Review - Musical Paradise MP-D2

billfort

Administrator
Staff member
#1


This will be a different kind of DAC review as I'm a die-hard analog guy and have had a real problem getting comfortable with digital. The stuff that does work for me; DSD, DACs that accept DSD as input and provide an internal DSP bypass lane to the DAC chip, PCM if it is converted to high-rate DSD via HQPlayer and tubes instead of SS in as many places as possible. Definitely not a mainstream take on things digital, so worth noting that these biases certainly shape my opinions here.

The Musical Paradise MP-D2 seems to be well aimed at me; it supports up to DSD256 native input (ASIO drivers on Windows only for DSD256), bypasses internal DSP when using this rate, has a tube output stage and tube rectified power supply and is affordable. I won't get into a detailed description of it as thats been well covered elsewhere, but it's Canadian designed, sold and supported but made in China - which might explain the affordable part. It is a tweakers delight with thumbscrew attachment of the replaceable coupling caps and switchable heater voltages for the rectifier and output tube positions, providing near endless possibilities for tube rolling. Kind of neat to read a short manual that seems to almost be encouraging sonic tailoring to taste using these variables too not your typical DAC!

Ordering went smooth and DHL tracking showed the DAC moving from HK to my doorstep in 3 days after order placement! Packaging was great, build quality appears first-rate and installation and configuration (installing ASIO drivers on my Windows 10 PC) went well; from the box to making music in about 20 minutes.

My existing digital system is described elsewhere but in a nutshell; the DAC is fed from a dedicated player PC running Roon server and Fidelizer with all material up-scaled to DSD256 (for this DAC) using HQPlayer. Source material is stored as wav, flac and dsf on a network connected NAS server and I often use Tidal and Internet radio for streaming. A Wireworld Starlight 7 USB cable connects to an Uptone Audio Regen USB conditioner, which is hard-connected to the DAC and powered by a linear/regulated DC power supply. Around for direct comparison is a Korg DS-DAC-10R ADC/DAC and AudioNote kit 2.1 DAC, a Resonessence Concero HD is recently departed but pretty fresh in my memory. The Korg (and Concero) were fed DSD128, the AN PCM 16/44.1.

Fresh out of the box, this is a pretty impressive DAC. Smooth, rich and involving, with a great way of painting a layered, detail soundscape that defies digital (to me anyway) and has me thinking nice analog from a good turntable instead of something out of a computer. Lucinda Williams' Little Honey (16/44.1 wav) pulled me in with rich guitar lines and jarring vocals like it never did before, and Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker (dsf) especially 'Oh My Sweet Carolina' with Emmylou Harris was just mesmerizing some of the best vocal presentation I've yet to hear out of my system.

Bass is solid, thick and charges the room better than any of my existing digital sources, with no sense of tubey looseness. From the snap of a snare, chest-hit of a bass drum to unique tones of the tabla, this DAC and the right recording was bringing out the very best in these old Altec woofers some nice synergy going on here.

On through my standard eval tracks and quickly into just listening and discovering for the shear pleasure of it, this DAC delivers in a satisfying, fatigue-free way that is just not something I'm used too with digital. I listened for hours on end to this from simple compressed Internet radio streams on up the some of the best recordings I have on digital without once having the run to the turntable for some relief; the marginal quality stuff was listenable, and the good stuff soared.

Was there downsides? Sure; it seemed a little closed in at times, maybe a little too intimate, and lacked some of the big air, bite and upper frequency bloom of the Concero and Korg perhaps errors of omission as some of this music should have some bite and edge. The AudioNote (at least on 16/44.1 material) seemed to have a more extended image size particularly in width and height and the AN seemed to again do the upper end better. The Korg and AN seemed to out 'hi-fi' the MP-D2, but it was the MP-D2 I wanted to listen too late into the night, which might be telling me something...

But this was new, fresh out of the box with little burn-in (if you believe in that), all stock base-line components. Maybe after 50 or 100 hours, maybe a different rectifier or a trip into the tube box to try some of those fancy pre-amp tubes I've amassed over the years. Or maybe coupling caps, one of the first places I go to after tubes when I want to flavor one of my tube amps to taste...

