Customer Reviews

General discussion of the D100 24-bit Stereo DAC.

Re: Customer Reviews

Postby Carlton8000 on Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:11 am

Not really a review, as I believe Wesley offer something much better with his in home audition. I will cut right to the chase. In my system the D100 suited me fine. My system consist of

1. 2010 Mac MINI (replaced a older mini)
2. KRK ERGO DAC ( now for sale on Audio Asylum make me a offer) before the ERGO, DACs I auditioned included the Lavry DA10 and two Apogee units, Mini and Duet the Benchmark with usb and a Channel Island VDA2.
3. Digmoda DDC552 Provides 3 channels of active amplification.
4. Speakers are the 1 ohm Apogee Scintilla.
5. Cables and wires. Grover Huffman speaker wire harness for the Digmaoda to the Apogees. Mogami XLR for the balanced connection. Lifatec toslink.

I listen to all types of music with the exception of Country. And hated to see the D100 go and can no longer bare to listen to the ERGO. The most striking aspect of the Neko was in revealing the shimmer of various cymbals in recordings. The bass was also full of texture. Finally my favorite part of any recording is the voice of a woman. It was produced with stunning realism and depth when the recording called for it. A non fatiguing sound that had me listening way past my bed time.

For me it is a must have addition.

PS>> Mr. Miaw was a pleasure to deal with, a Class Act.


CA Spence
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Apr 14, 2010 12:15 am

Re: Customer Reviews

Postby Early on Fri Feb 04, 2011 4:03 pm

I very much appreciated the loan of the D100. A smooth process, and great opportunity.
The DAC worked very well in my system, Mastersound 300BSE integrated, Harbeth SHL5 speakers, Squeezebox Touch, Mccormack UDP, and Morrow digital interconnects. (Invest in good digital interconnects)
I also own a Bel Canto Dac 2.
In comparing the Dacs, there was really no comparison. I immediately preferred the Neko. It sounded better. No point in going into the usual list of descriptors. Voices were incredible, and yes there was more air, and it was much more musical. I listened to it for many hours.
At it's price, it is definitely a bargain.
It was so good I am now thinking about DAC's costing many times the D100, and investing in a dedicated server.
On the other hand, I might buy the Neko and keep the Touch, and pay for my graduating high school seniors first year of college at the University of Oregon with the money I will save.
I suppose it is all about priorities.
Bottom line, great DAC and great value for the money.
Very good company to deal with too.
Thank you Wesley
Scott Taylor
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2011 12:24 pm

Re: Customer Reviews

Postby skank on Sat Oct 15, 2011 12:13 pm

I would like to thank Wes again for initiating this program. This is great way to audition a piece of gear in YOUR system for an extended period of time with no pressure for only the cost of shipping the gear to the next person on the list.

I was expecting the differences between my 1K source and the Neko to be neglible but this really wasn’t the case. I use some basic vibration control devices in my system but since I have a small rack and I wanted to retain the ability to A/B the Neko with my current dac the Neko wound up in the only place there was room within cable’s distance from my amp - on top of the CD transport. I plugged the Neko straight into the wall and used the power chord supplied with unit.

I power up my system at least an hour before I do any listening. I find that it takes about this long for my DAC and/or Class A amp to sound its best.

I listened to an entire CD that I am very familiar with on my system before switching over to the Neko. For the first 30 seconds I couldn’t help think that this whole exercise was a waste of time as I initially found the Neko to be somewhat dull and lifeless. Within a few minutes though the Neko graciously presented its strengths and differentiated itself from my dac.

I don’t speak much ‘audiophile’ so I’ll explain what differences I noticed in my own words.

Instrument Placement – IMO the Neko excels in this area. While I can easily locate instruments within the soundstage with my dac I found the Neko is better at providing the necessary information to do this regardless of what’s going on within the music. My dac doesn’t move soft/quiet instruments during busier/louder passages but it places a haze or curtain between them and you. They’re still there but you have to really focus to locate them once the music steps up in other areas. With the Neko the quiet subtle sounds remain completely unchanged when the musical composition gets busier/louder. Steve Gadd’s drumming on Steely Dan’s AJA album occasionally crescendos into somewhat of a drum solo style and normally the band gets lost behind the drum kit but with the Neko even the quietly mixed sax can be heard without straining.

Grunge – Call it what you’d like, power contamination, vibration induces distortion, jitter, cable reflections, or digitalitous. I couldn’t detect any of it.

Soundstage Depth – MA Recordings – VOICES really demonstrated how good the Neko is in this area. This CD is a compilation of female vocalists and small accompaniments in empty churches. The Neko easily defines the size of the venue and also places all of the players within that space, left to right and front to back.

