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Review: Vincent DAC-1 D/A converter: 24 bit / 192 kHz

It is common knowledge that D / A converters are less important for the quality of a playback chain than, for example, loudspeakers and room acoustics. Nevertheless: Anyone who wants to bring their listening situation further forward in terms of sound will at some point also want to upgrade the step of converting from the digital to the analog domain. That doesn’t have to cost God knows what, the nice thing is that in recent years very decent converter chips have also been used in the affordable hi-fi area. But the price is not the only thing that counts: Connectivity, usability, appearance and brand identity also play important roles in the decision for one or the other device. The new Vincent DAC-1MK (Web: www.vincent-tac.de) is doing very well in all disciplines – and changes hands for 849 euros.

The D / A converter Vincent DAC-1MK is available with a black and a silver front – the device body is always black, but the color of the feet changes appropriately

No hi-fi or pro audio manufacturer can afford to design and manufacture their own converter chips. The market for high-quality DAC chips is shared by a few specialized manufacturers who supply the audio world with a wide variety of products, some in small series according to specified specifications. The device manufacturers ensure that these chips are embedded in an audio, control and supply voltage environment, which is important for sound.

While Vincent used converter chips from Burr-Brown for the predecessor, now those from ESS Technology are used. The built-in ESS Saber ES9038 can eat a variety of different data formats. With it, the Vincent PCM sample rates of up to 384 kHz at 32 bit as well as quad rate DSD (DSD256) are possible. These maximum data rates can be reached via USB-B. The fact that the S / PDIF input optically and electrically “only” allows 24 bit / 192 kHz and DSD64 is – as with other converters – not to be chalked up to the Vincent, but is simply due to the data transfer rates that can be achieved with this standardized hardware.

Der Eingangswahlschalter des Vincent DAC-1MK

The input selector switch of the Vincent DAC-1MK

The options left to the user of the Vincent DAC-1MK are limited to the selection from the three sources mentioned. This is done by means of a rotary knob on the right front side. In the middle, the device is satisfied with four LEDs, three of which indicate the selected input and one of which reports the warm-up status, in which the DAC-1MK remains silent for a few seconds after the mains voltage has been activated. Because there is hardly anything to be adjusted and visually observed anyway, it says “Display? No, thank you! ”Or as I think:“ Display: no. Thank you!”

Viel tut sich nicht auf der Front des Vincent DAC-1MK - drei LEDs signalisieren den gewählten Eingang, eine vierte die Warm-up-Phase. Ein Display hat der Wandler nicht

Not much is happening on the front of the Vincent DAC-1MK – three LEDs signal the selected input, a fourth the warm-up phase. The converter does not have a display

On the back, the three input sockets, i.e. a USB-B, a Toslink and an RCA socket, wait amicably for digital feed. You can also use Cinch or XLR, whereby the signal for XLR does not have to be balanced first: The ESS converter chip also outputs the analog signal with inverted polarity and Vincent decided to build the further signal path consistently symmetrically, which in terms of the interference sensitivity is certainly a good decision. And there are two more outputs! The 3.5 mm jack sockets on the back do not carry signals, but instead provide control voltage for any power control connection of the stereo system. Vincent specifies the frequency response as 20 to 20,000 Hertz and gives a tolerance range of one decibel. The distortion is specified with 0.0004%, the signal-to-noise ratio with over 95 dB.

Blick auf die Rückseite des Vincent DAC-1MK. Ungewöhnlich für ein Gerät dieser Preisklasse: Es gibt symmetrische XLR-Ausgänge

View of the back of the Vincent DAC-1MK. Unusual for a device in this price range: there are balanced XLR outputs

The 5.5 kg heavy, 430 x 79 x 343 mm (WxHxD) measuring and properly processed device from German planning and Chinese production was available for testing in silver optics, classic hi-fi black is of course also available. My well-served – and much more expensive – companions, namely the MT HAPI (approx. 7,500 euros) and the Lavry DA11 (approx. 1,500 euros), which is around ten years old but still enjoys a high reputation, do not serve as comparison devices only with me. Compared to the Lavry, the Merging Technologies HAPI with premium converter cards is also trained in handling DSD256 and high sample rates and converts eight channels. You can also choose from a mobile ifi iDSD nano (around 230 euros) and various mid-range audio interfaces that are a few years old. And the recently tested streamer / DAC / headphone amplifier Waversa WminiHPA MK2 (around 2,000 euros) is still very present to my hearing. I played the Vincent via a Stax electrostatic device, various high-quality speakers from a developer friend and via the Quadral Galan 9.

Der Vincent DAC-1MK kommt mit drei Eingängen: USB-B, Toslink und S/PDIF koaxial

The Vincent DAC-1MK comes with three inputs: USB-B, Toslink and S / PDIF coaxial Vincent DAC-1MK: Sound impressions & comparisons In addition to my usual provisions for assessing audio components, this time it is Heron who should serve as an example (and, as so often, also represent a listening recommendation). The self-titled debut album (listen on Amazon) was released by Dawn in 1970 and was recorded at Manor Farm in Berkshire, England. “At”, not “in”, that’s right: The wonderful folk album was recorded with the “Pye Mobile Recording Unit” – in the great outdoors. What is not so unusual today was once a technological and organizational masterpiece that gave the record its very own, extremely suitable character. In its overall tonal tuning, the Vincent DAC-1MK is fairly neutral. However, in the upper mids it not only shows more contour and grip, but also a little more level than Merging and Lavry. This increases the presence of what is being played. The typically noisy, struck acoustic guitars on the opener “Yellow Roses” stand out a little further, but Vincent is far from turning the sound into an annoying “Dylan-Dengel”. Really surprising and at the same time probably the greatest sonic strength of the Vincent converter: In the so important range of around 1 – 10 kHz, it resolves breathtakingly well, yes, maybe even slightly better than the often so expensive merging HAPI. The sounds of nature, which inevitably found their way onto the recording of the first Heron record, can be made out particularly well in the thicket of instruments and voices.

