Customer Reviews

General discussion of the D100 24-bit Stereo DAC.

Customer Reviews

Postby NekoAudio on Mon Jun 01, 2009 7:42 am

Some customer reviews, roughly posted in chronological order.
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Re: Customer Reviews

Postby wndrmke on Sun Sep 27, 2009 1:00 am

Two things first; thanks to Neko Audio for offering this great program, and my apologies to Wes for being so late with this review.

I have to confess up front that I voted with my wallet on this and purchased the tour sample. When I read that Wes had a Mk2 version that with different Jensen transformers would provide additional output, I bought the sample to take advantage of one of the original design features that I think works well with my system (more about that later).

The D100 arrived in great shape, was well packed, and the fit and finish of the unit is very nice. My source is a SB 3 powered by Channel Islands Audio’s (CIA) VDC-SB high current power supply, connection to the D100 is via S/PDIF coaxial using a Signal Cable Silver Resolution cable. The D100 replaced a CIA VDA-2. Balanced outputs of the D100 connect to my Ayre K-5xe preamplifier, balanced out of the Ayre to a Bryston 10B-Sub crossover. Low pass on the Bryston is set a little above 50 Hz, out to a stereo pair of Rocket UFW-12 subwoofers, upper frequencies are sent to Onix Reference 3’s with Jim Goulding’s Touchstone Surrounds taming the ring radiator tweeters. Speaker cables are Signal Cable Silver Resolution, all balanced interconnects are Outlaw Audio PCB.

Break in was not an issue so I listened critically right away, all my music is FLAC, ripped to the highest quality setting. My music preferences are all over the map so I’ll just pick out a few selections, explain why they were picked and try to describe what, if any difference I heard:

“Poem of Chinese Drums” from Burmester Sampler CDIII – Dynamic? I’m a basshead and like anything that trolls the deep end, but this is on my review list as much for the soft, subtle drumming that goes on. The D100 does an excellent job here with those notes between the notes that contribute so much to the richness of this track.

“She Will be Loved” – Maroon 5, Songs about Jane - I need to make sure female voices are handled well, and Adam Levin’s falsetto is a better test than most women’s voices are. Nothing at all lacking on the highest notes but never shrill or grating, the D100 is smooth.

“Sicilian Blue” – Stanley Clarke Trio, Jazz in the Garden – Is it musical? On this track you get arco and pizzicato bass from Mr. Clarke, sublime brush & cymbals from Lenny White, and typically great piano from Hiromi Uehara. Again the D100 does a great job, the best way I can describe it is delicate, it seems able to react to the detail of music better than what I’m used to. You hear Stanley’s fingers on the bass strings, the scratch of the brushes on the drum heads, and rich notes from the piano, it’s all there, all well resolved.

With the D100 in my system I had to turn the volume on my preamp to levels I never approached before. I think this is actually a benefit for those of us with active preamps, less to interfere with the signal, no matter how good the volume control is sounds like as good of an idea as one less stage of amplification to me.

I love the sound of this DAC, it was very cool to have the opportunity to try it out in my system for a couple of weeks. For that, thanks again Wes.

Mike Perry
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Re: Customer Reviews

Postby roscoeiii on Mon Oct 05, 2009 2:07 am

Hi Mike,

Could you say a little about how the Neko compares to the CIA DAC for those readers who may have heard it and can use it as a point of reference?

Thanks for the great review. I have a pretty high gain pre, so your thoughts on the Make I vs. Make II are much appreciated. Good food for thought/experimentation.

-Roscoe
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Re: Customer Reviews

Postby NekoAudio on Mon Oct 05, 2009 5:10 am

Another thing to look at is your pre-amp or amp measurements or input sensitivity. One of my amps has an input sensitivity of 1V, so the original D100's output voltage of 1V is sufficient and anything higher would be pushing the amp outside its normal operating range. My reference setup's amp will handle 2V or even higher, but THD will have dramatically gone up at those voltages.
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Re: Customer Reviews

Postby wndrmke on Thu Oct 08, 2009 5:31 am

Hi Mike,

Could you say a little about how the Neko compares to the CIA DAC for those readers who may have heard it and can use it as a point of reference?

