Hi everyone. I bought a preowned one from Howard and I have been using this for around 3 years now. Today I am going to write about the sound and only the sound because … there’s really not much else to write about. It looks ordinary, has few inputs and the bare minimum of controls. You can read elsewhere how rare this is and so that’s it. Only the sound, okay?
That said, the rest of my system. Meridian 500 transport Mk2 with LFD Audio DigiLink Tube Interconnect into the DAC3 into NCSE Mk1 driving Harbeth SHL5 speakers via LFD Audio Hybrid Ribbon Speaker Cables. Music tastes vary and include everything except rap, hip hop, country and western. No German opera either. My listening room is roughly 5m x 3.5m by 2.2m high.
Also, the recent introduction of PS Audio Powerbase (thanks Howard) and LFD Audio Silicon Signature Power Cords for the amp DAC3 and PS Audio AC3 power cord for the Meridian transport with the PS Audio Dectet has added to both the sound quality and my listening happiness. So the sound.
In a word; murkless.
Not sure such a word exists but please let me use it for now even if does not.
The LFD goes far beyond any previously owned DACs (Meridian, etc) by sounding generously explicit, providing a wealth of musical and sonic detail and presenting these in a open soundfield. Immediately there is a general lack of murk. There is a good sense of ‘substance’ and the tonal character is slightly – almost imperceptibly – warm and round. Slightly valve-like but not ‘soft’
For example, with the first Tracy Chapman this DAC allowed every instrument to sound commendably rich and timbrally saturated. Her oh-so-soulful voice was appropriately fleshed out, and I was pleased that vocal sibilants were without harshness. I noted an almost identical set of characteristics in "Willow, Weep for Me," from a CD rip of Frank Sinatra's Only the Lonely although in this recording the LFD had even more color to uncover, and a vocal sound more complex in its balance of color, texture, and dynamic nuance. In any event, the LFD once again did a better-than-average job of taking the edge off of sibilants.
Purely acoustic music – Very best of Adrian Legg – sounded just right through the LFD. The acoustic guitar came across with all due colour and texture. If anyone out there is NOT familiar with the genius that is Adrian Legg, this compilation is definitely a grand place to start. Basically, not a bad track on it. Legg holds your attention throughout the entire recording simply by having you continuously questioning whether he overdubbed 3 or 4 guitars on a particular passage, or if his astounding finger-style playing of one simple instrument makes it all sound that way. Either way, it's GRAND ear-food
Moving on, Christine Collister Live (thanks for the recommendation Howard) ‘Last Chance Texaco’ and ‘Ruby’ sends shivers down my spine. ‘I Keep Forgetting’ and ‘Human Nature’ are exuberant. ‘Love Me Like A Man’ had been a live favourite for some time. ‘Warm Love Gone Cold’ is impossible to find in its original studio version so this live version is very welcome.
The production is sparse, just acoustic guitars and bass. Collister is often labelled a folk artist but this is only really because of the acoustic arrangements. The songs come from a wide variety of styles, the playing is exquisite and Collister sings fantastically well. Okay yes, I am banging on about the performance BUT this DAC3 makes me want to do this.
Even more impressive through the LFD was bassist Rory McFarlane’s remarkable solos, which seemed to push the limits of colour and texture ever further, and to add to them a spectacular sense of scale and sheer heft.
The LFD's spatial performance is everything to satisfy my limited need for this aspect, and stereo enthusiast friends who are less into tone and more into depth, height and so on liked the DAC3; it ‘did it’ for them.
On the award-winning recording, by Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic, of John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls in which orchestra, two choruses, percussionists, solo trumpet, and pre-recorded voices occupy, in turn, various spaces on the stage and build to an emotional climax. This brought tears to my eyes for all the right reasons!
How to put the LFD DAC3 in perspective? I would not wish to be without – ever.
For me it is a necessity.
Yes, I have heard a very few DACs that had I the money might tempt me. Howard’s now sold old STAX DAC XiT ($12k over 25 years ago) and the very latest PS Audio DSD with ‘Pikes Peak’ upgrade connected to the Perfect Wave memory player is astonishing. But for me, the LFD DAC3 is a damn fine-sounding device with virtually all music: insightful, explicit, substantial, colorful, and as consistently analog-like a digital product as I have heard under £5k.
That it is also easy to use, and hand made by a the designer himself, Dr. Bews means a very enthusiastic and unqualified recommendation if like me, the quality of the performance is more important than bling, ¼” faceplates, hype and controls you and I would certainly rarely if ever use.