I like this DAC a lot in these initial days, and I suspect there is more here, which I'll keep plugging away at. Fun stuff, and more to come.
 

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Ernie

Activated
#2
Bill, excited about tweaking, and it's digital? This is an unique piece of gear.

I look forward to hearing your impressions, once you've settled on a configuration of tubes, caps, rectifiers.

The times, they are a-changin'. Enjoy.
 

Olson_jr

Active Member
#4
marantzfan;n50605 said:
I was afraid of this... ;)
Ditto.

Esp this statement ~ Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker (dsf) especially 'Oh My Sweet Carolina' with Emmylou Harris was just mesmerizing some of the best vocal presentation I've yet to hear out of my system.
 

billfort

Administrator
Staff member
#6
Olson_jr;n50607 said:
Ditto.

Esp this statement ~ Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker (dsf) especially 'Oh My Sweet Carolina' with Emmylou Harris was just mesmerizing some of the best vocal presentation I've yet to hear out of my system.
You know Dave, it was that cut and Amy - but especially Sweet Carolina - that shocked me the most with this thing. First time I heard them was a WTF moment where I went back and listened again thinking; damn, there is something special going on here. Maybe a lot of little things coming together from source all the way to the room but I have to think there is some digital alchemy happening here too, maybe for the first time.

This - right down to how that specific cut moved me - is why I'm into audio.
 

billfort

Administrator
Staff member
#10


First an update; it's now up to about 50hrs of burn in and it actually seems like things have improved a touch - maybe a little more open sounding and extended on top. This might just be my imagination (I'm still a little skeptical of this burn-in thing I suppose) but it is what it is, and damned if it doesn't sound a little better of late.

So off into the unknown and up for swapping out (on the left above); a Chinese 6Z5P rectifier, Russian 6H6 line tubes and Obbligato Gold coupling caps. From my parts boxes (3 variables being more than enough for a start!) - a GE GZ34 rectifier, Siemens 7308 gold pins and some 2.2uF/400v NOS Russian PIO caps - I have a few of these caps so I measured and picked a few that were very close in value.

Rectifiers are an area where some argue little or no difference, but in some circuits, I've found they can be pretty effective as tuning elements. The GE GZ34 (which required simply switching the supply voltage from 6.3v to 5v - cool!) was an improvement - the 'air' you sense on the Cowboy Junkies The Caution Horses which was recorded in an old church I've been in a few times (DSD128 vinyl rip), was more present and better reflects my memory of that space. Cassandra Wilson's New Moon Daughter (Tidal) - partially recorded at The Turtle Creek Barn, Bearsville, NY - just seemed more like it was recorded, well, in a large acoustic space. I really have to do a DSD vinyl rip of this album!

Maybe more rectifiers to try in the future but the GZ34 stayed, and onto the 7308s which have proven so good in the AudioNote DAC. This was probably the biggest change yet, and it seemed these tubes opened up the midrange and highs a lot, making the MP-D2 very close to the Concero & Korg in this regard. This did nice things for John Hiatt's Master Of Disaster (dsf rip) which is probably a little dark anyway, but all was not well with some material, as I found this a little too 'hi-fi' and fatiguing, especially with marginal source material like 320k AAC Internet streams or some of the 16/44.1 flac on Tidal.

In an attempt to tame the 7308s - maybe knock off the edges while retaining the good stuff - I put in the Russian PIO coupling caps and yes, they did that to a certain extent, but not enough. The caps had a subtler effect than I expected, but I liked them and could live with that marginal source material better, even though I yearned for the cream of the 6H6s again.

So back to the full bass, lush midrange and tone of the stocker Russian 6H6 tubes - the way they do vocals, guitar, violin, cello & upright bass combined with their ability to put you right into that small smokey bar or stale old church, wins out for me over the spot-lit detail, air and extension of the Siemens.

I've read good things about the Russian 6H30Pi gold pin distributed by Electro-Harmonix and since I'm liking the 6H6 so much, this is a tube I have to try. There is still that box of rectifiers to go through, and some more line level tubes kicking around, and maybe more caps so...

I'm having fun messing with this DAC but I might just stop right here for a while and enjoy.
 

