Sep 152010
 

Originally published on the Art of Sound Forum, nearly two years ago but I still feel this is a very interesting comparison review (I would say that) and still quite relevant, even though the product that the best of 20 years of digital disc spinners and decoders was compared to is now no longer top of its range (having been superceded by new Beresford products such as the TC 7520 DAC)

However despite that and for a new readership I feel that it is still a worthwhile read and fit for republishing (after a slight reworking of my early slightly clanky writing style).

So here is my first thought provoking online review….enjoy

Neil

Part One

A QUESTION ?

Since the early 1980’s music and audio enthusiasts have been living with the day to day reality of digital recording and playback technology. While new implementations of both types of technology have come and gone, the question that needs answering (for me and I suspect many of you) is…. has there been genuine innovations and improvements in the quality of digital playback ? The question of digital recording quality, which is in its own right a hotly debated topic, falls outside the remit for this review and outside of my current capabilities to offer.

While the goal of this review is a fairly simple one (I suspect getting there may be complex) and that is to compare a number of digital playback products from the last 20 years or so to a recent young upstart the Beresford TC 7510 DAC; of which many very over the top claims have been made, mostly online and not in fairness by its designer Stanley Beresford (1)

IN THE RED CORNER

The items I am using in this comparison review are the classic Marantz CD94 mk2. The best of older French design in the form of the Micromega Classic Data and Dialog a two box CD player, comprising a Transport and Dac. The Marantz SA 7 (One of the best current SACD/CD players) and one of the very best high end designs I own, the Moon Andromeda.

Digital to analogue converters to be used in the test will include the Musical Fidelitiy Tri-Vista 21, Micromega Dialog and the DAC section of the Moon Andromeda. This group comprises some of the best digital playback designs of their time and it is hoped, will help to sort out whether or not digital technology has truly progressed during the last 20 years (2)

IN THE BLUE CORNER

The main protagonists in this review are fairly well known, indeed many are regarded as classics but will the controversial new Berseford Tc 7510 DAC be thought of in those terms in the future ? Let us see…..

Since the Beresford TC7510 came onto the market, this design has caused many to question the worth and value of their existing digital processors, both in their existing Compact Disc players and the ones they might be using already, either as stand alone add ons to their existing older CD players or in new uses such as with PC’s derived sound. I half expect as I write this review to hear the sounds of the villagers (those who think a DAC at this price can’t be as good for so little money) approaching, with burning torches and pitch forks, each one shouting, “bring him out”. The claims made for this modest product is “that it is a giant killer”, capable of taking on and beating the very best digital has to offer…..we shall see.

The journey to discover its strengths and weaknesses will be very interesting; I am sure.

THE JOURNEY BEGINS

I will be giving each product the very best chance to perform to its fullest and any warm up quirks will be catered for. With the Marantz player this means it needing to be left on for at least a week and with the Moon Andromeda it will be left on for at least a month (3).

Attention will be paid also to isolation and mains cables (in the Beresfords case this can’t be done as it has a wall power supply unit), interconnects and anything else required.

The review system will be my main system in my living room and to keep things as simple as possible and you may well think that things are all ready far from simple, I will only be using three pieces of music.

THE MUSIC

Hugh Masekela-Stimela (The Coal Train) Taken from the Dali CD Demo Disc 2006.

Nitin Sawhney -Broken Skin and Letting Go. Taken from Beyond Skin CD 1999.

Other music will be used but in an attempt again to try and simplify matters, both from a writing and listening point of view I will only be referring to the tracks listed above.

THE REVIEW SYSTEM


The review system is made up of the BAT VK 31 se pre-amplifier, BAT VK 75 power amplifier and Anthony Gallo Ref 3.1 speakers. Cabling will be Atlas Mavros and Audience Au 24, both in RCA and XLR types. The speaker cable is also Atlas Mavros.

The equipment tables are Clearlight Audio and String Suspension Concept isolation platforms will be used as well. No mains filters or regenerators will be used during these tests. However both Audience AU24 and Analysis Plus Oval 2 power cables will be used.

LET THE BATTLE BEGIN


The Marantz CD 94mk2


First up was the legendary Marantz CD 94 mk 2, a highly regarded CD player from the age of cost no object flag ship models. This Marantz player was part of a line of transports and integrated players to come from the mind of Ken Ishitwata.

