Review: SPL Diamond perfect DAC and Preamplifier

Review: SPL Diamond perfect DAC and Preamplifier- If you need top audio playback quality from your digital sources, look no further than the black Diamond from SPL, a premium DAC and preamplifier

Origins of SPL Electronics and the Studio Influence

SPL Electronics, a company with a heritage dating back to 1984, has traditionally been associated with professional audio equipment. In 2016, they ventured into the realm of private users with their “Professional Fidelity” line. Their latest offering, the SPL Diamond DAC, priced at 2500 euros, distinguishes itself from more expensive SPL solutions not in terms of sound quality, but in its feature set and functionality.

SPL’s legacy in the professional audio industry lends them a unique perspective in the hi-fi market. They bring to the table a wealth of experience in audio engineering and signal processing, which often translates into precise, transparent, and technically advanced products. This blend of studio expertise and high-end audio aspirations is precisely what sets the SPL Diamond apart from the competition. While the market may be saturated with DACs, SPL’s commitment to maintaining their reputation for technical excellence is evident in this new venture.

Advantages of SPL Diamond DAC:

  1. Exceptional Sound Quality: The SPL Diamond DAC offers an unparalleled level of sound quality, characterized by precision, clarity, and musicality. It reveals intricate details in music, making it a delight for audiophiles and music enthusiasts seeking the highest level of sonic fidelity.
  2. Warm and Organic Tonal Character: Unlike some DACs that can sound clinical or analytical, the Diamond has a warm and organic tonal character. This adds depth and emotional engagement to the music, allowing listeners to connect with their favorite tracks on a more profound level.
  3. Expansive Soundstage: The Diamond creates a captivating soundstage that transports listeners into the heart of the music. Its spatiality and dimensionality are remarkable, positioning instruments and vocals with pinpoint accuracy and immersing the listener in a live concert-like experience.
  4. Outstanding Dynamic Range: This DAC excels in reproducing the dynamic range of music, preserving the delicate nuances of soft passages and delivering the impact of crescendos with finesse. It captures the full expressive range of musical performances, ensuring an engaging and lively listening experience.
  5. Built-in Volume Control: The Diamond features a potentiometer-based volume control (Alps RK27) that allows users to adjust the volume directly from the DAC. This can be a convenient feature for those who prefer to have volume control integrated into their audio setup.

Disadvantages of SPL Diamond DAC:

  1. High Price Point: The SPL Diamond DAC is a high-end audio component with a premium price tag. Its exceptional sound quality comes at a cost, making it less accessible to budget-conscious consumers.
  2. Lack of Remote Control: Unlike some DACs in its price range, the Diamond does not come with a remote control for volume adjustment or other functions. Users must manually adjust the volume using the front-panel controls.
  3. Limited Connectivity Options: While the Diamond offers optical and electrical S/PDIF inputs along with a USB-B interface, it may not have the extensive connectivity options found in some other high-end DACs. This could be a limitation for users with specific connectivity requirements.
  4. Potentiometer in Signal Path: While the built-in volume control is a convenience, some audiophiles may prefer a relay-based volume control to ensure the purest signal path. The potentiometer in the Diamond’s signal path may introduce a slight compromise in sound quality when used in the volume control mode.
  5. Not Designed for Portable Use: The SPL Diamond DAC is a stationary component intended for home audio systems. It lacks portability and battery operation, which could be a drawback for users looking for a versatile DAC that can be used in various settings.

In summary, the SPL Diamond DAC offers outstanding sound quality and a range of features that will delight audio enthusiasts. However, its premium price, lack of remote control, and specific design considerations may not make it the ideal choice for all users. It’s essential to consider individual preferences and requirements when evaluating this high-end DAC.

The SPL Diamond DAC: Simplified Operation and Connectivity

Streamlined and Practical Inputs

The SPL Diamond DAC offers simplicity and practicality in terms of operation and connectivity. It includes optical and electrical S/PDIF inputs, as well as a USB-B interface, providing versatile options for digital input sources. The front panel design, featuring two rotary controls for input selection and volume adjustment, harks back to the classic integrated amplifiers.

