Maverick Audio TubeMagic D1 processor

08.03.2012..

This is the second episode of Maverick's miniseries.

Object of the first one was the TubeMagic A1 amp. We have found out that with the upgraded tubes supplied by the manufacturer, the A1 appeared as a wolf in sheep’s clothing offering great performances. For me, it is on top of its price range (around 300.00 euro). In this second episode, we will review the TubeMagic D1 DAC that, besides being a headphones amplifier and having a solid-state audio output, it also has a pre-amp output with one tube only.

 

Aesthetics and functionality

The DAC looks like the amplifier with two knobs on the frontal: on the left the volume selector for the pre-amp stage and the headphone jack, on the right the selector that controls the five inputs: coaxial and optical, USB, RCA on the rear and a line-in jack on the front. On the left side of the frontal, there is the on/off switch with a blue LED and an interesting Direct toggle switch that excludes the volume. On the right side there are two jacks – like in the amp – for the line-level input and the headphones output. On the rear, from the right to the left: a USB type B input, a coaxial and an optical input, an analogue input and two pairs of RCA outputs: the normal solid-state audio output and a tube pre-amp output. On the left, there are the R-core Linear 110/220 manual switch and the IEC socket with relative fuse. As for the amp, the connections and the selectors are of budget quality and the remote control is not available.

 

Use and listening impressions

The sound performance of the DAC1, in its basic configuration, has been positive and consistent, therefore appreciable without hailing as a miracle. The tube output plays a bit different from the transistor output. It shows more warmth and more audible harmonics, whilst the transistor output is more neutral and can better focus the soundstage. The Direct switch, if on one hand reduces the efficiency as pre-amp, but only in relation to the volume since it keeps the selectivity of the inputs, on the other hand improves the sound quality. I suggest matching it with an integrated or a pre/power amp, rather than with one power amp only. I have obtained a great improvement – as happened with the A1 amp – with the tube upgrade proposed by the manufacturer: a GE5670 instead of the standard Chinese 6N3. Changes have occurred in the bass range, with more depth and detail, reaching impressive levels considering the cost of the device. Benefits also in the three-dimensionality and in the focus of the instruments. The high range has

improved in extension and refinement. The sound remains natural even with the lowering of the tonal centre of mass. All the tonal ranges have improved too. The rhythm shows fast attacks and releases even if not meteoric ones. A comparison with the Arcam rDAC has pointed out a different sound setting: warmer and involving in the TubeMagic, detailed, neutral and velocity-oriented in the rDac.

Besides, the TubeMagic sounds louder when the Direct switch is working.

There are not big differences between the optical and the coaxial input. I tend to prefer the coaxial, though. The USB input needs dedicated cables. Optimal are the White Gold Celestial, but out of proportion for the costs. The headphones jack is not driven by the tube and does not exclude the connection to the amp when the jack is plug in. Thus, it is not sensitive to the Direct switch. Its quality, through the Senn HD600 is higher than with the A1: well defined in space, of high level, and capable of promising satisfying listening sessions.

And now it is time to match the two TubeMagic devices. The synergy is immediate and the outcome is more “full bodied” in comparison with the DAC inserted in my home system. The tonal range has shifted to the bottom and has gained strength and vitality with a slight loss in definition and refinement. Therefore, the match increases the driving capacity of the amp, which – I recall – has only two inputs.

 

Conclusions

The Maverick D1 is a good product for its great flexibility and for its great sound performances, mostly in the upgraded version with the GE5670 vacuum tube.

The headphones jack is an appreciable plus if you like these kind of listening impressions. As for the A1, the RCA terminals are too light and not very solid.

The mission of introducing a bit of the “old school” in the digital music has been accomplished by the Hong Kong company and with the costs kept down. It is comforting to be aware that it is possible to get a good sound playback at very low costs, thanks to the technologic development, which can count on the improvement of the vacuum tubes and on economic chips with high level performances. We are talking about extremely interesting ways always in expansion. Good luck Maverick.

 

Selection of listened music

Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass, Easy living, CD Universal

Hi-Fi Ouvertures, Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, CD BMG

Neil Young, Greatest Hits, CD Reprise

Andreas Segovia, The Baroque Guitar, file MP3 320kb

Anne Sophie Von Otter, Opera Arias from Mozart, file MP3 320kb

Peter Gabriel, Up, file WAV

The Doors, The future starts here, file WAV

 

Official technical specifications:

Audio inputs:

Optical audio input x 1 (Digital)

Coaxial audio input x 1 (Digital)

USB connector x 1 (Digital)

Analog audio input x 1 (Analog)

Line-in audio input x 1 (Analog)

Optical connector: TOSLINK 660nm

Coax connector: RCA, 500mVpp into 75 ohms

Analog connector: RCA, 1000k ohms

Accepted sample rates: 32khz, 44.1Khz, 48Khz, 88.2Khz, 96Khz

Accepted audio format: linear PCM, 16, 20 or 24 bits per sample

Audio outputs:

All RCA connectors are gold-plated

Volume control is provided for all outputs

Two dedicated linear power regulators for DAC and line-out stages

Dedicated linear power regulators for Tube stage

Analog RCA outputs signal-to-noise ratio: >96dB

Tube pre-out outputs signal-to-noise ration: >90dB

Analog RCA and Tube pre-out outputs impedance: 5K ohms

Total harmonic distortion: less than 0.001% (RCA outputs), less than 0.1% (Tube pre-out outputs)

Maximum output power: 1000mW x 2 (32 ohms), 500mW x 2 (300 ohms), 300mW x 2 (600 ohms)

Headphone outputs:

Standard 1/4 jack

Minimum headphone impedance: 16 ohms

Maximum headphone impedance: 600 ohms

Headphone output power: 300mW ~ 1000mW

Power:

R-core Linear 110/220 manual switch

Physical:

Dimensions: 10W x 2.1H x 6.5D (260mm x 55mm x 167mm)

Weight: 1,8 Kg

What’s included:

Maverick Audio Tube Magic DAC

User’s quick start guide

Line-in cord for most iPod and other MP3 players with standard 3.5 mm jack

USB cable

1/8 (3.5mm) to 1/4 (6.5mm) gold plated headphone jack converter

AC Power Cord

Official Italian dealer: to Troniteck Distribuzione website

Official current price in Italy:

TubeMagic D1 259.00 EUR

TubeMagic D1 Upgrade GE5670 279.00 EUR

One tube GE5670 40.00 EUR

Associated equipment: to Fabio "Puzzled" Barbato system

 

 
by Fabio Barbato
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