MHDT Labs R-2R NOS Tube DACs

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by Luckbad, Feb 11, 2016.

  1. smithyy

    smithyy Rando

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    @Luckbad Did you ever get the chance to put in the TDA1541A N2 chip? How does it compare to the stock and 1998 version?

    I'm thinking of replacing the stock chip with the S1 or N2. I'm somewhat tempted by the S2 too but they're just too expensive.
     
  2. Luckbad

    Luckbad Traded in a unicorn for a Corolla

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    Yes. I believe the N2 is better than stock by a fair bit. The Orchid has been largely decommissioned in my closet. Let me know if you can't find a N2 and maybe we can work something out.
     
  3. smithyy

    smithyy Rando

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    I'm able to find a N2 but thanks for the offer.

    I've got a SFD-1 MK2, SFD-2 MK2 and Orchid at hand and will only be keeping one. I thought I would give the Orchid a fair chance by improving its chip. Its tone is pretty special so it isn't leaving without a fight. I want to see if I can match the SF technicalities. I know you prefer the SFD-1 MK2 over the Orchid, but what would you say improved when changing out the chip?
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2018
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  4. lehmanhill

    lehmanhill Almost "Made"

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    @Luckbad,

    I am just curious. What dac are you listening to now and what would you buy if you were in the market? You seemed to really enjoy the MHDT dacs.
     
  5. Luckbad

    Luckbad Traded in a unicorn for a Corolla

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    SFD-1 MK2 vs. MHDT Orchid: The Sonic Frontiers has more impact and a rather impressive soundstage. The Orchid is overall more laid back and seems smoother and perhaps more analog.

    I still have my cobbled-together Orchid and think it sounds very good (works great as long as you attenuate the incoming signal by ~5dB--I need to get around to biasing it properly one day). I also have an Istanbul that I'm tweaking. I installed some PCM61P-K chips and will replace some of the capacitors when time permits. It's very good. The Orchid is probably the more technically proficient, but the Istanbul is more musical (it's basically just a slightly upgraded Stockholm).

    My primary DAC is still the RME ADI-2 DAC. I transport to and from work on a daily basis. It's highly versatile and has an outstanding USB implementation. Since I don't currently have a good USB -> S/PDIF converter on hand, I prefer it to the MHDT DACs. That story might change if I still had a Lynx AES16e or E22.
     
  6. smithyy

    smithyy Rando

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    I replaced the stock chip in my Orchid to a S1 version. At this point, given the difference it's made, I'd be more comfortable recommending the Orchid if you're planning on changing the chip. The Orchid is still terrific stock but the S1 takes it to another level, and you'd be remiss not to try and maximise its performance. That itch will now need to be scratched, and I'll need to listen to a S2 version at some point, although I'm not necessarily sure I'd prefer it to the Dutch made S1.

    In one sense it's not a night and day difference, but everything across the board is improved. So all these little things add up to make quite a noticeable difference. Biggest differences go to low-level detail, smoothness and just overall realism. The R1 is quite a bit rougher in comparison, which I didn't really notice until I directly compared to Sonic Froniters dacs and switching to a different chip.

    I actually have a different opinion to you, @Luckbad, when you say the Orchid is more laid back and smoother. Stock it's noticeable rougher, but the Orchid still gives instruments more body/weight and presence. I also find instruments retain their natural warmth, giving music more realism too. This is what makes the TDA1541A so special, and why it is held in such high regard after all these years with so many S1 and S2 fakes on the market.

    Okay, so you're not getting the pinpoint imaging and as wide or deep of a soundstage as other dacs, but if you value tonality, presence and generally just overall realism, I don't think you'd be able to find a better chip. If you go and listen to some live music, and close your eyes without having to rely on the visual cues, you'd be hard pressed to pinpoint where each instrument is coming from. Instead you get the sense of space where it's coming from. Those things can distract me from the music if anything, taking away from its natural flow. I'm more interested in the instruments themselves sounding 3D than the soundstage. Low level detail, tonality and dynamics come much before soundstage and imaging for me. Anway, just my opinion depending on the venue, my position in it, and music being played. So take it with a grain of salt.

    We all have different preferences in what we like to hear. I might do a write-up at some point of a few dacs I had in my possession. Keep in mind that I'm in the minority of very much being a NOS fan though, as they tend to do things I prioritise better.
     
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  7. n2n

    n2n Rando

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    Hi guys. I'm currently considering to get me a MHDT Labs dac. I am a bit confused on Orchid vs Istanbul Eagle. I am not much of a headphone guy and I will be using it with my 2 channel system (Laptop USB -> Eitr -> DAC -> Hegel H90 Integrated -> KEF R500). I mostly listen to Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, Folk, Country, Acoustics etc. and a bit of everything to be honest. My collections include quite a good number of old albums (pre 2000). I've never heard a NOS dac (except may be with Modi Multibit @192khz) and I never rolled a tube before (through I was always curious).

