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  1. #1
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    Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    Hi, not being an expert at DAC designs, I have a question.
    As usually DACs are either of the PCM type or the DSD type, I was wondering what the fundamental design of the DAC is in Esoteric's Master Sound Discrete DACs. Their website's description makes you think that it's both, but I thought that the design principles of PCM or DSD DACs are fundamentally different.

    Does anyone know what the true nature of these DACs is?

    Thanks
    Vitus Audio MP-L201 or Zanden 3100 preamps / Gryphon Antileon EVO stereo poweramp / Grimm-audio MU1 music server with Roon core / Magico Q3 loudspeakers / Esoteric K-03XD SACD player / Kimber Kable Select KS6063 speaker cables / Ansuz A2 Digitalz interlink / Kimber KS1136 XLR analog interlinks / Nordost QB8 powerblock & 2x Qv2 / Kimber Kable PK10 Gold and Viablue XS-60 power cables / Bassocontinuo Accordeon XL4 MC Edition audiorack

  2. #2
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    Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    It’s both, but their strength is DSD (SACD). They still dominate by a country mile for SACD (which is DSD on a disc).

    In my opinion….

    Best DAC’s for DSD:

    - Esoteric
    - Lampizator
    - Meitner/EMM (not my kind of sound, but they execute it well)
    - Playback Designs (I have a client with one and the brightness of this dac is driving him crazy. He keeps trying cables, anything to make it work. He came from MSB and will be going back.)

    Best DAC’s for PCM:

    - MSB
    - Aqua
    - Berkeley

    If you have a 1000+ DSD albums/SACD’s, then focus on a DSD DAC. If you have mostly PCM, then focus on a PCM strength DAC.

    If I was pinned down to pick my top ones for each format:

    PCM - MSB - by a mile. Nobody has nailed PCM better. Nobody.
    DSD - Lampizator. Sorry, but no one does DSD better. It’s how they made their name, and DSD on the Horizon is haunting.
    BOTH formats well - Esoteric (I would buy a K-01XD SE and an Aurender N20. Done. The ultimate digital hub.)


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    "We can hear everything we measure, but we can't measure everything we hear. Let your ears be your guide."

    Dealer for: Aqua Hi-Fi, Aurender, AudioQuest Cables & Power Products, Berkeley Audio, Block Audio (distributor), Boulder Amplifiers, Bowers & Wilkins (B&W), Bryston, Clarisys Audio Loudspeakers (distributor), Classe’ Audio, Degritter Record Cleaning Machines, Esoteric, Finite Elemente, FirstWatt, Focal Loudspeakers and Headphones, GigaFoil, Harbeth Loudspeakers, Hegel, HiFi Man, Innuos, ISO Acoustics, Keces Power Supplies, Kharma Loudspeakers and Electronics, Kuzma Turntables, Lumin, Luxman, Magico Loudspeakers, MBL Speakers & Electronics, MSB Technologies, MySonicLabs Phono Cartridges, Nordost Cables, Ortofon, Pass Labs, Quadraspire, Rega Turntables and Electronics, Shunyata Research, STAX, Stein Music Products, Stillpoints, Soulution, VAC, Vicoustics, Viva Audio, VPI Industries, WireWorld Cables.

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  3. #3
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    Re: Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    Thanks Mike

    I fully agree... the Esoteric is fabulous on SACD. Listened to it since it was TEAC 😀

    A friend of mine switched to APL after many years and I must admit that it is also fantastic. Not sure if APL is in the USA already.

    I own a K03xd now and am extremely happy.
    Whence also my interest in knowing more technical details about its dac. From what you say it sounds like there are indeed 2 dacs inside, one for PCM and one for DSD, since I believe a single dac cannot do both (leaving aside that inside the DAC PCM is converted to DSD, or vice versa, before conversion to analogue. Its exactly that what I'd like to confirm about the Discrete Master Sound DAC from Esoteric... is there a conversion taking place?
    I know that the Esoteric can convert PCM to DSD with a setting, not the reverse, so does that tell us something?

    Anyway, regarding MSB, indeed I hear greatest things. Another friend of mine soon receives the Select so I can enjoy auditioning 😉.
    That friend als has the Lampizator Horizon which is indeed astonishing. Love it!