The CD 94 mk 2 incorporated all that he had learned from the two box limited edition Marantz CD12 and it was a generally held opinion at the time, that the CD 94 mk 2 was as good, if not better than the CD12. It features a dual differential DAC layout with Two TDA 1541 crown modules per channel ( but unlike the CD12 it has no balanced XLR outputs. This feature being a victim of keeping costs down. This is a pity as the CD94 mk2 is a balanced design in reagrad to its DAC).

This CD 94 mk2 is a stock unit, except for a structural modification to its underside. A thicker plate of brushed aluminum replaces the thin resonant metal plate that was there originally.

The machine was power up and left playing for a few days before any listening was done (this player will be listened to again at the end of the review period, just to see if one weeks warm up does indeed make a difference to the sound). It was found early on that Audience Au24 RCA to RCA cables sounded best and a Kimber power cord was hooked up. I heard a distinct improvement in sound quality with this power cord hooked up.

It has been at least four and a half years since I last heard this player and hearing it a fresh was like having an old friend come home, who you have not seen in a few years. However after a short listen it was also a case of discovering all your friends bad points again too.

The Marantz at first listen has a very solid bass and wide soundstage but after a few minutes it became obvious on the Hugh Masekela track Stimela that all was not well. There was a foreshortening of the soundstage depth and a lack of openness in the treble compared to what I am normally used to with the Moon Andromeda. This was particularly obvious on the sax and trumpet solos and also in the lack of shimmer and decay on cymbals. In short the sound was very two dimensional and lacking in weight. Not weight in the bass, as this was very good but in the mid and treble.

The classic strengths were all in evidence, very good rhythm, pace and timing. Bass was deep and articulate showing good definition but the sound scape was sounding a bit like a cardboard cut-out of what it should and I know it can be.

These problems were not quite as glaringly obvious on the Nitin Sawhney tracks but the lack of spacial dimension and correct tonal qualities on instruments with upper mid and treble emphasis were plain to be heard (when they presented themselves) this was not a good start in so much as this was not how I remembered this machine sound. I say that in-so-much that we all would I think acknowledge that early digital had some issues in the areas I mention but for it to be quite so obvious was surprising.

I was left so unhappy by this showing that I listened again later on in the week and found that this machine does indeed require a weeks warm up. So for those who don’t believe in such things, well you will have to accept that I do. I also played around with the mains leads and found the Analysis Plus power Oval 2 to offer a significant improvement in sound over the Kimber that I had originally used and the Audience AU 24 power lead that I used with other items during this test.

In order facilitate the use of the Analysis Plus cable an adapter had to be used to convert the IEC to Fig of 8, this did not appear to harm the sound but I wonder if a straight Fig 8 plug on this power cable would have sounded better ? The answer will have to wait, as I did not have one to hand, to try.

The Marantz CD 94 mk2 with a few days more warm up had improved quite a bit. The sound was now more fleshed out and both soundstage depth, height and width had also opened up. The bass was fuller and in general the overall sound quality had gained weight. However despite these improvements the treble was still found to be lacking. On any instruments with a lot of treble energy, such as cymbals, guitars, female voice etc there was still a lack of transparency, detail and air (4)

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Micromega Classic Data and Dialogue

The two box Micromega Classic Data and Classic Dialog pairing where next up. This machine was well regarded in its day but in fairness I know very little about it from a technological point of view (I bought it as a scrapper and I had to have both bits fixed. It came with no paper work, so it is a bit of a mystery).

The Transport was set on top of the DAC (something Micromega used to recommend with the likes of their Trio player, many years ago) and Audience Au24 fed the DAC and an Analysis Plus Power Oval 2 fed the DAC (it sounded best this way). Connection to the BAT pre-amplifier was via Atlas Mavros XLR cables (again done as it sounded best this way. Phase was also reversed as USA kit and European Balanced designs have the + and – reversed..trust me it makes a difference). Both units rested on top of a String Suspension Concept isolation platform.

After a substantial amount of run in/warm up (days), the listening began.

Coming directly after the Marantz I was not really prepared for the shock of hearing this two box player. This pairing produced a much bigger soundstage, that was populated by more three dimensional instruments and vocalists.

The wealth of upper instrument harmonics and tonal richness made the Marantz sound even more two dimensional (in fact one dimensional). The Hugh Masekela track suddenly had weight and scale in every area.

Instruments now had a real body to them as did vocals. The singer sounded like a man of colour now and not a white man trying hard to be one but failing miserably. All the vocal work was solid and many (if not all ) the intonations came across with increased clarity.

