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BMC PureDAC (Read 2588 times)
AiDee
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BMC PureDAC
09/16/13 at 11:02:01
 
Recently Stone of Tone started a nice thread about the NAD M51 DAC. This is a dac I considered seriously among several others, before taking delivery of BMC's new 'PureDAC' in just the last few days.

Noteworthy is that it seems to be a terrific dac and it works great with my Taboo. CSP2 tests will follow, but to me it is already clear there's good synergy with tubes and - specifically - Decware tubes!

I don't necessarily expect this thread to grow, but there was some interest when I mentioned the PureDAC in the NAD thread. As it looks like we're in for some notes about the well-regarded Anedio D2 DAC as well, and there are already notes about the PS Audio PWD2 DAC and Decware gear, this seems a good time to highlight these late-generation dacs in general.

So, below are some impressions I posted today in another site I frequent...
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AiDee
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Re: BMC PureDAC
Reply #1 - 09/16/13 at 11:10:18
 
I didn't intend to post for at least another week concerning this DAC, but over on head-fi my hand got tipped when someone there expressed disappointment that no impressions had been posted. I refer exclusively to the Audez'e LCD2 headphone below, but I can add I've done some speaker listening off the Taboo as well. Notes concerning the LCD2 apply pretty well to the speakers too. Btw, the speakers are inefficient (about 84dB/1W/1m) KEF KIT Uni-Q satellites that once belonged with a KEF KIT home-theatre.

The BMC PureDAC has only been released in the last 2 weeks or so, and I guess I'm among the first to buy it. Here are the notes I posted earlier today:

I've had [the BMC PureDAC] in house coming up six days. Unfortunately, this coincides with an extremely busy time. Quick impressions below, but I'm in no position to elaborate on these for a week or two.

Dealing with BMC - all of it by email - was an excellent experience. They were responsive and open, and once I'd decided to go ahead they got the DAC to me fast. They are obviously proud of their product.

First impressions straight out of the box: (LCD2 plugged straight into the balanced hp out) - slightly soft attack and dynamics; no harshness; smooth throughout the range. Sounded good but nothing that 'grabbed' me right away. I took this as a good thing.

There was a three-blob sound-stage - left, right, centre with little or nothing in between.

This first listen was about 30 minutes and hurried, as I had to be on-site for one of my projects. Impressions were quite different...

...five hours later when, first, the sound-stage was fully (i.e. normally) filled out. Second, I began to notice promising signs with the bass and a lot of new, low-level detail. Most impressive was that this detail wasn't the outcome of exaggerated treble. There seemed to be real 'added' (as in not previously retrieved) information in the mids, lower mids and upper bass. Third, attack and dynamics no longer seemed 'soft'. I need to re-visit this last observation as I think there was a genuine (burn-in?) improvement in these two aspects but I also think the attack and dynamics are not engineered to grab attention with this DAC. This is subjective of course, but the word that started to come to mind was "natural". In the context of the extra information coming through, attack and dynamics seemed "just right".

Over the days since, the one factor that has grabbed me is the articulation in the bass and lower mids. When I first acquired the LCD2, I had an interestingly similar 'good but nothing grabbing me' first impression. This soon changed when I began to hear what these phones do with piano, an instrument I've played (mostly classical) for some 20-30 years. What I did not realise until now was how much more potential my LCD2s had. The texture and palpability in the mids has reached a new level, not something I would've thought possible. There's a fullness of body with this DAC I've not heard before. Combined with the extra detail, it's making me hear perhaps as much as half of my 'familiar' tracks quite differently.

To place this in context, other DACs I have used are Eastern Electric MiniMax DAC; Meier Audio StageDac; Schiit Bifrost (awaiting installation of uber board when I get time); Beresford Bushmaster. As you can see, I have not heard any of the 'big' rivals around or above the PureDAC's price-point, DACs such as the Anedio D2, Lynx Hilo, PWD2, NAD M51 or Audiogd Master7. I mention these DACs as I've considered all of these seriously over the last two years.

So, the PureDAC is quite a lot more than the most expensive of the DACs I have used. I hoped the PureDAC would be better than these. It is. I expected it to be a little better, and hoped it would make advances in fine, low-level areas such as detail and micro-dynamics. Whilst I can't comment yet on micro-dynamics, I can say it is not a little better than my other DACs. It's a lot better.

Some comparisons: the MiniMax has a pristine cleanness of presentation, the outcome I guess of the Sabre chip. It also has good bass but unfortunately (with the LCD2, and even with the tube switched out) it overdoes the upper-bass and washes out important harmonic information in the lower mids. This introduces some muddiness with instruments such as piano and cello. The PureDAC has all the virtues and none of the flaws and presents detail the MiniMax doesn't.