Details – The Neko allows you to hear many details overlooked by lesser dacs but doesn’t really overly accentuate them nor do you have to strain to listen for them.

Cohesion – The music is clear, it’s complete, and it remains intact throughout the performance.

Timbre – I preferred listening to pianos more on my dac than the Neko but my dac has a much warmer sound so I can’t say with any confidence which one is more ‘right’ but only which I prefer.

The Neko is considerably ‘less warm’ than my current dac (I would never think to call it lean) but I can’t say with any confidence where it actually falls in lean-neutral-warm spectrum.

I don’t think the Neko does anything wrong and in fact does quite a few things very well. For the two weeks it was in my system all I really ever heard was the music. I don’t think I thought about how my system sounded once during the whole trial period.

Gear used: Sennheiser HD-650 (stock cable), Sony CD Player feeding the Neko via a TOSLINK and Veloce Black Cat coax cable, DIY Class A headphone amp, Herbie’s Audio Labs tenderfeet under the CD player and amp, Parasound power filter feeding the CD player and amp.

Here’s just some of the CD’s I used: Steely Dan’s AJA, Rush’s MOVING PICTURES, MA Recordings’ VOICES, Norah Jones’s COME AWAY WITH ME, Carolyn Dawn Johnson’s ROOM WITH A VIEW, and Sabine Meyer MOZART CLARINET CONCERTO (K622).
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Joined: Fri Apr 08, 2011 11:16 am

Re: Customer Reviews

Postby CarlSeibert on Thu Oct 20, 2011 5:00 pm

I had a chance to hear the Neko D100 at last year's CanJam and was well impressed. So I was thrilled to hear that Wes was doing a traveling loaner program and I could give it a good listen in my own system. Thank you, Wes!

All standard amateur review disclaimers apply here. Don't blame me if it turns out you don't agree with me. We all hear differently. We all value different things and we all, to varying degrees, do a more or less inadequate job of expressing ourselves. With that said, here goes:

The lamest DAC cliche is that a DAC is "analog-sounding", whatever that might mean.

The Neko D100 is analog-sounding.

Oh my. Does that mean you should sell your turntable and buy three of them?

I'd hold off on that. (Although Wes might enjoy the notion) But we'll return to the thought later.

So what's up with this "analog-y" business?

As we all by now know, the D100 lacks an active I/V stage. So in anticipation, I expected to hear something - something bad, or electronic, or obstructive, presumably - missing from the Neko's sound.

And that was exactly my impression on first listen. You could think in terms of great clarity or terrific micro dynamics or some positive thing that was there, I suppose. But I had been preconditioned to think about what wasn't there. And what wasn't there was an electronic haze or glare or complication. With the metaphor set firm in my mind, I could fairly hear the signal path being simplified, compared to what I was used to from digital. I could say that there was a "mechanical" element to musical reproduction that had been swept away, but given that record players actually are mechanical devices, I feel a little weird saying it that way.

I listened to the Neko in four systems during my loan period. First up was my headphone rig, which features a Squeezebox 3, a Woo Audio WA6SE and, lately, HiFiman HE-500 headphones. In this system the DAC in residence is a Musical Fidelity X-DAC v8. The X-DAC v8 has been a very satisfying performer. Before it was discontinued, it was priced similarly to the Neko.

With the Musical Fidelity as a reference, the Neko immediately impressed with its top-of-the-passband to bottom resolution. We're talking oodles of detail and nuance here - and its lack of electronic edge. The Musical Fidelity is no slouch when it comes to midrange palpability and resolution, but the D100 bested it in the midrange and carried on doing good work at the top and bottom as well. The Neko's "sound" was coherent and consistent throughout the band. All the parts of the music seemed of one piece. I should stress that when I say "resolution", I mean just that. We're not talking about the false detail or etch that sometimes passes as "revealing". Real detail and nuance lets the music communicate better and makes listening less fatiguing. The false kind does just the opposite.

Music came from a background that was blacker than the black velvet of that painting the Reverend Billy C Wirtz sings about. (the one of Jesus, John Wayne and Hank Sr. all walking together through the gates of heaven) Suffice to say, the Neko was stunningly quiet in this system.

I suspect the lack of noise had something to do with the Neko's fine sense of dynamics, particularly micro dynamics. That, and its quickness and lack of grunge, maybe. Whatever the reason, the result was impressive. Attack and decay of notes, tremolo in human voices and subtle rhythmic meanings were all rendered with a veracity that made me want to listen and listen. On the 24/88.2 file of "Zoot Sims and the Gershwin Brothers", I was struck by how each note from Sims' horn told its own story, with a beginning, middle and end, instead of blending into one long undulating sound. It was quite intoxicating.

