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Thread: SW1X DAC II Special Review

  1. #1
    Join Date: Apr 2016

    Location: Bishops Stortford

    Posts: 575
    I'm Chris.

    Default SW1X DAC II Special Review

    SW1X DAC II Special Review

    Just a few sentences to put this review in context. I only review kit that I own, and I have been listening to Hi Fi for 55 years with speakers spanning from Yamaha NS1000s to Lowther Hedlund horns, amplifiers from Naim to EAR 861, and sources from Linn Sondek to computers.

    Over the last ten years, my opinion of Hi Fi has become somewhat jaundiced by the assault on my ears, typified by 90% of what I hear at Hi Fi shows and dealers. For me, kit is voiced (and dressed up) to impress at demos and generally brings about listening fatigue after a few hours. My sympathies are with the young generation who have grown up believing this is as good as it gets.

    Enter SW1X Audio Design, a business set up by Slawa Roschkow. Anyone who has read my postings will know I am a fan, in particular of his NOS DACS. My current system is full of either Slawa's original kit or other established brands that Slawa has breathed life into. Its worth mentioning that my system is loaded with silver wiring throughout. This makes it ultra transparent and can reveal weaknesses that exist anywhere in the chain by throwing an unflattering spot light on imperfections. Many people turn away from silver for this reason.

    I have lived with the DAC 1 Signature for about 18 months and have loved the lively, engaging sound that it produces, but once I had heard the DAC II, then it was somewhat inevitable that I would eventually own one. So I opted for the DAC II Special version where Slawa has hand picked components and assembled them by voicing and harmonising each component in the circuit. I have watched this painstaking process which involves swapping bits, such as capacitors, transistors and diodes, for endless hours, with each change evaluated by listening. Even the direction of internal parts and the choice of solder is optimised.

    This process of optimising components only really only works at the manufacturing scale that Slawa currently operates at. One doubts if such scrutiny can be maintained by mass producers like Audionote, except perhaps with their very exotic (expensive) gear. For that reason, these early SW1X models may one day become collector’s items.

    For those that need a bit of technical stuff. The DAC II Special contains 2 x PCM56K instead of 1 x TDA1543 of the DAC I, (directly heated) valve rectified power supply, specially selected diodes, active I/V based on Germanium transistors in the I/V and their power supply, fine silver & copper wiring (50/50%), Jensen Copper PIO caps, 1 & 2W AB resistors throughout

    The chassis is a simple but attractive box with brushed aluminium face containing just a single neon together with black casework. It has ample breathing slots for the valves within and measures 140mm tall, 340mm wide and 400mm deep. It is totally noiseless with ear pushed against my sensitive speakers. Equally during operation it barely gets warm to the touch

    After 2 weeks of bedding in, during which time it evolved into the light, I will try and sum up what the DAC II Special is all about in a series of words – holographic, well balanced across the frequencies, entrancing, lifelike, smooth, energetic, addictive, analogue-like, natural harmonics, relaxing, but above all refined and very, very enjoyable.

    It takes 10-15 minutes from turn-on when cold to come fully on song, which is a bonus if you are against leaving your kit turned on 24/7.

    This DAC has similar character whether I listen at life-like volumes or low volumes late at night. It has the ability to surprise me with its dynamics when a new voice or instrument enters the music and the ability to transfer some dynamics out of the room making me think it’s someone at the front door or that the wife is calling. Altogether a bit unnerving.

    The singer is firmly placed centre stage when expected, but the ‘image’ spreads both between, above, and outside the speakers.

    The reader may think that I listen to simple, unchallenging music. Well, I hate jazz and gravitate towards Irish, Country, Pop, Film Tracks, Reggae, Musicals and 1940’s/1950s classics. The transparency of the DAC II Special means that not all tracks are homogenised to sound perfect, but all music is definitely presented for my maximum enjoyment.

    There is absolutely no listener fatigue.

    Heartily recommended.

    http://sw1xad.co.uk/
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by bumpy; 19-01-2018 at 11:06.
    SW1X Universal Music Server UMS I Signature with Power Supply Unit PSU I Signature
    SW1X USB I Signature
    SW1X DAC II Special
    Passive Volume Control
    Ron Welbourne DRD 45 monoblocks improved by SW1X
    SW1X Open Baffle Speakers containing vintage alnico drivers - Grundig tweeters, Saba Greencone midrange and Altec VOTT 416 bass.
    Silver mains cables, interconnects and speaker cables by SW1X

  2. #2
    Join Date: Mar 2016

    Location: Barnet, london UK

    Posts: 744
    I'm Adam.

