ANK 4.1 LE DAC - First Impressions

Tlarwa

Junior Member
Update for those who haven't seen this thread before. I initally was asking about the ANK DAC as I was thinking of trading for one. Well, I made the trade and it is now in the system. This is the follow-up.

So I've been sitting on my FInale Audio EL84 integrated for a while with no takers. I have an offer to trade it back to the person I bought it from in exchange for his new ANK 4.1 LE DAC, which has been upgraded with the 5.1 board. Thanks to @MikeyFresh, I recently upgraded my digital front end with an rPi4 and Topping D30 Pro DAC. I suspect the ANK DAC would be a substantial upgrade (or at least would hope so), but I have ZERO experience with DACs of that caliber. Anyone have any input on the ANK DAC and any thoughts? The FInale isn't getting any use since I bought Charles Hidalgo's VRD amp, whereas the ANK DAC would get used all the time. I'm tempted, but don't want to make a poor decision.

Thoughts?
 
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I have owned and modded three different AN DAC's and know their sound pretty well.

Something's not adding up if it's a "real" LE w 5 board, cause that would be in the $10k plus range. I guess your FA 84 in the $2k range.

A lot of people "bump" up the AN levels by upgrading caps etc.. You will need to post a picture of the innards to really understand whats going on.
 

Tlarwa

Junior Member
I have owned and modded three different AN DAC's and know their sound pretty well.

Something's not adding up if it's a "real" LE w 5 board, cause that would be in the $10k plus range. I guess your FA 84 in the $2k range.

A lot of people "bump" up the AN levels by upgrading caps etc.. You will need to post a picture of the innards to really understand whats going on.
Sure thing. This one was built by Digital Pete, and has the 5.1 digital board. Not sure what that means to the unit, exactly, so I may have misrepresented it in my earlier comments. So it is a 4.1LE with the 5.1 digital board. Pics are below so any comments are appreciated. BTW, I know the seller (trader?) pretty well, having done several deals with him. He's a straight up guy, so I don't suspect there's anything amiss here other than the fact that I'm not at all well versed in DACs!

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MikeyFresh

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Sure thing. This one was built by Digital Pete, and has the 5.1 digital board. Not sure what that means to the unit, exactly, so I may have misrepresented it in my earlier comments. So it is a 4.1LE with the 5.1 digital board. Pics are below so any comments are appreciated. BTW, I know the seller (trader?) pretty well, having done several deals with him. He's a straight up guy, so I don't suspect there's anything amiss here other than the fact that I'm not at all well versed in DACs!

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Has the USB input board, which I believe is an optional add-on.

Very nice DAC from a parts perspective, can't imagine it doesn't sound great though the ANK DAC of that type I had ever heard was a much older version.

Talking strictly features and not sound, you'd lose the IR remote hardware volume control/preamp function, and the native playback of PCM sample rates above 96kHz, as well as DSD, that your current DAC offers. Not sure if any of that is important to you or not.
 
My bad. I was thinking UK not Kits.

This is going to sound pretty darn good. I'm a big fan of transformer coupled NOS DAC's. They are hand in glove matches for high efficient systems due to their dynamics and quiet backgrounds. . My guess is the transformers stabilize the phase anomalies which gives the sound a calmness quality you hear in analog. it just has a nice flow is the best way for me to describe it. Dont expect to be "blown away" the first time you hear it, but over time you'll learn to appreciate it. After you get used to it, other DAC's will not sound right... even harsh and strident in comparison. I found even very expensive SACD's players will sound "off". I sold 70 SACD's in my collection once I figured this out. Whcihs is huge economic benefit when a $4 Redbook CD sounds better than $40 SACD.