Drums had weight and skin texture and cymbals now had air and shimmer with excellent decay. The sax and trumpet solos now sounded like real people were behind them and blowing lots of air, as a result each instrument now sounded much more real.

There is a part in this track in which a cow bell is hit, this now had shape and texture and was not the paper-cut-out the Marantz had made it sound. Bass had extra depth and control. The individual notes and pitch could now be heard. The overall sound was now three dimensional.

The Nitin Sawhney tracks also gained life, extra depth and texture. Percussion gained air and decay with shimmer that sounded real as did an acoustic guitar, which now sounded like a real one and not a Fischer Price toy.

The separation of detail and how the soundstage was populated with real musicians was very strong on the Hugh Masekela track and despite Nitin Sawhney tacks being studio based they also sounded real too. The overall sound was slightly to the warmer side of neutral but not by much.

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The Marantz SA7


The Marantz SA7 was next. This machine represents a very strong nod back to the days of the CD 94 mk2, offering battleship build quality and a high level of luxury in the fit and finish.

Marantz had a special sealed laser mechanism built for this machine. This unit is built onto a die cast metal block (as used to be the case with older Marantz designs) and the laser its self sits inside a sealed unit so the metal drawer slides in and out of a thick walled box. This explains why noise in playback of discs (especially SACD discs) isfairly silent compared to its two cheaper stable mates, the SA 11 and SA 15 (both have very noisy mechanisms).

The player was used with an Audience Au24 power cord and Atlas Mavros RCA to RCA cables (it sounds better in this set up single ended rather than balanced). The SA7 was also sat on three AMR isolation feet.

The overall sound was very similar to the Micromega but just a tad lighter in balance, not lean but just slightly less warm. The quality of sound on all three tracks was also just a touch more open and detailed but again not by much.

I was surprised by this as I had thought the SA 7 would, being a newer design sound better than the Micromega but not so. Many feel that dual function ( playing SACD) machines are compromised in their playback of Red Book discs and this may be so but the SA 7 sounded excellent just not a lot better than the Micromega.


The Moon Andromeda

Next into the fray was the heavy guns of the ultra-high- end Moon Andromeda. This two box player (one of the two boxes is the power supply ala Naim) is a fully dual differential design and was used balanced (as was the Micromega).

I will cut to the chase here, I was blown away by the massive jump in sound quality over the other CD players. It was not subtle. As I look at my listening notes words such as, clarity, texture, separation, micro and macro detail, depth are all underlined or circled. At every level the sound was better in the noted areas and others.

The Marantz SA7 and Micromega efforts had produced a sound like real musicians in the room. However the images the Andromeda CD player produced were so stable, solid and real as to create ( as Murray Dick of Ecofan would say) a “Thereness” factor way of the scale. All three tracks sounded breathtaking, Hugh Masekela and band was in the room and I was in Nitin Sawhney’s studio….Wow !.

All the instruments, be it in the sumptuousness of Stimela’s 10 minutes or the Indian/Jazz/Dance of Nitin’s tracks on Beyond Skin and Letting Go sounded real. They had a body and three dimensional reality that they had quite frankly not had before. This jump in sound quality had to be heard to be believed. My Wife had been in and out of the listening room a few times and she had called to me.”That sounds like a real band ” Hugh Masekela was playing at the time, indeed it did…the room was part of the live venue and I was there.

I could go through a blow by blow breakdown of what, where, and when but I wont. Suffice to say that I now had the illusion of real musicians in the room for the first time.

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ANSWERS ?

My findings thus far during this part of the reviews proceedings left me with hard evidence, I feel, that unfortunately to scale the heights of better digital sound reproduction, one would seem to require more expensive products to achieve this. I know some reading this will disagree, and will site certain products to back their assertions up with, however we will get to that in a few minutes.

I can really hear those villagers sharpening their pitch forks and lighting their torches now.

However my experiences during this review to date and in the past seem to me at least to back this needing to spend more to get better digital sound opinion up.

I have used as broad a base of digital design and technology in the CD players I have used during this review on which to base this opinion(5) However the one thing that seemed clear, by this showing was that classic designs of yesteryear while good in their day may not quite cut it in today’s CD player arena, despite the love and devotion that we may have for them.