Thanks for the great review. I have a pretty high gain pre, so your thoughts on the Make I vs. Make II are much appreciated. Good food for thought/experimentation.

-Roscoe


Hi Roscoe,

I've been mulling over how to answer your request for more info for a couple of days.

First thing is the difference in output levels made it impossible to really test them A/B, it was more like A...turn volume way down...B. That being said, I listened to tracks very familiar to me and found the biggest difference in what I heard between the D100 & VDA-2 to be what I described as delicate in my review. No matter how dynamic the music is, the small sounds never seem to get lost in the large ones.

Of course if I had hooked it up to the Duet>Unison Unico>Strata Mini setup in the bedroom the result may have been different. That's the best part about what Wes is doing, YOU can have it in your system and then tell us all what you think.

-Mike
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Re: Customer Reviews

Postby DirtFt on Sun Nov 01, 2009 9:42 pm

Review of Neko Audio D100 DAC

As part of the Canadian loaner program of the D100 I was fortunate to have the DAC in my system for 12 days and I was reluctant to let it go at the end of my allotted time, if it had been the MK2 version I may not have.
Why? It sounds better than the DAC built into my Consonance Reference 2.2 Linear.

I’ve owned the 2.2 Linear for almost 3 years and originally purchased it because of its smoothness (6H30 tube buffered) impeccable timing and ability to recreate instruments. I like the Linear and have never thought it to be lacking in any way. The design and technology used in the Linear is based around the TDA 1543 chip, it is non-oversampling, no digital filters, uses J-FET/transistors filter and no op-amps, passive I/V conversion in progression.

When I received the D100 I plugged it in to my system using the supplied XLR to RCA cable, the power cord was missing so I used a 6Sons Audio Thunderbird power cord (all my power cords are 6Sons Audio) turned it on, hit play on the CD player and walked away to make dinner. My 1st thoughts without critical listening was it has a lot lower output but sounds similar, I didn’t notice a lot of difference but I also wasn’t looking for difference, I wanted the music to be part of my dinner making process. Within 3 or 4 songs I found I was being distracted from dinner making and being pulled into the music, turned it up a bit and went back to dinner making, cracked a nice bottle of red knowing I wasn’t going to be critical listening that night.

With dinner out of the way, I did what I like to do when I’m just in the groove, I play CDs where the music takes me and that tends to be all over the place, from the stuff I grew up with, 70’s rock mostly, to Jazz, Blues, singer/songwriter basically whatever strikes my fancy. The 1st night with the D100 easily went 5 hours and that bottle of red had long disappeared. This was to become the norm over the next 2 weeks, I’d sit down for some critical comparative listening and get lost in the music time and time again, and this is a very good thing. Not that it didn’t happen before the D100 but now the sessions were more frequent and lasted longer and I attribute this to the sheer musicality of the D100, It was definitely better than the Consonance by itself. Overall to describe the sound, I found the soundstage deeper and a little bit wider with more “air” or separation around the instruments. The decay especially from cymbals was better, more apparent. Bass was a bit tighter and that especially surprised me because I thought the bass prior was very good considering I’m only running 11 watts of 2A3 tube power. The Linear has a bit more forward presentation than the D100 and seems to have a bit more emphasis on vocals that could be attributed to its presentation but that is a listener preference, for me I did prefer the D100 in its presentation.

I’ve noticed over the years that when I read equipment reviews that describe what the writer hears or doesn’t hear in specific music that I tend not to let it sway me one way or the other as chances are I may not hear the same differences unless I was in the same room and with the same associated equipment and even then my ears are different. This is why I haven’t listed the music I listened to when comparing the D100 to the Linear’s built in DAC or what I was listening for, suffice it to say that the music I did listen to (easily 35+ hours) sounded better through the D100.