The DAC shown can be tweaked and has a few opportunities for improvement and tubes and coupling caps can be rolled for final voicing. I cant see the coupling cap... I think they are under that digitil tube board next to the OPT's. They typically come with AN's Copper but I always thought those sounded too dark (for my system anyway ymmv). The IV tranny's can be upgraded for a few hundred bucks with Sowters which have a nice bump in SQ. Maybe s a few Black Gates for the power board if you can find them. That's all I would do here and you should be very happy
 
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Shelby1420

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Staff member
My bad. I was thinking UK not Kits.

This is going to sound pretty darn good. I'm a big fan of transformer coupled NOS DAC's. They are hand in glove matches for high efficient systems due to their dynamics and quiet backgrounds. . My guess is the transformers stabilize the phase anomalies which gives the sound a calmness quality you hear in analog. it just has a nice flow is the best way for me to describe it. Dont expect to be "blown away" the first time you hear it, but over time you'll learn to appreciate it. After you get used to it, other DAC's will not sound right... even harsh and strident in comparison. I found even very expensive SACD's players will sound "off". I sold 70 SACD's in my collection once I figured this out. Whcihs is huge economic benefit when a $4 Redbook CD sounds better than $40 SACD.

The DAC shown can be tweaked and has a few relatively opportunities for improvement and tubes and coupling caps can be rolled for final voicing. I cant see the coupling cap... I think they are under that digitil tube board next to the OPT's. They typically come with AN's Copper but I always thought those sounded too dark (for my system anyway ymmv). The IV tranny's can be upgraded for a few hundred bucks with Sowters which have a nice bump in SQ. Maybe s a few Black Gates for the power board if you can find them. That's all I would do here and you should be very happy
Absolutely 100% agree with this entire post!!! I now have three ANK pieces and all of them have unseated much more expensive gear, I dare say this is THE best my system has ever sounded!!!
 

Tlarwa

Junior Member
Talking strictly features and not sound, you'd lose the IR remote hardware volume control/preamp function, and the native playback of PCM sample rates above 96kHz, as well as DSD, that your current DAC offers. Not sure if any of that is important to you or not.
I'm not sure how important that is to me either, to be honest. I don't mind not having remote volme control, as I don't have it on my preamp (s not for analog playback). As for the native playback and DSD, I'm really not sure what those are exactly, or how that would affect my setup. As you know, I am running the rPi4 with Moode, using it to stream Quoboz (with mConnect) and to play ripped CDs from a USB drive. This functionality wouldn't be affected, would it?
 
I'm not sure how important that is to me either, to be honest. I don't mind not having remote volme control, as I don't have it on my preamp (s not for analog playback). As for the native playback and DSD, I'm really not sure what those are exactly, or how that would affect my setup. As you know, I am running the rPi4 with Moode, using it to stream Quoboz (with mConnect) and to play ripped CDs from a USB drive. This functionality wouldn't be affected, would it?
Depending on which app you're using to interact with your streamer you will have volume control in that. I have bubbleup and run my Audio GD dac into my St-70 direct and use volume control from my phone in the app. No preamp.

I know the seller too. He and I talked a bunch about this dac when he got it and it changed the way he listened to digital music. I told him when listening to the SW1X and Abbas there is this weight in the music that's not there in other DACs. After he listened to this DAC he got what I was saying.

I say this, cause both SW1X and Abbas borrow from AK in their design in some ways. At this point, I feel no need to find another DAC after settling on the Abbas and while you feel content with the DAC you have, I think being primarily a vinyl guy, you will see an improvement with this DAC that will be very pleasing to you and heads above the DAC you have. That my 2 cents.
 

Tlarwa

Junior Member
Depending on which app you're using to interact with your streamer you will have volume control in that. I have bubbleup and run my Audio GD dac into my St-70 direct and use volume control from my phone in the app. No preamp.

I know the seller too. He and I talked a bunch about this dac when he got it and it changed the way he listened to digital music. I told him when listening to the SW1X and Abbas there is this weight in the music that's not there in other DACs. After he listened to this DAC he got what I was saying.