I was shocked at just how much the other players tested eclipsed the Marantz CD 94 mk 2 even with more warm up time. I guess you could say that a sacred cow partially died. The shortcoming of this machine can, I am sure be solved in part if not in full by using the machine as a base for the mods of say a company like Audiocom. The Micromega and Marantz SA 7 being so close in sound quality also came as a surprise, but it was the massive jump in sound of the Moon Andromeda that really put the cat among the pigeons. Cat won, Pigeons dead…lunch.

The degree of difference here was like that between vinyl and CD, with the former sounding like music and the latter more of a two dimensional cutout. To hear this with red book digital was interesting and confirmed in part what I already knew. However to have it made so clear that the real areas which gain in better digital ( and all music reproduction) fall within the areas of greater reality, solidity, flesh, texture and effortless reproduction of the musical event, was frankly really illuminating.

The merely two dimensional sound of the lesser players being bested on every level with the dearer CD players sound giving more reality and their music reproduction becoming a three dimensional presence within the room. This is what audio is about getting closer to the heart and spirit of the music and having it in your listening space. The gains in weight and scale in every area and I don’t mean just the bass, but the mid and treble too, led to a more solid and believable listening experience.

So based on this sample of Compact Disc players I feel that I can say that on the basis of what I have heard during this test so far, that there have been real improvements in the 20 odd years since the Marantz CD94mk2 was King; but are there higher levels of digital replay available among the Moon Andromeda’s peers? I would have to say that I feel this would be so but I suspect that the laws of diminishing returns really would kick in and any further sound improvement may well be small and at an even higher cost.

Part Two


IS IT REALLY TRUE ?


The Beresford DAC that many have been raving about uses some previously very High-End technology that is now available at much less cost than it once was. So the question now is Can real High-End sound come from this type of product ?

The forums are awash with extreme claims being made for all sorts of products both new and old and one area I wanted to check out was the increasing claims that a lot can be gained with cheaper digital products and one in particular, I will get to that in a moment.

The thought that a high end digital player can’t possibly justify its price by not offering a massive leap in sound quality has for me at least been proved with what precedes this section of the review. However I now wanted to see if “Giant killers exist.”

All Giants be ware, trouble is in town. But is this trouble just a cheap upstart, that has to climb a ladder to say boo ! We shall see….


The Beresford TC 7510 DAC

“The Beresford TC-7510 is an uncomplicated Digital to Analogue Converter with design features offering the ideal solution for the modern day high technology home hi-fi or multi-media environment.

Most digital to analogue converters are aimed at the CD and DVD audiophiles. The TC-7510 has however been designed for a broader range of application and has been further optimized for accurate PC and wireless digital audio reproduction. That includes wireless servers such as the SB3, Airport Express, DAB radio, and satellite audio.

The TC-7510 is a 4 digital inputs audio DAC with 24bit/96KHz digital input capability. It reclocks and resamples incoming digital data using its own inbuilt jitter free clock in order to negate jitter in the original signal.

The actual Digital to Analog conversion process takes place at 352.8KHz for a 16 bit/44.1KHz CD audio signal, and 384KHz for DVD audio. This higher frequency sampling rate accounts for a large part for the detailed resolution and separation of singers and instruments in a recording.

he analogue audio output stage operates in Class A. This means that there is no crossover distortion in the audio output, which results in a fuller and better dimensioned sound.

The TC-7510 cost versus performance is more in the high-end league, and has been a pleasant surprise to the many proud owners of this affordable marvel.

The cleverly designed analogue layout helps to maintain minute details, depth, and punch in the information retrieval of the digital audio signal. We have also paid great attention to sound stage and sonic depth, giving the TC-7510 audio performance levels that were previously only available from similar products costing several times the price of the TC-7510.

What if you are playing audio that is at 32 kHz/16 bits and you are losing that extra amount of quality that 44.1KHz gives? The TC-7510 over samples the audio to the audio output section using an 8X over sampling DAC for increased precision during playback.

In addition, it has a headphone amplifier and two line outputs. The multiple input and output options enhance the practical uses and increases the versatility of the TC-7510.” taken from Home HiFi’s website (A)

This unit is recent and on loan from the son of a friend, so thanks must go to both Norman and his son. Having not been fully run in I embarked on this process.

New out of the box this Digital to Analogue converter was very poor. However its sound got much better and not just a little but a lot. If your’s sounds poor persevere with it…it will get better eventually.