While the Diamond’s user interface may appear straightforward, beneath the surface lies a wealth of advanced features. The inclusion of optical and electrical S/PDIF inputs, in addition to the USB-B interface, ensures compatibility with a wide range of digital sources. This versatility is invaluable for audiophiles with diverse music libraries. Whether you prefer streaming music from your computer, connecting a CD transport, or interfacing with other digital audio sources, the SPL Diamond DAC accommodates your needs seamlessly. The traditional yet functional front panel design, with its rotary controls, makes daily operation intuitive. These controls are not merely practical; they also exude a sense of familiarity and reliability, reminiscent of classic audio equipment.

A Gourmet’s Delight: High-Resolution Audio Support

Indulging in High-Resolution Audio

The SPL Diamond DAC doesn’t shy away from indulging in high-resolution audio. It boasts an insatiable appetite for PCM data, supporting formats up to an extravagant 768 kHz/32-bit, and it can handle DSD up to 256x. This capability places the Diamond among the elite in terms of high-resolution audio support.

For audiophiles who crave the utmost fidelity in their music playback, this DAC’s ability to decode ultra-high-resolution audio formats is a dream come true. High-resolution audio files contain an abundance of sonic detail, capturing the subtle nuances of musical performances. With the SPL Diamond, you can revel in the full glory of these meticulously recorded tracks, experiencing music in unprecedented clarity and precision.

The Essence of SPL: 120-Volt Technology and Circuitry

A Singular Commitment to Audio Excellence

What truly sets the SPL Diamond apart is its reliance on 120-volt technology, which SPL dubs “VOLTAiR.” This unique approach involves maintaining a DC voltage gradient of +/- 60 volts across the entire analog circuitry, including the low-pass filter for PCM and DSD signals. This meticulous engineering results in enhanced dynamic performance and stability, a hallmark of SPL’s commitment to uncompromised audio excellence.

SPL’s dedication to perfection goes beyond what meets the eye, or ear, for that matter. The Diamond DAC employs proprietary operational amplifiers (OPs) designed in-house. These OPs feature a complex, discreet design that capitalizes on the advantages of high operating voltage. Unlike standard IC-based OPs that operate with a fraction of this voltage, SPL’s custom solutions ensure unparalleled sonic precision and stability. This level of customization is a testament to SPL’s unwavering pursuit of audio perfection.

The Craftsmanship of Sound: Hand-Soldered Components

Old-School Craftsmanship Meets Modern Audio Engineering

In an era of surface-mount device (SMD) manufacturing, the SPL Diamond DAC stands out by adopting the traditional through-hole method. This approach involves hand-soldering critical components onto circuit boards. While it may seem old-fashioned, this technique allows SPL to use specialized components like Styroflex capacitors that lack SMD versions. Additionally, through-hole assembly enables greater flexibility during development and facilitates future repairs.

Hand-soldering components provides SPL with several advantages. First, certain components valued for their sonic qualities are exclusively available in through-hole versions. Second, the flexibility of the through-hole method allows for iterative development, enabling fine-tuning of sound characteristics through listening tests. Lastly, it simplifies the repair process, as individual components can be easily replaced. SPL’s commitment to this method ensures that their products can be maintained and repaired for years to come, demonstrating their dedication to their customers.

DAC Showdown: Sound Quality and Musical Prowess

Precision and Musicality in Perfect Harmony

The SPL Diamond DAC walks the fine line between precision and musicality, offering a unique listening experience that appeals to both analytical audiophiles and those who seek emotional engagement with their music. Its tonal neutrality and high-resolution support make it an excellent choice for audiophiles who demand sonic accuracy. However, it also excels in conveying the emotional depth and subtleties of music, making it equally appealing to those who prioritize musicality.

The DAC’s precision is evident in its ability to resolve intricate details and textures in music. Whether it’s the crisp shimmer of cymbals or the nuanced decay of a piano note, the SPL Diamond reproduces these elements with a high degree of accuracy. It maintains a transparent and expansive soundstage, allowing instruments and vocals to occupy distinct positions within the sonic landscape.

On the other hand, the SPL Diamond does not wield a clinical scalpel when dissecting music. Instead, it imparts a sense of warmth and organic realism to the sound. This quality ensures that the listener isn’t just analyzing music but emotionally connecting with it. While audiophiles often debate the merits of analytical versus musical sound signatures, the SPL Diamond DAC ingeniously bridges this gap, offering the best of both worlds.