I also have a Cambridge DacMagic that I use for my Shaw satellite system, which was a drastic increase in sound quality over the built in DAC of the satellite box. When first purchased I compared the Cambridge to the Linear and found the Linear was substantially better than the Cambridge, I felt no need to compare the D100 to the Cambridge because of this.

I really liked the Neko D100 and I am going to purchase the Mk2 version (I want the higher output). I’ll probably sell the Cambridge and use the D100 for both the satellite box and my CD player.

I am really appreciative of Wes setting the D100 loaner program up otherwise I may never have heard this fantastic DAC, so thanks Wes for taking a chance and hopefully it will help get the word out on this great piece of equipment you have designed and built.

Ken
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Re: Customer Reviews

Postby anpic on Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:33 pm

Finaly after hours of listening and comparaison with my Cambridge 840C, I can say the 2 machine are very very close, but the D100 is a little more close to the truth in my sense and a little bit more sharp on the edges. The 840c a little bit more round and more in front of you. It is a very good machine to. It is a question of taste and very difficult choice to do. So I have the two (I buy the loaner) and I can listen one or other depending how I feel and depending of the record I listen to.

Thank you.
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Re: Customer Reviews

Postby rrgordon on Tue Feb 16, 2010 7:08 pm

Neko D100 and Olive Music Server Play Well Together - my experience

Until I added the Neko D100 Mk2 with single-ended outputs to my system, I had enjoyed the sound of my Olive Musica music server as a combined hard-drive transport and source for three years. The Musica was well know to produce excellent sonics from its analog outputs and there were several modders offering all out upgrades that could take the Musica to the next level (including one from Red Wine Audio that allowed the Musica to run on the RWA battery charging system that was said to sound remarkable). For me, the Musica, performed well beyond its $1200 price point in terms of what it did for the music. It also changed the way I listened to music by providing easy access to over 500 CDs. I give this information as background because there were aspects of the Musica’s way of handling music that I simply did not think could be (or needed to be) improved upon. Specifically, micro-dynamic transients were lightening fast yielding the highest degrees of dynamic shading at the very lowest levels of music reproduction. Additionally, instrumental timbre and tonality seemed to be a big step closer to the sound of live instruments. So, when I started looking for a new DAC I knew it would have to be extraordinary to persuade me to go through the effort and expense of adding another power cord and digital cable to my system. But I rationalized that three years with anything digital is a long time and that advancements surely would have been made.

I contacted Neko Audio and expressed my interest in auditioning the well-reviewed D100 with the newer transformers good for 2V output single-ended. Wes had one out to me within 3 days and by mid December I began acquiring from a variety of sources over a dozen different digital cables. I use an Audio Dharma Cable Cooker to condition my cables and it definitely helped with this process. What I learned while swapping ICs and power cords (to the D100) was that it was an extremely transparent device and the music clearly took on the sonic character of whatever cables I mated it with (including the IC from the DAC to my preamp). I had read in various reviews that the D100 is warm and round in tonality and with copper cables I definitely heard that, but when I mated the D100 with a quality silver digital and/or silver analog IC, I heard a distinctly less rounded instrumental portrayal, with more definition and separation in the soundstage. Probably the single most consistent character was, however, the relaxed, easeful presentation that is often described as “analog.” I never heard etch or glare even in recording that I knew could sound harsh in the past. This is when I knew I was on to something special. Less than stellar recordings like A. Kidjo “Dijin Dijin” with its duets took on a dynamic range that were extraordinary, as compression seemed to be completely absent.

My early success during the auditioning process (it wasn’t hard to like the D100) lead me to begin an even more intensive effort to swap out power cords until I arrived at the most complementary pairing. I found that some cords, like the all around great performing Audience powerChord (not the newer E or Au24), could be too dark with the D100. I eventually settled on a Shunyata Python Alpha Helix VX (not the latest) for its natural, deeply layered rendering of the soundstage. The D100 greatly benefits from the most resolving cables your system can handle. For example, the Python helped bring out subtle nuances like breath and note decay. But, for me, the most engaging quality of this combination is the way music could be both “relaxed” and still possess “dynamic tension.” This happened to be a quality present in the Musica and I am glad to say with the right cables is happily present with the Musica/D100 combination.