The TC 7510 is a very small unit being about the size of two CD jewel cases laid side by side and about the same width as a CD jewel box side on. Fit and finish is good/ workman like but with this sample a slight warp in the case meant it would not sit level on its four stuck on feet. These are placed into four recess in the underside of the case, a nice touch, which beats the just stuck on the underside of many even dearer products. The Beresford has four digital ins and two sets of RCA only analogue outs. One is fixed and one variable (this allows direct connection to power amps) I will talk a bit more on this latter.

The Beresford DAC was tried on a number of isolation platforms and sounded different on each I tried. However after some experimentation I settled on the String Suspension Concepts suspended isolation platform. To my ear this sounded better. The TC 7510 also sounded better with Audience Au24 RCA to RCA cables (substantially dearer than the DAC but I wanted to give it the best). I wanted my findings to be based on allowing this product every chance. No stone was left unturned in this quest.

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TRANSPORTS OF DELIGHT AND FRUSTRATION

Another issue raised its head and one that many don’t believe in and that was the quality of digital transport used. Well I am sorry to say but during this review I once again had it confirmed to me that transports do make a difference. Each time I tried a new machine the sound changed (this was after I could hear no further improvements in sound after the TC 7510 was run for three days solid). I used an XLO digital cable for hook up, an old favorite of mine.

The sound at first was disappointingly thin and lacking in both bass and focus and the sound stage was wide enough with height but not much depth. Strangely the sound was not bright just lacking in body. After a lot of run in this had filled out, but still lacked a degree of body.

Not the Giant Killer so far, he writes ducking his head low….I can hear those other villagers the Beresford loving ones on their way up the hill from the village now as well….. So I started swapping transports.

The first I had used was the Micromega Data and the sound was not that good, so I tried the digital output of the Marantz SA7…oh boy differences do exist in transports; the sound had now gained body and the bass was both fuller and richer.

I listened to my three pieces of music and I must confess was still disappointed with what I was hearing compared to the previous listening tests ( In the first section of this review).

I swapped transport again and plugged in the digital out on the Moon Andromeda .. WOW…..now we were cooking.

This is were it gets tricky, as I need to try and draw the salient points out of six pages of notes. A lot of writing was done.

Firstly it felt a bit ridiculous to be using massively more expensive items in this part of the review but this is a Giant Killer…right ? So I wanted to treat it as such. Unfair ? Maybe but such high claims are being made for this product and not just in modest set ups but High-End ones, so I wanted to stretch it. I wanted to make sure of what I was hearing and reading (as stated) by Beresford users, was not just a case of the Emperors new clothes or mass delusion or just very good marketing.

The sound with the Moon Andromeda (as a transport) was very good but quickly switching between inputs (and matching volume levels) showed that the TC 7510 was not up to killing the Giant called Andromeda (when used as a complete player). In comparison it just lacked the same degree of reality its sound was also quite two dimensional in comparison but before you burn my cottage down and slice me with your pitch forks, hold a minute…. the other players the Andromeda beat are substantially dearer than the Beresford, just as the Moon Andromeda is over them.

Audiomeca Mephisto mk2 transport.

Still not satisfied I replaced the Moon Andromeda with one of the best transports ever designed. Pierre Lurne, a legendary turntable designer used to make digital products. He called his company Audiomeca and the last quality transport to come out of his clever mind ( before he gave up on digital and went back to analogue) was the Mephisto mk 2.

Designed like a turntable, with a custom top loading mechanism suspended on adjustable towers this machine offers the very best digital signal that a digital transport can output.

After connecting it up to the TC 7510 I sat back and played Nitin Sawheny’s track Broken Skin. The quality of sound was now excellent  (relative to how it sounded before, using the Andromeda as the transport connected to the Beresford DAC) and offered a marked improvement in quality over the sound got while the Moon was the transport; as did the next track Letting Go.

However I was still bothered by a lack of something.

Playing the excellent live recording Stimela by Hugh Masekella helped put things into focus. The TC 7510 was leaner compared to the sound of these other one and two box player. It was lacking that inner weight and scale I referred to earlier.

The sound was obviously digital in comparison to the analogue richness of the Moon Andromeda used as a complete player. However once again hold off on those burning torches. I had to remind myself  that this was a £130 DAC and not a multi thousand pound one. Yes you read right a £130 DAC. The fact that it was not a disgrace in front of these other much dearer products was very interesting. Its sins were all of omission rather than commission.

Yes it sounds slightly lean and tonally light in comparison to the other items in this test and lacks that last degree of bass control and depth….but its £130.