    Cheers
    Vitus Audio MP-L201 or Zanden 3100 preamps / Gryphon Antileon EVO stereo poweramp / Grimm-audio MU1 music server with Roon core / Magico Q3 loudspeakers / Esoteric K-03XD SACD player / Kimber Kable Select KS6063 speaker cables / Ansuz A2 Digitalz interlink / Kimber KS1136 XLR analog interlinks / Nordost QB8 powerblock & 2x Qv2 / Kimber Kable PK10 Gold and Viablue XS-60 power cables / Bassocontinuo Accordeon XL4 MC Edition audiorack

  4. #4
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    Re: Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike View Post
    It’s both, but their strength is DSD (SACD). They still dominate by a country mile for SACD (which is DSD on a disc).

    In my opinion….

    .......................

    If I was pinned down to pick my top ones for each format:

    PCM - MSB - by a mile. Nobody has nailed PCM better. Nobody.
    DSD - Lampizator. Sorry, but no one does DSD better. It’s how they made their name, and DSD on the Horizon is haunting.
    BOTH formats well - Esoteric (I would buy a K-01XD SE and an Aurender N20. Done. The ultimate digital hub.)


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    Finally got to hear an Esoteric "SE" version of the Master Sound Discrete DAC in the Amphion Room 1230 at AXPONA 2024.

    One of my favorite rooms at the show used an Esoteric N-01XD SE network DAC with F-02 integrated amplifier, to drive the Amphion Krypton 3X speaker. I can't quantify exactly what portion to attribute to the N-01XD SE but this simple rig produced wonderfully transparent, beautifully rendered sound. I'm hoping the K-01XD SE/Aurender N20 combo would be at least as good.
    Preamp; WestminsterLab Quest with w/ Westminster Lab Ultra PC (C15)
    Interconnects; Nordost Valhalla V2 XLR
    SACD Player/DAC; Esoteric K-01XD w/ Shunyata Omega QRs PC (C15)
    Music Server/Streamer; Aurender N20 w/ Shunyata Omega QRs PC (C15)
    Digital cables; Shunyata Sigma V2 Clock (50 Ω & 75 Ω), Nordost Valhalla V2 S/PDIF
    Amplifier;Westminster Lab Rei Monoblock w/ Westminster Lab Ultra PC (C15) x 2
    Speakers; Magico A5 w/Apods, Westminster Lab Ultra speaker cable
    Power; Shunyata Everest 8000 w/ Sigma XC PC (C19)
    Grounding; Nordost QKore6 w/ premium and standard grounding wires
    Master Clock; Cybershaft OP21A-D Ultra Precision OCXO 10MHz w/ UpTone Audio JS-2 Linear Power Supply
    Network switch; Nordost QNET 5 Port Network Switch w/ QNet Stand and Nordost TC SORT Kones, Shunyata Omega Ethernet

  5. #5
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    Re: Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    Quote Originally Posted by pietpara View Post
    ...As usually DACs are either of the PCM type or the DSD type, I was wondering what the fundamental design of the DAC is in Esoteric's Master Sound Discrete DACs...
    They are sigma-delta modulator DAC's with flow pass filter. PCM signals are processed as PCM, or PCM signals can be converted to DSD before being converted from digital to analog. Esoteric also give you the choice of upconverting PCM signals before converting from digital to analog. This is not something you need to bother yourself with too much.
    Speakers: Magico M3, ACC, S-SUB | Electronics: Esoteric Grandioso stack | Amplification: Halcro |
    Analog cables: Crystal Cable | Digital cables: Shunyata Sigma | Rack: YG Acoustics Rack 1.8
    | Source: Kaleidescape Premiere (4 x 6TB) | Power: Shunyata Typhon-QR, Everest and Denali