Sound Quality: A Sonic Odyssey

The sound quality delivered by the SPL Diamond DAC is nothing short of an auditory odyssey, taking listeners on a captivating journey through the intricacies of music. It’s a performance that effortlessly balances precision, depth, and emotion, resulting in a remarkable listening experience that leaves audiophiles and music enthusiasts in awe.

Precision and Clarity

One of the standout qualities of the SPL Diamond is its exceptional precision and clarity. It excels at revealing the tiniest nuances in music with remarkable accuracy. Whether it’s the gentle brush of a cymbal, the delicate pluck of a guitar string, or the subtle breathiness in a vocalist’s delivery, the Diamond brings these details to the forefront of the sonic landscape. This level of precision allows listeners to rediscover their favorite tracks, noticing subtleties they may have never heard before.

The clarity of the SPL Diamond extends across the entire frequency spectrum. From the deepest bass notes to the most ethereal treble, every element of the music is presented with utmost transparency. This clarity is not clinical but rather serves to enhance the emotional connection with the music. Listeners can feel the texture of instruments and the resonance of vocals, making each note come alive with vibrancy and authenticity.

Musicality and Emotional Engagement

While precision and clarity are essential, the SPL Diamond goes beyond technical prowess to deliver a musicality that resonates with the heart and soul. It possesses a unique ability to convey the emotional depth of music, making it more than just a collection of sounds. When listening to music through the Diamond, it’s as if the artists are performing in the room, pouring their emotions into every note.

This emotional engagement stems from the Diamond’s warm and organic tonal character. Rather than sounding sterile or analytical, it imparts a sense of warmth and realism to the music. The result is a profound connection with the music, where listeners can feel the passion, joy, or melancholy that the artists intended. It’s not just about hearing the music; it’s about experiencing it on a visceral level.

Transcendent Soundstage

The SPL Diamond DAC creates a soundstage that transcends the boundaries of the listening environment. It’s as if a magical portal opens up, transporting listeners into the heart of the musical performance. The spatiality and dimensionality achieved by the Diamond are truly remarkable.

In this expansive soundstage, instruments and vocals are positioned with pinpoint accuracy. Listeners can close their eyes and visualize the arrangement of musicians, feeling as though they are part of an intimate live concert. The soundstage breathes life into the music, allowing it to unfold in all its grandeur.

Dynamic Brilliance

Dynamic range is another area where the SPL Diamond shines. It doesn’t just reproduce music; it brings it to life with expressive and energetic dynamics. The rise and fall of musical passages are rendered with grace and precision, capturing the full spectrum of a performer’s artistry.

Whether it’s the subtle crescendo of a symphony or the sudden impact of a drum solo, the Diamond handles dynamic shifts with finesse. It preserves the delicate nuances of soft passages and delivers the thrilling impact of crescendos, ensuring that listeners are fully immersed in the musical narrative.

SPL Diamond: An Unforgettable Sonic Experience

In sum, the SPL Diamond DAC delivers an unforgettable sonic experience that combines technical excellence with emotional resonance. Its precision and clarity unveil the hidden treasures within music, while its musicality and emotional engagement create a deep connection with the listener. The transcendent soundstage and dynamic brilliance further elevate the experience, making every listening session a captivating journey through the world of sound.

For audiophiles and music enthusiasts who seek the pinnacle of sound quality, the SPL Diamond DAC stands as a testament to what is possible in the realm of high-end audio. It invites listeners to rediscover their music collection, to explore new dimensions in sound, and to forge a deeper connection with the artistry of musicians. In the world of digital-to-analog converters, the SPL Diamond is a true gem, a sonic masterpiece that leaves a lasting impression.

An Auditory Panorama: Spatiality and Dimension

Transported to New Musical Realms

The SPL Diamond DAC excels in creating an immersive auditory panorama. It transports the listener to new musical realms by providing a three-dimensional soundstage that stretches beyond the confines of the listening room. This spatiality is a testament to the DAC’s design and engineering, immersing the listener in a sonic environment where music comes alive.

One of the DAC’s standout features is its ability to convey precise instrument placement within the soundstage. It offers a level of clarity and localization that elevates the listening experience. This becomes especially apparent with music that features complex arrangements or spatial effects. The SPL Diamond doesn’t just present music; it invites the listener to explore the sonic landscape in rich detail.

