tkam Posted May 13, 2009 Report Share Posted May 13, 2009 Neko Audio D100 Impressions After being a speaker only guy for awhile I wanted to put together a headphone rig again for late night listening sessions. I had never sold my 650's so I had the headphone part covered and then I was fortunate enough to get a Dynahi at a fantastic price. Leaving the source as the only thing left to get, I knew I wanted a dac as I was planning to use the Squeezebox as the transport. I've heard quite a few dacs in the $1k price range over the years and none really ever satisfied me and some I flat out hated then I recalled reading this thread about a new transformer coupled dac. I've had very good experiences with transformer coupled gear in the past specifically sources so I figured I'd give it a try. Neko offers a 30-day money guarantee so I went ahead and ordered one. It arrived two days later in a relatively small box but it was well padded by what looked like custom foam inserts. The box also contained the obligatory power cable and a little manual. Operation is pretty straight forward, it has two inputs (coax and toslink) which you can switch between using the front mounted switch. The rest of the front panel is pretty sparse, just the Neko Audio logo a power led and a lock led. Both led's are blue but they aren't blinding like you find on other gear. The power switch is located on the back along with the aforementioned digital inputs and the XLR's outs. One complaint about the chassis design, it's basically two parts the bottom and front/back panel and the top and side panels. Due to the lack of screws on the top panel there is a little bit of a gap that can be seen between the top and back/front panels. From a functionality standpoint the D100 has always locked onto the signal from the Squeezebox immediately. It's worked flawlessly in that regard up to this point. The D100 has a pretty simple layout and design, utilizing a WM8804 for digital input/receiver duties that then feeds a pair of PCM1794A's running in mono mode. After that it's a passive I/V stage passing the signal off to a pair of Jensen JT-11-EMCF transformers. First Impressions During my first listening sessions two things jumped out at me, first is how amazingly transparent the D100 is and second is its tonality. Far too many dacs in this price range impart their own sound signature or shine a light on one particular aspect. The benchmark dac-1 is the best example of this, every time I’ve heard it and with every recording the treble always has this glare/etch to it and it drives me nuts. I don’t want a piece of gear that’s trying to make me focus on a particular aspect of the music, anything that does that is taking away from my enjoyment of the music. The Neko D100 does it the right way, it doesn’t impart any obvious signature of its own and it does nothing to distract me from the music itself. I mentioned the D100 tonality as being the 2nd thing that jumped out at me and it did so for this reason, it sounds spot on. Woodwinds, strings, drums, guitars, flutes, etc all have the correct timbre and tonal balance. Further Impressions After about 10 days or so of listening I have a better feel for the Neko D100’s strengths and weaknesses which I’ll be breaking out in further detail below. Strengths Transparency – further listening has validated my initial thoughts, this is one remarkably transparent dacTonality – same as above, the more I listen the more I enjoy the tonality of this dacVocals – vocals are presented effortlessly and naturally, I really enjoy female vocals with this dacDynamics – it can be punchy as hell when needed and quiet as a mouse a second laterImaging – very precise placement and good spacing between elementsNon-fatiguing – can listen to the D100 four hours on end, no listener fatigue at allWeaknesses Softness – at the extreme ends of the spectrum (low bass/high treble) it is a little soft.Soundstage cohesiveness – some gaps in the width of the stage (could just be the typical 650 soundstage though)Low bass – loses some definition/punch at the very bottom of the frequency range Conclusion The Neko Audio D100 is a winner, functionally it works flawlessly and sonically it meshes traits found in far more expensive sources with a very pleasing and enjoyable sound. I’ve had a ton of fun listening to it and as of now have no plans to return it. It’s a killer value and I’d take it over just about any other dac in the $1-2k price range. Note As I get more phones and get a chance to hear it in my speaker rig I'll add to these impressions and change anything as needed. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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