Soundstage with headphones is an odd thing. Images on the stage the Neko drew in my head through the HE-500s were a little bigger than from the Musical Fidelity, but they didn't feel quite as solid. (Images from the HE-500s in any case are so rock solid one might worry that they'll require surgical removal, by the way.)

Compared to the Musical Fidelity, the Neko was a tad darker, maybe tending a bit towards warmth. I have come to think of the X-DAC v8 as being very even-handed, tonally. The Neko seemed to me to roll off a little at the very top. I mean a little here, not dead above the neck up or anything like that.

I never know what to make of my own opinions about tonal balance. I'm kind of schizophrenic about it. I claim on the one hand that I don't really care and then I complain vociferously about a couple of dB off the straight and narrow or my own opinion of the straight and narrow.

In any case, through the Neko, it was a slightly different Margo Timmins in Jeff Byrd's project studio doing the wonderful covers on "Margo's Corner - Ty Tyrfu Sessions, Volume One" (download from the Cowboy Junkies clubhouse website). A slightly huskier, maybe sexier Margo, perhaps? By the way, through this very high-res iteration of my already pretty high-res system, it was even more apparent that the vocal microphone used on that album just wasn't right for Margo's voice, at least in my humble opinion.

All too often quantity and quality get confused when it comes to treble. That's a pity because there's little that's worse than bad but plentiful top end. I'd rather drill through my skull with a hammer drill than listen to some products where "lots" gets confused with "lots better".

That's not the case here. The Neko's treble was wonderful. It had the same easy but detailed quality that the rest of the band possessed. There was just a wee bit less of it.

There was a sense of rightness about harmonics, particularly from upper midrange and treble content with the Neko that was exemplary. It reminded me of, ah, analog. High res recordings were a joy (The Zoot Sims, for example) and Red Book material was far less likely to scream "where the bloody heck did the harmonics go?!!" than it often might.

Overall, the Neko was a joy to listen to. Music was imbued with all the subtle little cues that make you forget you're listening to electronics. There was a wonderful ease that suggested real, live sound.

The Neko's output jacks are XLRs and both my systems have single-ended inputs. Wes was kind enough to include XLR-to-RCA interconnects in the box with the loaner D100. I did find myself looking at those interconnects and wondering if or how much different the Neko would sound in this system with my own solid-silver ICs. I probably should have re-terminated a pair and checked it out, but, alas, I didn't.

If there's a trade-off, I think it's the slight roll-off in the top octave. I think it means the Neko might not fit every system and every taste. There has to be some reason why all the DACs in the world are not Neko D100s. This thing is only $1,500. You have to give up something, apart from a half inch thick front panel, to get such a reasonable price. In the wrong system, the Neko could be just wrong. In the right system, though.... very right.

All summed up, I preferred the Neko to my Musical Fidelity in this system.

Next up was the speaker rig in the living room: another Squeezebox, the fabulous original Jeff Rowland Coherence One, a pair of Aragon 4004s, and Apogee Caliper Signatures. I usually play records in this system. The DAC is the long-discontinued Musical Fidelity "DAC PACK" - the X-DAC v3, with X-PSU and X-10 tube buffer.

That DAC is a tad cool-sounding, so I fretted that the Neko would be too warm or dull-sounding in this system. I needn't have worried. The Neko slaughtered this Musical Fidelity, pretty much across the board. The X-Dac v3 is getting pretty long in the tooth, I guess. The Apogees roll off in the top octave themselves, so the relatively small deviation of the Neko turned out to be a non-issue. The Neko threw images that were both bigger and more palpable than the Musical Fidelity, on a soundstage that was bigger and more fleshed out. It's excellent speed, resolution and micro dynamics yielded an involving listen. It proved to be an excellent match in this system, which emphasizes nuance, resolution and intimacy over scale and slam.

With two rounds decided in the Neko's favor, I packed it up in my red "The Economist" gym bag and set off to my friend Alan's house.

Alan is an accomplished audiophile, with technical competence and excellent ears. While everybody's system involves compromises and decisions made to price points of some sort, Alan's main system has been over time the most musically satisfying and "compromise-free", at least to my humble frame of reference, of any system I have heard. Bar none. Infinity IRS Betas are driven by pairs of VTL Wotans in triode mode and Wyred 4 Sound class D amps, fed from a Cary SLP 05 preamp. The DAC is a PS Audio Perfect Wave, driven by the matching transport or a Squeezebox Touch. Alan's system does scale convincingly from singer-songwriter all the way through orchestra-in-a-big-hall and "plays tunes" from sub-20-Hertz to highs that only my cats could properly appreciate.