    Default

    Nice write up Chris. I feel myself gravitating towards a similar DAC upgrade this coming year. Slawa's commitment to continually
    improve and explore the possibilities of SW1X products is very admirable.

    May I point you towards the AoS Jazz club LP recommendations on the back of your unbelievably sweeping comment "I hate Jazz"
    We in the Jazz department see this as a challenge and I reckon we could have you swinging in no time, it's a broad spectrum and i'm sure there are some tunes with your name on them! Grant will have you converted with his selections i'm sure!
    "lack of passion is fatal"
    Garrard 401 / SME 3012 J7 Rewired / audio-technica ATP-12T - phonomac modified / Ortofon Vintage SPU GE /Shure M3D /DV XX2Mk2 / The Cartridge Man Music Master with isolator / Vintage GE VRII Mono / WAD 300b Power modded, TJ Mesh Plate Valves / David Coe AD Audio 'Satchmo' Pre & Phono / Hashimoto HM-7 SUT / Tannoy 12" MGs in RFC Custom Rutland Cabinets with RFC Custom Crossovers / Speaker Cables: Duelund DCA16GA Tinned Copper / Rpi3 & Digi + pro / SW1X Audio Design USB-SPdif / SW1X Audio Design DAC 1 Signature / Interconnects: Duelund DCA20GA home brew /SW1X Audio SPDIF AERO 6 / AD Audio Silver USB / Synology NAS Drive / Roon / Tidal HiFi / Mains Power Conditioner

  3. #3
    Join Date: Apr 2016

    Location: Essex

    Posts: 127
    I'm Slawa.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by bumpy View Post
    SW1X DAC II Special Review

    Just a few sentences to put this review in context. I only review kit that I own, and I have been listening to Hi Fi for 55 years with speakers spanning from Yamaha NS1000s to Lowther Hedlund horns, amplifiers from Naim to EAR 861, and sources from Linn Sondek to computers.

    Over the last ten years, my opinion of Hi Fi has become somewhat jaundiced by the assault on my ears, typified by 90% of what I hear at Hi Fi shows and dealers. For me, kit is voiced (and dressed up) to impress at demos and generally brings about listening fatigue after a few hours. My sympathies are with the young generation who have grown up believing this is as good as it gets.

    Enter SW1X Audio Design, a business set up by Slawa Roschkow. Anyone who has read my postings will know I am a fan, in particular of his NOS DACS. My current system is full of either Slawa's original kit or other established brands that Slawa has breathed life into. Its worth mentioning that my system is loaded with silver wiring throughout. This makes it ultra transparent and can reveal weaknesses that exist anywhere in the chain by throwing an unflattering spot light on imperfections. Many people turn away from silver for this reason.

    I have lived with the DAC 1 Signature for about 18 months and have loved the lively, engaging sound that it produces, but once I had heard the DAC II, then it was somewhat inevitable that I would eventually own one. So I opted for the DAC II Special version where Slawa has hand picked components and assembled them by voicing and harmonising each component in the circuit. I have watched this painstaking process which involves swapping bits, such as capacitors, transistors and diodes, for endless hours, with each change evaluated by listening. Even the direction of internal parts and the choice of solder is optimised.

    This process of optimising components only really only works at the manufacturing scale that Slawa currently operates at. One doubts if such scrutiny can be maintained by mass producers like Audionote, except perhaps with their very exotic (expensive) gear. For that reason, these early SW1X models may one day become collector’s items.

    For those that need a bit of technical stuff. The DAC II Special contains 2 x PCM56K instead of 1 x TDA1543 of the DAC I, (directly heated) valve rectified power supply, specially selected diodes, active I/V based on Germanium transistors in the I/V and their power supply, fine silver & copper wiring (50/50%), Jensen Copper PIO caps, 1 & 2W AB resistors throughout

    The chassis is a simple but attractive box with brushed aluminium face containing just a single neon together with black casework. It has ample breathing slots for the valves within and measures 140mm tall, 340mm wide and 400mm deep. It is totally noiseless with ear pushed against my sensitive speakers. Equally during operation it barely gets warm to the touch

    After 2 weeks of bedding in, during which time it evolved into the light, I will try and sum up what the DAC II Special is all about in a series of words – holographic, well balanced across the frequencies, entrancing, lifelike, smooth, energetic, addictive, analogue-like, natural harmonics, relaxing, but above all refined and very, very enjoyable.

