Customer Reviews

General discussion of the D100 24-bit Stereo DAC.

Re: Customer Reviews

Postby Torpedo on Fri Apr 06, 2012 5:05 pm

I've been enjoying the balanced D100 mk2 for a bit more of a couple of busy weeks at my place, part of the European Loan Program which so kindly Neko Audio set up. I've used all this time a pair of Stax 009 headphones with a SRM-717 amplifier. I didn't have much time to try other headphones and amps in my stash, other than the Sennheiser HD800 with the Luxman P-1 amplifier.

All I can say is this DAC is an outstanding performer. It has a sweet balance from resolution, detail and stage spatial recreation, through musicality, warmth and "enjoyability". As FJV says, maybe it's not the ultimate DAC for metal and (macro)dynamically challenging material, but that doesn't mean this DAC doesn't have the guts to make a Mahler or Beethoven's symphony dynamically believable, while keeping every orchestral section and instrument well defined, timbrically correct and natural.

Its detail retrieval deserves a separate mention. I've noticed, not sure if due to its extreme background astonishing silence, or other technical features beyond my limited electronics knowledge, that the D100 can resolve minute details, tape hiss, noises, etc with absolute clarity and perfect space positioning. It's not that you notice something in the background, it's that you clearly know what it is and where it came from. That's not a very common feature on similarly priced devices.

Overall there's not much I've missed in this DAC compared to others I've used or I'm using. If anything, it'd be great it sported a USB input, so it could be used with a PC music server, and it could have nicer looks (sorry Wesley). Besides that, it's a wonderful DAC, which gets right a lot of very important things for the music lover, specially if you like acoustic instruments based music.
Thanks a lot for giving me this chance to try and enjoy the D100. I felt really sad when I had to ship it to the next loan program participant.
Last edited by Torpedo on Sun Apr 15, 2012 9:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Customer Reviews

Postby realmassy on Fri Apr 13, 2012 8:03 pm

Hi Torpedo, what did you compare the D100 against? Thanks
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Re: Customer Reviews

Postby realmassy on Sat May 05, 2012 9:40 pm

First of all, obviously I'd like to thank Wesley for the great opportunity he gave me. I stopped buying audio equipment without trying it in my system, this was a fantastic way to listen to a different source.
I want to highlight I'm no reviewer, I simply enjoy listening to music at home but I have no major experience with high-end equipment.

My current system is headphones based: Stax SR507, Stax 600LTD, M2Tech Young + M2Tech Palmer PSU, Hiface 2, Mac Mini + Audirvana Plus/Amarra/PureMusic.
My music is stored on AIFF format on an external firewire drive, and it's all classical music, mostly in redbook format, with a few hi-res downloads.
I initially tried the Neko with the included XLR to RCA cables, but my main target was to try the Stax amp using the balanced inputs.

As other people have highlighted, the D100 is well built, is solid, and is very quiet. It might not be a looker as my Young, but I'm honestly not concerned at all (well, those Stax are terrible I know!). I've used only the RCA input through my Hiface2, too bad i didn't have a optical to test the toslink. I'm also wondering how difficult would be replace the RCA with a BNC.

These two DACs are so different, and this makes the comparison easy and difficult at the same time. The Young has a brighter and forward presentation, very fast, "Young" as the name suggests.
But the differences are not just about tonal balance. The D100 has a different stage representation, narrower and solid, but the instruments are very phisical.


Listening to Mozart Piano Concerto No. 26 (Coronation) played by Brendel I could hear the piano slightly more distant than I usually do, there's a better balance with the orchestra. With the Young the piano is more "in your face" without being harsh.
Violins on the left and Cellos/Bass on the right are more present, and even the winds have their space and "surface" from the orchestra. Is this what they usually call "detail retrieval"?
With the D100 it's not just about the piano but every instrument has its own space.

Same for female voices: one of my favourite pieces to test them is Bach's Cantata BWV 51, conducted by Gardiner, especially the initial duet of the Soprano and the Trumpet
Soprano's voice is not as forward as I remembered, and again the trumpet gains some space...which makes sense if you think of how loud a trumpet can play. Again the small orchestra is very present and in the third movement I could easily follow the line of the organ, usually rough-sketch.

Then I moved to String Quartets , Beethoven's Late String Quartets played by Takacs Quartet. Here tonal balance and general presentation are quite similar, but instruments, especially the viola and cello, are richer, real, physical, and so well defined. Absolutely stunning.
The Young has better ambience, can reproduce evey nuance, every noise of the recording, but the D100 makes you feel the music and the instruments.
Musicality for me is not about rolled-off top end, and bump in the mid-bass, as someone thinks. Musicality is all about rendering acoustic instruments as they are in a live performance. It's about hearing the difference between a period instruments and a standard performance, is about feeling the bow over the strings, and the roughness and coarsness of a violin.
The D100 is great, is superb in rendering this kind of details.

Beethoven's late string quartets are masterpieces, in my opinion one of the greatest works ever composed.
And they are not easy to reproduce, they are very dynamic, and some of the fugues are extremely complex...they can be very boring on an ipod with standard headphones.
The D100 does an excellent job keeping everything in control, even in the famous Grosse Fugue. The viola and his somewhat nasal timbre is always present: again, every instrument has its own space, they never collides. The general presentation is so delicate, so effortless, but never euphonic, or mellow. The D100 NEVER sounded dark in my system, NEVER

The real revelation has been with Brahms Piano Quartet No.1, Op.25: this piece has always fascinated me, but always left me with some kind of "anxiety". So many themes, so many ideas, and i never completly understood it.
With the D100 everything was so clear...the piano, the strings, the cello. All the ideas now make perfectly sense, one theme flows into another. Beautiful.

