T+A DAC 8 DSD

The DAC 8 DSD is a ‘shoe box’ design. It looks great and the build quality is typical T+A, bombproof! The case is all aluminum and the top and bottom plates are machined from high quality, solid 6mm aluminium plates. The front and side panels are extruded using heavily customised complex tools. All connections and socketry are manufactured from pure brass which has been gold plated – this helps to get rid of any traces of ferro-magnetic materials which could generate interence. The case rests on vibration damped absorber feet.

The DAC 8 DSD is priced at £2630 and from a sonic perspective it’s pretty special, it’s only the second standalone DAC that they have produced. T+A have acheived this level of performance through their thorough R+D and engineering expertise.

Capable of processing DSD formats at ultra-high resolution the DAC 8 DSD utilises a true One Bit Converter. This allows whatever digital sources fed into the DAC 8 DSD (via USB) is ouput at incredible resolution and transparency.

The DAC 8 DSD can be used as a standalone DAC or it can connect directly to a power amplifier (like the AMP 8) using the onboard high performing pre-amplifier. This way it can really be the beating heart of a complete audio system. Features include a proper headphone amp, so you can connect a proper pair of headphones.

Resolution

This is one aspect where the DAC 8 DSD score heavily, it can convert any incoming digital signal into the very highest resolution of DSD. Connect a PC or Mac running J-River Media Center and playback an uncompressed CD rip upsampled to DSD and the levels of insight and detail retrieval is quite something! Be prepared to listen to something you know really well and hear finer details and nuances you’ve never spotted before!

The DAC 8 DSD offers both XLR and RCA outputs, giving it plenty of flexibility to connect to other things. It has twin power supplies, one each for the analogue and digital side of things. This help keep things really clean and gives the sound drive, attack with loads of weight.

Technology

The beating heart of the DAC 8 DSD is the converter itself, it employs the superior quadruple arrangement with eight 32-bit converters from Burr-Brown in a double symmetrical circuit. This circuit provides perfect compensation for non-linearities, and the residual background noise – which is excellent in any case with the specific 32-bit converters  used – is reduced by approximately a further 6 dB!

It is these technologies and the way in which T+A have implemented them which results in a product which sounds so detailed and revealing. To quote T+A the DAC 8 has  ‘a perfect “black level”, extreme linearity and freedom from distortion, even in critical passages and the most minute musical details’.

Oversampling is carried out by a modern 56-bit signal processor, for which T+A has developed algorithms specific to our equipment, offering perfect timing characteristics. The DAC 8 DSD can even invert the absolute phase of the audio signal at the digital level, and thereby correct material recorded with incorrect absolute phase.

For the purpose of handling DSD data which can be supplied via the PC-USB input T+A developed a unique, dedicated converter: the T+A True One Bit DSD Converter. This is of fully analogue construction and constitutes a genuine one-bit converter, since – unlike other manufacturers – T+A wanted zero compromise and they did not want to use the DSD mode of a PCM converter. This development ensures that DSD data are processed in a genuine one-bit stream process, un-coloured and without detrimental additional conversion.

Specification

PCM -Double-Differential-Quadruple-Converter with 4 D/A-Converters per channel,
32-Bit Sigma Delta, 352,8 kSps/384 kSps. Eight times oversampling.
Upsampling: free programmable signal processor with four selectable oversapling algorithims.
DSD – Direct DSD Signal Path via T+A True 1 Bit Converter
USBUSB Class 2 Mode; support for asynchronous data transfer: PCM-Mode: 44,1 kSps; 48 kSps; 88,2 kSps; 96 kSps; 176,4 kSps; 192 kSps; 352,8 kSps; 384 kSps; 16/24/32 Bit
DSD-Mode: DSD64; DSD128; DSD256; DSD 512; (MAC OS up to DSD 128)
Digital inputs S/P-DIF – 4 x high quality Coax and 1 x opt. TOS-Link, 1 x BNC,
1 x AES/EBU; 32 kSps; 44,1 kSps; 48 kSps; 88,2 kSps; 96 kSps; 176,4 kSps; 192 kSps; 16/24 Bit
Analogue Outputs: 1 pair RCA and 1 pair XLR
Dimensions (H x W x D): 9.5 x 27 x 27 cm
Weight: 4kg
Hows does it compare to the Exogal?
Considering the DAC 8 DSD and the Exogal are almost the same price they’d need to be pretty different from one another in order to justify doing both, thankfully they are.
As with anything I do, it’s all about the right piece of equipment in the right system. Both DAC’s are superb, in the right system. But in the wrong system the Exogal can sound a bit slow and uninvolving and the T+A can sound a bit aggressive and forward. They are poles apart from one another and they both have relevance.
Get the system right and end result will sing – The DAC 8 DSD is great choice for those using a PC via USB, the DSD upsampling is really very good indeed. One thing I love about the DAC 8 is the bass, it’s not ponderous or overblown but there is plenty of it and always in a good way. There are a number of filters to select on the DAC 8 as well. There is no right or wrong filter in reality, they are different from one another and a revealing system will show the differences. Which one is right? – I’m going to sit on the fence and say it’s system dependent, but 3 is maybe the most balanced.
The DAC 8 DSD plays music with absolute ease and a level of finesse that not many can match, it’s dynamic and wonderfully musical and I would confidently put it against something costing more money.
Ultimately, as with anything I do, it’s all about listening. Get in touch and organise a demonstration, in your home, with your system and your music, that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day!T+A DAC 8 DSD (rear) @ Audio Therapy