This spatial prowess enhances the emotional connection with the music. It allows the listener to engage with each instrument and vocal in a more profound way, fostering a sense of intimacy and immersion. Whether it’s the ethereal ambiance of a live recording or the intricate layering of a studio track, the SPL Diamond DAC unveils the musical magic in all its dimensions.

Dynamic Brilliance: Expressive and Energetic

Dancing with Dynamics

One of the SPL Diamond DAC’s most remarkable qualities is its dynamic prowess. It possesses an expressive and energetic dynamic range that brings music to life with a sense of vitality and enthusiasm. This dynamic brilliance is a key contributor to the DAC’s ability to engage the listener on an emotional level.

The DAC’s dynamics exhibit a dance-like quality, where musical notes and passages flow gracefully from one to the next. It captures the subtle nuances of a performer’s expressiveness, allowing the listener to hear the ebb and flow of the music’s energy. Whether it’s the delicate pluck of a guitar string or the thunderous impact of a bass drum, the SPL

Diamond renders these moments with precision and poise.

This dynamic finesse is particularly evident in challenging tracks with high compression, where lesser DACs may struggle to maintain volume differentiation. The SPL Diamond rises to the occasion, delivering a nuanced and engaging performance. It transforms demanding music into an exhilarating auditory experience, demonstrating its capacity to handle complex musical material with grace and aplomb.


Beyond Audiophile Expectations

In conclusion, the SPL Diamond DAC transcends audiophile expectations with its blend of technical excellence and musicality. Born from SPL’s rich history in professional audio, it offers a feature set that caters to both studio precision and audiophile emotion. Its support for high-resolution audio formats ensures that no sonic detail goes unnoticed, while its tonal neutrality and expansive soundstage provide transparency and spatial depth.

The SPL Diamond’s commitment to 120-volt technology and custom circuitry reveals its dedication to uncompromising audio quality. It bridges the gap between analytical precision and emotional engagement, offering a balanced and harmonious listening experience. Its ability to create an immersive auditory panorama and convey dynamic brilliance elevates music to new heights.

Ultimately, the SPL Diamond DAC stands as a testament to the marriage of studio expertise and high-end hi-fi aspirations. It invites listeners to explore the depths of their music collections, revealing hidden nuances and emotional depth. In a world of audio components, the SPL Diamond shines as a gem that truly sparkles.

The profile of the SPL Diamond:

  • Perfectly balanced, neutral tonality.
  • Sensitive rather than analytical resolution. It may sound strange, but I think you’ll know what I mean if you give this D/A converter a try.
  • Pleasantly integrated, long-term, permeable, airy treble. Some DACs may sound even more strictly defined and – typical of much more expensive, very good converters – even “purer of spring water”.
  • The latter may also affect the timbres and mids. Nevertheless: Viewed in absolute terms and with a sideways glance at the price tag, the beautifully organic, completely “non-digital” appearing representation and differentiation of timbres is one of the highlights of this DAC.
  • Coarse and fine dynamics that take the listener along in the truest sense of the word, it slides and flows wonderfully, without any inhibiting edges or corners, but also without sounding softened.
  • Clean, appropriately defined and deep bass with a dynamic behavior as described in the last point.
  • Great spatiality: detached, precise, three-dimensional.
  • Clean, reliable-looking, but glamor-free workmanship, the SPL converter is a music player “Made in Germany”, not an obvious luxury product.


  • Model SPL Diamond
  • Category: adjustable (bridgeable) D/A converter
  • Price: 2,499 euros
  • Digital inputs: 1 x USB-B, 1 x AES/EBU (XLR), 2 x S/PDIF optical (Toslink), 2 x S/PDIF coaxial
  • Analogue outputs: Cinch, XLR
  • Compatibility: PCM via USB-B up to 768 kHz/32 bit and DSD (DoP) via USB-B up to DSD256 | S/PDIF electrical with PCM up to 192 kHz/24 bit | TOSLINK with PCM up to 96 kHz/24 bit
  • Dimensions with feet & weight: 278 x 57 x 300 mm (WxHxD), 3.15 kg
  • Colors: Front panel available in silver, black or red; Body each in black
  • Power consumption in standby: < 0.3 watts
  • Other: no remote control, volume control can be bridged
  • Warranty: 2 years