller and more clearly defined than they are through the Dac 25.2. The colors of the music are deeper and richer: the reds are redder, the blues bluer, the purples more purple. I know I’m reaching for adjectives and metaphors to describe the effect of this thing, but that is an approximation of what I heard – deep, rich musical colors through the D100.

On the aforementioned “Wingspan” cd, on the song “Man We Was Lonely” when Paul sings the word "home" he is echoed by then wife Linda. On the 25.2 it is someone singing the word in the background, but with the D100 she is also in the room, a veritable “palpable presence”. Great stuff!!! This is just one of many examples from this disc where I was able to listen carefully back and forth and all of the background and subtleties that are revealed through the D100 are fleshed out and whole. The D100 just made everything so much more fully balanced and life like. Listen closely and you will discover new insights into old, familiar favorites as the singer’s voice seems to reveal subtle nuances of meaning that were heretofore unnoticed.

I also like the bass slam that the D100 provides. The bass is more visceral than bass through the Dac 25.2, but that could be expected with tubes vs. solid state. I found that when listening to certain rock selections at loud volume, the music just held together better through the D100. The Doors “Live Midnight, Live in America” was amazing. Another disc that had previously sounded somewhat harsh and inarticulate at high volume was The Rolling Stones, “Sticky Fingers”. Not so through the D100. I was using the Virgin records “Collector’s Edition” which was released in the 1990’s in the oversized jewel box. Everything held together and each instrument remained clearly defined with Jaggar’s snarling, growling vocals, remaining on top and clear throughout even the most raucous passages. Oh yeah, Sticky Fingers through the D100 simply blew me away. The bass slam courtesy of Bill Wyman, the searing, dueling guitars of Mick Taylor and Keith Richards, the solid thump of Charlie Watts’s drums… all I can say is WOW!!!

A very unusual jazz cd I bought and have been listening to a lot lately is Paul Anka on a release called “Rock Swings” on the Verve label. He gives a big band treatment to improbable rock tunes such as Nirvana’s “Smells Like Team Spirit”, Soundgarden’s, “Blackhole Sun”, and Van Halen’s “Jump”. If that sounds whacky, it is, but it works. Providing truth in labeling, the thing absolutely swings through the D100.

One classical selection that I must mention is Cecile Ousset on piano with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Simon Rattle Conducting. It is on the Angel EMI label and is from 1982, the early days of digital and is a full DDD recording. She performs Saint-Saens, Piano Concerto No.2 in G Minor and Liszt’s, Piano Concerto No.1 in E Flat. These are difficult, demanding pieces, but of course Ms. Ousset is up to the task. The trouble is that maybe because it was early digital, or maybe because the dynamics of the music puts a strain on many music systems, this one just never sounded the way I wanted it to since the music itself is so sumptuous, so gorgeous. Well the D100 took care of that! It simply got it right. Through the D100, on the third movement of Liszt’s Piano Concerto No.1, Allegro marziale animato, the soundstage is huge and clearly layered front to back. The percussive attack of the piano is out front with the string section, the woodwinds and the brass section all clearly defined on the soundstage behind the piano. There is even a delicate but clearly audible triangle on top. Music so beautiful even devils might weep!!!

Now I have a decision to make. I absolutely LOVE the D100. I want it bad, but I’ll have to come up with some more of that fine green stuff to get it and that’s in rather short supply these days. Of course now I am wondering what the D100 would sound like if paired with a better transport and maybe better components all round. Also what if it were in a fully balanced configuration – even better I know! I have better components in the main system including an Audible Illusions preamp that I love but which didn’t make it into this auditioning session, so I am left to imagine what it sounds like with other, better components. Still, a lot of our ultimate enjoyment of music through any system has to do with system synergy so, in a way, I wouldn’t want to change a thing from what I have been hearing the last two weeks. Man, with the D100 in my system I have definitely achieved a good system synergy in my home office system!

I also still love the Dac 25.2, I feel it punches out of its weight class when paired with the right tube, but the Neko Audio D100 is way better, more satisfying, something special all the way round and worth the price being asked for it. If you attain good system synergy with the D100, I’m sure it will blow you away the same as it did me.

Ed Moore
10/28/2009
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Re: U.S. Loaner Program

Postby rickpeacock on Thu Nov 05, 2009 10:41 pm

I have been looking for a DAC as I have a Transporter and am not that happy with it as a DAC. I would like a comparison. Can you put me on the loaner list? Thanks, Rick
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Re: U.S. Loaner Program

Postby NekoAudio on Fri Nov 06, 2009 5:20 am

Just added you after praedet, Rick. :) To whet your appetite, here's one comparison of the D100 vs Transporter.
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Re: U.S. Loaner Program

Postby GaryB on Sat Nov 07, 2009 2:49 am

Hi Wes,
I'd be interested in being added to the loaner program queue. I'm just down the road from you - probably a 20 minute drive north, so I could even pick up the unit if it happens to find it's way back to your place.
Thanks,
---Gary
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Re: U.S. Loaner Program

Postby NekoAudio on Sat Nov 07, 2009 4:39 pm

I've added you to the queue, Gary. Most likely rickpeacock will ship directly to you after his turn. :)
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Re: U.S. Loaner Program

Postby awedofile on Fri Nov 13, 2009 4:57 pm

Hello:

I would like to be added to the "line" for the D100 program. I am a US resident. I think it's great you have such a program. Thanks in advance.



ET
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Re: U.S. Loaner Program

Postby NekoAudio on Sat Nov 14, 2009 1:30 am

Hi, ET. I've added you to the queue. :)
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Re: U.S. Loaner Program

Postby Monkey on Wed Nov 18, 2009 5:38 am

Hi Wes,

I'd like to be added to the queue. I look forward to trying out this DAC. I like the approach you're taking to marketing the product. Loaner programs are great.

Regards,

Dinny
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Re: U.S. Loaner Program

Postby NekoAudio on Wed Nov 18, 2009 7:14 am

Hi, Dinny. I've added you to the queue. Thanks! :)
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