    It takes 10-15 minutes from turn-on when cold to come fully on song, which is a bonus if you are against leaving your kit turned on 24/7.

    This DAC has similar character whether I listen at life-like volumes or low volumes late at night. It has the ability to surprise me with its dynamics when a new voice or instrument enters the music and the ability to transfer some dynamics out of the room making me think it’s someone at the front door or that the wife is calling. Altogether a bit unnerving.

    The singer is firmly placed centre stage when expected, but the ‘image’ spreads both between, above, and outside the speakers.

    The reader may think that I listen to simple, unchallenging music. Well, I hate jazz and gravitate towards Irish, Country, Pop, Film Tracks, Reggae, Musicals and 1940’s/1950s classics. The transparency of the DAC II Special means that not all tracks are homogenised to sound perfect, but all music is definitely presented for my maximum enjoyment.

    There is absolutely no listener fatigue.

    Heartily recommended.

    http://sw1xad.co.uk/
    Thank you for your feedback

    The DAC II is a performance level 2 DAC- a step up in refinement & musical performance over the performance level 1 DAC I. In my opinion the DAC II, even in STD version, achieves a great balance between refinement (of the DAC III) & brute energy (of the DAC I). The Special version of the DAC II is a step further towards a more harmonic sound by employing even more of the exotic materials such as Germanium, fine silver & copper foil /paper in oil capacitors along with higher degree of harmonic matching.

    Oh yeah, the DAC II requires a great partner i.e. digital transport that will maximise its full potential. If one spends a good amount on a DAC and thinks one can save on the digital transport, one ends up with a great car that rolls on bicycle wheels.

    S
    SW1X Audio DesignTM ... Finest Audio Components ... Designed and Handcrafted in England
    www.SW1XAD.co.uk

  4. #4
    Join Date: Apr 2016

    Location: Bishops Stortford

    Posts: 575
    I'm Chris.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by WESTLOWER View Post
    May I point you towards the AoS Jazz club LP recommendations on the back of your unbelievably sweeping comment "I hate Jazz"
    We in the Jazz department see this as a challenge and I reckon we could have you swinging in no time, it's a broad spectrum and i'm sure there are some tunes with your name on them! Grant will have you converted with his selections i'm sure!
    I will have a look, but believe me, over my entire life I have wondered what people see in it and have tried time and again to dip my toe in the water.

    My tastes get close occasionally with albums from the likes of Norah Jones, but in my 2500 strong CD collection I have just one true jazz CD - Elastic by Joshua Redman. This only sees the light of day when visitors say "do you have any jazz"?
    SW1X Universal Music Server UMS I Signature with Power Supply Unit PSU I Signature
    SW1X USB I Signature
    SW1X DAC II Special
    Passive Volume Control
    Ron Welbourne DRD 45 monoblocks improved by SW1X
    SW1X Open Baffle Speakers containing vintage alnico drivers - Grundig tweeters, Saba Greencone midrange and Altec VOTT 416 bass.
    Silver mains cables, interconnects and speaker cables by SW1X

  5. #5
    Join Date: May 2014

    Location: Solihull

    Posts: 360
    I'm Martin.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by SW1X View Post
    Thank you for your feedback

    The DAC II is a performance level 2 DAC- a step up in refinement & musical performance over the performance level 1 DAC I. In my opinion the DAC II, even in STD version, achieves a great balance between refinement (of the DAC III) & brute energy (of the DAC I). The Special version of the DAC II is a step further towards a more harmonic sound by employing even more of the exotic materials such as Germanium, fine silver & copper foil /paper in oil capacitors along with higher degree of harmonic matching.

    Oh yeah, the DAC II requires a great partner i.e. digital transport that will maximise its full potential. If one spends a good amount on a DAC and thinks one can save on the digital transport, one ends up with a great car that rolls on bicycle wheels.

    S
    Great write up Chris sounds like you liked it. I too, am a fan but as yet only with the DAC 1.
    Slawa must be absolutely right re the transport but where does one start........?

