THE LONGDOG AUDIO VDt1 DAC IS NOW ON DEMONSTRATION AT THE MCRU DEMO ROOMS IN HUDDERSFIELD. FOR MORE ABOUT THE DAC DESIGN SEE HERE.
The Longdog VDT1 (£4,250) may look like A.N. other DAC but under the subdued, precision casework lies a veritable humdinger of a converter. I won’t go into much detail as the full review is destined for another publication, but this is such an enjoyable, entertaining and downright musical piece of kit that I couldn’t keep completely quiet.
The VDT1 is a valve DAC with coax and USB inputs on very high quality sockets and analogue output on RCA phonos of the same ilk. I mostly used the coax input with a streamer and a CD player and in both instances had considerable difficulty turning the music off. It has the musical agility of tubes with very little of the rosy glow that they tend to add to the result, but the sound is nonetheless abundant with vibrancy and freshness. Something is either being found in the signal that others miss or the tubes are adding a soupçon of joy to the proceedings. Either way it works so well that I would rather listen to this converter than most. The coax seems to sound better than the USB but this could well be because the coax source I used is far more serious (see expensive) than the computer, both deliver loads of detail but the coax makes more engaging music. If you want to rediscover your (digital) record collection, look no further. Jason Kennedy | NOV 13
The DAC has now been reveiwed by Mr. J. Jacobs from HiFi Pig and awarded a recommended badge. Here is the review.
The DAC has been reviewed in Hi-Fi Choice magazine, here is the review. As much hi-fi equipment is system dependant all our items come with a 30 day money back guarantee, try it in your own system, if it does not suit you return it for a refund.
Designed by Nick Gorham, the Longdog Audio VDt1 Digital to Analogue converter is now available at MCRU. Recently demo'd at the sound + vision show in Bristol, the DAC is DSD ready and will handle files up to 24/192. Featuring many unique properties that make it stand out from the competition, the DAC's specification is un-rivalled at this price point. Everything possible has been done in the quest for the best sound quality, the DAC has audiophile fuses installed as well as a Furutech gold plated IEC inlet, the unit rests on RDC cones and has top quality silver plated RCA sockets on the rear as outputs. The DAC is available with silver or black case and can be configured with balanced XLR outputs on request.
S-PDif inputs: 2.
Galvanic isolation with high performance pulse transformers.
RCA connectors with 75 ohm impedance.
110 Ohm AES XLR inputs available on request.
Supported speeds from 16bit/44.1k to 24bit/192k
SPDiff Reciever supplied by three separate ultra low noise voltage regulators.
USB Input: 1.
Powered from Host computer, Galvanic isolation between Host PC and DAC, prevents noise from the host computer being coupled into the DAC.
USB Audio class 2.0 interface.
Driver free on Linux and OSX host systems.
Simple driver installation on windows.
Speeds from 16bit/44.1k to 24bit/192k (32bit accepted).
DSD over USB supported, 64bit DSD, automatic switching between PCM and DSD
AK4396 DAC selected for best subjective sound when used in balanced out mode.
DAC powered by two ultra low noise voltage regulators.
I2S and DSD input isolated from receiver to avoid noise transfer between stages.
Analog output from DAC taken directly to output buffer, no op-amps, capacitors or additional solid state devices in the signal path once it has left the DAC chip.
Fully balanced valve output stage using 5687 dual triodes, and custom Sowter output transformers, with nickel cores and balanced winding patterns. Use of balanced design ensures distortion levels equal to solid state output stages, but with the sonic qualities that only valves can deliver. All resistors in signal path are high quality Takman carbon film types.
Output via high quality RCA sockets, fully balanced XLR output available on request.
Output signal level 2.18v RMS full scale (single ended).
Digital board has 4 stages of pre regulation using low noise regulators, feeding 9 individual ultra low noise regulators mounted next to the driven device. Custom board design providing isolated ground paths between stages to reduce noise induced jitter to a minimum. High quality parts used throughout digital stage to ensure optimum performance.
Analog board contains three regulated power supplies, one for the digital board main supply, one for the output stage valve heater supply, and a valve regulated high voltage supply using high voltage mosfet and EF86 pentode design. Low noise HT supply ensures ultra low analog noise floor.
Custom UK wound toroid transformer, with oversized core, shield and hum band, supplies power to the unit.
Here are some comments from a satisfied owner of the VDt1 DAC.....
I have recently taken delivery of my VDT1 dac from MCRU, made by LDA.
The physical build of the unit is impressive, with full size dimesions and solid construction. High quality connections for power and xlr are fitted (mine came without phono plugs which is good, I never use them). Inside is the same, with immaculate wiring. I requested blue leds and got those too. You can specify what isolation feet you want, to help with accommodating the unit. PSU is inside the unit, read the spec to see why you don't need something external!
NB. the dac has a protection circuit built in, so when you turn it on, it warms the valves 1st and will also deactivate them after a few minutes of idling, which is a great way to help prolong their life span.
The service I received was top notch (as per). David even leant me his while mine was being made!
So, how does it sound? This is of course very subjective (before this I had an M-dac with upgraded mcru psu). This thing absolutely destroys it (and the Mdac is a great little unit).
Its hard to describe the sound, it's very natural with voices, instruments have a fluid, effortless presentation about them; Nils Frahm's album "Felt" sounds sublime, with the piano decays hanging in the air infront of me forever. But don't mistake this to mean it's soft or polite, it's not! The White Stripes, Ball and biscuit's guitars sound dirty, grungy and visceral, with Jack's voice never sounding so real. It can hold your hand and whisper to you, it can grab you by the scruff and shake you!!
Everything I've thrown at it, from Drum and Bass, to Classical, to Ambient to Rock, it just shows me more of it.
I think what I'm trying to say is it conveys emotion. There's not a technical measurement for this and I don't care; it sounds bloody amazing!
People say that valve output stages can be used as a band aid, to hide flaws in the design elsewhere. I've heard people say that the Mdac is too digital and coarse sounding with detail retreival.
The VDT1 dac has neither of those blights, it digs deeper than anything i've heard in this price range (or many times above it for that matter) and it doesn't sugar coat; if your recording is poor, you're going to hear that.
I've actually started making purchases as investments, I don't want to keep changing components and worrying about what might be better. That's why I demoed this dac (and subsequntly requested my own,10 minutes later).; it's a keeper and has helped bring me a few steps closer to the music.
If you're in the market for a new dac (even one costing 4/5 times this) I challenge you to give it a listen; I think you might just be surprised with what the chaps have achieved here.
Another owner of the Longdog Audio VDt1 DAC writes thus...
"It's a pity that the standard downloads can't be upgraded to a higher resolution. My wife has over 20 hours on her iTunes, so I'll persuade her to look into the linn store. But I have to say that after a few hours of listening, the DAC sounds fab. I mean really, really good!"
"It was an enlightening experience for me today, as for the first time, I heard youtube through the hifi system. Up until now, I had only ever heard it through the small speakers either side of the keyboard. Now I can actually HEAR the difference resolution makes. I could hear a very distinct difference in the sound quality between youtube and iTunes.
No customer questions for the moment.