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#11
For those here who don't know me, I'm known as Thetubeguy1954 in audio forums like this. I'm also the moderator of SETriodes in Yahoo groups. Bill joined our group and after learning about HiFiHaven I joined this site too! Bill, Henry & I all talked about this DAC in SETriodes and amazingly enough we all purchased the Musical Paradise MP-D2 DAC the day after Christmas.

I tried to get Bill to post a review on SETriodes but I full understand why he posted it here! Bill I'm delighted to read your wonderful review of the Musical Paradise MP-D2 DAC. I'm very interested in hearing that you replaced your stock 6Z5P rectifier with a GE GZ34! I also plan on replacing my 6Z5P, but don't want to say with what rectifier tube I plan to use just yet. Now as far as the Russian 6H30 tubes go, purchase the 6H30-DR as opposed to the 6H30-PI as they're a much nicer sounding tube. Yes they cost more, but they sound wonderful.

Also seeing as how we can use 7308 tubes you might want to try Voskhod "rocket logo' 6H23n in their place! In the past I've sold more than 200 pairs of them ---{I don't sell tubes anymore}--- and had some people tell me they couldn't hear the difference between them and Telefunken Cca tubes.. I could the difference, but even though they were close sonically, IMHO the Teleys definitely had the sonic edge! That being said, between the $35/pr. 6H23n Voskhods and $600/pr. Telefunken Cca tubes I recommend people try the much cheaper Voskhods. I believe for 95% of the people they'll be more than close enough and only cost $35/pr vs the Teley's $600/pr. Oh yes, like you I'm finding the stock 6H6 tubes to be quite nice, but I believe the 6H30-DR will surpass them sonically.

All-in-all you wrote a great review of the MP-D2 DAC Bill and you have a wonderful audio system as well! I cannot wait to see your further comments after you've lived with the DAC for awhile and rolled different caps & tubes. ---Thetubeguy1954 (Tom Scata)
 

billfort

Administrator
Staff member
#12
Well hello Tom - welcome to HiFi Haven! I did post initial thoughts on this DAC at SETtriodes but it probably got missed - I post as billf78s2 over there.

Thanks for the system and review comment; reading back through this it sounds like I'm gushing over this thing but it really is a nice sounding piece considering the price - and I DO like a tune-able tube output stage! Tonight I popped in an old 5U4GB black plate rectifier pull with no markings on it other than 'Japan', and damned if it isn't right up there with the GZ34. I have a box of rectifiers to go through and I suspect 'best' will be a tough call - which is why I'm not going to sweat this - just enjoy.

The 6H6 just seems a warm comfortable place to relax right now but when I do feel like roaming, I'll search out some of your suggestions. I've seen some pretty insane pricing for 6H30-DRs and even the more common garden-variety old-stock appears to be around $100/tube - going to have to do some careful shopping.

Worth noting that we are really talking about icing-on-the-cake here; this DAC straight out of the box fed music as DSD256 got me 95% of the way there.

 

dewdude

Junior Member
#16
billfort ;n50601 said:
The stuff that does work for me; DSD, DACs that accept DSD as input and provide an internal DSP bypass lane to the DAC chip,
The only issue I have with this is it makes the assumption that EVERY DAC on the market has a DSP chip.

That is not the case. Your DAC does not have any DSP inside to bypass it; I don't know where you're getting that idea. It's an XMOS U8 controller tied to an AKM AK4490 chip. The XMOS is just a USB interface; the AK4490 does not have any DSP. If you're talking about whatever windows will do; that is NOT a function of DSD bypassing DSP in the device...it's more the result of using the right software to bypass Windows.

You're confusing good quality computer sound devices with sound cards targeted toward consumers and gamers.

My SMSL M8 is a XMOS U8 interface tied to the Sabre ES9018. There's no DSP in that either...it's just a straight DAC chip.
 

billfort

Administrator
Staff member
#17
Ah yes, digital according to dewdude - I've seen this movie before.

Never said every DAC on the market has a DSP chip, just that most of them - not NOS chips but certainly Sabres and the AKM 4490 - require PCM to go through some form of delta-sigma modulator to work - the Sabre and AKM are delta-sigma chips.