  6. #6
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    Re: Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    Quote Originally Posted by pietpara View Post
    ...From what you say it sounds like there are indeed 2 dacs inside, one for PCM and one for DSD..
    No. There is only one DAC. It accepts PCM or DSD signals. PCM upconversion, and PCM to DSD conversion happens in a FPGA prior to the DAC. The DAC is just a software algorithm in an FPGA. So there are two FPGA's one of which is dedicated to the digital to analog conversion.
    Speakers: Magico M3, ACC, S-SUB | Electronics: Esoteric Grandioso stack | Amplification: Halcro |
    Analog cables: Crystal Cable | Digital cables: Shunyata Sigma | Rack: YG Acoustics Rack 1.8
    | Source: Kaleidescape Premiere (4 x 6TB) | Power: Shunyata Typhon-QR, Everest and Denali

  7. #7
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    Re: Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    Quote Originally Posted by mxk116 View Post
    ...One of my favorite rooms at the show used an Esoteric N-01XD SE network DAC....
    The Esoteric rep from Japan was at the show. He said they were thinking about building a Grandioso level network transport in a way which leads you to believe they were actually doing it. If you think N-01XD SE sounds good (which is based on a Lumin U1), wait until you hear a Grandioso level network streamer.
    Speakers: Magico M3, ACC, S-SUB | Electronics: Esoteric Grandioso stack | Amplification: Halcro |
    Analog cables: Crystal Cable | Digital cables: Shunyata Sigma | Rack: YG Acoustics Rack 1.8
    | Source: Kaleidescape Premiere (4 x 6TB) | Power: Shunyata Typhon-QR, Everest and Denali

  8. #8
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    Re: Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    Has a K-01XD SE actually been announced by Esoteric?

  9. #9
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    Re: Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    Quote Originally Posted by GSOphile View Post
    Has a K-01XD SE actually been announced by Esoteric?
    Officially, unofficially, yes. We’ve sold 3 already.


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    My Systems: http://www.audioshark.org/showthread...481#post158481

    "We can hear everything we measure, but we can't measure everything we hear. Let your ears be your guide."

    Dealer for: Aqua Hi-Fi, Aurender, AudioQuest Cables & Power Products, Berkeley Audio, Block Audio (distributor), Boulder Amplifiers, Bowers & Wilkins (B&W), Bryston, Clarisys Audio Loudspeakers (distributor), Classe’ Audio, Degritter Record Cleaning Machines, Esoteric, Finite Elemente, FirstWatt, Focal Loudspeakers and Headphones, GigaFoil, Harbeth Loudspeakers, Hegel, HiFi Man, Innuos, ISO Acoustics, Keces Power Supplies, Kharma Loudspeakers and Electronics, Kuzma Turntables, Lumin, Luxman, Magico Loudspeakers, MBL Speakers & Electronics, MSB Technologies, MySonicLabs Phono Cartridges, Nordost Cables, Ortofon, Pass Labs, Quadraspire, Rega Turntables and Electronics, Shunyata Research, STAX, Stein Music Products, Stillpoints, Soulution, VAC, Vicoustics, Viva Audio, VPI Industries, WireWorld Cables.

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  10. #10
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    Re: Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    Can you upgrade existing non-SE versions of the K-01XD to the SE version or do you have to get a whole new unit?

  11. #11
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    Re: Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    Quote Originally Posted by Johnboston View Post
    Can you upgrade existing non-SE versions of the K-01XD to the SE version or do you have to get a whole new unit?
    Only Grandioso level units can be upgraded.
    Speakers: Magico M3, ACC, S-SUB | Electronics: Esoteric Grandioso stack | Amplification: Halcro |
    Analog cables: Crystal Cable | Digital cables: Shunyata Sigma | Rack: YG Acoustics Rack 1.8
    | Source: Kaleidescape Premiere (4 x 6TB) | Power: Shunyata Typhon-QR, Everest and Denali

  12. #12
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    Re: Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    Ok, thanks very much for the quick response.

  13. #13
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    Re: Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    Mike, are you getting your K1X upgraded to SE?
    Speakers: Magico M3, ACC, S-SUB | Electronics: Esoteric Grandioso stack | Amplification: Halcro |
    Analog cables: Crystal Cable | Digital cables: Shunyata Sigma | Rack: YG Acoustics Rack 1.8
    | Source: Kaleidescape Premiere (4 x 6TB) | Power: Shunyata Typhon-QR, Everest and Denali

  14. #14
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    Re: Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    Thanks! So, do I understand correctly that a sigma-delta dac can deal with 1 bit (high frequency) and multi bit encoding (low frequency)?
    I always thought these are too different to be able to do in a single dac architecture.