I say this, cause both SW1X and Abbas borrow from AK in their design in some ways. At this point, I feel no need to find another DAC after settling on the Abbas and while you feel content with the DAC you have, I think being primarily a vinyl guy, you will see an improvement with this DAC that will be very pleasing to you and heads above the DAC you have. That my 2 cents.
Thanks for the input. I know that Joe used to be a vinyl guy too, but circumstances have forced him to turn to digital. From what he tells me, it was between this DAC and the one he finally settled on, after springing for four DACs at this level to do a shoot out with. I'm not sure what ultimately was the decision point, but I'm also confident this would be a significant step up from the D30 Pro, even though that DAC has ultimately been the piece of equipment that showed me that I really don't hate digital after all. I'm thinking I'm going to make the trade ... curiousity is killing the cat right now...
 
Thanks for the input. I know that Joe used to be a vinyl guy too, but circumstances have forced him to turn to digital. From what he tells me, it was between this DAC and the one he finally settled on, after springing for four DACs at this level to do a shoot out with. I'm not sure what ultimately was the decision point, but I'm also confident this would be a significant step up from the D30 Pro, even though that DAC has ultimately been the piece of equipment that showed me that I really don't hate digital after all. I'm thinking I'm going to make the trade ... curiousity is killing the cat right now...
Yeah, he settled on another DAC, but had really good things to say about this one and it was the first one that "shook" him and got him to dive deeper in trying out other DACs.
 

MikeyFresh

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As for the native playback and DSD, I'm really not sure what those are exactly, or how that would affect my setup. As you know, I am running the rPi4 with Moode, using it to stream Quoboz (with mConnect) and to play ripped CDs from a USB drive. This functionality wouldn't be affected, would it?
I said native playback of sample rates greater than 96kHz, as this DAC appears to support a top sample rate of 96kHz.

There are plenty of albums on Qobuz at 192kHz, those would likely be downsampled by the DAC to 96kHz by discarding every other sample, or if the DAC is simply incompatible with anything greater than 96kHz then you could always use the SoX resampling in Moode to set a limit of 96kHz output. The resampling would then occur in the software domain, instead of a hardware-based SRC inside the DAC.

If you don't even know what DSD is then it's probably not worth the discussion, nor really is any big discussion of whether or not downsampling is audible or destructive to sound quality, because as with any DAC or component change, you would need to hear this unit in your system to form an opinion of how well it gels with your other components and/or the room acoustic. That kind of thing is only possible by trying it first, something not typically available with sales of used pieces.
 
I said native playback of sample rates greater than 96kHz, as this DAC appears to support a top sample rate of 96kHz.

There are plenty of albums on Qobuz at 192kHz, those would likely be downsampled by the DAC to 96kHz by discarding every other sample, or if the DAC is simply incompatible with anything greater than 96kHz then you could always use the SoX resampling in Moode to set a limit of 96kHz output. The resampling would then occur in the software domain, instead of a hardware-based SRC inside the DAC.

If you don't even know what DSD is then it's probably not worth the discussion, nor really is any big discussion of whether or not downsampling is audible or destructive to sound quality, because as with any DAC or component change, you would need to hear this unit in your system to form an opinion of how well it gels with your other components and/or the room acoustic. That kind of thing is only possible by trying it first, something not typically available with sales of used pieces.
I downsample everything to 16/44 in my Abbas and it sounds superb. My jaw dropped when I listened to Eskimo Snow the other night with my dad.

I’d love if I could set it to max sample up to 96, to see if there is a difference, but I don’t see a way to do that in Moode.
 

MikeyFresh

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I downsample everything to 16/44 in my Abbas and it sounds superb. My jaw dropped when I listened to Eskimo Snow the other night with my dad.

I’d love if I could set it to max sample up to 96, to see if there is a difference, but I don’t see a way to do that in Moode.
I don't understand this in that I thought we had determined your DAC did not support anything above 44.1kHz?

Moode supports all sample rates up to 768kHz and can be set for anything up to that, however if your DAC only supports 44.1kHz then nothing else matters, thats all it will do.