(Betcha didn't know that cats have better high frequency hearing than dogs. Google it. About 20KHz more. And "Neko" means......"cat", by the way.)

In this system, the PS Audio started off on a better foot. Images were bigger and more convincing than they were from the Neko. And bigness mattered a lot in that setting. Air and presence were better from the PS Audio, presumably due to the Neko's slightly rolled off top octave.

Interestingly and contrary to my preconceived expectations, the Neko outperformed the PS Audio in the lowest octaves. How many systems are good enough, low enough, to appreciate this is an open question, but the the Neko was quick, tuneful and perfectly integrated with the rest of the musical spectrum down past the point where the PS Audio started to get muddy. I was impressed.

But wait! As listening went on, the question of which was better, the more than twice as expensive Perfect Wave or the D100, became increasingly tied to musical content or recordings. Big orchestras or the Dave Matthews band, PS Audio for the win. Jennifer Warnes or Chris Rea and the tables turned. Mark Knoffler's guitar sounded better through the PS Audio, but it made Jennifer Warnes' version of "Famous Blue Raincoat" from the twentieth anniversary release of that classic album painfully "digital". Through the Neko, the aching, conflicted emotion behind the story cut through to the bone. The PS Audio's rendering started a conversation about why there has never been a satisfying CD release of the album. Ouch. Chalk that one up in the Neko's column.

We were able to match levels almost exactly between the two DACs, feed them simultaneously, and use two of the Cary's inputs to switch back and forth. After a while, we gave up "listening" and just sat around enjoying music. Every now and then, Alan would switch between the DACs at random. There wasn't any "blindness" to this exercise, nor was there any point. It was pretty obvious when the DACs were swapped and which was which. The Neko was a tad darker. After a few minutes, though, I would forget about whether the last switch was from lighter to darker or vice versa, and forget which DAC was playing altogether. In that context, some songs sounded better than others, just like they do when I listen to my own music through my own gear. We had to stop and think to decide which DAC was doing what. As Alan put it, both devices sounded "pretty wonderful". He allowed that he could live with either. Given the context, that's prettty high praise.

On balance, I think the PS Audio was a better fit for Alan's system. But the Neko held its own in comparison with a far more expensive unit, and moreover, a device that was chosen in the first place because it fit the needs of the system.

Next up, Alan, the D100 and I all convened at my friend Jim's system. Jim's system lives in a tiny, home office-sized room. It's Quads and Jeff Rowland electronics and a bunch of room treatment and Jim wrings about as much goodness out of the tiny room as is possible to do. (Jim knows what he's doing: he's a former high-end shop owner.) As you might expect, this system is high, high-res. It casts images that are drawn with a fine pen. It does big better than my speaker rig but not like Alan's does big. Jim's DAC is the Wyred 4 Sound DAC-1, which is in the D100's price class.

It turns out Jim's Wyred 4 Sound and Alan's PS Audio are cousins. They are both the work of Rick Cullen.

Jim has an impressive cable collection so we were able to use really excellent interconnects (in balanced mode) and digital cables. We were able to make a highly unreliable comparison between the D100's RCA and TOSLINK inputs, too. But more of that later.

In Jim's room, the theme of the day was different program material favored one or the other DAC. The wonderful acoustic guitar on a live recording of Shawn Colvin doing "Killing the Blues" was a win for the Wyred for Sound, but the next thing we listened to (Jack McDuff, if I remember correctly) tilted the other way. Plucked strings and drums went one way, it seemed, bowed strings the other. "Air" and hall sound seemed to belong to the Wyred 4 Sound. On horns, I generally liked the Neko better. Voices were a toss up. And so it went.

Eventually, Jim, who has an uncanny ability to size up audio components quickly and decisively, announced: "OK. Here's the deal. The Neko sounds better on good to not-so-good recordings. The Wyred for Sound sounds better on good to excellent recordings." On his system, he felt the Neko was the better choice if you liked electric instruments or if your recordings were close miked. Acoustic stringed instruments or more distantly miked recordings favored the Wyred 4 Sound. Put another way, he opined that his DAC ranged "from great to strident", while the Neko ranged from "great to dark", depending on the recording.

Better and worse recordings are a relative thing. We only listened to pretty decent recordings. It could be argued - endlessly, I suppose - whether the variation between different at-least-pretty-good recordings was bigger or smaller than the difference between the these two, or any given two DACs.

