First, Pagoda is the highest achievement of memorial in all things, especially architectural forms. And second, every eminent monk has a sacred, protected space where he keeps all his treasures and those things he holds most sacred; this is also known as a Pagoda. Since we consider the PCM1704 chip to represent the highest standards in regards to the R2R DAC design, we in turn decided to call this new DAC The Pagoda.MHDT Labs lead designer Jiun-Hsien Wu
The Pagoda is a wonderful realization of the classic NOS/R2R design, claimed by many as still the best DACs around.
What can I say about this DAC ?
Setup: Easy, simply install the driver and all is good to go. Do rememer to set the driver to maximum bitrate though.
Sound: Organic, warm, sweet but not losing any detail. A tight soundstage with lovely placement of instruments. Less wide than the $10k DACs but then this costs 10x less. Compared to the newest $1k DACS this is a winner.
I found myself listening one song after the other. I enjoyed the DAC. It wasnt an exploartion of music, for that I have the EMMLabs CDSA. You do however surprise yourself also hearing a lot of the newly discovered sounds and textures with the Pagoda.
A lot of DACs today simply buy off the shelf designs and add a bit of magic in the output stage. A LEGO assembly for a better word. That tends to make them sound quite the same. This will NOT happen with the Pagoda.
Its different. On all levels. Its satisfying. I makes the music flow. Its quite effortless, a strange description for how the Pagoda makes the music. Yet its the only way to describe the process in plain English.
One very important “feature”. The balanced version has 4 DACS to give a fully balanced design. Well done!
The components used in this DAC is TOP class. Not even on the smaller capacitors did MHDT save money. The best throughout.
Electrolytic capacitors in the Power Supply is top class and anywhere close to the signal path only audiophile electrolytic’s were used.
The quality of the components alone pushes up the total outlay by 200-300%. It is so easy to bring in a DAC at $500 by buying cheap components and be just one of the herd. Glad MHDT didn’t hold back their designers.
Jiun-Hsien Wu has stuck to his philosophy of using a classic NOS/R2R design, the Pagoda uses dual PCM1704 DAC chips in its circuit.
The PCM1704 chips have developed a cult status, used in high end DACS.
They are no longer in production and expensive.
The Pagoda employs a single 5670/2C51 tube in a non-amplified, “buffer stage”. The affect of this tube on the overall sound is extremely subtle. This buffer stage does, in no way, create what one might call a “tubey” sound or an overtly warm sound. More so, as one changes tubes, one will here very subtle changes in the rendering of high, mid and low frequencies; one tube will yield slightly smoother highs with a deeper bass (WE396A) while another tube might yield more detailed, forward highs and snappier, tighter bass (Bendix 2C51). The 5670 tubes are generally quite affordable and so rolling different tubes can be quite fun.
The 5670 tube
For $1250 you get two Pagodas, double the excellence.
A remarkably good and listenable DAC. Something that makes a system shine, calls you in to listen and stay.
Its about the music….