    I have been using the internal dac of my Hegel amp which is not as bad as I initially thought (until I recently tried Modi Multibit). I liked Modi Multibit for its solid imaging, cohesiveness and all that. But it wasn't much of an improvement in overall musicality over my internal dac. Ofcourse its subjective to taste, downstream gears, room acoustics etc. In my system, good recordings play fairly well with both dacs but with not so good recordings, both hegel and Modi Multibit produces quite a bit fatiguing highs. Finally I returned the Modi Multibit (but kept the eitr; makes noticeable improvement with my internal dac). Though a bit out of my budget, I was looking forward to try Gungnir Multibit. as an option. Thats when I bumped into this thread. I read almost all reviews I could find about MHDT and have a strong feeling that it will suit my taste and system.

    With that background, I considered gears around 1k budget - Gungnir Multibit, Metrum Amethyst, MHDT Labs Orchid & Intanbul Eagle. Prioritising musicality, I narrowed them down to Orchid & Istanbul Eagle. My impression (from the reviews) and confusion about these three:

    Istanbul Eagle: More musical, liquid and thick sounding than Orchid. Better bass impact but overall soft sounding.

    Orchid: Comparatively better soundstage width and depth, better imaging, more detailed and airy. Responds more with tube changes as compared to the Istanbul Eagle.

    Metrum Amethyst: Almost similar to Orchid sq-wise. Slightly better dynamics and instrument separation than orchid. Tighter bass.

    Confusion: I certainly value musicality, engaging and un-fatiguing sq more than that of technicalities at this stage. Thats means I should be happy with Istanbul Eagle. But again, if Orchid does everything better for just a tiny bit sacrifice in musicality, it seems to be a better long term investment for wider genre of music and for the fact that its flavor can potentially be tweaked with the change of tubes. Or, the Metrum Amethyst!​

    So guys, I'll appreciate any suggestions or feedbacks to help me decide. @Luckbad, you seem to be a MHDT guru since you are experienced with almost all of their models. It was your review that inspired me to look into MHDT.

    Happy listening. :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Find a used Sonic Frontiers SFD-1. It's a "musical" DAC that sounds way better than Amethyst and two other MDHT DACs that I have heard. This is the one DAC I'd probably wish I had not sold. A good complement to the Schiit DACs while still being multibit. The SFD-1 does pop up from time to time and is still serviced by pcx.

    Gungnir Multibit might not be the choice for you if I am interpretating what you are saying correctly. It's neutral sounding whereas the Modi Multibit I would categorize as as slightly dark (depends on which iteration of Modi Multibit).
     
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  9. n2n

    n2n Rando

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    Thanks @purr1n. I saw you mentioning the same that you wish you hadn't sold the SFD-1 elsewhere in this forum. That says something about how good this DAC might be! :) Well, I considered SFD-1 and Theta as well. These are hard to find and honestly, I am a bit skeptic about used products... mainly for the fear of hassles associated with servicing. Also, I'm residing in Kuwait and the shipment costs to US or EU back & forth hurts. That being said, I read so much about the SFD-1 Mk-II in these forums that I really wish I could grab a good copy of it.

    Your interpretation about Gungnir Multibit for me is quite correct I think. In the pursuit of a neutral system (the Hegel H90 + KEF R500 combo is quite neutral IMO), I think I ended up with a sq that falls short in soul and emotional engagement. I'm already impressed with Modi Multibit and I can only imagine how good Gungnir Multibit would be with superb imaging and dynamics, but i suspect it will not satisfy my longings for pure musicality and emotional engagement.

    any other dac comes to your mind in similar price range?
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2018
  10. n2n

    n2n Rando

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    Hi @smithyy. do you still have all three of them? any winner yet? please consider me a potential buyer when you decide to let go the other two. :)
     
  11. smithyy

    smithyy Rando

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    Orchid is my main DAC (with S1 chip), sold the SFD-2 MK2 and will sell the SFD-1 MK2. SFD-1 is the more euphonic of the two, but the SFD-2 is the more neutral and technically impressive. I may have even preferred the SFD-1. So the winner for me is the Orchid, as it does the things I prioritise better, especially presence. Before I switched the stock chip in the Orchid, coming back to it annoyed me a bit after having listened to the Sonic Frontiers' DACS. This wasn't apparent before. No issue after having changed chip and doing a direct comparison though.

    You said "I certainly value musicality, engaging and un-fatiguing sq more than that of technicalities at this stage." You sound like me. I wouldn't be surprised if you'd prefer the SFD-1 over the SFD-2 too. Or perhaps even more so a NOS dac. I also didn't like the Gungnir Multibit.

    Would prefer to sell within Europe, but shoot me an offer via PM if you're still interested.
     

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