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Mountains and Fog: the Sound of Digital Converters

Mountains and Fog: the Sound of Digital Converters by Lynn Olson
Positive Feedback ISSUE 65

I've been listening to the latest round of delta-sigma DACs—at substantial price points of more than $6000—and for reasons I don't completely understand, they sound alike, and quite different than the $1100 Monarchy N24 that I've had for the last ten years. The technologies are pretty different: the N24 uses the TI/Burr-Brown PCM1704 ladder/R-2R converter, passive current-to-voltage conversion, with zero-feedback vacuum-tube amplification. (This is NOT the same as adding a "tube buffer" stage to a conventional voltage-output DAC chip; that approach just adds 2nd-harmonic syrup to a signal already damaged by a mediocre opamp inside the DAC chip.)  (read more)