Direct Comparison of DAC IV vs DAC V
DAC IV and DAC V are both our top the line DACs, which offer unparalleled sonic performance due to their radical & unrestricted design.
Despite similarities in their looks, they are two very different DACs with distinctively different sonic characters.
The difference in their sonic characters are not subtle either.
Everything worded below should be interpreted in relative terms when comparing between the DACs and not absolute terms, unless stated otherwise.
Power Supplies & Circuit Topology
That is the area where both DACs are much closer and similar to each other than in all other areas.
All our DACs designated as Balanced/Signature (level 3 upwards) and standard from the performance level 4 onwards utilize signal OPT (output transformer) for inductive plate loading and signal de-coupling. In combination of the highest quality GOSS (grain oriented silicon steel) Super HiB core material and conductors employed, this topology not only provides superior dynamics but also improved linearity & transparency over any signal de-coupling capacitor topology. Apart from that, both DACs are powered by Directly Heated Diodes (DHD) Tubes in the power supply, which provide a larger and bolder presentation to sound relative to any indirectly heated tube.
The DHD Valve power supplies are 2 x choke filtered and quasi dual mono in design. The mains transformers and chokes even in the basic versions are over-specified & oversized and are made from the quality (superior transparency) M6 core material. So, in this respect all our higher performance DACs are very similar.
Here is where the similarities end.
DAC IV is based on the digital side of the DAC II and just like the Balanced version with large power output valves on top of the chassis instead.
Similarly, the DAC V is essentially a DAC III Balanced but with DHT power output tubes exposed on top.
The character of the digital side of the DAC II can be characterised as clear, precise & revealing.
DAC III on the other hand is more lush and magical- the most analogue & organic sound there is.
One of our customers who had the chance to own both said this:
“if DAC II is reminiscent of the RTR tape machine then DAC III is more like a great sounding Vinyl playback.”
I/V Conversion Stages
The other significant difference is the I/V stage: DAC IV has an active and DAC V has a passive one.
This is very crucial part of the DAC design. When done right, the active I/V does have an edge in immediacy and the passive provides a softer & lusher character.
Generally speaking the active I/V is more precise & dynamic sounding and the passive I/V is more natural sounding.
Tube Output Stages
Last but not least is the difference in the output tubes. DAC V has 45 or 71A tubes which are directly heated triodes (DHT) type.
DHT type of tubes are the most mature, holographic/3D sounding tubes there is. 45 tubes do not need an introduction, especially the globe shaped ones and its predecessor 71A is the most refined DHT there is. DAC IV has 6V6 or 6F6 power output pentodes (indirectly heated, triode connected).
Triode connected Power Pentodes tubes as know for their punchy, grunty like character (akin to exhaust note of Porsche GT3).
We also have a Special version of the DAC IV, which has 71A DHT tubes instead of 6V6 Power Pentodes on the basic DAC IV.
It is probably a great middle pint between DAC V and the DAC IV.
Having said that, DAC IV Special will not sound as magical as DAC V no matter what tubes one is going to use.
Resulting Cumulative Impact on Sound
Taking the technical differences into account above, the DAC IV has a more precise, revealing & dynamic presentation.
DAC V has more an organic & magical presentation. While all our DACs are analogue and organic sounding
the DAC III & the DAC V are the closest to an analogue source out of all the DACs produced today.
That makes DAC IV ideally suited for following music with a lot of transients like Rock & Electronica.
While DAC V excells in wide range of music, Classical, Vocal & Jazz are the musical genres where DAC V particulalry stands out.
So, if one had to choose between the DACs, one should consider to go that suits one’s budget best. If musical magic is the ultimate goal, then
the DAC on the top end such as the DAC V with 45 or 71A tubes is the one or DAC V Special with more exotic materials if you budget permits.
For a bit more dramatic presentation and refinement the DAC IV or its Special version is a great alternative.
Otherwise please consider the DAC III Balanced, the smaller brother to the DAC V as the next best option.
Either of the above DAC is great sounding and the only way to capture the musicality in their characters is to choose one of the DAC products we make.