Oftentimes, when people talk about a component being forgiving of hard recordings, the word "polite" comes up. In the audiophile language, "polite" is not the good thing that is is in normal life. It's usually a euphemism for "slow and poor dynamics". It should be noted that that's not the Neko's case at all. It's faster than all get out and its dynamics, both macro and micro, are first rate. If there's a cost at all to the Neko's hospitality toward less than stellar recordings, it's that less than in your face top octave tonal balance.

We all agreed that both DACs were terrific performers in their price range, or beyond it for that matter, and choosing between them was a matter of system matching and your judgement of how much of your music collection would favor one or the other.

Frankly, we all felt it was a little strange thinking about how well this DAC or that one matched this album or that one. Where would this lead? Multiple DACS and switching between them? I said I couldn't imagine that (although I'm sure some people do that, and even crazier things). "Isn't the real comparison between your own DAC and your own turntable, which live together all the time in your system?", I asked. Hmmm. Double hmmm.

About those digital inputs - In Jim's system, with Jim's top of the line RCA cable and my just barely fancy enough to have glass conductors TOSLINK cable, with the two digital outs on Jim's Squeezebox Touch, the D100's RCA input was significantly better than its optical one. However, since we were changing a bunch of variables at once, this finding means exactly nothing. Except that, if you have the choice in your own setup, you should experiment to see which input works best with your digital source, your cables, your room and the beverage of your choice.

During our session at Jim's house, he played a high-res file that featured Roy Hargrove's trumpet. The room was more clearly defined in the Wyred 4 Sound's presentation than the Neko's, but "Oh that horn", I said. "You could reach out and touch it through the Neko".

"I've heard Hargrove live a bunch of times", Jim replied. "His horn's tone has a real bite to it." Harrumph. So there.

As it happens, a few days later, we went to hear Ira Sullivan at a little jazz bar. Sometimes Sullivan would step away from the tragic PA mic and just blow. From about fifteen feet away, his tone way w-a-y on the mellow side of the Neko's presentation of Hargrove's. We're talking about two different musicians, two different horns, and two different rooms, of course. (and live vs Memorex) For me, accuracy not withstanding, I'd rather hear a trumpet sound like Sullivan's. But what really struck me was the difference rooms can make. The difference in the top couple of octaves between that bar and a studio or a concert hall or some other venue is an order of magnitude greater than the difference between any two examples of audio electronics. That put some perspective on this exercise. Compared to the real world, we are really splitting hairs.

By the way, have you ever noticed how few studio recording feature same clown at the next table waxing on how how he used to "be a wheel and all them business deals"? Still somehow, live performance manages to be more compelling than what we can ever do with our systems. Little annoyances like blabbering zipperheads or maybe a harsh-sounding horn just don't matter as much live as they do in reproduced sound.

Just as I packed up the Neko to send it on its way, my own words started nagging at me. Isn't it really all about how a DAC compares to your own turntable, with which it has to cohabitate, than how it compares, no matter how favorably, with others of its own kind? Following that train of thought, it's not how it compares to the turntable in terms of which is "better" so much as it is how harmoniously it gets along with the turntable.

So I unpacked the Neko, arranged it next to the turntable and grabbed a Scott Hamilton quartet album. I didn't have that same album on my music server, but I have several other Hamilton quartet outings on Concord, so close enough would do.

It says something that the LP I picked up was bought used and was kind of worn. That was stupid from a comparison point of view, but I think it meant something about my hierarchy of musical values. What I happen to feel like listening to carries a ton more weight than whether or not it's a great recording. Hmmm. Let's feed THAT back through the "strengths and weaknesses of this component versus the strengths and weaknesses of some other component" algorithm and see what we get.

Back to the plot. I played Scott Hamilton through my den system's turntable (a modified Rega with a Benz Ace) and the Neko. And in some significant categories, the Neko smoked the 'table. There was that blacker than black quietness, of course. And the Neko produced even better midrange resolution, or seemed to at least.

What did I just say? That can't be.

Harmonic "rightness" was damn good. I'd give the edge to the table, but the DAC wasn't embarrassed.

I'd give the edge to the table overall, actually, but it's no landslide. On a given day, I could prefer the Neko. What's more, the difference wasn't jarring. I got the feeling the two devices could live happily together. I didn't have time to test the notion, but I imagined myself playing something on the analog front end and the next thing on the Neko straight away. I don't generally do that. Mixing analog and digital usually sets me on edge.

There's a thought for you. Analog and digital living together, like in a soda commercial. I don't know if that justifies the horrible cliche 3,000 words ago, but I think it's what I meant by it. I do know I'd highly recommend the Neko. If it fits your musical priorities and your system and you don't want to spend really stupid money I don't see how you could go wrong.