    I must share my most recent upgrade. My cables are from Cardas and Hovland.
    Recently I managed to get my hands on a Cardas Golden Power Cord but with a US mains plug.........the price was very right. I had intended that it should go on the DAC 1 but it proved to be too short.
    So I had a complete powercord change. The Golden Power went on to my Transport, a Cardas Cross onto the DAC and my Golden Cross onto my pre amp.
    So I sat back and listened.........nothing noticeable !!!!
    A couple of days later when all had settled a massive difference in detail retrieval, ambience and particularly low level details I had never heard.
    I cannot remember having such a SQ upgrade
    Some of this may be due to US plugs having no fuse but it certainly helped the ones and zeros
    Tangerine LP12,Naim Aro, Benz Wood
    Audiomeca Talisman Highly Modded
    Audiomeca Kreatura & Elixir Dac,SW1X DAC1
    Hovland HP100 MC
    SiriuS D100
    Quad FM4,RWA Cassabria + LCD 3
    HSM with re capped Mundorf Supreme and Atlas rewire
    Cables by Cardas, Hovland G3 and Yter

  6. #6
    Join Date: Apr 2016

    Location: Essex

    Posts: 127
    I'm Slawa.

    Default What is up with Jazz?

    Quote Originally Posted by bumpy View Post
    I will have a look, but believe me, over my entire life I have wondered what people see in it and have tried time and again to dip my toe in the water.

    My tastes get close occasionally with albums from the likes of Norah Jones, but in my 2500 strong CD collection I have just one true jazz CD - Elastic by Joshua Redman. This only sees the light of day when visitors say "do you have any jazz"?
    One should not argue about taste but not liking (definitely not hating) Jazz style is like not to like 30% or more of music. Jazz is more than a century old and has evolved and influenced so many other genres over time, so that it became solidly entrenched into music, in a way that modern music is almost unthinkable without it- of course opinions differ here.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazz

    Personally, I like the Jazz style a lot but not everything is to my liking and not to like Jazz is a bit extreme. I am pretty sure there is more to it than Norah Jones and vocal Jazz.

    S
    Last edited by SW1X; 20-01-2018 at 11:32.
    SW1X Audio DesignTM ... Finest Audio Components ... Designed and Handcrafted in England
    www.SW1XAD.co.uk

  7. #7
    Join Date: Apr 2016

    Location: Essex

    Posts: 127
    I'm Slawa.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ovlov854 View Post
    Great write up Chris sounds like you liked it. I too, am a fan but as yet only with the DAC 1.
    Slawa must be absolutely right re the transport but where does one start........?

    I must share my most recent upgrade. My cables are from Cardas and Hovland.
    Recently I managed to get my hands on a Cardas Golden Power Cord but with a US mains plug.........the price was very right. I had intended that it should go on the DAC 1 but it proved to be too short.
    So I had a complete powercord change. The Golden Power went on to my Transport, a Cardas Cross onto the DAC and my Golden Cross onto my pre amp.
    So I sat back and listened.........nothing noticeable !!!!
    A couple of days later when all had settled a massive difference in detail retrieval, ambience and particularly low level details I had never heard.
    I cannot remember having such a SQ upgrade
    Some of this may be due to US plugs having no fuse but it certainly helped the ones and zeros
    Oh yes, mains cables- my favorite topic! Welcome to the club. No fuses in the mains cables improve many aspects of sound, especially clarity & harmonics improve beyond comprehension- I can confirm that observation. There is of course more to it.

    http://sw1xad.co.uk/impact-of-mains-cables-on-sound/

    S
    SW1X Audio DesignTM ... Finest Audio Components ... Designed and Handcrafted in England
    www.SW1XAD.co.uk

  8. #8
    Join Date: Apr 2016

    Location: Essex

    Posts: 127
    I'm Slawa.

    Default New Review of SW1X DAC II published on hifi-advice.com

    The review can be accessed on www.hifi-advice.com

    or direct link here:

    http://www.hifi-advice.com/blog/revi...ac-ii-special/
    SW1X Audio DesignTM ... Finest Audio Components ... Designed and Handcrafted in England
    www.SW1XAD.co.uk

  9. #9
    Join Date: Apr 2016

    Location: Bishops Stortford

    Posts: 575
    I'm Chris.

    Default

    Congratulations Slawa, great review.
    SW1X Universal Music Server UMS I Signature with Power Supply Unit PSU I Signature
    SW1X USB I Signature
    SW1X DAC II Special
    Passive Volume Control
    Ron Welbourne DRD 45 monoblocks improved by SW1X
    SW1X Open Baffle Speakers containing vintage alnico drivers - Grundig tweeters, Saba Greencone midrange and Altec VOTT 416 bass.
    Silver mains cables, interconnects and speaker cables by SW1X

  10. #10
    Join Date: Mar 2011

    Location: Readimg

    Posts: 72
    I'm George.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by bumpy View Post
    Congratulations Slawa, great review.
    Can only agree

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