These sound quality issues might not even be heard in a less revealing system than the one I used during this test. The fact is you must treat this DAC with the sort of care you would apply to a high end product. If you do it will reward you with much better sound than if you don’t. But is it worth it ? when to do this may mean spending more on ancillary bits to go with it. That is for you to decide. My brief to myself was to test it fully, to establish what it could and could not do.

In my system with the Audiomeca used as the transport, the Beresford TC 7510 performed to its best (you must bear in mind that these results are what I heard in this system) and produced a very musical sound but it did lack the ultimate in refinement, detail retrieval,and that degree of being there, that the other dearer players and DACs had.

I must say that I feel having listened extensively that the solution/and blame for this lack is to be found in the poor wall wart power supply. Sure this gets you up and running and the Maplins special (as recommended by Beresford as an upgrade for the TC 7510) gets you a bit more but I suspect that the up coming dedicated power supply from Beresford may narrow the gaps and address the issues I have (please remember the differences in cost here) outlined here.

It would be interesting to try this better PSU and see what changes it would bring to the Beresford party but that is for another day.

At the end of this stage of the review I wired the Marantz CD 94 mk 2 in as a transport.

This machine uses one of the finest laser mechanisms, the Phillips CDM 1 (a mineral loaded unit) that Philips ever made and it should have been very good as a transport but once again I felt let down. It compared well to the Micromega ( which should have done well too, but did not).

The Marantz-Beresford combination lacked the quality of the Audiomeca or the Moon Andromeda, but its shortcomings came across as a reduction in detail resolution, a softness and lack of focus and overall weight of sound.

Amazing that once again the myth of ones and zeros sounding the same proved to be incorrect. It may be that jitter levels are higher in some of these designs but that may well not be the whole story. I am afraid I can’t take that train of thought any further as I lack both the knowledge and test items needed to assess that possibility. However the difference was obvious, I just don’t know why lacking test equipment to check jitter levels.

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As a final part of these tests, I hooked the Audiomeca up to other DACs other than the Beresford.

I used the Micromega Dialog, Moon Andromeda’s internal Dac and a Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista 21. I did this in order to get some perspective on what the Beresford was doing; the results were again quite surprising.

The Andromeda-Audiomeca pairing was not very good (the sum of the Moon parts being better used as a whole). The Audiomeca and Micomega pair was better as was the Musical Fidelity combination (more on this a bit latter) The differences and lack in some of these set ups again pointed to how digital can sound more or less like musical reality. The elements that where missing could be stated simply as being a lack of focus and solidity. When digital is wrong it sounds stripped and lacking in dimension.

These comments are of course to be taken in relation to my earlier findings and the percentages of difference were not quite as great as in some other cases mentioned earlier but they where there to be heard.

My final combination was the Mephisto mk 2 wired up to a Musical Fidelity Tri -Vista 21 valve DAC (this has a choke power supply). I allowed it to warm up and let her rip. It was better than the Beresford and caused me another shock. This pairing of the Audiomeca and the MF DAC sounded amazing; all the aspects that the Beresford lacked it had in spades.

Hooked up via its RCa outputs (it only has these), it was knocking on the door of the Andromeda. Not as good but it was close. Again the main factors missing compared to the Moon Andromeda was in the area of being able to create a sense of reality, weight/scale and thereness, but it was close.

This finding made me sit back and wonder how many changes of items in systems causes one to miss an amazing match. To many audio enthusiasts just won’t be patient enough and too quickly jump on the E-Bay merry-go-round and don’t give things a chance to run-in warm-up and settle-down.

The MF DAC had always sounded very good in the past but all the recent changes in my system since getting the Tri Vista 21 DAC a few years before particularly in the areas of amplification, cabling and speakers now allowed me to hear just how good it really was.

I now feel that audiophiles many chop and change way too soon to know fully what the item they are moving on from can do. I am glad that I hoard gear as I now have heard what a wonder the MF Tri-Vista 21 Dac is. Few get a chance to compare what they have moved on from as I have in the last few weeks (6)

CONCLUSIONS

To try and offer a conclusion (as much as I can at this stage) to the Beresford TC 7510 Digital Converter. I hooked it up again and spent an additional day with it and a small further improvement in its sound was heard but still I could hear the slight leanness in the sound, a characteristic perhaps.

I feel sure that the addition of a better power supply (soon) will be the key to unlocking more of what this £130 DAC can do and I suspect that this will take away this slightly lean aspect to the sound; giving the sound the extra weight it was missing.