I want one.
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Mar 29, 2011 4:20 am

Re: Customer Reviews

Postby claude on Mon Oct 24, 2011 12:26 am

Hello to all, yesterday I was lucky to listen my new Neko with 2 Linn Klimax mono and Verity Parcifal. A computer with Audiophilleo2. (JRiver)
It was beautiful. Spendid!!!
the competitor was the 5000$ Bel Canto 3.5 VBS1 :shock:
Neko did not have to be ashamed at all . 8-)
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon May 23, 2011 11:23 pm
Location: Amos Québec

Re: Customer Reviews

Postby meraklya on Tue Dec 13, 2011 8:19 am


In this brief review I will attempt to honestly report on how the Neko Audio D100 DAC sounded compared to my CD player and two DACs. First of all I would like to thank Neko Audio’s Wesley Miaw for making this home audition possible.

I should mention that I am more of a music lover than an audiophile and the equipment I own is fairly modest in that respect.

My time with Neko D100 MK2 DAC…

The unit is beautifully put together, looks purposefully minimalistic, feels solid and heavy, and appears to be built to last. Nothing flashy about it; it certainly does not look like a boutique audio component; instead it looks like something that was engineered to do a specific job – produce music.

Week 1: D100 MK2 (RCA) with tubes

Other DAC: Rega DAC
Amplifier: Prima Luna Prologue One (Stock EL34 tubes)
Sources: Yamaha CD-S1000 CD/SACD player, Squeezebox Classic
Speakers: Monitor Audio Silver RX1
Cabling: Cardas Neutral Reference Bi-Wire speaker cables, Ultimate Cables Silver Series RCA interconnect, JPS Labs Superconductor Q RCA interconnect, Straightwire Mega-Link 2 coax cable, Energy Connoisseur optical cable
Music: Various classical music (starting with baroque and all the way to early 20th century), all kinds of folk music from all over the world, jazz and vocal standards, acoustic

In this system, when playing physical CDs, I normally listen to the Yamaha CD player’s analog outputs, rather than using it as a transport for the Rega DAC. The improvement in sound is questionable, maybe due to the fact that I am not using expensive digital cables, but probably because the Yamaha CD-S1000’s built in DAC (in true dual mono configuration) is pretty hard to improve upon.

So the comparison here is mostly between the Rega DAC and the D100 used with Squeezebox Classic, mostly playing 44/16 CD rips and Internet radio.

I’ve owned the Rega DAC for nearly a year and it has given me many hours of enjoyment. The sound is warm, intimate and “analog”. It throws a very decent soundstage and the instruments have wonderful palpability. Vocals may be what it does best – the illusion of singers being in the room.

With the D100, music seems to effortlessly appear out of thin air. I would describe the sound as very transparent, neutral, delicate and musical. Where the Rega DAC puts certain emphasis on voices and bass, the D100 steps out of the way in that respect - no particular emphasis on anything. The Rega is warmer and somehow richer sounding, but with the D100 it is less apparent that there is some sort of sound processing device in the chain.

The type of material that sounded the best were 44.1/16 wav (and mp3) files converted from vinyl. There was enough "analog magic" in the sound field to make the Squeezebox sound not that much different than what I remember hearing with the source being the actual turntable. The Rega DAC was also close but it was just easier to "get lost in the music" with the D100. In fact, I was getting lost in the music with the Neko DAC quite a bit that week. From obscure music that I only have in MP3 format, to CD rips, everything sounded like true performance. Natural instrument timbres, volumes of air around instruments, and above all, all of the emotion encoded in music was effortlessly retrieved!

One thing that appeared to sound better through the Rega DAC was complex orchestral music, especially during brief busy passages and climaxes.
The above sounded more controlled through the Rega, whereas the same tracks sounded perhaps a touch more congested when played through the D100 (and the Yamaha handles complex passages better than either DAC).

In terms of musicality the Neko DAC in my opinion came first, the Rega DAC second, and the Yamaha CD player last. In terms of overall coherence, the order reverses.

Week 2: D100 MK2 (RCA) with transistors

Other DAC: Grant Fidelity TubeDAC-11
Amplifier: Rega Brio-R
Sources: Squeezebox Touch
Speakers: Focal JMLab Chorus 806v
Cabling: XLO Ultra speaker cables, Ultimate Cables Silver Series RCA interconnect, Monster M1000i digital coax cable
Music: Same as in Week 1

In this system I compared the D100 MK2 with my Grant Fidelity TubeDAC-11 ($325). What makes this comparison interesting is that I previously found the TubeDAC to sound more musical (in this system) than the much more expensive Rega DAC. The tube processing seemed to add quite a bit of "magic" to the system, what I would describe as "listenability". Excellent timing (probably has more to do with the Brio-R than with the DAC), palpability and harmonic richness... totally non-fatiguing, I could just sit there and listen to music all the time (a very good sign). The Rega DAC was of course more detailed, had better soundstage and all, but I ended up choosing the TubeDAC for the job.