From this link;

https://hifiduino.wordpress.com/2014...rita-4490-dac/

Native DSD Support

Supports 2.8MHz (64fs), 5.6MHz (126fs) and 11.2MHz (256fs) DSD

According to AKM, the volume control module and the delta-sigma modulator can be bypassed for DSD resulting in "direct" DSD rendering. The AK4490 contains an integrated low-pass filter specifically for DSD data. The ultimate specified performance for SACD (as described in the Scarlet Book) can be easily realized with a simple external analog filter. [IMG2=JSON]{"alt":"AK4490Block","data-align":"none","data-size":"full","height":"375","width":"595","src":"https:\/\/hifiduino.files.wordpress.com\/2014\/12\/ak4490block.png?w=595&h=375"}[/IMG2]




Notice the bypass path for DSD Data. The DSD data is received by the DSD interface and sent directly to the "SCF" (Switched Capacitor Filter) block. DSD filter can be selected at 50KHz, 100KHz or 150KHz cut-off.

Really don't intend to 'debate' this with you dewdude - think we better agree to disagree and leave it at that - this won't become a fight-club site.
 
#18
billfort;n50714 said:
Well hello Tom - welcome to HiFi Haven! I did post initial thoughts on this DAC at SETtriodes but it probably got missed - I post as billf78s2 over there.

Thanks for the system and review comment; reading back through this it sounds like I'm gushing over this thing but it really is a nice sounding piece considering the price - and I DO like a tune-able tube output stage! Tonight I popped in an old 5U4GB black plate rectifier pull with no markings on it other than 'Japan', and damned if it isn't right up there with the GZ34. I have a box of rectifiers to go through and I suspect 'best' will be a tough call - which is why I'm not going to sweat this - just enjoy.

The 6H6 just seems a warm comfortable place to relax right now but when I do feel like roaming, I'll search out some of your suggestions. I've seen some pretty insane pricing for 6H30-DRs and even the more common garden-variety old-stock appears to be around $100/tube - going to have to do some careful shopping.

Worth noting that we are really talking about icing-on-the-cake here; this DAC straight out of the box fed music as DSD256 got me 95% of the way there.
Bill I know who you are over at SETriodes and I read your initial thoughts on the MP-D2 DAC! I'm gushing over this DAC as well Bill. It's not just a great DAC for $999, it's just a great DAC, period!

In fact, I've recently tried an amazing rectifier tube in the MP-D2 that amazed me! The bass was soooooo much deeper and taunt. The air around the instruments and singers was almost tangible and I have never heard acoustic instruments sound more realistic. I literally got goosebumps when a sax played, it was THAT good.

To be honest I was starting to think I had a problem elsewhere in my system, but now that I replaced that cheap 6Z5P tube, I realize what the problem was! I don't want to reveal what the other rectifier is that I replaced the 6Z5P with until I obtain at least one more, BUT if you email me privately I'll tell you what it is so that you can buy one for your DAC "if" you'd like to...


I'm listening to: Melancholy Baby by Jamiee Paul


Thetubeguy1954 (Tom Scata)

Central Florida Audio Society -- SETriodes Group -- Space Coast Audio Society -- Full-range/Wide-range Drivers -- Front & Back-Loaded Horns -- High Sensitivity Speakers
 
#19
TubeHiFiNut;n50744 said:
Welcome to The Haven, thetubeguy1954 :)

Always glad to see another tube fanatic in the neighborhood. :)
Thanks for the warm welcome. I've used the same 845-based, integrated SET amp for 16 years now. 845's rule, and especially when you use Bendix 6900 tubes to drive them!



I'm listening to: Melancholy Baby by Jamiee Paul


Thetubeguy1954 (Tom Scata)

Central Florida Audio Society -- SETriodes Group -- Space Coast Audio Society -- Full-range/Wide-range Drivers -- Front & Back-Loaded Horns -- High Sensitivity Speakers
 

dewdude

Junior Member
#20
billfort ;n50853 said:
Ah yes, digital according to dewdude - I've seen this movie before.
billfort ;n50853 said:
Really don't intend to 'debate' this with you dewdude - think we better agree to disagree and leave it at that
Spoken like a true elitist; someone who's just so dead-set in a mentality they don't want to possibly learn something from someone.

Whatever. It's just another reason I should have just stayed done with forums.

 
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