The main thing to keep in mind here is the retail price as sold direct (7) by Beresford and I really want to commend the designer in his design choices and the resulting fantastic sound achievement the Beresford TC 7510 DAC is ……well done Stan.

I look forward to hearing the TC7510 with that dedicated PSU, when its available. A further listen is required to answer all the questions this remarkable unit has raised.

So have I answered the question, do Giant Killers exist ? Well maybe. I suppose it depends on the size and quality of the Giant you own. Some Giants are better than others and the TC 7510 may kill your Giant but it didn’t quite kill mine but it did scare it a bit…well quite a lot..perhaps.

The sound from this version of the Beresford Dac is not perfect, but at its price it is a bargain £130 and it also makes a quite good FOC headphone amp too.

There is a caveat in getting the sound I heard from this product and it is not to use the variable output. I for one would not recommend using it this way, the sound is in my opinion to compromised via the variable out (with the current design). All the results I heard were with the fixed output. The TC 7510’s achievements are severely truncated if you use the variable output at least in the context of my system.

So this £130 product is a major bargain (no matter how you use it) but you will have to pamper it to hear all it can do. Treat it as a true High-End design and you will get a really strong sense of what spending more money usually gets you and all of this for very modest money indeed.

However does it make sense to use it with the type of kit I have ? Do you need to ? Well I think in a more modest set up (the environment it was designed for) the issues I could hear may not be quiet so clear cut; in fact they may not be heard at all.

The TC 7510 DAC is a major achievement in that it can be compared favourably to the kind of products I was able to compare it to and it could hold its head high.

I still feel however that there is much more still to be tapped from this design….role on the PSU.

So have the villagers been persuaded to go home ? Am I now safe in my bed ? Will that knock at the door be a villager with a power supply, rather than a pitch fork….we shall see ?

Neil

(1)

During this comparison review I will include classic legacy designs, right up to the very latest and in some ways most controversial of all the aforementioned TC7510. This controversy is not so much about how the technology has been implemented in that design but at the claimed levels of sound quality obtainable for very modest cost.

If the numerous claims are true, this design will offer the audio enthusiast on a tight budget a true taste of the High-End for entry level money. This is very exciting if true.

(2)

In a follow up review (this one is already too complex) I will assess the fondness for classic Multi Bit technology in the shape of the Phillips TDA 1541 Dac (found in the Marantz CD 94, Marantz CD 7 and the Amr CD 77 players)and see if they are truly worth some peoples adoration.

This will I hope make for an interesting companion to the above review, in so much that it will I hope show that just because some technology is mature (for that read past its sell by date), that it may still offer the opportunity for a new implementation, that gives current audio enthusiasts a genuine up to date sound but one that adds a vintage ( in digital terms) twist to current accepted digital design thinking.

(3)

I know this is very controversial but for what ever reason many CD players need leaving on after being run in to sound their best.

Marantz multi bit players, Wadias (not the new models but older ones) and the Moon Andromeda to name a few, sound better after differing lengths of time. In the case of Wadias and Moons its about a month and with multi bitters like the Marantz Cd94 mk2 about a week is required.

I have heard this my self in my own system and others, so despite many thinking this is delusional I will as part of the preparation for this review allow each player as much or little time on as current thinking and my own experience says they need.

(4)

This additional listening session has not changed the final order of quality sound found among the tested group, but did restore my belief in this player somewhat but not totally.

(5)

as well as hearing numerous other designs over the years, both in my listening room and elsewhere.

(6)

To hear all the digital disc spinners and DACs I have had has given me a real insight into the kind of journey I have been on in this area. The main reason for comparing them was to gain insight into how the sound of digital technology has progressed and it has in my opinion but as an extra benefit I have also been reminded of the journey and direction my own digital source choices have taken me.

Each component has had a sound signature that I like and all the next choice has done is to unlock even more of that sound. My path has been fairly straight with none of the deviations that I suspected I had made along the way, at least in regard to digital playback. Only the Marantz CD 94 mk2 disappointed and that I am sure could be sorted. It is also clear that even in an all balanced system a single ended design might still offer a very serious challenge to other balanced kit. Is that another sacred cow I hear falling over.

(7)

The only way still to buy and hear Beresford products is to get them from Beresford direct

© Text and Photos Copyright 2010 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio.

NB No part or portion of this article may be reproduced or quoted without written permission.

 Posted by at 9:39 pm

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