So then it was time to try out the Neko D100 MK2 in place of the TubeDAC. I expected a "downgrade" in terms of musicality (because based on what I heard the week before, the Neko and the Rega are more similar than different), but the very first track I listened with the D100 in place, Martin Taylor's "gypsy melody" on Linn Jazz, caught me totally unprepared. Musically, everything was there, in full glory - soundstage, instrument palpability, decadent tonality… everything but "tube warmth", which frankly I didn't care about it in the moment. Everything I listened to from there on sounded just as impressive. I am not sure why the Rega DAC wasn't as fantastic when I tried it in this system, when in the other system it sounded so close to the D100 - something to investigate later on.

Back to D100 vs TubeDAC, there was really no competition. Except for the "tube warmth" and relaxed presentation, the D100 was better in every respect. I can only imagine how the D100 would sound in this system with a high quality tube buffer...

With hi-resolution files the star that is the Neko Audio D100 MK2 shone the brightest. With my downloads, which the Squeezebox Touch plays bit perfect, the Neko DAC turned the Brio-R into a miracle amplifier.

When it was time to put the TubeDAC-11 back in place, it took me a while to get used to the sound. The D100 was that good. It turns out, a better match for the wonderful Rega Brio-R amplifier than its “stable mate”, the Rega DAC.


I should mention, the Neko DAC was trouble-free the whole time I had it. It locks to the data streams instantaneously, both inputs (optical and coaxial) sound similar, and it doesn’t need a lengthy warm up to sound good. It is nice to notice that, looking at the Neko Audio forum, no one’s reporting any issues. Very confidence inspiring!

In fact, I have it on my “bill of materials” for my future system. I plan on ordering the XLR version, to be used with a Space Tech Labs tube buffer and a higher end solid state amplifier (still not sure which one at this point).

In closing, one cannot go wrong with the Neko Audio D100 MK2 DAC. It is a soulful hi-fi component and it gets my warmest recommendation!
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Oct 08, 2011 3:42 am

Re: Customer Reviews

Postby Blackmore on Thu Dec 15, 2011 3:55 am

Had a wonderful time with the Neko. I compared it to my Havana DAC and the Opera Consonance Droplet 5.0 cd player. The Neko spent most of its time being fed by my iMac running Pure Music through a Music Fidelity V-Link and the ART U-Byte cable. All of this digital goodness feeds my Yamamoto preamp and amp combo and the speakers are a Lowther hybrid using the DX-55 as a mid tweeter and the Consonance M12 bass cabinet for foundation.

Bass was much better defined in the Neko using 16/44 and 24/96 material. It makes the bass sound more like real instruments, not just the notes in the room. String bass was particularly well produced (Wood, Wood II) and percussion was more energetic. And to use the old adage, my speakers developed another octave of response. Really, the best bass I've had in the front room.

Mids and treble were quite a bit improved over the Havana and were similar to the Droplet. I think the Neko makes music more performer based than note based. I was drawn to the mechanics of the performers not just their sound. Small dynamic changes in solo lines were much easier to hear and that added to my enjoyment. Extramusical sounds of bow hair, finger plucks and wood drumsticks made music more believable. I didn't find the D100 particularly dark in tone, but it is very smooth in the treble range and that might be taken for a lack of treble energy. But, my little Lowthers don't extend to the top of the audio range, so I'm not in a good position to draw many conclusions. (truth be known, my old ears don't extend all that high anymore, either. :oops: )

Finally, the air around performers was very pronounced on good live recordings. This was the best attribute of the D100. Musicians just seemed more real and present in the living room than with the other digital sources. The other DACs could play beautiful tone and timbre, but the D100 adds a life-like ambiance that just draws you into the recording. I spent some great evenings with Jacques Loussier, Yo Yo Ma, Stravinsky, Brian Bromberg, etc. entertaining me. Very Cool!
Thanks for the tour and I want one. Any more "Black Friday" or "Cyber Monday" sales coming up?
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Jun 22, 2011 5:12 pm

Re: Customer Reviews

Postby emb2k1 on Tue Jan 24, 2012 5:20 pm

I recently auditioned the Neko D100 Mk2 DAC. I liked it so much, I decided to buy one. My previous DAC was a Bel Canto Dac3. The rest of my system consists of Thiel 2.3 speakers, Mcintosh C220 preamp, Mcintosh MC352 amp, and VPI Aries turntable. As soon as I first started listening to the D100, it sounded different. It had a smoothness and an abundancy of top-end detail that I only previously heard from my turntable.

