What is different about the DACs of SW1X?



There are multiple factors, which help to explain why our DACs can convey the low level musical complexity and the fine spatial nuances that other DACs struggle with. Amongst other things our products intentionally do not have “bells and whistles”- load of features that most mainstream DACs showcase. The features may make the product stand out being more attractive, helping to sell a product but in the end come at the cost of sound quality. Those features that kill musicality in a DAC are but not limited to multiple  in- and outputs, switches and relays, displays, USB input, meters and last not least vast compatibility to all possible media formats and standards, just to name a few.

The mentioned features in most cases either add no value to sound quality in best case scenario or simply destroy music. Apart from that, they also do have the tendency to come and go with the fashion. The problems is that once those features are out of fashion, what remains is a lifeless sounding product, which eventually ends up being for sale.

We believe that instead of spending money on the useless features, one is better off investing money on R&D, materials & components that contribute to reproduction of finest nuances of music. So, when the fashion is gone, our products are still making music, therfore making the SW1X DAC products time-less and more valuable. In other words we choose to focus on music, focus on the factors that really matter in music reproduction, optimized for a single format (PCM) and intentionally omitt the fashionable features and other feature inheriting factors that may be contributing to convenience but are counter-productive to the quality of music reproduction. This one of the key differences between SW1X and products of our competitors.

Our DACs may look simple and do not have the extensive list of “bells and whistles” but are optimized for music encoded in PCM format (CD and anything up to 24bit/96kHz) and for music only. The key being here- everything designed to be really elegantly simple, where each component is not too much or too little and is optimized for each other to work in harmony. It may sound repetitive but the one of the main factors is the elegant circuit design (without noise-shaping or any signal manipulation in the digital domain) that is powered by a discrete transistor shunt regulated power supply, not the usual 3 legged- L78xx type integrated voltage regulators as found in products of our competitors. The other factor is our (discrete) I/V conversion interface directly connected to an (elegantly simple but powerful) tube rectifier powered, single ended class A tube output stage without any negative feedback loops (neither local nor global, which is a pre-requisite in op-amp based designs).

The last but not least important factor is the combination of our elegantly simple circuit design with the finest specially selected components & materials, which are just as important as the circuit design. One has the option of choosing between 5 differnt performance levels and STD, Special and Signature versions. While the Special and Signature version already are full of finest specially selected materials & components, the more basic STD version offers high quality materials & components, which can be upgraded with extras that is also being offered as an option.

On contrary to our designs, most DACs (and other products) out there are either too complex & overengineered (computer type with many low quality components & materials) or too simplistic using off-the shelf solutions (lacking any creativity) or using low quality components & materials or a combination thereof. These DAC products have a lot in common- they are usually loaded with  features such as inputs and outputs, displays etc. – a sign that they were designed by electronic engineers, not musicians. The consequence is that they may look all very different but they all do sound essentially very similar: flat, synthetic and lifeless- where some DACs may sound a bit better than others in some departments. Some manufacturers try to differentiate themselves from the rest by either not disclosing what integrated converter circuit is being used or by a FGPA (field-programmable gate array) type of a DAC, which is nothing but a programmable IC chip, programmed with custom signal manipulation algorithms- a feature borrowed from computers but in essence not sounding much differnt from the rest. Generally speaking, most oversampling and upsampling DACs employ dramatic signal modifications in form of noise-shaping (read more about it in an article here) or some other form of signal manipulation, which kills the music and bury it with op-amps or transistors which operate in complex negative feedback loops.

Overall, the major difference to most common mainstream DACs is that our DACs are designed by a team of creative engineers with musical education background and not by electronic engineers who understand only textbook circuit designs and nothing beyond that. We purposefully moved away from the so called “mainstream approach” (make the product look attractive above everything) and adopted a radically different approach (focusing on music our way) in designing audio equipment. We hope that this approach is not offending anyone but this is crucial to sound quality and music reproduction- the only feature that really matters in the long run after all.





Informed and Rational Choice

SW1X Audio Design Philosophy

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