I forget exactly how I stumbled on this versatile relatively inexpensive tube output pre-amplifier/headphone amp/DAC, but I was looking for something for my desktop set up and I was interested in hearing what a DAC could do. This is my first outboard DAC and I really do not have any experience with the expensive DAC's. I was also looking for a tube pre-amp so this Tube Magic D1 seemed to fit the bill.
I ordered one from http://www.mavaudio.com/base/ with the upgraded NOS WE 5670 tube that was offered instead of the stock Chinese tube. The unit arrived very quickly once it was released from China and was delivered by DHL to my door in about a week. The actual shipping was about 3 days. The unit was well packaged and arrived in fine shape but had and issue with the left channel. After contacting the owner, Ryan Ping, via email and trying various methods to remedy the issue he offered to ship me a new one inspected and demoed by him personally once I had proof of shipment of the 1st unit back to him in China. I emailed Ryan a picture of the USPS receipt and my Paypal account was promptly reimbursed for the shipping cost back to China. My new unit was shipped just before the Chinese new year and arrived again in fine shape.
I have been using this unit at my desk to listen to FM radio via my Sony XDR F1HD tuner, iTunes and internet radio via USB from my netbook. My desktop set up is as budget as you can get compromising of an Accurian amp configured to be just a straight amplifier and the Parts Express Dayton Audio $25 speakers that I will be giving to my daughter for a little system in her room. Which leads to my little review.
Because it is an absolutely miserable rainy day today in the Land of Pleasant Living I hooked it up to my main system. My main system is a pair of Polk Audio SDA 2BTL's with Sonicaps and Mills resistors. Musical Fidelity A308 Integrated MIT S3 interconnects and speaker wires, Jolida JD 100 with some EI Goldpins in it and my Technics SL-5 turntable from high school with the original cartridge and a new D Shibata stylus.
I hooked the D1 to my integrated via the HT bypass which allows my integrated to act like a 2 channel amplifier. The interconnects I use are some Belkin wire with 5 conductors in it meant to be used for YBR L&R for a video connection and some pro type press on connectors. I used a generic power cord and a gold plated USB cord from Monoprice. My initial purpose to do this was to see how it sounds and to compare a new to me tube I received from drcilantro who also owns a D1. Jon and I also ordered some replacement/upgraded opamps to swap out in the D1. I hooked it up and started to listen to the D1 with my netbook as the source and it sounded a bit thin compared to a vinyl copy of the same album, Donald Fagen " The Nightfly" I played the vinyl copy and I am able to switch back and forth and the vinyl sounded much fuller and had the weight that I was used to hearing. The net book D1 combo sounded very bright, not harsh, but bright in comparison.
I decided to try some other music so I went to my other go to reference material Keb Mo "Slow Down". This is where it gets interesting. I have this on CD also and wanted to compare the netbook D1 combo VS. the Jolida JD100 with a VH audio Flavor 1 power cord and MIT S3 interconnects and to my surprise the 2 combinations were very similar. I had the Raytheon windmill getter 5670 tube in at this point. I decided to try the WE 5670 tube that came with the D1 and when I played the same songs again the Jolida and the netbook D1 combinations were about as close to sounding the same as you can get and the D1 does not have any fancy cords. I did not attempt switching the cords because it is just to hard to get to all the cords. But none the less the little D1 held its own.
I wanted to listen to the Raytheon again to compare it back to back with the WE 5670. So back in went the Raytheon and it had very nice midrange, nice full and tight bass but the highs were a little rolled off and the soundstage was wide but not as deep. So back in went the WE 5670 and it sounded just like what I was used to with my main rig. Very dynamic, full bass, wide soundstage with depth not heard with the Raytheon. The highs were also right on with the Jolida. I could live with the sound of the netbook and D1 combo very easily. I would like to get squeeze box type interface however for the music selection and remote control capabilities over a netbook.
I have very limited headphone listening experience and only own a pair of JVC Marshmellows to prove that statement. I will say that from my listening to headphones prior to the opamp swap was not a nice as the op amp that is in it now. I actually listened for about an hour and a half of just headphones last night which I have never been able to do. It was also very enjoyable, even though I know there is a world of improvement over JVC Marshmellows.
The opamps were very inexpensive less than $4 if IIRC.
I think that the D1 would make a great starter 2 channel / second system tube pre-amp, headphone amp and DAC. My plans are to step up the game for my desk top system with the D1 to be the center of it. I think with a decent amp and a nice pair of bookies it would be an enjoyable FUN set up. The D1 has a pair of outputs one tubed and one solid state. I currently use the tubed output for my desktop set up and the SS feeds my whole house sound system since my Roku Soundbridge took a dump on me. I have also used the SS output to send signal to a sub.
I have a few pictures of the set ups.