I might be confusing what the DAC supports with the sample rates supported by the USB -> SPDIF converter you were using, but you can get an idea of how to use SoX by enabling it in Moode, then click the little i icon (which stands for information) next to the Selective resampling setting.
 
I don't understand this in that I thought we had determined your DAC did not support anything above 44.1kHz?

Moode supports all sample rates up to 768kHz and can be set for anything up to that, however if your DAC only supports 44.1kHz then nothing else matters, thats all it will do.

I might be confusing what the DAC supports with the sample rates supported by the USB -> SPDIF converter you were using, but you can get an idea of how to use SoX by enabling it in Moode, then click the little i icon (which stands for information) next to the Selective resampling setting.
It might be that I don't understand. The USB to Spdif converter will do 96/24, but I will have to ask Abbas if the DAC supports that too.
 

Tlarwa

Junior Member
Well, got the ANK DAC into the system today (took a while ... I just got back from a golf outing in Pawleys Island). All I can say is holy sh*#! Right out of the gate it is a bigger change than I would have expected. I'm sure some of it is the "wow factor" of a new piece of equipment, but the improvement is pretty significant. The soundstage is wide and deep, and the bass is really impactful. And it is the most "non-digital" my digital front end has ever sounded. The improvement when I went to the rPi4 and the Topping D30 Pro was incredible to me, and this took it up another level for sure. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, given the cost fo the DAC, but I know all too well that $$ doesn't always translate to improvement as much as I might expect.

Anyway, I'm going to enjoy living with this one for a while. Whether or not I utimately decide that I want to afford a $3000 DAC in my system is yet to be seen (I'm still a vinyl guy at heart), but it could be hard to let this one go. Oh, and this thing is a beast. Weighs about 30 pounds, and the case is huge!
 

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MikeyFresh

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Well, got the ANK DAC into the system today (took a while ... I just got back from a golf outing in Pawleys Island). All I can say is holy sh*#! Right out of the gate it is a bigger change than I would have expected. I'm sure some of it is the "wow factor" of a new piece of equipment, but the improvement is pretty significant. The soundstage is wide and deep, and the bass is really impactful. And it is the most "non-digital" my digital front end has ever sounded. The improvement when I went to the rPi4 and the Topping D30 Pro was incredible to me, and this took it up another level for sure. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, given the cost fo the DAC, but I know all too well that $$ doesn't always translate to improvement as much as I might expect.

Anyway, I'm going to enjoy living with this one for a while. Whether or not I utimately decide that I want to afford a $3000 DAC in my system is yet to be seen (I'm still a vinyl guy at heart), but it could be hard to let this one go. Oh, and this thing is a beast. Weighs about 30 pounds, and the case is huge!
I'm not too surprised at all, vacuum tube output stage, transformer-based I/V stage, big power supply, and high parts quality throughout all mean a lot, much more than the specific DAC chip in use.

Congrats if you decide to keep it!
 
Well, got the ANK DAC into the system today (took a while ... I just got back from a golf outing in Pawleys Island). All I can say is holy sh*#! Right out of the gate it is a bigger change than I would have expected. I'm sure some of it is the "wow factor" of a new piece of equipment, but the improvement is pretty significant. The soundstage is wide and deep, and the bass is really impactful. And it is the most "non-digital" my digital front end has ever sounded. The improvement when I went to the rPi4 and the Topping D30 Pro was incredible to me, and this took it up another level for sure. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, given the cost fo the DAC, but I know all too well that $$ doesn't always translate to improvement as much as I might expect.

Anyway, I'm going to enjoy living with this one for a while. Whether or not I utimately decide that I want to afford a $3000 DAC in my system is yet to be seen (I'm still a vinyl guy at heart), but it could be hard to let this one go. Oh, and this thing is a beast. Weighs about 30 pounds, and the case is huge!
That's so great to hear! Keep us updated on your impressions as they progress!
 
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