I also listened to some symphonic music, mostly Mahler, but here I still prefer the Young, with its huge stage and its control in the lower frequencies. Cellos and double bass in the first movement of Mahler's second symphony were a bit all over the place.

Using balanced cables to the Stax amp gives an extra liquidity to the mid-range. Tonal balance, detail, and timbre accuracy are the same but the music is so grain-free, so analog like, as opposed to discrete/digital.

As you can guess I really like the D100, it simply gives an extra-dimension to the music, and it's so addictive!
I'm obviously looking forward to buy a unit: I struggle to believe acoustic music can sound much better with a different multi-bucks DAC.
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Re: Customer Reviews

Postby WGH on Sun Jun 24, 2012 1:23 am

I recently had the pleasure of auditioning the Neko Audio D100 Mk2 during the demo tour this little DAC is making, thanks to Wesley Maw for making this tour possible.

The System

My music source is a basic CAPS low power computer without the SOtM tX-USB card. I use Windows 7 and the Foobar2000 player with Mike Galusha's excellent FlacWaveLoader as the front end. The FlacWaveLoader expands Flac files into WAV and loads the files into memory for flawless playback.

The electronics are a Van Alstine Insight+ pre-amp and 440+ double die amp with Straight Wire Encore cables, KingRex UC192 USB converter, DH Labs SPDIF cable and a generic USB cable. Speakers are the revealing and neutral Salk HT2-TL with the RAAL tweeter. I used the Neko Audio RCA to XLR interconnects for the audition.

The Review

The Neko DAC has been getting favorable reviews for a few years and I looked forward to hearing what it could do. The D100 Mk2 has a smooth grain free presentation that was relaxing and engaging at the same time. Stereo separation, imaging and depth of field was very good at this price point. Tonally the D100 has a slightly warm non-oversampling sound, almost tube like. The Mk2 version has plenty of gain, compared to the AVA Insight+ DAC the volume was exactly the same making an A-B comparison as easy as switching the SPDIF cable. Bass was generous and plentiful, bass freaks will not be disappointed. Highs are clear and tame the digital nasties that plague many recordings.

The best nutshell description of the D100 Mk2 would be always musical with a terrific natural midrange.

The Comparison

The AVA Insight+ DAC and the D100 have been around since 2009 at the $900-$1495 mid-range price point with the Neko using the Burr-Brown PCM1794A DAC chips enabling it to play high-resolution 24-bit/192kHz recordings. The Insight+ is stuck at 16-bit/44.1. I don't have any high-resolution recordings so the comparison was done using Redbook recordings ripped to flac and wav.

It took a little while to get a handle on the differences between the two DAC's, at first they sounded very similar and it took quite a few back and forths before the changes became obvious. I warmed up both players with "Keith Don't Go" by Nils Lofgren, some Gillian Welch from The Harrow and the Harvest, and of course some Norah Jones from The Fall.

Next up was Norah Jone's latest album Little Broken Hearts


Little Broken Hearts is produced by Danger Mouse so the album has a different feel from anything Norah has done before. The synth bass is deep and powerful with Norah's voice soaring above, at least that is the way it is supposed to sound. The slightly warm flavor of the Neko was a bit too much muddying up the vocals. The bass tracks also revealed the D100's bass was not as tight and controlled as the Insight+.

This is Happening by LCD Soundsystem also has electronic bass beats. The Insight+ consistently produced cleaner and deeper bass tracks.


The album also has wide dynamic swings which were not as bold as when I switched to the AVA DAC, this may be because the D100 uses output transformers instead of opamps. Whatever the reason the D100 Mk2 has less of a jump factor.

Keith Richards's 1988 solo effort Talk is Cheap is a great rocker backed up by the X-Pensive Winos and a who's who list of contributing artists. The album is a classic with raw rock-n-roll as it should be played.


I noticed less air with the Neko and hand claps on "You Don't Move Me Anymore" were slightly muted. The album was not brash enough, like Keith was tamed and didn't want to offend.

Paul Simon's So Beautiful or So What has a lot going on.


A good song to check out imaging is "Rewrite" which has a finger picked acoustic guitar, a West African kora, a djembe drum, and a wildebeest. The D100 Mk2 sounds just a little more homogenized on this cut; when listening to the Insight+ individual instruments have more space around them and are easier to pin point in the mix.

The Conclusion

System synergy can make a stereo soar or just sound average. AVA electronics and Salk speakers have synergy so it is hard for another brand jump in and sound just right, it can be done but as some here can attest it can take a lot of experimenting.

The Neko Audio D100 Mk2 is an excellent smooth sounding DAC with a killer mid-range, great imaging and depth. If your system is on the cool side with tweeters that can be bright or you would like to move your sound stage from the first row to the 10th row then the Neko is just what you need. Many affordable speakers need a little help in the bass region, the D100 will give you the bass performance you crave. And if your musical tastes lean toward small groups and vocals the Neko DAC will put the performers in the room with you; imagine a little candle light, some wine with Barry White playing in the background through the Neko Audio D100 Mk2 and magic will happen.

Give it a listen, you won't be disappointed.

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