  15. #15
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    Re: Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    Quote Originally Posted by brodricj View Post
    No. There is only one DAC. It accepts PCM or DSD signals. PCM upconversion, and PCM to DSD conversion happens in a FPGA prior to the DAC. The DAC is just a software algorithm in an FPGA. So there are two FPGA's one of which is dedicated to the digital to analog conversion.
    Interesting.
    I didn't know that an FPGA could also output analog signal.

  16. #16
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    Re: Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    I do not believe that they do. They are on the Master Sound Discrete DAC board for key digital signal processing functions (a primary role of an FPGA) in several areas, but they are not "the DAC" all by themselves. In the circuit diagram for the D-01XSE (the D-01X is very similar in this regard, as are the MSDDAC boards for the N-01X, etc ), the roles of the FPGA(s) can be seen:


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    Legacy Audio Valor+Wavelet v2, Esoteric S-02 Amps HDPlex 300W, RevAudio Labs DC Umbilical, Esoteric Grandioso P1, P1PSU & dual D1 DACs, Cybershaft Prem Ltd OP21A 10 MHz Clock, Esoteric C-02X, Shunyata Everest 8000, Typhon T2_30amp, Altaira SG-NR hubs, Sigma SGC/CGC ground cables, VTX-Ag ground tails, AfterBurner8 duplexes, CSP Inc Q4B, S2B IEC plates, Shunyata Omega CLOCK-50 cables, Tubulus Concentus HDMI, Elrod Master Series Diamond SE & Masters Series Gold Power cords and Statement Gold XLRs, Diamond XLRs & Master Series Diamond XLRs, AudioArts eStatement pcs, Anaconda Z-tron XLR, Elrod Statement Gold speaker cables, Adona Zero GX Racks Composite Audio CF-2010, Townshend Audio Podiums, HRS DPX Damping Plates, Stillpoints Ultra SS w/Ultra Bases, pArtScience 64-well, 2D QRD 3-inch SpaceArray Diffusors

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  17. #17
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    Re: Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    Quote Originally Posted by pietpara View Post
    Interesting.
    I didn't know that an FPGA could also output analog signal.
    The FPGA is part of the DAC circuit, it's not the whole shooting match.
    Speakers: Magico M3, ACC, S-SUB | Electronics: Esoteric Grandioso stack | Amplification: Halcro |
    Analog cables: Crystal Cable | Digital cables: Shunyata Sigma | Rack: YG Acoustics Rack 1.8
    | Source: Kaleidescape Premiere (4 x 6TB) | Power: Shunyata Typhon-QR, Everest and Denali

  18. #18
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    Re: Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    An FPGA is a signal processor. What it actually does in a particular application depends on how it's programmed. brodericj's description in post #6 is consistent with SCAudiophile's post #16 block diagram showing two FPGAs, each with a different function.

  19. #19
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    Re: Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

    Quote Originally Posted by GSOphile View Post
    An FPGA is a signal processor. What it actually does in a particular application depends on how it's programmed. brodericj's description in post #6 is consistent with SCAudiophile's post #16 block diagram showing two FPGAs, each with a different function.
    Thanks! I got confused by the sentence that "the DAC is just a SW algorithm on an FPGA". The actual conversion to analogue still happens outside the FPGA in the discrete component part... the unique part of the Esoteric (not being a standard chip).
    Vitus Audio MP-L201 or Zanden 3100 preamps / Gryphon Antileon EVO stereo poweramp / Grimm-audio MU1 music server with Roon core / Magico Q3 loudspeakers / Esoteric K-03XD SACD player / Kimber Kable Select KS6063 speaker cables / Ansuz A2 Digitalz interlink / Kimber KS1136 XLR analog interlinks / Nordost QB8 powerblock & 2x Qv2 / Kimber Kable PK10 Gold and Viablue XS-60 power cables / Bassocontinuo Accordeon XL4 MC Edition audiorack

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Esoteric DAC type, DSD or PCM?

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