I picked this up to replace the Aqua La Voce S3 in my secondary system. I’d been looking for a TotalDAC they don’t come up much in the US, the Unity was announced, and I got lucky when there was an opportunity to purchase a return from an early US customer, the sale was done through TotalDAC, but the DAC was shipped from the original customer to avoid shipping to and from France.
A bit of a strange transaction, but the DAC which had about 1 week of use on it arrived in as new condition.
Most of my impressions here are based on it’s use in my primary setup in place of the Pacific, rather than it’s final destination in my secondary system in place of the La Voce S3.
- PS Audio Power Plant 3
- TotalDAC D1 Unity + Live Power + Streamer + DSD
- Eddie Current Studio T
- MySphere 3.1
Burn In/Warm up
The DAC was lightly used, and I can’t say how many hours were on it, I will say my impressions of the DAC changed a lot in the first 2 or 3 days, that could be “burn in” or just the DAC stabilizing, like most SS components, I just turned it on and left it on for the 3 weeks or so that make up these impressions.
Out of the box, cold, it sounded very good, but seemed to be missing some high end energy, resulting in Timbre sounding off on some instruments, high notes on pianos and higher pitched string instruments seemed overly smoothed, with a VERY relaxed presentation, 2 days later the timbre issues had resolved, and if anything I’d have described the DAC as positively lively when presented with the right recording.
The DAC is surprisingly technical, resolution is on par or better than anything else I’ve heard at the price point including the Chord Dave. But what really stands out to me is just how incisive and “Rhythmic” (I refuse to use the term PRAT for a DAC) the DAC sounds.
What I mean by “Rhythmic” is it seems to convey the time of what you’re listening to extremely well, I think there are several aspects of it’s sound that contribute to this, most notably being the combination of it’s exceptional leading edge portrayal and the resolution/micro dynamics.
Dynamics generally are a strength, with the right source material, it can rock, but the presentation is always unforced. Listen to a laid back Jazz piece and it’s positively relaxed. That statement seems like it should be true for any DAC, but trust me it isn’t.
The upper bass/lower mids on the TotalDAC do present somewhat forwards, which I think contributes to this chameleon like presentation.
While the Stage isn’t as overtly wide as something like the Pacific (not much is), it has excellent depth, height, weight and separation.
Timbre is excellent. The Pacific has an effortlessness in treble presentation that the totalDAC can’t match, but the totalDAC is still phenomenal in this area.
Overall the sound is very addictive/compelling especially so for live intimate recordings.
vs Chord Dave
This is for a change a pretty fair comparison, in US $ with the current Dave pricing, it’s slightly more expensive than the TotalDAC Unity + Live Power + Streamer.
Perhaps surprisingly the TotalDAC easily matches the resolution and dynamic presentation of the Dave. Unlike the Dave it’s an NOS DAC, so you won’t get the air that the Dave can have, but that is pretty much it for downsides. This is going to come down to personal preference, and for my tastes I much prefer the way the TotalDAC presents music.
For me it’s something of a no brainer as much as I like the Dave, I’d take the TotalDAC over it without question.
Now it’s been a year or so since I had a Dave here, so I’d take the comparison with a bucket of salt.
Like the Dave it’s an excellent “digital” volume control, using it on anything but 0dB’s does impact the sound to some extent, but if you need a bit of additional headroom to get your amp’s pot into a better range, it will give you that. I used it about half the time I was listening, and didn’t worry about it too much.
PCM vs DSD
NOTE – DSD Bypass only occurs if the volume is set to 0dB according to the manual, I assume otherwise the DAC is converting internally to PCM.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a 24bit R2R ladder DAC, with a $300 DSD addon, the PCM output is clearly better, having said that the DSD isn’t bad, and for most it’s probably “good enough”.
I still preferred to convert DSD to PCM in Roon, and offline conversion is probably the best solution.
Mine came with the optional network Streamer, to be honest I wouldn’t have ordered it, had I made the original order myself, I have good digital sources here already.
The odd thing about the internal network interface in the TotalDAC, is that despite the card being internal it requires you connect a USB cable between the USB port on the streamer card and the USB in of the DAC.
It’s a VERY good sounding solution.
vs Optical Rendu
The Optical Rendu with an LPS is a stunningly good USB source for the money, and I still preferred the internal streamer on the TotalDAC to it, albeit marginally. It was really close, but I felt the internal streamer presented better clarity in the Bass than the Rendu, but I did have to swap between them several times to determine a preference.
vs EMM Labs NS1 via AES
TBD – I need more spare time.
IfI IPurifier3 USB isolator
I happened to order it to solve a problem on my gaming system, and it arrived around the same time as the Total DAC Unity. As mentioned above the TotalDAC’s “internal” streamer is connected by an external USB cable to the DAC, and Total DAC sells a cable with a built in filter, so when the IPurifier arrived, I thought why not, I’ll just stick it in the loop.
And surprisingly enough even with a 12 inch USB cable with a device sharing power with the streamer, there was an improvement. It’s not night and day, but it’s there. Better bass control, more defined stage, better attack.
On the WA33
Most of this listening was done with the Susvara
There is a lot of synergy here, it’s a clear step up over the Aqua. While it’s not overt, the more forward lower mids fill out the dryer sound of the WA33 somewhat, and the WA33’s emphasis on technicalities really plays to the TotalDAC’s strengths.
This system is the DAC’s final home and I’m very pleased with the purchase.
Overall an excellent listen.
Lampizator Pacific → Eddie Current Studio T→ MySphere 3.1/Focal Utopia OG/D8000Pro
TotalDAC D1 Unity → WA33 → Susvara/1266 Phi TC/Raal CA-1A
Some 2Ch stuff.