When comparing the Neko to my previous DAC, the Neko has more air, more separation between the instruments, more harmonic texture, and more decay. The Neko has absolutely no edge to it. It's the silkiest sounding digital I've ever heard. And it doesn't do this at the expense of detail. It's more musically detailed than my previous DAC.

Images are airy and palpable with a breath of life I never knew existed on CD. Over the past year, I've been listening mostly to vinyl because CDs weren't engaging enough. The Neko changed that for me. Since purchasing the D100, I've listened to a lot more CDs and computer streaming audio.

Plain and simple, this is a high performance DAC. It doesn't have a volume control, it doesn't have a USB input. It has a mechanical source selector to toggle between it's coaxial and optical inputs. Every dollar spent on producing the D100 goes into making a great DAC, not bells and whistles.

One big difference between the D100 and many others is that it's passive. Is that why this D100 sounds so stunningly clear, detailed, and smooth? I'm sure that's only one of the reasons. In my conversations with D100 creator Wesley Miaw, I learned that he carefully selected the DAC chip and the transformers to provide the sound he was looking for. Wesley has a musical background and it shows. The D100 makes acoustic instruments sound beautiful.

When listening to "My Dear Country" by Norah Jones in my previous DAC, Norah is there with her piano. When listening to the same song through the Neko, Norah and her piano are THERE! The air and dimensionality of Norah are outstanding - something I've only previously experienced with the same song on LP. The piano has an extreme sense of presence with the decay of the piano sounding much more natural.

The Neko has bite where it needs it to. On more rock oriented CDs like Trans Siberian Orchestra, the Neko makes electric guitars stand out from the rest of the musical fabric instead of getting lost with the rest of the instruments.

All in all, I think the Neko D100 Mk2 DAC is a great addition to my system, and Wesley is a top notch guy to deal with.
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Aug 20, 2011 2:53 am

Re: Customer Reviews

Postby rocoa on Sun Feb 12, 2012 12:54 am


I live in Spain and I've tried the Neko D100 DAC recently (E.U. Loaner Program). Excuse me but as it is much easier for me to write in Spanish will comment on some impressions in this language.

Lo he utilizado en mi sistema de altavoces y también en el de auriculares formado por preamplificador y power de Jeff Rowland, transporte Electrocompaniet EMC 1 y altavoces Avalon Arcus, todo ello alimentado por un Exactpower EP 15A y SP 15 A conectados a una línea eléctrica dedicada (además de Norodost Quantum y power strip Ryder). El cableado es Cardas Golden Reference y Cardas Clear, todos ellos XLR. Power cords Shunyata Anaconda y Phyton, Harmonic Technology Fantasy AC 10.....

El equipamiento de auriculares ha sido el Leben 300 CS300 y Audeze LC2 y LC3, Sennheiser 800 y Beyerdynamics Tesla T1.

Los DACs que utilizo habitualmente son el Berkeley DAC y el Benchmark DAC USB.
El Neko D100 ha mostrado estar al nivel de los mencionados en muchos aspectos. Es curioso como muchos audiófilos, cuando nos referimos a las fuentes digitales, valoramos la percepción de las mismas por comparación con las fuentes analógicas. Cuando decimos, "suena a plato" solemos hacerlo como un halago. Y éste es el caso del Neko.

Además de tener una excelente resolución y extensión en frecuencia, buen equilibrio tonal y dinámica, no he percibido la "digitis" que tanto nos desagrada a muchos aficionados.
Podemos estar escuchando horas y horas nuestras grabaciones favoritas sin atisbo de fatiga auditiva.

Si tuviera que definirlo su sonido en una sola palabra podría ser: NATURAL.
Sin duda es una opción a tener muy en cuenta en su nivel de precio.

Posts: 2
Joined: Wed May 11, 2011 6:32 pm

Re: Customer Reviews

Postby FJV on Thu Mar 22, 2012 9:51 pm

Thanks Wesley for offering this great program.

In my opinion the D100 is an amazing DAC with a deep soundstage and a good resolution in the highest tones. It´s delicate with some music like sonatas, concertos, jazz and vocal and it does a good job with rock or symphonies. I think it´s very close with my Lavry DA-11. Perhaps each one is better for a different music style. I prefer the D100 listening to detailed or intimate music and the Lavry when an extreme dynamic is needed. I would love to have both!

Thanks again for this opportunity.
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu May 12, 2011 6:29 am


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