The Meier Stagedac has been my favorite to date, because it doesn't emphasise any part of the frequency spectrum (except possibly slight added presence) and otherwise sounded as good as the MiniMax. It now sounds a little thin.

The Bifrost (non-ubered) sounds fast and gives great separation between notes. Unfortunately this is the outcome of it being lean and dry: for example, low piano notes lack the harmonics that should be there and the result is timbrally unnatural. The PureDAC might sound a little less attacking but that's because it gives the full picture. No contest.

Finally, around day 3 I wondered if all the improvements I heard might be because of using my LCD2 balanced (the PureDAC's balanced hp-out) for the first time. They are not. I have used the PureDAC with my Decware Taboo II (a tube amp with single-ended input and hp-out). All the notes above still apply.

I can't honestly say how this compares to its direct rivals, but I can say this is a much bigger step up than I expected and I am very happy, both with BMC and their product.
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beowulf
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Re: BMC PureDAC
Reply #2 - 09/16/13 at 21:09:26
 
Interesting observations, thanks for posting!  I thought I would paste this over in this thread as well, but this could be another chance to compare another well regarded DAC in your system and compare it to the BMC and get a good 2 weeks with it.  Since all you pay is shipping and handling it could be worth everyone's while to participate.

If anyone is interested Anedio is having a free 2 week sample evaluation with the D2 DAC ... this is a great opportunity for anyone considering this product.  All you pay is shipping and handling both ways!

Contact: anedio_info@anedio.com and put Sample Evaluation Program in the subject header ...
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AiDee
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Re: BMC PureDAC
Reply #3 - 09/17/13 at 00:27:37
 
Thanks Beowulf - that Anedio sample offer sounds great, clearly a benefit of their concentrating locally. I suspect it doesn't apply internationally, but it will be great if it leads to more impressions of this DAC which was top of my "wanted" list!
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Audio Addict
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Re: BMC PureDAC
Reply #4 - 09/21/13 at 04:05:07
 
I ordered a Puredac at the end of August from their St. Louis dealer and hoped it would be in by now but it is on the proverbial slow boat from China.  :(
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AiDee
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Re: BMC PureDAC
Reply #5 - 09/21/13 at 05:36:31
 
Sorry to hear this Sad. It's a little ironic that because I'm in New Zealand (no dealer) I got to talk directly with BMC and got fast service as a result.

However, I hope and believe you will find the wait worthwhile. I certainly look forward to your impressions, good or bad.

I was so busy I didn't listen for 4 days. This morning I took Carlos' (of BMC) advice to re-terminate my Beyerdynamic T1 headphones for balanced listening. He was right - they sound remarkable from the DACs balanced amp. Much better than I hear from my solid-state hp amps.

Best, from memory, is still the CSP2 single-ended. I look forward to trying the PureDAC/CSP2 combo in the next few days, where I think the dac's extra transparency and resolution will be a treat judging from what I heard today.
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toddathan
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Re: BMC PureDAC
Reply #6 - 12/05/13 at 22:14:22
 
AiDee:

Can you comment on how the headphone amp section of the BMC compares to the Taboo as a headphone amp?

Thanks,
Todd
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AiDee
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Re: BMC PureDAC
Reply #7 - 12/07/13 at 04:45:49
 
Todd: Closer than I expected. Maybe not surprising, as I tune my Taboo fairly neutral.

Matching levels with pink noise just now and comparing two of my test tracks back and forth (Michael Houstoun, 1st movement, Hammerklavier sonata; Michael Manring, Ephemeris), I find the BMC just a little less defined in the bass with a suggestion of bass bloat, and having a little less sparkle in the upper mids. There's a very slight loss of micro-dynamics (aka 'life') compared to the Taboo, which may be an outcome of these slight spectral differences in the bass and upper-mids.

It's the same DAC in each case; no surprise they both showed the same excellent separation and resolution.

FWIW, long-term I always find I prefer the Taboo to the PureDAC's hp out. It gives me a sense of providing a more vivid presentation than other amps I've tried. In this sense, the Pure provides terrific dynamics and attack for the Taboo to work with. This is something I've only appreciated about this DAC over time. Other DACs (those I listed above) made the Taboo a little soft I now realise.

Nevertheless, when I'm listening casually I find the hp out excellent, and possibly better than the SS amps I have at the moment.

Finally, as I mentioned I tune my Taboo neutral. The Taboo responds extremely well to tube-rolling. I imagine most configurations sound quite different from the PureDAC's, whereupon it comes down to personal preference.

Andre

edit: forgot to mention, Audez'e LCD2, driven balanced from the DAC and single-ended from the Taboo (mine is the Taboo II not Steve's latest mode). I understand the Taboo sounds better balanced from the speaker terminals, something I plan to set up once I have some time and the right socket.
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« Last Edit: 12/07/13 at 04:49:26 by AiDee »  
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