Blick unter die Haube des Vincent DAC-1MK: links die Stromversorgung, mittig die Ausgangsstufe, rechts die Digitalsektion

The Lavry, on the other hand, plays a little less light-footed than the Vincent and has a more robust effect due to the slightly fuller deep mids. With it, the chest tone emerges somewhat in voices, while the test device from Vincent, like the Waversa, is neutral. “Car Crash”, the second song on the Heron record, even sounds a little better with a little support in the keynote. However, the fact that the mix and mastering of a music production are a bit too thin in places cannot be blamed on the playback device. And it is actually not their job to compensate for that.

In order to assess the highs more precisely, other musical material is required than that which has been stored several times on magnetic tape. The second movement in allegro molto of Alfred Schnittke’s only viola concerto, played by Nobuko Imai and the Malmö Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Lev Markiz (listen on Amazon), is more suitable: the recording on BIS AB is splendidly beautiful and characterized by only minor ones Interventions in the microphone signals. Unlike the Merging HAPI and the Lavry, the Vincent DAC-1MK not only plays very clearly, but with a somewhat crystalline note – for example in the thunderstorm of brass, snare drum and cymbals at the end of the movement, but also before with the fine ones Overtones of the viola. Those who like something bold transparency will of course be happy. Incidentally, the Waversa WminiHPA MK2 does this in a very similar way to the Vincent.

Because contrasts are a good thing, the Sleaford Mods are now allowed to play, whose new album Spare Ribs has been praised by all major German press products as an expression of the urban English “EU Remainer”. In my opinion Divide & Exit, the “most real” album by the Nottingham duo (listen on Amazon), is even better. Quasi The Streets in drunk and dangerous, but also intelligent, also cosmopolitan and eloquent.

If you listen to the album (or more appropriately: let him beat you up), for example “Smithy”, then the bass shows that the Vincent has a crisp and dry tuned bass that hardly differs from the merging. The beefy bass of the song lets older and simpler converters in particular swim quickly, the signal then sounds indifferent in the frequency basement.

Vintent DAC-1MK - Ambiente vorneseitlich

As expected from a modern digital-to-analog converter, the fine dynamics are excellent. Whether it’s the rough drum samples from Sleaford Mods or the string slides and the natural noises on the Heron mentioned above: The Vincent passes on short dynamic changes without change and without smearing. In terms of coarse dynamics, it is also absolutely state-of-the-art: The converter delivers the non-dynamically processed Schnittke recording from CD cleanly, and the Vincent DAC-1MK also plays very dynamically and with enormous fine representation with recordings made by itself at 384 kHz and 24-bit resolution .

Vincent DAC-1MK - Ambiente - Rückseite

The vivid and accurate stage representation is also positive, for which the fine dynamics in particular pave the way. The arrangement of the instruments of the Malmö Symphony Orchestra on the BIS production is easy to understand in the angle, and the spatial depth is, as expected, very good. Because the transducer has a slightly present center, many of the centrally positioned signals appear as if they were coming a little further towards you than is the case with the comparison devices.

Detail der Stromversorgung des Vincent DAC-1MK

The USB input is clearly superior to the other two inputs – but only in terms of the transferable bandwidth and thus the time and value resolution of the digital audio signal. In terms of sound, no resilient differences can be recognized with the same values, although the stage appears slightly wider via the USB input.

Test conclusion: Vincent DAC-1MK

With the Vincent DAC-1MK you get a simple and very high-quality performing D / A converter. Technologically, the device is based on one of the most modern converter chips, which is particularly evident in high dynamics and very good detail resolution. The fact that there is no extensive feature set with filters and other options can also be seen as an advantage, because not everyone wants to pay for such “jokes” but then not use them.

Vincent DAC-1MK, vorne-rechts

The DAC-1MK plays with tight and precise bass. The mids are slightly stronger / more present, which underlines the enormous resolution in this frequency range. The heights follow this, here the high resolution and the precision paint an extremely clear picture with all corners and edges of the source material. If you are looking for a “romantic soundscape”, you will not find it here, Vincent is more of a reporter than a poet. The stereo image bulges slightly towards the listener in most productions, the depth representation is very good. The angular accuracy between left and right is in no way inferior to this.

Facts:

Product: Vincent DAC-1MK
Category: D / A converter
Price: 849 euros
Inputs: 1 x S / PDIF coaxial, 1 x Toslink, 1 x USB-b
Outputs: 1 x XLR / balanced, 1 x RCA / unbalanced
Data rates: maximum 32 bit and 384 kHz PCM, DSD256, no MQA
Dimensions & weight: 430 x 79 x 343 mm (WxHxD), 5.5 kg
Colors: black or silver
Guarantee: 2 years

 

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