I found other rewarding combinations, among the several dozen that I tried, and naturally others that could make the music sound too dark and lacking a bit of drive. The lesson for me when adding the D100 to my system which has been very stable for 3 years was not to sell my amp, speakers or move on to another DAC (I actually auditioned another equally well-reviewed DAC at 4X the price during this same period), but to sort out exactly what the new gear needs to perform its best. With the D100 that was accomplished with many of hours of listening and many cable changes. The process was rewarding in that the D100 responds incredibly well to power cord and digital cable changes. For digital, I ended up going with the new ASI LiveLine for its natural tonality and soundstage development (see 6moons.com review). I also like the Harmonic Tech Magic One and several others that I may write about more on audiogon.com. All in all, I am set for my digital source for another 3 years (by which time I expect Wes will have further advancements). I am considering upgrading the music server as transport to the new Olive Opus 4 HD to try the new high res FLAC files that are starting to become available. But for now, there is no rush, I’m enjoying the D100 and standard Redbook more than ever.
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Re: Customer Reviews

Postby whitland on Tue Jul 27, 2010 3:25 am

Firstly, thanks to Wes for having such a great program where the D100 can be evaluated in your own setup for a couple of weeks!

The unit arrived in perfect shape and was quickly inserted into a system using balanced (Canare) cables to the preamp and the same to the power amps.

During both initial and after extended listening, I would succinctly characterize the D100 sound as "smooth" (but not overly polite). It unfailingly provided both open extended highs and tight and well defined lows…..and the middle was also very well defined and musical. Overall a very well balanced unit (pun intended).

Mostly I listen to Jazz and small ensemble classical music so other system components have been selected to avoid obvious deficiencies with this sort of music and are therefore particularly focused on mid-range clarity and accuracy of timbre (rather than lots of bass).

Source material was a mix of 16/44.1 lossless and 24/96 files from a PC music server (a handful of 24/192 files were also handled with complete aplomb). On all the high resolution files I played the D100 was really excellent at pulling out all the details of the music, especially the highs which were just outstanding thru a pair of Focal 1007 BE monitor speakers. These highs were not at all harsh or etched, just "pure" with every small change in pitch or (micro) dynamics clearly audible (this capability was very noticeable on solo violin or soprano vocal tracks). At the other end of the frequency spectrum, solo cello pieces and the bass in a jazz trio both had appropriate "weight" (at least as far as the speakers could provide it) without being muddy; each note has realistic attack and decay as the string is bowed or plucked.

Towards the end of the audition period the loaner D100 was evaluated in a 2nd system fed 16/44 and 24/96 digital signals from a Squeezebox touch (great unit BTW). This system drives a pair of old Lowther Acousta 116 speakers (rebuilt with DX3 drivers) so again there's not much low-end but the mid-range and up is exceptionally fast, clear and detailed. As in the Focal system, music sounded very "real". On well-recorded piano albums (e.g., Keith Jarrett's Paris/London in 24/96) each note was clearly resolved with clean transitions between them with not a trace of muddiness. (Note: The room where this system is located also has a 6' 6" Baldwin Grand Piano (which I play rather poorly) so the sound of the "real thing" is readily available for comparison).

In summary, I would characterize the D100 as a first-rate component which always did justice to the music (which is my highest praise).

Thanks again Wes….

PS: I'm very happy to report that I've just purchased a used D100 (Mk I). Worth every $.
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Re: Customer Reviews

Postby jimm1909 on Thu Aug 12, 2010 3:14 am

[quote="NekoAudio"]Some customer reviews, roughly posted in chronological order.
Last edited by jimm1909 on Fri Feb 27, 2015 2:58 am, edited 4 times in total.
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